Category: items you might want to grab

Sun. Sept. 29, 2019 – donuts!

79f and saturated at 9am.

Wife and child have returned from an overnight GS thing. They brought an extra child home with them. And donuts, so that was OK… (someone will pick up extra child at some point. I hope.)

Sunny day and lots to do, and I’m just getting up. Lazy. That’s me. I better get started.


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Monday, 18 July 2016

09:37 – Lots of interesting responses to the preparedness level thought experiment I posed yesterday, both in the comments here and via email. The typical level was about what I expected, somewhere between a couple weeks and a couple months. Some longer. Some much longer. The limiting items crossed all categories, from water to food to shelter to power. Interestingly, very few people answered my question about how comfortable they were with their level of preparedness and what, if anything, they were actually going to do about it. If you haven’t answered or would like to amplify your answer, leave a comment or send me an email.

Two of my shiest readers, Jen and Brittany, were among those who replied via email. As I expected, Jen’s answer was that her family of six is prepared pretty much across the board for one year plus, with backups to their backups. Brittany says her family of four is good at this point for probably two or three months, with food the limiting factor. They haven’t received the foil-laminate gallon bags from the LDS on-line store yet, so they have lots of bulk staples sitting in bags awaiting repackaging, and plan to buy still more of those this week, along with a lot of canned goods. Her guess is that they’ll be up to six months by the end of July and a year by the end of August.

Brittany brought up powdered eggs, which are kind of an odd situation. Back when I bought our initial supply (about 84 dozen worth), I paid about $17 per 33-ounce #10 can for Augason Farms whole egg powder from Walmart. With the chicken plague last year, that price shot up to ridiculous levels, over $50/can for a while. Meanwhile, the chicken population has recovered to the extent that eggs are a drug on the market. From a high of nearly $3/dozen wholesale last year, the price bottomed out at $0.55/dozen wholesale a couple months ago. It’s now recovered to just under $1/dozen, but that should still make powdered eggs pretty cheap. When I looked several days ago, Walmart was still charging over $30/can for Augason Farms eggs, when they should be about half that. (It’s not Walmart; the retail price on the AF site is still very high.) Brittany asked about Walton/Rainy Day powdered eggs. Their #10 cans hold 48 ounces rather than 33, which is pretty odd in itself, and their retail price is about $30/can. Resellers list it at $22/can or so, which is actually cheaper per ounce than I paid at Walmart before the chicken plague. But both the Rainy Day website and reseller websites list it as out of stock. Not sure why that is, unless preppers are stocking up in bulk. And I note that the Rainy Days website lists a 10-pack of #10 cans of powdered eggs at $150, or $15 per three pound can. Also out of stock, of course.

Brittany is also concerned about cooking/baking in a long-term emergency, so she was considering ordering a solar oven. There are several popular models out there, most of which sell in the $250 to $400 range. I told Brittany that in my opinion that’s a lot of money for not much product, and I thought she’d be better off making her own. She can make a functional solar oven from cardboard boxes, shredded newspaper, and a sheet of glass or plastic. If she wants a more durable solar oven and is willing to spend a little money on it, she can get her husband to knock something together with some boards, plywood, black spray paint, and aluminum foil.

In my research on solar ovens, I learned something I’d never considered. I always thought a solar oven used a transparent cover made of glass or Plexiglas, but many solar ovens just use simple plastic sheeting (like a disposable drop cloth). I recently ordered a 10-pack of True Liberty Goose Bags. They’re US-made, 18×24 inches (46×61 cm), food-safe, and rated for use up to 400F. The double layer of plastic with an air gap provides excellent insulation, and should allow a box oven with reflectors to get up over 200F even in cold weather. The Goose Bags are large enough to make a good size solar oven, cost under a buck apiece, and I’d rather use them in an emergency than be pulling windows off the house.

One of our upcoming minor projects will be to knock together a solar oven from boards and Masonite that I can use to test temperatures. I’m told that one can even bake bread in a solar oven, although it may take several hours and may not brown well. A solar oven also gets hot enough to kill microorganisms in water, so it’s a good option for water purification.

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Friday, 1 July 2016

09:32 – I got an interesting email from a guy who’s about my age, and has been a pharmacist for almost 40 years. He started in a hospital pharmacy, worked for an independent drugstore for a few years, and for the last 25+ years has worked for a national drugstore chain.

Things have changed a lot in that time. Years ago, he spent a lot of time keeping track of inventory, discarding drugs that were nearing expiration, and manually ordering to replenish the supply. Nowadays, it’s all computerized just-in-time. They get a delivery every day, with the computers at the central warehouse deciding what items to ship and how much of each. The only time he has to order manually is if he needs oddball items for which the demand is sporadic. If they need something they’re out of, it’s delivered via overnight express. He said that’s why having prescriptions partially filled is a lot more common than it used to be. I’d actually noticed that myself. In the last several years, Barbara has had several prescriptions partially filled and we had to return the next day to the pharmacy to get the rest of the prescription.

This guy has been a prepper since 9/11. As he says, most preppers understand that JIT inventory systems for supermarkets mean that there’s only about a 3-day supply of food in local supermarkets at any one time, but most don’t realize that the same or worse is true of pharmacies. If the trucks ever stop rolling for any reason, local drug inventories will be exhausted very quickly. Especially because in a serious emergency, just as with supermarkets, what would normally be a 3-day supply will disappear in a few hours as people refill prescriptions to make sure they don’t run out.

His advice for people whose lives depend on medications is to convince their physicians to write prescriptions for the longest term and most refills they’re willing to do and that their insurance will cover. Refill them as soon as possible, and ask your physician if each medication can be stored in the freezer. With the exception of some liquid medications, notably insulin, most can. Store any excess medications that are freezable in the freezer, where they will remain usable for years to decades.

For those of us who don’t routinely take prescription medications, the most important thing to store is antibiotics. You might never need them, but if you do it may be the difference between life and death. I wrote about that here, including links to specific antibiotics at Interestingly, not long after I posted that article six months ago, aquabiotics received a visit from the feds and stopped selling antibiotics. Just the other day, I visited their site and found they were again offering antibiotics. If you haven’t already stocked up, you might want to grab some now while the getting is good.

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Saturday, 28 May 2016

08:59 – Barbara is due back sometime this afternoon. I’ve told Colin, but he doesn’t seem to understand what I’m telling him. Or perhaps he’s like Duncan. When Barbara was gone overnight or longer, Duncan used to shun her when she returned.

I’ve been thinking about cooking and baking in a grid-down situation. Obviously, if that happens during cold weather, we’d be running our wood stove. The flat top of that is more than hot enough to use for frying, boiling water, etc. and our Coleman Camp Oven would allow us to bake on it as well. Granted, that oven has only a 10-inch (25.4 cm) square rack, so it’d be limited to baking one standard loaf of bread or perhaps two smaller ones at a time, but it would be useful. As long as the wood stove was burning, we could turn out one oven load every hour or so, 24 hours a day if necessary. For that matter, given fuel, we could cook/bake on our propane grill, Coleman propane stove, or Coleman dual-fuel stove. Or we could build a Rocket stove from concrete blocks.

Because the ability to cook and bake is so important, I want to have backups to our backups to our backups. So I’ve been researching solar ovens. I’ve read several books and webpages devoted to them, and I conclude that it’d be more accurate to call them solar crockpots than solar ovens. Short of an finicky parabolic or Fresnel-based focusing oven, which requires constant adjustment to keep the beam focused, standard solar box ovens top out at around 350F (~177C), and that’s only with $250+ commercial models under ideal conditions. Realistically, figure 250F to 275F, if you’re lucky. Still, that’s hot enough to boil water, cook meat, make casseroles, and even to bake (and brown) bread. It’s just that everything takes a lot longer to cook or bake. Instead of popping dinner in the oven an hour before you intend to eat, you pop it into the solar slow-cooker in the morning to have it finished by dinner time. Not that overcooking is an issue at all. At the temperatures reached in a solar box oven, something may be cooked after four or five hours, but it doesn’t hurt to leave it cooking for several more hours.

I’m using this page as a starting point, and more particularly, this model. I’d make a few changes to the design. I don’t want a cardboard solar cooker. A sudden cloudburst could destroy the oven. Instead, I’d make it with 1X12 boards, glued and screwed, for the sides, with masonite or thin plywood for the bottom and reflector(s). I may never have time to actually build one, short of a disaster, but I do want to have everything I need on hand to build several of these if we ever need them. I’d prefer a wooden structure, but I’d use cardboard boxes if necessary. Doing it that way, one can make a usable solar oven with two or three dollars’ worth of materials. A lot of the stuff you’d need can be found around most homes–cardboard boxes, glue, aluminum foil, and so on–but there are a couple items I’d want to keep on hand specifically for these ovens.

First, although I could make field-expedient black paint (or even just rub the inner surfaces of the oven with charcoal), I’d want to have a few cans of flat black high-temperature spray paint. In addition to blackening the inside surface of the oven, this stuff can be used for blackening the exterior surfaces of pots and other vessels so they’ll absorb the heat instead of reflecting it. Cast iron cookware is preferred for use in solar cookers, but ordinary aluminum, stainless steel, or chromed pots work just as well if you blacken the exterior surfaces. In fact, I’d probably spray paint the cast iron stuff as well. I’d run a new solar cooker and freshly-painted empty vessels for a full day in the sun just to drive off any residual chemicals from the paint. Incidentally, this kind of spray paint is also useful for blackening the outside of soft drink bottles to prevent algae growth if you’re using them for container gardening.

The best material for the glazing is double glass panels with an insulating air gap, but ordinary window glass works almost as well, as does heat-resistant plastic. I could probably scrounge enough window glass to make several solar cookers, but turkey-size oven bags are inexpensive, heat-resistant to 400F, a good size for a solar cooker, and reasonably durable. In a pinch, you could probably substitute the clear 4-mil plastic sheeting sold as disposable drop clothes, but it probably wouldn’t be as durable.

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Friday, 21 August 2015

08:39 – Barbara returns sometime this afternoon or this evening, which means Colin and I need to get rid of the nekkid women and dead bodies. Fortunately, we get recycling pickup (blue cart) and trash pickup (black cart) today, so I figure we’ll recycle the nekkid women and toss the corpses in the trash. Or vice versa. We got yard waste pickup (green cart) yesterday, but neither Colin nor I was quite ready to get rid of the nekkid women. Or the dead bodies.

Nearly all of my time this week was devoted to working on science kit stuff, but here’s what I did to prep this week:

  • I bought a box of 15 packets of Oral Rehydration Salts, with each packet sufficient to make up a one-liter serving. Actually, we stock the chemicals we’d need to make up hundreds of liters of ORS solution on-the-fly, but I wanted the commercial product to shoot an image for the book. Also, it’s not a bad idea to have these on hand for an emergency, and they’re cheap enough. What’s bizarre is that they have an expiration date two years after the manufacturing date. All the packets contain is anhydrous glucose and some inorganic salts, all of which have real shelf lives measured in centuries or millennia. These won’t go bad any time soon.
  • I continued work on our long-term food storage inventory spreadsheet. Overall, we’re in pretty good shape, although there are a couple areas that need attention.

So, what precisely did you do to prepare this week? Tell me about it in the comments.

11:49 – When I was talking to Kim yesterday, she mentioned that her aunt had just been taken by ambulance to the hospital. I figured she must be pretty old, since Kim’s mother, Mary, is in her mid-80’s. I asked Kim if this was her mother’s sister or her dad’s. Kim said, no, that it was actually her great-aunt, her mother’s aunt. My estimate of the patient’s age went way up.

When I talked to Mary this morning, she said her aunt had a urinary tract infection. UTIs can be very serious, particularly in older women, where they’re often asymptomatic until the infection is well advanced. One of the standard treatments for UTIs in patients who can tolerate sulfa drugs is sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim, AKA SMZ/TMP. Like all sulfas, sulfamethoxazole is a broad-spectrum antibiotic, which is useful for a lot more than UTIs. But bacterial resistance to sulfas is pretty widespread, so they’re often used in combination with TMP or another DHFR inhibitor. The two in combination work synergistically and are more effective in most situations than sulfas used alone.

From a prepping standpoint, a lot of people buy Thomas Labs Bird Sulfa tablets, which contain 400 mg of SMZ and 80 mg of TMP each, or Fish Sulfa Forte, which are twice that amount. The problem is the cost, which is $0.50 per tablet or thereabouts. Here’s one place that sells bottles of 500 SMZ/TMP tablets (800/160 mg) for $115, or less than half the cost per tablet. If you’re storing antibiotics for a large family or group, you might want to grab a bottle and stick it in the freezer.

Note that I am not a doctor. I don’t even play one on TV. Sulfa drugs would not be my first choice of a broad-spectrum antibiotic, not least because severe sulfa allergies are quite common. But SMZ/TMP is effective against a pretty large number of bacterial pathogens, and it’s something I’d want in my toolkit.

I just added a new category that I’ll use when I write about something that I’ve found that’s particularly important or a particularly good deal.

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