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

 

Wed. Aug. 28, 2019 – so there’s a storm coming your way….

77F and humid at 6am, but I’ve spent too much time reading the news. Gotta get the kids up and ready, so more later….


 

Now it’s later!

Here comes the storm, now what?

If you’ve been listening and doing, then all you have to do is recheck your preps, and do the little last minute things.  Top up your fresh veg- you can be sure THAT won’t be stripped from the store.  BAKE a loaf of bread.  Maybe pick up some dairy if your normal shopping hasn’t happened yet.

Remember that water is still coming out of your tap!  No need to buy bottled water if there are crowds.  Worst case, buy buckets and fill them.  Locate your water filter, bleach, and maybe your Bob water bladder.  Do laundry and wash dishes.  Wash the bathtubs thoroughly and get your duct tape ready so you can fill the tub before the storm hits.  Don’t forget a bucket for moving water from the tub to the toilet.

Charge up battery powered devices, and charge up all your power packs and rechargeable batteries.  By now you should have some sort of lithium battery for your phone and tablet.  The $80 jump pack from  Costco has a USB port and works well according to my wife.  If you don’t know where it is, locate your AC inverter and put it near your car for charging bigger things.  Test flashlights and battery lanterns.

If you haven’t already, fill your extra gas cans, fuel your generator and test start the gennie.

Look to your property.  Get ready to secure loose articles.  If the predictions warrant, get ready to do your board up.

At this point, you haven’t done anything irrevocable, haven’t spent money you don’t have, and have basically just ‘freshened up.’  Time to watch the storm approach and make any adjustments to your plan.

 

If you HAVEN’T been prepping, you’ve got a lot more to do.

Start with the basics, food water shelter.

Food- hit the canned and boxed meal aisles of your store.  Grab veg and beans, chili, and chicken or stew.  Get some pouches of pasta with sauce.  Get enough for a couple of weeks , at least ONE week.  Since the ‘french toast people’ have probably stripped the bread, eggs, and milk, grab a big bag of tortillas.   Grab some rice, instant or one minute rice is preferable in this case as it takes less to cook.  Grab some oatmeal and sugar or syrup, again quick cooking is better.  Grab some treats for the kids.

Water.   If your store has bottled, get some.  If not, then hit up Home Depot for buckets and lids.  You can fill them at home for drinking water.  Remember, water is still coming out of your faucets.  You may prefer bottled water for drinking, but your municipal water won’t hurt you (unless you’re in Flint, and then you’re on your own.)  You don’t NEED food safe buckets for this short time, but they are better for long term use.  Worst case, buy 2 liter bottles of the store brand generic soda, pour it out, and use the bottles for water.  You might want some koolaid or tea to flavor your water.

Shelter- your home should be fine unless the storm is huge.  If you live in a shack, or in an area prone to flooding, think hard about going to a shelter.  If you are going, better early than late.  Pick up anything that the wind can turn into a missile.  Secure all loose items.  Seriously, put them away.  Charge up all your things that need charging.  Wash everything that needs washing.  Tidy up.  Fill bathtub with water for washing, cover the drain with duct tape first.  Make sure you have some way to make light, battery powered is preferred to fire.  Have at least a battery powered radio to listen for news and updates.

That’s about all you will be able to do in a couple of days, but it should be more than enough and it’s certainly more than 80% of your neighbors will be doing.

 

Chime in in comments if I missed anything appropriate for short term preps, or if you have questions.

 

nick

Mon. July 15, 2019 – half way through the year

Hot and humid, close to 81F. We never did get much rain from Barry, but I think the mid-South/ Mississippi basin is going to get some in the coming days. Flash flood warnings for that area are in effect.

With prepping, it’s easy to get focused on a specific event. Many times it’s what Bruce Schneier calls a ‘movie plot’ event, ie one that makes for good drama, but isn’t likely in real life. The canonical one is the zombie apocalypse. Most of us know that’s unlikely in the extreme, but it’s a funny idea, takes some of the stress out of thinking about the end of the world as we know it, and if you’re prepped for that, you’re prepped for most of the more likely events.

That is how most prepping works anyway. Prep for something real bad, and you are also prepared for the less bad. This is true (for the most part) even if you focus very narrowly on one specific threat.

The most likely threats in your area should be your first
consideration. Then threats that you can cover by extending your preps a bit. It’s also a good idea to cover threats that are rare but the consequences are extreme, especially those that are cheap or easy to prep for. An example might be CME. If you are storing extra radios or electronics anyway, it’s only a little bit more effort (called marginal effort by economists) to put them in a metal enclosure, or Faraday cage. That covers you for the CME, or an EMP caused by an enemy, and protects your electronics from dust and vermin. There really isn’t a downside to taking the extra step.

Look for ways to leverage your existing preps and extend them a bit to cover additional threats. For that matter, think of prepping as a way to extend you existing lifestyle… if you camp, you extend to more gear and more skills. If you garden, or can, or sew- take it a step further. You’ve already used the resources to get you this far, it’s easy to go just a bit more…

Keep stacking,

nick

Fri. June 21, 2019 – already Friday again, jeez

82F and 90%RH. Never got a drop of rain yesterday, hope today goes the same. Openweathermap (henceforth OWM) has our high at 97 or 98F. It’ll be much hotter than that here in my driveway.

The march to war continues– https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-06-21/trump-backs-down-military-strike-iran-last-minute

This looks like classic Trump to me, promise some outrageous thing, let everyone freak about it, then offer the compromise. We’ll see. I’d prefer not to have a nuclear Iran, and the weaker they are, the better for stability in the middle east.

Lots of kid activities this week so not as many preps as I’d like, and I’m getting ready to head back to Chicago to help my mom with selling her house. I’ll probably be there a week.

The little tiny caterpillars were back with a vengeance and ate all the leaves off one grape vine and most off the other vine. It did reveal on bunch of grapes, which I split with littlest child. They were tasty with thick skins. I sprayed them with the thuricide and I hope the vines recover for next year. Grapes are a huge PITA.

We have one little apple growing on the tree, and one orange is still clinging to its tree too.

Peppers are still producing but tomatoes aren’t showing any fruit. Cukes and zukes haven’t died yet. The stems usually spit open at the ground level and get eaten by ants. I’ve been hitting them with different things hoping to find something that will get them thru the summer. Seems to be working so far. The plants in the one raised bed are still slowly bleaching to white and dying. No time to investigate that further. It MUST be an issues with the soil.

I did add another bucket of rice and some more cans to the stack. I can tell the hand warmers I’m using as O2 absorbers are working because the buckets ‘dent’ in.

I’ve mentioned it before but I think prepping to make tortillas/pita/naan/ or some other flat bread makes more sense than risen breads. They take less time, effort, and fuel. The staples of poor rural people and indigenous people the world over are refined by long history to be efficient in all those areas. (that root you have to smash for hours being an exception necessitated by a lack of alternatives.)

Someone mentioned that my SWAG at a couple of months food for my family was missing some things… yup. It was. There were LOTS of things missing from the list, but it was intended to show that it doesn’t have to be hard, or rocket science to stack a good amount of food. Also it’s what MY family (and by extension, most families I know) will eat. (If I was hispanic or german, the list would be different (and have more pickled stuff on it if german))

There are actually canned beans in the list (red, black, refried,bbq, drunken (borracho), and several others are on my shelves.) For preps, I prefer canned beans to dried. The water is already in the can. The cans are safe from rats and other vermin. The liquid in the can can be used as ‘sauce’ over rice. Of course, they are more expensive than dried beans, but they can be eaten cold from the can, only need to be warmed up to make them tasty, have flavor already added, and are generally easier, quicker, and thrifty with fuel.

If your family already eats chick peas, or dried beans, by all means store them in your preps! I wouldn’t want the list to be seen as EX-clusive. You should always feel free to go beyond or tweak for personal preference. For example, someone else mentioned canned potatoes. I have canned potatoes from a couple different makers with different styles of potato in them. I really like one particular can of sliced new potatoes. I’ve served them as a side dish lots of times. We don’t eat many potatoes though, and most canned versions don’t taste that good to me. I did list pouches of instant potato though. The name brand is really good, especially the varieties with added cheese and other flavors. If we had a real ‘no shit, hit the store for one last run’ event, besides all the overlooked cans, I’d grab bags of potatoes and onions. They store well (up to a year in good conditions) are cheap and versatile. But we personally don’t eat them often, so I usually only keep a couple of pounds of heritage baby potatoes in the pantry, and 10 pounds of onion… we do eat a lot of onion.

And I have to get the wife and kids out the door so I need to continue this later….

what did you do to prep this week?

nick

Fri. April 26, 2019 – driving all day, so some links

Supposed to be clear and nice today and tomorrow. I’ll update that before I leave the house.   [59F and not quite saturated]

I’ve got a pickup in San Marcos, so I’ll probably swing by Austin as well and hit the surplus store. Depends on the time and how long everything takes. Minimum, I’m on the road for 5 hours, with an hour or so between cities at the far end. That means I won’t be here.

Some hard core prepper links (that I haven’t read yet) to keep you occupied. From one of my EMgmt newsletters.

Preppers and doomers always talk about how quickly our Just In Time based world will fall apart and how fragile it is. Here are a couple of links that address that very thing.

Aligning Public and Private Supply Chains Following Disasters

PrepTalks GraphicDr. Jarrod Goentzel’s PrepTalk, “Aligning Public and Private Supply Chains for Disaster Response”, demonstrates how the private sector has far more capacity to respond than the public sector, explains the role of emergency managers in supporting private sector supply chain restoration, and shows how analysis of supply chains can help with strategic and tactical preparedness and operational collaboration during a crisis.”

Private Sector Resilience: It is All in the Supply Chain

PrepTalks GraphicDr. Yossi Sheffi’s PrepTalk, “Private Sector Resilience: It is All in the Supply Chain”, explains the modes of failure in supply chain networks, explores new ways to think about disruptions, and showcases a General Motors case study on the complexities of supply chain management.”

So what can you do before disaster strikes???

These taxpayer funded FEMA resources exist to answer that question. And might provide the basis for some PA novel, if you were inclined that way…

Strategic and Operational Planning

The purpose of this page is to provide information on strategic and operational planning. The National Incident Management System is intended to be used by the whole community. The intended audience for this page is individuals, families, communities, the private and nonprofit sectors, faith-based organizations, and Federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial governments.

—-
And for the really detail oriented…

CPG 101, Developing and Maintaining Emergency Operations Plans, Version 2

How to Use This Guide CPG 101 is designed to help both novice and experienced planners navigate the planning process. Used in its entirety, this Guide provides information and instruction on the fundamentals of planning and their application. Chapters 1 and 2 lay the foundation for planning efforts by providing information on the basics of planning (Chapter 1) and the environment within which planners function (Chapter 2). With an understanding of these fundamentals, the Guide then transitions from theory to practice by discussing the different plan formats and functions (Chapter 3) and moving into an explanation of the planning process (Chapter 4). A detailed checklist, building upon Chapters 3 and 4, is provided in Appendix C. Because Appendix C provides a set of detailed questions to consider throughout the planning process, users are encouraged to copy or remove this checklist and employ it as they work through the planning process in Chapter 4.”

There are a BUNCH of interesting looking PREPtalks in the left hand sidebar on the pages linked above. This is going to be a time suck soon…

Until then, I’m on the road and will only be checking in periodically.

Tell me what you did this week to plan, or prep.

n

Fri. Feb. 16, 2019 Friday, again. Wow.

I’m tellin’ ya, time is flyin’ by….

70F and 99%RH. Moisture condensing on concrete deck and floor, and anything metal or solid in the garage. Can anyone say “less than ideal storage conditions?”

I did make a great dessert last night from “middle” term storage. I’ve found that the fruit cups from costco will discolor and the fruit gets mushy after the expiration date. This is pretty typical, “color and texture might change but contents remain healthy and safe” is true for cans as well. I’ve mentioned here before that when I notice that a case is aging out, I make fruit cobbler.

So last night, a delicious mango cobbler was made, and half was consumed after dinner. The mango tastes pretty much like peaches after canning. I used prepackaged cobbler mix. It couldn’t be much easier- melt butter, pour in mix with milk, dump in 4 fruit cups. Bake. Serve with vanilla ice cream. Kids asked for seconds. Success!

Managing your stores probably deserves a whole post, but the short story is — use what you have too much of. In other words, if we’ve eaten fewer eggs than normal, I will make something to eat that requires more eggs, like French Toast (Freedom Toast!). That’s a good way to use up some bread too. Or fruit desserts to use aging fruit cups that don’t LOOK attractive, but are still delicious. Think about baking, or pre-cooking meat and freezing. Pies are a way to make fruit last a few more days. Juice fruits and freeze the juice…

Anyway, I’m toying with the idea of a “use less week.” The idea is that you probably use more than needed during these times of prosperity, and would use less if times were tough, so why not try it now??

Some easy examples: toothpaste. Most people probably learned to put a stripe of toothpaste the whole length of the toothbrush. I find that less than half of that is sufficient to fill my mouth with foamy cleaning action. I’ve completely internalized this change.

Shampoo. The bottle usually says how much to use, but do you just pour some in your hand? Bigger than a ‘quarter’? I’ll bet half will give the same sudsing action. If not, just “lather rinse repeat” like the bottle says. Nothing to lose.

Hand soap, hand sanitizer. The dispensers kick out way more than needed.

Eggs. I love eggs. I now only buy the Large size though. Simple change from the Extra Large I grew up with and just kept buying. They are cheaper too. And I’m finding that one is enough for breakfast when I habitually ate two.

Toilet paper. I’d bet that most of us just use this the way we learned as kids. I did. Having kids to teach, and someone else’s butt to wipe, made me rethink both technique and amount. Not something to skimp on, but if you knew the supply was limited, would you be more careful and use less? TP is a very bulky item to store as preps, and not something you want to run out of.

Laundry and dish soap. Do you just dump some in? When was the last time you read the bottle or looked at the different marks on the measuring cup?

Ketchup or dipping condiments. Just dump a big squirt on the plate? Why not put half as much and then squirt more if needed?

Hmm, this is turning into a coupon clipping, make your own soap kind of post, so I’ll end it here, but I challenge you to look at your habits, and see if you are being a ‘good steward’ of the resources you have.

nick

Guest post, some thoughts on radios, and why it’s hard to get a straight answer from a ham…

In response to this question-

“@nick

You seem well-informed on the subject, so what are YOUR recommendations for someone looking to just get a few radios?”

I’ve consolidated some of yesterday’s discussion in one place.

 

—————————————————————————————

The important question to start with is ‘what do you want to do?’ With that info, you can narrow the list.

 

The first separation is listen vs talk. No license required to listen. To listen, get a scanner. Most transceivers will scan, but they are much slower. To talk, see below.

If you want to monitor your local area, (and it’s fun but you aren’t necessarily gonna get the inside scoop), you need a couple of scanners. I like analog because they’re cheap. They work well for scanning ham bands, or the analog FEMA interop freqs.  Analog scanners will also cover the GMRS and FRS bands, weather bands, marine (almost everyone in the US is near a coast or navigable waterway), air, etc.  If you are rural, you may have more traffic on analog than other areas. If your area has gone digital, you need a digital capable trunk tracker scanner. The Uniden Home Patrol II is a bit long in the tooth, but is widely recommended. I like mine, but it needs a bunch of tweaking to the internal channel list. Setting up scanners takes a bit of thinking about what you want to monitor too. I shut off all the dispatch channels because they run constantly here.  You may be in a slower area, and want to hear the dispatches, but even in a rural area, I think you’ll be surprised how much work your cops and EMS people do.  For other sources of good intel, your highway motorist aid guys probably still use analog and they’re a good source for high water and road debris info. Same for the ‘talkback’ channel for your local news teams to talk to their ‘in the field’ guys. There is a lot of interesting stuff even during normal times.  Radio Reference is the definitive web site for frequency info.

The other type pure listening radio for preppers is Shortwave. After trying dozens of radios and listening at least a couple of nights a week for the last year, I’ve concluded that there’s not a lot of info actually on SW. By definition, the state broadcasters are running propaganda stations. Most of the other stations are religious.  The airwaves are NOT awash in alternative news stations.  But even so there are things to listen to, and post SHTF, there might be other broadcasters or other content. It’s definitely overblown in the prepping world though.  Other than music, I listen to a ham focused show out of Havana, a ham focused show on one of the religious broadcasters in Tennessee, and everyone’s favorite conspiracy guy broadcast by a station in Florida.  Shortwave is also a fun, quick way to check band conditions without firing up your HF ham rig.

For SW, I like older “communications receivers” like the Kenwood R-1000 or the Yaesu FRG-7700. They have continuous coverage from the low lows to their highs at 50mhz. They are usually used on AC power but also may have battery inputs. For off grid, I love my Panasonic RF-2200. Over a year of checking thru the dial a couple of times a week, on one set of D batteries.  Like the AC models, it is a larger model.  Larger models will generally give you much more sensitive tuning and bigger dials, which is GOOD.  For pocket or on the go, I’m really liking the little Sony ICF 7600 I took to the Virgin Islands. It’s got digital tuning but you can comfortably just tune thru the bands. LOTS of other radios with digital tuning will “chuff” or take a second to tune every single time you push the UP or Down button. For scanning around that is REALLY tedious. The Sony is very smooth tuning up and down.

You’ll notice that this stuff is all older. Yup, it is, but the designs stood the test of time.  And it’s non-critical or covered by spares, and is cheap compared to current gear with the same capability.

I’ve decided the little pocket analogs are almost completely useless and the pocket digitals are pretty useless for just tuning around.  Also, don’t worry about single side band or having a Beat Frequency Oscillator on your SW radio so you can listen to hams. They are almost impossible to tune in given the smaller dials, and across a dozen portable radios, I couldn’t consistently hear SSB conversations. If you want to listen to hams, get a ham radio.  [there are other factors too, like where the band pass filters start and stop that can make SW listening on a ham radio, or ham listening on a SW radio problematic.]

 

When it comes to talking on the radio:

If you are thinking about getting a ham license, and want to get started cheaply, the baofengs are a great entry point for a tech or general license. DON’T buy a used radio unless you can get some guarantee that it works. You want to get on the air, not work on radios. If you want something better than the chinese radios, any of the big three, Icom, Kenwood, or Yaesu, that have the features you want, will be great. ALWAYS check the reviews at eHam.com before buying. They will address any reliability or useability issues, esp for something that’s been out for a while. I’d buy cheaper, and fewer features unless you’ve decided you like ham radio as a hobby or decided that you need a digital mode. Buy a dual band radio that has 2 meter (144mhz or VHF) and 70cm (440mhz or UHF). Don’t buy a single band radio unless it’s very cheap or you are planning for a dedicated use like data or APRS.

For HF (getting more than a mile or two away, or for HF data modes) I’m gonna say, there are great values in 20-25 year old gear. My Yaesu FT 847 works great.  There are many classic models from the time period that are well regarded, still run well, and are cheaper than comparable new models.  Any voice work on HF requires a General or Amateur Extra License.

There are multiband mobile radios that include HF but due to power and antenna limitations, they aren’t the best choice if you are gonna do a lot of HF.

Mobile radios make decent home stations too, if the power limits are ok for you.

Antennas are critical to your success talking on the air.  Some of the radios (like FRS) are intentionally crippled by requiring attached (and crappy) antennas.  There are lots of books about antennas, making your own, or buying, and the classics are available used for very low prices.  The web is full of antenna projects too.

Some people recommend tube radios for EMP survivability but they are harder to use, need more power, and are physically bigger. Probably better to get another modern radio and put it in a metal box if that worries you.

Moving to radios that don’t require a license, the most common are the ‘blister pack’ small form factor walkie talkies.

I have buckets full of FRS/GMRS radios (blister pack) that I buy when I see them cheap ($1-3). I don’t trust them for anything critical though. I use them when I’d rather not yell but don’t trust them for anything farther than that.

I’ve also bought motorola business radios when I see them cheap. They are bulletproof unless the batteries leaked, but anything will be destroyed by leaking batteries. After years of using moto radios in the field, I may be biased, but they just keep working.  A blister pack Motorola business radio is a good compromise between a $10 FRS and a $1000 ham or commercial high end walkie.

There are real differences between a $1200 moto walkie and a $30 one. Those differences might not be important to you, but don’t discount them. Sure, you can easily replace your $30 radio with a spare if you are where the spare is. It’s NOT so easy to replace if you are out USING it and the spares are at home. If it’s critical gear, buy quality.

I’ve mentioned before that I think CBs are worth having. There is still a lot of CB use in more rural areas, and among the Off Road crowd. There are also some people in the prep/liberty/militia/patriot movements that advocate a super set of CB known as “freebanding.” They use modified radios or ‘export only’ models that include access to freqs outside the Citizen’s Bands. They are illegal for most people, are NOT obscure, ARE easily monitored, and get you very little for the additional cost/risk/complication and learning curve.

A side note on licensing. Many of the freqs and radios are restricted to various licensed individuals/businesses/or classes of people. Some are enforced, some are not. FRS doesn’t need a license, but is supposed to be restricted to non-business use. GMRS requires a license, which covers your whole family for a number of years, and is a ‘fee only’ license. CB dropped the individual license requirement, but there are still restrictions on power output, antenna heights, and even attempting to reach beyond certain distances. Ham frequencies and modes and power output are all subject to different license requirements. Technician and General ham licenses are not difficult to get with study, and will give you almost all the privileges that the very hard Amateur Extra license does. MURS describes frequencies for business use and does not require individual licenses. Most of the blister pack ‘business’ radios use MURS freqs. There are some other freqs and modes available (baby monitors, dakota alert, Moto 900mhz walkies, that don’t require individual licensing).  Some preppers advocate one of the more obscure frequencies and modes but you won’t be hiding when you press the transmit button, and there are ways for anyone motivated to eavesdrop.  BTW, it’s illegal to encrypt or otherwise attempt to hide the content of your communication on the ham bands, and also illegal to use them for business (with one specific exception for used ham gear) or to be compensated for your use of the bands.

Some online preppers have recommended getting marine radios and using them on land. This is a really bad idea, with very little upside.  It’s specifically prohibited by law. The Coast Guard takes a very dim view of this abuse, and they are set up to direction find transmissions. Just don’t do it.

Every month, the magazine of the ARRL (QST) lists enforcement actions the FCC has taken. The vast majority are for CB violations, followed by willful interference violations on ham bands. Hams will report you if you are on their bands without a license. Just don’t do it. There are guys that LIVE to direction find you, record you, challenge you, and they will remember you if you later get a license. Given that, there are WAY more violators than there are people prosecuted. But if you do get prosecuted the fines are not small, and the FCC tacks on “respect my authority!” fees too.  Get properly licensed and get on the air to practice.  It’s no different than the recommendation to gun owners to get training and practice.  You’ll learn to use the gear you have, be able to judge its usefulness and appropriateness for YOU, and to make changes if needed.

One of the biggest frustrations for new hams is getting a definitive gear recommendation. Experienced hams will almost always say “it depends” and “what do you want to do?” For preppers, it’s a lot easier. Start with the baofengs. Add a dual band mobile (in the car or on your desk) from the big 3. A good basic walkie or HT as hams say, is the Yaesu FT-60r.  Most will consider that an upgrade from the baofeng HTs.  Stay away from re-purposed public safety commercial radios until you’ve gotten farther along in the hobby, or unless someone local can set it up for you (and keep it up.)

In general, look for radios that can be programmed by pc with a cable. That will be WAY easier than doing it by hand. That said, I’ve got about 4 freqs programmed in my HT. How many more can you keep track of?

I hope that helped some, I’ve written 10’s of thousands of words on the subject here and in other blog comments.

n

 

(opinions are my own, correct me if I’m wrong, ask any questions you might have.)