Thursday, March 31, 2022

Update and Welcome

First, an update on last week's post about shovels. I was asked a few questions about specific types of shovels, and rather than belabor a point I'll just post a link to an excellent website that I found while looking for references. The Shovel Zone should be able to answer all of your questions; the only thing I wish they had were more pictures for the various designs. Forestry Suppliers has a good catalog of shovels and other outdoor equipment; I'm not affiliated with them in any way, but have browsed their wares for many years.

With all of the uncertainty and turmoil in the world today, there are a lot of people waking up to the idea of prepping. If you're new here, welcome to BCP: we're a non-political, mostly sane group of folks that try to get realistic information out to the people who need and want it. You won't see articles about bunkers and vehicles that cost more than most people make in a year, we don't have flashy ads on our site, and we're all volunteers. Most of our writing comes from personal experience rather than repeating what we've read on other sources, our product reviews are based on things we've purchased with our own money, and we're not afraid to tell you if something isn't worth buying. 

We've been around since 2014, so most of us are starting our ninth year of writing for this blog, and there's a search box in the upper left-hand corner that can take you to our older posts. One of the nice things about being simple is that the information rarely gets old; some things are so basic that they will always be there.

The reasons people prepare are varied, so their preps will vary. Here are a few of the more common ones:

Food prices are going up and availability is going down, so it makes sense to buy and store what you can as a hedge against inflation and shortages. Growing your own food in whatever quantity you can is starting to look pretty darn good to a lot of people; even something as simple as a window garden that produces a few tomatoes or peppers will help stretch the food budget with very little input. We're not at the stage of eating the animals in zoos yet, but it has happened elsewhere and we're not immune to the causes of shortages.

Wars and rumors of wars are spreading. War is never good for anyone other than those selling arms; it disrupts so many aspects of life that the impact spreads to other places and makes life harder for everyone, and the larger the participant in a war, the larger the impact. We live in an interconnected world so what happens thousands of miles away will cause changes in our lives, and there's not much we can do other than prepare for it.

Crime is becoming increasingly more violent. Humans are not nice animals in general; rather, we are greedy, prone to violence, and very tribal. Various religions and philosophers have tried to blunt these traits over the millennia, but each new generation has to learn these lessons or they will revert to the basic animal that resides in all of us. I'm old, so I've seen the changes in what is taught and allowed in American society over the last half century or so, and it hasn't always been for the better.

I mentioned inflation up above, and the USA is currently seeing rates of inflation higher than any in the last 40 years. When your income is going to lose value fairly quickly, it's a good thing to buy and store essentials as soon as you can because they'll cost more in the future. If the inflation is temporary, you might be able to store enough to be more comfortable; if it sticks around for more than a year or reaches the level of hyper-inflation, life becomes a day-to-day struggle.

Feel free to reach out to us with questions through our social media links on the right side of the page. I'm not on Facebook, but we do have a group over thereMeWe is less censorious and doesn't have all of the ads, so we have a group there as well. If you use Discord, I've put up a server there and can provide an invite upon request.

Please remember that we're volunteers and have lives of our own with jobs and families, so we may not be able to respond immediately. Thanks for joining us, and welcome to prepping. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Prepper's Pantry: Eggs

Humans have eaten eggs since before recorded history. They were, and are, an essential part of our diet, featuring in the cuisine of every culture, region, and religion. They are an incredibly versatile ingredient, whether eaten as-is or combined in a dish. In the western world, chicken, duck, and goose eggs are the most commonly used, but eggs from every species of bird from quail to gull have been eaten somewhere. 

Some of our readers may remember the “Incredible Edible Egg” ad campaign from the 1970s. Eggs can be purchased fresh, dehydrated, frozen, salted, pickled, shelled in cartons, and there are even egg substitutes for use in cooking and baking.

In the United States, eggs are washed during production to clean the shell and make them more attractive for market. Unfortunately, this removes a thin coating from the egg called the cuticle. Without this coating, the eggs will spoil quickly unless refrigerated.

Fresh, unwashed eggs can last for months unrefrigerated if the cuticle is intact and the shell is otherwise undamaged. Eggs can also be preserved at home using the following methods.

WARNING: Only use farm fresh eggs, even if the instructions say "use store bought". The risk of spoilage is much higher!

While there are some reported health risks from over-indulging in eggs, they provide a considerable amount of nutritive value. Probably the greatest health risk involving eggs is spoilage and bacterial contamination, specifically Salmonella. This was the rationale by the USDA for recommending eggs be washed as soon as possible after laying.

So enjoy eggs if you are able. Everything from fried for breakfast, hardboiled in a salad for lunch, to egg drop soup sopped up by Challah for dinner. There are a near infinite number or uses for this wonder of nature.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Erin is Cooking with Gas

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Up until now I've only ever cooked on electric ranges or over fires, and never over any kind of gas fuel like propane, butane, or whatever constitutes natural gas. This is partly because I've never lived in places where gas cooking was an option, and partly -- mostly, really -- because I'm the kind of person who sets off the fire alarm while boiling water* and so I stay away from any cooking that doesn't involve reheating prepackaged goods. 

However, since I've started experimenting with different methods of starting fires I thought it would be best to branch out. Back in January, my friend and BCP Facebook Group member Katianna Hebden was extolling the virtues of her MSR Pocket Rocket 2, and while I don't like the idea of packing bulky fuel cannisters into a bug out or get home bag, the thought of having such a burner intrigued me. After all, they are small and light, and if I happened upon a fuel cannister then I could make use of one. (Of course, if I happen upon a fuel cannister then I'd probably find a burner too, but if I followed that logic I wouldn't be writing this today.)

The biggest problem with burners like the MSR Pocket Rocket and the Jetboil is that they are expensive and I am cheap thrifty. However, I managed to find one on Amazon that is both inexpensive ($16) and has a good chance of not being junk (4.5 stars, 4200 reviews).

With a name like "AOTU Portable Camping Stoves Backpacking Stove with Piezo Ignition Stable Support Wind-Resistance Camp Stove for Outdoor Camping Hiking Cooking"  and the fact that AOTU doesn't even sound like a company but rather a jumble of letters, this is probably a Chinese knockoff of an MSR stove. But for under $20 and really good reviews, I'll give it a try. 

Of course, this meant I'd also need to buy a fuel cannister. I shopped around and the best deal I found was a Coleman-branded 15.5 oz cannister of Isobutane for $7.72 at Walmart. I had to pick it up at the store instead of having it delivered, but I considered that acceptable since Amazon wanted to charge me $13 for literally half that volume. 

So for under $25, I can test a budget gas cooking system. I'm happy with this deal. 

Between this and the story below I feel like this post has gone on for long enough, so next week I'll put this system through its paces and review both the stove and the gas.

* No, really. My mother was recovering from a knee surgery and she wanted me to make dog food, which involves cooking chickens until the meat falls off, then boiling the bones for broth. Following her instructions -- this is important, because I swear to you I did what she told me to do -- I filled the stock pot with water, put in the chicken bones, and set the burner on "high". Then I went into the next room to do some writing. 

The next thing I know the fire alarm is screaming, there's an acrid smell, and the phone is ringing because the house alarm is rigged to the smoke alarm. When the smoke alarm goes off it contacts the alarm company and automatically calls 911, and the alarm company was calling us to see if it's a false alarm. I can't answer because I'm dealing with the fact that the stove burner has literally burned through the bottom of the blue enamel stockpot sending hot broth everywhere, and now the house smells like an electrical fire in a chicken soup can. 

Because I didn't answer, the alarm company didn't call 911 to tell them to stand down. This meant that as I was dealing with the mess, and the smell, and my family yelling at me, and the dogs freaking out over everything, a fire truck pulled up outside with its siren blaring and its lights flashing. 
I end up having to tell a bunch of firefighters that no, the house isn't on fire, I'm just a derp who set a pot on fire by boiling water. And then their officer ended up coming inside to check that the situation is contained before they leave, which of course mortified mom because she was in a bathrobe and the house wasn't clean enough for company. 

On the plus side, my mother hasn't asked me to cook since then. 

Thursday, March 24, 2022

More About Shovels & Spades

After seeing David's post about shovels, I thought I'd add my two cents worth of shovel knowledge. I've done a fair amount of dirt work over the years, and I agree that spades are for digging and shovels are for moving material. For most jobs, the types of spades and shovels David listed are sufficient, but I've known some of them by different names.

For Moving Things
What David calls a spading fork is a tool we've always called a potato fork. These are very handy when harvesting potatoes or other root crops since the tines do less damage to the tubers and allow dirt to fall through them as you lift the roots out of the soil. Larger versions with round tines and more of a shovel shape are called manure forks, and you can guess what their function is from the name. 

a manure fork

The most common type of shovel around here is the grain scoop. Made of aluminum or plastic to eliminate the possibility of sparks, every farmer will have at least a few around. Sparks and grain storage are a bad combination; look up dust explosions if you need some nightmare fuel. These are often used as snow shovels in the winter, since most snow weighs less than an equivalent volume of corn or beans and you're likely to have one already. They are sturdy, light, and easy to find in most farm supply stores.

a grain scoop

When picking a shovel for a job, try to size it for the material you're moving. Grain weighs around 45 pounds per cubic foot, water weighs around 62, dirt is around 75-80, and concrete/rock is about 140-150. Trying to lift a grain scoop full of gravel is no fun, so get a smaller shovel to save wear and tear on your back. If you're moving lighter material like grass seed or ashes, grab a bigger shovel to make it move faster.

For Digging
The round-nose spade is more commonly used to break soil or start digging. The point helps you push it into the soil just like a knife point helps you puncture a box or animal hide. The curved edge also slices through roots better than a straight edge, something to consider when working around woody plants and trees.

Flat-nosed spades are helpful for smoothing off or squaring up a hole. Working around any structure under the soil is easier when you use a flat-nose spade to keep the vertical surfaces clean and neat. They're also useful for making temporary steps or stairs to climb out of a hole.

Tile spades are another common type of spade, used to dig post holes and narrow trenches to bury pipes or cables. The round tip and deep blade let you make small, deep holes while the rounded profile keeps the hole roughly the same shape as the post you're trying to set. Keeping the hole close to the same size as the post makes the post sturdier and cuts down on the amount of work you have to do. 

a tile spade

There is a variant of the tile spade used for digging really deep holes. It has a handle measured in feet instead of inches, and it's used with a separate tool called a spoon which removes the dirt from the hole after the spade has loosened it. The spoon has a blade turned at an angle to let you scoop up loose dirt from the bottom of a hole.

a spoon shovel

Post hole diggers and augers have replaced these tools, except at extremely remote locations where you can't get power equipment to the job site. When setting posts and poles, you need to have at least 1/3 of the post in the ground for proper support, so a twenty-foot flag pole is going to need a seven-foot deep hole. 

Special jobs require special tools, so you may run into shovels with odd shapes or sizes. I know a lot of farmers keep shovels with broken handles around for use when cleaning the mud out of equipment, because they're easier to use in tight spaces such as between or behind tires on large tractors. 

Having the knowledge of what the right tool is for a job is almost as important as having that tool available. Have both, and you'll save yourself a lot of trouble. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Used Revolver Checklist

With demand for firearms continuing to be high and economic indicators pointing to increased inflation, our gun buying dollars don’t go as far as they used to. One potential solution to this challenge is buying used. However, when looking at a used gun, there are certain issues that need to be considered.

Disclaimer: With these tests we will need to break the “keep your finger off the trigger” rule. Be extra diligent in paying attention to muzzle direction. Confirm the gun is unloaded repeatedly throughout these checks.

Tools and Supplies
You will need a small flashlight, preferably one that isn't excessively bright since we don’t want to blind ourselves, but bright enough to be useful even in a well-lit gun shop. A set of feeler gauges can be helpful if available; if not, a dollar bill can work. I’ll explain later.

Cylinder Carry-Up
The cylinder carry-up test makes sure that the cylinder locks up at the correct position on each chamber.
  1. Place a finger on the side of the cylinder to apply slight drag while slowly cocking the hammer. We’re not trying to stop the rotation, just applying a small amount of additional friction.
  2. Once the hammer is all the way back, try to rotate the cylinder a bit further. If it moves and we feel or hear a click, the cylinder notch had not been fully engaged by the bolt. This usually means that either the hand or the ratchet on the star ejector is worn. 
  3. Ease the hammer forward and repeat for each chamber.

This next test will look at any cylinder movement when the gun is in what’s called "full lockup."
  1. Cock the hammer again then, pull the trigger and ease the hammer all the way down. 
  2. Keep the trigger held back after the hammer is down. In this condition, the action is in full lockup and represents how things are at the moment of firing.

  3. With the trigger still held back, see if the cylinder moves in any direction. Ideally, the cylinder should feel like part of the frame with no movement whatsoever. A slight amount of rotation isn’t unusual; however, if the cylinder moves forwards or back in the frame, that’s not so good. 
  4. Repeat for each chamber.

Cylinder Clearance
Now we’re going to check the clearance between the front of the cylinder and the forcing cone. Too small a gap and the gun will tie up after only a few shots due to fouling; too large a gap and an excessive amount of gas pressure is lost.
  1. Put the gun in full lockup again, and using the feeler gauges or dollar bill, see what fits and what doesn’t. A dollar bill is nominally .004 inches thick; optimal cylinder gap is from .004 inches to .009 inches. 
  2. Repeat for each chamber.

Crane Alignment
This test will have us looking at the revolver from the business end, so check again to make sure it’s unloaded.
  1. With the cylinder closed, look at the front of the frame below the barrel. 
  2. The line where the crane meets the frame should be consistent and very thin. 
  3. If it widens towards the top, that’s a sign the crane is out of alignment or possibly twisted. Not good.

Cylinder Alignment
While we’re looking at the front of the gun, we should also check that each chamber aligns with the barrel. 
  1. Pull the hammer all the way back to full cock and shine the flashlight either through the firing pin hole (if the revolver has a hammer-mounted firing pin), or from the side at the rear of the cylinder. Enough light should come through for this test. 
  2. What we’re looking to see is if the chamber lines up perfectly with the bore. If it doesn’t, at best the revolver is going to spit lead to one side, and at worst a bullet will impact the forcing cone and possibly damage the gun. 
  3. Repeat for each chamber.
Bore and Rifling Check
Speaking of the bore, swing open the cylinder so more light gets through and take a closer look at the interior of the barrel itself. We’re looking for crisp rifling, with no pitting, bulges, or gouges.
Chamber Inspection
Look at each chamber in the cylinder from both the front and rear, shining the flashlight through. Here we’re looking for pitting or other damage, as well as carbon buildup at the forward end of the chambers and excessive erosion at the front of the cylinder.
Ejector Rod 
While we have the cylinder open, give it a spin while keeping an eye on the ejector rod. Does it seem to wobble up and down as the cylinder turns? That may be a sign of a bent ejector rod. This can be a minor issue, or it can tie up the gun after a few rounds are fired.

The next few tests require functioning the action, including dry firing. It’s always polite to ask before dry firing someone else’s gun, so please do.
Firing Pin & Hammer Spring
The pencil test allows us to check both firing pin protrusion and hammer spring tension. 
  1. Once the owner has given the go ahead, cock the hammer, then point the revolver straight up and drop a pencil, eraser end first, down the barrel. If a pencil isn’t available, a short wooden dowel of the right diameter will work. I keep a couple of bamboo chopsticks in my range bag for this purpose. 
  2. Once the stick is in place, pull the trigger. The pencil should launch completely out of the barrel. We only need to do this test once, even though it’s fun.

If the owner doesn’t want us dry firing their pistol, we can still check firing pin protrusion. 
  1. As before, put the revolver in full lockup, hammer down, trigger held back.
  2. Look in the side of the cylinder at the rear. We should be able to see the firing pin extending into the frame space. 
  3. It should extend about halfway between the recoil shield and the cylinder face.
You should also check the trigger in both single and double action. Obviously, if the revolver is double action only, skip the single action part.

If the owner would prefer you not dry fire their revolver, you can use the pencil or dowel to block the fall of the hammer when testing single action. What you’re looking for here is smooth movement without any dragging or binding and a clean crisp break.
Was Bubba Here?
If everything else checks out okay, we should look for signs that Bubba hasn’t gotten his hands on this gun. 
  • Are the screw slots clean and sharp, or are they dinged and torn from using the wrong screwdriver? 
  • Cock the hammer and try to wiggle it around a bit while keeping our finger off the trigger. If the contact points are overly worn or have been polished a bit too much, the hammer may drop.
  • If the hammer spring is a coil spring, has it been clipped to lighten the trigger pull? This can cause light strikes especially on harder primers.
  • Again asking first, remove the grips and take a look. While we’re in there, we can take a look for any signs of rust or pitting under the grips.

While there are more (and more specific) tests that can be performed when looking at a used revolver, these are a good place to start. As long as the frame isn’t bent or cracked, a good gunsmith should be able to deal with any issues from failed tests. However, that will drive up the total cost of the gun, which is something to keep in mind. 

On a related note, are there any good revolver gunsmiths locally? It seems to be a dying art, especially when dealing with the older Colt double action revolvers.

Good luck, and stay safe.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

FireFlame Fire Starters

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.

As I've mentioned before, I have difficulty getting fires to start without cheating (using fire starters and/or accelerants) at the best of times. Since a survival situation is the worst time and place to use a skill I'm not good at, I've decided that until I can consistently start a fire without cheating then I'm going to build my preps specifically around cheating. To that end, I've been looking for fire starters which meet the following characteristics:
  • Affordable: Perhaps I should say "good value", as I can easily afford most fire starters on the market. It's really a question of price per unit and whether or not I feel that's a good deal. 
  • Catches easily: By which I mean "catches other things on fire easily". A fire starter which I can't light is worthless. 
  • Small volume: All fire starters are lightweight, but a lot of them are bulky. For example, a Wetfire cube weighs only 0.16 ounces, but is also 0.75” x 0.75” x 0.5”. Trust me, that adds up quickly in a GHB or a BOB. 
I still haven't found the ideal mixture of all three, but I have discovered on that I'm pretty pleased with: FireFlame instant fire starters

Small Volume
Each packet weighs only 0.2 oz and measures 2.75 inches L x W, but at its thickest is only about 0.25 inches. Furthermore, you can break up the fuel inside the packet without affecting burnability, so you can fit them into more places. 

Catches Easily
I didn't try to light one with a ferro rod, but I can tell you that these ignite instantly from both open flames and electricity from plasma lighters. They put out an impressive amount of heat and flame on their own and burn for a decent amount of time, but nowhere near the 8-10 minutes claimed above. 

I tested one on the "solid fuel plate" of a camping stove with 16 ounces of cold water in a steel cup. The FireFlame started strong with impressive flames, but it only burned for 5:50 before going out, and the last minute or so the flames weren't high enough to reach the cup. It did, however, make my cup very sooty up to the lip.

Picture taken just after ignition. You can see how high the flames reach. 

The water only reached 140 degrees F according to a food thermometer, which isn't hot enough to boil but is hot enough to make a nice cup of tea, cocoa or instant coffee. Two packets would probably be enough to boil 16 ounces of water, but that strikes me as being wasteful and only suitable for emergencies. 

This is the iffiest part. At 60 starters for $30 or 20 starters for $14, you end up paying between 50 and 70 cents per starter. While that's a lot better than $1.80 per Wetfire or even $1.00 per Esbit cube, that still feels a bit high to me. 

On the other hand, I scored my 60-unit tub with an Amazon Lightning Deal that cut $11 off the price, dropping it to 32 cents per unit. That's much better, so I recommend you wait for a similar deal. 

Recommendation: A-
FireFlame starters don't quite live up to their hype, which would have you believe they're the latest incarnation of hexamine tablets. They aren't, but they are still very good fire starters and emergency fuel, and therefore earn a place in my preps. 

For me, their biggest drawback is their per-unit price. $0.50 to $0.70 is just a little too much for me, but if you can find them on sale for $0.30 like I did, that bumps them up to a solid "A" rating. 

I will continue my search for the ideal fire starter and report in with any new discoveries. Until then, I wish you all a happy campfire!

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

A Spade By Any Other Name...

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

I was asked by our illustrious Editrix to write a post on digging implements, and not just my ability to write myself into a hole and never get out. 

... Isn't Necessarily a Shovel
And it may not 'dig' as well as you would like, either. In fact, there's something on this list that digs quite well and in no way is shovel. Let's get started.

What's The Difference?
More than you might think. While everything can be used to  scoop or pick up material, some designs are better suited to the job. A snow shovel could be used to move gravel, but the operator won't last too long. The American Heritage Dictionary defines a shovel as a tool with a handle and a broad scoop or blade for digging and moving material, such as dirt or snow.

However, it also defines a spade as a sturdy digging tool having a thick handle and a heavy, flat blade that can be pressed into the ground with the foot. So by definition, shovels have a scoop (curved) blade and spades are flat... sometimes. I'll explain by showing some examples. I am mostly using pictures and descriptions from Home Depot, but tools are available everywhere.

The Anvil garden spade is designed to be used in confined areas between vegetables and closely planted flowers. It is a great tool for transplanting perennials. The 28 in. hardwood handle with poly D-grip and steel open-back blade will allow the user to work effectively in confined areas.

This shovel is of good quality. It is designed for light-duty jobs around the lawn and garden. It features a "D" style grip for secure handling.
There are two types of these shovels. This is the slightly heavier version, with a turned over lip for using your foot to generate more force to did in harder ground.

Now, this looks a little confusing, since it has a square end, but with the curved sides it qualifies as a shovel. Really!

Ideal for lifting and moving loads of rock, soil and other materials. Designed to transport loose material, such as soil, sand and gravel. This shovel features a square, coated blade with a 20 in. wooden handle. The D-shaped grip is large enough for a gloved hand.

Other Types of Digging Tools

Very similar to a pitchfork, a spading fork has fewer and much heavier tines, with a heavy back to allow using your foot to generate extra force when digging in dense soil.

The Razor-Back spading fork is a multipurpose tool that can be used for turning, digging and loosening all types of soil. It can also be used to transfer loose material. The forged head is made for maximum strength and durability.

This is another digging tool familiar to many former military members. While not exactly a government issue shovel, it is close enough to bring back bad memories of sore backs to those I asked about its use.

Redcamp Folding Shovel

This isn't a spade or a shovel, but it was a gift that I mentioned in this blog post, quite a while ago. Well, the manufacturer calls it a shovel, but in reality it is the same size as a gardening trowel.                                          

UST Folding Shovel

I have it in my camping gear, which is in storage, otherwise I'd use a picture of my own. I have used it to dig very small holes in fluffy,  rock-less soil and it worked great. I wasn't expecting it to work as well as it did.

When Do I Use What?
So, to sort of make things clear:
  • Spades (or spading forks) are designed to loosen soil.
  • Shovels are intended to dig soil and or scoop material, with the obvious overlap mentioned above. 
  • A folding camp shovel, very similar to the military issue entrenching tool, is a compact, lightweight compromise tool when weight and overall size is the primary requirement. 
  • A folding trowel is not to be used for anything but very light digging in fairly light soil. 

Recap and Takeaway

  • If I was still doing backcountry hiking, I would need a shovel like the Redcamp for larger digging, and I would still take the UST trowel too.
  • As with everything in prepping, spend your money wisely and buy what you need when you can. Also, be prepared to upgrade, also when you can.

* * *

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, March 15, 2022

Prepper's Pantry: An Apple A Day

Apples are one of the oldest cultivated fruits, having been domesticated between 4,000 and 10,000 years ago somewhere in central Asia. Being fairly storage stable, they followed trade routes to other parts of Asia, Europe and, by the 17th century, the Americas. Much credit is given to John Chapman, better known to folklore as Johnny Appleseed, for the spreading of apples among the North American colonies.

Currently, there are an estimated 7,500 different varieties (PDF warning) of apples (called cultivars) worldwide. They can generally be divided into two main categories: discovered or found, and bred or cultivated. These groups have a tendency to overlap as many of the breed histories have been lost to time.

An example of this is my personal favorite apple, the McIntosh, a small, hard, red and green apple with crisp flesh and a tart flavor. Good for saucing, baking, and eating, the McIntosh was discovered in 1811 when John McIntosh was clearing an old farmstead in eastern Ontario. There is no record of who planted that tree or where the seeds came from.

When properly stored, apples can last a long time while still retaining their flavor and nutritive value. One of the simplest ways for short to medium term storage of apples is the fruit drawer of a refrigerator. Apples store best right on the edge of freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit) and prefer high humidity, up to 90% if possible. Few refrigerators can provide this, which is why root cellars were, and still are, a traditional method.

A cool, damp basement is actually one of the best places to store apples. They should be carefully examined for bruises and cuts, wrapped in paper (one bad apple really can ruin a bunch), and placed in a single layer. Larger apples should be rotated out first as they tend to deteriorate faster. Depending on the type, apples can last up to a year in optimal conditions. 

Apples that don’t meet storage requirements can be eaten as-is, preserved in another manner such as drying, canning, or freezing, or used in sauce and baked goods.

Even if their skin is slightly wrinkled and their flavor has started to fade, properly-stored apples can still be a wonderful treat all year round.

Friday, March 11, 2022

The Agricultural Extension Office

Last week I mentioned local Agricultural Extension Offices as a source of information about renting land to garden on, but that's not all they're good for: most states with a significant agricultural market will have some form of Extension Office to assist farmers and gardeners, one of the few uses of our tax dollars that can directly benefit us.

A little history first, since I like to explain where things come from. Back in 1862, Congress passed the Morrill Act that established land-grant colleges and universities to promote better opportunities in the areas of agriculture and the mechanical arts. The politics get a bit sticky since this was right at the start of the Civil War, and it was one of the federal vs. state control issues that brought about that conflict. Basically, the 1862 Act sold off federal land and granted the proceeds to the states to fund the creation of public colleges and universities. Each state received 30,000 acres per federal Senator and Congressman from that state, with the Confederate states being exempted until after the war. 69 public colleges and universities were founded this way, creating an alternative to private schools. After the war in 1890, a further Act established colleges and universities for the newly-freed black population (things were still segregated), and in 1994 it was expanded further to create advanced schools for native Americans. A list of all such colleges can be found on Wikipedia.

Land-grant colleges exist to teach agricultural best practices and other things, so they're a source of information and assistance that we're already paying for. Most of them have some form of Agricultural Extension Office system with offices scattered about the state; ours is at the county level with a physical office in every county. With over 150 years of study and research in their archives, they are a great resource for information about your local soils, crops, pests, and animals. If you find an unidentified bug eating all of your plants, taking a specimen to the local office (in a jar, please) is a good way to find out what it is and how to eliminate it.

Identifying weeds and invasive animals are also part of their job. Many of them publish hard-copy identification guides for local pests along with other books, maps, and documents that can help you grow food. Hardcopy is my preferred method of storing information, since it doesn't rely on electricity and can't be remotely altered or deleted.

Iowa was the first state to accept the land-grant college system, but Kansas was the first to establish one. Iowa State University is not known for its sports teams, but is well-known for graduating veterinarians and agricultural managers. They run our state Extension services, and the web page gives you a clue as to how much that covers. Expanding local markets and encouraging local production of foods is a part of their focus right now, so if you're looking to grow food in quantity, they have helpful information and they will share it with out-of-staters. Here's an example of what they offer just to commercial vegetable producers. This can become a rabbit-hole of research, so set yourself limits before diving in.

Reach out to your local Extension Office and see what they have to offer. It's going to vary by state and personnel, so I can't guarantee a good response, but you should be able to get something useful out of them.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Hatori Mini LED

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

While unpacking during a little getaway I discovered some gear that, while not missing, I had misplaced and forgotten. 

In my shaving kit bag that stays in my suitcase is a small first aid kit. Besides a razor, shaving cream, and a toothbrush, clipped to a pocket was a Hatori Super Small Mini LED Flashlight. Due to the pandemic I haven't been anyplace overnight in 18 months, which made things that much worse for my poor little light. It didn't leak, so nothing else was ruined when the battery went bad, it just corroded the light.
It's my fault, since I keep an inventory of where I have lights, but this one just slipped my mind. The other Hatori is still here in my carry-along first aid kit that goes to work with me, and that one does have a fresh AAA battery, since I look at that kit once a month to restock band-aids.  
I really like the Hatori LED lights, as they are very small, compact, put out a good amount of light for their size and price. I believe I've ordered six of these (and gave most away), and friends have ordered several more with zero complaints. At 3.5" this light fits into a pocket or anywhere else a clip-equipped knife goes. 
From the Amazon ad:*
  • ♥♥3 Brightness Levels: Three beam settings (High, Low, SOS) runs only ONE AAA alkaline battery (not included). 3 Brightness Levels make it ideal for use around the house, dog walking, or camping.
  • ♥♥Pocket size outdoor flashlight: It is small and light enough to slip into a pocket and is forgotten until you need it. It is easy to fit in the palm of hand and only weights about 30g(only one).
  • ♥♥150 Lumens Powerful LED: High lumen small flashlight set in a dark or lit room will last quite two hours with moderate use(keep on) just one alkaline batterry powered, which is sufficient to light you way and light small dark spaces.
  • ♥♥Advanced Design: Skid-Proof design and Water-Proof design. Our flashlight set is made of high quality 6061T aluminum alloy with no worries in rainy day or snow days.
  • ♥♥Safe and Warranty Guarranteed: High-efficiency and great output LED chip, over-charging protection, short circuit protection. All of Hatori Flashlights has 100% SATISFACTION GUARANTEE, NO HASSLE and 90-DAY MONEY BACK GUARANTEE.
*Any typos are from the actual ad and not my usual misteaks.

Getting two nice lights for $10.19 plus free shipping is a real bargain! The order for a replacement 2-pack is going in soon.

Recap And Takeaway

  • I need to do a better job of tracking my lights. While I take my bigger lights with me every day, having a spare flashlight, even a mini like the Hatori, is a good idea.
  • two-pack of Hatori Mini LED Lights are available from Amazon for $10.19 with Prime shipping.
  • At $5 and change each, these lights aren't quite disposable, but I have never hesitated to give one up to a friend.
* * *

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. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

NoCry Gloves


Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
I have small hands. No, smaller than that. Don't think "very short girl", think "freakishly tall Hobbit" with commensurate hand size. Naturally this means I need small things to fit my hands, and I'm thrilled when something sized "Small" is actually small enough to fit me well. 

Back in 2016 I was looking for some cut-resistant gloves to put in my preps due to some unfortunate accidents I've had in the past, and practically every cut-resistant glove offered was sized "Medium" or larger. 
Every one, that is, except for NoCry. They came in Small! And what's more, they fit my tiny Hobbit hands!

My hands in NoCry gloves, size Small. 
There's only a little bit of extra room at the tips.  

This is the point where I would love to tell you how well they work. The thing is, though, I haven't had a cutting mishap while wearing them. While this is certainly a good thing, it does make it difficult for me to say "These really work!" Since I don't believe in testing to destruction, all I can do is say the following:
  • They have a 4.5 star rating on Amazon with over 31,000 ratings
  • They are affordable
  • They are comfortable
  • They are ambidextrous
  • They do not reduce my dexterity
  • They can be cleaned in the washing machine
  • Their cuffs are color-coded for size
I can attest to all of these. They are also rated cut resistance 5, which is apparently four times that of leather, but I can't attest to that. 

I liked these gloves so much that I decided to get another pair, and when I went on Amazon I discovered that NoCry also makes gloves with a reinforced thumb, index, and middle finger. After wishing I was wearing these back in 2010 when I cut my thumb quite badly (I still don't have full sensation in it), I ordered a pair.

To my horror, I discovered that Small didn't fit me any more. 

Yes, that's nearly an inch of extra material at the fingertips. I thought that perhaps there had been a mix-up in the factory where they're made and a Small label had been sewn onto a Medium pair of gloves, so I requested a replacement pair from Amazon. No sooner had I done that and left a 3-star review complaining about the fit (5 stars for the original gloves, 1 star for reinforced that don't fit, that's a 3 average), I received a message from NoCry stating that they'd already sent out a replacement pair. 

Now, before you think my hand somehow shrank, here's a comparison between my old gloves (middle), the new pair I ordered, and the replacement pair. As you can see, the reinforced gloves are quite visibly longer. 

I replied to the message with the following:
Hello, and thank you for sending me a replacement pair. I am always happy to give second chances.
Unfortunately, the replacement gloves are exactly the same size as the others -- too large in the fingers by an inch, as you can see from the photos -- and I cannot use them.
Your sizes have changed since my first purchase in 2016; perhaps your children's sizes will fit me better. I will order an XXS once you have a reinforced glove in that size.
I will return both pairs to you so that you can sell them to people with larger hands. Please issue a refund.

Enter Raino Raasuke, the CEO of NoCry. He contacted me to tell me that he'd read my review and, well, read for yourself:
Hi Erin,
Thank you very much for getting back to us and for sharing the photos! 
I am really sorry about your poor experience with our reinforced gloves. I have already shared your feedback with another team of ours to investigate further from their end. I want to thank you for sharing your feedback with us as it helps us get better. Please accept my sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused. 
It appears to me that the replacement pair you received was sent out by Amazon. 
Just to point out, the difference of the reinforced fingers (why they might be slightly longer) partly comes from the difference in elasticity. The white area is not very elastic, so it has to be a bit larger to accommodate the difference. Please try pulling back each finger to see if it makes a difference.  
Here at NoCry we have a policy - if a customer receives a product that is either defective or is simply not what was expected, then we’ll always replace it for free or offer a refund, no strings attached.
With that being said, I have already issued a full refund for your order, and it should take 3-5 business days until the amount reaches you.
Also, I have taken the liberty to send you a replacement pair in size XS, free of charge, so you could see if they offer you a more comfortable fit. 
If you do not mind, I would love to hear from you once the replacement pair arrives, just to know how they fit you. 
Please rest assured, there is no need to go through the hassle and return anything to us. Feel free to give them to a friend who might make better use of them. 
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Best wishes,
Raino from NoCry

A refund and a replacement in Extra Small is fantastic customer service. But wait, it gets better! I also received in the mail an unexpected package from... Mama's Custom Cookies of Wantagh, NY?

The little red critter is NoCry's mascot.
I'm not sure if he's a dinosaur or alligator or what,
but the idea is he has tough skin like their gloves. 

It was tasty. I eated it.

So first off, "Accept Cookies (Yes/No)?" is absolute genius, and you can't go wrong by sending me a tasty cookie, so this made both my brain and my tummy happy. Plus they sent me another pair and refunded my money! Folks, this is amazing customer service and I cannot speak highly enough of them.
Raino, you magnificent person! "Accept Cookies (Y/N)?" is sheer delicious genius. I was already impressed with your customer service but this goes above and beyond.

You will be relieved to know that the XS gloves fit me fairly well. There's still some space at the tips of the reinforced fingers (see first 2 photos) but I'm able to solve that by taking a finger in my other hand and moving the fabric back and forth while pushing back towards my hand. This compresses the fibers enough that I don't have loose material at the tips (see second 2 photos). The drawback is that it is a little bit tighter and a little harder to bend those fingers, but it isn't uncomfortable nor do I suffer any appreciable loss of dexterity from it (and if I need to use fine motor skills I'll take the gloves off anyway).

I will be revising my review tomorrow, praising you for making the situation right.

Further, I run a Preparedness Blog ([link removed]) and I will let everyone know about the fine customer service you gave us, and I will give away the extra pairs of gloves to my readers. How's that sound?

Thank you again for all you've done. I already recommend NoCry products to my friends, family and readers, but you've outdone yourselves in the customer service department. Cheers!

Sincerely, Erin Palette

So there you have it. I now have a pair of XS gloves which fit me, and two pairs of Small reinforced gloves which I can't. So who wants a pair? 

First two comments get them (remember, they're SMALL) -- just pay postage!

The Fine Print

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