Weekly assignment — Calculate water needs

This week’s assignment is going to be a bit of a pain in the butt. However, it will serve to open your eyes a bit. I want you to keep track of all the water your family uses for the next several days. Drinking, cooking, washing dishes, laundry, bathing, even toilet flushing.

Get a notebook and use one page each day. If you aren’t sure of the capacities of your water using appliances, estimate 27 gallons per load of laundry and 5 gallons per load of dishes in the dishwasher.

Don’t do anything differently from your normal routines. Use water like you normally would, just keep track of it. I think you’ll be surprised at how much water your family uses on a daily basis without even thinking about it.

FEMA and other agencies recommend you store at least one gallon of water per person per day. Now granted, you won’t likely be using your dishwasher or washing machine during a crisis. But, that one gallon probably won’t get you very far once you see the results of the water usage tracking you’ll do this week. Use these results to plan accordingly for your needs.

Prophecies and Predictions

Attention everyone! The world is going to end December 21, 2012!

Or wait, make that May 21, 2011.

Um, hold on, how about October 16, 2011?

Whether they are talking about the end of times as predicted in Revelations, a comet getting too close to Earth, pole shift, or just some sort of galactic reset button being hit, predicting the end of the world has become a rather popular cottage industry online.

The only safe bet is the world will indeed end…someday. Beyond that, no one can possibly know with absolute certainty exactly when.

For me personally, I’m Christian. The Bible tells me know man shall know the hour nor the day. Therefore, any time I see hard dates being predicted, I breathe easy knowing those particular days are all but guaranteed to be nice and quiet.

Another reason I don’t mind all these various and sundry predictions is they might give some people that final little nudge they need to start prepping. Ok, I’ll admit perhaps they end up prepping under false pretenses but, as far as I’m concerned, anything that gets folks off their butts and learning skills, stockpiling supplies, and looking for ways to protect their families is just fine in my book. If a family starts prepping because Daddy thinks the Haldon Collider is going to open a dimensional rift, allowing demons to invade Earth, and those preps end up actually being used to save lives during the aftermath of a hurricane, I’m cool with that.

Of course, the downside to these predictions is they have the effect of portraying survivalists and preppers as Class 1000 Whack Jobs. Naturally, that makes it all the more difficult to convince family and friends that they should do something to prepare for emergencies. They hear you talking about putting aside a few weeks worth of food and instantly think of an old guy, scraggly beard, walking up and down the street with a sign saying, “The End is Nigh!” Not much you can do to counteract that though. What I do is readily acknowledge the fringe element is pretty “out there” but the fact of the matter is, we have natural disasters all over the world, every single day. Some huge, some small, but all have an impact and many can be mitigated by preparing properly.

Like I always say though, you can lead a person to knowledge but you can’t make them think.

The takeaway here is, don’t buy into all these various end of the world predictions at the drop of a hat. Do your own research and make your own conclusion as to how realistic the prediction is. Use that lump between your ears for something more than a hat rack.

Don’t put off medical issues

Few of us enjoy going to the doctor, right? The poking, the prodding, the embarrassing questions, and that’s just in the waiting room! Not really anything we look forward to.

Here’s the thing, though. Let’s say you have an as-yet-undiagnosed problem. Some nagging pain or something you just keep putting off making an appointment to get checked out. Might be nothing, probably IS nothing. But, what if it isn’t? Take it a step further, let’s say it is something serious. It probably won’t get any better without some form of treatment.

You know all that, right? But, consider this. Add in a sudden lack of convenient medical care. You lose your job and with it your medical insurance. Or some natural disaster strikes, leaving you without the use of a doctor’s office for weeks, maybe months. And that pain keeps getting worse, impairing your ability to perform even reasonably simple tasks like chopping firewood.

Now what?

Don’t put off taking care of medical concerns. If you have health care available to you, use it. There might come a day when that health care becomes unavailable. There is no medical malady where it is better to find it later rather than sooner.

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….

    Weekly assignment — Home safety

    Every Monday I will give you a weekly assignment. This homework is designed to keep you thinking about preparedness and working toward it. No one will be looking over your shoulder to make sure you complete each week’s assignment. But, by following along and completing the tasks, you’ll be all the better for it.

    This week, I’d like to have all my readers check their home safety equipment. All the preps you have stored won’t do you much good if your house burns down, right?

    Start with your smoke detectors. Check the batteries and make sure they all work as they should. You should have one smoke detector in the kitchen, at least one in the basement, and one on each level of your home. Putting one near the bedrooms is advisable as well.

    If you don’t have a carbon monoxide detector, get one ASAP. Place it near your furnace area.

    Every home should have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. Keep it under your sink or somewhere else you can access it easily. If you already have one, check the expiration date on it and get a new one if need be.

    You should also have a list of important emergency phone numbers near your phone. If you’re one of those who only have cell service and no land lines, make sure you have those numbers programmed in your cell. Police, fire, rescue, poison control, as well as your immediate neighbors.

    Please comment below with how you did with this assignment.

    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.

    Square foot gardening

    Many of my readers are likely to be familiar with square foot gardening. But for those of you new to the idea, here are the nuts and bolts of this great space saving way to garden.

    Mel Bartholomew is probably the most recognized proponent of this garden system. I can’t say for sure whether he invented it or not but he’s written about it extensively. You can find his book(s) in just about any library and I recommend them.

    The basic idea is to plant a large amount of stuff in a relatively small space. Each garden bed is sectioned off into, you guessed it, square feet. Each square is devoted to a plant or group of plants. Ideally, the plants in one bed will complement one another, either by positioning them so they aren’t shaded by their taller neighbors or by the time it takes the plants to grow.

    Raised beds are ideal for this method. We made ours from 2″ x 12″ cedar planks. If you’re growing vegetables, it is best to avoid treated lumber, but you do need something that is rot resistant. The simplest way is to just make a square, four feet on each side. Nail or screw the boards together, put the bed where you want it, and fill the box with soil. Some sources recommend putting down a weed barrier first.

    Using raised beds like this is great for areas with poor soil. You can easily add soil amendments like compost to the dirt in the boxes, working it in so it is thoroughly mixed.

    Another advantage is you can leave space around all four sides of your beds, making it easy to weed as well as harvest when the time comes. You won’t have to trample the soil to be able to reach the plants.

    Also, for those like me who live in northern climes, you might find it necessary to cover the seedlings at night until the weather truly warms up. It is very easy to drape your covering over boxes like this and just weigh down the edges with rocks or bricks to keep it from blowing away.

    For plants that climb, such as beans, adding a trellis to one side of the box is very easy.

    In his books and found elsewhere online are lists of veggies that do very well with this system, as well as planting guides to show you how many seeds of each variety should be planted in a given square.

    Unless you live someplace where you have zero access to the outdoors, there is no reason you can’t adapt this system to your location.

    Water procurement in urban settings

    Just as in a home in the country, there are a few “hidden” sources of water in an apartment. First, the moment you discover the potential for loss of water pressure, fill your bathtub. Use only the cold water tap so you don’t drain your water heater. You could go a step further and get a special large bladder you can fill and leave in the bathtub. The advantage of this is it will prevent dust and bugs from landing in what would otherwise be open water. In a pinch, use the shower curtain liner to drape over the filled tub. Either way, you can store about 60 or so gallons this way.

    Go downstairs and see if you have access to the water heater. If so, buy a cheap garden hose to attach to the drain AFTER water becomes an issue. Depending on the size of your water heater, this will give you maybe 30 or so gallons.

    Obviously, it rains in the city just like it does out in the sticks. The trick is to figure out how to capture it. A little ingenuity with some plastic gutters coupled with a rain barrel and you can be in business collecting rainwater on your porch/patio.

    Many older buildings might still have large tanks of water on the roof. It may also be possible to drain water sitting in the sprinkler systems of buildings, but this is ONLY FOR EXTREME SITUATIONS.

    No matter where you live, you should have several different methods to filter and purify water on hand at all times.