Monday, October 6, 2014

Canned good expiration dates

I have personally eaten some cranberry sauce that was about six years old and it wasn't a problem...didn't taste funky, just like cranberry sauce...check this out for more on expiration dates.

For Newbies from folks well along their path to preparedness...

Here's an interesting list for anyone starting out on their preparedness work; the folks at Knowledge Weighs Nothing (obviously, these folks have never packed up 70 years of National Geographic magazines to move) asked people who are well along in their preparing to give their best pieces of advice to newbies.

Here’s some of what the respondents said (sorted through my own filter to remove duplicates):
  1. Do something.
  2. Even a little bit is better than nothing. And don’t think you have to invest in some overpriced bunch of nonsense Glenn Beck is pushing. Just buy what you can afford, when you can afford it, and do a little bit all the time, using from the older stuff as you bring in the new. That way your supplies stay fresh, and you find out what you do or don’t like.
  3. Stockpile in a well rounded way. Don’t focus on one thing, and neglect another area. You don’t want to be living on just rice and beans and water. Variety is the spice of life (and there are other areas that need attention other than just eating)
  4. Books are important.
  5. Equipment without the knowledge of it’s practical application is about as useless as a milk bucket under a bull (e.g. medical supplies without any medical training). Educate yourself or surround yourself by those who already possess specialized knowledge, skills, and abilities!
  6. Gas in your vehicle and extra for future use…you may have to flee. And Grizzly bear spray for the zombies…save the ammo for hunting.
  7. I would say learn as much as you can first then, take into account what type of space you have to store the basic things your going to need. Talk to friend, family etc. Think about where you can go to bug out if need be and make a plan. Store food, water, meds, first aid and tools you may need build up slowly if you can’t afford to do it all at once.
  8. Don’t go in debt
  9. Also get all forms of important paper work together and know exactly where they are.
  10. Research, research, research. Not everything you learn will work for you. Plans can be adjusted. Be smart about what you do.
  11. Eat what you store, store what you eat. Apply that principle to the rest… if you camp regularly your preps will also be past of your life in a fun way. Don’t forget to live now while preparing for the zombies. Most disasters are not the end of the world, they just feel that way.
  12. Study all you want, but practice what you think will work for you and your family.
  13. Learn as much as you can and take from it what works for you practice with your guns learn to keep them clean make a plan
  14. Be aware of the re-purposing of everyday things…recycling to new use can be your best friend
  15. Store things that you actually like to eat and keep them in rotation. Learn to make fire without matches. Know your native plants and forage. Keep chickens and grow your food.
  16. Practice doing the things that you learn so that you will be comfortable and sure of yourself when the time comes.
  17. Don’t give up, it’s always overwhelming in the beginning
  18. Make what you can, Trade for what you can’t, then buy if you have too.
  19. Go camping even if it's just in the back yard. Be ready to live without utilities. I see way too many people with thousands of rounds of ammo but no water/filter system, or a freezer full of game but no generator. Start out prepping for a natural disaster, when you’re ready for a week with no utilities then expand.
  20. Start by making a plan with a safe location to meet if a disaster occurs. Then make sure your family knows it.
  21. Start small with survival basics like a BOB and buy extra canned goods and water. Don’t try to do it all in a day. Plan.
  22. Grow a garden & can what you grow. Then store it properly for long term.
  23. One step at a time. Read good manuals and practice one skill per week.
  24. Learn to do without. Then, learn to do w/as little as possible. Try & assign @ least 3 uses to everything around you, & learn the Laws of 3. 3 mins w/out air- 3hrs w/out shelter- 3days w/out water- 3weeks w/out food. 3 drops o’ bleach per gallon of water. 3 gallons o’ water per day in extreme heat, 3,000 calories per day, if working/runnin’ a full, 8hr+ day. But- NEVER eat unless you have water. Rest comfortably whenever possible. Don’t travel in wet/foul/cold weather unless necessary. Be in the moment. Don’t panic, & alleviate worry by planning & doing. Don’t take stupid chances. Oh, & learn, learn, learn- by doing.
  25. Start out small. Turn the power off at the breaker and shut the gas valve off and see how you cook the meal tonight. Next turn the power off over night. How are you going to wake up for work tomorrow? how are you going to walk thru your house at night. with no lights? NEVER let your car get below 3/4 of a tank, and buy a bike.
  26. [I]nformation [sic]your [spouse] into it. There are “to the point” shows that show how people act in emergencies. Show them the evidence of the past, as to earthly events. There’s the Carrington Event, volcano events, earthquakes events, etc. Tell them that you need them to man-up and take care of you. Tell them you need to know they are ready to protect and defend you and what you have. If they won’t listen to that and act, I don’t know what you have.
  27. First buy a book on emergency preparedness, then consider your family’s taste in things and then start building your supplies. Remember the mundane like toilet paper, etc. A friend suggested sturdy shoes in the event we have to walk distances to get things. Lots to learn but it’s all fun.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Doomsday Preppers

Reality TV.   Not mine, not yours, but someone's reality, showcased for everyone to see, and I suppose intended to facilitate your gloating over that your reality is different from/better than what you are watching.

I had never seen the program, but late at night when you're trying to wind down I thought I'd give it an eyeball.


Very first episode, here's what I noticed:
  • lots of 'stuff' in one yard, easy for someone to hide behind 
  • expectation that breakdown of power grid, e.g., will be like fall of Saigon
  • no protection for jars on shelves against falling off in an earthquake
  • lots of home canned goods; shelf life is not as long as commercial stuff
  • windows on ground level in 3/8" steel shipping containers = weak points
  • statement that cooking reduces nutrients and proteins in fish (countered by the producer with a statement of the facts of the matter on screen)
  • overweight and badly packed bugout bag
  • focusing on fitness (4 hours/day) and not balancing with practical knowledge 
  • assumption that all other women will have to 'whore themselves out' to survive (based, I think, on a book I've read excerpts from, which assumes a woman without a man can't survive without the aforementioned 'whoring out'; the book having been written by a man, there is definitely a grain of salt to be taken there)
Now, I admit to being picky, but these weren't small issues I felt I could suspend reality for.  

Will I keep watching this series?  Yes, and here's why:

When you watch programs like this, or read blog posts (even this one!) you should be keeping a weather eye out for whether or not there's any truth to be had or whether you are reading or watching a can of worms in bullshit sauce being opened.  If a casual perusal of Doomsday Preppers alerts you to what not to do, that's a good thing.  If it points out a flaw in your emergency preparations, that's a good thing. 

I'm including this blog in the 'can' reference; what works for me might not work for you.  Your mileage may differ.  Your experience/situation/location/perception, etc., may require something else entirely.  And that's what I recommend:  that you prepare for emergencies in a way that makes sense to you, not to me, not to Uncle Bob, and not to your Facebook friends.  To YOU.  And read/watch with a judicious eye; don't assume that anybody writing or producing anything knows anything.

Anyway...Doomsday Preppers at least shows some things not to do.  Take that first episode:  'we have 50,000 pounds of food'...yeah, and the first earthquake, without you having ensured it won't fall off the shelf, it will, and you're up the creek with a pantry full of busted glass and a mix of wet and dry food that is now totally inedible.  

And the overweight and badly packed bugout bag:  the owner thereof mentioned her newly acquired knowledge that she needed to think in terms of ounces, not pounds...and that she wasn't as physically fit as she thought when traversing six miles took her six hours and wore her out.  

And firing a weapon at water bottles when it's propped against a picnic table is a lot different than firing it freestanding at a moving, hostile target, and until you can hit the latter, you might be better off running away. 

Doomsday Preppers is educational in many ways.  Just don't expect that the education is entirely positive.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Not bloody likely....

At the website Survive the Coming Collapse, there’s a recent article titled “Five Types Of Looters You Must Prepare For“.  Read it if you’d like, but with a grain of salt; some of its points merit rebuttal and reflection. 

Here’s something I don’t quite get: 

“When the lights went out, security at the prison was compromised. Most of the jail guards left for home at first sign of trouble. Now, the tables are turned and Toni and several other inmates have escaped. Toni and his group are on foot, but that doesn’t present a problem because their rural location offers plenty of opportunities. The farmers in the area have fruits and vegetables ripe for the picking. Several in the vicinity raise horses. Now that he and the other inmates broke out of prison, Toni considers himself lucky; the problem of food and transportation is solved…once he and the five other inmates have overtaken the family they’ve targeted.”

Hmmm…let’s see:  Toni and the other inmates he’s with all know how to saddle and ride horses, collapse conveniently has chosen harvest time to occur, and ‘Toni’ (which is the spelling for the girl’s version of the name…?) and his fellow inmates all trust each other in this grand scheme enough that they can carry out a coordinated home invasion.  And they’ve somehow figured out which family has the resources they need, in an area they don’t know, and intend to relieve the farmer (who probably is armed and well aware of the proximity of the prison and the consequences in situations like this) of his goods.  Oh, and the prison had no backup generator, no plan for emergencies like this, and prison guards are all dolts who bolt when the lights flicker.

Not bloody likely. 

Now, as for the ‘tactically trained’ person.  Obviously, his tactical training didn’t take into account that when you get a gallon of gas for your chain saw, that is at least two tanks’ full and you can go through several trees that have fallen or that you want to cut down for whatever reason, and having gas for your chainsaw doesn’t mean you had the foresight to stock up on canned leeks and peaches as well.  No, it means you like to cut down trees.  Or think you need to cut down trees, or cut trees that fell on something like your main egress from your property, or smashed up your house.  As for using an ax as a quieter alternative to a chain saw, when there’s not a lot of noise, the sound of an ax being used resonates through the woods, as does the noise a tree makes when it falls.  Was this article written by a city kid, or what?  And the ‘tactically trained’ person has no idea about burning wood, either; if you burn wood, you tend to burn seasoned wood, not green, freshly cut wood, as it doesn’t burn nearly as well as the stuff that’s been sitting in your wood pile for months waiting for burn season so you can light a fire in the wood stove.  And as for more supplies being available in outlying areas, well…seriously, if you have an established suburban neighborhood full of houses, and compare it to a rural area with large lots of one house per five or more acres, where is the resource density to be found?   Hint:  not out in the tule bushes.  Lights in a house?  Seriously?  Lights???  C’mon, candles make light.  Candles don’t mean huge food stocks available for the taking.  Mr. Tactical Training doesn’t sound either, IMNSHO, and he’d be easy to slough off when you show him that you’re burning Christmas candles in February; he’s not as smart as he sounds. 

Here’s the description of how to make blackout curtains: 

Now is a good time to fit your windows with black-out curtains. Even using a piece of material that’s secured—possibly with duct tape, so light doesn’t escape and alert people outside, will do. “

Actually, fabric stores sell blackout fabric, and if you need that much some stores sell it by the bolt.  Check around.  A ‘piece of fabric’ you have lying around the house will not do; get the stuff specifically made for the project if you want to do it right.  A piece of sheeting isn’t.

The author took pains to point out that she took the opportunity to ‘school’ a Home Depot employee about all the flour and other baking goods when she bought some more buckets for food storage, but displayed a definite lack of imagination on the subject.  All she had to say (if she’s in a state that has a cottage food baking law) that she has a home baking business and is restocking.  If her state doesn’t have said law, there’s always stocking up for one’s personal Christmas baking (going all out this year and entering gingerbread contests locally) or ‘I’m buying for several households; I’ve got the biggest car and the other folks all have little kids and a hard time getting out’ or ‘if there’s one thing I really hate it’s running out’ or ‘we’re decorating the yard for Hallowe’en’ if you’re buying TP.  Or, ‘I have a high cholesterol problem and my husband loves oatmeal for breakfast’ if you’re buying a lot of oatmeal.  The creative and true-sounding lie is better than ‘schooling’ someone to prep, especially if, as the author recommends, you are at a distance from your home and paying cash, which is a hella good way to draw attention to yourself, cash plus a bunch of buckets.  After all, license plates aren’t that hard to memorize…

The suggestions for protecting yourself from the ‘looters’ described consist of ‘get a gun and a dog and eat cold food while the looting’s going on.  And don’t let anybody know you have any candles, because candles make light.  And don’t use your chainsaw, use an ax.  And have a backup plan for pooping and wiping.’ 

Somehow, I don’t think this article was quite as well-thought-out as the author thought it was.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Mom doesn’t like kippers for breakfast….

…and other things to remember when preparing for [non-]immediate family and friends.

My mother is staying with me temporarily while a medical problem gets sorted, which has presented some interesting challenges that bear on preparation for emergencies.  For one, Mom doesn’t like kippers.  Doesn’t drink coffee.  Doesn’t eat much meat at all.  And she eats things I won’t touch, like Oreos and pudding, both of which I find disgusting and won’t have in my house.

And she needed a bed.  And padding to make the damn thing (a hospital bed) comfortable.

And…then there was the incident of the footboard in the night.  Nothing Sherlockian; the thing’s inside the room she’s in and she knocked it over, and where it was when it fell over was in front of the door.  Inside, blocking the door that opens in.  So…there was a bit of panic about getting into the room so I could move it out of the way so she could get out of the room.  And…then there’s the toilet seat she needs to use the toilet.  Fortunately, I have two bathrooms, but the one she uses has no sink because her need for staying with me arose in the middle of some minor remodeling and I couldn’t get anyone in to fix the lack-of-sink problem.  And…then there’s the issue of her needing her own shower back at home, because mine doesn’t have a seat (it’s too small) and not enough things to hang on to.

And…so on.

How you prepare for the ‘average’ person versus how you prepare for someone who has needs that vary significantly from yours considerably is a puzzlement if you’ve never had your mother stay with you, for example, or if you didn’t know that your nephew was allergic to a variety of foods, many of which are staples in your pantry and food stocks.  

Medical supplies and medications need to be considered if someone you are preparing for will need them.  Extra supplies for menstruating women, babies and the elderly include sanitary pads and/or tampons, (menstruation and incontinence), adult and baby diapers (incontinence again) and extra supplies for cleanliness need as well; extra laundry supplies if you laid in cloth diapers.  You might be able to go a day without a shower, but a baby needs to be cleaned up every diaper change, and an elderly individual with either urine or fecal incontinence will also need supplies to ensure cleanliness.

Individuals with chronic illnesses present other issues.  Colds come and go, but the individual with intermittent or persistent mobility issues will need to be accommodated somehow.  Can you build a ramp for those that are unable to negotiate the few steps to your front door?  Did you plan on putting people upstairs only to find that now your elderly parent can’t negotiate the stairs?  Think ahead, and if it means possibly moving people around to accommodate those coming into the household, discuss the issue beforehand to forestall resentment and hostility.

Consider the possibility that you may not be able to provide for the people you care about (or are related to).  Are there others who can provide for them?  Are their needs just too great or complicated for you to manage?  Be honest with people who may think you will provide for them about realistic expectations and what you can actually manage.

Then, too, there’s the other side of the coin with regard to the folks coming to your house:  people who are scent-sensitive mixing with those that like perfumed toiletries, people who prefer quiet to those who are more extroverted, and people who don’t like cats or are afraid of dogs are three examples of how those coming in to your house can disrupt your routine or affect your life in some way. 

If you have large dogs and someone coming to your house is afraid of dogs, they will have to unlearn their fear.  If you are scent sensitive and people you prepare for aren’t, let them know that scented items are not allowed and that your house is scent-free.  And stock up on extras of things that could bother you if they were scented, such as hand soap, shampoo and laundry soap…and if you need your space, say so!  Don’t let relatives or friends drive you crazy in an emergency.  State up front what your rules and expectations are.   This is a case of keeping your ‘cup’ full so that you can pour out care on others; if you compromise and give in and keep quiet too much you risk your own well-being, mental or otherwise, and then you cannot care for those you have chosen to care for.  It’s ok to set rules for your household, and it’s ok to expect anyone coming into your household to respect those rules. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Book review: Meals in a Jar by Julie Languille

I saw this book is on sale from Mother Earth News but wanted to check it out first, so I checked it out…from the library.  I’m so glad I did; I’d have been very unhappy to have spent money on it even if it was on sale.

First of all, the cutesy jars on the cover have pieces of cloth under the lids and the labels are tied on artily with string.  This is not what emergency preparations should look like.  Cutesy has no place in a prepper’s stores.  And it certainly isn’t what the end result of a sealed mylar bag will look like; more on that below.

Second, the blurb under the title says “ Quick and Easy, Just-Add-Water, Homemade Recipes”.  It’s that blurb that really gets me.  Because the recipes aren’t.

  • You need to know how to pressure can meat for any recipes that call for meat, requiring a pressure canner and probably some practice in its use for safety in the food preservation as well as the use of the thing itself.    
  • You need to acquire dried vegetables and powdered eggs to put in some recipes.   
  • Some recipes call for 20 pounds or more of meat to be prepared and cooked at one time.   
  • No information is given on how to make less than 16 six serving meals, as an example of one of the quantities, and while dividing by two might work for that one, it won’t for the recipe that IIRC called for 43 1/3 cups of something.  
  • You need to get some powdered vanilla for at least one recipe, and that stuff’s $100+ a pound.  
  •  The number of meal portions varies as well; some things are four servings, some six and some eight.   
  • To top it off, many of the recipes call for sealing the ingredients in Mylar or vac-pack bags, not jars as the title suggests, again, requiring a vacuum sealer and supplies (bags).
While it might be nice not to have to measure (and how bloody hard is that, anyway, and pre-measured means you can't adjust the seasoning to your taste as easily), the only time saving is that you don’t have to measure.  You still have to cook, and dried beans for chili, for example, have to soak overnight before you start the actual process of actually cooking the chili.  Quick and easy, not.

I do not recommend buying this book.  There are just too many things wrong with it.  Make spice packet mixes, pre-measure things that you use regularly like spaghetti and the like, but don't get this book to make life and emergency preparations easier, because it won't. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Anxiety while prepping

If you look online, you can find places to view episodes of both Hoarders and Hoarding:  Buried Alive.  Both are interesting from a reality TV standpoint I suppose, given that I don't have a TV and reality is...well, it's reality and we've all been there, but more interesting from a psychological standpoint.

The discussions regarding the triggers for what surely must be underlying behavior, and the resistance to change and reluctance to face the problem are more interesting to me.  

Srsly, what has this got to do with being prepared for emergencies?  Well, if anxiety's driving your preparedness, do you really think you'll be as methodical as you would be if anxiety weren't such an issue?  Would you stock up on things you really don't need, like bolt after bolt of fabric, or package after package of sewing needles; I've seen those suggested as things to stock up on, and really, guys - and it's guys who suggest this - talk to people who sew, whydon'tcha?  What kind of needles did you stock up on?  What looked good to you, O person-who-doesn't-sew? 

There are general sewing, needlework, canvas, leather, and quilting needles, to name a few.  I have some of all of them, and they're in a dry location, in the house, in my sewing supplies because I use them, and I HAVE A NEEDLE SHARPENER.  Some of those needles are dull by design and don't need sharpening, but I'm not telling which ones, just telling you you need more than A MESS OF NEEDLES YOU WILL NEVER USE.

Ok, enough shouting.

Think about the things you stock up on for emergencies.  Make 'em count, and do it calmly...unaddressed and unfettered anxiety will get you nothing more than a house full of cat shit.  

Handy household hints...

Sometimes ideas for posts come from unexpected taking apart my ex's mess (media room conversion from garage; I need a garage, not a media room).

There are 8 things you need to take care of when you are working, whether by yourself or with someone else:  your two eyes, your two ears, your two lungs, and your two hands.  And watch to see you don't hit yourself in the shin with the sledge.  Haven't done that yet on this project, but there's still more to dismantle...

Sometimes the best tool for the project is the old, tried and true and not the fancy newer version that cost more and looks cooler.  Case in point:  pulling apart a construction consisting of 2x4s.  Have a pry bar with a hammer of sorts at one end, and it usually works just fine, but pulling the nails out of boards - nice, old, long plain pry bar has more leverage and makes pulling nails (why he had to use nails that bloody long, I do not know) soooo much easier.

Keep hydrated.  Take small breaks (like writing a quick blog post).  Don't go so long without food that your blood sugar drops; you'll get logy after eating and not be as inclined to resume the task.   And don't work until you're exhausted; you'll hurt yourself or make mistakes...

 If you have to work alone, get the book Working Alone: Tips & Techniques for Solo Building

And use your swear words in grammatically correct sentences. Especially when you're dealing with work someone left for you to do that will take time away from all the other projects he stuck you with. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

As if you need an excuse – useful things to look for at garage and rummage sales

First – rummage sales that benefit some organization are the best, along with moving sales.  The reason is that people will often donate more to a benefit rummage sale than they would to a thrift shop because they’re doing something good for an identifiable cause or organization they care about by donating.  Moving sales are usually triggered by ‘we have to clean out the house’ and ‘we just can’t take that with us’ as motivators, precipitating more energetic tosses on the ‘to sell’ pile.  Estate sales can be iffy; if done by a company that handles them professionally, look for prices that are higher and less of the useful ‘stuff’ than at most other sales because they are doing it to make a profit.  If done by the family, you might find a lot of things that the kids or whoever didn’t want, and in that case you might find good deals on old tools and the like. 

Some things to look for:

Hand tools.  Look for quality and good condition; ignore a lack of chrome if there’s also a lack of rust, and check functionality (smooth action, stiffness can often be relieved by cleaning and penetrating oil).  Pliers, screwdrivers, socket sets and the like are good finds.  Saws may or may not be good; might need sharpening.  You might find some hardware, like bolts or containers of nails, as well. 

Books.  Look for things that interest you (such as your favorite genre for reading later, if they’re cheap) as well as current how-to titles you can put in your library.  Encyclopedias may not make the cut; try Freecycle or Craigslist for those, and stick with the late 80’s or 90’s versions to have something (at least geologically speaking) reasonably current.  Educational books, as for teaching reading, or books on algebra or scientific topics if you anticipate being in a teaching capacity at some point. 

Craft supplies.  ‘Nuff said.  Well, if you’re a crafter, that is.  Otherwise, ask the crafty person in your entourage if they want the bottle of bright pink glitter.

Can openers.   The one who dies with the most can openers…wait, that’s fabric.  Never mind.  You can never have enough can openers, and make sure they aren’t all clustered in one spot.

Sewing supplies.  Not craft supplies like glitter and the like, but rather buttons, thread, fabric, and so on.  Be careful of fabric, though; you won’t know the contents unless there’s yardage and the selvage states it (not all cottons and blends do) and wooly fabrics can be anything from wool to a crappy blend that won’t hold up to wear.  Good place to find fleece remnants, and those tend to be similar in content; sew big squares together to make comforters.  Look for heavy-weight fabrics for making tote bags and the like; avoid obviously dated fabric without listed content as it could have a lot of polyester in it and polyester rots faster than cotton.

Flannel and wool shirts, outdoor jackets and similar items.  Personally, I don’t usually like buying used clothing but this is an area in which I’ll make an exception.  Wool shirts (look for holes in sleeves and the amount of wear in the back collar) can be an excellent cover up in cool weather when a coat’s just too much or when you want to layer for changeable weather.  Quality flannel can serve much the same purpose (except in the coldest weather).  Outdoor jackets:  look for a lack of tears and rips, proper zipper functionality and check to see how it needs to be cleaned and any other pertinent info.  If you find overalls or wool pants, those might be good as well, but check the size and remember that wool can be scratchy and you might need something underneath it.

Building toys, like Legos. 

Pots, pans, and baking dishes.  Look for things that you can use in an emergency and not feel bad about (like you would if you were using your Calphalon cookware over the fire (I have to admit to having one Calphalon pan).  Revere Ware often shows up at sales, and it’s stainless with a copper bottom, good for making soup or just boiling water.  Check the bottom of the pan or pot to see if it says it’s ‘clad’; that often means it’s an aluminum or copper core clad in stainless, which is easy to clean even after it’s got stuff burned on it (if you don’t get carried away - voice of experience [blush]).  Large pots and pans and canning kettles are also good finds; on canning kettles, if they are enameled, check to see that there’s no rust or chips, and with large pots and pans, unless you’re looking for something just to boil water in, try to find the lid.  Baking dishes:  cookie sheets made from aluminum are raw material as well as something you can use over the fire or in an oven if you have one.  Look for bread and other pans without rust.

Ugly potholders.  Ones you can use in an emergency to grab a pot off the fire with and not be heartbroken that they got dirty or damaged.  Look for old cotton crocheted potholders or ones made from fabric that are fairly new as they probably have insulation in them and never use them when they are damp or wet; the heat can make steam and burn you.

Canning jars. With rings, if the rings aren’t rusted.  Pick a size that works for you and stick to that size for ease of use; pick up a bunch of jam jars if you’re in the mood, but a standard size means it’s easier to jar up a batch of whatever, knowing the amount the recipe will make to begin with and helps with getting lids when they’re on sale as you only have to worry about one size.  And remember paraffin has a lot of uses around the house, like for easing sticky drawers, but it is NOT recommended for canning or making jam.  You can make people sick if you use paraffin.

Gardening tools.  Small hand tools and large ones, like shovels; look for solid handles and a lack of rust.  Be aware that anything that cuts might need sharpening.

Office supplies.  You can pick up labels and photo paper, but I’m thinking more of the basics, such as a stapler and staples, paper clips and all those other little bits and bobs that make dealing with paper and organizing things easier.  Erasers.  Pencils, crayons, colored pencils, lined paper, etc.

Miscellaneous:  keep a mental list of the things you need for your projects and keep an eye out.  You might find just the thing you’re looking for, whether the project is a wreath of flowers for d├ęcor or some washers in just the right size you’ve been needing.  Found two men’s silk ties (for a craft project) once for an exorbitant sum for the pair, but then under another table found medium sized bolt cutters for a buck, which was worth more than the price of the ties combined and something I didn’t have in my tools.  Same garage sale, found two configurable sprinkler heads for a quarter each, and those usually run at least $8 new.  Three bargains right there because I kept my eye out.

Always look for quality. Don’t buy a project (something that needs fixing) unless you have the materials, time and will end up with a useable, worthwhile item.  Exceptions exist, such as furniture that needs recovering or painting, but don’t make work for yourself.

If you see something for $10 and you only have $8 on you, ask if they’ll take less, but don’t insult someone by offering $2 for an item that really is worth the $5 they’re asking and something you need when it was originally $20 new and you plan on keeping and using it for a long time.  Some people don’t mind dickering and toward the end of the day just want to get rid of stuff, but be mindful of their stress at having to move or downsize or whatever and don’t add to it.  Be especially careful when dickering at an estate sale if done by the family; that’s their parents’ or grandparents’ things, as while they might have taken those things they wanted, they may still have sentimental value to the person.  Don’t nickel and dime when you see quality.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

It's raining why am I thinking of fire resistant plants?

When you think of wild fires, you think of California, right?  All those houses in the way of wildfires, firefighters bravely fighting to save them and people and animals...well, a hot, dry summer and the wrong kind of plants close to your house and a fire source and you've got a problem anywhere, not just on some distant California hillside.

Even if it's not as hot and dry as California or Nevada or wherever, there's still the possibility of fire.  When congresscritters can't seem to find the money to fight wildfires out West, it's up to the prudent homeowner/prepper to ensure that their major, major investment - not just their house, their home, is safe from fire.

You need to have a zone of about 30 feet out from your house that has no or very few potential fuel sources, such as no eucalyptus trees or hedges that accumulate a lot of dead needles or foliage or have potentially volatile chemicals in their makeup (the ever popular juniper tam is on the list of plants to avoid).  While I live in the Pacific Northwest and enjoy (um...well...maybe endure is a better word) the rainy climate we have here, this publication talks about fire resistant plants and creating a safe zone around your house; watering and pruning to keep dry, dead material to a minimum is critical to keeping your fire-break intact, so when you think of storing water, remember that you have not only people, but plants, to keep alive (which is why I'm putting in a water storage system that will take the rainwater off the metal roof of an outbuilding and store it in barrels for future use).  And if this topic is being addressed in the supposedly wet Pacific Northwest, i.e., Western Washington, you know it's of vital important anywhere that dry climate and hot weather combine, as in Eastern Washington, Eastern Oregon, and so on.

One thing about planting at a distance from your house:  it puts the plants where you can see them.  And you don't have to have a house stuck in a sea of lawn with no other plants; annuals, kept watered properly, or perennials that are fire-resistant, can work closer to the house itself.  However, even plants that are fire resistant can burn, so your landscaping should take into account not just type, but distance and potential as fuel in a fire. See this site for more information on preventing and reacting to fire, including a fire emergency plan and landscape planning for fire prevention.  The page has a rather telling burned wood background...

Monday, August 4, 2014

Wood screw or sheet metal screw? More on hardware and a bit on what to have on hand…

I build things with sheetrock screws.  They’re admittedly not the best fastener for all things, but for a lot of projects, they work fine.  The storage shelves I make from plywood and 1x2s are plenty sturdy, and they’re made with sheetrock screws; I’ve put shelf standards on the wall with sheetrock screws.  Wood screws might have been better for the job, but sheetrock screws are usually on hand, and they start so easily…I feel ok with my choice after reading an old post on a forum written by someone with less hair and all of it gray who happens to be male saying he used sheetrock screws as well, even though maybe they weren’t the best for earthquake country (he said that the gold screws are probably better).

There are a lot of different types of screws out there (here’s a good .pdf file with clear pictures as to the different kinds, including sex bolts and mating screws – see, I said I’d talk about screwing).  How do you tell them apart?  Well, I’ve observed that machine screws tend to have fine threads, while things intended to go into sheetrock or wood tend to have coarse threads.  Metal can support fine screw threads, while wood can’t and can tear out, hence the difference.   A machine screw won’t hold as well in wood, and a wood screw’s threads are not strong enough for metal. 

Whichever type you typically use is what is good to have on hand in emergencies.  Putting up a piece of plywood over a window:  sheetrock screws.  Start fast, and I’m screwing into wood.  Attaching a hasp to a metal door:  thread cutting machine screws.  Beefing up the security of an outside door on the shop:  carriage bolts.  And so on. 

I don’t think a mini hardware store is needed by most folks; I happen to have a lot of hardware bits and bobs from having inherited a lot of it.  I have a smattering of this and that, and while I love to be able to go out to the shop and grab a gizmo to do a project with from what I have on hand, I’d still be hard pressed to do much on a large project with what I have on hand as I’m sure I’d run out part way through any significant project.   Most preparedness sites recommend that you have nails and screws on hand, but not necessarily what sizes or types.  Based on what I use, here’s a rough list:

  • 10d nails; these are beefy enough for construction; common and finish are what I have on hand.  I have some old duplex nails with double heads made for (I thnk) concrete forms that would be useful for emergency repairs as they're easy to pull out with the double head that sticks above the surface, but I haven't seen them n stores for a long time...
  •  8d nails; these are good for trim and non-construction (i.e., non-framing) chores.
  • Roofing nails (and anything else you might need for fixing your roof; another site has a post here on that, watch the typos, however).
  • Sheetrock screws:  length depends on use.  For screwing ½” plywood over a window, a 1 ¾” sheetrock screw will probably do the trick.  For screwing two ½” pieces of material together, ¾” sheetrock screws.  Look at what you will be needing for repairs and what you will be screwing together.  I keep an assortment of about 5 sizes on hand for various projects, from 1” to 2 ½”.
  • Replacement hardware:  look around at what you might need to replace.  That’s what you want to have on hand.  Door torn askew in a storm, for example?  You’ll need screws, probably, maybe a hinge or two (and maybe some wood to patch the frame).
The bottom line, unfortunately, is that your hardware will be different from mine because your needs are different; your house is different.  And hardware’s not the only thing you want to have on hand for emergency repairs; you’ll want heavy plastic, lightweight plastic, as for painting; replacement roof covering (shingles or whatever) scraps of plywood (keep the larger ones from projects around the house) and so on.

Walk around your house with a critical eye.  What can fail?  How would you secure that exposed window, or beef up that door, in an emergency?  How would you cover that window busted by a tree branch you never got around to trimming off?   How about simple repairs?  It’s obviously better to keep on top of repair jobs, but there are always things that need it that never seem to get the attention.  If you at least have the materials on hand to fix things…well, when the Intertubes go down and your smart phone is stupid because cell service is dead, you will have something to do.

Saturday, August 2, 2014


Nails, screws and other things to build and repair.  Hardware.

There's a book that supposedly has everything in it that hardware stores sell; might be interesting to have a copy, but having inherited a lot of tools and odd bits of hardware, I kind of already know a lot of it.  Plus, it's more rewarding to find that interesting gimcrack or whimmydiddle that is the only thing that will do the trick for a job by looking at everything available with an eye to how it can be put to use rather than relying on someone else's stock explanation...

But that's something for when you have enough time to peruse your local hardware store without time constraints or significant other trailing after you.

But about hardware.  Specifically, nails.  Why are they delineated by pennies?  Well, it's a holdover from English measurement.  If you bought 2 penny nails back in the day you'd be buying by the hundred, so 100 2 penny nails would cost you...2 pennies.  Why the 'd'?  Comes from the Roman coin called the denarius.  2 penny nails are 1/4 inch shorter than 3 penny nails, and so on; each increment in 'pennies' is a 1/4" increment in length.

Here's a chart of nail sizes, handy to have if some nails have lost the box they came in and you need to identify them.  Covering a copy with clear Contact paper will keep it from getting grease and other stains in your shop or toolbox.

As for types of nails, there are quite a number, although typically the average person doesn't use more than, say, four to six kinds.   However, in those different kinds, you might have several lengths of finishing nails, for example; shorter ones for molding and trim, and longer ones for door frames and similar uses.  Bostich has a guide to fasteners that includes their Hurriquake type made to withstand the forces that extreme weather or earthquakes generate as well as some of the technical details related to types of wood and fasteners appropriate thereto, etc.

Typically, you use galvanized nails outside, and non-galvanized indoors. Some nails aren't galvanized, but are coated with concrete; these are called sinkers and are coated to go in easier.

When you are starting out pounding nails, it helps to hold them with pliers instead of your fingers because unless you've already done a lot of nailing, which you haven't, yet, you're bound to hit your fingers.  Use a pair of needlenose pliers to hold a nail perpendicular to the surface you're pounding it into, or one of the tools made to do that if you're a gadget geek.

Use the right nail for the job; indoor nails which aren't galvanized will rust outdoors.  Finishing nails can be set with a nail set to just below the surface and then hidden by using putty or spackle.  Box nails are good for nailing together...well, boxes and the like.  Common nails are good for constructing things or serious repairs.

A subset of nails not many people talk about is brads or wire nails.  These guys are small enough that they don't get a penny designation; instead, they are designated by length and gauge, such as 3/4" x 18, meaning 3/4" long, 18 gauge.  Brads and wire nails sometimes look like miniature nails, and there are some that come in handy for household chores, but I have a lot of them and have been working through the ones I have for years and they don't seem to diminish.

See my next post for more on hardware.  I'll talk about screwing.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Electromagnetic pulses

Here's an interesting graphic that shows the consequences of a massive solar EMP...

Starting in the center, you can see that power generation is hit the hardest.  The transformers that the grid relies on are big, expensive...and not protected from EMP.  It would take years, literally, to replace them.  Scientific American had an article detailing the consequences and I talked about them here, but Business Week just posted an article about what would happen (the graphic's from that article) and basically, we're screwed. 

If you rely on municipal water and waste treatment, you need to consider alternatives.  My septic system has a pump because it has to regulate flow; the ground percs too well and the system has to slow things down so as not to overwhelm the drainfield, so in this worst case scenario, eventually the system will fill, and fail.  Although this isn't something that will happen this week as far as anybody knows, preparedness involves thinking through the what-ifs like this.

Water's not so much a problem here in the PNW where I live, and I've got two large stainless pots and the makings of a Berkey knockoff from plans on the Web to filter rain water, and the parts to make a water collection system.  But waste treatment...that's another kettle of...well, it's a problem. 


What have you got to barter?  I looked online after finding out I missed  some ‘summer of survival’ event’s barter podcast, and went looking to see what folks recommend.

Here’s what I found:

Site one:  Food, batteries (but no charger), ammunition, candles propane, books.

Site two:  Alcohol, candy, salt, children’s toys, lighters, spices and garden hoses.

Site three:  Crystal light, coffee, candy and condoms (list was longer; these four stood out ‘cause of the alliteration)

Now, I have actually done a test with candy.  Six-month-old vac-packed candy has lost flavor.  All of the candies I tested, black licorice, chocolate, mints…all of it lost taste (and I was very thorough and tested everything several times).  As for children’s toys, well, if someone needs a way to entertain their kids and doesn’t already have crayons, they’re not getting my box of 64.  Spices?  Will only last so long before they start losing taste.  Salt?  Don’t use the stuff unless I’m cooking something that requires it or cleaning cast iron; I've been working on a container for literally years.  Garden hoses?  Seriously?  Batteries but no charger?  Um…no.

I happen to have extra sardines.  You offer me a Mercury dime.  Um…can’t eat a dime – sorry (I do have a few put by but more for professional services than goods).  Gemstones?  Can’t tell if they’re real; seriously, some rhinestones…  Gold?  Seriously, how am I supposed to know it’s real gold?

Be judicious in what you put aside for barter.

Some of what you’ve put by can be good for bartering, and things like toothbrushes (nobody mentions them, but it’s pointless to have toothpaste without an applicator), stain removing toothpaste (my personal favorite as it removes stains and seems to keep plaque down to a dull roar – get the Crest stuff), Listerine, and floss are in my opinion good to have enough on hand to barter with.  Other things like tampons in more than one size, bandaids (get cloth because some people are sensitive to the plastic ones and in my experience, cloth adheres better), hydrogen peroxide or that green disinfectant you can find at the grocery store (rotate regularly), Neosporin or similar (rotate regularly), toilet paper, and wet wipes (the ones for your counter as well as your parts, and in small packages) are all good.  Hand soap, and shampoo are good additions…and that’s just the bathroom stuff. 

You can get ibuprophen in smaller bottles for barter, along with other OTC pain meds; medications that deal with allergies like hay fever are also good.  Nasal decongestants…the list obviously goes on.  Better to have a little of everything than a lot of one thing, though, because rotating through a Costco-size bottle of this or that takes time and some medications lose their effectiveness or can even become toxic if too old.

What I find myself going to the store for most (other than food) is hardware.  Exacto knife blades and box cutter blades don’t hold an edge forever; screws and nails and the like get used and you run out.  I have extras, but I also have the means to sharpen what I have because eventually, there won’t be any more it TSHTF. 

Look around at the things you use every day.  What do you eat or use, what is so ubiquitous, that its loss would be difficult to work around?  That’s what you need to have on hand, and it just might make good barter material as well.   

Even if it’s sardines.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Book worth looking at regarding household safety and avoiding accidents

Although it’s geared toward the older adult, there’s a lot of good information regarding basic home safety in Living Safely, Aging Well by Dorothy Drago.  Household sources of injury, as well as a discussion of intrinsic (internal) vs. extrinsic (external) sources of danger abound, and it covers health and wellness as well.  Things like extension cords, health issues that affect balance, and watching to avoid drug interactions (which pharmacies today do, but still…) are included.

One thing that everyone needs to do is watch their health – the old saw ‘when you have your health, you have everything’ might overstate it to a degree, but good health is well worth protecting especially in hard times or when you are in a survival situation.

Preventing accidents is part of being healthy; broken bones, burns and other ailments are, for the most part, preventable.

Taking the long view

The ex bought a house in a rural area, and it’s all electric.  His idea of preparing for emergencies consists of asking for one of the Mr. Heaters (lovely things; they run off of propane canisters, and he took the older one, hahaha, and I’ve got the brand new one in the box) and a single burner butane stove from among the supplies and tools I’ve put by to date. 

All electric.  And in the process, saddled himself with a 30 year mortgage that he won’t be able to afford when he retires…if he retires.

Preparedness involves more than having a spare can of beans on hand.  It consists of thinking in terms of both long and short term.  In other words, never buy a rural all-electric house with a 30 year mortgage when you’re 60 just so you can play music loud.

Could he have found something else, something better if he had waited?  Probably.  Patience is indeed a virtue when searching out your ‘perfect’ place.  And could he have found something closer to where he works, given that his new commute will be six times as long, adding two hours to his day?  Probably.  He’s mumbled something about getting a new, more fuel efficient vehicle, and that means an expense that he’ll either have to save for or a monthly loan payment…but it won’t make his commute shorter, or put power to his house in an emergency.

This is not preparedness at its best. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Only two nails....or, never assume the former owner knew what they were doing...

Only two nails held in the old back door on the Liberal Prepper's house.  Two.

Give it a good grab, and you'd have been right in.

Fortunately, the ex is working off the projects he left undone, per mediation agreement that he do so, and he replaced the door with one that had been used elsewhere. 

It needs cleaning, and it needs to be foamed around the frame, and it needs trim on the outside and inside, but it's held in with....

....more than two nails.

Never assume that the former owner knew what they were doing; obviously, this time they kinda didn't. 

Very fortuitous, this lack of nails, it turns out; gave me an idea on how to strengthen the doorway.

You see, the outside door being replaced was made for 2x6 framing.  Most modern houses are made with 2x6 lumber, and the outside walls are that thick.  The door being put in place wasn't made for 2x6 construction, however; it was made for 2x4 construction.  You find this a lot; for some reason you have to get an extension kit or order the door and frame for a 2x6 wall. 

The graphic above shows how the door frame on a 2x4 door is extended with another piece of wood.  Unfortunately, this doesn't do much for security when the extension is on the outside of the door, because the weakest spot in the door frame is that 7/8" or so of wood on the inside of the door frame between the hole for the latch and the inside of the door frame.  Go check out your door and you'll see what I mean.

Now, the door being put in place having been made for a 2x4 construction scenario, ordinarily it would be placed flush with the inside of the 2x6 door frame because otherwise you run into issues with the hinges and can't open the door all the way.  In this case, however, the door can't open flush to the wall anyway; there's a dryer and a water heater in the way.  Putting the new-ish door and frame in flush with the outside of the 2x6 construction leaves the width of 2x lumber on the inside, like so:
This is a view from the inside of the new-ish door and its frame; left to right, the color of the paint in the room (not LP's choice), the grey color of the outside of the sheetrock on the wall, the edge of the sheetrock (the white stuff), the door opening framing, the door frame and the door.  Now, between that door frame and the inside edge of the existing framing for the door opening is where that space the width of 2x lumber is.

Note that there's still only that itty bitty bit of wood between the latch and the inside of the door frame...but now there's this space.  And the Liberal Prepper has these pieces of wood.  Old wood, close grained, long enough to make pieces to put in place and screw into the door opening framing top to bottom, to be between that door frame and the inside edge of the framing for the opening.  Screw that nice old piece of wood to the door opening framing (shimming it to match the profile of the door frame, of course), and presto...the space between the latch hole and the outside edge of the frame on the inside of the door is now 3 inches.  That's a damn sight harder to kick in than 7/8" of pine...

Not a bad improvement over two nails.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Oh, shit...

URLs don't display well once clicked, so highlight this text to find the link in case you can't see it...

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Safety starts at your front door

Per Family Handyman, your house is at greater risk for burglary if:

  • "It sits on a corner lot (more visible to a browsing burglar and a natural place to stop and ask for directions)
  • It is located close to a major highway exit (less than 1 mile)
  • It is located on a through street, which gives a burglar a quicker escape (dead-end streets and cul-de-sacs are safer)
  • It borders a wooded area or playground (provides concealed access for burglars)
  • It is in a wealthier neighborhood
  • It features no signs of young children living there (burglars avoid as someone may be home)
  • It was recently purchased (burglars know you haven’t yet developed close familiarity with neighbors)"

Given that security is on everyone's mind these days, and that door-to-door miscreants recently tried to scope out the local area recently, the Liberal Prepper has given some thought to this subject.

Changing the house locks recently came up as a potential chore on The List of Things to Do, that ever-lengthening concatenation of Things That Get in the Way of Doing Anything Fun, and given this chore affects an area in which modifications to the door framing can be made as well, thought has been given as to how to effect a more secure entry.

Of course, it’s not just your entry door that needs to be secure; garage doors, the door to the garage, and windows all need examination with regard to security.

If you’ve ever left your sliding window part way open, relying on one of the built-in tabs or gizmos that you can flip out to keep it secure, that was not the best course of action.  Those things break, leaving you with a window that once open can open all the way.   A better means of keeping a window cracked open is to measure the distance between the opened window and the stationary frame on the side opposite the opening, and cut a board that length and use it to keep the window from moving.  However, if the part of the window that opens is not very wide, it’s not best to leave it cracked open at all because if the opening is wide enough to get an arm in, it’s not that difficult to get the board out.  This method works best for sliding window portions that are over 18” wide.  Trust me – measure your elbow to your fingertips, and you’ll see that’s the measurement that the sliding portion of the window must be wider than. 

An air conditioner hanging out the window is another advertisement for easy access.  Consider getting a portable air conditioner and putting vertical anti-opening boards in the top of the window (for a double hung window) or horizontal ones for a sliding window.  The Liberal Prepper has a portable A/C unit (not practical when the power’s out, admittedly, but otherwise, very practical due to its low visible footprint, less obvious profile, greater aesthetic value, and the fact it’s portable and can move around the house) just for this as well as other reasons.

Anyway – those doors.  Door frames have a weak spot around the locks; the plates on the face of the door frame conceal the weak spot, namely the hole created for the deadbolt throw to go into.  That’s the area that most certainly needs to be beefed up; typically, burglars kick doors in, and that’s the weak spot they aim for.  Anybody with a gizmo to expand the door frame itself, sort of like a jack used horizontally, won’t be defeated in their efforts, only slowed down, but – they will be slowed down – by placing extra bracing in the framing on either side of the door framing between the studs around the door frame and the next stud.  Something heavy would have to be used there, or something very strong, like oak, or 2x lumber (methinks a 4x4 chunk, held in place with brackets above and below, would suffice in that case).

There are any number of items you can get to reinforce your door frames; your local hardware store should be able to advise you which ones will work best for your situation.  Measure and take pictures if needed, and consult with your local hardware person to narrow down your options.  Longer screws and larger strike plates are one option; there’s also a long steel plate you can install with very long, hard screws that will help keep things together.  Every outside door should be reinforced, because if you have one weakness, someone intent on entry is sure to find it.  Don’t ignore the door to/from the garage, because your main garage door itself may not prevent entry.  There are ways to beef up your garage door and make it more secure, depending on whether or not you have an opener.  Check here for some ideas, and here for more.  Some interesting ideas from Hawai’I might seem over the top at first, but are alternatives to the usual methods.