Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Time Management

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Follow along as I build a long term plan via Prudent Prepping. 

I didn't post last week due to some personal business and our amazing Editrix was able to give me the time off. I realize now that time is something I don't have enough of in a day, or at least I'm not good at managing the time I have.

The Time Left
I recently had a death in my family that made how I spend my time, and with whom I spend it, stand out in my life. There are people who seem to expand my time, and far too many that absorb hours in ways that baffle me. I look around and what seems like a few minutes is actually hours of my life just gone. I am changing that, starting now. 

There's a quote I heard in some motivational speech that goes something like "You get to decide where your time goes. You can either move forward, or you can spend it putting out fires. You get to decide. And if you don’t decide, others will decide for you, and not to your benefit." I have actively added people who seem to expand my time, and those that are using my time up will be seeing less of me. I really recommend to whomever is reading this that you look at where your time is going and if you are feeling satisfied at the end of the day. If not, what will you do to change it?

A Return To Regular Programming
My camping trip has been pushed back at least 3 weeks due to conflicts with my job and family obligations. That's not necessarily a bad thing, since it gives me extra time to organize and sort through all my gear. I can consolidate similar things logically and put equipment into totes by how I expect to use them: Summer gear is separate from Fall and Winter, emergency house repair is separate from everything else, and so on. There will be a problem with exactly where I store things once the reorganization is done, since where I have previously kept my Bug In things will soon be unavailable -- they were kept at my folks' house, and since my Mom is in a care home, we are selling it to have money to care for her.

This is something that Purple Pack Lady and I will have to work on next month. 
Recap And Takeaway
Be aware of your time. There is a limited supply available, and the Expiration Date isn't clearly indicated. 
* * *

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NOTE: All items tested were purchased by me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

White Vinegar: the Miracle Acid

White vinegar, also called distilled or spirit vinegar, has been found on kitchen and bathroom shelves for hundreds of years. White vinegar is probably one of the most underappreciated kitchen chemicals most people have in their pantry. For such a simple compound its uses are legion, everything from cleaning glass to dressing salad.

Vinegar can be made out of anything that has alcohol in it: wine, hard cider, and beer are popular choices. White vinegar, like vodka, is distilled from grain. Grocery store white vinegar is generally made up of 5–10% acetic acid and 90–95% water. Industrial and agricultural grade white vinegar can contain up to 20% acetic acid but is not intended for human consumption. 

In the food realm alone, white vinegar has numerous uses, such as:

  • Pickling vegetables, fruits, and eggs
  • Salad dressing
  • Marinades and sauces for meats, seafood and vegetables
  • White vinegar combined with baking soda is a good leavening agent for certain types of baked goods
  • White vinegar and milk can be used to make certain types of cheese

Outside of edibles, white vinegar has even more uses when it comes to cleaning. 

WARNING: Never combine vinegar and chlorine bleach. This combination can release chlorine gas, which is potentially fatal.

  • Disinfectant and cleaner for a variety of items:
    • Countertops
    • Showers and tubs
    • Toilets
    • Floors
    • Dishwashers
    • Windows and mirrors
    • Coffeemakers
  • Removing adhesive from many surfaces
  • Drain cleaner and deodorant
  • Mold killer
  • Cleaning hard water stains
  • Stain remover in laundry
  • Weed killer, especially when combined with salt and dish soap
  • Removing skunk musk

Speaking of animals, a dilute mixture of white vinegar and water can be used to treat a pet’s itchy or scaly ears. Finally, white vinegar can be used to dissuade cats from using a location as a litter box. Since cats really dislike the smell of vinegar, spraying some on a place they’ve used as a bathroom can prevent them from reusing that spot. Simply apply straight vinegar on outside spots, or diluted 50/50 with water for indoor locations. You may need to reapply, especially with outside use, 

WARNING: Never use vinegar on marble or other stone surfaces. The acid in vinegar can permanently damage them.

A gallon jug of white vinegar generally costs less than four dollars and is available at grocery and hardware stores around the world. I highly recommend everyone have some of this miraculous wonder chemical in their household preps!

Friday, June 25, 2021

Taking the GHB for a Walk

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.

Wednesday night I was gifted with a surprise bit of energy (perhaps as a result of eating too much ice cream after dinner) and developed an odd craving to go for a walk around the neighborhood. Normally I hate exercise, this seemed like a welcome way to burn off calories before bed, and to my surprise it was neither overly hot nor humid despite being Florida in midsummer.

Not being one to pass up an opportunity, I decided to see if the rebalancing of my Get Home Bag had worked, so I loaded up and walked around my neighborhood. We have two main streets off which many cul-de-sacs branch, and one street is straight and the other curved, which forms a capital D in shape. This makes a handy 1.1 mile loop for walking because it's a fixed distance, requires no turn-arounds, and I end up where I started. 

There's really not a lot to say about the walk itself, other than the fact that I completed it with no pain. This is remarkable when you remember that for the past few years I have complained about back pain and received a diagnosis of arthritis in my lower back. 

This good news tells me some important information:
  1. Either my back is getting better from the treatment it gets and exercises I do for it, or I have successfully configured my GHB so that it doesn't put strain on my back, or both;
  2. I am not carrying too much weight in my GHB;
  3. I can walk at my normal rate with it on. 
Points 2 and 3 are of critical importance when it comes to a GHB, as the entire point of having one is to Get Home with it, and if it's so heavy as to cause you pain or to slow you down then it's worthless. 

I will confess to being quite surprised at #2, as I have a noted tendency to overpack. One of my favorite sayings is "I can always lighten a pack by removing items, but I can't conjure gear out of thin air" and so I expected it to be too heavy. 

My GHB with chest rig on top. 

In regards to point #1, I suspect that the answer is either "I successfully configured it" or "both" as I still have chronic aches whenever I have to do a lot of lifting, such as bringing in groceries. I think the two biggest factors inherent in my successful rebalancing are using a chest rig to reduce backpack weight and adding a battle belt to my GHB so that much of the weight is born on my hips instead of my shoulders and spine. 

I realize a lot of this information isn't meaningful without pictures. Now that I'm confident I have the configuration squared away, I can begin taking pictures of my bag and the modifications I have made. 

Test your preps, folks, even if it's as simple as taking your BOB or GHB on a walk. If there's a problem you'll want to know about it now, when you can fix it, rather than in an emergency when you can't. If there isn't a problem, you'll get some good exercise and  peace of mind knowing that everything is in good order and works as it should. 

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Lots of Knots

The other day I had to teach a young man a few knots that are used to secure things to a truck. He'd never been a Boy Scout, so his knowledge of rope and knots were limited to tying his shoes and a basic square knot, and since we work with a lot of loose items and flatbed trucks/trailers, knowing how to keep them from falling off is a good thing. Having to load up supplies and transport them is one of the steps to bugging out, so I thought our readers might like a few more knots to learn.

We've written about knots and rope before' just enter "knots" in the search bar on the upper left-hand corner to find the articles, but it's been a while. Finding a good book that teaches knots is the best (I have a couple in my library) because books are more portable and permanent than anything online, but for quick lessons or review the Internet has you covered. Waiting for a phone call and have nothing else to do? Grab a couple of short pieces of rope, twine, or thread and practice a few knots. Repetition will eventually make them something you can do without thinking. Practice makes permanent.

Learning to tie knots isn't hard, but visualizing them or articulating the process requires pictures or actual rope that you can work with. This is one of those skills that can't be easily taught through text alone. Having worked blue-collar jobs most of my life, I've only had to wear a tie for formal functions, funerals and weddings mostly. Years ago I found a website that has helped me relearn how to tie a proper tie, so I started looking for something a bit more broad in scope. The best I've found is called "Animated knots", great for short lessons on over a hundred different knots. Select a knot from the pictures or by category and the site will take you to a very simple (simple is good) page that shows a step-by-step animation of the knot, as well as a short video clip of it being tied. 

No ads or pop-ups asking for your email address, clean and simple format, and good information. This is one to add to your bookmarks list and use to learn or teach knots.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Guest Post: Electrolytes Revisited

by George Groot

George is a member of our Facebook Group and has written for us before.

With summer coming up, I wanted to write about the importance of electrolyte drinks and oral rehydration salts. 

For me, the first sign that I don’t have enough salt in my bloodstream is a horrible headache (sometimes in the form of an ocular migraine) and a general lack of energy.  In this case, a bit of salty water (home mixed or commercial product) peps me up very quickly. This is because the cells of the human body can’t pump water, but they can pump ions, and due to osmotic pressure the water will follow. Your cells cannot take in water without salt, which is why sports drinks have salt: to speed up the intake of water.

Hyponatremia is the condition of very low blood sodium. If you drink a lot of water and sweat it out, you aren’t replacing the necessary salt. The signs for hyponatremia are the same for low salt: headache, fatigue, muscle cramps, nausea and/or vomiting. In addition to sodium, our body also needs potassium, calcium, and magnesium. These are easily absorbed by your body as salts such as sodium chloride, potassium chloride, calcium citrate, or magnesium citrate. The two most easily lost through sweat and urine are sodium and potassium. 

Make Your Own Drink
Generally, you'll get all the electrolytes you need from food. But strenuous activities, or even simply being in a really hot environment (such as Georgia or Florida with no air conditioning) where you sweat profusely, can cause your normal diet to be insufficient at providing the salts you need to stay healthy.

To make a simple sodium/potassium drink, get some pure table salt and Morton’s Lite Salt and mix 1:1 to make a salt mix that is 75% Sodium Chloride and 25% potassium chloride. 

There are about 5.7 grams of salt in a teaspoon, so to make a sports drink mix you’ll want about 1/8th of a teaspoon per 16 oz of water depending on your taste buds. One teaspoon per gallon is a good starting point for a hydration drink that replaces sweat. If you find that you can’t taste the salt at that level, odds are you can add a little more and be fine.

For an oral rehydration mix, you'll want greater concentrations of salt; mix about 1/2 of a teaspoon into a 16 ounce water bottle and sip as needed. 

Oral Rehydration Salts (sometimes you’ll hear a veteran or medic talk about ORS packets) add calcium and magnesium to the mix. This is because after your body starts running low on sodium and potassium, it starts giving up calcium and magnesium to keep you alive, so if you are severely dehydrated you’ll need to replenish those ions as well. I generally don’t recommend people mix their own ORS salts because food grade calcium and magnesium citrate aren't things that you normally find at a grocery store, but you can find it on Amazon and a tub or sack will last you a very long time. 

There are also commercial Oral Rehydration Salt packets available. I don’t recommend people consume them on a regular basis, but they are excellent for having on hand to treat a heat casualty, and I recommend people carry a few in their bug out bag.

I recommend the Ultima brand, and in a recent trip to Kuwait I used some DripDrop after a 10 mile run in the heat, but I honestly don’t have any brand preference here as they all work. Unfortunately they are all a bit more expensive than blending some table salts together from the grocery store. The good news, however, is that shelf life is essentially indefinite, so having a few on hand is really cheap insurance.

Rectal Rehydration
In an emergency where your buddy passes out, stops sweating, and you need to save his life right now, you might consider rectal rehydration, or what veterans refer to as an “Israeli IV.” The steps to turn a Camelbak or other hydration bladder, into a rectal rehydration setup can be found here, but by adding a cheap enema kit to your preps you can apply an ORS solution that way instead of ruining a Camelbak as the technique is the same. 

I prefer the rectal rehydration method for most cases, as severe dehydration can make starting an IV line difficult even for experienced medics, and the risk of infection is massively decreased.

Have a happy, healthy, and safe summer.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Metal Finishes

When choosing metal items that will be exposed to wear or the elements, whether lawn furniture, firearms, or decorative items, the finish can have a considerable impact on longevity.

Metal finishes come in a variety of categories with different pros and cons in protective qualities, care requirements, and aesthetics. In this column I'll review some of the more commonly encountered methods of finishing. As I am a gun nut firearms aficionado, I will be using firearms as my examples, even though many of these finishes can be applied to other metal objects. 

One of the oldest methods of protecting metal is case hardening. Also called surface hardening, it’s more of a metal treatment than an actual finish; it provides an extremely hard surface while maintaining a softer core, and has been used on everything from self-tapping screws to crankshafts. Color case hardening is a subcategory usually found on firearms that adds an attractive color pattern in addition to protection. Since surface hardening is very thin, it can be worn away by continuous abrasion; however, due to that same hardness, it resists wear quite well. The pattern of color case hardening can fade over time, but the hardness will remain.

Color case hardened frame on the author's
reproduction Single Action Army

Another long-used finish is bluing, also called rust bluing. As the name implies, bluing is a controlled form of rust. Various processes are used to convert the surface of the metal to black oxide or magnetite. While bluing can provide good rust resistance, it has little wear resistance and can scratch through fairly easily. Other than as a traditional firearm finish, bluing is more commonly found used on decorative items these days.

Blued finish on the author's S&W Model 27-2

Both nickel and chrome plating have been used for many years as wear-resistant, corrosion-protective coatings for both metal and other materials such as plastic. These finishes are generally applied through either a chemical or electrolytic process. Marine equipment or other items likely to encounter a corrosive environment are frequently chrome plated to prolong their usable life. Improperly done, nickel and chrome plating can form bubbles where the chrome or nickel does not adhere to the underlying material, which often leads to peeling of the finish.

One of the author's nickel-plated pocket pistols

Another finish primarily used for firearms and other military equipment is Parkerizing. Originally patented in the 1860s, Parkerizing is a very corrosion- and wear-resistant finish, but is not commonly found on decorative items. In this process, zinc (chemical symbol Zn), manganese (chemical symbol Mn), or iron (chemical symbol Fe) are placed with the parts in a heated phosphoric acid solution resulting in a medium to dark grey textured finish.

Parkerized receiver of the author's M1 Garand

Stoving is a traditional metal finish most commonly found on grills and other high heat items, hence the name. It’s a type of baked-on enamel paint that provides an extremely tough corrosion and wear resistant finish. Traditionally coming in satin or matte black, modern high temperature stoving paints can be bought in a wide array of colors. The various epoxy-based coatings, such as Duracoat, Ceracoat, and Norrell’s are descendants of stoving and, if anything, can provide an even tougher finish. Powder coating, though applied dry, can also be considered part of this category.

Stoving applied to the C7 Upper receiver of the author's rifle

Water transfer printing, also known as hydro dipping, is a decorative coating process used on everything from car parts to personal protective equipment. Unlike most of the other finishes or coatings mentioned, hydro dipping is commonly applied in a pattern, such as camouflage, and can be applied to nearly any material. While attractive, hydro dipped finishes are mostly applied over a more weather resistant finish if the item is to be exposed to the elements. Like bluing, hydro dipping is not usually very wear-resistant and many types can be removed by scrubbing with a mild abrasive.

While some of the finishes above can only be applied to specific surfaces, others can be used on a variety of ferrous and non-ferrous materials. Anodizing, while applicable to a variety of metals, is generally referred to these days in relation to aluminum. As with stoving and its related processes, anodizing is available in a rainbow of colors. The greatest weakness of anodized aluminum is mercury, as even a relatively small amount will practically dissolve an object by preventing the formation of a protective oxide layer. Other than that, an anodized finish can be quite wear and corrosion resistant. However, as with bluing, anodizing can scratch fairly easily.

Anodized finish of one of the author's retro ARs

When choosing a finish, or restoring an old or worn finish, consider the application and care requirements. Some of these finishes can be applied by the hobbyist with a moderate investment in materials and equipment, while others are best left to the professional.

Care for finished items is usually nothing more that wiping the object down with a dry, oiled, or solvent-dampened cloth as appropriate. Avoid letting the items remain wet or exposed to chemicals any longer than necessary and they will maintain their integrity for a very long time.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

The Necessity of Luxury

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.

 Wait, I know what you're going to say: Erin, luxuries aren't necessities! That's why we have two different words for them! And you'd be correct. However, that's not the argument I'm making. 

While luxuries do indeed come well after necessities, the fact remains that mental health is a necessity, and a little bit of luxury goes a long way towards improving mental health by decreasing stress, increasing comfort, or improving overall quality of life. So while luxuries plural aren't a necessity, I contend that a single luxury item within a bug out bag can be. 

When you think about it, a lot of our preps are already pretty luxurious. When compared to a lean-to made from saplings, a tent is pretty luxurious; when compared to starting a fire with a bow drill, a pocket lighter is downright luxurious; and when it comes to taking a poop in woods, well, you tell me how necessary a soft square of toilet paper is. 

Even the US military understands the necessity of certain forms of luxury. Every infantryman I know loves his woobie beyond rationality, and every MRE I've ever seen has some form of candy, cookie, or chocolate inside it. Sure, a poncho liner keeps a soldier warm and dry, and sugar is a quick energy boost that can be useful on the battlefield; but neither of them are specifically needed by a warfighter. 

Here are some ideas for little luxuries in your bug out bag:
  • Individually wrapped hard candies
  • Waterproof playing cards (these have increased value if they have information on them, such as plant recognition or knot tying)
  • Miniature bottles of liquor
  • Harmonica
  • Small mp3 player (like an iPod nano)
In short, don't denigrate a little luxury in your preps. It goes a long way towards lifting your spirits and making life seem worth living. 

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Survival Movie Review: "Cast Away"

I sat and re-watched Cast Away a while back. It's not a great movie, but I was bored and it does deal with surviving alone after a disaster. The movie is 20 years old, so I'm not going to worry about spoilers, but I won't give away everything just in case you haven't seen it; the basic plot is that an efficiency expert for a shipping company is flying back to the USA on a company cargo plane that goes down in the Pacific. He ends up on a small island, alone and with no supplies.

The Good
The writers got a lot of things right:

  • The sundial calendar. Having a way to mark the seasons is as old as civilization, and tracking the motion of the sun has been a proven method. In the movie he used a stick to mark the sunlight entering a hole in a cave; placing the stick at the furthest point every day will give you a figure-8 path with the solstices at the ends of the loops and the equinoxes at the point where the loops meet in the center. You can reproduce this with the shadow of a fixed object, like the gnomon of a sundial.
  • Seasonal tides. The reason for tracking the passing of the months was to predict the highest and lowest tides of the year, as well as seasonal changes in weather patterns. This is important for trying to escape from an island, but would also be good information if you're living on a seacoast and foraging the tidal flats for food.
  • Food. Yes, coconuts are edible and yes, the “milk” is a laxative. They did a good job of showing how to get fish from the shallows but not much else in the way of food.
  • Fiber craft. Binding things together is important and the use of strips of bark, woven together to make cordage, was well done.
  • Found” items. Some debris from the plane crash washed ashore and he made good use of most of what he found. It was a good plot device to give him a few pieces of steel to use as tools so he wouldn't have to work with stone implements.
  • First aid. Coral is sharp and he gashes his leg while fishing. The movie portrayed fairly well how much untreated wounds would suck.
  • Isolation. His mental health took a hit from the isolation and the movie did a good job of showing that. Most people are not prepared to be alone for long periods of time; after all, we are social animals. 
The Bad
Not everything was perfect. My wife refuses to watch movies involving wars with me because I point out historical inaccuracies, and I was told to shut up a couple of times during Cast Away because I was talking to the TV too much. Artistic license and dramatic effect won out over common sense several times:

  • The life raft. After escaping a sinking airplane, the main character floats to a small island in an inflatable life raft, which he then basically ignores. Scenes with him trying to collect rain water with leaves and improvised containers seemed ludicrous to me when he had a soft-sided plastic container (the raft) capable of catching and holding rain water. Even if deflated, the raft could be placed in a hole in the ground and used as a liner. The raft in the movie was about 6 foot in diameter and a foot deep. That gives a surface area of 18.85 square feet, so one inch of rain fall would deposit roughly 11.75 gallons of fresh water into the raft*. That's enough water for a week at least. Completely full, it would hold well over 100 gallons!
    *18.85 sq ft = 2714.4 sq inches, for volume multiply by the 1 inch of rain to get 2714.4 cubic inches of water. There are 231 cubic inches in a gallon, so divide 2714.4 by 231 to get 11.75 gallons.
  • Making fire. OK, he's not a Boy Scout and has had no survival training. Using friction as a way to start a fire is slow and tedious, which is why we suggest having more than one way to start a fire in any bag. I keep a small fire-starting bar on my keychain and have matches and a couple of other methods in my go bags.
  • The island. From the few wide shots shown, the island looked to be at least 100 acres in size, maybe a few hundred, but they never showed much beyond where he originally landed. Exploration and learning what resources are available would be high on my list of activities. It was a volcanic island, like most in the Pacific, so there would have been deposits of useful rocks and several other things worth finding. Islands also tend to have a “leeward” side where the weather and waves aren't as rough. Not relocating to a better location wasn't explained. Periodic searches for new flotsam on the shore would be on my list as well.
  • Food. No attempt was made to cultivate food. Finding edible plants and relocating or planting them closer to where you live is more efficient. You can still go out and scavenge for food, but having a known supply frees up time to do other things. Surviving on just fish and coconuts would leave some gaps in the nutrients needed to stay healthy, too.
  • Lack of improvements. Maybe they were trying to emphasize the “desert island” theme, but after having spent a couple of years there, I would have expected some sort of improvement in living quarters, food and water storage, and organization of supplies. Firewood stacked for a rainy day, any form of container better than empty coconuts for keeping water, an outhouse, or maybe a decent shelter to get out of the elements, some kind of improvement of how you're living.

All in all, Cast Away is not a horrible movie. I use shows like this to make me think about how I'd do things given the same setting, with the knowledge that Hollywood has different laws of physics than the real world. Let me know if you've seen this one or if you have a favorite of your own that you'd like to share; I'm open to suggestions for new entertainment.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Planning A Plan

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Follow along as I build a long term plan via Prudent Prepping. 
It appears that a short camping trip has been tentatively added to the calendar. Furthermore, the balance of my camping gear not lost has been uncovered and is going into different totes. 

If anyone has been following the Continuing Saga of What's On Fire Now In California and my failure to go fishing or camping for years, I'd like to tell you what while I'm still not expecting to go, I will be packed and ready. (I actually bought a Fishing License this year, that's how serious I am.) The things that are getting packed first are the bulkier camping gear, like the Klymit LWD I was given for my birthday in 2019 that has not yet been used.

Klymit Light Water Dinghy
From the Amazon ad:
  • Inspired by the pros: designed with kayakers and pack rafters, the LWD is an advanced pack raft tracks well, is stable, and allows use of canoe or kayak paddle - Arrow shape design increases maneuverability - ideal for canyoneering and backcountry Wade
  • Easy to inflate: pump is efficient and easy to use, converts to a dry sack for gear storage and protection
  • Two valves for quick inflation & deflation, includes dry sack pump, and 6 tie-off Zones for lashing gear or securing the dinghy on shore
  • Ultra lightweight: weighs only 44 ounces making it one of the lightest rafts of its kind;
  • Ergonomic padded seating: built-in inflatable seat is comfortable and provides insulation from cold water
  • sport type: Camping & HikingOutdoor Lifestyle
Editor's Note: all of the above is [Sic]
Please read the 2019 post for how I received this wonderful item.

Fishing Gear
While cleaning I found my fishing reels, which need to be refilled with line after sitting in a garage for years. In the past, I've bought spools and filled reels myself, but that just means the balance of the spool goes to waste these days. A sporting goods store fairly close offers to fill reels and charges by the yard, so I'm heading there soon.

I also found my tackle boxes and other than 2-3 rubber worms or wiggle bait melted into a tray, everything looks good with no rust or crud. 

What I can't find (so far) is my worm box. It looks similar to this one found on Amazon and may actually the same brand, but there are no labels left on mine.
  • Built-in carrying handles make transporting bait easy
  • High insulation value
  • Ideal small portable bait container
  • Opens from the top or the bottom
  • Contains Magic Worm bedding and instructions
Pretty self-explanatory, other than the "opens from bottom" bit. The box has two lids that allow you to always get to your worms or crawlers just by turning the box over. 

Last week's post was about ordering a replacement pan set for one that I lost, and there was a question as to why I ordered the more expensive option over the exact item as before. I didn't make it clear that the reason was to get the non-stick cooking pot over the unlined version. Yes, I know how the lining will potentially wear, but the ease of cleaning in the short term is a big benefit.
I have a summer weight sleeping bag and an inflatable pad mentioned here that I've taken on trips, just not camping. Unfortunately, that pad has been discontinued. 
Change Of Status
With the way my family situation has changed, my Prepping Plan has blended I'm Not Going Anywhere with just a tiny bit Get Out Of Dodge. The place where I kept over half of my prepping gear will soon be unavailable, and I need to do some serious pruning and trimming of supplies to fit into the storage spot I have left. While I'm not getting rid of equipment, I am going to get rid of as much of my short-term food as possible, replacing it with longer-term items. 

Water jugs, food-grade buckets and totes take up a surprising amount of room. I would have an even bigger problem if I hadn't given away so many jugs (and a couple of five gallon buckets) over the years! Several of those people gifted are not close friends any longer, but I feel better about sharing gear and knowledge, whether or not karma may make a visit.

Depending how soon my family status changes will determine how soon (and how much) Get Out Of Dodge is the majority of my plans. I don't want a change, but it is certainly coming. Wish me luck.
Recap And Takeaway
  • I need a plan, but I don't yet have one. I have options, though, and I'm thinking about how to turn them into plans A, B, C, and so forth. 
  • Nothing was purchased this week, but as the trip gets closer and I get all my gear uncovered, inspected and cleaned, there likely will be some things purchased.
* * *

Just a reminder: if you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!
If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

NOTE: All items tested were purchased by me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Making Wine at Home

Brewing and fermenting are some of humanity's oldest skills. Beer and wine have been produced at least as far back as ancient Egypt, possibly even further back in history.

A close friend is especially skilled in home brewing and has won several awards with his beers. He’s the one who got my wife and I started with winemaking.

While there is an initial equipment investment, it’s a one-time cost. The continuing expenses are in cleaning supplies, ingredients, corks, and labels if you choose. Bottles are infinitely reusable unless they break.

LEGAL NOTE: Brewing beer and fermenting wine are absolutely legal for individuals. Distilling spirits is not.

A glass of the author's homemade mead

There are a number of wine making kits on the market, such as this one or this one, which provide everything needed in regards to equipment. Consumable supplies are purchased separately, however.

A basic kit will contain at least some variation of the following items:

  • 7-8 gallon primary fermenter with a tight fitting, drilled and gasketed lid
  • 6 gallon glass carboy (secondary fermenter)
  • Drilled rubber stopper for the carboy
  • Airlock
  • Bottle brush
  • Hydrometer
  • Siphon with tubing
  • Plastic mixer
  • Cleaning and clearing chemicals
  • Some variety of corker
  • Usually some corks

The consumable ingredients are water, some sort of fruit juice or honey, and the proper yeast for the type of beverage being made. Additional additives may also be used.

Equipment Prep
One of the most important elements is sterilization of equipment. Washing with soap and water may not be sufficient, and it's generally preferred not to use bleach as it can affect flavor. There are a variety of brewing and fermenting cleaners on the market, many of them based on some form of potassium metabisulfite or sodium metabisulfite. They’re sold as a white crystalline powder, mixed with warm water, and sprayed on the fermenting equipment, even inside the bottles.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If the primary fermenter has a spigot, make sure it’s properly tightened and doesn’t leak.

Once all the equipment is clean, the fun begins. As with baking, wine making can be fairly simple, but does call for a certain amount of precision.  It also involves bursts of activity interspersed with long waits.

ANOTHER IMPORTANT NOTE: What follows is a general overview of the process. Always follow the directions for the specific recipe.

Primary Fermentation
After cleaning the equipment and letting it come to room temperature if necessary, the primary fermenter is filled with a mixture of clean water, concentrated fruit juice for wine or honey for mead, and any additives called for in the recipe. This will usually come to between five and six gallons of liquid.

Use the hydrometer to measure and record the initial specific gravity. This will help determine when fermentation is complete.

Dry yeast is sprinkled on top of the liquid and the lid is sealed in place. The airlock is filled to the appropriate level with water and inserted in the gasketed hole. The purpose of the airlock is to release gas produced during fermentation but prevent contaminants from entering the mix.

Allow this to sit in a 68° to 76° area undisturbed for about two weeks.

Use the hydrometer to check the specific gravity of the mix again to see if initial fermentation is complete. They come with a chart to help calculate this value. If the value is in the “wine range” primary fermentation is done. If not, give it a couple more days and check again. 

Once done, siphon the wine into the glass carboy. Be very careful not to disturb or suck up the sediment that has collected at the bottom of the primary fermenter.

Using the sterilized stirring spoon, agitate the wine vigorously for about ten minutes. This de-gasses the wine and removes any remaining carbon dioxide left over from the fermentation process.

Insert a filled airlock and let sit for 24-48 hours.

The author's mead stabilizing in the carboy.

Add the clarification chemical and stir thoroughly. Replace the filled airlock and let sit for another ten to fourteen days.

If the wine isn’t perfectly clear, let it sit for another seven to fourteen days. If it is, siphon back into the sanitized primary fermenter or a similar container. Again, be careful not to disturb the sediment. Let the wine sit for a minimum of two days to allow settling.

Siphon the wine into clean and sanitized bottles. Most recipes will produce twenty four to thirty bottles of wine. Cork the bottles and leave upright for three to five days to allow the corks to expand. After this period, store the wine on its side to keep the corks moist.

The author's mead, bottled and corked.

Most wine needs to sit in the bottle for six months or more to develop full flavor, but some may take over a year.

You have now learned the basic process for making your own wine. Enjoy, and drink responsibly.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Prepping for Dad's Return

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
It's been almost 1.5 months since dad went into the hospital and then to a rehab facility, and now the rehab place is making noises about sending him home this week. 

This is clearly not what we wanted, but the Veteran's Administration is taking its sweet time in processing the paperwork. As I understand they have 30 days to review it, and from context it seems like that needs to be interpreted as "If they can't find a reason to reject it within a month then it will be approved" rather than "It will take 30 days or less to approve it", and they seem intent upon running out the clock instead of processing it in a timely manner. Once that's done, dad gets put on a waiting list and even though he's 100% disabled he still has to wait his turn behind all the other 100% disabled people ahead of him. 

So now we're making the house as safe as we can for an 85 year old man with balance problems and falling issues. We've cleared out most of the junk from his room, because that was a tripping hazard and was one of the reasons he didn't keep a walker by his bed. Now he has no such excuse. 

Although, to be honest, I don't think it will make a difference. Dad is a non-compliant patient when it comes to things like physical therapy, so even though he's stronger now because of physical and occupational therapy from the rehab home I fully expect he'll stop doing his exercises within weeks of coming home. From there it's only a matter of when he falls, not if, and who knows what kind of damage he'll do to himself when that happens. I'm about 90% sure that the recent decline in his mental state is due to him hitting his head in multiple falls. 

Other than that, I have no idea what any of us can do. For reasons that make no sense to me given that Florida is a popular state for retirement, our interior doors aren't made to accommodate wheelchairs. As in, "a person in a wheelchair literally cannot pass through the doorway" incompatible. I have no idea what mom and I are going to do if he has to have one. We certainly aren't strong enough to lift a 165 lb, 5'7" sack of potatoes into and out of a chair multiple times a day without injuring ourselves. 

Yes, I realize this is a poor article. We are horribly unprepared for this and have no idea how to proceed. We had hoped he'd be in a nursing home by now, but clearly that isn't going to happen. 

Don't let this happen to you. If you have an elderly relative who is showing signs of deterioration, start the paperwork immediately so that you don't have to wait like we do. 

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Supply and Demand Today

Unless you've been living in a cave for the last year or so, you'll have noticed that things are changing. The “pandemic” has seriously affected the world economy and some of the follow-on effects are just now making themselves felt. Add to that the recent surge in hackers of unknown origin breaking into and locking down computer networks, holding them for ransom paid in hard-to-track cryptocurrencies, and a lot of things are starting to become scarce or at least more expensive. Let's look at a few cause and effect situations.

Rent and mortgage rates are rising faster than income. This is due to a lot of separate things going on right now, none of which are going to end in the near future. 

  • Supply of new homes is limited because of a slowdown in construction. With everyone being locked down in their own homes, a lot of workers weren't available to build the new houses.
  • Construction material prices are going through the roof for a couple of reasons;
    • Businesses like lumber mills had to deal with lock-downs.
    • Shippers are having to pay more for fuel (more on that later).
    • Warehouses and lumberyards lost a lot of their entry-level staff to increased unemployment payment. It pays better to stay home than it does to work low-paying jobs in a lot of markets.
    • Demand is high due to people staying home and starting home improvement jobs.
  • Rumors of investors buying real estate to offset losses in their normal markets are floating around on the conspiracy sites. I don't know how much credence to give such rumors; I try to stay out of the stock market and other gambling halls.
  • Inflation is gathering speed, so people are putting their money into housing and real estate since those are tangible assets that rarely have zero value. Paying off a mortgage in inflationary times means using money that is worth considerably less as the loan matures.


  • Ever since someone figured out that you can repurpose computer graphics cards and main processors to “mine” for (create) cryptocurrencies, the suppliers of those chips have been struggling to meet demand.
  • Since every new car/truck made today has several computers built in, the lack of processors has limited the number of new cars available. This is driving up the prices of clean used vehicles and killing the new car sellers. When most of your paycheck comes from commissions of sales and there is nothing to sell, you're looking for a new job or unemployment.
  • People being locked up in their homes has led to a surge in sales of new electronics as they upgrade their entertainment and networks to be able to work from home. Increased demand in times of reduced supply equals higher prices.
  • A fire at one of the major producers of the polysilicon which is used to make chips is going to further reduce the supply, meaning prices will go up even more. Solar panels use the same material, so expect a price jump in that market.

Firearms and Ammunition
This is a strange one. 

  • We have had several different political changes is the last 10-20 years, but nothing seems to be curtailing the sale of guns and ammunition in the USA. Threats to gun rights? Sales go up. Those threats go away? People restock, so sales go up. New threats to owning certain guns? Sales go up again. Bad times mean people buy guns for protection, and good times mean they buy the ones they want. Gun makers are having a hard time keeping product on the shelves.
  • Ammunition factories are running 24/7/365 and can't keep up with demand, which means the price goes up. Scalpers buy in bulk and resell at high prices, further raising the market prices.
  • We consistently set records for guns sales every month. People are buying a lot of guns. More first-time gun buyers means more consumers of ammunition, so demand goes up which reduces the supply and raises the prices.

Fuel Prices

  • We went from being energy independent for the first time in 40 years back to importing oil faster than I thought possible. Pick your reasons for this, but it means a loss of jobs and an outflow of money. Money sent overseas only comes back if we have something to sell, which is difficult when the country is locked down and businesses are closed.
  • Hackers shutting down a major pipeline company on the east coast didn't help anything. We use pipelines because we can't move enough petroleum by road or rail to meet demand. Prices increased, and there were a few states that were having a hard time getting fuel at any price for a month or so.
  • New oil exploration has been shut down as well as new pipelines. I just saw an article today that the Keystone XL pipeline, which has been a political football for years, was finally killed for good. The company building it has given up and will soon be dismantling the portions that it had been able to build. Reduced supply without a reduction in demand means increased prices.
  • People staying home and ordering everything online has meant an surge in delivery companies. Since UPS, FedEx, USPS, and all of the others use fuel of some sort, the demand has stayed fairly consistent. A delivery truck is going to burn about as much as a personal vehicle going to a store.


  • Another target of the “ransomware” attacks by hackers was JBS, a company that provides about 20% of the beef and pork on the American market. Any time you threaten 20% of a market, prices are going to go up sharply, and any ransom paid out will be passed on to the consumers in increased prices. We'll also get to pay for any new security for their computer networks.
  • Beef and pork prices were already rising due to staffing problems in the packing plants. COVID-19and various government regulations had a huge impact on the people that work in those plants, slowing production and therefore reducing the supply.
  • A lot of small-business food shops went out of business due to the lock-downs, because no customers means no income. This may recover in a year or two as new people reopen shuttered shops, but we'll have to see if the investment capital is going to be available.
  • Several statements from government officials about cutting the consumption of meat have caused concern in the industry as well. We're likely to see a war between the lobbyists soon: the beef and pork producers have an established position with politicians, but the New Green Deal proponents have deep pockets.
  • Prices on commodities like corn and soybeans have doubled in the last six months. I deal with farmers every day and they're happy to see the extra income, but their costs are going up just as quickly. Last year was a below-average year for yields, so there's not much left in storage, and this year is shaping up to be a repeat. If harvests are down again this year, prices will stay high and be passed on to us, the consumers.

As preppers we can control supply by growing or making our own things, and we have some control over demand by switching up our preferences. Prices only matter when we have to go to outside sources, so being able to limit that reduces our exposure to inflation and scarcity. Stock up when prices are low and supply is high for the times when they flip the other way.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Restock and Realign

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Follow along as I build a long term plan via Prudent Prepping. 

Plans are moving, slowly but surely, towards an actual camping trip this year. I think. Glaciers move, correct?

Gear For Two
Sometime during the last five years I lost some gear in one of my moves. From what I've uncovered and gone through in the totes I have with me and those stored elsewhere, I believe I'm down one complete 27 gallon tote of equipment. Unless it's buried in a corner where I didn't put it and under other stuff I didn't move, it's gone. 

It had a tarp, okay quality knives, utensils and cups and mugs, new(er) pots and pans, cooking gear and camp kitchen supplies. Of course, all of this is off the top of my head; I haven't been camping in almost four years, and since these items were the type I don't pack in a GHB, I never looked at or for them between trips.

Note to Self: After the family stuff calms down, dig everything out and make an inventory, with pictures and a list stored away from the boxes. 

From searching BCP blog posts, I found where I recommended this set to a friend in 2017. Since I can't find it, I needed to replace it, and I ended up getting a better (and more expensive) model.

I want to have a cookware set that can be used on a liquid fuel stove  as well as a wood and fuel tab stove, and this fits my shopping list. I have used Sea to Summit metal bottom pans on wood burning and tab stoves (against the directions) and while it worked, I certainly did see where the silicone sides could melt if extra care wasn't taken, and this particular set will not have that problem. 

From the Amazon ad:
  • Two-person backpacking cookset is lightweight (1 pound 12 ounces), compact (packed size 7.75 x 5 inches), and efficient for backcountry trips
  • Includes 1.5L hard-anodized non-stick aluminum pot, 2.5L hard-anodized aluminum pot, strainer lid, 2 deep dish plates, 2 insulated mugs, pot handle
  • Camp cookware features a smaller non-stick coated pot for sauces and simmers, and a larger uncoated pot for boiling water and meal prep
  • Polypropylene deep-dish plates can accommodate any meal, and 12.5-ounce mugs are insulated with sip-thru lids; plates and mugs are color-coded
  • All cook set components nest within the 2.5L pot for easy packing; set can be adapted to size of group and length of trip

I plan on replacing the most important things, like several non-stick compatible utensils and cleaning supplies, very soon. I'll keep everyone posted.

Recap And Takeaway
  • Keep track of gear, even that equipment isn't used regularly. Make a list of what you have, where it is, and keep a copy where you can't lose it.
  • I purchased one MSR Quick 2 System Cook Set from Amazon: $99.95 with Prime. 

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If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

NOTE: All items tested were purchased by me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

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