Friday, May 17, 2024

Guest Post: .350 Legend Follow-Up

by George Groot




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







A few years back I made the case for the .350 Legend cartridge, and this follow-up will address what I’ve learned in the field. This review should have been done two years ago, but life happened, and last year was my first hunting season not interrupted by my job. 

Bottom line, all the advantages I listed back in 2019 are still true. It's a light, handy, low recoil cartridge and it kills deer cleanly. One interesting point that I didn’t bring up then, but I know now, is that there is almost a negligible difference in velocity between a 16” and 20” barrel for the .350 Legend.

As far as accuracy and reliability are concerned, the Bear Creek Arsenal upper I purchased has been completely acceptable, with only a few magazine-related failures to feed from the bench (something I’ve experienced many times with military issue M4s).

However, there are some disadvantages to my particular setup, a 16” AR pattern rifle, when used for hunting whitetail deer. The first is noise: an AR-15 bolt slamming home is a noisy thing, and to compensate I would load my rifle at my truck and move to the deer stand with the rifle on safe. A bolt action rifle like a Ruger American Ranch doesn’t have this problem. 

The second disadvantage is cheek weld. I have a standard M4 style buttstock on that particular rifle, and so getting a good repeatable cheek weld requires consistent training. This is a skill I can transfer over from running an M4 for decades, but not everyone has that advantage so I feel it needs to be addressed.

The third disadvantage I encountered was with Herter’s brand .350 Legend ammunition, a 180 grain traditional cup and core bullet with advertised velocity of 2,100 fps (manufactured for Cabela’s by Winchester). Velocity was not  2,100 from my 16” barrel; it was instead a bit more than that. This additional velocity caused me to miss a shot, which prompted a trip back to the zero range and confirming that my rifle was in fact still sighted in at 50 yards, but was 6” high at 100. I watched a number of videos from other .350 Legend users who experienced the same “additional velocity” phenomena, and while there isn’t excess pressure or any safety concerns, it does mean you need to verify velocity rather than trust the box.  

Things I’ve learned completely unrelated to the rifle and the ammo? Scopes matter, and while bigger isn’t necessarily better, I think the “compact tactical” size actually limited the hunting potential of my setup more than anything else. Last year I used a Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn 1.5-4.5x32 optic, but this year I used a Swift 4x32 compact scope. Next fall I’ll transition to something in the classic 3-9x40 variety for better light transmission at dawn and dusk, and I’m debating between a Sig Sauer and a Vortex

Final Thoughts
  • The .350 Legend is great for southern whitetails. 
  • It is the ballistic twin of the old .35 Remington, and that’s a good thing. 
  • It has very low recoil out of lightweight rifles and should be no problem for anyone on the hunt. 
  • It is not a long range hunting cartridge, so if you plan on taking shots beyond 150 yards, you’ll want to look to a cartridge like the 6.5 Creedmoor, .243 Winchester, or a .260 or 7-08 Remington if you are stuck with commercial ammunition purchases and need a moderate recoil option capable of accuracy at multiple football fields away.  
  • However, if your hunting ranges are modest, and you are comfortable hunting with an AR platform rifle, you can keep a dedicated upper with two mags around for a very low cost-of-entry modern rifle during deer season.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Insect Deterrence & Removal

Spring is here and with it, in addition to flowers and butterflies, are various pest ranging from Japanese Beetles who eat the leaves off our trees, to Tomato Hornworms who devastate our tomato crops, and to fleas, ticks, and other biting insects who make us and our animal companions miserable.

Every year we have insect incursions into our home and garden. While there are various natural remedies, none seem to be quite as effective as the harsh and toxic chemicals available on the commercial market. I'm not a fan of these, but sometimes, nothing else will do.

Tomato Hornworm

We use a variety of methods to attempt to moderate their damage, which includes having a contract with our local exterminator to spray around the outside of our house to keep as many of the pests from getting in as possible. However, this system isn't perfect, and does nothing for our food plants. As with many things, a defense in depth is important.

Indoors
To help keep insects from gaining entrance to our home, I use a light layer of diatomaceous earth (DE) on the thresholds of exterior doors. To deal with any bugs who managed to get in anyway, I sprinkle some on rugs prior to vacuuming. In case of a more major infestation, placing a dusting of DE in corners and along baseboards, then leaving it for at least several hours or up to a day before vacuuming, can help significantly.

Diatomaceous earth is the fossilized remains of single-cell algae called diatoms. Present in most soil and many bodies of water, these tiny creatures had cell walls or shells made of silica that's similar to glass. When crushed, the resulting powder has sharp edges capable of cutting through the exoskeleton of insects, sometimes even removing it entirely. It can also absorb fat and oil from the exoskeleton, causing the bug to dry out. Basically, DE can kill a wide variety of insects as long as they have an open circulatory system and an exoskeleton, although some pests (such as caterpillars and cabbage worms) have a coating of mucus or slime on their bodies which renders DE ineffective.



If you are considering this option, make sure to purchase food grade DE. By FDA regulation, it must contain less than 1% crystalline silica, which makes it safer for humans and the best option for pest control around the home. There's also feed-grade DE, which is held to lower standards, as it's intended for use in animal feed.

A commercially available, more natural option we purchased recently is Vet's Best Flea & Tick Spray for Cats. Made from a relatively low concentration of peppermint and clove extracts, it's supposed to be both safe and effective. It's also highly regarded and seems to work well.

Vet's Best

Important Notes:
  • Cats don’t have a necessary liver enzyme, so most mint oils are particularly dangerous to them. Read and follow the directions carefully.
  • Allow any products used to dry completely before allowing pets back into the area. 
  • Do not spray any of these solutions directly on the animal.

Outdoors
A common folk remedy for dealing with pests on plants is to spray them with soap and water. However, several sources noted this can harm the plant directly, and also make the leaves more susceptible to sun damage by removing the waxy outer surface.

A safer, but less effective option is cayenne pepper, either dusted around the base of the plant or mixed with water and used as a spray. This reportedly makes the plant less palatable to many pests, both insect and rodent. As I mentioned in a previous post, mint extract can be used for a similar purpose. Note: there is some evidence that cayenne pepper can be harmful to bees, and some types of plants react poorly to the spray. Test it on a single leaf before applying more.

A less natural option is called Permethrin, a chemical insecticide used for pest removal on everything from farms to aircraft. However, we will not be trying this remedy. Even though Permethrin is noted as being safe for cattle, birds, dogs, etc, it's extremely toxic to cats. While our cats are indoor only, we don't want to chance tracking it inside and putting them at risk.

Many people use citronella candles or diffusers to keep bugs away outdoors. Again, be careful with this extract, as citronella oil is also not safe for use around cats; whether inhaled, ingested or applied topically, citronella oil can cause a variety of health issues to our feline friends. There's also debate on whether commercial citronella candles or oil have a high enough concentration to repel mosquitos.

Some additional options for natural outdoor pest repellents include cinnamon oil, clove oil, and other pungent herbs or their extracts. Planting marigolds around the periphery of an area can also help reduce invading insect populations.

Marigolds
 

This is in no way an exhaustive list of pest preventatives or remedies, but hopefully it will be of some benefit to our readers.

Good luck... and I hope you can stop scratching.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Product Review: Hiearcool Waterproof Phone Pouch

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
I like to listen to audiobooks while I shower. Like most people, I use my smartphone to play my audiobooks, which of course must be kept dry in order to function. Normally this wouldn't be a problem and I'd just keep my phone on the hamper, but I'm slightly hard of hearing and therefore often have to back up 10 to 30 seconds because I didn't quite understand what was being said, and it was awkward to stick my head out of the curtain and try to find the rewind button without my glasses, and then successfully press it with wet, soapy hands. 

Enter the Hiearcool Waterproof Phone Pouch, with a 4.6 star rating and 96,717 reviews. For $8.50 you get two transparent pouches that will accommodate nearly every smart phone currently being sold. These pouches are made of thermoplastic polyurethane that allow you to use your phone's touchscreen (but not fingerprint sensor) while it's sealed inside, and that seal is made strong by dual locking clamps that are secure yet easy to use. Each pouch also comes with an adjustable nylon lanyard which clips onto a loop on the pouch. 

https://amzn.to/3WEig6a

The prepping uses for this waterproof pouch ought to be obvious: not only will it protect electronics from water and other forms of moisture, but it will also protect against other damaging environmental factors such as sand, dirt, and dust, all while retaining full smartphone functionality. Since smart phones are used to navigate and call for help, they must be protected at all times in an emergency situation and this is an inexpensive yet very effective solution to that problem. I have one in my bug out bag and two in my get home bag (the other is reserved for a dedicated GPS unit, which is more energy efficient than a smart phone). 

https://amzn.to/3WEig6a

I have been using this product daily since January and it has performed flawlessly every time. My phone is in a protective case and I have no problems slipping it into or out of the pouch, I can access the touchscreen with ease and accuracy no matter how wet or soapy my fingers are, and not a drop of moisture has crept inside in all that time. In fact, before writing this review I sealed some pieces of toilet paper inside the pouch and left it submerged at the bottom of my bathroom sink for an hour. When I recovered it and opened the pouch, the toilet paper was bone dry. The worst I can say about it is that the lanyard isn't great, but given that it's easily replaced with whatever fits through the loops that's hardly a criticism at all. 

In fact, I've been using a 16" MODL Infinity Loop to hang my Hiearcool pouch from the shower towel rack. I haven't fully explored all of the uses of this tool, but it functions like a cross between a carabiner and a bungee cord and seems highly configurable. I regret that they can't be bought individually (I was given one) and only come in a pack of four (two eight inch, two sixteen inch) for $35. I will definitely be keeping my eye out to see if they go on sale for the holidays, because if so these will make ideal presents for my prepper friends. 

https://amzn.to/4bRpU1t

For completeness' sake, and because I know some people are wondering, I'm using this water-resistant Bluetooth speaker to hear my audiobooks while showering. It is unfortunately not available at the moment, but given its nonsense company name ("Maoifaec") I suspect it's made in China and will be released under a different name. While I am dubious of Chinese products, I have been using mine for over a year now and I am very satisfied with its sound quality, durability, battery life, and water resistance. If you're in the market for a Bluetooth speaker and you find of these these, go ahead and pick it up; I don't think you'll be disappointed. 

https://amzn.to/4beMWPR


Finally, I'm trying out a closing line. It seems like all the cool kids have one, and I want to be considered cool too. Please tell me what you think of it:

Stay prepped or get wrecked. 

Cool? Edgy? A bit too try-hard? Let me know!

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Guest Post: a Small OTC Pharmacy List

by George Groot




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





Every disaster prep list usually includes the words “30 days’ (or more) worth of medication.” If you are on medication, this is really great advice, but there are also a bunch of things you can purchase without a prescription that will provide you with treatment options  from a headache to a laceration, and those are good to have on hand for when stores aren’t open. This list isn’t all encompassing, and it’s meant to be generic so that you can decide, “Yeah, I need that, but not that” and customize it to your situation.

“For the Inside of You” List
  • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). These are the “fever reducing” and “general aches and pains” medications. I like generic acetaminophen and naproxen, but my wife finds that ibuprofen works very well for her. The generic bottles of 100 pills or more should be sufficient for a short term disaster, and I recommend one each acetaminophen, naproxen, aspirin, and ibuprofen. 
  • Antihistamines. Due to the war on some drugs, the “good stuff” is still available without a prescription, but you’ll actually have to talk to a pharmacy tech and show your ID to make the purchase. The prices for even generics are pretty high, but pseudoephedrine is still the “king of clearing things up” (especially hives) for me when diphenhydramine doesn’t cut it.  I would say that two 24 packs of pseudoephedrine pills is a good start for a household that doesn’t have environmental allergies, and one large bottle of diphenhydramine for mild “seasonal allergies”. People with chronic allergies will need a 30 day supply of their normal medication.
  • Laxatives. An interruption to your normal diet can cause a person to become constipated. There are multiple options, and if you don’t want to keep laxative pills on hand, you can make a “saline laxative” out of potable water and Epsom salts.
  • The “Anti-Laxative” Loperamide (aka generic Imodium) This helps avoid dehydration when illness causes diarrhea. 
  • Vitamins. A generic multi-vitamin is cheap insurance; I use Walmart’s Equate brand. You’ll want one pill per person per day times the number of days you are prepping; for a 4 person family working on a month, that’s 124 pills. Generally a short term disaster doesn’t lead to any sort of vitamin or mineral deficiency, but it is pretty cheap insurance. If someone in your house has a specific supplement they need to take regularly (iron, magnesium, etc.) add that in as well.
  • Caffeine can really help with headaches/migraines, which is why caffeine is an ingredient in so many OTC headache pill and powder formulas. A bottle of generic “alertness pills” is cheap insurance in case someone needs caffeine to deal with a migraine, and for some reason don’t have caffeinated beverage handy.
  • Rehydration salts. These can be individual packets of sports drink mix, medical grade salt mixes, or a mix of salts in pill form. It doesn’t matter too much which you choose, but you will want some on hand to assist anyone who needs to rehydrate. This can get spendy if you buy individual packets of name brand sports drink, but electrolyte tablets seem to be fairly affordable right now on Amazon.

“For the Outside of You” List
  • Sterilizing Fluids. You’ll want 90% rubbing alcohol on hand, and a bottle of povidone iodine or prep pads is also a good idea.
  • Antibiotic Ointment. A generic “triple antibiotic ointment” is cheap insurance, so I recommend two tubes. 
  • Super Glue. When you really, really need to hold skin together right now, this is good stuff to have on hand. It will harden in the container, so make sure you rotate in new stock every year. Of all the recommendations, super glue probably has the shortest useable shelf life.
  • Calamine lotion and hydrocortisone cream. This is for treating rashes, itches, and mild allergic reactions to plants on the skin. 
  • Anti-fungal cream. A significant number of Americans have an active foot fungus infection at any given time. Generally this is not a problem, but you don’t want it to spread to others during a disaster.
  • Petroleum Jelly. Really useful for dry, cracking skin, and it also turns a cotton ball into a great fire starter.
  • Sports Tape. This is different than medical tape, as it is designed to support joints. I use the cheap three dollar generic stuff for taping my fingers for Brazilian Jiujutsu the same way rock climbers tap their fingers for that sport. This also serves as a good blister cover, and can wrap around bandages for added protection. It doesn’t last forever, but is pretty cheap to have on hand.

“Preventive Medicine” List
In the event that “normal services are disrupted” you want to be able to keep your area as clean as possible, preventing rodents and insects from invading your space. 
  • Insect repellent for your skin. Being munched on by bugs is pretty miserable, and this helps prevent insect-borne illnesses from spreading. In addition to the sprays and lotions for your skin, you can get candles/torches and electronic devices that help you keep your area temporarily free from the bloodsucking insects.
  • Lice shampoo/treatment kit. Do not get an “organic/natural” kit here, get the kind that has dimethicone, which interrupts the lice water metabolism and kills them that way.
  • Permethrin. This is an insect killer/repellent for your living area. You can get it highly concentrated for agricultural purposes, or in spray cans to kill bed bugs. Understand that this is a pretty serious chemical, and it needs to be handled accordingly. It can be seriously nasty stuff if you let it touch your skin, but I’ve found nothing better for treating fabrics. 
  • Sunscreen. Don’t make a bad situation worse by getting sunburned. 
Storage and Stock Rotation
Like most perishable things, “store in a cool, dry place” is the best advice for your medicinal preparations, but even medicinal items stored properly still have a shelf life.  If it is a dry item, like a pill or powder, that shelf life is much longer than the “use by” date on the packaging. If the product is “wet” in any way, such as a gel, adhesive tape, cream, or spray, you’ll see a much more noticeable degradation of the product the further beyond the “use by” date on the packaging. If the product is a liquid, such as hydrogen peroxide, you’ll want to replace it regularly for the same reason you rotate your stock of laundry bleach (it breaks down and loses its oxidative properties over time).

References
If you have access to the internet you can check for drug interactions here, and if you are preparing to survive offline the “Where There Is No Doctor” series comes highly rated, and the newest editions are updated with additional medicinal information. 

While I don’t plan to start a village medical clinic, having a printed reference on hand is pretty cheap insurance for those things where I don’t have a clear idea on how to proceed.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Prepper's Pantry: Hot Sauces

As I've mentioned in some of my other food related articles (spices, canning [1 and 2], and pickling), home-preserved foods are generally nutritious and filling but can eventually get monotonous. There are many different additives available to add variety to meals, the simplest and most common being salt to enhance flavor and pepper to add some zing. Another option, and one with great variety, is hot sauce. 

My Wife and I grow some form of hot pepper in our garden most years. In addition to using them throughout the growing season, we also preserve them in different ways: sliced and frozen; in salsa, which is also frozen; dried and crushed; bottled in vinegar; and, of course, in hot sauce. We make a number of different hot sauces of different levels of heat and flavor, depending on the harvest and our mood. Neither of us likes heat for the sake of heat, preferring flavor with some spice. With that in mind, we also make some hotter sauces that are intended for use in soups or stews, where a tablespoon of hot sauce will go a long way.

Speaking of heat, peppers are measured on the Scoville Scale, starting with the sweet bell pepper and going up through the truly insane.

Scoville Scale

Recipes
At their most simple, hot sauces are an acid (such as cider vinegar) and a flavoring (such as hot pepper paste). Frequently, salt will be added for its preservative and flavor-enhancing properties. In the following recipes, carrots are used as a thickener and to moderate the heat level. Habaneros are obviously not the only peppers that can be used; feel free to substitute different peppers and experiment.
WARNING!
When making hot sauce at home, the most important precaution is to avoid transferring any of the spice molecules to your mucous membranes, such as your eyes, nose, mouth, or genitals. Gloves and goggles or lab glasses can help with this, as can rigorous washing-up.

Habanero Hot Sauce
  • 1 ½ cups chopped carrots
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 ½ cups lime juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (minimum)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chopped habaneros, about 12 chilis (minimum)

  1. Combine all the ingredients, except the habaneros, in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes or until the carrots are soft.
  2. Add the habaneros and simmer until at the desired flavor and heat. Adjust the heat by adding more habaneros or by increasing the carrots, but this can alter the flavor.
  3. Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Strain for a smoother sauce.
  4. Pour in sterilized jars and refrigerate.


Habanero Pepper Sauce
  • 12 habanero chilis, stems removed, chopped (minimum)
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (minimum)
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • ½ cup chopped carrots
  • ½ cup distilled vinegar
  • ¼  cup lime juice


  1. Sauté onion and garlic in oil until soft.
  2. Add carrots with a small amount of water.
  3. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer until carrots are soft.
  4. Place mixture in blender with chilis and puree until smooth.
  5. Combine puree with vinegar and lime juice; simmer 5 minutes to combine flavors.
  6. Put mixture into sterilized bottles and seal.


For those interested in more information, Ian (aka LawDog) has a good discussion on hot sauce characteristics which you can find here.

Bon appetit!

Friday, April 19, 2024

Guest Post: Sourdough Starter as a Prep

  by Weer'd Beard




Weer'd (that's how he spells his name) is a member of our Facebook Group and has written for us before. 




If you've spent any amount of time baking bread, you have likely read or heard about sourdough bread and the substance known as a "starter". So what is a sourdough starter?

Put simply, it's a colony of wild yeast and bacteria raised in a medium of flour and water, and any bread product leavened with this mixture (as opposed to commercial yeast) can be considered a sourdough bread.

Why is this relevant for preppers? 
  1. The biggest reason is that bread is a staple in most cultures around the world, and yeast is a requirement for a majority of these breads. As we saw in the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic, disruptions to the labor force and supply chain, plus a massive interest in hobby baking, meant that commercial yeast vanished from store shelves. There's no reason why this might not happen again.
  2. As you'll see in this article, making sourdough is very easy. Even if you decide that keeping a starter in your kitchen isn't for you, after you've learned the techniques I'm going to teach there's nothing stopping you from doing it in the future if you ever change your mind. 
  3. One component of the starter culture is yeast, but the other is the bacteria Lactobacillus which consumes the starches in your flour and produces carbon dioxide (which is our leavening gas) and lactic acid. The acidity of this starter is the "sour" in sourdough, but this acidity also has anti-fungal properties. This means  that products leavened with sourdough starter will be less likely to grow mold than products made with commercial yeast.
  4. A standard loaf of bread has just four ingredients: flour, water, salt, and yeast. Of all those ingredients, yeast has the shortest shelf-life, and even frozen commercial yeast will expire and die.
  5. Eating bread baked at home is going to be better for your health than eating store-bought bread, because there will be no need for the additives and preservatives that keep bread soft and fresh.
Hopefully I have your interest. Now let's get to work making a starter.

For reference, I relied heavily on this video and this website.

Growing a Sourdough Starter
First, you'll need a container. I panic-bought a bunch of commercial yeast during the pandemic and I was worried it would die, so I ended up spending a lot of time talking about sourdough before I actually started making it. 

Because of that, my wife bought me this kit, which is nice but honestly not necessary. You'll be fine with any glass container that has a wide mouth and relatively straight sides, so a drinking glass, a pickle or tomato sauce jar, a canning jar, etc. and a paper towel, a piece of cloth or a clean rag secured with a rubber band or twine is just fine. (Also, remember to save the cap if you re-purpose a jar. I'll explain why later.)


After you thoroughly clean and rinse your container, add about two tablespoons of flour and two tablespoons of water to the bottom of the jar and mix them well. For this initial phase I suggest that you use water that's been de-chlorinated (well water, bottled water, or water that has been boiled but then allowed to cool to room temperature) and whole wheat flour. This will likely work with tap water and AP flour, but whole wheat and chlorine-free water will give the wild microbes a bit of an advantage to start out.

Keep the jar someplace warm but sheltered from sunlight. If you have a place where you keep your fresh fruits or vegetables on the counter, that would be ideal. Fruits and vegetables will also have wild yeast growing on them, so in theory the air around these will have more spores and will foster growth.

After 24 hours, give it a good mix and scoop out about half the material (about 1 tablespoon) and replace it with an additional tablespoon of fresh flour and water. Give it another good mix and scrape down the sides as best you can. The fresh flour and water will give the microbes fresh nutrients to grow, and by removing half the material you're giving better odds that the microbes you end up growing will be the right kind. The scraping isn't necessary for the starter's survival, but once flour and water dry they turns into library paste and will make a mess and make it harder to see the progress, so this is more of a quality of life kind of thing. 

Every day for a week you'll want to do the same thing: mix, discard, add, mix, scrape. By about day three or four you'll start seeing bubbles and activity. At this point you should start smelling the mixture before you discard half. 



You see, we co-evolved with these microbes, and the waste products of these critters (lactic acid for the Lactobacillus and ethanol for the yeast) are not only chemicals that are safe for humans to consume, they are also lethal to many bacteria and fungi that might make us sick. Because of this you will likely start noticing a pleasant smell coming from the mixture, and what it smells like will vary from house to house and may change over time.

When my starter first started, the smell reminded me of stale beer. This summer, it took on a scent more like overripe fruit. Now that the weather has gone cold, the smell reminds me more of a really nice aged cheddar. My buddy who lives in the next town has a starter that smells more like an aged Parmesan cheese.

My point is that the smells coming from this should be invoking scents that remind you of foods or drinks, not of unpleasant objects like a wet dog, dirty feet, or dirty laundry. In the event that your mixture starts smelling foul, don't give up yet. Keep dividing and feeding it for another week and see if things improve, as there's a good chance the yeast and lactobacilli will crowd out whatever nasty critters have taken up residence.

After your first week you should start seeing noticeable activity in your jar, and you can start feeding it twice a day. Once a starter has been sitting for a few hours, it starts developing a foamy top layer with a layer of liquid over the less active bottom layer.



I like to think of that line as a "fuel gauge". When a starter is freshly fed that line of liquid will be evenly distributed, but after a while a well-fed starter will be mostly foam with a small line of liquid near the bottom. When you see this line, stir it up so that the top doesn't dry out and form a crust and see where the next line forms. 

If a head doesn't form and the liquid rises to the top, then the bulk of the starches have been consumed and the starter is ready to be fed again.



After about 10-14 days your starter should be very active when fed and have a pleasant smell. Once this happens you can start maintaining it, and a well-maintained starter should rarely need to be discarded.

Maintaining Established Starters
Now you can start gaining volume if you need it; just remember to feed at least roughly half the volume in the jar of flour and water. You can also switch to tap water and AP flour if you desire (I use tap water, but I still use whole wheat starter because I feel it's better for the microbes and a small amount of whole wheat flour makes for a better bread).

Always remember to leave plenty of space at the top of the jar, because it will expand as the microbes consume the starches! 

If you have a good volume of starter and you think it'll be a few days before you need it, you can cover it with the solid lid and put it in the fridge for up to a week.

Using Your Starter
The easiest answer is to look up sourdough bread recipes and follow those, but you can also convert existing recipes to sourdough by adding a volume of starter instead of the yeast, and then subtracting that volume of flour and water equivalent to that volume of starter. The standard rule of thumb is "1 cup of starter is equal to one packet of yeast (which is a little more than 2 teaspoons of active dry yeast) then subtract one cup of flour, and one cup of water."

This conversion will require longer rise times because wild yeast isn't a race horse bred for speed like commercial yeast is. Because of this, I prefer using less yeast and taking a longer time.

Here are two recipes to try out.

Whole Wheat Sourdough Sandwich Bread
This is a conversion from the bread found here

In a bowl, add:
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat sourdough starter
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 cups AP flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups water
  1. Mix well to combine, then give the dough at least 8 hours to rise.
  2. Once risen, pour into a greased loaf pan and allow to proof until it's close to the top of your pan (note that the rise time won't be too different between starter and conventional yeast, but the proof time will be at doubled at the very least, depending on the air temperature).
  3. Place proofed dough in 450 degree oven for 30 mins. Then take loaf out of the pan and allow it to cool on a rack before cutting.

Sourdough Crackers
Since these crackers use no oil, and the sourdough starter has lowered the PH of the cracker they will keep for a very long time in an airtight container.
  • 1/4 cup sourdough starter
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup cold water
  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Dough should be soft but not sticky. Let rise at least 8 hours.
  2. Give dough a quick knead until smooth, then turn out onto a floured surface (divide dough into manageable pieces) and roll out into a rectangle approximately 1/8". 
  3. Salt the surface and roll the salt in, adding other seeds or spices if desired.
  4. Take a fork and prick the surface evenly. If you skip this step the crackers will puff up like oyster crackers, which isn't a bad thing. 
  5. Cut to size using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife.
  6. Place pieces on a baking sheet, making sure they have a little space between each cracker, and put into a 400 degree oven for about 10-15 mins. Watch closely because once the crackers start to lightly toast they are done, but they will go from toasted to burnt very quickly.
You can double this recipe just by doubling the flour, water, and salt, and keeping the same amount of starter.

Tips for Managing Sourdough
If you happen to use up all your starter while baking, simply add more flour and water to the dirty container. There are enough microbes remaining to completely revive the starter.

Once your starter is established, I recommend freezing at least a cup's worth. In the freezer, a starter will last at least one year with no maintenance. To use simply thaw it, feed it as soon as it becomes liquid, and it's ready to use as soon as it's frothy and active again.

To make a large batch of starter you can just put a small amount of starter in a bowl and simply put equal parts flour and water in and give it a good stir. It'll be all starter by the next day.


I hope you found this guide useful and can see the advantages of knowing how to make and use sourdough starter as a prepper resource!

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Text, History, and Tradition

As regular readers know, I am Jewish. As more attentive readers know, Passover begins towards the end of April. As even more observant readers know, Purim was just celebrated in March. What does all this have to do with prepping? In the immortal words of Tevya, Tradition!


There are many types of traditions. In addition to secular holidays and religious events, some families have game night, others have leftover night, and there's always Taco Tuesday

Being able to follow traditions, even in harsh conditions, can be of immense benefit to emotional and psychological survival. For example, during the Holocaust, groups of Jewish prisoners in the concentration camps scrounged enough supplies to celebrate the Passover Seder. They did this even knowing if they were caught they would be punished, tortured, and even killed. After the war, some of the survivors credited this type of action with aiding their survival. It gave them hope, reminded them of better times, and helped them remember they weren't alone. Their first Passover after liberation was particularly joyful, for they had survived.



On a lighter note, parents of small children should have a few favorite books, either paper or electronic, for bedtime stories or activities. There are books I re-read when I feel overwhelmed or especially stressed. Having a copy of these to revisit during a survival situation, an environment high in both stress and overwhelming emotions, would likely help me persevere. This turns simple books into respites of immense value.



There are also travel and e-versions of many popular games. These may take up a little space and add a small amount of weight, but they can also create a positive psychological difference out of proportion to these concerns.



When are are planning your preps, don't forget that psychological and emotional health is just as important as physical health.

What traditions do you think would be of particular benefit during survival situations?

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Prepper's Pantry: Yogurt Bread

This is an extremely simple bread with a prep time measured in minutes. Including baking, the entire process took me less than an hour from start to finish. It's perfect for those days where bread is desired, but time is limited.

Yogurt Bread

Ingredients

  • 3 Cups self-rising flour or all-purpose flour
  • 5 tsp Baking powder
  • ¾ - 1 tsp salt
  • 1 ¾ Cups lowfat vanilla yogurt 
    • (if using Greek yogurt, increase to 2 Cups)

Recipe

  1. Combine flour and yogurt in a large bowl. Mix with a spatula until no lumps of flour remain. Hand mixing may be required. When done, the dough should be moist and slightly sticky. Add small amounts of flour or yogurt to get the desired texture.

    Dough mixed and ready

  2. Grease or line a loaf pan with parchment paper and add the dough. Use the spatula to smooth and level the surface if desired.

    In the parchment paper-lined loaf pan

  3. Bake in a preheated 375° F oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the surface is lightly browned.

    Fresh out of the oven

  4. Cool on a baking rack before slicing.

    Transferring to the cooling rack
This bread has a slightly heavy texture and a rich flavor. It can be eaten as-is, but works wonderfully with a fruit spread or honey for breakfast, or any other time. There's also an alternate version that uses sour cream in place of the yogurt I intend to try as well.

The crumb

Bon appetit.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Guest Post: Disaster Entertainment Options

  by George Groot




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




Years ago, the tornado warning siren went off in our neighborhood. We took the kids to the basement and brought along a laptop so they could watch some cartoons while we waited for the storm to pass. We’ve since moved away from that area, and now live in a home without a basement, so our tornado room is an internal bathroom where we keep some basic survival kit under the sink. But if we lose power for days (such as after a hurricane) I still want to keep the boys and myself entertained, and that means having battery-powered devices or options that don’t require batteries. 

Streaming services such as Netflix, Spotify, YouTube, Hulu, Crunchyroll, Amazon, Disney+, etc. all offer complete libraries of drama, romance, adventure, comedy, and horror at the convenience of nearly any screen capable of accessing the internet. This is an incredible bargain for a lot of people who don’t have the means to purchase physical media of every movie, TV show, or program that they find entertaining. However, it also means that entertainment is connected to steady broadband internet access that’s not always available during or after an emergency. In fact, once you get through an emergency there can be a lot of time spent just waiting for normal to return.

In the spirit of You Always Have Other Options (YAHOO), here are the options as I see them:
  1. Physical books. The great thing about the dead tree format is that it doesn’t need to be recharged. However books can be bulky, and it can get expensive to keep expanding on your private library just in case a disaster happens. My wife and I love shopping in thrift stores for used books, and often they have a good selection of DVDs.
  2. Physical disks. DVD or Blu-ray disks are “old tech” at this point, but they last indefinitely if they are not all scratched up. These can be used with DVD or Blu-ray players and a screen, or they can be played on a computer, such as a laptop. Not every laptop comes with a built-in DVD drive these days, so we’ll look at that in a bit. We have a habit of shopping for bargains in the $5 bin at Walmart for DVDs or Blu-ray disks.
  3. Digital copies of books. A Kindle or e-reader can store lots of ebooks and last quite a bit of time on battery power. These are much more compact than the dead tree format, but are also a single point of failure if the device breaks. Erin wrote an article about her “Survival e-Reader” years ago. 
  4. Digital copies of visual media. You just store these as files on your local disk, or on your network attached storage device. If you set up a media server, like Jellyfin or Plex, you can even have the server handle transcoding duties to save battery life on your display device for movies and TV shows. If you don’t want to set up a home server you can use a USB drive of sufficient size to store the digital copies, and plug that external drive into a playback device.
  5. Digital music. I know there are audiophiles that would rather listen to the end of the world on vinyl than any other format, but for the rest of us it's very easy to rip our music to digital format and use an old smartphone as a playback device with cheap earbuds kept on hand. 
BCP isn't a tech support blog, so the hardware and software needed to build and deploy a home server that serves as network attached storage and media server is beyond the scope of this article, but a quick search on any search engine will show you many step-by-step guides to doing that particular chore. However, even as a tech guy I don’t recommend putting all your eggs in the digital basket. I realized quite quickly that a home server is a “nice to have”, not a necessity for keeping kids entertained.

Getting Started
My recommendation is to get started with physical disks, physical books, a low power draw/long battery life laptop such as an Ultrabook, and a USB disk player if you need one. This will cover the vast majority of entertainment needs for children of all ages, and most disruptions are measured in hours instead of days.

The next upgrade from there is the external USB storage device, but you’ll want a big one. A normal DVD contains about 4.7 gigabytes of data, so I don’t recommend drives less than 4 terabytes for spinning hard drives, or 2 terabytes for solid state drives (SSD). You will also need some method of recharging batteries, which can be as simple as a 12V plug into a vehicle accessory outlet, or as complex as an off-grid generation system. 

To “rip” media from disk to digital format you’ll want a more powerful computer than a low power draw laptop, but you’ll not need something bleeding edge tech either. You will need some ripping software like HandBrake or MakeMKV, and of the two I prefer MakeMKV (they release a free serial number every month for people using their beta version). Any 4th gen or newer Intel chip (Haswell or newer) with 4 cores should be sufficient for the task. You could get away with older CPUs, but it’ll just take longer per disk.

Chromebooks
A word of caution about Chromebooks: while they have a very low power draw and generally a very long battery life, they will often be unable play DVDs through a USB attached disk drive. The version of Linux that ChromeOS is based on doesn't have the proprietary software enabled, which is why I recommend a good Windows or Apple laptop with long battery life for most people. If you are experienced with Linux, you don't need my advice on how to modify them. 

However, if you decide to go the home media server route, Chromebooks access those digital files through a web browser and work well as a cheap terminal for kids. If you have a machine that can rip those disks to an external disk drive using HandBrake or MakeMKV, then the Chromebook should be just fine as a playback device even through USB. A second word of caution about Chromebooks: if you buy them used you run the risk of getting an “end of life” product without any security update support.

What I Do
In my house we use all of these options:
  • If the internet goes down, but not power, we have a home media server.
  • If internet and power go down, we have laptops, disks, books, and the ability to use external drives. 
  • If we need to recharge, and our vehicles are functional, I have a 1500 watt inverter to recharge devices. 
  • My “to be read” pile of sci-fi novels keeps growing....
My wife has collapsed the disk collection we have down to boxes and books, minimizing the size/volume footprint for storing disks (It also means we dispose of the DVD jackets that take up a lot of space). After I rip them to digital format and put them on the Jellyfin server she has access to them as long as the house has power (or the UPS hasn’t died), but we still keep all the disks because it eliminates the server as a single point of failure. 

As Erin as said, “Morale is an important part of survival, and anything that makes your life better and takes your mind off boredom or miserable conditions is worthwhile.” This is especially true if you have children who are too little to be helpful, as keeping them happily entertained can keep you sane. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin' with a Gear Cart

In a previous post I talked about disabilities and physical limitations. I mentioned that due to my current circumstances, I was focusing on bug in rather than bug out preps. However, since more options are always better, I started considering ways to make bugging out easier.

One of the things our lovely editrix has spoken of in the past is her deer cart for transporting items during a bug out situation. In fact, after I submitted my above-mentioned post, she brought it to my attention again.

http://amzn.to/2wtU9dZ

While this is an excellent choice in many situations, a two-wheeled cart doesn't offer sufficient stability for me given my balance issues. But as it turns out, I had purchased a four-wheeled folding cart from Costco in August of 2022 for under a hundred dollars for a completely unrelated purpose. As is usual with my preps this particular model no longer seems to be on the market, though there are similar items still available.

The cart in open configuration


The cart is somewhat bulky to store, but it folds and unfolds readily with no tools required. The pull handle can be locked in both the collapsed and extended positions, and can also be latched to the frame of the cart.

The cart in folded configuration

With a 300 lbs maximum load its carrying capacity is lower than Erin's deer cart, but it's likely more than sufficient for our needs. I've filled it with firearms and cans of ammo and pulled across the gravel parking lot and ramps at a local shooting range, as well as packed it with boxes of books maneuvering through a parking garage and convention center, and its performance was stellar in both situations.

The cart can fit up to four large orange cats.


In conclusion, while bugging in may still be a better option for me under current circumstances, I now have a viable option in case bugging out on foot is required.

The Fine Print


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Creative Commons License


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