2011 Survival & Preparedness Conference Recap

As I’ve blathered on about several times here leading up to the event, the 2011 Survival & Preparedness Conference was this past weekend in Dallas.

It…was…AWESOME!

I wasn’t able to sit in on all of the presentations, unfortunately, due to giving my own talks. But, I learned a ton of great information on plasticulture, escape and evasion tactics, sheltering in place, family preparedness, and wild edibles, among other topics. One of the many highlights of the weekend was meeting one of my idols, Dr. Bruce Clayton.

Just as important as the learning was the chance to meet and interact with some really great people. The attendees really ran the entire spectrum, from young guys in their late teens/early twenties to folks in their seventies.

I’d like to personally thank each and every one of my readers here who attended the conference. If you had even half the amount of fun I did, you’ll agree it was worth the trip.

In the next day or two, I’ll have a few photos to share. Haven’t had time just yet to download them from the camera.

Weekly Assignment — Memorial Day

I’m posting this early as I fly out for the 2011 Survival & Preparedness Conference Friday and won’t return home until late Monday.

This is Memorial Day weekend. A time of fun, parades, cookouts, and family gatherings for the most part. However, this also brings the absolute most important assignment I will ever give you in this blog.

Sometime this weekend, I want you to find a veteran, look them square in the eye, shake their hand, and thank them for their service to this country. I don’t care what branch they served with, when they served, or for how long. Every veteran deserves our undying gratitude for their service.

To all the veterans reading this blog, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your sacrifice to keep our country free.

Walking sticks

A good walking stick can serve many uses when forced to travel on foot. For example:

It can be an effective self-defense weapon.

You can lash a knife to the end to make a crude but useful spear for hunting.

It can be lashed between two trees to serve as a cross-brace in a lean-to shelter.

It can be used to gauge the depth of small streams to judge crossing safety. Check the depth of snow drifts as well.

It can provide extra leverage when walking uphill.

You need not go out and spend a ton of money on anything fancy either. Head to your local hardware or home improvement store. Get a wood dowel 48″ long x 1.25″ thick. Shouldn’t probably cost you more than about five bucks. If you want to make it look pretty, you could paint/stain it or even use a wood burner to create designs on it.

I keep mine in my trunk alongside my GHB (Get Home Bag).

Display your house number

A friend of mine who works as an EMT and has also been a firefighter in the past asked me to bring up this topic. In the event you need to call 911, seconds count. Please make sure your house number is clearly marked in a location easy to see from the street. Time and again, these emergency crews expend crucial ticks of the clock trying to determine which house it is where they are needed.

If possible during an emergency, send someone outside to the end of the driveway to flag down the rescue squad, police, and/or fire crews.

With that said though, let’s say you’re home alone and suffer an injury. You are able to get to the phone and dial 911 but are unable to carry on a conversation with the dispatcher. Standard protocol is to send out a police officer to investigate 911 hang ups or 911 calls where the caller isn’t responding to the dispatcher. The 911 system is set up such that they can automatically trace the call to your address. But, don’t make them have to hunt for your house. Display your house number on your mailbox at the minimum, preferably also on or near your front door. Use reflective numbers and letters so it is easy to read at night.

End of the world movies

While I don’t watch nearly as many movies today as I used to, I do greatly enjoy munching popcorn while I watch the end of the world from the comfort of my couch. Here is a small smattering of those movies I particularly enjoyed. I’d love to hear your own favorites as well. Leave your top ten or whatever in the comments below.

Night of the Comet — a total guilty pleasure of mine, I freely admit. Zombies run amok in the late 1980s, complete with Valley Girls, mall hair, and pastel prints.

Red Dawn — I saw this when it first hit theaters and couldn’t possibly count how many times since. While there is a remake in the works, there is no way it could hold up to this classic.

The Day After — this miniseries scared the pants off of me when it aired. I was 12 at the time and couldn’t look away for even a second. It holds up surprisingly well almost 30 years later.

Road Warrior — there’s no way this list could be complete without Max making the cut.

2012 — I know lots of folks hated this movie but I really enjoyed it. But, I am also a fan of John Cusak so that might account for some of it.

The Day After Tomorrow — again, not a lot of people count this as a favorite but I liked it a lot.

Resident Evil — I really like this series overall, though the second film is my favorite thus far.

The Walking Dead — I love, love, LOVE this series and am anxiously awaiting the second season later this year.

Zombieland — Just loads of good fun.

So, what are your favorites?

Storm Damage

Let me preface this blog entry by asking everyone to say a prayer for the folks in and around Joplin, MO. I’ve seen several photos of the devastation there and my heart goes out to all of those folks affected there.

We had just a bit of storm damage here as well.

My wife and I actually watched this tree as it came down. It is an old box elder tree, the last of what was originally five trunks growing together. Here’s a close up of the damage it did to the neighbor’s fence. For perspective, that fence is six feet tall.

Luckily, the tree missed our house by about fifteen feet. The other good news is the neighbor is going to let us keep most of the wood once we get it all cut up. Unfortunately, box elder is kind of crap wood for burning but hey, it is free, right?

Now, thankfully this fell in our backyard and thus it isn’t a huge issue in terms of needing to remove the tree immediately. But, what if a tree were to come down across your driveway? Would you have equipment on hand to be able to remove it? Or at least clear enough of it away to be able to get a car out?

It is important to have on hand wood cutting equipment like chainsaws, bow saws, and loppers. Being able to “attack” this tree quickly means we can get it done and move on, rather than waiting for a tree removal service. After a storm like this, those businesses are going to be rather busy and it could be a while before they make it to you. Better to have the means to take care of it yourself if at all possible.

Building the home library

As I may have mentioned a time or two in previous posts here, I’m something of a bibliophile. Truth be told, I have way more books that I probably need. But, I’m comforted in the fact that the knowledge contained within these volumes will serve me well if/when the world does go all topsy-turvy.

If you haven’t done so already, I highly recommend all preppers build up a survival library. No one can possibly have all knowledge they may ever need just in their head. Odds are pretty good the Internet won’t be available for consultation either.

The survival library should contain reference materials on:
–Gardening
–Canning and preserving
–Firearms maintenance
–Animal husbandry
–First aid
–Trapping, hunting, fishing
–Tracking
–Wild game preparation
–Wild edibles
–Home repair (carpentry, plumbing, electrical)
–Small engine repair
–Alternative energy systems
–Sewing and clothing repair

…and probably about a dozen other topics I’m forgetting right now.

In addition, I also suggest you have on hand books and materials to facilitate the education of children — math, science, history, and language arts at the minimum.

If you are even remotely religious, make sure you add in the appropriate texts and other materials for study.

Don’t forget the fun stuff too like novels and anthologies. Personally, if I never bought another book I’d probably have enough reading material to last me several years.

Now, where can you find all this stuff cheaply? Used bookstores, library sales, thrift stores, rummage sales, Freecycle, Craigslist, and Amazon.com all immediately come to mind. What I often do is toss a particular title on my Amazon wish list as a reminder to look for it when I’m out haunting the used bookstores and such. While I’m on Amazon, I also make a point of checking out other recommended books it gives me based on the one I’m currently viewing. I’ve found some really great books that way.

Book review — Ultimate Guide to Wilderness Living

Ultimate Guide to Wilderness Living by John and Geri McPherson

The McPhersons are well known as experts in bushcraft and wilderness survival. Their approach is very natural, often using absolutely no man-made tools. They’ve learned by doing, spending years perfecting their skills. In this book, they share this knowledge with the reader in an entertaining and engaging style.

From getting a fire going with a drill to making tools from bones and stones, they lead the reader through the process step-by-step. The writing style is relatively informal, which really works here. As you read the book, you feel as though John and Geri are at your side, guiding you along the way. They readily admit mistakes they’ve made over the years and share them with you in hopes of keeping history from repeating itself.

One of the many areas where this book shines is the instructions on making food gathering tools, like the venerable bow and arrow. This section alone is worth the price of admission, in my estimation. John and Geri go into exquisite detail on this somewhat complicated process. Various traps and snares are given equal attention, which is very helpful. Many similar books give just a passing glance at traps, usually accompanied by a single line drawing of each trap, if the reader is lucky.

This book is heavily illustrated throughout, with both photos and drawings. This leads me to the only drawback of the book, in my opinion. Some of the photos, being black and white, aren’t as clear as I’d have liked. The details get lost in the grayness with some of the photos. However, this is not insurmountable as many of those same photos are accompanied by detailed line drawings to help the reader understand what is being illustrated.

All in all, if you have even a passing interest in learning woodcraft, this would be THE book I’d recommend.

Learning wilderness skills

First of all, I’d like to congratulate Chloe as the youngest graduate of Dave Canterbury’s Pathfinder Basics Class! At 9 years old, she already has the basic wilderness survival skills the vast majority of adults lack. Congratulations, Chloe, you rock!

Everyone interested in preparedness should have at least a basic, fundamental level of proficiency with bushcraft and wilderness skills. These would include making fire, survival shelters, and foraging. The idea isn’t so much that you can just walk into the woods with nothing more than a Swiss Army knife and survive for years on end. Rather, these skills are meant to supplement your stockpiled supplies, your bug out bag, and your other emergency gear.

As should be evident by now, I have little little patience for those whose plans for a crisis consist primarily of going “Rambo” out in the wilderness. There are very, very few people who could likely pull that off for any considerable length of time and most of those folks wouldn’t want to do it if there was a better alternative. Living entirely off the land out in the bush is hard, hard work. Most of your time is spent just acquiring food, let alone working on your shelter, keeping firewood handy, and doing the innumerable other tasks that need to be done on a daily basis.

That said though, skills are something that can’t be taken away from you. You can’t lose them like you could a pack of matches. They might get rusty if you don’t use them regularly but they are still there. If you’re forced to bug out on foot and you’ve already used your last match, those skills will give you the ability to still make a fire to keep warm. Those skills will fill your belly when you’ve eaten your last pack of ramen noodles. Those skills will keep you on the right path as you navigate to your bug out location.

Those skills will keep you alive.