Ancestral Hard Times

I was trolling about the internet the other day, as I’m wont to do, and stumbled across and interesting site: Next Preppers. Their stock-in-trade seems to be list posts, of the “X items that will help you survive the apocalypse” sort. Some of them seem pretty meh; a few of the lists are pretty good. And, whatever the overall quality of the lists, I’m sure there’s food for thought in each of them.

One in particular caught my eye: “8 Forgotten Ways Your Great-Grandparents Survived Hard Times.” I’m all about doing things the “old way,” so I gave it a read, and I’d like to go through it here.

  1. They asked themselves: “Do I really need this?” I really like that this started their list. It’s a question we don’t, in my opinion, ask ourselves nearly often enough. If we paid more mindfulness to what we truly need, versus things we merely want, we’d go a long way towards decluttering life, cutting back on waste, and saving money.
  2. They slowed life down. The author meant “they weren’t so quick to replace things with the latest and greatest;” in my opinion, that falls under item #1. By slowing life down, I’d be more inclined to mean remember that ‘slow and steady wins the race.’ It’s not necessarily as important that things get done right now, so long as they get done–and, preferably, done right. Often, that takes a little more time than our instant-gratification culture would like.
  3. They thought twice, then bought once. Again, this seems to me to fall under #1. I’d suggest, rather, that when you’ve decided that buying something is necessary, you do some research, determine what exactly you need, find the thing that provides that, and get the best-quality widget you can afford. (And while I’m all about being patriotic, “Buy American!” doesn’t always get you the best thing out there… Globalism, for its many drawbacks, does have the occasional benefit.)
  4. They re-used and re-purposed. This is one that I can really get into. I’m all about keeping things out of the waste-stream, and if I can find secondary (or tertiary, or quaternary…) uses for things, I very much like to use them. There’s more than one piece of furniture in my house that’s kept level with snippets of the cardboard packaging that things came from. Bags from the grocery store generally get at least three uses before being disposed of…
  5. They asked good questions. The author goes into asking “how much toothpaste, really, do you need?”, which is as good a case in point as any, I suppose. (Hint: it’s not the caterpillar of toothpaste they show in the commercials…) But I’d expand it to thinking about not just what happened in a certain event, but to go a step beyond that to why. Treating first principles (causes), while it can be more difficult, tends to be more efficient in the long run than treating secondary effects.
  6. They were willing to wait. To my eye, this is similar to point #2 above. I don’t have much to add, beyond the concept of a “cooling-off” period when you go to make larger purchases. If you feel the urge to buy something above an arbitrary amount, make a note, and put off the purchase for a set period (overnight, at least; ideally, a bit longer). If, after that period, you still want to buy it, and haven’t come up with a work-around or cheaper option, go for it.
  7. They did things themselves. Another one that I agree with completely. Just about everything that’s out there to be done can be done by someone, and there’s no reason that someone can’t be you. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty; learn to take things apart (and, preferably, put them back together). Change your tire. Change the oil in your car. Fix an electrical outlet that’s gone on the fritz. Replace the blades on your lawnmower. Believe me, there are instructional books out there–and Youtube is definitely your friend.
  8. They repaired, rather than replaced. This is the logical follow-on to #7 and #4, with a healthy dose of #1 and #3 thrown in the mix. If something is broken, it very often can be fixed–and usually for less than it would cost to replace. (And if you can fix it yourself, which you very often can, it costs still less.) Modern “disposable” culture really carries with it a significant burden on the environment, as well.

What do you think, readers?  Any other commentary on these points?  What other points do you think should be added? Let us know in the comments!

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Nexus Week

There you have it, folks. The President–and therefore, by extension, the country–is now officially a laughingstock across the rest of the world. That’s not just hyperbole, either. The heads of fully 133 nations of the world (out of the ~195 or so that exist) actually laughed at the Orange One’s pronouncement, that his administration has accomplished more than any other in the history of our country.

It doesn’t help that what he said was absurd, on the face of it. Nor that he probably actually means it. For my money, his reaction to the laughter was priceless (and laugh-worthy, if it hadn’t been so cringe-worthy).

I’m certain that if his aides hadn’t explained to him, later, that the other heads of state were laughing at him, not with him, he probably still wouldn’t have clued in.

In the meantime, he’s accusing China of meddling in the mid-terms. While they may, in fact, be doing so, the proven threat remains Russia. But that, of course, would undermine his own legitimacy, so we can’t talk about it. Or, you know, do anything about it.

All the while, on the home front, the Republicans in Congress are intent on pushing through Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, despite multiple, credible accounts (many with witnesses) to his–ahem–“indiscretions” in high school and college. You know, little things like attempted rape. Assault. What could charitably be termed “drunk and disorderly conduct.” Oh, and that he lied under oath. Provably.

Hypocrisy, much? (Remember, Clinton’s impeachment–which Brett had a part in–wasn’t actually because of his BJ in the WH. It was because he lied about it. Under oath.)

All of this, of course, while the Carolinas deal with the aftermath of Florence. (Any readers from down there, please chime in! And folks not from there, consider donations–go to the Red Cross and give blood, or donate money…) And apparently previously frozen lakes in Alaska are bubbling up ridiculous amounts of methane gas. Fires out west? I can’t even keep track of it all, at this point.

All of which to say, as we move from Summer into Fall (with Winter not far behind), please run through your preps. It’s time to start looking at BoBs/Go-Bags, vehicle emergency kits, and the like, and start shifting them over towards colder weather. Go through your food storage, and eat up (and replace!) anything that’s reaching the end of its shelf life.

And please, let us know how you’re doing!  What preps do you have going on? What new things have you seen or heard about, preferably positive or exciting (new prepping toys, ideas, etc.)? Let us know in the comments!

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More Rain Falling

Even as I sit here typing, there’s rain–it’s been more or less constant for the last 36 hours or so. It’s Monday afternoon; I’m getting this down and “in the can” a bit earlier than normal. If you’ve been living under a rock for the last few days, it’s because my neck of the woods is in line to get a severe soaking from Hurricane Florence.

As of this morning, she’s a Category 4, and will likely be approaching a 5 when she makes landfall. If you’re anywhere along the mid-Atlantic, dear readers, please be careful! Make sure your preps are in place. This is, after all, what we get ready for–local disaster. You may not need it, necessarily, but having it available is always good insurance. (And if you don’t need it, but you can use it to help others, so much the better, yes?) And if you’re in that area, do please check in (in the comments) after things calm down, to let us know how you’re doing!

For myself, I’m expecting a good bit more rain and some wind. Things have to roll down just so for hurricanes to really nail us; so far, we’re looking good on that count. However, given just how wet things have been, both this year generally and the last few days specifically, I fully expect to lose a tree or two back in the woods. (There’s only one in the property that might pose a significant damage to a building–but it’s just an outbuilding, and really it’s only a deck on that building. There might be a few branches come down on the barn, but I don’t anticipate big structural issues.)

Still, with all of that, we have our water prepared. We’ve got food for us and the various animals. I’ll have to strap down the beehives, but that’s relatively normal. We’ve got the solar generator for powering the pump, fridge, and a handful of other things that might be necessary. We have plenty of propane for various stoves and cooking devices, as necessary. A couple of hatches to batten down, and then everything will be good, but for waiting it out.

Part of the fun of this is watching the longer-term forecasts. You see, the rain we’re getting right now is the remnants of Gordon (Tropical Storm? I’ll admit, I wasn’t paying much attention). Florence will be this week. Then we’ve got Isaac and Helene coming up behind. It’s far too early yet to tell where they’ll go; my bet is that Isaac will head for the Caribbean, while Helene is more likely to follow closer to Florence’s track. It’s shaping up to be an interesting September!

So, drop a line, readers, and let us know how your preps are going! If you’re in the path of Florence, check in (when it’s safe)!

(Wednesday morning update: It’s looking more and more like the worst of Florence for me will indeed be some rain and flooding. Still, if you’re in the path, take care!  And anybody not in the path should be using this opportunity to think about what/how they’d be doing if they were to get caught in this kind of storm.)

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Observations from Vacation

We’re back. Vacation was good, and I certainly got enough relaxation to cover some of the more exciting bits (tire blowouts, household plumbing leaks, and the like). We went “camping,” for values of camping–Pennsic isn’t exactly “roughing it” in the wilds of the beyond. But I’ve got a couple of interesting takeaways, I think.

The first thing is a potentially complex one: group dynamics. We camp in self-selected groups, ranging from single families up to larger chunks of maybe forty to fifty. (There may be larger groups, but I can see organization becoming an issue really quickly.) My crowd is fewer than 20 people, ranging in age from a few folks at or around 70, down to a 5-year-old, with a large chunk of us in the forty-something range.

Now, bearing in mind that we’re all at least friendly acquaintances, and we all have this silly re-enactment thing in common, we still only see each other at most maybe a couple of times a week. Many of us don’t see each other but once a month. Most of us probably once a quarter–and more than a few of us only really get together for Pennsic. And the entire camp could be considered “somewhat up into the high muckety-muck range”–we’re not vitally important people, but we’ve each individually got a fair bit of authority to throw around. (We’re all, in our peculiar introvertish ways, ‘alpha personalities.’)

So we don’t hang out much, as a group. And this was two weeks of fairly “in-your-face” camping. From a purely sociological standpoint, watching the group dynamic as it shifted over the duration was fascinating. We were, at the end of two weeks, just starting to really hit our stride as a group. Even then, I could see that difficulties would (eventually) come to a head.

My takeaway: If you’ve got a hypothetical group you want to bug out or bug in with, or who you want to come together as a group to cope with an emergency, you probably want to do more than a few things together as a group, to work things out. Just throwing it together, or relying on the people who might be around (neighbors, etc.) when things go awry, might work. Probably will, even. But there are bound to be interpersonal conflicts, and you’re going to need to figure a way to work them out.

The second big thing, and a much more technical one, is solar power. We brought a propane-fired full-sized oven/range. It only draws electrical to use the oven–there’s a glow-plug, which draws 3A (120V), and it needs to be on for the oven to light, and to stay lit.

When your battery has an 86Ah capacity, it’s important to remember that it’s 86 amp-hours at 12 volts. And you only really want to draw 20-25% of those amp-hours, max. So the system was set up to pull ten times the wattage that we had considered… And that’s why we were limited in how much we could use the oven. And why it took nearly two days for the single 100W panel to recharge the battery. (And why the system will be re-designed for next year, and dry runs done well in advance.)

It’s a simple thing, I know–and one I at least should have thought of. My only excuse was that we were in a rush to do that at the last minute… Still, it worked, just not as long as we wanted. But there it is. Do your homework. It’s not as hard as you might make it–and a little skull-sweat beforehand will potentially save you a lot of heartache later. (A good principle for any sort of prepping scenario…)

There you have it for this week, folks. (I’ve got more observations, but I’ll save them for later posts.) I hope the month since the last post has treated you well–I know there’s been flooding in some places, and fires in others.  If you’ve got stories of surviving those, please let us know in the comments!

Posted in Community, Critical Thought, Planning, Skills and Practice, Solar | Tagged , , | 2 Comments


Well, and it’s been an interesting week, though, hasn’t it?  Our president in a one-on-one with the Russian president, followed by Trump’s siding with Putin over the combined U.S. intelligence system? I mean, I hesitate to use the word “treason,” but really…

And I heard an acquaintance brush off the whole thing, pointing to Obama’s so-called “apology tour” as having been worse.

So I’d like to take a moment to address that.

Now, I understand that there were many out there who were freaked out by having a black man in the Oval Office. I disagree with literally every single reason I’ve ever heard given as to why it was supposedly a “bad thing.” And I’d retain at least a sliver of respect for anybody who could admit, flat-out, that they were freaked out because they are, when it comes down to it, racists. (The sliver was merely the one for them being honest–and it’s a very small sliver.)

I also get that there’s this right-wing information bubble. Heck, when it comes down to it, there’s a left-wing information bubble, too–but most (not all, most) folks on the left try to fact-check their news. Many of us occasionally listen to what they’re saying on the right. We’re willing to change our minds when presented with credible information that is backed up by other, independent sources.

So when I read transcripts of Obama’s speeches over the course of that tour–they’re publicly available information, after all, and a quick perusal of teh Google will turn them up–I don’t see any actual apologies anywhere.

What I do see is somebody rationally looking over U.S. history, and saying “we messed up right there, but we’re fixing it,” or “we’re still struggling with the aftermath of slavery.” Not apologies–but acknowledging that we’re human, and we’ve made mistakes. Note: not “we’re sorry for making these mistakes.” Just noting that we’ve made them, and we’re trying to better ourselves and move on from them.

I’d submit to the reader that that sort of an acknowledgement is much more sane, rational, and well-thought-out than completely blowing off even the notion of taking a hard line with our biggest adversary.

Putin said they didn’t interfere? He said it very forcefully?  Well, duh. What did you expect him to say? “Hey, Putin–we think you’ve just done this absolutely horrible awful thing. What do you have to say about that?”  “Nyet. Didn’t happen. Fake news. Wasn’t us.”

And our dunce of a president–this idiot, who’s borderline illiterate, and who I’m convinced is riding the dementia train–just went along with it.

Going with “But Obama did an apology tour!” is not only imbecilic, it’s untrue, and it’s “whataboutism” at its finest. Three strikes? At least.

I’ve got no words.

Having just spent over four hundred words to get to that point, I’ll announce that I’m going on vacation. I’ll be skipping my next two “normal” posts, and I’ll be back on the 30th of August. In the meantime, keep fighting the good fight. Keep urging people to vote blue-ticket. Keep writing and calling your congresscritters.

Our lives–or, at the very least, our democracy–probably depend on it.

Posted in Critical Thought, Government, Make it Stop | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Now We’re Cooking

We’re cooking, alright–in multiple senses. The thermometer locally has toyed with the notion of one hundred degrees Fahrenheit, the last couple of days. Cooking, indeed.

But of more relevance is the topic of cooking food, and cooking it outside. That’s timely enough, as I write this on the Fourth of July (happy Independence Day, by the way)–this is prime time for the most common method of applying heat to food while outside: the grill. Today, we talk grills.  (I’ll hit other cookers later, in a separate post or two.)

Grill, of course, come in all shapes and sizes, from the larger-than-life Pitmaster Grill Boss Super Deluxe 3000 (I made that up), down through various grill/smoker combos and “standard” backyard grills, your basic kettle grills and your ceramic “egg” style cookers, down to an expanding array of tabletop models.

The first two things you’ll need to decide, going with a grill, are 1) what size you need, and 2) what fuel source you’ll use.  The sizes I’ve listed more or less from larger to smaller above; if you’re in an apartment or condo, you might only have room for a tabletop grill. (They have them now in electric indoor versions, which both delights and appalls me.) Townhome? Move up to a bigger one–a kettle grill, or the like. And so on.

As for fuel, the “industry standard” for homeowners these days seems to be propane. It’s convenient and all, I’ll grant you, but I have enough problems with running out of propane when I’m brewing. I wouldn’t want to be suddenly flameless at an inopportune moment–a party, say, or during a grid-down emergency.

This brings us to charcoal. You’ve pretty much got your choice of briquettes, “natural lump” charcoal, or one of the more exotic types. This is purely personal preference; each has its pros and cons, and each seems to have its own particularly devout following. Regardless of what you pick, one thing to remember in an emergency: if you can use charcoal of whatever flavor, you can use wood.

Heck, for that matter, if you’re creative enough, you can use the wood to make charcoal. Why would you want to add the extra several steps that would be involved? Well, increased heat for cooking, and less smoke. Although, let’s be honest: in an emergency situation, if you’re worried that you’ll be “found” because of the smoke from your grill, you’re either not in that much of an emergency, or you’re not thinking really hard about it. I mean, the scent of things cooking on a grill can carry for quite a ways.

All of this is, of course, completely ignoring the various accessories and add-ons available for your grill. I mean, there’s the obvious (spatula, tongs, fork/skewer, brush). There’s the less-obvious (container to hold smoking pellets, or “cage” to hold smaller items). And there’s the much less obvious (silicone mat to lay over the grate, preventing things from dropping into the flames)… We’ll not even get into the intricacies of “barbecue” versus merely “grilling”–that’s the source of religious wars.

That’s really a very quick overview–but I remain of the firm opinion that in most emergencies, if they’re going to last more than a few days, and you’re “bugging in,” a grill is probably going to be your most reliable source for cooking–if only because they’re practically ubiquitous. I’d follow the grill with a fire pit (either a metal “above-ground” one or, ideally, an actual pit), and combine either one with a cast iron Dutch oven.

What do you think, readers? How was your Fourth? Did you “rise in rebellion” with the rest of the Left? (The hashtag #secondcivilwar has been hilarious…)  Let us know in the comments!

Posted in Food, Gear, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Not Cooking, Today.

Yes, I know I promised I’d talk about outdoor cooking.  And I will, next time (promise!).  Today, though, I’ve really got to rant a little.

You see, I’m writing this on Wednesday, 20 June, the evening before the post is supposed to go live. And yet, this administration… I really can’t put into words my thoughts on the “forced separation” policy they’ve put into action at the border. (Well, I can–I was a Sailor, after all, and can swear fluently in two languages, and in pidgin in a couple of others… But I try to keep the blog fairly “clean,” if not family-friendly.)

It’s as if the President and his staff went out looking for every “Checklist on How to Be a Dictator” type list, and are going down them one checkbox at a time. Let’s see… Divide the populace? Check. Smear the press? Check. Demonize a minority? Check. Now we can add concentration camps to the list.

Just to add a bit of screaming irony, who can tell me what today, the 20th of June, is?  If you answered World Refugee Day, you’re right!

I’ll grant that as of this evening, they’re starting to walk back the policies–but damage has been done. Incredible damage. I’m not really completely sure just how we, as a nation, come back from this one. But we’ve absolutely got to try.

The whole thing pisses me off so much I could spit.  I mean, the people writing this storyline have long since jumped the shark. (And while yes, we’ve had former actors as president before, they’d been in government for quite some time prior to running. This buffoon wsan’t even a good actor–and he was “acting” as himself…)

I’m ready for this particular reality TV show to be cancelled. To do that, though, we’ve got to go out in November and vote.  And again in 2020…

Posted in Government, Make it Stop, Quick | Tagged | 1 Comment