Thur. Feb. 25, 2021 – so much stuff to do, so little desire

Coolish, probably wet, or at least threatening all day.  It was that way all day Wed. except it never actually got wet.

I spent Wed. cleaning and putting away.  I got the gennies sorted for the short term.   I put all the extension cords away and covered them up.  Cleaned and organized on the patio and in the back.  Looks nicer now, but I still have to put the gas cans away.  Found and put aside some more stuff for the auctions or ebay.

Plan for the day is collecting some auction stuff.  It’s mostly stuff for use at home, but there are a couple of resale items as well.

One of the craziest/luckiest items is a Buffalo TeraStation that matches my failed RAID.   The pix show it on.  If it works, I should be able to pop in my old drives, and recover them.  Fingers crossed, and appropriate offerings to the hidden powers… maybe being lazy will have ended up saving me a lot of work.  I mean, maybe being too busy to learn about home RAID recovery, might save me the work…  *cough*

You almost certainly don’t recall that my TeraStation went belly up with a failed controller board.   That is why we back up a RAID to another disc.   Too bad I hadn’t done that recently thinking that drive failure was all I had to consider.  In the time since, I haven’t really needed anything from the failed discs bad enough to try recovering them so taking a low effort approach worked out so far.

That sort of describes my general approach to prepping and most things, low effort.  I try to get the most benefit from the least work.   Doesn’t always work out but it does more often than not.

That manifests in different ways.   One is that by having a more general idea of what I want, I can be open to getting something similar or equivalent if it becomes available.   My solar project is that way.   I didn’t go shopping for a specific solar panel, I watched for some in the auctions.   When the price was right and there were a bunch all at once, I bought them.   Now I have solar panels.   If I held out for some exact model or size, I still wouldn’t have any.

I’ve done the same with ham radios.  I bought what was available, not what I dreamed about in the catalog.   They are good, solid radios that more than meet my need and they were significantly less expensive than even ebay used.

I even stock the pantry with a version of this, buying what is on sale at the time, not rigidly following a list or a plan, believing that I can balance the inventory over time.

There is a downside- you need time.   If you are short of time, you absolutely can just determine what you want and get it.   Or just buy all the things in a great big hurry (so called ‘panic’ buying.)

Of course, real life is a mix of the approaches.    Going into the pandemic I had my pantry pretty well stocked using the low effort approach, but I still went out on the ‘last run’ and bought stuff I felt I was short of, without considering the cost.   I also stocked up on a much wider variety of OTC meds, believing that there might be shortages later.  I thought it better to spend the money on stuff at full price, regardless of immediate need, rather than not have it at any price later.

The current situation with guns and ammo can be viewed the same way.   You wouldn’t normally want to pay current prices, but time and supply may be short and getting something rather than nothing might be your most important consideration.

Whatever approach you prefer, get started if you haven’t already.  Don’t let ‘paralysis by analysis’ keep you from starting.   Any prep is better than no prep.  And if you are already on the path, keep stacking.

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

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

Mon. Jan. 11, 2021 – so much happening so fast, where to start?

Cold.  Wet.  Wet.  Cold.

Yesterday was low 40s and mid 30s with non-stop drizzle or worse.  It was 35F when I went to sleep.

Didn’t get anything at all done yesterday.  Really somewhat overwhelmed by the pace of things happening in the world.  Still, gotta keep moving forward.  So.

We’re 11 days into the New Year, and consider how much things have changed, just since Christmas.  Holy cr@p sandwich Batman…  what can a person do?

Well, it’s not too late to do something but by starting late everything will be harder and cost more.   If, that is, you think time is getting short.   If everything is fine, then why do you feel like you might want a gun, or some extra food in the house “just in case?”  Those sorts of feelings are your brain trying to tell you something is wrong with the world around you.  People who pay attention and do something about it are called “preppers” nowadays, but used to be called other things including “prudent”.

Most of the folks here at Daynotes have been preppers or at least have been prepping for a while now, or I hope they have been to SOME extent.   This post is more along the lines of something you can point the ‘new kid’ toward when they ask about what they should do.

First off, prepping is NOT a fringe activity.  Millions of people in the US and elsewhere prep to varying degrees.   It is the official policy of the US Government, promulgated by FEMA, that the citizens should prepare themselves for dealing with emergencies on their own.  There is a lot of information available from ‘official’ sources, but most of it is watered down, ‘lowest common denominator’ stuff.  Officially, FEMA says that in the event of an emergency, you should have enough stuff to take care of your needs for 72 hours, that being their minimum response time to a major incident.  Note the word ‘minimum’.   After several recent drills, for some people in some places, the recommended time was increased to 2 weeks.   Most people who consider themselves to be preppers can easily meet the 72 hours goal, and rapidly move on to the next level goal, and when they’ve reached that, move to the next.   That assumes they actually START, and that there is time for that approach to work.   There are other approaches we’ll talk about later.

There are as many approaches to prepping as there are preppers and there is an overwhelming amount of data online.   Somehow it became fashionable to put up prepping guides a couple of years ago, that were little more than fluff and had very little actual information in them and often had really bad advice to boot.  Because the internet is forever, a whole lot of those clickbait articles will show up when you start looking into prepping.

Before letting yourself be overwhelmed though, it’s important to realize a couple of things.   Prepping is a journey, not a destination.  Everyone’s journey is different, and as the Chinese and other’s have noted, the journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step.   So take that first step.

The first step is a question.  What are you prepping FOR?  The answer to that will shape your journey, but doesn’t necessarily define it.  The beauty of prepping is that each step builds upon the next and by prepping for the big things, you should automatically have the littler things covered along the way.  In normal times the answers range from a localized or regional “ordinary” disaster, like a flood, hurricane, winter storm, train derailment, or some other thing that is a likely and real hazard in your area; to a big thing, like global societal and economic collapse, a worldwide pandemic, or the fictional combination of the two- the zombie apocalypse.  A quick side note, for people new to prepping the idea of zombies and a zombie apocalypse can seem crazy, foolish, bizarre, or off-putting, but it’s really just a sort of shorthand for ‘everything goes nuts, nothing works like it should, and you are on your own.’    If you prep towards surviving that, you should have everything else covered.

So what are you prepping for?  If you are just starting,  you are likely concerned by the recent riots and destruction in our cities.  You have of course been affected by the current worldwide pandemic, and the restrictions related to covid-19 to some degree or another.  You might have been caught short in the beginning and wish to avoid that happening again if the wuflu does get worse.*  Or it might just be the REACTION to wuflu that concerns you.   You might be concerned by the political polarization in America.  Believe me, people on both sides are fully convinced that people on the other side are just a hair’s breadth away from exploding into violence.   That tells me that it’s coming for sure.   I don’t care which side you are on, and my politics are evident in other posts, but shouldn’t put you off.  I’ll try to be non-partisan in the body of these posts about prepping.  Maybe you see an economic collapse in the future.  Or you just see hurricane season starting up in a few months and you just want to get a jump on it…   I’ll tell you a secret.  Unless you live in a hazard zone, the most common disasters to befall people are much more personal – the loss of a job followed by long term unemployment, or serious illness/death of a loved one.  Prepping will help tremendously with those too.

One last thing before getting started.   This is going to be based on my approach, and my beliefs.    This website was Robert Bruce Thompson’s and he spent a lot of time talking about prepping issues, and his ideas shaped my own prepping journey.    He was a published author, a scientist, and a really smart guy who was very detail oriented and thorough.  I encourage anyone at any stage of their prepping journey to use the keywords at the right and read what Bob (RBT) said in his own words, as well as the discussion it engendered.  I’ll talk about his approach and link where appropriate.   I am not Bob, I’m not writing a book to serve as a reference manual, and I don’t think there is a lot of time to get YOU up to speed and taking the first step.   My approach is very quick and dirty compared to Bob’s well researched approach.  I usually go with the first thing that mostly works, rather than search for the perfect or complete solution.  I feel VERY STRONGLY that you should DO SOMETHING.  Preferably with guidance, and consideration, but I’d choose action over inaction in most cases.  Paralysis by analysis, or ‘overthinking’ is a real risk in prepping as in most complex endeavors.   The imperfect preps you actually have are infinitely better than the ‘perfect’ preps you DON’T have.

Ok, one more last thing.  I’m just a guy on the internet.  If something I suggest or advocate doesn’t seem right to you, do some more research.  There are as many different approaches and attitudes as there are people.  There are a LOT of good people out there writing about prepping and related subjects.   I’ll refer to them where I can.  I won’t generally be linking or footnoting everything.  You are sitting at a computer, connected to the internet- use that to your advantage if you need to see a reference or a link.  Consider too that my approach might not be a good fit for you, but you can hopefully still benefit from what I write, even if just by the negative example.   There are lots of people here to help me and to help you too, by keeping a sharp eye on me and what I’m writing.

So, today’s question.  What are you prepping for?  That will determine the extent of your preps, and your timeline, but mostly under my approach, it will determine when you STOP.  If you don’t know what you’re prepping for, just do what preppers do and say “zombie apocalypse.”

Today’s lesson, to get started, just do a little bit more than you usually do.  Buy more food that you normally buy.  Buy an extra of whatever home repair item you are buying.  Do a bit more cleaning.  A bit more exercise.  Fill your gas tank sooner than you might normally.  Get something fixed before it breaks more.  Along with that, go through your home and look at what resources you already have.   Look for things that aren’t going to help, that you no longer use/need/want.  Look for stuff that could be sold or traded or given to someone so that you can improve your situation, or theirs.

Figure out where you are starting from, so you know what you can build on.  Do you have tools?  A garden?  Generator?  Food in the pantry?  Camping equipment?  Medical knowledge but no supplies?  Any reference library?  What skills do you have?  If it helps you, make a list.

My approach is modular, builds off the previous level, and is a bit opportunistic.   Be open to things happening out of sequence.  Be prepared to take advantage of any opportunities that present themselves.

First goal- be able to stay in your home completely isolated, without changing your lifestyle or routine significantly, for 72 hours- 3 days.  And at the end of those days, you are not desperate or in need of aid, but you can continue your normal life, and replace what got used up.

We’ll talk about how to get there, and the next step later.


*I’ve been calling it wuflu from the beginning.  I know it’s not a ‘flu’ but it rolls off the tongue and is intended to remind the reader that this virus originated in Wuhan China.


======================================================

What do you guys think?  Is it worthwhile for me to continue with this idea for a while?  Not every day, but at least a couple of times a week?  Maybe on a separate page?  Too chatty?  Too presumptuous?  Too general?  Already been done?  Too ambitious?  Unnecessary?

Let me know what you think, and in your own lives, keep stacking.

 

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

Wed. June 24, 2020 – more of the same, sorta

Hot and humid.  [74F and dripping, overcast. I purely suck at weather forecasting]  It is Houston and summer….

Yesterday was hot and humid, although less of both than previous days this week.  Stuff was actually drying out once I dumped the standing water.  Sometimes we’ll go days with water in every nook and cranny because it just can’t evaporate.  And I was able to work outside for a while, without my vest or my head exploding.  Nice little break.

I took some time and did pool care.  Skimmed off the leaves, swept the bottom, and made a big siphon hose to suck out the debris.  My little siphon hose took too long and used too much water.  And it clogged easily on the half eaten pecans.  The damnable tree rats are chewing the still very undersized and unripe pecans in half.  That makes two marble sized pieces to drop in the pool, since they can’t eat them.  Bigger hose, stronger flow, less choking, and I had that cleaned up in a jiffy.

Then on to pulling some inventory to go to the local auction.  I’ve got two big black bins full, and more to go.  SO MUCH MORE.  The auction isn’t appropriate for all the sort of stuff I have to sell, more for the household/estate stuff than the industrial stuff, but I’ve got plenty of that too.  In the process, I was going through stuff in the house, on the patio, and in the garage.  Miles to go before I sleep, but every journey starts with a single step, right?

Dinner was Taco Tuesday.  Canned chicken, canned beans, tortillas and fixin’s from the fridge.

Daughter one has a visit with the orthodontist this morning.  We were doing a retainer to move some teeth around so they didn’t get damaged before we could do the braces.  She lost the retainer.  It’s been months, so it’s time for a reassessment.

Daughter two is complaining of a mild headache and feeling “pukey”.   No actual vomiting, but no appetite either.  I’m wondering where she picked up a bug, and the only answer is ‘swim practice’.   That is double plus ungood as it points out how easy it would be to get something else.  I’m not feeling great either, with occasional coughing, and some mild headache.  I’m blaming mine on allergies and doing too much reading with my cheap ‘cheater’ glasses.  We might stay home from swim today.  We’ll see.

As part of my cleaning up and moving stuff, I moved some rice from bags in the black bins to buckets with O2 absorbers.  I filled two buckets and could have filled a third and fourth with rice and another bucket with flour.  30 pounds per 5 gallon bucket, 2 cups a day, and each bucket is good for approximately 30 days.  That’s a nice tidy number and easy to see at a glance what inventory looks like in ‘days’.  I find it much easier to think in terms of ‘meals’ or ‘days’ when looking at my stored preps.  I absolutely never think in terms of ‘calories per day per person.’  Bob and I had some discussions about our different approaches to thinking about food, and I’m convinced that mine has fewer built in barriers to action, lower friction for the prepper, while his has the advantage of having math and science behind it.  Like a lot of prepping, it’s easy to go off into the weeds and to find reasons not to start.  “Oh, I have to figure out how many calories are in a bucket of flour before I start storing it.” “are mylar bags really necessary?  What about oxygen absorbers?  I don’t have any.”   Stuff like that.  My method feels a little more haphazard, but really, do you think in terms of making a pot of rice or of cooking 1700 calories of foodstuffs?

However you think of it, get started if you haven’t already.  I’m eating rice stored very haphazardly in 2014 and it is delicious.  (stored in a black bin, limited airflow, no vermin, constant comfortable temps.)  I didn’t use O2 absorbers, or repack into mylar, or any of the other things.  I saw a case of ebola in Dallas and panic bought a bunch of food.  I packed it tightly in bins at my secondary location, and ignored it until this year.  Because I moved it home, I’m repacking it into buckets as they are more air tight, and easier to move when full.

I’ve rotated the 2014 stuff to the front and put the 2019 and 2020 in the back.  If I move some back to my secondary storage, I’ll move the 2019 and 2020 food.  My point is, you don’t have to do it perfectly, or in any particular way at all.  You don’t NEED all the rest of the stuff or to spend a lot of time.   Rice is cheap.  Flour, sugar, salt, and even peanut oil (my stored fat) are cheap.  If you have some spoilage, it’s a small price to pay vs. NOT having any food.  To the staples, add canned food- meat, veg, and beans to start, fruit, pie filling, and ‘weirder’ stuff as you can.  The cans will do just fine for years if you keep them cool and dry without any other work on your part.

You can and should build off that food stockpile, but at least you won’t starve to death in the first 3 months of a disaster, whatever that might be (prolonged unemployment being the most common, sick spouse or kid being the second.)

So, get started, or keep going, but keep stacking.

 

nick

Wed. May 13, 2020 – Friday the 13th falls on a Wednesday this month

Rainy and wet. [so wrong, 76F and sun is out]

Yesterday was nice, but humid. Really humid compared to the last couple of days. We got actual rain too, after dinner and sporadically all night.

I did get some stuff done, but no where near what I would have liked. I’ll keep chipping away at it though.

I did receive checks from my auction of the full face PAPR respirators. Made decent money on them. They went at slightly more than my low estimate. Also got paid for some items I couldn’t ebay. It wasn’t a ton of money, but it was money.

Dinner was elk roast. Details in last night’s comments. The central part of the roast was very similar to an eye round beef roast. The cooking, texture, and taste were very similar. Sides were the heat and eat shelf stable bread, and the root veg from the roasting pan. Dessert was Easter candy. I found a half bag of chocolate candy left over from Easter. Hooray!

I mention it in comments yesterday, but I’ll repeat it here. Wound care uses a LOT of supplies… even something as simple as a badly scraped knee. I restocked my medicine cabinet with wound wash, and kerlix from the deeper stores, but then went online to buy more. Some of what I wanted was out of stock everywhere but the arbitrageurs on ebay, and they were short. There were substitutes, but I’m taking it as a sign that things are tight. Supply chains are still disrupted, and demand might be higher than normal.

Check your stock of normal things that aren’t food. Do you have bandaids? Razor blades? Cosmetics and soaps? Gauze, nonstick pads, wrap, tape? Wound cleaning liquids? How about sewing supplies? Got needles and thread? Fusible liner? You might need to repair your high speed low drag web gear if the zombies beat you up. Is there something you usually just order when you need it? Time to check and see if it’s available.

Do you have some repair supplies in general? Crazy glue in different viscosities? Shoe Goo? 5 minute epoxy? Wood glue? Duct tape? Cellotape? Electrical tape? If we really are headed into a big downturn, repair and reuse is going to be important. How about expendables for your vehicles/mowers/garden tools like wipers, belts, air/oil/gas filters, a replacement pull rope? Oil, additives, Sta-bil?

Flints for lighters, butane, lighter fluid? Baling wire? Twine?

Further down the list but important, this home isolation looks like it will be continuing for a while yet, even if things don’t go to sh!t. Do you have playing cards, board games, dice? How about a Hoyle’s book of card games? Pens, pencils, paper? Art supplies? Software to replace something you play online? (My dad loved to play spyder solitaire on the pc, but win10 made it online only. I had to figure out how to install the games pack from win7 so he could play what he was familiar with.) Wife got out the watercolors and did some painting with the girls today for ‘art class”. We love puzzles, so I buy them at Goodwill if they are unopened. The mom’s club in the neighborhood has a puzzle swap going on for those who were not prepared. I find puzzles to be very soothing.

There’s a million things our grandparents or even parents would have kept on hand, just to save a trip to the store, if for no other reason. Think about your tool box or junk drawer, or anything you’d like to do if you had some extra time on your hands. Might want to get that stuff now, if you have the time and funds, and your “sustain life” stuff is all in order.

I’ve got to stop slacken and get back to stackin’…

nick

Fri. Jan. 24, 2020 – another week gone bye bye bye

Cool and damp. [39F and 99%RH] Of course.

It stayed a bit coolish and dampish all day yesterday, although the rain mostly stayed away. I’m hoping for no rain today. Temps were 44F when I went to bed.

Busy week for me, and it didn’t leave much time for preps. I am feeling caught off guard by the sudden change in the china virus status. Fortunately the extreme case has the same preps as our old friend ebola, without the blood. Unfortunately, I think people won’t be as freaked out without the whole ‘sh!tting yourself to death while your eyes bleed’ aspects and won’t isolate themselves appropriately.

I don’t have anywhere near enough PPEs to interact with people in a mostly normal way if that is what’s needed. I intended to severely limit any contact at all, not don a mask and go shopping….

I guess we’ll see how things progress, but we should have at least a couple of days before any panic starts here. Think hard about stocking up on some stuff, like any masks, tyvek, bleach, wipes and hand sanitizer, and snivel gear for dealing with flu symptoms. I haven’t seen much about actually treatment/care for patients, but you can be sure that it won’t take long if there is an outbreak to saturate available care facilities. I don’t even know if we ever got restocked on IV fluids after the shortage. Puerto Rico has had their own issues and that’s where most of it came from.

I know our Habitat ReStore has shelves full of 3M surgical style face masks and they are cheap. I’ve already bought what I thought was a good amount, but now I want more. I don’t think there will be a run on them at the ReStore. (or anywhere in the US, yet). That said, I’m headed there today and I am going to stock up if they’re still on the shelf.

I’m going to treat this as if there was a hurricane headed straight toward us. I REALLY don’t like the way the numbers are quickly ratcheting up, or the revelations about the spread. I’m aiming for ‘better safe than sorry.’

I know, it’s always something, and the sky doesn’t usually fall, but this feels weirder than normal.

Lots of driving around today, so I’ll be out of the loop on news, and updates. Keep an eye on it….

n

Sun. Sept. 1, 2019 – yikes, we’re headed for fall

Cool and humid, I’m guessing.  [90F in the shade, 100F in the driveway at noon.]

It did get hot yesterday, but locally spotty rain and high winds kept temps down.  It was relatively cool at my secondary location, which gave me a chance to work on restacking stuff that needed restacking.

I found a package of Kirkland AAA batteries, labeled “good til 2023” that all burst and grew big mounds of gunk by their ends.  That will be going back to Costco.  I’m keeping rough track of my spoilage as I go through the stuff I put up in 2014 during Ebola 1.  So far, it’s the batteries and two cases of UHT milk.  The milk is a fairly short lived product, not suited to long term storage.  $36 gone so far.  I put it up for fairly immediate use, and because of the kids, but I haven’t put any milk in long or even medium term storage in a couple years.  I do still have some liter boxes, but they are really only backup for cereal if I miss a trip to the grocery store.  I’ve got Nido powder on the shelf for long term.

I’ve shifted away from the Nestle’ canned “medium table cream” too.  It will turn to a block of cheese-like substance in the can if it sits too long.  I have been stocking powdered cream instead.

I suppose I should count the case of instant mashed potatoes too, since they died in the garage storage.

Maybe I’ll try a carton of hash browns this morning… they are from the same period and are probably high in fat.  High fat items seem to fare the worst.

The prepper bible says ‘store what you eat, eat from your stores’ and that will help you rotate your food.  I’ve known from the beginning that there were items I stored that we do not normally eat, or that we eat in much too small a quantity to ever keep up with the rotation.  Most of those items are shelf stable meals (which are generally horrible tasting) in my ‘medium term’ stores, or bulk items like rice and flour, salt and sugar.  The shelf stable meals aren’t cheap, but they do go on sale.  The flour and rice are  so cheap I don’t mind replacing them (although the totals will add up.)  Salt and sugar don’t go bad if vermin are kept out.

My storage conditions are far from ideal, but having food and getting some spoilage is much preferred to not having food that doesn’t spoil.  So I deal with it and accept that there will be losses.

What isn’t good form is losing track of it.  I’ve got a lot of improperly stored panic buys at my secondary location.  Ebola spooked the heck out of me last time around so I was just throwing food into storage.  I’ll be going through it as I dig it out over the next few weeks.

I’ll be sharing the results so all y’all can benefit too.

And now, I better go cook some breakfast.

 

n