Thursday, September 30, 2021

Short Takes

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

Here is another sampling of information that I can't make into stand-alone posts. It would be somewhat easier to do blog posts if Life stopped getting into the way, but I don't see that happening any time soon. If at all. Ever.

The Bag(s) Of Holding
Erin has written about her recent bag modifications here, here, here, here and here, while I posted my latest update here. Questions were asked and (in my mind) unfair comparisons made between what both of us have built. A further question was asked about total weight for the small-ish pack I have and what might be altered to fit around my Essential List. I'm working on that question and hope to have a decent answer soon. 

Improved Storage
With the loss of both places I had my bulky gear stored, I now need to seriously down-size and pack things into smaller containers along with getting rid of even more stuff. The largest tote I use now is 27 gallons, and still quite heavy if gear isn't parceled out correctly. I have a need for a reasonably waterproof small container, and think I found one at Home Depot: the Husky 5-Gal. Professional Duty Waterproof Storage Container. (Please follow the link to see the complete ad and better pictures.)

From the web page:
  • Constructed of a durable polypropylene and a polycarbonate lid for long-lasting storage use
  • 6-point latching lid and interior gasket protects contents from dust and water
  • Includes tie down holes to secure container
  • Heavy-duty side handles for easier carrying
  • Stackable for easy storing
  • Rated IP65

 This Husky Professional Storage Container is designed for all your heavy-duty storage needs inside and out. It features heavy-duty construction to easily and conveniently store most garage/workshop items efficiently. Built Husky tough to withstand rugged and tough conditions. Great to secure tools and accessories on the jobsite. The secure 6 point latching lid and interior gasket protects your items from dust and water. The high-impact resistant polycarbonate lid is the strongest available and provides clear visibility to contents inside along with stackability. This storage container will provide years of durable storage space whenever you need it, in the home or on the jobsite. Designed and tested to withstand heavy abuse from dropping, stacking and tossing.

This container has bigger brothers, all made with nice locking catches and a gasket in the lid for added moisture protection. I chose this container for my important papers, photos and hard copies of things that are stored with Google, with printed copies of everything also, along with a thumb drive kept with PPL.

Recap And Takeaway
  • I really needed to be nudged, hard, into doing this downsizing. While I'm giving away lots of usable items, most of it isn't necessary in my current situation.
  • Nothing was purchased this week, but my Future Purchase shopping list is growing.

* * *

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, September 28, 2021

Erin's New GHB, part 6: Sleeping Gear

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.

So now I have a fire going to keep me warm, boil water, and cook my food. What's next? I think it's time for sleep.  See you next week!
Yeah, about that? Whoops. There's some stuff I forgot to mention. 

First of all, where is my water coming from? That would be a hydration bladder attached to the back of the pack. This particular one is a Camelbak of unknown volume (I want to say 2 or 2.5 L), but it's looking a bit old and so I've ordered a 3L bladder to replace it. Below that are my sleeping arrangements, which I'll detail soon. 

In case you're wondering what the white board behind the bladder might be, it's a stiffener board from Ammo Can Man to give this pack some internal rigidity, and behind it is a foam pad to aid in comfort. You can buy both of them as a set for $15.50 on Amazon, and if you have a soft pack like mine I highly recommend you get both of them to improve your backpacking experience. 

On to the sleeping arrangements. In the above picture you can see how they're stowed; the below picture is a more "exploded view" with the waterproofing bags removed so you can get a better view of what's going on. 

Top Row:
  • Klymit Cush. I reviewed this product elsewhere on this blog; it's an excellent "I just need a bit more padding right here" kind of cushion. 
  • SOL Escape Bivvy. Remember that I live in Florida, where it's usually 72° or higher most of the year; I don't need a substantial sleeping bag at all. Between this and the mylar tent I'm in, I ought to be quite warm. 
    • I don't recall paying $60 for this; I think it was closer to $25-30. I think the higher price is because this item may be discontinued. I chose this one specifically because of its durability:

  • Trekology inflatable pillow. I'm a side-sleeper, and so I have very specific requirements about how thick my pillow should be. I'm very pleased with this one; not only is it comfortable, but the flocking feels good against my face. 
    • But Erin, don't you have another travel pillow elsewhere? 
    • Yes, I do, because I'm one of those weirdos who needs a pillow between their knees to be comfortable at night. That one isn't as nice, and so goes there instead of against my face. 
Bottom Row:
  • Klymit V Sheet. The largest of all my sleep items, this one looks like a luxury -- and it kind of it, don't get me wrong -- but it serves an important purpose. Remember that I said I'm in Florida, and most of the time I'm going to be at 70° or more; using this sheet turns my Klymit Static V mattress into something that feels like an actual bed, meaning that I can use the bivvy sack as a blanket in hotter weather. Plus, it has a pocket to keep my pillow from sliding all over the place, and that's worth it by itself. 
  • Vacuum-sealed undewear. 2 pairs of cotton socks, 2 sets of cotton underwear, 1 set thermal underwear for the rare occasions it gets cold (or in case I'm further north). 
  • Klymit Static V mattress. By far the most expensive item in this section, and by the far the one most worth the price. A good night's sleep is essential for survival, and this mattress is both incredibly comfortable (even when side-sleeping) and incredible small (it packs down to about the size of a soda can. If you don't have one of these, buy one; if you can't afford it, wait for Black Friday or Cyber Monday and look for bargains. 

I think we have only 1-2 more posts to go of this GHB pocket dump, but I'm not going to pigeonhole myself. See you next week!

Monday, September 27, 2021

Prepper's Pantry: Pickling

I’ve mentioned pickling in earlier posts, such as the ones on vinegar and canning, so it seems appropriate to go into more detail about the supplies and techniques to create these tasty treats at home.

Pickled vegetables can be made in a variety of ways, but for this post I’m going to focus on only two of them, as they are faster and less labor intensive than other methods (one of these methods involves using a salt water brine and several weeks of soaking and monitoring; another involves packing the vegetables in salt and letting them sit for weeks or even months). 

When canning or pickling, always use the freshest produce

Pickling by Hot Water Canning
Refer to my posts about canning equipment and process for the basics, since canning pickled vegetables is handled similarly; this webpage can provide more details. Vegetables used in canning can be preserved whole or reduced in several ways; cucumbers, for example, can be cut into halves, disks, slices, or spears. 

Since one of the major elements used to preserve canned foods is proper acid balance, vinegar is the primary liquid. Cider vinegar is preferred due to its milder flavor, but white vinegar can be used interchangeably.

Prepare the jars as usual, then add spices to taste. I like garlic dill pickles, so I put in each jar:

  • A sprig or two fresh dill (1 to 1½ teaspoons dried)
  • A couple cloves fresh garlic, slivered (1 to 1½ tablespoons crushed)
  • 1 tsp mustard seed or mustard powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Cucumbers

The jars are filled to no less than ½” of the top with heated vinegar, often cut with water and a pinch of sugar, then the lids and rings are added. Hot water process as normal.

Carefully examine produce for bruises or other damage

Refrigerator Pickling
When pickling vegetables in the refrigerator, the same initial process is followed:

  • Examine the produce
  • Trim, slice, or chop the vegetables
  • Add spices
  • Fill the jars with vinegar

There are, however, some differences:

  • The vinegar doesn’t need to be heated
  • Flavored vinegars can more easily be used
  • Headspace is less important
  • The containers used are more variable (Chinese soup containers are excellent for this purpose)

Once everything is prepared, let the containers sit undisturbed in the refrigerator for 14 to 21 days.

One of my favorite refrigerator pickled dishes is cucumber salad:

  • Cucumbers, sliced in half lengthwise then into crescents
  • White onion, quartered then sliced
  • 1 teaspoon each salt, pepper, and sugar (adjust for taste)
  • Balsamic vinegar, cut 1:1 with water

Once all the pickled cucumbers and onions are eaten, the liquid can be reused once or twice as-is, then refreshed with more balsamic vinegar. This makes an excellent side dish, especially in the summer.

The techniques described here can be applied to nearly any vegetable, preserving them and adding more delicious options to your prepper pantry. 

Friday, September 24, 2021

Harvest Season

Yesterday was the first full day of autumn, so we have a couple of months before winter sets in. Autumn around here is the busy season; farmers still have plenty of time to plant crops, but they race the snow to get them harvested. Most of the growers in my area stick with corn and soy beans because we have large processing plants nearby, so the elevator that I work out of is gearing up for two months of frantic activity. Corporate has already handed down our working hours: 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM Monday-Saturday and 11:00AM to 5:00 PM on Sunday. That is, unless a customer asks us to stay later, which we will do. 

I don't deal with the grain side of operations as much as I did in years past, I'm mostly maintenance and "agronomy" (fertilizer and pesticides) now, but I do help the grain guys if they need help. As soon as a field is emptied, our customers want fertilizer applied so it has all winter to leach into the soil and get it prepared for planting. Maintenance is always a concern with 60-year-old equipment and a lack of proper maintenance in years past, and so I'm spending a lot of my time just trying to keep the moving things moving and the static things stationary.  Statutory inspections and testing of some of the hazardous materials equipment takes a lot of time to do right, and I don't skimp on safety. 

All of that is an explanation of why you may notice smaller posts from me for a couple of months, and maybe even a few missed weeks. I'm not quite as old as David, but I'm getting to the point where 80+ hour weeks without a day off leaves me exhausted and unable to do the level of research that I like to put into my writing. Rather than give you poor articles, I'll wait until I can write something that someone can benefit from. I don't want to waste your time or mine by writing drivel, even though I have plenty of practice writing drivel for corporate consumption.

Lean Times Ahead
In case you haven't been paying attention to the "other" news sites, our global supply chain is being stressed by various factors. The Covid-19 mess and some of the government (over-)reactions to it are slowing or stopping the flow of key components to our daily life. 

  • Check the inventory at any new car dealership, and you'll see that the lack of certain electronics has curtailed the production of new cars and truck for a year now.  Used pickups are selling for more than they were worth last year because of the lack of new ones coming to market.
  • Repair shops are having difficulty getting parts. I deal with a couple of parts stores that have always been able to find bearings and such for the old crap I have to fix at work, and their suppliers are having a hard time getting things. 
  • I've noticed a shrinkage in the variety of brands on several store shelves, grocery stores especially. The food aisles are being replaced with sundries and seasonal crap. Even Wal-Mart is showing signs of slow or low supply, with empty shelves becoming more common,
  • Every trucking firm within 100 miles is hiring and not getting enough drivers. I hate to say it, but >90% of everything you eat is delivered by truck. No drivers = no food on the store shelves. Time to check the pantry and add a few more day's worth of supplies.
  • Fuel prices have gone way up this year. Between the politicians and the storms down south, our fuel infrastructure is not meeting demand and that means limited supplies will carry higher prices. Check your winter fuel supply and top it off ASAP.
On the brighter side of things, I did convince my wife that having a whole-house generator installed would be a good idea. I'm shopping for something that will keep the heat and some of the lights on for at least a couple of weeks of Midwest winter weather; I'll have more to tell as I get closer to spending the money I'm making on overtime right now. Diesel-powered, 10-20 kW, with 300+ gallons of fuel storage is the short list of requirements, but availability is the main concern. 

Winter is always a challenge, so it's time to get your warm clothes out of storage (that's a light jacket for Florida) and make sure you have things as ready as you can for the weather. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Getting Home And More

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

A few weeks ago I wrote about several books I share with people who ask serious questions, and a friend asked about Get Home Bags. One of those books talks briefly about setting up a GHB, and that chapter is something that I've tried to follow myself.

A Basic Bag
In Tony Nestor's book Surviving A Disaster, the topic of a plain bag is talked about, starting on page 17.  From the book:

"... As noted during recent disasters, some evacuees had to walk forty miles or more out of their city before supplies were available! [...] Low profile and inconspicuous are key here- avoid the camouflaged, commando-style gear. You want to blend in and look like a student with a book bag and not like a Navy SEAL. Also, avoid the orange packs with 'Survival Gear' stamped on it unless you want those less prepared to know that you are stocked with supplies."

On the following page there is a list of suggested supplies the author has used previously. I'm not going to copy the list, as the items are open to interpretation and your list should be your list, tailored to climate and personal needs. Not to say the list isn't good; it is a little out-of-date on certain items, but use it as a good starting point.

My bag follows most of these guidelines, and that is why I'm really happy the Purple Pack Lady likes colors (here is a link to the purple pack). My bag was a gift, and while it isn't purple or orange, it does look a little tacti-cool. (Please see this post for a really good description of what's in it.) 

From the Amazon ad:

  • Materials: 600D Nylon
  • Nylon lining
  • Zipper closure
  • 17" shoulder drop
  • Military tactical backpack size approx.: 9" x 9" x 17" Heavy duty 600D Nylon construction with quiet Paracord pulls and adjustable chest and waist belts
  • Lightweight and breathable 20L capacity with 4 zippered compartments, 1 padded velcro rear pouch, and top carry handle
  • Molle style webbing, D-rings, and compatible with a hydration pack (not included)
  • Fast-release buckles and padded straps helps relieve weight and reduces fatigue when carrying heavy loads
  • Great for students, hiking enthusiasts, military, first-responder personnel, or anyone with a passion for the outdoors, everyday use
My one very small quibble is the MOLLE attachment points, which I try to avoid. If I get stuck walking home, I will be in decidedly urban areas and I really REALLY want to be as nondescript as possible. Other than that, this pack has room for everything I want to carry and is small enough to keep my packrat tendencies under control. 

Additional Questions
Last week I posted about buying a freeze-dried assortment from Augason Farms and I was asked "About how many days is this bucket designed to feed people?" From looking at the contents, my opinion is it should be considered a 72 hour supply for 2-4 people, depending on how active everyone is. I also mentioned it was not my first choice, due to the high carbohydrate ingredients. Not that carbs are a deal breaker; I'd just like to see and have some protein added, which I'll do with canned goods if necessary.

More Gear Changes
Due to lack of storage space where I'm at and not much extra room where PPL works, I have to reduce the number of 7 gallon water jugs I have and figure on an alternate way to save water in an emergency. I will keep two, as that is all the room in my closet available, but there is still a need to have more than that for everyone here. Erin has recommended a water bladder that can be filled and kept in a bathtub, so I'm looking at getting the AquaPod Kit 2.0 - Emergency Water Storage Container.

From the Amazon ad:
  • TRUST YOUR WATER! MADE IN USA with BPA-FREE, USFDA APPROVED MATERIALS ★ AquaPodKit liners are constructed of food grade (lldpe) plastic. This material follows and stays within USFDA guidelines and BPA free. AquaPod kit manufactures their liners here in the USA! trust your water!
  • ★ liners are constructed of food grade (LLDPE) plastic. This material follows and stays within USFDA guidelines and BPA Free
  • ★ PREPARE FOR EMERGENCIES ★ Never be without water in an emergency. During a hurricane or tropical storm, water main breaks and storm surges can interrupt or even contaminate your water supply.
  • ★ KEEPS WATER CLEAN ★ Water stored in an open bathtub with dirt, soap film, and exposure to debris will spoil and become useless. Aquapod kit will keep water fresh for up to 8 weeks, depending on humidity and temperature conditions.
  • ★ 100% RECYCLABLE ★ NO need to cut any parts off water storage bag - used reservoirs may be recycled into many types of new products. Aqua pod kit is disposable and recyclable - Aqua Pod Kit is the only American Bath Tub Bladder to offers replacement liners. Our reservoirs have a positive impact on the environment. The flexible reservoir requires less space for shipping and smaller shipments require less fuel.
Unfortunately, due to the series of natural disasters in the East and Midwest, Amazon is Sold Out with no resupply date available. I will be hanging on to my existing jugs for the time being, just not filling them; when empty they stack up and can be wedged into corners easily. 

Recap and Takeaway
  • Please don't look at my posts as the only way to build a bag. Our other authors have brilliant ideas and different ways to arrive at a Good Bag. Read all of the posts available and then go from there!
  • Do ask questions, as what seems obvious to others may not be so obvious to you. A slightly different point of view can open eyes and minds.
  • Be adaptable. Getting stuck in a rut may keep you from changing directions when the time comes.
  • Nothing was purchased this week, but a water storage bladder is going on my Amazon Watch List.

* * *

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, September 21, 2021

Erin's New GHB, part 5: First Out of the Main

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.

Since other, smaller pockets have been more than enough to take up an entire blog post, I knew I wouldn't be able to fit the entire Main Pocket into a single article. Instead I'm going to break it down into sections, starting with the first things I'll grab once my shelter is up. 

You may recall that in my post about the Quick Access Pouch I explained that it was also available separately. Guess how I know this?

Yes, I liked it so much that I bought another one, and I used it to keep a lot of small items together. So let's see what I have in that pouch or next to it:

Yes, that picture is blurry. I didn't realize it at the time, and at this point I've already put everything away, so you're just going to have to deal with it. 

Top Row, Left to Right:
  • Eton FRX2 Hand Turbine AM/FM Weather Radio with Smartphone Charger. I've talked about previous versions of this item in older posts, and I continue to love it because it's a flashlight/radio/battery bank that can be charged with a hand crank or an integral solar panel. 
  • Earbud headphones, because the Eton has a headset jack. 
  • Cable with a USB "in" port on one end and multiple jacks on the other hand, so I can charge a variety of things. 
  • An old iPhone charging cube, because the Eton also charges from a wall socket and that's the smallest charging device I could find. 
  • Halo pocket power charger, because why not have a lightweight power bank?
  • They're all sitting on a dry bag. 
  • Steel cup with a lid. More on that below. 
  • Knot cards for the Knotbone and Figure 9 Carabiner, as well as a "How to tie important knots" card because sometimes I forget how to tie hitches if I haven't practiced. 
  • Coughlan's survival candle, because candles are a slow and efficient open flame. If you can only light one thing with a match... light a candle. 
  • Wire survival saw. I know it's a gimmick, but I got it for free and it weighs basically nothing and takes up little space. If nothing else it'll be good for processing kindling. 
Let's take a closer look at the steel cup. 

Inside the cup is a vacuum-sealed collection of foods, mostly soups and powdered drinks. It's been so long since I sealed it that I can't recall what's inside. I believe the item which says "Anabolic Laboratories" is some kind of energy sports drink. 

There's also a lid, a foldable spork, a P-51 style can opener with bottle opener cutouts, and... Knotbones. Yes, I know it doesn't make a lot of sense; I put them in there because it's a small space and could find them more easily. easily. Look, what's important is that I know where things are, okay?

As for what a Knotbone is: it's been discontinued so I can't link to it, but the best way to describe it is "A plastic tool that gives you various ways of quickly attaching two or more paracord ropes to each other." I think it's neat. 

Bottom Row, Left to Right:
  • Signal mirror and whistle with float. Obligatory. 
  • Pocket bellows, aka "a hollowed out collapsible antenna without an end cap." Useful for a variety of purposes: blowing a fire, improvised snorkel, drinking straw. 
  • Firebox Nano Deluxe. More on that below. 
  • Plasma lighter with flip-up lid. I don't recall where I bought it. 
  • Bic lighter. Also obligatory. 
  • Roll of duct tape. 
  • Variety of fire fuels, including 3 Wetfire cubes, 2 Esbit fuel cubes, a length of waxed jute, and a guitar pick (it'll burn as easily as a corn chip). 

I'm a big fan of the original Firebox, and the Firebox Nano brings that same level of performance into a pocket-sized package. It burns biofuel (sticks, wood shavings, pine cones, etc) easily and comes with a plate for efficient use of fuel tabs. 

The X-Case holds it in its folded configurations, and also serves as a base to catch ash and steady the stove. 

The carbon felt can be used as a windscreen, ash catcher, or hot pad. 

You can buy the entire kit (except for the fuel plate, sold separately) for $50 with free shipping from Amazon and I cannot recommend it highly enough. 

Here's a video of the entire setup in action:

So now I have a fire going to keep me warm, boil water, and cook my food. What's next? I think it's time for sleep.  See you next week!

Monday, September 20, 2021

Cartridge Conversion

Returning to my series on reloading, another concept in this area is modifying one cartridge case into another chambering, perhaps even a brand new one.

If the result is a brand new case design, it’s called wildcatting. Many commercial cartridges we know today started their lives as wildcats, including the .22-250 Remington, 7 mm-08 Remington, .300 Blackout, and others. In some instances, the wildcat cartridge was developed in cooperation with commercial industry, such as the .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .221 Fireball, and more.

The conversion process can be fairly simple, or it can be considerably more complex. It may involve necking the parent case up or down for a different diameter projectile, moving the shoulder forward or back, changing shoulder angle, adjusting case taper, trimming case length, modifying rim dimensions, or any combination of these steps. A good general guide can be found here.

L-R: Original .223 case, resized case, cut and
deburred .300 Blackout case 
(streaks are from case lube)

I’ll start with one of the simpler conversions, .223 Remington* to .300 Blackout. 

1) Sort, deprime, and clean the brass.

2) Resize the case. To start this step, I apply a dab of case lube to the first case, then run it into a .300 Blackout sizing die.  This can take some force, so I use an O-Frame press as they’re stronger. 

Not every case needs to be lubed; I’ve found I only need to apply it every three to five cases with carbide dies.

3) Once the cases have been run through the .300 Blackout dies, they need to be rough cut slightly oversize. I use a small chop saw I bought at Harbor Freight.  There are jigs available to hold and position the cases on the saw bed (like this one or this one), but I made my own out of some scrap wood and a couple of brass screws. More recently, I 3-D printed a trim jig for more precision.

4) After the cases have been rough cut, they are trimmed to final length. Again, there are several different tools available for this step. I like the Lee Precision trimmer that can be used with my drill press, and each cartridge has its own Case Length Gauge and Shell Holder.

5) The final step at this stage is deburring and chamfering the case mouth. I use a classic RCBS hand deburring tool. Once this is done I clean the cases in a vibratory tumbler with corn cob media to remove the lubricant and any brass shavings.

6) In this particular conversion, there’s an optional step that can be done before sizing; in other conversions, it’s an absolute necessity. It’s called annealing. Brass work-hardens and becomes brittle with use, and case conversion can heavily work the brass. Annealing reduces the chance of cases splitting during the conversion process and can also increase case life as well.

For those interested, there’s a discussion in the Reloading section on on making your own DIY Annealing machine.  I haven’t done this yet, but it’s on my list.

Once the brass is converted to .300 Blackout, it can be shot and reloaded multiple times.  If and when the case finally fails, it’s usually due to the case neck or mouth splitting due to work hardening. At that point, the brass can be discarded, or it can be trimmed and sized further to be used in .380 ACP handguns.

Converting .223 Remington to .300 Blackout is one of the more simple and straight forward case conversion. A much more involved one is converting 24 Gauge Magtech Brass Shotshells to .577/450 Martini–Henry; here is a good video of the process.

That conversion requires multiple sizing and annealing steps due to the considerably more significant changing of dimensions and therefore increased work hardening of the brass.

For other conversions, it may be necessary to redimension the case rim or extractor groove.  This is best done on a lathe as the amount of material to be removed is precise, and if the rim needs to be made thinner, material is generally removed from the inside of the rim, by which I mean the portion of the rim opposite the case head.

Obviously there’s much more to this topic then I can cover here.  If the idea of converting one cartridge case to another interests you, there are a number of resources available both in print and online. The two I reference the most are Cartridges of the World and The Handloader's Manual of Cartridge Conversions.

Case conversion is an excellent way to not only get some older firearms shooting again, but is also a great way to learn more about the family relationship between some otherwise very different cartridges.

Have fun, and safe shooting!

* 5.56mm cases can also be used, but they have two additional concerns. The first is that the primers may be crimped in place, and removing the crimping is an extra step. The other has to do with case wall thickness: since the case length is trimmed back significantly, case wall thickness may become an issue when the new case neck is formed. This can increase neck tension which can lead to increased pressures when firing.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Circular Storms

Erin lives in hurricane territory and I live in tornado country. Both are destructive weather events, but they differ in several aspects while sharing a few others.

Hurricanes generally emerge from the Atlantic Ocean (they're called typhoons if they are in the Pacific Ocean) and are huge storms that move fairly slowly carrying lots of rain and high winds. When a hurricane makes landfall it wreaks havoc over a wide area; “storm surge” is the term for waves carried along by the hurricane that are many times as high as normal waves, carrying seawater inland and adding to the flooding caused by the torrential rain. Hurricanes are classified by their sustained wind speeds rather than their footprint, making comparisons difficult; A concentrated, high-energy storm may cause more extensive damage in a smaller area but a slightly “weaker” storm that covers a wide area will cause more total damage. Think of it as a rifle versus a shotgun; you don't want to get hit by either one, but the rifle has a much narrower path of damage whereas shotguns can hit multiple targets.

Strength Classification
The hurricane classification system uses five “categories” of sustained winds stronger than a typical storm:

  • A Tropical Depression is a storm with sustained winds below 38 mph.
  • Between 39 and 74 mph, it's called a Tropical Storm.
  • Between 74 and 95 mph, it's a Category (Cat) 1 hurricane.
  • Between 96 and 110 is Cat 2.
  • Between 111 and 129 is Cat 3.
  • Between 130 and 156 is Cat 4.
  • Anything over 157 mph is Cat 5.

Planning & Preparation
Hurricanes damage a wide area with wind and water, making recovery a state-level project. Restoring power is one of the main goals of hurricane recovery, since a large area is impacted and it's usually a heavily populated area as well. 

Preppers need to be able to take care of themselves and their families for days or weeks with limited power, services and transportation. Warnings are normally given a day to a week before the storm hits, so you can decide to leave or stay and you have time to top off supplies.

Tornadoes are mostly a Great Plains weather event, as the conditions for their formation are unlikely in mountainous or forested areas. Hurricanes often spin off tornadoes to add insult to injury, so the two can be found together, but the singular or small cluster versions are more common in the Central Plains of the USA. Europe has smaller tornadoes and they're very rare, while those of us in Tornado Alley get multiple severe ones every year. Being far from the coasts, flooding is less of a problem, so most of the damage they inflict is from wind.

Strength Classification
Tornadoes are ranked by both wind speeds and damage potential. Named the Fujita (F) Scale after the scientist that created it, it's a scale from 0 to 5. Wind speeds are easy to measure, but damage is a bit more random, so the F scale is more of a “rule of thumb”.

  • A normal thunderstorm will usually have winds under ~70 mph, with little to no rotation of the storm. Once it starts spinning on itself, the winds pick up rapidly and things start to fly.
  • At 73 mph, we've hit F0 and can expect light damage to trees and buildings.
  • Between 74 and 112 mph it's an F1. Shingles start leaving roofs, cars are pushed off roads, and mobile homes become more mobile.
  • Between 113 and 157 mph it's an F2. Entire roofs are ripped off houses, train cars are knocked over, and large trees uprooted or snapped. Lawn furniture and light objects become missiles.
  • Between 158 and 206 mph it's an F3. Walls start following the roofs into the air, locomotives are pushed over, and flying cars become reality.
  • Between 207 and 260 mph it's an F4. Wood-frame buildings demolished, airborne missiles cause major damage.
  • Between 261 and 318 mph it's an F5. Entire houses lifted into the air, car-sized missiles created by debris are common.

Looking at the two scales, you'll notice some overlap in wind speeds. A Cat 4 hurricane has roughly the same winds as a F2 tornado, as an example. The two aren't comparable, though, because a Cat 4 hurricane will have a diameter measured in dozens or hundreds of miles while any tornado will be measured in feet or yards (the largest tornado on record was about 1.5 miles in diameter). Tornadoes also have drastically shorter lifespans and paths; while a hurricane can last for a few days and travel a few hundred miles inland before dying out, most tornadoes last only a few minutes and travel a few miles. Hurricanes grow slowly and are tracked as they approach land, but tornadoes pop up suddenly, almost at random, and are over by the time they start to be tracked.

Planning and Preparation
Tornadoes devastate a small area with winds up to twice as high as a hurricane. The damage is more concentrated and more severe, meaning recovery is either minimal or impossible. 

Utilities are normally restored within hours or days, but if your house was in the path it may not exist any more. I've seen neighborhoods after a tornado, and you can have a house standing there with minor roof damage next to a vacant lot where his neighbor's house used to be. 

Warnings are given only slightly before (and sometimes after) the tornado hits. When conditions are ripe for their formation the local weather-people will give the normal watch/warning speeches, but like the little boy who cried “Wolf!” they are ignored. Local warning sirens are the best we have, and they give you minutes (at best) to find shelter. Having a suitable shelter close by and good insurance is about all you can do to prepare for a tornado.

Hurricane season has a few months left, but tornado season is drawing to a close. We had a fairly quiet summer in my area this year but we're still dealing with damage from last year's “inland hurricane” that hit a wide swath of the state with Cat 1 winds. Keep an eye on the sky, and research the weather patterns for your area, so  that you are less likely to be caught by surprise.    

Thursday, September 16, 2021

An Oldie But Still Goodie

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

I've been cleaning out my gear from the places I used to store everything, and I discovered what I think is my very first piece of equipment that might be called "Prepping gear".

PALCO Camp Set
Palco Set 

I got this set sometime in the early 1960's for use on Boy Scout camping trips and used it well into the 80's while camping and hiking between Tahoe and Yosemite.. There was a plastic cup originally with the set, but it was lost (or more likely melted) somewhere. To replace it, I had a no joke, real-deal Sierra Club cup, purchased before they went completely 'off the rails'. The set nested well and took up very little space. The bottom portion with the handle served as a skillet and general purpose cooking pan while the pot with lid was for boiling water and cooking larger volume meals. 

The rich kids in the troop had the matching canteen from Palco, but that meant hanging a strap around your neck, while a surplus canteen would fit on a webbing belt and not swing around. 

My friends all were Boy Scouts, so our gear was very similar and easy to plan around. Freeze dried foods were just being introduced at this time but were extremely expensive for us, so we packed in canned goods. After eating, the cans were put in the fire to burn off any residue, stomped flat and carried out with us. Once, on a longer trip, we hiked in 2 weeks before and buried supplies at the half way point. At the time, packs were all external frames so lashing a 5 gallon pail on wasn't a problem. 

From the 60's to now I can't remember how many sleeping bags, tents, rain flys or jackets I've owned and worn out, but this pot set always seemed to stick around. It appears that the Worchester Pressed Aluminum Corp. went out of business in 1976 after 45 years, so buying a new set isn't going to happen. I could find a set in very good shape, with the original cloth cover on eBay or Etsy for $20 and up, if I really wanted to. I don't, but someone might want to recreate their youthful camping trips.

Other Supplies
While shopping at my local Sam's Club, I found not exactly my favorite emergency food, but a good choice anyway: the Augason Farms Variety Emergency Food Supply Pail.
  • Maple Brown Sugar Oatmeal (1 pouch)
  • Strawberry-flavored Cream of Wheat (1 pouch)
  • Morning Moo’s Low Fat Milk Alternative (1 pouch)
  • Italiano Marinara (1 pouch)
  • Fettuccine Alfredo (1 pouch)
  • Creamy Stroganoff (1 pouch)
  • Chocolate Pudding (1 pouch)
  • Chicken-flavored Noodle Soup (1 pouch)
  • Cheese Powder (1 pouch)
  • Cheesy Broccoli Rice (1 pouch)
  • Creamy Potato Soup (1 pouch)
  • Creamy Chicken-flavored Rice (1 pouch)
  • Hearty Vegetable Chicken-flavored Soup (1 pouch)
  • Elbow Macaroni (2 pouches)
As I said, this isn't my first choice but the price and finding one on the shelf (the last one, too) was why I bought it. The meal mix is good and the Augason reputation is too, so this was an easy buy.
This particular item is now out of stock at Sam's Club, but it can still be ordered from Amazon

Recap And Takeaway
  • Using what you have that works, no matter what it looks like, is a wise use of money.
  • One Augason Farms Variety Emergency Food Supply Pail, bought at Sam's Club for $59.98 but available at Amazon for $79.99.
* * *

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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, September 14, 2021

Companion Gardening: the Three Sisters System

As we head into fall and the harvest season, now is a good time to start planning our gardens for next year. These plans can include:

  • Clearing more ground for planting
  • Prepping existing beds for winter
  • Adding slow fertilizing agents such as manure or leaves
  • Planting crops that benefit from cold weather like garlic or winter wheat or rye

However, another item to consider when planning for spring is planting arrangements. Most people who garden are familiar with the concept of crop rotation; simply put, this is the practice of not planting the same crops in the same soil multiple years in a row so as not to exhaust the soil. Companion gardening, the next logical step after crop rotation, is the practice of using of certain aspects and requirements of one plant in order to benefit another plant. 

The most traditional version of this concept is called The Three Sisters Garden utilizing corn, beans, and squash, and this technique was used by American Indians to increase production and protect their crops for many hundreds of years prior to the arrival of Europeans. The corn stalks would provide support for the beans, the squash would shade the roots of the corn, and they would all protect each other from certain pests.

Two garden layouts for a Three Sisters garden

As a variation on this concept, in our gardens we plant marigolds around the tomato beds to help keep the bugs off, and pungent herbs such as basil and oregano in the same bed as the tomatoes to dissuade rabbits.

There are of course many more combinations of plants that benefit each other than these. I have an old book on the subject that, unfortunately, has lost its covers over time and the title is not printed on the pages, so I can’t pass that information on here. However, a multitude of other resources are available either online, such as Companion Planting: Three Sisters Garden Plans or The Old Farmer’s Almanac Companion Planting Guide For Vegetables as well as in print books, such as Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening by Louise Riotte or Veg in One Bed: How to Grow an Abundance of Food in One Raised Bed, Month by Month by Huw Richards.

These techniques, ancient on the one hand and proven by western science on the other, can both improve your yield and prevent disease and other damage when applied correctly. 

Good luck, and good gardening.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Erin's New GHB, part 4: the Shelter Pocket

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.

So after a trilogy of posts about charcoal, let's return to talking about my new Get Home Bag and how I've probably overpacked it.

The Shelter Pocket is to the rear of the main pocket on my bag. Since it's to the rear I've tried to fill it with lightweight items, and it just so happens that most of those are items which are related to putting up a shelter. As I might need to do that rather quickly to get out of the wind and rain, I like that I can access them quickly and with a minimum of digging. 

Here's how everything looked before I unloaded it. I took this picture not just to show you how it looks, but also to help me remember how to re-pack it because things never go back the same way twice for me. 

I'm going to divide the contents into three sections, with Front as the section closest to the top of the picture and Rear closest to the bottom. 


Top Row:
Why an inflatable vest instead of a fleece? Because I live in Florida and it's rarely cold here, and because a fleece will take up more space than the folded mylar vest, and because this is a Get Home Bag and if it's during the cold months I'll likely have a coat with me anyway. The aerovest is mainly to protect against hypothermia caused by getting wet. 

Bottom Row:
  • An inflatable pillow;
  • cheap aluminum stakes for the tent;
  • a spool with 100' of paracord;
  • zip ties, because those are handy for a variety of purposes, and these can be "unlocked" and reused;
  • better quality plastic tent stakes.
Why two sets of tent stakes? Because the aluminum ones are so small and so light that there's no reason not to carry them. They can be backup stakes, or quick placeholders that I use before I set up something more sturdy, or I can stake down other things, or maybe I'll get caught in a windstorm and really want to secure my shelter. 

You can't see these in the first picture, but they're in there: a waterproof 2' x 2' square with blaze orange on one side and camouflage on the other (I folded it over so you can see both sides) and a small UVPaqlite "jerky light" (so named because it's vacuum-sealed like a piece of jerky)

So technically the books are also in the middle, but I took a picture of them here, so I'll talk about them here. 

Background: a 2' by 2' piece of wax-permeated canvas. I can sit on it while using the blaze orange square to signal for help, or I can sit on one and use the other as a work area. Both are waterproof. 

Top Row:
  • A "Hideaway Tarpaulin", which is a poncho that can be converted into a tarp shelter (includes zippered bag for carrying);
  • Two lawn-size trash bags and two kitchen-size trash bags, good for a variety of purposes including impromptu weatherproofing & insulation
Bottom Row:

As you can see, this should be everything I need to quickly protect myself from the elements and set up a shelter. Since I live in central Florida, I need very little in terms of winter survival as it only dips below freezing for a few weeks each year at the most. 

Tune in next week for what I hope is the final part of this series. 

The Fine Print

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