Well, you were warned…

As mentioned, the illustrious ex-Governor of Alaska gets a bit of attention this week.  Well, at least indirectly…

The Iowa Freedom Summit (now there’s a name) was held in late January, and it featured a number of conservative Big Names giving speeches.  The event was widely seen as one of the stepping-off points for folks looking for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination.  The aforementioned governor was one of them…  Supposedly, here teleprompter broke, which would be a lovely bit of irony, considering her disdain for such things during the 2008 campaign. She apparently forgot to jot emergency notes down on her hand, this time, and what came out was some rather amazing word salad.  This latter turn of events probably could have been predicted by just about anybody, but the reaction from the right has me scratching my head:

Charles C.W. Cooke of the National Review called it “…not an aberration or a blip, but the foreordained culmination of a slow and unseemly descent into farce…”.

Columnist Matt Lewis of the Daily Beast wonders “Is it possible that Kathleen Parker saw something I didn’t when she attacked Palin?”

Even her erstwhile Fox News supporters abandoned her.

The part that has me confused is why it took them this long to realize what a train wreck the former candidate was.  I mean, I don’t think that I’m a great judge of character, probably right around average; even so, my second thought after she was nominated was, “this is some sort of sick joke, right?”  (My first thought was, “Sarah who?“)

It’s enough to make you question–oh, I don’t know.  Lots of things; their taste, or their opinion of what would make a good VP (or, gods forbid, POTUS).

In slightly more down-to-earth news, given the unexpected day off for much of the eastern seaboard due to recent snows, my wife suggested we play a bit with some recipes.  She found a crockpot bread recipe that looked interesting, so we gave it a whirl…  No pictures, but it turned out quite nicely.  Some notes:

  • If you’ve got an older crockpot, your temperature settings might be a little off. “High” for ours is a little higher than a newer crockpot; we pulled our bread early to compensate.  Let your nose be your guide; the “thump test” works well, too (you’re looking for a hollow sound).
  • Not having any fresh rosemary on hand (well, it is winter, after all), we used dry.  Cut back on the amount: maybe 3/4 of a tablespoon for the dough, a similar amount for the topping should be okay (your tastes may vary).
  • To get the topping to adhere better, try a light coating of EVOO before you add it.
  • Watch it very carefully if you oven-brown it to finish.  (It really doesn’t need it, except maybe for aesthetics.)

Ours was lovely, and we’ll be doing it again!  (We’ll likely try it straight in the oven, too–or maybe in the dutch oven…)  If you give it a go, let us know how it went!  (Other recipes, or links, are welcome, too!)

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Why Do We Do This Again?

So, I had an idea all teed up for this week’s post, involving my bafflement at the right-wing media’s “sudden” realization that Palin is a crackpot, when Real Life ™ intervened, and reminded me why I do this prepping thing.

I had been out in my workshop, diligently making wood chips, and came inside for dinner.  My wife greeted me with, “I don’t know what happened, but we haven’t had water for about half an hour.”  Great.

Now, we’re on a well, so it wasn’t a problem with the city water supply.  It’s winter, which in other cases would (and has) meant frozen pipes; it wasn’t that cold, though, and a quick check in the basement showed that nothing was frozen.  No; after a bit of troubleshooting, the issue turned out to be the well pump.  It wasn’t pumping, so the water pressure in the system was approximately 0 PSI.

Have I mentioned lately that one of the weakest points in our prepping is water storage?  We’ve got a propane-fired camp shower/water heater, so getting water hot isn’t a problem.  The problem is getting water to begin with.  Most of what we had was suitable only for flushing toilets–like bad preppers, we hadn’t rotated stock–which left nothing for washing dishes, or washing ourselves, or drinking.

(Another lesson to be learned here is not to procrastinate–my wife and I had both looked at the dishes earlier in the day, and thought, “I’ll just get those after dinner.”  Well, not going to happen…)

Fortunately, this wasn’t a complete grid-down situation (which I don’t believe will happen any time soon, anyway); and we aren’t out in the boondocks, so getting parts is not a problem.  Most hardware stores (and assorted grocery and big chain stores) now sell 5-gallon water jugs, meant for water cooler setups; they’re a setup rather like with exchangeable propane tanks.  If you haven’t done a full rain-water catchment system (so long as those are legal where you are), and can’t afford something fun like water bricks, the jugs are a relatively inexpensive way to go.

Given the lateness of the hour, and the propensity for anything involving plumbing to take multiple trips to the hardware store, I couldn’t get the pump fully replaced until the next day.  As such, we “only” had to go about sixteen hours ‘without’ water; had ours been a “deep” well (over 70 feet), or one with a submersible pump, it would undoubtedly have been much longer.  Still, it drove home a weak area of our prepping, and in a relatively harmless way.

Next time, I’ll talk Palin, unless a better topic comes along.  Consider yourselves warned…

Posted in Collapse, Food, Gear, Planning, Post-Collapse, Skills and Practice | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Unity of the State?

So, another State of the Union Address has come and gone in this, our great Empire. I’m certainly not going to go over it point-by-point; I agree with most of the positions the President laid out, and I understand the ones I don’t agree with. I skipped out on the rebuttals – shame on me! – but it was already late into a long day, and I didn’t feel like elevating my blood pressure right before bed.

I was struck by some of the Fox News coverage the next morning (I saw it by accident, I swear…). If one of your main quibbles is that Obama didn’t use the words “radical Islam” (although he did talk terrorism), isn’t your position a little thin? I mean, really… I can think of more terror attacks, performed in the U.S. inspired by what I’ll call radical Christianity, than not. Can we talk McVeigh in 1995? The Sikh Temple Massacre in 2012? The Centennial Olympic Park bombing, 1996?

Much of the Fox coverage was really quite divisive–even when they were pretending to have “reasonable” discussion. They tended to set up an “us-vs-them” divide, demonizing the “them.” Even when the “them” was, well, “us”. The wording on their headlines was inflammatory–I wish I had jotted down notes, for examples, but I suspect that catching any session will provide plenty of examples. From a purely sociological standpoint, it was fascinating.

The Fox reaction to the recent events in France was interesting, too – and how they were brought to issuing on-air retractions and apologies (four times!) was instructive. Satire, humor, and an email/twitter campaign. If only they were called out more often–and with appropriate focus–maybe they’d start being worth something.

I promised I’d talk about the terracotta emergency room heaters.  To describe them (a quick Google search should provide lots of pictures and instructions), you’ve got a set of nested terracotta flowerpots, connected through the drain-holes with a bolt and numerous washers & nuts.  These are inverted, and placed on blocks over at least one candle–the blocks keep it raised over the candle, and allow airflow (can’t have the flame go out, that would defeat the purpose).

The principle is that the pots act as a masonry (of sorts) heat sink, absorbing the heat from the candles, and releasing it slowly over time.  My opinion?  Well… They work, mostly.  I’d recommend using multiple tea-lights, or votives.  (Taller candles–pillars, or tapers–make positioning unwieldy.)  At least three.  The longer they burn, the more heat you’ll get, obviously.  They don’t put out enough warmth to heat up a house–unless you had a few dozen of them–but in a pinch, if you had a small room, you’d be able to (at least) take the edge off.

Don’t get me wrong–they’re surprisingly warm, especially after they’ve been going for a while.  Not dangerously so, with the possible exception of the head of the bolt; we got small terracotta saucers, and glued them over the head of the bolt (with a heat-resistant silicone adhesive).  There are also “feet” available for the pots; they hold the entire contraption up high enough for at least tea-lights.  Otherwise, I recommend some bricks or the like–anything fire-resistant. (A large glazed tile to set the entire thing on is probably not a bad idea, either.)

Overall, I’d give the device six stars out of ten. My biggest complaint is that it’s not as effective as I might like; I could be convinced otherwise (maybe my technique is off?), which might raise my opinion of them.

Has anybody else used these? What did you think?

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We’re back!

I hope everyone’s holidays were happy! Mine went reasonably well, despite having to unexpectedly replace a car, and working around a number of other schedules which seemed to change at random. Still, we made it.

In pondering life over the duration of the break, I’ve decided to begin only posting every other week. This will a) save wear and tear on me, and b) allow me more time to find really interesting stuff, which will c) hopefully make this blog that much more interesting for you to read. This is not to say that I won’t ever have “extra” bits–yes, I recall the abortive “monthly special” posts–but they’ll be just that: extra, and special.

For now, just a brief catch-up on life on the homestead: Our six chickens are all laying, or would be, if it was warmer and brighter out. We’ve had as many as four eggs in a day; for the last several days, though, we haven’t had any, depending on how you count it. One of the hens started getting broody, and wouldn’t leave the “favorite nesting box”, and it turned into something like teens fighting over a bathroom, except with pecking. So, the harried girl is recuperating, separated from the others, sleeping in the house–which stays warmer, and brighter, and so we’ve been getting about two eggs every three days from her. The plan is to re-introduce her to everybody else as soon as she’s healed (a couple of pecks up behind her ears had bled a little); does anyone have tips on re-introducing a bird to a flock? And on preventing a bit of broodiness?

We also spent a bit of time testing out a homemade “survival heater,” which I’m sure you’ve all seen elsewhere: the inverted terra cotta pots and tea-lights version. My verdict: they put out a surprising amount of heat for their relative simplicity, but we’d have to use two or three of them, and close everybody up in one room of the house: they certainly won’t do for large spaces. (And, of course, if we closed up all of the people and pets, well–we’d have four humans, three large dogs, and six cats. Even in our large-ish master bedroom/bath, that would warm things up pretty well.) I’ll do a bigger “how-to” and discuss them in a little more detail in a later post.

Elsewhere in the world, the cost of oil came down, and the entire world lost their freakin’ minds, forgetting entirely any part of the whole “climate change” and “limited resources” thing. The whole while, I’m seeing this as another step in catabolic collapse–something, somewhere, gave, and the (more expensive) extraction methods (fracking) became economically feasible.

Let’s not even get me started on politics.

In the coming months, we’ll be watching the garden and the flock as things warm up. I’ve got plans for a few “experiments” to run and report on. I’ve been doing some reading, and can do a review or two. And, as always, I’m open to suggestions–what would you like to read about, this year?

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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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