Friday, October 29, 2010

Warehouse store pros and cons

You can get a lot of emergency supplies at Costco, as well as stock up on a lot of food items.  You save a lot of money buying some things, but you need to watch what you buy...note that I only mention Costco, but this is generic information and pretty much applies to any warehouse store.

You can get flour in 50 pound bags for about $12.  Given that five pounds at the grocery store can run you anywhere from 30 - 50 cents a pound on sale, this is a considerable savings. 

Where you run into issues is with large jars or cans of this and that.  If, for example, you don't use a lot of Crisco, over time it gets kinda gnarly and gets  sort of a translucent pale brown tint.  Costco's 6 lb. containers of Crisco don't make sense unless you regularly use the stuff.  You're better off buying it in smaller containers at your regular grocery store so you can leave them sealed until you need to start using them.  Some things will spoil unless refrigerated, and since the point of prepping is to have things on hand in emergencies and emergencies often involve a lack of electricity resulting in a lack of refrigeration, avoid the humongous container of mayo or pickled asparagus.

Here's a list of some of what Costco carries that might be worth investing in for preps; - watch your prices; grocery stores sometimes have sales that beat the pants off the prices at Costco:

  • Vitamins, within reason - they do need rotating, but are a lot cheaper than at the grocery or drug store
  • Canned fruit and veg
  • Flour, rice and pinto beans
  • Toilet paper
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Paper plates, napkins, and paper towels
  • Fresh fruit, if you can/dehydrate/freeze it (other than for immediate use)
  • Parmesan cheese - doesn't have to be refrigerated, lasts a long time
  • Pasta - spaghetti in several pound packages
  • Spices and bouillon (although my local Cash N' Carry store has a much wider selection)
  • Maple syrup
  • Honey (although it's advisable to put it in smaller, glass containers in case it crystalizes)
  • Bacon bits
  • Dried fruit
Different Costcos carry different things depending on their local clientele; one store I've been to in the area carries big jars of ghee (clarified butter, doesn't need refrigeration), while my local one doesn't; mine carries pickled herring, another less than 10 miles away doesn't.

I find that my membership is well worth it but you should check it out for yourself before signing up.  You pay about $3.75 a month to shop there at current rates, which is pretty reasonable if you shop there regularly.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

EMP vs. the sun

USA Today had an article on EMP blasts a couple of days ago; the author says one good one and we'd go dark.  My understanding, from talking with someone knowledgeable about electricity, is that things shielded by metal would be safe, which typically includes computers on your desk and in cars.  I suppose if you were still concerned, you could build a Farraday cage and put your electronics in there.

A bigger problem than your BlueTooth device going on the fritz, however, is the vulnerability of the country's electrical grid.  Thanks to years of conservatives insisting upon and working toward the goal of shrinking the government to the point it can be drowned in a bathtub, our infrastructure, which our tax dollars pay for, is crumbling.  That includes the electrical system. 

If there were a major solar flare, it could seriously hamper our ability to function in the modern world we've created.  Scientific American says that "[a] recurrence of the 1859 solar superstorm would be a cosmic Katrina, causing billions of dollars of damage to satellites, power grids and radio communications."

Bear in mind that the 1859 storm knocked out telegraphy, which is little more than two Morse code keys, batteries and some wire. Today's power substations are full of transformers which could be fried.  Good-bye, electricity...lights, heat, cooking, transportation, and a host of other things would be affected.  It would take months if not years to repair the damage.

Repairing and strengthening our infrastructure would create jobs, and jobs = sales for businesses.  Sales for businesses = needing more people to make the widgets and sell them.  That, not tax cuts, are what small business wants and needs.  Cutting a small business' taxes does it no good if nobody's buying its wares.

What if you don't like the food you've put by for emergencies?

Found on a survival forum: "I recently started rotating some stock and pulling down some of my stored stuff to use it and replace it. Dehydrated milk comes to mind. Here is the thing, I don't really care for this stuff. I realize it should be part of my preps, but the issue is we don't use it and I know you need to." 

Well, first of all, the person who posted this is doing the right thing rotating through what's in the pantry/preps.  This is all goodness.  The poster is to be commended for that.  However,"we don't use it and I know you need to" reveals two problems (and by pointing these out, I by no means mean to belittle the poster because these are very common problems and in the past I've been just as guilty of them as the next person):  first, that the person posting didn't stock what s/he eats.  This is a big and very common mistake, one of the biggest you can make in stocking up!  I only recently got rid of some very old stuff I 'thought' I'd use and can speak from the amen! corner on that one.  Second, the poster doesn't realize that dried milk isn't just for drinking.  If it was, I certainly wouldn't keep any on hand; not only do I not drink milk, but the stuff tastes like crap, IMNSHO.

Check out the recipe for Cornell bread; it's full of...dried milk.  Back during WWII, meat rationing required some alternative means of getting protein into people, and the Cornell recipe was created with that in mind.  The fact that it was tasty was it's main selling point, but it's also very nutritious.  Having some dried milk on hand means I can whip up a batch if I want, although my tastes go more to sourdough and whole grains these days.

Never, ever assume that someone else's list of what to stock up on is the be-all and end-all and exactly right for you.  Anybody else's list should be a guideline, a beginning point from which your unique storage plan takes off.  Your food storage should reflect your tastes, and should be pretty much what you already eat with addenda to cover any nutritional deficiencies plus comfort foods and a few treats you like.  Yes, you can get creative and learn to make dish X from cuisine Y and find that you really like it and stock up on the ingredients, but don't do it without trying it first

Food manufacturers are using every trick they can...

Food manufacturers have been changing package sizes to give you less product for your dollar for some time now.  Not every food item is subject to this, but tuna's a classic example:  a can used to be six ounces, now it's five.  That's a 17 percent reduction in size...and you often see it on sale because, I think, manufacturers are trying to get us to accept the smaller size as normal, and...well, I think most of us have caught on to the fact that tuna's 'shrunk'.

You have to be careful to read labels on items as disparate as bleach (is it diluted, or full strength?) and fruit juice (although the amount of real juice in fruit juice has been an issue for a long time, it's worse now).  

Packaging is also being changed to reflect a smaller amount being sold.  Check the bottoms of containers to make sure that the outside isn't hiding a significant reduction via a wide skirt of air under the actual bottom of the container.  If you notice a sale on a lot of an item, such as a spectacularly low price for canned goods, it might be an effort to clean out the old size, not just the old stock, to allow the new size to be shelved.

Be a smart shopper!  And consider cooking from scratch when possible.  It takes little more time to whip most things up from basic ingredients than use a mix; look at a box of cake mix, and you'll see it still requires eggs, and still requires beating, and while you might not have to measure out 2 1/2 cups of flour and a bit of baking powder, etc., it's barely faster to use the mix.

Garden planner - free on Gardener's Supply

Over at Gardener's Supply, they have a pretty good garden planner that allows you to size the bed to your desired dimensions and gives you planting information such as spacing, when to plant, etc.

I'm not fond of most of the planners I've seen; they tend to have an ugly interface or be clunky, but this one is neither, and the only annoying thing is the chime when you complete an action like dragging and dropping veggies into the plan.  It sounds way more enthusiastic about growing Brussels sprouts than I'd ever be.

Allows you to print out your plan, too.

If you only have a small space to work with, or if you want to try intensive gardening, it's also good for that; on a large scale, I think you might have issues with multiple beds as it only allows one bed at a time.  It does have the advantage of being able to rename things once they're dropped onto the plan; very useful for varietal information, or for when you use a generic plant to represent something not in their list of basic plants, like renaming a parsley to 'mint'.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

All about sourdough

If you've ever thought of baking a loaf of tangy sourdough bread, the Northwest Sourdough website should be your first stop.  Not only are recipes presented, but information on making starter, dough handling and baking are available for your perusal.  The site owner, Teresa Greenway, has also written a book on sourdough that she's generously provided as a free download on the site.

New book: The Resiliant Gardener

This book has garnered praise from the National Gardening Association, plus, the author's been interviewed here.
The book publisher's website says:  "As author Carol Deppe, a long-time gardener with a PhD in biology and decades of experience in plant breeding and sustainable agriculture, explains in her new book ... hard times can come in a variety of ways. Personal hard times may come in the form of drought, special dietary needs, job loss or lack of time. But they can also come as what she calls “mega hard times,” the result of man made or natural disasters that cause major disruptions in all aspects of society." has no reviews yet, but the table of contents is revealing; the author covers how to garden in changing weather patterns, and includes storage and use information to get from corn to flour to cake.  Gardening that accommodates a busy schedule or a bad back is covered, as is irrigation without a lot of gadgetry and soil fertility.  There's information on gardening with celiac disease/gluten intolerance, and that's unusual for a gardening book and quite welcome.

This, IMHO, is a good book and is on my list to get.

Forget the "enemy of my enemy": 'friends' might not be friends

Sense and self-sufficiency has a post pointing out that China, one of our biggest trade partners, is not just a trade partner but also somewhere in the grey area between friend and foe, closer to foe.

China has divested itself of enough of US debt that Japan is now the first country on the list of those that own parts of this country.

Getting started in food self-sufficiency: designing a kitchen garden

What's a kitchen garden?  It's not what you're growing in the back of the fridge - that's a science experiment.  No, a kitchen garden is what the French call a 'potager', and is everything from a small patch of vegetables and herbs to a large, formal garden.  In England, I think the closest thing most folks have is their allotments, which are somewhat like our Pea Patches or community garden plots here in the US, and they are also reminiscent of Victory Gardens people planted during WWII.

Anyway, here are two plans for kitchen gardens, one for long and one for short season use.

Maybe we need a new term for what our parents or grandparents called 'victory gardens'...maybe...'security gardens'?

Why we won’t be in a ‘dark age’ if SHTF

Many believe that PSHTF we will be in a dark age for a very long time.  However, I don’t believe that is the case.  Here’s why:

Suppose that the electrical grid does go down.  We will lose a lot of things we have come to rely on, but while there will be a number of things that we will have to learn to do without, or find workarounds for, the basics will still be do-able.  Fire will still work, the sun will still shine, and while we won’t have microwaves or washing machines, we will still be able to cook and clean.

We won’t lack for resources of many kinds.  What’s a car if you can’t drive it?  It’s a source of metal.  What’s a deserted house?  A source of wood and other materials.  Many resources are right at hand and won’t need to be mined or cut, but rather repurposed.

Most everyone over the age of five or six can already read, and there are numerous libraries and bookstores as sources of books.  Literacy will not die out [and it was a lack of literature that generated the ‘dark ages’ comment in the 14th century, not a return to barbarism after the fall of Rome], nor will writing.   We may have to resort to growing hemp to make paper, but we won’t have to go back to stone tablets.

Just as National Geographic magazine brought pictures of people around the world into our homes, today’s Internet, tweeting,  Facebook and the rest of today’s social media have transcended the distances between people, and communities are not only those of physical location but of communication.  While the electronic communication won’t last, obviously, due to a lack of resources, the sense of being part of a larger community will for many people.  I believe that this will roll over to the local set of folks as a consequence in an effort to maintain the communication that social media provided.

Many people already subscribe to Countryside, Backyard Poultry, Mother Earth News, Fine Woodworking, Wood, Organic Gardening and the like, and while not everyone can garden or raise chickens right now, there are quite a number of people who already are doing just that who can mentor their communities.  Knowledge of knitting, spinning, weaving, woodworking with hand tools [thanks, Roy Underhill!], baking bread, quilting, and all the myriad other skills have not been lost; interest in those skills has been going strong for at least 30 years.

There are movements afoot to mitigate the effects of climate change and peak oil [Google ‘transition towns’ for more information] on communities, and many people are preparing individually.

Now, this doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen.  There will likely be times of upheaval, and it is prudent to prepare as best as one can for the unforeseen and unexpected.  However, I don’t think anyone should approach prepping with a doom-and-gloom attitude; it’s too easy to get depressed and give up if you aren’t realistic about what a post electrical grid/oil world could be like if we work together.   Unless there is nuclear war, with some planning we should be able to survive and thrive.

Do you live near a natural gas pipeline?

In San Bruno, CA, 66 people were injured in a blast from a ruptured natural gas pipeline on September 9th.  The fire burned for hours and destroyed 37 homes and left 18 others uninhabitable.  Eight people have now died. 

Problem is, nobody from the feds on down can tell if Pacific Gas & Electric Co. had a plan in place to respond to this sort of disaster, and whether the plan was being followed because the company didn't like to give out copies to anybody. 

Get this:  "The federal pipeline safety agency doesn't ask natural gas pipeline operators for the plans because it isn't required to do so" ...  "Congress requires PHMSA to inspect the emergency response plans," Valentine said. "There is no regulation requiring operators to submit these plans to PHMSA and for the agency to retain them."

So they just eyeball them when they get around to visiting facilities for inspections.  When they get around to it.  Nobody knows if the plans are adequate until it's too late, and in the meantime, people die.

'Spring cleaning' in the fall

If you will be spending a lot of time indoors in the winter, makes sense to clean the house thoroughly before winter actually sets in.  That includes vacuuming, perhaps using a cleaner on the carpet, dusting, cleaning out the fridge and freezer, cleaning out the cupboards and finishing off any kitchen spruce-ups that got way-laid over the summer.  It's also a good idea to check the house out for potential problems like shingles that could come off in a storm, leaks and other structural defects that need repair.  

Here's a checklist that might help for the structural stuff, and here's a list of the fall cleaning chores worth considering before cold weather comes.

Both cleaning and inspecting would be good for your BOL, if you have one.  And if you have elderly or infirm neighbors or relatives, now's the time to offer to help with these chores as well.

One thing most people forget to add to their medical preps....

...a bedpan.  Not very glamorous, but when you gotta go, you gotta go, sick or not.  Goes hand-in-hand with an easily washed bucket for use by the sick bed for people to vomit into.

Here are some alternatives, and here's how to help someone use a bedpan or urinal.

Decluttering and preparedness...oh, and hoarding, too...

If you haven't watched the TV program 'Hoarders', by all means, grab some popcorn and set ye down and watch some episodes.  It will make you want to clean.  Guaranteed.

Packratting is the low end of the hoarder scale of 1 to 5.  A house full of literally tons of garbage is definitely a 5 on the scale.  Most folks find themselves down around 1 or maybe 2, and prepping can either exacerbate that or give you an epiphany about the amount of stuff you have.

Clutter can get in the way of a lot of things, and can keep you from doing important tasks, like finding your BOB and getting out of the house quickly.  Clutter keeps you from having control over your stuff; clutter is stuff that controls you.  Clutter can kill you if it is extreme, as in the case of the Class 5 hoarders...or, if nothing else, take room that you could be using for preps or other things.

The old adage about 'have nothing in your house that you do not know to be beautiful or useful' applies, but how to decide?  Marketers know that if a sales person can get you to pick something up, put something on or try something out, you are more likely to buy it because the physical contact creates a kind of relationship with the object in your brain.  Not good when you already have too much stuff.  Maybe our moms were right when they told us to look and not touch in the store; maybe there's something that deep down they knew - that if we touched it, we would really want it, and our just looking was bad enough to generate a case of the 'gimmies'. 

Decluttering is a way to remove from your life those physical things of little or no value that you are keeping for 'someday' or that project that's been sitting around waiting for time and/or inclination to start.  Establishing order in your physical space helps with establishing order in your mental space, which can reduce anxiety.  Here's an article from Zen Habits  on how to identify clutter - and use the nine questions presented to help rid your space of clutter.

If you find it difficult to get rid of things, you could think of the process as removing everything to make your perfect home/BOL, sort of like Michelangelo and the statue of David.  I know someone who's taken pictures of things she's gotten rid of, but that doesn't work for everyone; me, I'd gnash my teeth every time I looked at a picture, regretting that I'd gotten rid of the item, no matter if it had gone to a good home or not, because it would be a reminder not of the object so much as the <em>getting rid of</em> the object.

If you have ADD or ADHD, you might find that part of the clutter problem is putting things away, because out of sight can be out of mind, and you don't want to forget that project/item.   I'm not that far into the book Getting Things Done, but it posits that if you get all the stuff in your head - the to-do lists, the 'shoulds' and projects, and write them down, you can get more done because you have an external, reviewable system to organize that data.  That works for preps; nobody should be without a detailed inventory of their preparations.

Things have hit a new low when...

Things have hit a new low when a survivalist/prepping forum has a post in their general preparedness section asking for help choosing Halloween costumes for the poster's kids.  OMG, how is that related to preparedness in any way, shape or form?  Because 'Halloween' and 'preparedness' both have a letter e and a letter a in them???

This is what I mean by checking out a forum.  If you are serious about prepping, and want good, solid advice, check out any forum you are interested in thoroughly.  Make sure that your areas of interest and concerns are addressed.

If your Foodsaver II stops sealing...

My Foodsaver II started acting funny while it was vacuuming a bag, kind of choking when sealing, and then completely stopped heating and sealing bags.  This renders the device unusable, and since I had things I wanted to vac-pack, I needed to fix the thing a.s.a.p. 

I took it into where I had decent light to work with, and it being unplugged already, began by taking off the bottom of the case.  I set aside the screws and gently removed the bottom.  Inside, I noticed that there is an electrical transformer on one side, some wiring, some tubing, and what looks like a pump.  I also noticed that there was a partial blockage of one of the clear tubes that goes from the inlet in the device where you put the open end of the bag to the pump itself.  Solving at least part of the problem, then, was to see if I could get the blockage out because that’s an easy potential fix.  I found the ends of the affected tube, removed it from its fittings, blew out the offending blockage and replaced it. 

At this point, I decided to check and see if this resolved the problem, so I put the case back on, minus the screws, and carefully set it on the kitchen counter and plugged it in and tried to seal a spare, empty bag.  The vacuuming part of the problem seemed to be fixed (at least it worked better with no intermittent stalls/chokes), but still no heating and sealing.  Oh, well…back to the repair bench.

The cycle of the machine is to pull out air and then heat and seal the bag of stuff I’m vac-packing, and since the heating and sealing only happens after vacuuming occurs, vacuuming has to be finished before heating can start.  Vacuuming seemed to work, but obviously wasn’t finishing.  Since vacuuming occurs inside what looks like a little pump (there’s a black knob-like thing I could turn and see that a piston-like device moved in and out, so obviously a pump) the next step was to take a look inside the pump itself.

I removed the set screw from the arm going from the motor to the pump arm so that I could remove the arm, onto which the pump piston was attached, and two long skinny bolts with washers and nuts that held on the pump part onto the mechanism that makes it move.  I carefully pulled out the pump piston and looked inside.  Aha!  Gunk, plus some tiny bits of something white, like minuscule rice grain bits, were inside the pump.   I carefully cleaned out any residue with a Q-tip dampened with rubbing alcohol, then got some fine point tweezers and carefully picked out the tiny white bits, then reassembled and replaced the pump in the machine.

I put the case on to test it again, and this time the machine worked, fully vacuuming and then heating and sealing.  Fixed it!

The safety nag:  never, never work on anything while it’s plugged in if the cover is off or there is the possibility of getting shocked.  Electricity is your friend, but it also has a nasty sense of humor and loves to zap you.  Keep water out of electrical devices when you clean as well.  In a pinch, if you have to, a barely damp Q-tip, moistened with rubbing alcohol helps dig out crud and gunk.   Never force things to fit; having to press hard or use a screwdriver to move a latch to get something to fit isn’t forcing, trying to get things to go where they don’t fit or belong with the potential to break is.  Take care if you are using any tools that have sharp edges; you can cut yourself with a screwdriver, so work away from yourself, not toward your body.  You do not want to be driving your husband through a 25 MPH residential district at 40 MPH, panicked and looking for someplace to get his punctured hand fixed, like I did once.

Avoiding the deer-in-the-headlights moment when SHTF...

...or in any emergency, for that matter.  How to act decisively and calmly?

One method comes from top athletes:  do a mental dress rehearsal.  Visualize what actions you would take.  "Studies show that the parts of the brain that are used when thinking about a task are the same ones used when actually doing it," says sports psychologist Shane Murphy, Ph.D., editor of The Sport Psych Handbook.

Education plays a part as well.  Learning how to use a fire extinguisher at a class put on by the Fire Department means in an emergency, you can draw on your experience and education.  Knowing first aid [BTW, they're finding that mouth-to-mouth during CPR isn't necessary and may actually keep people from doing CPR in the first place] can save your own or someone else's life.

Keeping focus on the big picture is important:  "During training sessions, athletes are hyperaware of every move they make. But under the pressure of competition, overanalyzing what they're doing (say, a tennis swing or figure-skating jump) can lead to indecision and tightening up. The result? Costly mistakes. One way to calm an overactive mind is by using diversionary tactics, says Sian Beilock, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Chicago and author of Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To. For example, before making a free throw, some basketball players will distract themselves by concentrating on the logo written on the ball. And Beilock instructs golfers to count backward by threes—starting at 25—a few seconds before striking the ball on a crucial shot. When you're swallowed up by a wave of performance anxiety, try using the same technique." [ article]

Physically preparing plays a role as well, and has two parts.  Your personal physical fitness is always important, but never more so than during an emergency.  It could easily mean the difference between life and death, and there's never a better time to get physically fit than starting now.  Preparing in the sense of putting food by, having alternate means of heating water, washing dishes and clothes and oneself, etc., is the other half.

Having a bug out bag ready to go in an emergency is invaluable if you have to leave your location.  That means, if you're at work and have to head home, if you're out at Big Orange Box Household Fix-it Supply Store and need to get home, if you're at home and have to go pick up the DH/DW and/or the kids, etc.

Preparedness has both a physical and mental component.  All the preps in the world won't help if you freeze or panic.

Whiz BANG! Pluck that clucker!

Ok, everybody knows butchering a chicken isn't something city kids grow up with, but thanks to the Interwebs we have a plethora of people explaining how they do it.  

This particular tutorial, however, is very step-by-step with pictures, and although it's gross at first, if you need to desensitize yourself to the process, no better way to do it than a good tutorial with explanations of the steps.

Creating a disaster-resistant household

If  you want to get your household ready in 30 days,  this publication might be a good guide.  Intended for folks living in New York City, it's still generally applicable.

Burning down the house

I'm sure you've seen the news about the Crannick family's house burning down while firefighters watched, all for want of a $75 fee.  I guess if you are poor in Obion County, Tennessee, tough luck if your house is hit by lightening or arson or some accident causes a fire that you can't put out - if you haven't paid your $75, the firefighters will stand and watch your house burn, too.  What if there had been someone caught in the house?  What are our tax dollars for if not to pay for basic services like life and fire safety?  And why didn't the firefighters take a check or suggest the homeowner write one on the spot? 

Do we want increasingly privatized libraries, fire departments, police and the like?  How about water departments?  When you have to pay for basic services, soon only those that can afford those services have them.  Didn't pay your police protection bill?  Too bad about that burglar/rapist, ma'am, but your account was closed for non-payment...

Is this the America we want?  I think we can do better.

Book review: Mini Farming - Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre

This looked like an interesting book, so I checked it out from the library.

I don't think it's intended to be an in-depth manual but more of an overview.  The flaws I noticed included some missing information in the chapter talking about converting a hand grain mill to a huller about the rubber disk to be inserted into the device.  I didn't like the advice the author gave about composting chicken waste after slaughtering; the preferred method is incineration or burying and while the author discounts the 'many composting books that say not to', living in a semi-wooded are with mice and other rodents, I don't plan on putting chicken guts in my compost pile, thankyouverymuch.

The author recommends the addition of peat moss to the soil.  Since peat is currently harvested at non-sustainable levels, and given that it takes hundreds of years to form, alternatives like coir [which performs on a par with peat] are preferable. 

The author shows and describes one method of killing chickens, by cutting off their heads [holding the head with beak closed and using a knife].  There are other methods that probably would work better for beginners, and his plucker doesn't look very safe, nor does he describe its use.  See this site for information on making a safe, quick and easy plucker as well as a scalder.

I also notice that the book isn't well indexed; index entries refer to pages past the beginning of topics, like the index wasn't re-done one final time and checked.

All in all, I'd give this a B- or C+.  I won't be buying a copy, but check it out and decide for yourself.

Waste management

Are you concerned about waste management PSHTF, like kitchen garbage and the like [the...other...waste, that stuff, is a different topic]? 

Don't be.  Consider this:
  • Organic garbage such as food scraps will go into your compost pile or worm bin.
  •  Plastic won't last long as a waste item because nobody will be packaging anything in plastic because there won't be any made
  • Things that ordinarily go in the garbage like used paper towels and the like will most likely be burned, if not inside, outside in a waste fire.
Some people will nothing think of burning plastics, painted/stained wood and the like, but those things should be safely stored out of the way instead to prevent noxious smells and fumes.

Metallic waste will likely be recycled, either by the originator (you) or by someone who periodically comes 'round and barters for or buys it.

While you will have some garbage to begin with, fairly soon you won't have much to deal with.  It won't pile up like a garbage trucker strike in New York City...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

All fear, all the time...

The Bible is full of 'fear not', which, coming from the Almighty, sounds like good advice to me, especially in dire times such as these.  The subjects of this vid think otherwise.  I stopped being afraid of the 'terrists' when the second color-coded fear alert came and went after 9-11 without incident.  I knew then it was b.s. and we were being feed a load of tripe...

After Armageddon, Part III

Part III of the History Channel's After Armageddon series.


I checked a book out from the library called 'The Checklist Manifesto'. This book isn't about getting organized like I thought it was.  However...

The author is a surgeon and came up with the pre-operative checklist for operating room personnel that's cut post-operative complications and deaths by at least 30% wherever it's been put to use. Even operating room staff who didn't like using the checklist because they felt it took too much time said if they were being operated on, they'd want the checklist used.

The checklist is 19 steps, including a round-robin introduction of staff to one another, plus a check on 'did we stock enough antibiotics/blood/anesthesia' and 'what part are we working on' kinds of things. Most useful part of the book is the last three or four chapters, IMHO; again, they don't talk about getting organized, but rather the concept of a checklist as a process tool.

Author got his idea mostly from aviation AFAIK, drawing on the idea of the pre-flight checklist. Turns out, checklists were a major part of the 'miracle on the Hudson' plane ditching a while back; it was a team effort, not the efforts of one person, and checklists were at the heart of the successful landing of the plane.

So what does this have to do with prepping? Using a checklist would relieve you of the need to remember all the steps for securing your house, loading your BOV, etc., etc. and consequently reduce your stress when push comes to shove and you have to bug out. Same for a warning in advance of a tornado or hurricane, for example; knowing you've codified the steps to respond to warnings of floods, tornadoes, etc., means you don't have to worry about forgetting important steps in becoming secure and safe.

The process for making a checklist for an emergency situation or SHTF involves not only making a list of steps, but also testing out the results. Every checklist will be a bit different; those implemented in hospitals around the world were tweaked to reflect local conditions and methods of operation, but focusing on what to do before you have to do it means once you have to do it, you can focus on the important things rather than details like 'did we turn off the water' or 'did we bring food for the dog'.

If, from your perusal of the numerous preparedness sites on the Internet, you can customize the steps needed to get you from your comfortable reading-the-newspaper-in-your-smoking-jacket state to fully prepared to be on the road to your BOL without much difficulty, you will be in much better shape than the person who leaves this organizational detail to chance or memory. 

Some ideas on a rough framework are here and here.

Some tips on working with recycled wood

When working with recycled wood, before you do anything else, put on your gloves and get out your prybar and hammer and something to put metal screws and nails into. Have a place to put wood that you will have to cull from the pile.

The first thing to do is get out all the nails, staples and screws from any piece of wood. Yes, you can wait to do it, but it won't stack as well and you could easily slice your hand or dull your saw on an errant piece of hardware later. It's worth taking the time to do it first. A corollary to that is to check each piece before you use it by running a nail detector over it, or failing that, a really strong magnet such as one from a speaker, and close visual inspection (not with your hands; too easy to cut yourself].  There are stud finders that consist of a magnet on a pivot that are useful for this task as well.

In my pile of recycled wood, no two pieces of old recycled wood were the same dimension. What we call a 2x2 today was (for example) a 1 7/8 x 2 1/8 or something similarly 'off' typical dimensions in my pile. I found I needed to measure each board for my first project that I built (a seed starting rack like this that I could knock down, so the hardware's a bit different than that called out in the article) to find the center. This added time to building my project, so patience is a good tool to have in your toolbox when working with recycled wood.

Just like new wood at the lumberyard, recycled wood can be a mishmash of good, bad and indifferent. Some pieces in my recycled pile were close grain, hard wood [species unknown, but heavier than pine] and some were just like the crappy 2x2s over at the local big box store. So much for thinking older wood = better wood. Not always the case.

If the paint's flaking, scrape off as much as you can and wear a respirator and sand off the rest with coarse grit sandpaper. If the paint's intact, strip it and dispose of the leftover gunk carefully; you might be dealing with paint that had lead in it.        

Herbs and spices

First of all, do you know the difference between herbs and spices?  I had to look it up, myself.  The most basic definition is based on growing location:  spices are grown in the tropics, herbs are grown in temperate zones [i.e., you could grow them in your garden if your USDA zone would allow].  But, then, there's coriander.  And cilantro.  They both come from the same plant; cilantro is the leaves, and coriander's the dried fruit, but coriander's considered a spice and cilantro's an herb.  Typically, herbs are the leaves of plants, while spices are the berries or bark. 

Over at The Kitchn blog they have a guide to herbs and spices that includes mixes and links to in-depth information about each item.

Stocking up on herbs and spices is valuable if you use certain ones regularly in sufficient quantity to warrant it, but don't stock up on what you don't use.  I can speak from some considerable experience on that point; I have jars of indeterminate age of quite a number of things I bought thinking I'd use them...and haven't.  In my pantry/preps I have garlic bits, oregano, basil, dried onion bits, cumin, bay leaf, rosemary, red pepper flakes, chili powder, and ground cinnamon, cloves, ginger and allspice plus beef and chicken bouillon.  With these I can cook just about anything from spaghetti to cinnamon rolls, and though I have some of other things for the occasional foray into say, Chinese food, these comprise the core of my seasonings.

When I'm cooking stew, for example, I use bay leaf, rosemary, onion and garlic, plus some beef bouillon, to season.   Chicken's the same except for using chicken bouillon.  Haven't tried it with pork but I wager that mix would season pork nicely as well.

For Mexican food, garlic bits, oregano, dried onion bits, cumin, red pepper flakes, and chili powder do the trick.

Apple crisp and pumpkin pie rely on a mix of cinnamon, cloves, ginger and allspice.  Snickerdoodles use the cinnamon and some sugar; gingersnaps and gingerbread, of course, use ginger. 

Those seasonings used most often are most worth stocking up on, especially spices.  Cinnamon and other spices don't grow well in northern climates, and the best you can do is to stock up on the whole spices and grind them as you go, or vacuum pack the ground version in amounts small enough to use in a reasonable amount of time. 

Spices and herbs can be used a lot longer than recommended; you really don't have to change out all your seasonings every six months.  That's a marketing ploy.  You can use most opened seasonings for up to two years, although after one year you might have to use a slightly heaping teaspoon rather than a level teaspoon.

When none of them are the sharpest knife in the drawer

Lists of items to stock up on include axes, knives and various other implements to cut or chop with, but rarely do people consider how to keep things sharp. Why have anything sharp in your BOB or your stock of goods without including something to keep it sharp with and knowing how to sharpen it?

Here's a tutorial on sharpening knives, more information, albeit focusing on kitchen knives, that discusses the intricacies of steel, edge bevels and the characteristics of various types of stones, and a nice, downloadable two page .pdf with pictures.

Here's how to sharpen an ax, mower blades, etc.

Multi-tool users, unfortunately you're on your own finding directions. Leatherman, for example, apparently says 'send it back and we'll resharpen', which isn't very useful pshtf.

There's also a book called The Complete Guide to Sharpening that includes chisels, carving and turning tools and drill bits, among other things.

Storage organization and inventory

Even if all you do is stock up to have a full pantry, organization's critical, as well as knowing what you have.  That oddball jar of capers will never see the light of day if you a) forget about it and b) it migrates to the back of your food storage/pantry.

Until just recently I had no idea what all I had stocked up on as a consequence of not having kept a running inventory. When I moved some things around in the house to organize part of the stuff, I found that I actually had a good selection of things in some areas, but am short in others. That got me to thinking about keeping an inventory, which I then started in on, and then reasons why it would be useful.

First, it helps you track what you have in terms of quantity. Writing down that you have X amount of Y foodstuff helps you get an idea how close you are to your goal for that item, especially if you have multiple locations where you store things, such as house and outbuilding.

Second, you can more easily see where you have holes in your foodstuffs or other preps. It's one thing to look at all the cans/buckets/containers you have and think 'gee, we have a lot of stuff', but harder to see you have inadvertently overlooked enough fruit and veg, for example, if you have to juggle it all in your mind. Putting it in an Excel [or Open Office equivalent] spreadsheet allows you to categorize and describe and make notes that you can't easily do off the top of your head. If you discover that certain items would fill out what you have better, I think it's also easier to see that in an inventory you've written down rather than have to try to do it based on memory.

Third, you can easily modify needed quantities on a written inventory and make a list of everything you have to add if, for example, you find you need to prep for more people than you originally planned for.

Fourth, if you choose to add things like expiration dates and when an item is used over a month or whatever seems like an appropriate interval, you can track how much of X you actually use during Y time interval to adjust how much or how many of X you need, as well as see what needs to be used more frequently or purchased less often. If you also add information as to, say, when you purchased X on sale and note that X is on sale in your area every 6 weeks, you can time your next purchase and save by purchasing on sale.

Fifth, it adds a little peace of mind to see it all laid out and see how organized you are.

So, if you have been putting off making a thorough inventory, you might want to reconsider and get to it as soon as possible. You have nothing to lose except a bit of time, and everything to gain in terms of tracking use, quantity, quality, and content of your stored items.       

Books worth checking out

The Secure Home, Third Edition, by Joel Skousen

This is not a book to check out from the library; at over 650 pages, this is a book that requires some time to peruse and you might as well buy it rather than pay a lot of library fines generated by the time needed to go through it.  It covers design of new construction as well as remodeling, with side ventures into preparedness topics like food storage and alternative energy. 

Because I’d borrowed from a library, I was a bit overwhelmed at the sheer volume of information.  I think the suggestions are good, but there is just too much information to digest in the short time I had the book.  Author Joel Skousen has packed a lot of information between the book’s covers, and even if it is a bit out of date [as are most large volumes of this sort, like the Whole Earth Catalog, shortly after publishing], it still has a lot of valuable information.

The Complete Walker, Fourth Edition by Colin Fletcher and Chip Rawlins

If you want to plan an all-around BOB in a backpack, this book has a lot of guidance on that subject, even though it’s targeted to backpackers and hikers and not to someone considering making a BOB. 

A long time ago, I found this book in one of its previous editions and began thinking of my backpack as Fletcher does, as the ‘house on your back’.  I think this method helps you remember things that you ordinarily might forget, and organize your BOB-pack in a logical fashion.

Build the Perfect Survival Kit, by John D. McCann

For the grab-n-go of a serious emergency, a survival kit can provide a good number of the things you’ll find you need.  This book shows how to create kits in a very wide variety of sizes, contents and purposes.  While no one kit in the book may strike you as your ‘perfect’ kit, there are enough ideas to get you started on making one.

The Department of Redundancy Department

Someone told me once that Boeing has triple redundancy, that is, backups for their backups. 

Do you?

Plan A is what we usually run with every day.  Plan B is for emergencies or for when TSHTF...but what if Plan B doesn't work?  Then what?

Take, for example, a year's worth of food and supplies; that's your Plan B.  They run out, then what?  What is the redundancy you've built into your plans?

Theoretically, no 'normal' emergency would last a year; things would be back to 'normal' by then.  But, if SHTF, your year's worth of provisions can only be the tide-me-over until you get a garden going and create systems to fill in the gaps where needed, such as barter for the things you can't grow or make yourself.

Preparations for emergencies don't involve only material goods, however; they include learning skills and mentally preparing for one's own worst-case scenarios

Take stock not only of how many cans of this or that you have put by, but also of your skills and how you handle emergencies.  What can you learn that will make you more prepared mentally as well as physically? 
One person can't know or do it all, which is where community comes in, but the more you know the better off you will be, and knowledge in one area may well translate to another area.

Three outdoor ovens for baking

There's a saying:  'without bread, all is misery'.  That's certainly the case if it's sourdough bread...

PSHTF, simple things like being able to bake bread will be ever more important, but harder to do if you don't plan now.

Here are three free online plans and instructions on building ovens:

TMEN's All-in-One Outdoor Oven, Stove, Grill and Smoker

Sunset's adobe oven

Forno Bravo's Pompeii Oven

There's also a new Instructable on how one guy made his...

Raising and growing protein

Protein is crucial for a healthy diet, but it can come from several sources:  poultry, beans and legumes, fish, beef, etc.  'Protein' and 'meat' are often equated; we often don't know how much we really need every day and as a consequence either don't eat what we need or eat too much.

According to a revision of the USDA food pyramid based on food science</a> and not input from food producers (who just might be a wee bit...biased? shall we say?) from the Harvard School of Public Health, red meat is something to use sparingly, along with butter and refined grains, potatoes and sugar.  The benefits of that are multiple as far as health goes, but as far as being able to supply protein for your diet PSHTF, it also means it's a lot easier to acquire protein.

Beans and legumes, plus amaranth, quinoa and other whole grains are excellent ways to incorporate vegetable protein into the diet.  These, along with poultry and fish, can all be grown or raised at home. 

Another advantage to growing beans, etc., is that if you can't grow wheat due to your climate, you can still grow the makings for bread.  You'd need to look for gluten free recipes and their ingredients; a good number of the GF recipes out there call for things like a mix of garbanzo and fava bean flours.

If you can also feed chickens and other livestock from things you grow, you reduce the cost of feed and increase your self-sufficiency that much more.

When you cook, try using meat (beef, chicken, etc.) more like a condiment than a main part of the meal.  If you look at Asian cuisines, frequently vegetables outweigh meat by a considerable amount and that's healthier for you on the whole.  You don't need to become a vegetarian overnight to gain the benefits of reducing red meat intake and increasing other sources of protein, fiber and vitamins in its place.

Another trick to use is to combine proteins.  Check out 'Diet for a Small Planet' and 'Recipes for a Small Planet' for ideas and recipes.

Averting disaster: preparing for a lost wallet/recovering from one

And how does that feed into preparedness, you ask?  Good question.  Good post over at Tip Hero explains the why and how of minimizing loss of valuable information.

Same thing applies to a purse or briefcase, too.  If you're at work and an emergency occurs, your purse or briefcase shouldn't be an impediment, but rather an asset.  

And what do you do if your wallet/purse/briefcase does go missing?  Check Bargaineering's post for more information on that.  Notice that it does reiterate Tip Hero's step of removing what you don't need in your wallet, etc. in the first place.

Jam- and jelly-making

Clear Jel looked like the answer to my quest for something to use in jams and jellies that could be bought in bulk, but then I found contradictory information on one website and got some Pomona's Pectin instead.  However, the information I found in the first place comes from a reputable source, and I know that Barry Farms sells Clear Jel by the pound, but on their website and not through as most of their offerings are.

The Pomona's won't go to waste, however, as it, too has a long shelf life, and allows the use of very little sugar in making jams and jellies; the recipes for using Clear Jel lean toward more traditional amounts of sugar, but the instructions from the nice folks at Whatcom County Extension did suggest reductions in the amount of sugar are quite possible, with some experimentation.

As if we didn't have enough to worry about already...

Demagogic hate-mongers like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and their ilk live to spread dissension among the populace; they are tools of corporate interests - after all, who benefits when you and I don't sit down, conservative and liberal, to discuss our common interests and how to effect change to meet our needs?  Yeah, it's corporations.  Keep the peons, the common, dirty little people who pay taxes, from discovering they're all getting screwed by corporate interests (and our own government, that bastion of corporate interest-appeasing knee-pad-wearing toadies) and you can keep the people (you and me) from working together to effect real change.

Beck, along with Limbaugh and others, has been given a soap box by corporate media.  And some have bought into the message presented by this idiot to the point that they will wholeheartedly embrace his deliberate efforts to promote fear of 'the other', which is the sole basis for his success.

Despite the overwhelming historical evidence that this country is not Christian, but rather secular so that all may freely worship as they please whether Presbyterian or fundamentalist Baptist or Hindu, Buddhist, or Sikh or Muslim, Beck & Co. continue to promote the lie that this country was founded upon the Bible.  Anyone familiar with actual history know that this isn't a Christian country and that the Founding Fathers weren't 'ministers' just because they attended seminaries, nor were they all Christians, but rather a significant number were Deists who actually denied the divinity of Jesus.  Jefferson went so far as to cut up a Bible to make his own, bereft of miracles and embroidered rhetoric, but today that fact is ignored by right-wing extremists because you're either a ‘good’ Christian or one of them, the enemy of all that is good and true and white and Christian, preferably Calvinist, which philosophy posits if you're poor it's your own damn fault.

Suppose the SHTF in the near future and the only doctor willing to work in your area wasn't one of 'you' but one of 'them', someone not a devout (read: your preferred kind of) Christian but rather one of those 'godless Muslims', or a Pagan, or (God forbid) an atheist?  Kick him/her out for not being the right color or religion?   Welcome in my neighborhood, and your loss if not welcome in yours.

We don't need the Becks and Limbaughs and others to divide us.  We need to expose and then ignore them and focus on what matters, which isn't race, or white self-identification as victims, or what you wear or who you sleep with.  It's a bit bigger than all that, what with peak oil and climate change and the threat of world war hanging over our heads...

Beck's and Limbaugh's salaries outpace ours by factors of 1,000 or more and they live in neighborhoods open to only the 'right' sort of people.  Why are Americans letting the idle rich dictate to us what we should believe?  That their ranting is considered an honest day's labor is an insult to everyone who actually does work for a living.
preferred kind of) Christian but rather one of those 'godless Muslims', or a Pagan, or (God forbid) an atheist?  Kick him/her out for not being the right color or religion?   Welcome in my neighborhood, and your loss if not welcome in yours.
Beck is becoming well thought of on white supremacist websites like Stormfront because of his advocacy of violence and white victimization.  Is that what we want?  Do we need this constant agitating to interracial discord when we're all in the same leaky rowboat and facing the same overwhelming issues?  Why listen to the distraction Beck represents?  Does he have a plan to deal with global climate change, or peak oil, or create peace in the world, or feed the world's hungry?  Does Limbaugh?

No, they do not.  And since they have no practical solutions to the real issues we face, they are not. worth. listening. to.

Useful gadget: needle sharpener

Innovations of Vancouver, WA makes a needle sharpener than sharpens both manual and machine sewing needles.  Needles are a useful item to have PSHTF, but until now there's not been a way to keep them sharp.  Easy to use, about $8 at your local sewing store or from their website.  They also make a rotary cutter blade sharpener...

Transition Towns: One Model for the Future

What is a 'transition town'?  I ran across the term on the site and started looking for more information.

According to their wiki,

"A Transition Initiative is a community (lots of examples here) working together to look Peak Oil and Climate Change squarely in the eye and address this BIG question:

    "for all those aspects of life that this community needs in order to sustain itself and thrive, how do we significantly increase resilience (to mitigate the effects of Peak Oil) and drastically reduce carbon emissions (to mitigate the effects of Climate Change)?" "

There are people who deny peak oil and is an issue and climate change is happening, but there are a lot of people who recognize the reality of what's going on around us and want to ride out the storm and thrive, not just survive.

The Transition Movement started in the UK and on their wiki they say that they work on

    * awareness raising around peak oil, climate change and the need to undertake a community lead process to rebuild resilience and reduce carbon
    * connecting with existing groups in the community
    * building bridges to local government
    * connecting with other transition initiatives
    * forming groups to look at all the key areas of life (food, energy, transport, health, heart &amp; soul, economics &amp; livelihoods, etc)
    * kicking off projects aimed at building people's understanding of resilience and carbon issues and community engagement
    * eventually launching a community defined, community implemented "Energy Descent Action Plan" over a 15 to 20 year timescale

and they're honest in saying they don't know everything, but they know that

    * if we wait for the governments, it'll be too little, too late
    * if we act as individuals, it'll be too little
    * but if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time.

Here's a list (see that first link above) of skills thought to be needed to transition from modernity to a Victorian town at work:

"Woodland crafts:  coppicers, hoop-makers, peg-makers, charcoal burners, trug-makers, field-gate makers
Building crafts:  stonemasons, wallers, thatchers, slaters, paint-makers, glass-blowers, chimney sweeps
Field crafts:  dry-stone wallers, well diggers, vinters, arborists, shepherds, beekeepers, millers, fishermen, veterinarians
Workshop crafts:  blacksmiths, wood turners, rope-makers, tanners, potters, paper-makers, gun smiths, candle makers
Textile crafts: spinners, weavers, dyers, tailors, button-makers,quilters, leather workers, felt-makers, hatters
Domestic crafts: Fish smokers, brewers, pickle-makers, bakers, naturopaths, historians, midwives - and a village idiot! "

I think everyone occasionally feels that they qualify for that last one, given the hectic lives we lead, but look at that list.  I don't know how to thatch, or blow glass, or make a gun or birth a you know all that?  Probably not.  The overwhelming number of skills needed to survive and thrive practically screams 'don't go it alone' and I believe is a wake-up call to those who would try to survive on their own; as they say, 'if we act as individuals, it'll be too little'.

Transition US is our 'local' organization; check it out.  Whether or not you agree with the premises they subscribe to, the main idea's sound and worth investigating.

Empire - Rome wasn't built in a day and won't fall as fast, either

Rome wasn't built in a day, and the Roman Empire didn't fall in a day, either.  If watched from the distance that time gives us, it was more like watching meat rot slowly than some cataclysmic instantaneous event.

For a long time after the Empire actually ceased to exist, outlying areas still thought it was alive and well...which might well be how the US winds down from its current state if current trends continue on.  Unfortunately for the majority of us, the self-styled 'patriots' that dragged us into yet another international conflict are determined to bring this country to its knees and then dispatch it with a shot to the back of the head.  And yes, the gang-style killing reference is deliberate.  These are the people who bragged that their mission was to shrink government to a size that would allow it to be drowned in a bathtub; this is anti community, because government of the people, by the people does for us as a whole what we cannot do individually.  Many of these people subscribe to the scribblings of Ayn Rand; Funny how neocons idolize a writer of fiction who was, in part, justifying her own psychotic lifestyle; she considered a brutal killer in the thirties as the ideal man:
"In her journal circa 1928 Rand quoted the statement, "What is good for me is right," a credo attributed to a prominent figure of the day, William Edward Hickman. Her response was enthusiastic. "The best and strongest expression of a real man's psychology I have heard," she exulted. (Quoted in Ryan, citing Journals of Ayn Rand, pp. 21-22.)"  Hickman was, according to Rand, "A wonderful, free, light consciousness" born of the utter absence of any understanding of "the necessity, meaning, or importance of other people."  In other words, a psychopath.  This is the philosophy upon which Ayn Rand built.

Neocons and their ilk are intent on destroying this country - the old 'in order to save the village, we have to destroy the village' mentality.  There are indeed elements in this country, opposed to true democracy, intent on creating a theocracy in which the harshest of Old Testament punishments are dealt out...reading Christian Reconstructionist and New Apostolic Reformation materials is like reading a manual on ‘How to Create the World of the Handmaid's Tale’.  These self-styled 'patriots' are anything but; typically they have avoided military service, but promote conflicts in Iraq, Iran and elsewhere almost as though they are children clamoring for yet another set of toy soldiers to play war with. 

The deregulation of Wall Street was part and parcel of this scheme; by eliminating proper checks and balances on the investment/banking world, it has been easy to recreate the scenario that existed before the onset of the Great Depression.  Controlling the population through threat of prison for filming police, the camps into which refugees from Katrina were forced, warrantless wiretaps, the PATRIOT Act, the reduction in available food (checked your store shelves lately?  Noticed the gaps, or the restriction on choices of brands and items available?)...those and a thousand more little signs indicate just how far down the slope the US is toward the big drain.

That is the pessimist in me coming out, but, then, the optimist writes on...

After Armageddon: Part II

After Armageddon, Part II

Useful gadget: BD Safe-Clip Needle Clipping/Storage Device

Found this at the local grocery store in the pharmacy area.  It's for clipping needles off and storing the sharps; useful for a PSHTF first aid kit.

BD Safe-Clip Needle Clipper

After Armegeddon: Surviving the worst case scenario - part 1

Disease is the one thing we may not be able to prepare for, but this video [first of several parts] has a lot of ideas on what to be aware of PSHTF.

Thinking of joining an online forum?

You might feel all alone in your quest to be prepared; friends and relatives might think you are nuts.  Rest easy; you aren’t.  It just feels that way; there are many forums and blogs and magazine articles and the like all focusing on preparedness, and your neighbors, who went through that same power outage, might be quietly stocking up just as you are. 

If you chose to look online for forums catering to preparedness/survivalism/self sufficiency topics you should be very judicious in your search, and you should think twice before joining any forum until you have lurked for a while, and by that, I don’t mean a day or two.

If you find a forum that looks like it might suffice for networking with others of a like mind, in order to get a real sense of how it operates, you might have to join.  If you do, keep lurking.  Don’t try to post, just see what typical topics are.  See if your concerns are mirrored and answered on the forum.

Also, pay attention to how many questions could have been answered with a simple Google search or by reading the available information, if only on that forum.  If there are a lot of posts like ‘I’m new here, where do I start?’ or ‘check out this list of X’ and the information about where to start has already been posted prominently on that same forum or you search for the list of X and find it has been posted many, many times already, the forum is overburdened with people who aren’t paying attention.   Same thing goes for questions that would be better addressed in a different forum, such as questions about blacksmithing or gardening or the like, unless specific as to how to do those things in a PSHTF world.  You wouldn’t go to a gardening forum for information on fixing your dishwasher, so why go to a survival/prepping forum for information you can find addressed more specifically and accurately on a targeted forum elsewhere? 

Check out subforums to see more of what’s discussed, and note how active threads that look interesting are.  If the thread on spinning, or reloading or woodsplitting hasn’t had additions for three weeks, and the threads on politics are going gangbusters, well, if you already know what your politics are and know you need information on reloading and woodsplitting and spinning, you may be out of luck on that particular forum. 

If there are a lot of political posts in a general area rather than a politics-specific subforum, that may be a sign of inadequate attention by the forum administrators to keeping things on topic as well as forum members not being conscientious about where they post.  Check other subforums and see if they have the same problem.   You don’t want to have to spend time searching for information that is scattered hither and yon.

Look for bashing of one group or another, or attacks on people who have posted controversial information or topics or who don’t agree with an original poster on a subject.  If the majority of people on a forum don’t like liberals and you are one, stay (very) undercover.  Your views will be discounted if you indicate your politics, no matter how fact-based you are (this applies to anyone of any minority political persuasion on any forum, but the majority of people in preparedness/survivalist forums tend to be conservative and liberals are often characterized as proponents of and dependent upon the so-called nanny state and government assistance in emergencies and therefore to be ignored, insulted or both).

In short, get a sense of a forum before you join (including reading all the rules), and get a better sense when you have, before you post.    And don’t forget that a conservative forum owner/host will chose conservative admins, and that prejudice against liberals, if any, may extend from the top all the way on down.

Chicken Little weren't no prepper...

Chicken Little wouldn’t make a good prepper; being an alarmist or allowing events and conditions to rattle you past the point of being able to deal with them is not a good thing.  If you are of the mindset that regularly extrapolates the absolute possible worst case scenario, extravagant in its horror/outrage from the most innocuous of statements or incidents, you are in serious trouble. 

Example:  'death panels' will be instituted by the government...there's nothing in any health care initiative that calls for such a thing, despite claims to the contrary.  (Besides, they already exist in a way in the bureaucracies of insurance companies in which people are rewarded for kicking people off the insurance rolls, or treatment is denied as 'experimental' when it's not and somebody dies, or people undergoing chemo lose their insurance for supposedly underpaying premiums by one penny.  If it's OK for a private company to do it, why would it be wrong anyway for the government to institute the same methodology, especially when conservatives preach the sacredness of the marketplace?  But, I digress...)  If you go from ‘it’s good to reimburse professionals who give end-of-life information, such as living will info, advance health care directives, etc.  so that people can make informed decisions before they are forced to or their loved ones make decisions without consulting them, and their loved ones know in advance what their desires are‘, to ‘death panels’, you are a victim of over-extrapolation. 

Surviving a serious situation if you can only extrapolate earth-shattering disaster from whatever information is at hand will be much harder than if you can analyze a situation without embroidering it beyond recognition.  You would logically have no good course available to you if you have this particular mindset, and until you realize you think that way and take steps to change how you think, you might as well forget making decisions about any major life choice because your ability to think through the information at hand is seriously compromised.

Pollyannas who ‘always rely on the kindness of strangers’ won’t get very far in a SHTF situation, either.  FEMA may someday redeem its reputation and become the agency it was intended to be (meaning no more former horse judges or inadequate communication with other agencies), but until it does, FEMA is not going to be able to save us from disaster and harm.  Strangers may be innocuous, but always trusting that strangers mean no harm is naive, to say the least, and trusting that the government will rescue you flies in the face of previous experience.

Somewhere between the two extremes lies the area in which best to function.  Now, before the SHTF, is the time to explore ‘what-if’ing' and create scenarios with which to practice how you’d react.   If you go to either extreme, either creating calamity or ignoring reality, consider looking at some of the decision-making tools at sites like this; your life, and that of your family and/or friends, may depend on your ability to think clearly, and there is no time like the present to begin sharpening your decision making skills.