Fri. April 9, 2021 – and now we’re one step closer to CWII, thanks Joe!

Warm and sunny, with a small chance of rain, or hot and sunny, I’m reasonably sure it will be one or the other. It was sunny and warm yesterday, but so humid that puddles in the driveway wouldn’t dry. I was soaked with sweat pretty quickly after going outside. Sunny and beautiful, but not pleasant.

Spent a couple of hours napping. I just felt really wrung out, and was falling asleep in my office chair. Since that hurts my neck, I just went back to bed. I’ve done that more in the last couple of months than in the last couple of years. That is not necessarily a good thing.

The rest of the day was eaten up with small tasks. I got a mounting arm for my last camera cobbled together. I put the mount for the mount in place on the chimney. And I got the camera configured, along with the NVR software. Even though the cam is sitting in my office, I am looking at image from it on my NVR. Since getting that camera in place and working moved to pretty near the top of my list, it felt like a good day.

The rest of the afternoon and evening was devoted to cooking our belated Easter dinner. I was able to use mint and rosemary from the garden to season the lamb. I also used some instant potato packets from 2014. They were a bit orange, as the butter flavor coloring changed with time, but after adding some cream, butter, and bacon crumbles, the mashed potatoes were perfectly fine as an accompaniment to the lamb. I had one box of envelopes that tasted “old” and then this box that is well within acceptable range for taste. Same age, but one got more heat than the other. Heat is the killer of stored food.

I have decided to increase my stored bulk rice and flour beyond where it is now. It’s relatively cheap, and things aren’t looking better world wide, in fact our pResident seems to be actively working to make them worse. (And of course I don’t believe it’s him at all, but whoever is pulling the strings. It’s convenient to blame him, after all he’s sitting in the big chair, and that way I don’t need to type all this every time.) I think when I did the math, if we were eating it every day, one bucket of rice would last one month, and 50 pounds fits in a bucket. I’ll double check later today and update. So, 10-12 buckets of rice at $25-$40/bucket for the year. I haven’t priced bulk rice in a year, and it varies by grade, producer, and availability. If someone here is using rice every day (roughly) please add your usage observations.

Flour is much harder to judge because I do almost nothing with bulk flour. I’m going to guess at 10-12 buckets per year for that too, because it’s cheap, so why not.

I’ll need to add a few gallons of vitamin E stabilized peanut cooking oil too. That will actually be the most expensive part.

Those three things, and some salt, comprise most of the traditional ‘poor people’ food the world over, time without end. Some type of powdered flour, some rice, some cooking oil, some water and salt, and you have basic calories that can be added to with whatever is available. RBT called them “iron rations” and it never seemed very appealing to me. I plan to have lots to add to them, but they are the base load. It’s time to build up the canned storage too.

We’re currently eating canned corn, beans, peas, and a few other things that I panic bought during ebola-14, and the vast majority is as good as when I bought it. There are exceptions. High acid foods don’t survive as long in cans. Pineapple, tomato products, some other fruit, they have swelled up and/or popped. Dry mixes with a high fat content also tend to taste “old” once past their best by date. In our climate, dried food in boxes picks up an “old” taste too soon too– Kraft mac n cheese I’m looking at you.

The way I’m looking at it, maybe we WON’T need enough stuff to stay home for 6 months to a year because of a pandemic…. and maybe we won’t need to supplement our shopping with stored food for a year or two, while the economy and security situation stabilize. But what if we do? Food security is cheap insurance.

So stack it high.

nick

Thur. Mar. 18, 2021 – whew, missed the green beer again…and all the puking

Comfortable, sunny, breezy, and nice.  That’s what I’m hoping for, we’ll see what we get.  We had all the kinds of weather yesterday.  Overcast, thunderstorms, drizzle, sunshine, wind and rain.  We even had a few minutes of ‘very nice.’   Today, the national forecast has Houston in the clear.

Didn’t get a whole heck of a lot done yesterday, that couldn’t have been done more efficiently and more quickly by someone who was motivated.  Keeping my motivation up, and keeping moving forward is harder some days than others.  But Summer is Coming, and with it the most common threat around these parts- hurricanes.  Also on the way are un- somethingly hot and humid days.   I’ve got a limited time to do a bunch of stuff that is SO MUCH easier when it’s not in the 90s for both heat and humidity.

I feel a bit like I’m going through one of those periods like RBT did when he kept posting that he probably wouldn’t be posting  much, but then he posted more.  I keep saying the same thing every day- “I’ve got so much to do” but then I don’t do it….   grrrr.  External deadlines… I need them.

I built three or four careers around meeting externally imposed deadlines.  It’s in my blood.   Internally imposed?  Not so much.  I’ve never been good at that.  My 10 year plan took me 15 years.   I did eventually accomplish it all, but it was both simple and complicated.   Get my finances in order.  Find a good woman and marry her.   Buy a house.  Start a family.    Simple right?  15 years to get there from where I started.

Live through whatever is coming and get my family through it, doesn’t have the same concreteness, and yet it’s an arguably simpler goal.  After all, it’s mostly just “continue living”.  And how hard can that be?  Weeeeelllllll, that depends, doesn’t it?  And it strikes right to the heart of a preparedness lifestyle.

“Live through” – but implied is not just survive, but do it with style, without drama, with simplicity and grace.  Succeed, not just endure.  Coming out the other end as a starving refugee is better than not coming out, but far from the ideal of being in a position to thrive when things get better.

“Whatever is coming”- bad things are ALWAYS coming.  Good things too and sometimes people forget to prep for them, but mostly we prep for the bad things and figure the good things will work themselves out.  Hurricanes and floods are the most likely natural disasters here.  But personal bad things- job loss, accidents, illnesses, death of a loved one- are the most common disasters everyone faces and if you aren’t prepping for them, you should be.

What other bad things are coming?

–Global pandemic was on the list but not top ten.  Ebola convinced me to take the possibility seriously and to prep for it ‘for realz’.  H/T to Aesop for that.  And HEY LOOKIE!  Global pandemic is here.  I’m in restocking mode, but I could still be comfortably pulling TP from stock after a year, and that’s with three females in the household.  How much is too much vs now you have none?  You will have to find your own balance, but I’m usually on the side of ‘more’.

–Slow economic collapse, worldwide depression.   RBT changed my mind about this, and changed my planning horizon.  Now I think we’re already started on this one.   It’s harder to prep for because the length of time involved is so great, and because the number one prep – piles of money – doesn’t work so well with the most likely cause, ie. hyperinflation.  There are steps you can take and preps you can make though.  Unless you like the taste of domestic animals and the local fauna, food is your best prep.  Putting your stored up life energy (ie. the product of your work) in something that will survive a currency collapse is a good idea too.  If you can’t get your stored up life (money) somewhere safe , or if you haven’t managed to store much up, you need to look for ways to use what remains  to continue working through a collapse.  Rental income streams were my go-to plan for that, but I didn’t factor in a government that would steal from the landlords.   I’m busy rethinking and looking for additional streams.  Skills involving making and repairing are looking pretty good.

–War.  Internal or external.  Both are bad.  Both involve hardship and privation.   Internal would also include economic collapse.  External might involve a currency collapse, or might be triggered by more monetary trickery, or it could pull the economy up out of the dumps.  So many flavors are possible, with contradictory effects.   Very little of it is likely to be good on an individual level though.   Internal war is looking more and more likely every day, with Balkanization being the most likely outcome.   Where you are is going to be VERY important if that happens and your number one prep.

There are other bad things that could be coming, some far more unlikely than others, but not impossible.  First contact with aliens would be a game changer, for example.   It’s also unlikely to go well for us, but most of the things that would be likely to happen get covered by preps for the other biggies.  Room temperature superconductors, fusion energy, radical life extension, those might fall into the ‘good thing’ column but would also be disruptive as heII.  True AI, self aware machines, grey goo, killer plagues, all somewhere on the list of things to consider, and then usually discount.  CME, EMP, space debris impacts, other ‘hand of God’ events, well, we’ll do what we can if something that big happens.  Having preps won’t hurt.

And then there is that last part of my goal- get my family through.  The everyday part of this is just to raise my girls to be competent human beings, and to make sure they have a good foundation for their lives on their own.   The prepping part is a bit more specific, but mainly for me it comes down to skills, attitude, and foundational beliefs.  What I think those should be would fill another few thousand words, and maybe I’ll spend the time to write those words down, but that will have to wait.  Right now, getting my family through means the physical stuff- preps in the traditional sense.   It means making sure we have the basics to survive and thrive in the most likely scenarios, and even some of the much less likely ones.   It means resilience and flexibility and adaptability.  It means stockpiles of stuff, and collections of skills and reference materials.  It means paying attention to possible threats, local and national and global.   It means engaging in the world around us with our minds and eyes open.  And it means planning for what comes next and putting resources in place to support those plans.

And of course it means STACKING.  Start stacking.  Keep stacking.  If you can’t stack stuff, stack knowledge and skills.   Stack people, relationships, networks.  Do it as a hobby.  Do it as a social activity.  Do it with passion, or with calculation and focus.   But Do It.

It’s never too late to start, it’s always too early to quit.

nick

added— welcome to any new readers!  Most of the best part of this place is not me, it’s the people who come together here and the conversation that happens.   Keywords are on the right, and may refer to the comments not the post, so always take a look at the comments.    Comments are always welcome, join the conversation if you like.   There is an astounding breadth and depth of knowledge in the people who come by and visit and hang out.  If you have questions or answers, please feel free.   There is an About link at the top of this page to explain why this place is the way it is.  Again, welcome.

Tues. Mar. 2, 2021 – some time this month I will complete my 55th orbit without an obit

Cold and wet.  Rain on the plain, and the plane, and the horse’s rein for that matter……

Monday was mostly cloudy, misty drizzle, and occasional patches of nice.  Temps were in the 60s most of the day.

Fairly early in the day heavy trash came and picked up the 11 bags of leaves and dead grass that I raked so the soreness from Saturday and Sunday’s exertions was worth it.  But I am sore.

I am really feeling every dumb thing I’ve ever done and every thing that ‘made me stronger’ over the years in weather like this.   Cold and damp when you have a ‘weather’ everything is no fun.   One of the reasons I live in a warm sunny place is that cold HURTS.  Cold DAMP hurts too.

Enough b!tching though, I’ve led a charmed life and wouldn’t be who I am today without the scar tissue and missing bits…  I did learn a couple of months ago that if I want to be productive, I need to continue taking my maintenance meds though.   55 used to be OLD.  Now it’s barely middle aged.  Except on cold damp mornings.  And when the NSAIDs run out.

Grid down lots of things will run out.   Even in a long slow collapse, many things that are easily obtainable today will be hard to get.  In my mom’s living memory, citrus fruit in winter was a luxury.   Getting a single orange on Christmas was a very special treat when she was young.   I remember as a kid getting a case of oranges or grapefruit from sales guys trying to bribe my dad at Christmas.  A nice box of fruit was still an impressive gift for people of his generation well into the 1970s.  That wasn’t that long ago.

War adds another level of privation and suffering.

The thing to keep in mind is that none of this worst case, or even ‘bad’ case is impossible.   And on a long enough timeline, it’s inevitable.  Humans haven’t changed.  Physical laws haven’t changed.  Things tend to continue on, mostly the same, until they don’t.  Then it all changes and usually very rapidly.

When that happens it’s important to keep in mind that ‘nothing lasts forever’ and most people will get through it.  That should be your goal, it’s mine- to get through it, whatever it might be.

Flexibility, preparation, strength, determination, knowledge, ‘tribe’, and stuff.   That will see you through.

 

Stacking is the easy part.   Get to it.

 

nick

 

Sat. Feb. 20, 2021 – 02202021 – another funny number on a not so funny day

Cold again.   This is really starting to get old, ya know?  I’d hate for this to be the beginning of the new normal.  A whole lotta people are gonna starve if the US can’t produce and export a whole lotta extra food.  Global warming has always been a more human friendly trend than global cooling.   I guess that’s why they hate it so much.

Spent yesterday getting ready to go to my rent house, then coming home.  Don’t know what I’ll be doing today but it’s probably going to revolve around drinking water.

I opened two aquatainers last night and both were contaminated.     One had the spigot crack, which let air and ‘stuff’ into the jug.    There is nasty looking stuff on the bottom of the jug, and the water smells of mold or mildew.

The other jug was stored with the spigot reversed and inside the jug (as I learned to do years ago) but the screw cap had loosened.    Faint ‘stale’ odor, and some sand or sediment at the bottom of the jug.    Prepper fail.

Both jugs spent the summer and fall sitting in the driveway, heating and cooling every day, eventually pumping air into the jug.   Previously I’ve had water in aquatainers, treated with bleach, that was perfectly drinkable after 7 years.   That jug was stored in the proverbial ‘cool dark place’ though.

I didn’t find out until around midnight, since we haven’t had to even crack the stored drinking water to that point.  My interim solution was to put a pot of tap water on the boil, so I could refill the brita filter and make coffee in the morning.    That’s why I think I’ll be looking more closely at our stored water today, in the daylight.

I trusted the aquatainers to perform as they had in the past without considering that conditions had changed.  Prepper fail.

The aquatainers are generally quite good and I recommend having some.  They are about as big as can be reasonably handled at 7 gallons.  They have a couple of weaknesses though.  The spigots are fragile.   To combat that, I take the cap off, unscrew the spigot and rescrew it into the cap from the inside.    That puts it inside the jug when stored, which is safer for it.   It must be sterile and spotlessly clean when you do that though.   You can also replace the spigot with a plumbing fitting.   The threads are standard, and a simple plug can be screwed in.   It’s also a good idea to order and stock some replacements for the spigots, and for the cap over the breather hole.  I’ve got several of each.

Like most plastics, they will become brittle and crack if left in the sun long enough- so don’t.   The biggest downside, as far as I’m concerned, is you can’t stack them, and you can’t lay them on their side and leave them like that either for storage, or for dispensing.

When I fill them, I use chlorinated tap water and add plain bleach.  There are a lot of official and semi-official recipes for bleach to water ratio, but they all boil down to– mix in bleach very thoroughly, adding more slowly until you can just barely smell it in the water.  (this is for already potable water, follow the recipe and rules for treating suspected bad or dirty water).

Doing this, and keeping the container sealed and stored well, I had no problem with 7 years of storage.  The water was clear, and only a bit ‘flat’.   To fix that you can aerate by pouring from container to container a couple of times, or I just pour it through a Brita filter pitcher.   It’s easier to use and chill that way anyway.

I use the same method for all the water I store.  Scrupulously clean bottle/jug/container/tank,  already chlorinated tap water, add plain bleach until you can smell it even after thorough mixing, seal well and protect from air, light, and heat.

Worst case, I might have to use the Sawyer filter on the stored water, or some other treatment option, or just use the contaminated water for flushing and washing while  using the uncontaminated OTHER containers for drinking.    That is one advantage of multiple smaller jugs, if one is contaminated the others are usually still fine.   That’s one reason why I prefer smaller containers to one big tank.   That and mobility issues.  A 55 gallon drum weighs a lot, ~450  pounds.  You aren’t putting a 55 gallon drum in the back of your BOV.


Water is your first need, and you should have plenty on hand.   I think a minimum of 2 gallons per person, per day, half that for pets, is a good number for planning purposes.   More is better.   Plus you need the means to treat the water to make it safe to drink.  Hiking filters are good, if they have small enough pores, and the chemical means should be on your shelf too-iodine tablets for your personal cup of water, gallons of bleach for bulk treatment.

 


 

More on water storage and redundancy later, for now, keep stacking.

 

nick

 

 

Fri. Feb. 19, 2021 – 02192021 – is a bit weird…. the reality of the day is certainly weird.

Cold again, after temps rose above freezing for a WHOLE DAY in Houston Texas…  this globull warming is killing me.

It was 28F when I went to bed.

I spent yesterday doing silly things so you don’t have to.  Strike that, I’m too short to fill those shoes.

I did do some experimenting, which I duly chronicled in the comments yesterday evening.  The clothes came out clean and fresh smelling, and the kerosene heater I tested worked fine- except for being out of kerosene.   I swear I have a white and yellow round 5 gallon can somewhere, but I couldn’t find it when I went looking.  If I was desperate for heat, I’d siphon some from my other construction heater.  I’m not desperate at all though, so I’ll just buy some the next time I see it.  I like flexibility and redundancy for heat, water, and cooking.   Honestly, all the other things too, but especially those.

I helped out several neighbors with plumbing issues and did some of my own.  What made it possible was having the parts in storage.   The local stores are empty of the kinds of things people need right now.  Even pros can’t get parts.   I’m a firm believer in having stuff you might need close by where you can lay hands on it.  Like what?  You know your gear and your stuff better than me, but I’ll list some here to start you thinking…

Plumbing parts.

I think you should have a variety of fittings and some pipe on hand in a couple of pipe sizes.   They should be whatever you have in your house, and what is common in your area.   Besides fittings and pipe, you should have the glues, tape, solder, and tools to put the parts to work in a simple repair.   You should also have a toilet seat, toilet tank flush system replacement kit, toilet bolts, and a wax ring.  You should have some of the flexible hoses to connect faucets and the toilet.  Some of the quarter turn shut off valves, and a spare hose bib.   Plumbers putty.  Sprinkler parts if you have sprinklers, replacement heads, riser pipe, sharkbite repair fittings, and some sprinkler pipe fittings too, as well as at least one valve and solenoid.  You should have some garden hose repair ends, and some other hose parts like washers and nozzles.  If you have gas appliances, you should have at least one ‘gas appliance installation kit’.  All of this and more will fit in one flip top bin…

Electrical parts.

You should have a couple of light switches, outlets, and at least one GFCI outlet that match what’s in your house.   25ft of Romex or similar for wire.  Replacement ends for extension cords.   10ft of lamp cord and lamp repair parts, like a harp, a bulb socket, and a 2 prong plug.  You should have light bulbs for all your fixtures.   Tape and wire nuts.   Next level, have a spare 20amp breaker for your panel.

Automobile parts.

At least one complete oil change for each vehicle.  Replacement windshield wipers.  A tire plug and patch kit, and a tire inflator.  One headlight bulb.  One set of tail light bulbs (assuming your vehicle uses bulbs).  One complete filter change (air, cabin, oil).   Spare fluids, including the “leak stop” ones for each system.  Fuses that match your vehicle.  If you can swing it, one set of mounted spare tires, but at least one extra tire (can be used, or one you took off, it’s an emergency backup after all.)

General repair parts.

Screws, nails, bolts, nuts, washers, “plumber’s tape”, bailing wire (rebar tie wire); glues (white glue, yellow woodworkers glue, cyanoacrylate (crazy glue), gorilla glue, five minute epoxy, and JBWeld metal repair); tape- masking, blue painters, good duct tape, electrical tape (3M only), zip ties, aluminum tape for ducts; a couple of 2x4s, and half a sheet of 3/4 plywood.  Depending on where you are, you might want a piece of window glass and a glass cutter with a can of glazing compound and some points.  Drywall compound and a leftover piece or a patch kit.  And paint.  Kilz primer, and some spray cans in black, white, brown, tan, your house color, and one florescent color.  White latex interior paint or whatever your walls are.

Sewing and clothing repair parts.

This is a whole separate topic, but a selection of needles, stout black thread, a couple of buttons, shoe goo, a roll of velcro, some safety pins, and a few buttons salvaged off stuff you threw away are a minimum.  I have  18″ of black thread on a needle wrapped around the golf pencil in my altoids tin everyday kit.  SUPER handy to fix some web gear, or a tear.   I also have a kit of iron on clothing patches in my travel bag for quick fixes of tears in clothes.   ‘Fusible interfacing’ is like an iron on glue for cloth and can be used to hem pants, or attach patches.

And finally, buckets, lids, and plastic sheeting in clear and black.


It’s a big list but it doesn’t have to all show up at the same time.   I bought most of mine at yard sales and estate sales, or by picking up more than I need when I go to the hardware store for a project.  It took a while to build up a fairly comprehensive stack…

Ideally you already know how to use those parts to make simple repairs, but if you don’t, there are several good books on household repairs.  Home Depot and lowes both have a display rack with some of the books and you can leaf through them to see what level they’re aimed at..  and Goodwill almost always has several of those types of books on the shelf.  But even if you don’t have the skills, knowledge, or desire, you might need to have the part so that someone else can do the work.  That is certainly playing out here in Houston this week.

 

The usual caveats apply, seek out expert advice if you don’t know what you’re doing, read books, watch videos, watch home improvement shows on tv, and consider what could go wrong before undertaking something new.   That said, there is tremendous satisfaction in fixing things, and they are already broken, so sometimes you might as well give it a try.  And sometimes, you might be the only one available TO try.

Keep stacking!  It works!

 

nick

Fri. Feb. 12, 2021 – what do you really need?

Cold.   Damp.  Dreary.   Like yesterday.

Cold all day.  Wet, with intermittent rain.  So I didn’t do much outside.  Everyone from my wife (who follows all the online weather guys for us) to the national forecast said the same thing- we’re not getting freezing temps in Houston until the weekend.  So I didn’t cover the trees as I’d have to do it in the rain.   It was 36F and falling when I went to bed.  Not freezing but way too close.

I spent the day dry and warm working on ebay stuff.  I had a bunch of speakers and vintage amps/receivers piled up that all needed to be tested, photographed, measured and weighed, etc.   I also needed to re-cover one grill.  So I did that.  Now that stuff can be listed, and the items themselves can go out of the house to storage.  Unfortunately some of it will be listed ‘for repair or parts’ that I was hoping would be in working condition.

A bunch of auctions closed yesterday and I was watching prices.  There was a lot of stuff that went cheap.   I am afraid that people might be done buying.  At some point, they will have other concerns than buying stuff they don’t really need.  I am hoping to get rid of a bunch more stuff before that happens.  I’m getting nervous about timing.

Which brings us to the question, “what do you really need?”

I could talk about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.   I could do the usual prepper list of categories -water, food, shelter, defense, health, welfare, hygiene, communication.  Instead I’m going to ask the question, What do YOU need for YOUR threats, in YOUR location, given YOUR resources?  And as a refinement, What do you STILL need?

The current world and US situation complicates the answers a bit.  We are in fact living through a disaster, the global pandemic.  The disaster has many different features and facets in different places and so like the blind men and the elephant, it looks different to different people in different places.

Further, in the US we have the unsettled political situation, with many people believing the current President is a usurper, and illegitimate; but even if he isn’t, his policies and party are anathema to half the population.   The continued polarization of the populous makes it far more of an issue in this time than in previous times.  This has many people considering the likelihood of a Civil War, or insurrection, or a massive increase in the police state and persecution of conservatives.

Pandemic and civil war are not normally high on the typical American prepper’s list of threats, but we’re currently in one, and facing the real possibility of the other.

On top of those, there is the very real threat of an economic collapse or prolonged depression, brought about or exacerbated by the pandemic, and the shift in US politics.  Again, not normally an urgent threat in the US, but here we are, MUCH closer than 4 years ago, or even 6 months ago.

Three really big, massive even, threats that were barely on the radar 2 years ago, and they are suddenly top of mind for preppers.   Add in the normal issues caused by human stupidity and Mother Nature, and it’s really hard to answer, What do I NEED?

Start with which of the threats do you think are most likely?  How will each affect you?  What do you want?  Those questions will lead you to answers to what you need.

I think some version of all three threats will be active at the same time.  I don’t know the sequence of cause and effect, but I do believe we’ll be engaged in some level of street fighting/terror attacks/low intensity conflict.   Whether because of it, or the cause of it, there is no way our economy, mostly built on gambling with other people’s money and constant buying, will survive a de facto Civil War.  Economic disruptions, with violence and civil unrest, coupled with restrictions on movement, speech, assembly, supply chain breaks, and a general breakdown in the social and civic structures we take for granted, will not be pretty.

What do I want?   I want to continue living my current lifestyle with as few changes as possible.  I want to shield my family from the worst aspects of the new abnormal.  I want to survive to get to the recovery and rebuilding phase.

Ask, What do I need to accomplish my goals?  And that will tell you what you need.

I need a safe and secure base (my home).   For some people, that will mean moving, now or later when it becomes a life or death issue.  Sectarian violence drives out the ‘other’.  You will not want to be the last of the “whatevers” to be in your area.  You can move while conserving as much of your assets as possible, or you can leave as a refugee, with nothing but the clothes on your back.   Lots of people have faced choosing one or the other throughout history, and some even face it today in other parts of the US and the world.  Don’t wait too long, and if you choose to stay, build your plan around that.

I need to accumulate  the resources now that will be unavailable or VERY expensive later.  That might mean food, a good education, medical supplies and Doctor friends, or a skill that will be hard to come by.  It might mean having the tools needed for an income stream.   If you weld, do you have wire, gas, and spare parts for your machines?  If you sew, do you have fabric, thread, buttons, zippers, patterns, etc?   Money is always good, as long as your “money” is something that will hold value in the future you see for yourself.  Bolivars didn’t do so well.   The dollar has already lost ~98% of its purchasing power since the institution of the Federal Reserve.  It’s not impossible that it will lose the rest.  No one is taking Confederate Dollars at the grocery store…

I need the support of other people.  I need people to feed me work, to buy anything I have on offer.  I need people to teach my kids.   I need people with the skills I don’t have, whether that’s medical, technical, or political.

I may need to change my politics, or my public persona.   That might mean going grey, it might mean running for the School Board.  The goal is to survive.  -To be here for my kids.  -To rebuild if it’s possible.  -To remind if it’s not.

Every one of those needs can be further unpacked into specific things to have, specific actions to take, skills to learn, or people to meet.  And each one of those things can be further unpacked, and once more, and again, recursively and fractally, forever.  But don’t let that dissuade you or dishearten you.  You are likely to be further along than you think.

Take a mental or physical inventory of what you already have.  What stuff have you been accumulating?  What skills do you have?   Who do you know?  What processes have you already begun?   Because BEGINNING is key.  Start work on filling those needs once you start identifying them.  Don’t wait until you have all of them documented in your 3 ring binder, start filling in where you know you are short WHILE assessing where you need to be.   Start extending and building on what you have.

Every project has tasks and milestones that need to happen serially and in order.  Every project has tasks that can happen in parallel.  Every project has tasks that can happen in any order.   Prepping is no different.  Identify which of your needs can be met by which sort of task, and proceed accordingly.  And when in doubt, the prepper basics are basics for a reason.  Get started with them, then keep building on what you have.   Always be working to improve your position.

And of course, keep stacking.

 

nick

Thur. Feb. 4, 2021 – a bit of a blast from the past…prepping for travel

Another nice day, cool but clear.   There was a bit of overcast late in the day yesterday but otherwise the howling wind kept the sky clear.  It was a little on the cool side, but I didn’t want a jacket.

Today I’m at home, hoping to catch up on some home things.  I spent part of yesterday doing pickups and drop offs.  Got my plumbing supplies.   Got some lego for youngest’s birthday if I don’t get something else before then (I’ve got a couple of months but hey, prepper!)

While looking for something else, I came across this old comment from 2015 and decided to clean it up and put it here.  The discussion started with an article about bug out bags, and EDC gear in your bug out vehicle.   It was a ridiculous article that thankfully is no longer online.  It did spark some good back and forth, and some froth from me….  hopefully there are some nuggets in there still… and it doesn’t have a gear list, because that is a whole internet’s worth of posts… and beyond a few critical things, the gear probably doesn’t matter as much as the person carrying it.

nick says:
  • @OFD

    “You gotta figure where you are, where you might have to hump it for a while, and what can you efficiently carry with the least discomfort and pain.”

    That means if you are building a bag-o-tricks to take with you while traveling, it should address your most likely problems. Those are:

    Missed flight, late arrival, stuck at airport, lost or delayed luggage.

    And the best things to combat those things are:

    Food, entertainment, toiletries, meds, glasses if you wear contacts, an airline lounge membership, a change of clothes, and cash or credit cards. Add a blanket or (microfiber) towel for cover, or a soft hat. Not one of those is tactical [the original article was filled with tactical looking stuff which draws attention, and your typical internet article full of “preps” like a signal mirror, fishing hooks, and knives-lots of knives].

    So if the UN-likely happens, and you are away from home and there is a local or regional problem, you need to get out of the region and ‘back to civilization’.   For whatever reason you can’t just fly and you decide to use your bag o tricks and leave. In the most likely cases, it’s weather, transit strike, local civil unrest, or (lastly) terror attack. Assuming you can’t just stay put in a safe place for a couple of days, MONEY is your best prep here. Cash in hand and credit cards that aren’t maxed out. No survival knife or kydex will get you a rental SUV to drive thru the snow. The stuff in your bag should make your life easier WHILE getting out of town and is coincidentally the same stuff that makes a missed flight easier to deal with.

    Flexibility is your second best prep. Flexibility starts with questions.  Since you can’t fly, can you drive? Are cars available? Can you rent from the airport/hotel/neighborhood storefront/rent a wreck? Can you rent a truck or moving van? Can you hitch a ride with a colleague or co-worker? Is there a train? A private party willing to drive? Cab? Cheap car to purchase? Driving all the way home or just outside the affected area? If you decide to drive, will you be able to get gas and food? Or should you hit the store for some shelf stable food and some boxes of granola? Again MONEY will make this all easier. Consider options you might not normally look at.   When all the cheap cars are gone, the Hummer might be available (this happened to a female co-worker who was trying to G.O.O.D. in Oklahoma before a storm. Only vehicle left at the rental was a Hummer at an eye watering rate.  She took it and Got Out Of Dodge ok.  Had to explain to corporate bean counters why she took a vehicle outside of the approved class, but it worked out and she got somewhere SAFE.)  Sometimes the only hotels with vacancy are the high end ones.  Money gives you options.

    Finally and least likely, there is a SHTF event, and all normal modes of travel are out.

    In that case you should start with some harder questions.  Is it better to look for allies and resources locally or to start off cross country? How do you know there is anywhere to go back to? Wait and see if things improve or move quickly? Any waterways going the right direction? Do you have family or friends along the way? Company offices? MONEY, FLEXIBILITY, and also INFORMATION are once again your best preps. In a collapse or major multi-regional event, info is gonna be the hardest thing to get. And there isn’t much you can do except carry some with you (to help you get home).

    I carried a garmin GPSIII for years. It had a built in basemap, with freeway exit info. It ran a long time on 4 AA batts. It showed RR tracks, waterways, and roads. (Now I download an area map in Google Maps that covers my journey.)   Before I left home for a job, I looked up and mapped the closest Home Depot and Lowes stores. I had that printed out and carried in my job site folder. I carried a compass. I always got the paper maps at the car rental agency (these are specific to the local area, about 11×17 inches, and have local points of interest on them too.   The local maps and points of interest were to help me gear up, and get away if I needed to.  The Garmin was for guidance along the route home.  In terms of gear I carried, I had my EDC knife and a multitool. I carried minimal first aid- bandaids and super glue. I had lots of flashlights, bug juice, and water purification tabs. I had a messenger style bag, not a backpack.  The plan was to gear up on the way out, if possible and if needed.

    If I had to start traveling, and driving was not an option at all, I’d be looking for waterways or RR tracks. I’d be looking for bicycles, canoes, or jonboats. (For one lengthy project, I mapped a route that I could get from my customer’s plant to within a couple of miles of my parents’ house by canoe.  I could walk from there.)

    If anyone would sell, I’d be a buyer. If not, there are always some laying around. Even a kid’s bike can hold the weight of your gear while you walk. What about a shopping cart? Wheelbarrow? I think normalcy bias will have lots of people still willing to exchange goods for money for a while until the new reality sinks in. Boots, appropriate outerwear, backpack, food and water. All should be available to buy if done right away. You are looking for packable stuff- water purification tabs, compact calories (powerbars), rain poncho, hat, what else do you need? Trash bags for rain gear and concealment are everywhere. So is clothesline or wire. You are already setting off on an impossible journey. It will only be harder with 20 pounds of stuff. Food and water should fill your pack. A partner will double your chances. Whole books have been written about the cross country journey after the SHTF, and they are worth reading for ideas and for the exercise of considering what might work for you.

    Now back to real life. The most likely SHTF is the same while traveling as while at home– personal SHTF.

    Sickness
    Auto accident
    Work accident
    Mugging/robbery/assault

    Rather than packing a bunch of kydex, in your EDC do you have a copy of your employer’s auto insurance rider? What about their Workman’s Compensation certificate? (If you are traveling on personal business, do you have the equivalent personal info?)  Do you know where the nearest Urgent Care or Emergency Room is? Do you have the address of your hotel or workplace so you can call 911? Does anyone expect you home at a specific time and do they know where you are staying? There are services that will provide a Doctor to come to your hotel, do you have their number in your phone or card in your bag? Do your co-workers at the worksite have your hotel info (to find you if you don’t show up on time, since you are vomiting your guts out from bad dinner?)   While driving, do you note the exits as you pass them, or the cross streets, so you could call 911 for help and know roughly where you are?

    Add travel outside the US and now you should ask yourself:
    Do you know where the US embassy is? The UK or Canadian? Israeli? Have you checked in with the Embassy? Do you have a medical insurance phone number that will send an english speaking doctor to your hotel? Do you know which hospital treats Europeans? Does your employer have kidnap insurance? A Risk Management Department? Do they know where you are? Do they have a contract with any of the international medical and rescue (extraction) companies? (You can buy this sort of insurance as a private person too, it’s surprisingly affordable.)   Have they given you any plans/contacts/security info? Will your company or local contact be providing drivers? Security? Accommodation? Is your local contact a native or ex-pat? Do you trust him? If you are on your own, or work for a small company, have you read the CIA world fact book entry for the country? Are you familiar with any factions or unrest? Have you read the State Department travel advisories for the country? Have you looked at a map to know where you are? What is the nearest friendly place?

    In my opinion, if you can’t answer these questions, you are NOT prepared for any problems with your travel, no matter how tricksie your gear is.

    -and that is the crux of the matter, info and brains are your best preps for EDC or BOB or GOOD, supplemented with a bare minimum of ‘things’.

    And lest anyone think all that travel stuff was overkill, while traveling for work, I’ve had co-workers in serious car accidents. I had one fall on the job and break her hip. I’ve had a friend of a friend die in a hotel room. I had a boss slip and fall in the hotel shower and be unable to work for the entire event. I’ve been food poisoned on average 5 times a year by hotels and restaurants. Once I was so sick with pneumonia I couldn’t get out of bed in Miami until I got some antibiotics. I have co-workers who were robbed at gunpoint. Two that narrowly missed getting drugged and raped in Miami (men, and they were drugged but got out of the bar in time.) One that had to race to get out of town before a hurricane hit, and one that had to drive a Hummer to Texas to avoid a tornado storm. (Same female used steristrips to close a cut on her FACE after a server fell on her at work.  Her daddy didn’t raise any snowflakes.) I’ve driven home when my flight was canceled. I’ve rented SUVs to get thru snowstorms. We drove from NYC to St Louis after 911. One coworker had a car bomb explode outside his hotel in Europe. Another passed bodies stacked along the road like cordwood in Indonesia after an attack by rebels. Same guy was locked in and threatened by OUR CUSTOMER in the Middle East. And yes, my employer had kidnap insurance as we worked worldwide and throughout Africa and the middle east, as well as Colombia and some other more southern sh!tholes.

    You really appreciate the value of a paper copy of insurance coverage when you’re bleeding from several places and have a broken foot after your taxi gets hit in a strange city.   Or having your own first aid while bleeding from a cut on your hand in China…

    I’ll admit that I carry a few more things now, since I’m traveling with my family. I have a much more complete first aid kit for example and better weapons. And several times people here have volunteered safe havens or way points if things went pear shaped while I was traveling with family.   But MONEY and FLEXIBILITY are still the best preps for travel and “getting home when it drops in the pot” and they weigh very little.


    Still a bit disjointed, and meant as more of a memory jog, or food for thought than a finished article, but hopefully worth the time it took to read.

    And while I’m an advocate for carrying just a few critical items when traveling, and acquiring the rest as needed, I am a firm believer in having as much of the stuff you think you’ll need close to hand when at home.

    So keep stacking!  But also organize, “curate”, and use what you’ve got.

    nick

Sun. Jan. 24, 2021 – more of the same today

Forecast calls for heavier rain, T-storms, etc.  Given our microclimates, I’ll hope for the best, and find stuff to do if it rains.

Spent Saturday afternoon running around, and then doing cleanup and organizing, and re-stacking at my secondary.  Then headed home.  Not much interesting, except I’m going through a patch of increased serendipity and heightened coincidence…. and that usually gets weird.

Plan for the day is organizing at my nearby storage unit, in order to get more ebay stuff out of the foyer.  I need listed items close enough I can ship them the same day but I also need them out of the house.  The storage unit is temporary, as I clear out more space elsewhere.

Everything takes more time and more effort than you think.  That’s why it’s so important to get started.

Whatever you’ve identified as something to add to your preparations for the hard times ahead, get started.   Take the first step.

And keep stacking.

 

nick

Thur. Jan. 21, 2021 – 012121 – yep, easily amused

Cool and damp, may be even damper later in the day.

Yesterday was pretty nice for mid-winter high with 60s and low 70s.  Overcast all day, but shorts and t-shirt weather for me.  I got a couple of things around the house cleaned up.  Finally got the last of the Christmas decor down and most of it put away.

Because I was at home in the afternoon, I cooked a lamb roast.   It’s a great example of saving money with a freezer, vac sealer, and buying in bulk.  I like lamb.  If you haven’t had it since you were a child, it’s different than it was.  Most of the ‘lamb’ taste, the mutton/gamey flavor is gone because of the farmers growing a different breed.   We enjoy it rare to medium rare.   Anyway, I buy the bigger roast and cut it in half.  Vac seal and freeze the resulting 2-3 pound roasts, and you’ve got a roast that is perfectly sized for two adults with leftovers, or a family like mine.  It doesn’t take forever to roast at that size either.    You can get a much better grade of meat in lamb roast for the same money, than you typically can for a beef roast.  Better living for less….

I buy hamburger in a bulk pack and repack it as 1 1/3 pound slabs.  I press it into a shallow square plastic food saver package then vac seal that shape so it will stack better in the freezer.  I used to do 1 pound packs but the kids are growing.

I buy pork roasts in the 10 pound tube, and slice into center cut pork chops any thickness I like.  I also cut a couple of 2-3 pound roasts out of the whole.  All get vac sealed and frozen.   The 10 pound pack is cheaper than smaller roasts, or pre-cut chops.  I usually season the chops in the vac bag with garlic salt and chinese oyster sauce.  The family LOVES the sweet brown sauce on pork and I don’t have to make a mess at cooking time, or worry about marinading it ahead of time.  Another win!

Beef ribeye roasts get the same treatment as the pork roast, some steaks, some of the best beef roast ever.  I season the steaks before vac bagging with Adkins seasoning.  It’s a nice mix of garlic, citrus-y something, and black pepper.   It’s a lot like Penzey’s Chicago Steak seasoning, without all the hate for conservatives.

Bacon in the bulk pack is 24c/lb.  It’s double that in smaller packaging.  I re-pack it in 3/4 lb blocks which is just a bit more than we need for breakfast.    It rarely lasts until lunch.  Vac seal and freeze into one meal portions…

I should note that I’m not Rockefeller.   The vac seal and freeze routine means the meat lasts as long as it’s frozen, so I only buy the stuff on sale.  I buy a BUNCH when the price is right and store it for later.  There are significant savings to be had if you shop this way.   There are shopping trips where I might not even buy any meat if it’s not on sale, because I have some at home in the freezer.

Another thing I do is freeze the leftovers from holiday meals.   I do the same “shape them into a flat block” trick of pressing them into a plastic storage container before freezing.   It’s easy to gauge the number of portions when it’s time to eat, just look at the bag.

If you want to vac seal something wet or squishy, put it in the plastic container and freeze it first, then take it out of the container and vac seal the block of soup, or chili, or whatever.

You can vac seal and freeze partially prepare foods too.   I like to sear the meat before using the slow cooker to make stew or pot roast or carnitas.  I don’t like the smell in the house (and I didn’t have a working exhaust fan) so if I’m going to get out the cast iron and make the mess, I like to do at least 2 or 3 meals worth.   After searing,  I put the meat and juices into vac sealed bags and freeze them.  The next time I want stew or pot roast, or pork carnitas, I defrost the meat and put it right into the cooker, no muss, no fuss.

I’m sure there are plenty of other people out there that have written or ‘tubed about the vac sealer more eloquently and more completely than I have, but these ideas should get you started if you are holding out.  I consider the vac sealer to be essential, so I have my daily driver, then another spare of a similar type, then two more  spares of the ‘seal a meal’ manual type.  I just picked up another one from goodwill this week to have on the shelf.  You’ll find uses for it, if you have one.

So that’s some ideas for stacking, get to it.

 

nick

Sun. Jan. 3, 2021 – when I say ‘keep stacking’ I’m speaking literally…

Cold and clear today, with some sun and wind.  It was downright chilly when I went to bed, 37F, so I’m expecting the day to start near there, and warm to mid 70s.

Like it did on Saturday.

Which I spent entirely indoors, fixing minor household issues, moving stuff around, and doing some minor organizing.  Basically more time off after sleeping very late.

I was asked in a comment yesterday about my organization system, or lack of one, with a youtube of Fibber Mcgee’s closet as an example… that was more true to life than I’d like to admit.  So here it is, my very slapdash dis-organization methods.

Unlike Commander Zero (who everyone should be reading for prepping stuff anyway) I am not particularly organized. Or rather, not rigidly structured. I tend to organize in a very ‘macro’ way by keeping stuff in ‘clusters’ or areas for lack of a better word. The plumbing parts are all in one place. The electrical parts are in their area. Bike stuff is in one spot, etc.

Like goes with like.

I know what I have by going thru it every so often, usually while looking for something. That’s why it’s easy for me to have too much of something- I just keep stacking it with like stuff and don’t account for it very well until I realize “OH, I’ve got a LOT of coleman lanterns hanging from the rafters in that part of the garage.”   On the surface it looks very random, but it is actually pretty efficient most of the time, and it avoids two problems- getting caught up in the SYSTEM while losing sight of the goal, and spending time on admin rather than productive work.

One of my philosophical approaches it to ‘just get started’.

I’ve talked about it in terms of ham radio – don’t agonize over how to program your radios, which radio is best, which software or channel list is the best, BUY SOMETHING and START USING IT.  Start cheaply and figure out if it’s good enough, or if you want to get more involved.

With food storage, I don’t worry about calorie counts, or nutrition, or getting the perfect balance of stuff.  I started buying extra of my normal shopping and then added to that.  Food on the shelf is a whole lot better than the Mountain House pallet of freeze dried you never bought because you couldn’t commit to spending $5000…. and if you aren’t starving or wasting away on your current diet, it will keep you sufficiently fed and healthy during the hurricane and recovery.

I want to avoid ‘paralysis by analysis’ and also avoid spending time on building a perfect inventory system, instead of building up stocks of supplies.  I acknowledge that this is sometimes inefficient.  I’ll buy and have too much or too little of something.  But I have SOME of it, which is better than NONE of it.  And EVERYONE complains about keeping their inventory current, and the work involved.  One of the lessons I’ve learned from this pandemic is that my assumptions were wrong anyway.  My 6 months of peanut butter became 12 months worth, or even forevers worth, as my kids’ usage changed.  Ditto for breakfast cereal.  WAY too much on the shelf, because our eating patterns changed.  The inventory spreadsheet wouldn’t help me with that…

So what do I do?  First off, books are special.  They are actually organized.

My books are sorted and shelved by subject for non-fiction and reference. Fiction is all alphabetical by author. I never have enough shelves.

The rest of the stuff is literally in stacks. And yes, sometimes it’s like a jenga game to get the piece I want. Usually though, I just have to move a couple of things.   It helps that a lot of the stacks are made up of flip top crates.

Yesterday for example, I decided to replace the fill valve in the hall toilet. It’s not flushing right, and I think it’s because the fill isn’t happening right. There should be water at the bottom filling the tank while it’s still flushing, not just the tube filling the bowl. SO- I know I’ve got toilet fill assemblies. I did some replacement/repairs to the toilet in the master bath not too long ago and went through the boxes then. Out to the garage, up the steps into the attic, plumbing parts are in boxes just to the right, next to the irrigation parts, and the spare jars… Pull the plumbing boxes and go thru them to pull out the 3 fill assemblies. Take them back to the bath, pick the one that matches best, install it. Clean and put the old parts in a box so I have spare components for next time. (I did find that there was some blockage from a deteriorating plastic piece.) All the plumbing stuff goes back into the boxes and they go back into their spot in the attic.  Job done, not much more time than looking up where a piece might be, and then retrieving it but without any of the overhead of tracking what I have outside of my own head.

Electrical stuff is clustered in the same area.  There are a couple of boxes of electrical parts and supplies on the other side of the plumbing parts.  That is my ‘bulk construction type stuff’ area.    There are also more commonly needed repair and install parts in a drawer in a cabinet in the garage. And stuff I use for work has a box in the truck…  Those are three clusters by themselves- the drawer unit by the garage door has parts and pieces I need often, the attic has stuff that is more for construction and occasional repair, and the truck has stuff I need for work.

Camping stuff is in bins on the patio, next to the cabinet that has more camping stuff. Bike stuff is in another bin. The pool stuff is all going to storage for the season, but was stacked on the patio in a group.

There is an area of the garage that has a lot of bulk medical in bins, but there is also normal use med stuff in the hall bathroom. Most of the normal inventory is lined up on cabinet shelves, oldest in front, newest in the back, just like a store.  Medicines, first aid, and OTC stuff is clustered near point of use, the central bathroom.  A couple of steps away, in another closet, the grab and go med bags live with some other more “doctor” type stuff.  It’s a cluster, but more for emergency use than everyday, and thus it’s separated on purpose.

In fact most things have an area where the ‘normal use’ stuff is, with a deeper inventory somewhere else, less accessible.

Kid stuff, and most of what I talked about in yesterday’s post is clustered in two areas- the part of the kitchen we think of as the ‘craft’ area, and a hall closet that holds all the educational kits and the ‘presents’.   Everything in that closet is stuff that hasn’t been allocated to a kid or a project yet.  I have a couple of bins full of ‘maker’ stuff in the driveway under the tarp.  Another cluster (bits and pieces, leather, cardboard tubes, craft items, electronic scrap stuff.)

My office is a microcosm of the whole. I’ve got a desk area for electronics repair, and all my test gear.  There is another desk area that I sit at daily with my pc, main radios, some simple repair stuff, and stuff for my non-prepping hobby close to hand.  Behind me is the bulk of my reference library, on shelves above cabinets.  And…. several stacks of stuff, computers and electronics to be set up or fixed, non-prep hobby stuff, my laptop and work bag, some auction stuff, and lots of paper waiting to be filed.  Several stacked bins of stuff in fact.

Back in the day when I was a bachelor, and didn’t actually have all that much stuff because I moved frequently, I decorated with “a minimum of horizontal surfaces”. It was the only way to stay neat and organized, because my natural tendency is to pile stuff on horizontal surfaces. I’m one of those people who uses a second floor staircase as a filing system…

All this leads to me not necessarily knowing for SURE that I have an item, but if I do, I know where it will be.  Once I’m looking in the right spot, I can either put hands on it right away, or my memory is sufficiently prompted to know if I have it or not, and where it might be if not there.

I guess my guideline is “like goes with like” and DON’T REORGANIZE or you’ll never remember the new spot!

I will stipulate that this is SUB-OPTIMAL and very idiosyncratic but it works for me. I can go for literally years without accessing something, and when I need it, I know where to look (full face respirators and spare cartridges, at the beginning of the lockdown, for example, hadn’t touched that since the ebola scare).  More times than not, I can walk right up to what I need without too much fuss.  No one else could though.

I am working on this. Lifesaving preps need to be accessible to others in case something happens to me. I’ve started showing oldest daughter some of the system, because it drives my wife crazy. I’ve also started regularizing some of the stuff. Moving the food from storage to usage at the beginning helped tremendously. I was able to go thru it all, and while moving it, arrange it in a way that is much more organized. I even bought FIFO can organizers. In fact, I’ve got more on order, since daughter two wanted her soup organized.

I have been in acquisition mode for a long time.   My focus was on getting the stuff, not using it or organizing it.  I stacked it up with the idea I’d have a chance to better organize it later.  Um, not so much.  Then I had to move and organize the food for this lockdown, and that prompted putting up shelves, going through the stacks, getting them all in one place, and actually organizing the food.   I’ve been trying to make the space I need to organize the rest since then.  My progress has been – slow – and spotty.  But I am making progress.

The main thought to take away is, do what works for you.   If you can’t sleep at night without reviewing your spreadsheet and usage budgets, then do so.  If you are like me, and know were everything in your office is, but no one else could find a pen, that’s ok too, AS LONG AS YOU ARE THERE, BUT — you might not be…  part of really prepping is doing so so that your loved ones are still covered even if you aren’t there to help.  Take that into consideration for any system you use.

Any system is better than no system.  Any prepping is better than no prepping.  Don’t get hung up on designing or having the perfect system.   Perfect is very much the enemy of good enough.  Get started.  Build on what you have.  Always be improving your position.

And keep stacking.  😉

 

nick