Another List!

This week, we’ve got something from Natural News.  It’s your basic “emergency kit” infographic; basically, a list (as we’re so fond of), presented in photographic form.  Without any further introduction, let’s get into it:

They start with a minimum of 30 days of stored food. Now, I’m assuming they mean “canned, dried, preserved, etc.”, and that they probably mean stuff from one or another of the many suppliers of #10 cans full of such.  All well and good–again, my main issue with these things is that you’ve got to keep using them; just having them stowed in a back closet or wherever isn’t doing you any good.  If you don’t know how to cook with the freeze-dried stuff, you’re going to be in a sorry state, should you ever need to.  (Granted, you’ll be fed, but you won’t like it much.)

Next is a minimum of 6 days stored water. Folks, were it me, I’d worry more about my water than about my food. Part of this is because we’ve generally got enough food stowed around here, what with the garden and all, and not enough water. Mostly, though, it’s because in the event of an emergency, your water supply is likely to be one of the first things to go… You’ll want to have it backed up, somehow.

Now, some sensible things: non-electric can openers. (Check. Note the plural…) A way to safely boil water, so you can prepare food. (Check. Also to sterilize things. And it provides heat, too–useful, this time of year.) A portable water filter. Sleeping bags for all family members. Gasoline and cords for your generator. (Or, you can move towards a solar generator–small one, 2 panels, 200w total–and skip the gasoline. And the noise.) Flashlights and batteries.

Hm… Full fuel tanks in all your vehicles. This is great, when you’ve got time to plan. The problem is that “emergencies” tend not to, as often as not–that’s part of what makes them emergent. (I generally try not to let a fuel tank get below 1/4, but that’s about as much service as I pay to this one.)

Medically necessary prescription meds. Check. Cell phones fully charged, with spare batteries. Spare batteries are a good idea; we’ve got a hard time keeping our phones charged, around here, though.

Colloidal silver… If you’re into that, I suppose. Yes, it’s arguably a water purifier; I’ve not seen it used, and wouldn’t necessarily trust it to be effective enough. But, that’s just my opinion, and I’m willing to be swayed.

Sponges for cleaning things when there’s no power.  Not certain about this one… Personally, I’d go with washcloths and soap. Also, a bucket with a bleach solution, for when you’ve got to be certain. Sponges are harder to clean than washcloths, and start simply spreading the germs around instead of wiping them up rather quickly.

Minimum one large, fully-charged fire extinguisher. Check. We’ve got several–one for each fireplace, one for the stove, and one for outside. But then, I was a sailor; we had a thing about shipboard fires…

Backup power source: large 12V deep-cycle battery with an inverter, to charge cell phones and laptops.  Here again, throw in a solar panel or two, plus a charge controller, and you’ve got a silent portable generator…

Here we go: cleaning agents. Dish soap, hand soap, bleach. Don’t forget a few more little things, like hand sanitizer, shampoo, and toothpaste.

Immune boosting tinctures and herbal supplements.  Again, I’m not completely on the bandwagon with this one. If you are, go for it. (Don’t get me wrong–I know all about medicinal herbs; I’m just not sold on using them this way.)

Personal hygiene items, including toilet paper. This is just the beginning of a long list; perhaps the hand sanitizer and toothpaste fit in here? Then there’s the toothbrush itself; floss; brushes/combs; a towel; the list goes on.

Topical first-aid supplies: antiseptics, bandages, etc.  Your basic first-aid kit.

Emergency multi-purpose knife. Check. This, plus assorted other knives and tools…  Remember, redundant backups are a good idea. (“Two is one, one is none.”)

Nuclear preparedness: Do you have potassium iodide pills?  I don’t, but then I’m probably less worried about nuclear accidents than most preppers… I just don’t think this is a high-likelihood event.  Again, if it floats your boat, go for it.

Activities to pass the time when there’s no TV: Books, cards, games, etc.  A little secret: we don’t have any TVs hooked up in our house. My wife, the kids and I read books, listen to music, and find other ways to ‘play.’ (Plus, we keep ‘adequately occupied’ with chores around the homestead…)

CB broadcasting radio so you can call for help if the cell towers are down.  In this day and age, if the cell towers are down, they know there’s a problem… Two-way radios for you and your family to communicate: yes. This one we have; it helps for when I’m working in the barn, or on the far side of the field, and it’s dinnertime, or the like.  And a wind-up radio to tune in to government broadcasts. Check.  Also good for weather broadcasts, and listening to music… If you’ve got a moderately fancy one, you’ll also have a small solar panel, and a USB port for charging small devices.

Matches, lighters, and fire-starting devices. Fire sticks. Flint and steel.  Check, check, check, check, and check. We’re set, for fire…

Copies of your important paperwork and ID documents: check. We probably need to go over ours and update it.  (This is a good thing to do at least annually, along with going through your BoB and GhB.)  Local map and compass: check. (You *do* know some land navigation, right?)

Pet preparedness: Do you have enough food and water for your animals?  (And medical kits, and spare leashes and collars, and *their* documents, such as licenses, vaccination records, etc.)

Cold weather hiking shoes, a good hat to protect you from the elements, and a rugged backpack: all very useful. Particularly if the backpack is well-stocked. I’d take a bit of time to get the hiking shoes broken in, too: just enough that they’re comfortable and won’t raise blisters, then set them aside with the backpack.

Self-defense items to defend from possible looters: Well, maybe. This is where your personal philosophies really come into play. I’ve gone on about this one a number of times, and probably will in the future, and this is getting long, so I’ll leave it at that.

In all, not a bad list. I’d make some adjustments, but that’s just me. What say you?

As Thanksgiving is upon us, to be followed shortly by the rest of the holiday season, it’s time for a bit of a break. I’ll probably post a couple of times between now and the New Year, but I won’t be “weekly” again until January.  Do stick around; after a bit of a breather, I’ll be back and ready to roll! (Plus, the ‘new’ Congress will have started messing with things, so we’ll have plenty to discuss…)  Happy Holidays, everyone!

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The Benefits of Hobbies

I believe I’ve mentioned before that I enjoy multiple hobbies; many, if not most, of them serve as potential “income backup” in the event of something untoward.  But, from the prepper mindset, there’s more to them than that.

The first one that pops to mind is food preservation.  While the gardening and harvesting and such certainly count as a hobby (and supply source), many people would balk at listing “canning” as a hobby.  Still, it fits in, right alongside cheesemaking, baking, brewing, and even meat preservation (salting and smoking, sausages, etc.).  With the right mindset, you can keep yourself busy putting a little extra food aside, from lots of different sources, throughout the year.  (As the weather turns colder, it’s time to start looking at those large cuts of meat.  This is when pigs get slaughtered, and begin the journey towards becoming all sorts of tasty things…)

Woodworking I’ve mentioned; trees are more or less plentiful–it just takes a bit of knowledge to harvest them sustainably, and only a little more to get them turned into lumber.  Granted, for most folks (myself included), the equipment costs are daunting.  It’s there, though–and, if you’re merely “handy,” you can turn all sorts of wood (including nice-looking pieces of firewood) into any of a number of different things, from small bowls, plates, cups, spoons and forks up to stools and the like.  (And if you mess something up, it just goes back onto the woodpile…)

I’m fortunate in that one of my hobbies is medieval re-creation (“living history,” not the Ren-faires).  This leads me down lots of different paths towards making things.  A little applied thinking, and you’ll see how to go from relatively easily-f0und raw materials all the way to something that would make any prepper proud–even the “doomsday” types.  Granted, my stuff tends to come out looking a little less “tacti-cool” than it does “Viking,” but that’s the sort of style I prefer to have with my substance, anyway.

With winter around the corner, though, it’s become less “time to play outside” and more “time to study bits and pieces of my play, for next year.”  There’s all sorts of hand-work that can be done–I always turn towards string things, making knit/crochet/nalbound hats, mittens, and socks–plus minor repairs to things that you’ve put off during the summer. Break out the glue and some clamps, and make that wobbly chair sturdy again. Replace the faulty light fixture in the kids’ closet.  Things like that.

How do you go about doing the research?  In one of my favorite “bastions of socialism” around: swing by your library.  If they don’t have a book on a given subject, ask them–the odds are good that there’s a bored librarian somewhere who’s happy to help you with some research.  Once you’ve found the book, you can get it, often through interlibrary loan (which is its own delightful brand of magic).  Then read up!  Take notes!  Photocopy pages!  And when the sun starts making its way back North, you can head back outside again and put to practice what you’ve learned.  Some of the best prepping around, which money can’t buy.

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Another Page is Turned

Well, Tuesday was Election Day in this great Empire of ours.  The people, bless their black little souls, demonstrated an impressive degree of severe memory loss.  It remains to be seen the degree to which this damages the country, but I think you all know how well I think things will be going for the next two years at least, four-to-six more likely…

And yet this sort of thing has been going on for years. Decades. Centuries, even. Back in the 1690′s in Europe, there was this little (mostly verbal) to-do commonly called the “Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns.” (Bear with me for a minute or two…) At issue was whether civilization of the day–particularly where the arts and sciences were concerned–had surpassed that of classical Greece and Rome. Many of the serious thinkers of the day weighed in on one side or the other, and books were written by people backing their particular argument.

In a sense, it was a war of ideas: Progress (sometimes characterized as Reason) versus Authority.  (Does this sound at all familiar?) Different sides have been on the ascendant at different times. For myself, I lean heavily towards the progressive/reason side of things (but I’m happy to admit that both sides make good points…). What we’re left to do when the “other side” has the reins is basically muddle along, which is exactly what we’ll keep doing, just as long as possible.

Is anyone but me deeply concerned by the sudden plunge in oil prices? While yes, it’s nice to take less of a punch in the pocketbook when filling up the car, I’m concerned for the longer-term cost–both in what things will (eventually, presumably) do financially, as well as the cost to the climate. As I understand it, we’re already well past the point where anything we do, up to and including going ‘cold turkey’ off of oil–will be of any help to the next couple of generations. As a large part of the reason for the drop in price is, indeed, a glut, and we’re pumping more, and faster–well, things don’t look good.

It’s all almost enough to make you glad you’re a prepper, right?

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The Season of Cider

So, this weekend we had a number of folks over for a “cider-pressing” party.  It was a lot of fun–(nearly) everybody brought a bunch of apples.  We used my refurbished cider press, got the apples (quite the mix–mostly Cortland, with some Jonathan, Mutsu, and a handful of other types) ground up, and pressed them.  It takes quite a few apples to get a decent amount–I believe we went through about 120 pounds, overall, and got something approaching eight gallons of juice.

Most of my cider references claim that there are three important points for maximizing yield.  First, you must “sweat” the apples, letting them sit somewhere cool for a few days to a week beforehand.  This, we did not do, although most of the apples were from local farm stands–hardly “picked the day before” fresh.  Second, you have to grind them relatively finely.  Here again, we didn’t quite hit the mark, I believe; my “grinder” really does a rather coarse job.  I’ve got plans to improve it for next year…

Lastly, you have to apply sufficient pressure.  This part I believe we did, and well.  (We may have taken more time when pressing–I think if we “rest” between cranks of the screw-press, we might get more juice out.)  Still, the addition of a little brewing yeast, and it’s bubbling away happily in the living room, on its way to becoming hard cider, to drink next fall, when we (hopefully) get a lot more people, and a lot more apples…

In other news, an interesting place to look for prepping stuff would seem to be Pinterest.  My wife describes it as a “visual library”–all photos, which link back to other things.  There are quite a few explicitly “prepper” things on there, and more than a couple that could certainly be tied in without much difficulty.

One bit I found was a newspaper clipping, probably from back in the 60′s or 70′s, describing the recommendations from the Detroit Office of Civil Defense for what comprises “two weeks of food for the whole family.”  Everything was canned, which makes sense–it keeps well, and it’s easy to tell if things have gone “off” (can is bulging? toss it…).

Here’s the recommended list for a family of four (two week supply):

  • 4 lbs powdered milk
  • 8 cans evaporated milk
  • 4 cans tomato juice
  • 6 cans grapefruit juice
  • 6 cans orange juice
  • 24 cans cream soup
  • 24 cans vegetable soup
  • 16 cans consomme
  • 2 pkgs bouillon cubes
  • 2 cans salmon
  • 4 cans tuna
  • 2 pkgs instant oatmeal
  • 2 pkgs dry cereal
  • 4 cans pears
  • 4 cans peaches
  • 6 cans beef stew
  • 6 cans beef hash
  • 12 canned meats
  • 6 cans tomatoes
  • 6 cans peas
  • 6 cans corn
  • 4 cans green beans
  • 4 cans spaghetti
  • 4 cans baked beans
  • 3 lbs peanut butter
  • 12 cans bread
  • 4 cans cookies
  • 4 lbs crackers (tins)
  • 2 lbs sugar
  • 8 oz salt
  • dried prunes, apricots
  • 2 lbs cheese
  • 2 jars instant coffee
  • 2 pkgs instant cocoa
  • 2 lbs hard candy
  • 24 pkgs gum
  • 2 cartons cigarettes.

“Plenty of water” is also called for–they say 7 gallons per person.  Now, I could go lots of different ways with this list…  Personally, I’d say if you’re a smoker, you probably shouldn’t be prepping (or, at the very least, I know the first thing I’d be working on!).  So the smokes can come off the list–save the money (which, granted, is a much greater amount now) for more of something else on the list.  I’d probably swap the numbers of cans around–6 cans of green beans, 4 cans of corn–but that largely comes down to personal preference.

Then there’s things like the 12 cans of bread… I’m not sure you can get bread in “cans” anymore.  (“Instant” biscuits don’t count…)  There’s an awful lot of condensed milk there.  More than a little sugar.  Half a pound of salt!  If they were baking, they’d be set…  Except they don’t list any flour, or yeast.  How many people these days really know how to use bouillon cubes?  (I do; my wife does; I’d bet a quick survey at work would show maybe two or three people–out of over sixty–most of whom are probably “of a certain age.”)

Then there’s the surrounding commentary–definitely a sign of the times.  They’re quite worried about radioactive fallout–even to the extent of advising “wiping down the cans before you open them.”  Broadly speaking, good advice–but if your stored food is getting dusted with fallout, you’ve got other issues…

I’ll dig around, see what else there is to see, and (as always) report back next week.  Be safe out there!

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Ready for Winter

So, it’s late October.  I don’t know about where you live, but around me, the weather has turned cold, and the winds are blowing.  It probably won’t be too long before we see our first snow of the season. Are you prepared for it?

I’m pulling this particular list from the Food Storage Made Easy blog‘s newsletter from a few days ago.  Frankly, I couldn’t have come up with a better list, so I won’t–I’ll just give you their list, worded my way, in slightly different order (made more sense to me), and with my typical added commentary.

First, finish up your garden.  Harvest the last veggies, pull all the plants.  Prune the trees and shrubs. Add mulch and/or compost.  This is also a great time for planting, if you’re planting the right things–garlic, for instance.  Most of the brassicas will do pretty well, as will some lettuces, particularly if you can give them a light cover from the worst of the weather.

Second, it’s time to take a serious look at your 72-hour kit(s). Are they good for winter? Rotate the clothes out to your cold-weather ones, if you haven’t already.  It might be a good idea to rotate through the food you have there, just to make sure what you’ve got is “fresh”. (If you use MRE’s, you’re probably okay for a year or two… If you put together your own, as we do, probably best to rotate.)  Think about whether any kids have outgrown things. Replace batteries in things that need them. Check the expiration dates on any medicine that you might have stashed. Do you have a USB stick with scans of important documents? Have any of them changed? How about pictures of the family?

Third, while we’re thinking about our kits, double-check your car kit/Get-Home Bag. All the same stuff applies from your 72-hour kit. Make sure you’re set for if you break down or get stuck in the snow and/or ice… Tire chains. Blankets. An extra coat or sweater. Gloves.

Fourth, think about your water supply. If you’re storing it, you could do worse than rotating it–the stuff will go stagnant, after all. (If you just can’t bear to “waste” it down the drain, use it to flush your toilets. Or use it to water indoor plants–it’s a slow way to go, but at least it’s still being put to use…)

Fifth, go through your food storage. I’m certain you’ve got stuff stowed in your pantry that you meant to use, but never quite got around to it… Make note of it, adjust your storage plan for next year, and go ahead and use it now.

Sixth, double-check your home heating situation. (The original list suggests giving the furnace a tune-up; my furnace is the stack of wood I’ve got outside, and the two woodstove inserts inside…) How is your house doing for drafts? Now is a good time to get them sealed up.

Seventh, make sure your “outside” water systems (hoses, sprinklers, animal water, etc.) are secure for the winter, particularly if you live where you get hard freezes. We’ve got heaters for the chicken waterer that I need to get set up in the not-too-distant future…

Lastly, go over your clothes inside. Bring out the winter stuff, put away the summer stuff. Have you worn anything out? Have you or your kids outgrown anything? Think about replacements. (If the old stuff is still serviceable, I recommend donating it–there are donation boxes all over my area for clothing and shoes; there’s no reason the clothes can’t go to help someone else, when you’re done with them.)

There; that was easy. I’m certain there are millions of things I’ve missed…  What do you suggest?

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For the last time…

Okay, the paranoia I predicted last week?  Yup…

Here’s the deal: To catch Ebola, you’ve got to come in contact with the bodily fluids of somebody who’s actively showing symptoms of the infection.  Fever, shakes, sweating, vomiting, and the like.  It doesn’t have an airborne transmission vector; you can’t catch it from somebody’s coughing or sneezing–unless they’re coughing or sneezing directly onto you, but then, you’re contacting bodily fluids…

From initial indications, the two Dallas nurses who caught an infection from the guy who died in the hospital there did so because of an over-abundance of caution.  I’ve often pointed out that just because one aspirin helps your headache, that doesn’t mean that taking dozens of aspirin would help more (at least, not for very long).  They were apparently tripling or quadrupling up on the protective gear–gloves, booties, etc.  Great theory, but in practice, it’s actually easier to screw something up trying to take off that many multiple layers…

Should the one nurse have gotten on the plane?  No.  Were it up to me, everybody who treats a confirmed Ebola patient should undergo a quarantine, to include a no-travel period.  (Historical tidbit: “quarantine” is from the Italian for “forty,” which was the number of days incoming ships had to wait off-shore, in “quarantine,” to show they didn’t have the plague, before offloading their goods in Venice…)  Still, strictly according to the rules as they were at the time, she was fine.  (I’m not really happy with the strict adherence to any sort of low-end cutoff for temperature; hers was 99.5F, and the “low-end” by regulation for Ebola was 100.4; I’d advocate for the “abundance of caution” approach, but that’s just me.)

Now, do I still think it’s not going to be a problem, here in the US?  Yep.  We’ve got folks self-referring, and after the few missteps we’ve had, I think the bar for “isolate & test” has come down to where it “should” be. What should we be doing to protect ourselves?  Wash your hands frequently.  Eat right, exercise.  Stop messing around with the bodies of those who have recently died of Ebola.  (Humor…)  Seriously consider your travel plans, if they involve West Africa.  Apply common sense in all things, and don’t get taken by the panic.

Next week, I’d like to get back to actual prepping.  How are you all doing getting ready for the winter? What else would you like to see here?  This always seems to work best with lots of feedback!

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Now They’ve Done It

Well, the world keeps flirting with total chaos… Closest to home, our ‘domestic’ Ebola patient died. I’m not surprised–this is, after all, an illness with no medical cure, and a strain that’s running over a 50% mortality. In fact, so far we’re beating the odds (2 of 3 have survived). I still don’t think it’ll ever grow to epidemic proportions here in the Empire; our health-care system (such as it is) is actually pretty well geared to handle such a thing, and we aren’t in the habit of handling the recently deceased…

On a similar note, but further abroad, I don’t believe they had to put down the dog of that nurse in Spain. While it’s theoretically possible that it could carry the virus, after a few days (at worst) the animal was most likely safe. What I don’t get is why they’re worried about how she (the nurse) became infected–after a careful review, they’ll decide that she broke protocol somehow, and exposed herself by being careless.

Then there’s the mess in the Middle East. ISIL is still advancing, and we’re apparently having a tough time bombing them into submission. Add in that we’ve got an extremely strange set of allies (Iran? Syria? The Syrian opposition?), some of whom we’d probably like to bomb as well (and many of whom would like to be bombing each other), and it’s a bit surreal. I don’t see how it can end well, either–not collapse, not WW3, but certainly destabilizing, no matter the outcome.

On a similar note, Pakistan and India are at it again. Russia and Ukraine never really stopped. North Korea is acting strange–maybe, and lots there depend on your definitions. It’s enough to make one throw up one’s hands in disgust…

More mundanely and peacefully (again, depending on your definitions), I’ve been playing with power tools, and working with downed trees to make things. I’m about at the point where I’d like to be–I got the tools to make *more* tools, in order to make the things I need to make things, if that makes any sense at all. Thus far, I’ve got quite a few bits to indulge my string habits, and I’ve put together some boxes and the like to store things. It’s been enjoyable re-acquainting myself with wood, and learning to study the ‘green’ material, to figure out what it’s going to do as it dries and cures. All the parts of which, should the lights go out tomorrow, I can turn into “paying skills”–a useful thing for a hobby to do.

But the “they” and the “it” I referenced in the title of the post would be the chickens, and eggs. They found a cozy “hidey-spot” in the garden, and sometime recently (Tuesday or Wednesday) laid a clutch of eggs. This is earlier than my wife expected, but I’ve been saying we should see eggs “any day now” for almost two weeks. They were small, and several were cracked, but for a “first batch” from some young hens, I’d say we’re doing okay. I picked up some “layer” feed this afternoon, so we can switch them off of the “grower” feed and keep their calcium levels up… Some folks do this with eggshells, but you’ve got to be careful to grind them down pretty fine, or else they’ll decide that they can “replenish” from the eggs that they just laid, which is counter-productive. Oyster shells work, too, if you’ve got access to them–we’re a bit further from the ocean that is convenient for that, although we could probably salvage a year’s supply or so from where the original owners had their chicken run…

At any rate, I expect to have had my fill of eggs by the end of the winter, and I’m sure I’ll be sharing recipes as the weeks go on–and if you’ve got anything really tasty, please share, as well!

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