Stockpiles

This time around, I’ll (finally!) get to a list that I found a while back, wandering about the Pinterest intertubes. It claims to be from a website called betterhomestead.com, but I haven’t verified that. Its contents are a “Master List of Items to Stockpile for the Apocalypse.”

They’ve got a nice little intro, right before the list, explaining that just having a stockpile isn’t enough, in the event of an apocalypse. You need to train. You need to practice. You need to use the tools, until you’re good with them.  “But…” (There’s always a ‘but.’)  This is a list that they suggest stockpiling, both for use, and for bartering, in the event you need them.

Here’s the list; I’ll add my commentary at the end:

  • water
  • food (canned, dehydrated)
  • spices and sweeteners
  • cooking oil
  • coffee and tea
  • alcohol (drinking)
  • cigarettes/tobacco/other addictions
  • vitamins
  • firestarters
  • firewood
  • heirloom seeds
  • first aid items and medicines
  • dental care items
  • paper items (tp, paper towels)
  • feminine hygiene supplies
  • soap/shampoo/detergents/bleach
  • hand sanitizer
  • sunscreen
  • insect repellent
  • containers for storing water and food
  • canning jars
  • can openers
  • common tools
  • duct tape
  • wd-40
  • building materials
  • chains and locks
  • sandbags
  • water filtration supplies
  • gardening tools and supplies
  • sewing supplies
  • fishing supplies
  • animal traps
  • fuels
  • synthetic oil
  • bio-chemical hazard gear
  • guns, ammo, gun cleaning supplies
  • knives
  • archery items
  • walkie-talkies
  • batteries
  • blankets
  • tarps
  • flashlights
  • candles
  • lightbulbs
  • glow sticks
  • warm clothing
  • hats/gloves
  • bandanas
  • entertainment

Let me start by saying I fully agree with the majority of their introductory statement: The best way to make sure you can use your gear is to practice using your gear. Break it out regularly, and familiarize yourself with it. Some of it–I’m looking particularly at firearms and archery supplies–you’ll absolutely not be able to use well without large amounts of reasonably intense practice. (This is why, during the middle ages, the British mandated archery practice after church services on Sundays for all able-bodied men…)

I’m not so certain about a couple of points, though. First off, lots of those items take up tons of space, and they don’t compress. (Fuels, oils, firewood…) Many of them are perishable, to one extent or another. (Fuels again; food, seeds, medicines…) And that’s to say nothing of ways they could simplify the list. (Lump hats/gloves and bandanas in with ‘warm clothing’; put flashlights/candles/lightbulbs/glow sticks together as ‘light sources’… And for the love of all that’s holy, WD-40 and duct tape naturally go together.)

Some of their items are ridiculously generic. (“Entertainment?”  “Archery items.” “Building materials.”)  I’d rather they went over-specific with some of them…

Then you have my biggest beef with the entire thing. In my opinion, the odds that there will be the sort of “apocalypse” that would justify this list are vanishingly small. There would have to be enough “apocalypse” to take out society, while leaving enough people and civilization that you’d be reasonably able to barter… Kind of self-contradictory, if you ask me.  The more likely “apocalyptic scenario” is something like what we’ve seen play out over the last few weeks: hurricanes, or wildfires, or something else relatively localized.  Storms and fires both call for evacuation–in which case, your stockpile is a) next to useless to you, and b) likely to be destroyed. Oh, sure, you can stick it out, and “bug-in”–but then the major risk is to you, never mind your supplies.

None of which is to say that “stockpiling”–albeit, with a different purpose–is necessarily a bad idea. Having enough non-perishable food for your family (pets and all) for at least 72 hours is a really good idea; having more than that will help cover you, if you’ve got guests when things go downhill. (This has happened to us, when we ‘acquired’ houseguests for a blizzard.) Likewise some of the list items: spare warm clothing. Tools and the like. Entertainment (books, boardgames, cards).

As with everything, I urge you to think about your likely emergencies. What are you likely to experience? What will you need, to help you get through it? Go there.

Which reminds me of a photo I saw in a newspaper, looking at a family in a shelter, waiting out Hurricane Irma.  There was a husband, wife, two kids, and a dog… The dog was curled up on a dog-bed, sleeping calmly. The four humans–each of them–had their eyes glued to an electronic device of some sort. I didn’t see a charging cable anywhere in the photo–nor were there outlets available, if they’d had them. I have to question the use of “electronic entertainment” after an emergency–power is likely to be at a premium, and there’s no guarantee of internet or cell phone availability. (Do I have an e-reader? Yes. I keep it loaded with books. And in my go-bag, I have a solar charger, which can handle two devices at a time. I’ve also got a deck of cards, and a cribbage board…)

What do you think of this list, readers?  Things to add?  Things to remove?  Let us know in the comments!

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Into Every Life…

My plan for this week was to go through a list found in my extensive browsing of the internet.  The list topic? “Master List of Items to Stockpile for the Apocalypse.” I’ll get to the list (maybe next time), but first I have to address this week’s elephant-in-the-room ™: Harvey.

As I speak, hurricane Harvey has dumped in excess of 54 inches of rain onto parts of Texas and Louisiana. (I’ve seen reports of a “mere” 36-42 inches from areas like Port Arthur, etc.)  This would be a record-setting amount of rain for anywhere in North America, not just Texas.  Thousands are flooded out.  Thankfully, only a relative handful (thus far) have perished.  But they’re certainly not out of the woods yet.

Folks, this is what “Disaster” looks like.  A 500-year weather event (of which the country has seen several over the last decade).  The system we call “society,” world-wide, is pretty resilient; tilting us over into TEOTWAWKI is probably significantly harder than most people–most “normal” preppers–imagine.  But a localized collapse–you, and 50,000-plus of your neighbors all being quite literally rained out of your homes–that’s much more likely.  (Pick your disaster, depending on your location.  Fire?  Earthquake?  Flood?  Hurricane?  Tornado?)

I saw a news report of two people seen walking through waist-deep water, towing behind them an inflatable mattress with their dogs…  Why were they out on the streets?  They were running out of food in their apartment. And “going stir-crazy”. This–thisis what you should be prepping for.  These folks were out of food, less than 24 hours after the hurricane came through. And while they had shelter, they left it because, apparently, they were getting bored.

Setting aside the potential “excitement” to be had in venturing forth in floodwaters, which almost certainly contain any number of things you’d rather not be in contact with, to say nothing of the myriad of “merely” physical dangers…

Seriously, people.  72 hours worth of food, minimum–for you, and every member of your household (animals included).  A way to purify water for drinking.  A change of clothes.  Something to make warmth.  Something to make light.  A way to signal others, and (ideally) a way to listen for others signalling you.  And a deck of cards, or a book, or something.  That’s what I’d call a bare-bones survival kit, for just such occasions.  And it’s these sorts of occasions you should be getting prepped for, first and foremost.  Ready for the apocalypse?  Have things to barter afterwards?  That’s great, and all…  But it should be pretty far down the list.

That’s all I’ve got for you, this time around.  The homestead is finishing out its mad dash towards autumn, and there are things that need doing.  If you’re in one of the inundated areas, I hope you’re doing well, keeping dry, and are safe.  (I wish that much, at least, on all of my readers.)  I hope you’ll stick around for next time.

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Shocked. Shocked, I am…

No, really.  Did I call the current administration a “raging dumpster fire” last time around?  It seems, over the last week, to have gotten even worse.  Incredibly, horribly, worse.  Unbelievably so.  Apparently, “rock bottom” has a basement.

So the administration is, in essence, okay with Nazis–real, literal Nazis–and the Klan, now?  And–in some ways even worse–the conservative media is backing him on it?

I’ve…  I’ve got no words.  To be sure, there are plenty of others who seem to have them.  But I’m at a loss.

This week, I’m tired, and sick–sick to my stomach, sick to my heart, sick to my soul.  How to really explain this to my kids?  How do I explain that my father and my mother-in-law are Trump apologists?  How do I explain it to myself, even?

I’ve got nothing.  I’m going to take the interim to refocus, and I’ll be back for the next post.  I hope to be preserving foods (it’s getting towards that time of year), doing my fall planting, and working with my beehives to prep for winter.  I hope you’ll stick around.

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Raging Dumpster Fire

I took a bit of a risk, last time, in assuming that there would be something “political” to write about, this time.  It was a calculated risk, and I considered it a safe bet, given that the President can’t seem to go 48 hours without tweeting something truly repugnant. (Note: not “offensive to liberals,” but something repulsive to any thinking person.)

I mean, the surprise of this administration so far, in my opinion, at least, isn’t that it’s a train wreck. I expected it would be. No, the surprise has been just how big a train wreck it’s been–and we’re only six months through it, may the gods help us. The last two weeks have provided material to talk about for years; certainly more than I could have predicted. The firing of Priebus? Spicer quitting? The hiring-then-firing of Scaramucci?  (Really, do you want someone in your administration with the nickname “the Mooch”?)  Kelly moved from DHS to COS? Trumpcare collapsing in the Senate? Trump’s tweet about transgender troops? That he dictated his son’s press release–you know, the one that was almost immediately proven to be false?  Any of the number of things I’m missing?

On that front, we’re certainly not short of topics.

But I’d like to shift focus a little.  One refrain I’ve heard over and over from Trump supporters is “how much he’s accomplished in such a short time,” and how all of these accomplishments are being ignored by the media, and we should just give him a chance.

This seems like–well, like utter idiocy to me, not to put too fine a point on it. I’ve looked for lists of “Trump accomplishments,” and come up pretty short. Yeah, he’s issued Executive Orders to rescind a lot of Obama-era policies… But those policies were enacted to benefit the people cheering their cancellation, for the most part–and they won’t start to feel the bite of the new “policies” for a little while. (It took Silent Spring to really bring our attention to environmental pollution, last time; what will it take, next time?)  Okay, he got Gorsuch on the Supreme Court…  but I’ve a suspicion that anyone he nominated, so long as they had a pulse and couldn’t overly offend Senate Republicans, would have ultimately been approved; I don’t count it as an achievement, never mind a positive one.

No, the main accomplishments I’ve seen include: ticking off, or scaring the ever-loving hell out of, our allies; legitimizing a number of regimes that really we’d rather not see legitimized; made a laughing-stock of the White House and the Presidency; undermined the military, the intelligence community, and many other Executive Branch departments…

Not positive descriptors, by any means. And none of that is even bringing up “the Russia thing”–which I won’t do, except to mention it here… This one truly staggers the imagination.

Yeah, were I to describe the administration so far, I’d call it a raging dumpster fire–in a dumpster filled with soiled diapers and old tires.

Next time, let’s get back to something comprehensible, and talk prepping some more. I hope you’ll stick around!

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Don’t Forget, Part 3

I sincerely apologize, readers–I’ve been completely overtaken by events at work and at home over the last couple of weeks.  Nothing bad, but more than enough to keep me busy. I had wanted to talk politics, after finishing out this list of 50 Survival Items You Forgot To Buy, but I simply don’t have time.  So, I’ll finish out the list, and we can talk current events next time–God only knows what the administration will be up to in two more weeks…  Here we go:

36. A Saw.  As with a number of things on this list so far, I consider a saw to be a basic part of any toolbox–ideally a number of them, but minimally a crosscut saw and a hacksaw.  “Axes are good for firewood, but you’ll need a saw for everything else.”

37. Sewing kit.  Again, part of a normal “prep list.”  I even have a small one in my BoB.  A basic sewing kit will keep buttons on shirts, and repair small holes; with more advanced equipment (my wife is an accomplished seamstress, so I’ve got access to quite a bit), you can even make full suits “from scratch”.

38. Shoe laces. Dozens of uses, beyond just replacing the ones in your shoes.  Think of them as small bits of cord.

39. Gas shut-off wrench.  Vital, if your home is served by a gas line.

40. Slingshots.  A good, simple, small-game hunting tool.

41. Snowshoes.  Not a bad idea, if you’re in a place prone to blizzards.

42. Songbooks.  Along with the previously-mentioned acoustic instruments, these will help with morale-boosting.  Or at least settle arguments about the lyrics.

43. Survival Books. Reference materials.

44. Tampons.  The women in your group will thank you.

45. Tarps.  Tarps are good for improvised shelter, for keeping things dry, for collecting water, and dozens of other uses.

46. Umbrellas.  One for everybody in the family, ideally.  I’m not certain these are “survival items,” but they’re certainly handy.

47. Whistles.  Great signaling tools.  Again, I’ve got one in my BoB.

48. Wind-up Clocks.  No batteries, no power needed in a grid-down situation.  We’ve got a couple of pendulum/Grandfather clocks, as well as wind-up watches and even a couple of pocket watches.

49. Yard bags.  Heavy-duty cleanup bags.  We’re renovating parts of the house, and these are great for demolition debris.  If possible, get heavier ones, like these 6-mil bags.  Thinner ones seem to fall apart when least convenient.

50. Ziploc bags.  Wonderful for keeping things dry–and a standard part of my kit.

There you have it!  Anything we missed?

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Don’t Forget, Part 2

Moving back this week to the “50 survival items you forgot to buy” list:

16. Condiments.  Ketchup, mustard, mayo, soy sauce, hot sauce. Good for shorter-term emergencies (I’d see about getting restaurant packets), but for longer term, or TEOTWAWKI, I’d learn to make my own.

17. Condoms.  A commenter in the first iteration mentioned birth control–here you go.  Plenty of other uses, as well.

18. Cotton balls.  Dozens of uses. And they’re cheap, and pack very compactly.

19. Duct Tape.  If you’re a “typical” prepper, there’s no way this isn’t already in your kit. Even if you’re not, I’m constantly surprised by the people who’ve never dealt with the stuff.

20. Ear plugs. A surprising number of things can damage your hearing, even post-SHTF. As the original posters point out, though, when it becomes that quiet, every little noise is going to wake you up–but make sure there’s somebody standing guard, in case that noise is important…

21. Floss.  More important than a tooth brush. What you don’t want is for a dental emergency to compound your “normal” emergency, if you can help it.

22. Games.  Board games, card games, any sort of non-powered game.  All the more important if you’ve got kids. (If you’ve been following me, you know this is a standard part of my pack-out–at least a deck of cards.)

23. Glasses and repair kits.  If you wear them, have a backup pair, and a means to repair them. My prescription hasn’t significantly changed in years; I tend to keep my “last” pair (as long as they’re not completely destroyed).  And I can put my hands on no fewer than three repair kits…

24. Glow sticks. “A great way to find your way around in a dark house.” Maybe so, but they’re single use, (typically) bulky for the amount of light, and don’t last as long as you’d like.

25. Goggles.  They include the “safety” type, and the “swimming” type. Heck, add in the “welding” type while you’re at it. It’s a mad world, out there.

26. Hand sanitizer.  Good for “proper sanitation.”  I’d rather have something that can actually clean me, but sanitizer will do in a pinch.

27. Instant coffee.  Their heart’s in the right place, but I’ve got to draw the line somewhere. I’ll deal with the headaches–they go away after a day or two.

28. Map of your town.  Paper maps are never offline.  (Or, maybe, they’re always offline…) They don’t need batteries.  And they’re a standard part of my recommended list…

29. Paper plates.  Again, good for shorter-term emergencies.  Over the longer haul, they’re at best two-use items, then they’re gone.  The one benefit is that you don’t need to wash them (conserving your water).

30. Pencil and paper.  Here again, a “standard” part of my list.

31. Pet supplies. Food, grooming, leashes, etc. If you’ve got a given need, your pet probably has an analogous one. Don’t forget them!

32. Planting pots. This is an interesting suggestion. “Plants are often easier to grow in pots than in the ground.”  My issue would be storing the potting soil to use in them…

33. Plastic sheeting. A surprising number of uses, and not one I’d have come up with.

34. Powdered butter and eggs.  They recommend powdered, for storage duration.  We’ve got an experiment going on storing eggs (for a later post); I suppose powdered butter beats nothing at all.

35. Powdered juice mix.  One more thing that’s already in my list. Beats only having plain water–and can provide electrolytes, too.

That’s it for this time around–next time up, we’ll finish off the list, then maybe talk politics a little.  I hope all of you in the U.S. had a happy Independence Day, and that you’ll stick around for next time!

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Cooking with Heat

We’re back to the Family Survival Planning guide; this time around, we’re talking cooking, fuel sources, and supplies. This is a fun one, because there are few “right answers,” and lots of ways to do things–we humans have been cooking our food for a bit north of ten thousand years, and we’ve come up with lots of different ways to do it.

They start with listing various types of stoves and ovens. The first is the “apple box oven”, made of the cardboard box you might find apples in in the grocery store, wrapped in aluminum foil.  Add some holes in the bottom, rig something to raise it off the ground, then put some charcoal briquettes on the ground below it.  Voila!  I imagine they intend for you to invert the box, thus holding the heat inside it; the suggestion is to use it for baking cookies and the like.  While I can see how it would work, I’m not really comfortable with cooking in cardboard–it seems to me it would be far too easy to let things go a bit out-of-control, and burn your oven down (not to mention your food, and whatever else might be nearby)…

Next, they suggest a “paper box oven;” similar to the “apple box oven,” but with a more common (and lighter-weight) box. I assume, from the name, they mean something like, well, the box that you buy bulk paper reams in, similar to a cardboard banker’s box.  “Smaller, so it requires fewer coals. A blanket cover will hold in heat.”  While they’re not wrong, my fear of flammable cookware remains.

Dutch ovens come next, and I couldn’t agree more.  In fact, cast-iron cookware is, in my opinion, one of the best things ever invented. Given the right piece of cast iron, and “proper” heat, you can do absolutely amazing things.  They’re basically indestructible, easy to clean, almost non-stick when properly seasoned…  I can’t say enough about them.

Sun Ovens are a “fuel-less” option (linked here, or here, or here, for various types).  They tend to be expensive, but they’re dead simple to use; the only drawback is that they require the sun. You can still cook if it’s partly cloudy, but it’ll take longer. Cooking at night is a no-go.  And it somewhat limits the type of cooking you can do–no deep-frying, obviously; sauteeing might be difficult.  But soups, stews, and most (small-ish) baking is good, easy, noiseless, and doesn’t require going out to track down a fuel source.  The FSP folks list “Solar Parabolic Ovens” separately, but I’d lump them in; they’re typically more expensive than the “standard” sun ovens, but many of them track the sun, making them more efficient.

Butane stoves, Liquid Fuel Camp Stoves, Sterno and Backpacking stoves: I lump these together for similarity, and think of them collectively as “camping stoves.”  With much care, they can (except for the liquid fuel stoves) be used indoors, which is a plus. But you’ve got to have the right fuels, and those can start getting costly–to say nothing of storage issues. (Can you say, “large, bulky supply of extremely flammable materials?”  I knew you could…)

The Volcano 3 Collapsible Stove looks fascinating, but I haven’t played with one myself. I’m also fond of the standard barbecue–they list the propane variety, but I’m partial to the charcoal type.  Again, not for indoor use, but these are ubiquitous, and the fuel tends to be readily available (you can use wood, in a pinch).

They also list the Wonderbag Non-Electric Portable Slow Cooker.  This looks like a new take on an old tried-and-true technique of using a hot-box, or straw-box: you line a large box with straw or other (non-meltable) insulating material, enough for a couple of inches of insulation at the very least.  Put some stew ingredients in a large pot, heat it just to a boil, then (with the lid on) put it in the box, and cover it with more insulating material.  Four to six hours later, it will have cooked fully, in all the heat that couldn’t radiate away.

For fuel sources, they list the standards: clean, dry wood; portable generators (and associated fuel–usually gasoline, propane, or diesel); fuel gel, cubes, MRE heaters, battery packs; charcoal briquettes (or lump hardwood charcoal); propane and butane.  Think about how long you’ll want to be prepped for, and think about how/where to store enough of your particular fuel…

Cooking supplies begins with more fuel: “40 pounds of charcoal, two cans of starter fluid. Or a propane unit with two 20-pound containers of propane.”  If you know what you’re doing, you shouldn’t need the starter fluid, just some matches and maybe a bit of paper. As to the propane, if you’ve got a propane camp-stove, look into an adapter to go from a “big” 20# propane tank (the “standard” propane grill tank) to your stove, which is probably fitted out for the small 1- to 5-pound camping containers. (My household stove and oven are propane; we take three to four months to go through a 40# propane canister, and we like to bake…)

And finally, things to store, for use with all of the above:

  • “Pot and pan” for cooking.  (I’m a big fan of redundancy, here, thus the scare quotes around the singular. Also, think about cast iron here, folks…)
  • Kitchen knife.  (Again, more than one is a good idea; your “EDC” knife can assist.)
  • Silverware: spoons, forks.
  • Styrofoam cups. (I’d go for something more like a plastic cup–smaller, just as lightweight, a bit more durable…)
  • Waterproof matches or lighter. (Or several of all of these. And other fire-starting devices as desired.)
  • Zip-lock bags. (Thousands of uses.)
  • Aluminum foil. (Multi-tasker! You can even make temporary cookware from foil.)
  • Thermos, for storing excess, or hydrating dried food.

Next time around:  More of the “things you forgot to store when prepping.”  I hope you’ll stick around!

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