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).

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:
–Canning and preserving
–Firearms maintenance
–Animal husbandry
–First aid
–Trapping, hunting, fishing
–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.

Dealing with feeling burned out

It happens to most if not all of us at some point or another. We’ve prepped and prepped for every contingency we can think of, yet there’s still so much more to do. You might start second guessing yourself.

Will 100lbs of salt be nearly enough?

How long will 200 gallons of water really last?

Will my food storage provide for the three months it is designed for?

It can get overwhelming and the stress piles up. We just get burned out on the whole thing.

When that happens, it is ok to take a break. Step back, take a few deep breaths, maybe go for a walk to clear your head a bit. Take a couple days off and relax. Rome wasn’t built in a day and you can’t possibly do it all at once.

The source for some of the stress is the idea that prepping is a one time thing. That somehow you’ll get to a point where there’s nothing left to do. This isn’t a math problem or a science project, where there is a distinct goal to achieve and then you’re done. Prepping is, or should be, more of a lifestyle. It is a mindset to acquire and utilize.

Truth is, you’re never done. There will always be more “stuff” you’ll want to get and more skills to learn and perfect. Then there’s the rotation of your supplies, ensuring you use it up before it goes bad.

The finish line in this marathon comes when disaster strikes and you’ll rely on your preps to see you and your family through. Until then, pace yourself so you’re able to make that final sprint at the end.

Surviving the Internet

We’ve talked in the past a bit about computer security. But given how pervasive the Internet is in our lives today, I thought I’d mention a few additional ways to protect yourself while online.

First, the lump of clay between your ears is your best and most important weapon. Use your head!

No, you did not win any foreign lottery.

No, nobody in Nigeria is really asking for your help in sneaking millions of dollars out of the country.

No, no one is going to pay you several thousands of dollars more than your asking price on that piece of crap car, if only you’ll cash their check and send back some of the extra money.

Listen, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably isn’t going to be the chicken that lays golden eggs. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. When you get emails or messages about that sort of stuff, just delete it and move on.

As for social networking sites like Facebook:

  • There is no video of the Osama Bin Laden raid for you to watch.
  • There is no special app that will show you what you’ll look like in 30 years.
  • No, you won’t see what the Dad saw when he walked in on his daughter.
  • There are no free iPads.
  • Stop clicking on links like those and exposing both yourself and your friends to viruses.

    If you receive an email supposedly from your bank or other financial institution and it gives you a link to log in to your account, don’t click on it. Go to the main site like you normally do and log in that way. No bank is EVER going to ask you in an email for your password, EVER!

    Above all, remember this. That which has been seen cannot be unseen. Be careful what you put in for search terms when you’re looking for something. Trust me, the nightmares aren’t worth the curiosity….

    Prepping for dogs

    As you store away food and supplies for your family, don’t forget your canine “children.” Dogs can be tremendous assets, helping you with security as well as companionship. But, you have to plan ahead to provide for them.

    Dogs are often able to drink questionable water with little detriment. How often have you seen them drink out of mud puddles and other outdoor sources without batting an eye? However, with that said please take their water needs into account as you store water.

    As for food, again they can often get by on stuff we’d rather not consume ourselves. Dry dog food can be stored, but not for more than maybe a year as the fats will go rancid. Best bet on that score is to rotate the stored food regularly. I’d suggest you don’t plan on feeding your pups solely through table scraps as you might not be in a position where you’ll have that luxury. Depending on the dog, he or she might be able to hunt for at least some of its own food. Rats, squirrels, and the like. Also consider stocking up on biscuits and treats.

    Bear in mind that many dogs will suffer some stomach issues when switching foods. If possible, it is best to gradually introduce a new food a little at a time, mixed with what they normally eat, over the course of a week or two. Slowly increase the ratio of new food to old until they get used to it.

    Don’t forget about meds, especially heartworm. Stock up as best you can. Flea and tick prevention would be a great idea as well. Talk to your vet about vitamin supplements too.

    Several retailers sell backpacks and such specifically made for dogs. If yours is a working breed, you might consider investing in one just in case you need to evacuate. Use the pack as a canine bug out bag — food, portable water dish, meds. If yours is primarily an indoor dog, you might also look into dog “booties” to protect his or her feet.

    Above all, remember that you are the alpha of your pack and, as such, your canines look to you for leadership as well as to provide for their needs. Don’t let them down.