Yellowstone Supervolcano

The past few days, I’ve been reading Ashfall by Mike Mullin. Once I’ve finished it, I’ll be sure to review it here but suffice to say, unless it takes a hard right turn into crapville, this book is easily among my top five favorites for the year. The plot centers around what happens with a few main characters after the Yellowstone Caldera blows.

Most of my readers are probably aware that Yellowstone sits upon a very large volcanic region. A caldera is formed when a volcano empties itself of stored magma so quickly, the surrounding land basically collapses into the crater previously occupied by the molten rock. The last eruption of the so-called Yellowstone Supervolcano was about 640,000 years ago. Many experts believe we are way overdue for another eruption.

What will happen when it blows? Simply put, the end of life as we currently know it. The last time, it shot about 240 cubic miles of dirt and ash into the air. This debris eventually covered over half of the continental United States. Today, it would likely wipe out much of the breadbasket of the country. The skies would be dark for quite some time, due to all the debris in the air, and thus have a negative impact on gardens and crops everywhere.

The climate would change as well, becoming much colder for a while, perhaps as much as a 21’F decline in annual temps. The sulfur and other elements in the debris jetted into the atmosphere would bring acid rain for months, even years.

Thousands of people would be immediately killed due to lava and ash falls. Millions more would likely perish in the days and weeks to follow, whether from breathing difficulties brought about by the ash in the air, famine, or disease.

Now, with all that said, how likely is it that the Yellowstone Supervolcano will erupt in our lifetime? Hard to say with any degree of accuracy. Scientists say it is all but certain it will happen in the next 100,000 years. But even that large of a time frame is not much in the grand scheme of things. If you liken Earth’s geological history to the average lifespan of a man, 100,000 years is like 40 minutes or so.

It isn’t a matter of if, it is just a matter of when, just like so many of the other threats we prep for every day.

Dumpster Diving

For the few out there who might be unfamiliar with the term, dumpster diving refers to the act of going through trash to find treasure, in a matter of speaking. There are basically two types of dumpster diving, residential and commercial.

The night before garbage day, take a walk around your neighborhood. Odds are you’ll see all sorts of stuff put out with the trash, from scrap lumber to old electronics. In most areas, it is not considered stealing if you are taking items placed out for trash collection. I’d avoid the recyclables though as some communities are touchy about that. As always though, be sure to check your local ordinances to be sure you aren’t breaking any laws when trash picking. I’ve known folks who have found TVs, VCRs, DVD players, stereos, and other goodies that work perfectly fine or only needed minor repairs. They either kept the items for their own use or sold them for a few bucks. Lumber can always be used for firewood if nothing else.

Always be absolutely certain the items you want to take are indeed being placed out for garbage pick up. I know my own kids have a habit of leaving their bikes and skateboards at the end of the driveway where someone might think we’re just tossing them out.

When it comes to commercial dumpsters, that’s where things can get tricky. It is absolutely crucial you get permission from the business before even approaching the dumpsters. Be sure you are speaking with a manager or owner and politely inquire about the pallets, milk crates, or whatever. If they say no, move on. Quite often, businesses use the dumpster area not just for trash but for outside storage.

No matter where you go dumpster diving, here are some tips:

–Always leave the area looking better than it did when you arrived. Strewing trash all about not only guarantees you won’t be allowed back but you’ve also ruined it for the next person.

–Wear protective gear. Leather gloves, thick soled boots, goggles are all necessary. Saving money by scavenging old pallets does you no good if you have to turn around and pay for a tetanus shot.

–Unless you have a very good reason otherwise, avoid taking any food items. Sure, grocery stores and such will occasionally throw out perfectly good canned food but often there’s a reason why it is being tossed.

–Watch out for rats and other vermin. This is particularly true in urban environments but you’ll find them pretty much anywhere.

Any of my readers here have any stories of great stuff they’ve found in the past?

Don’t forget comfort food

As you continue adding to your food storage, don’t underestimate the importance of comfort foods. These are the things that might not have much in the way of hard, nutritional value but are tasty and can often help calm nerves because they are familiar.

While these items are important in any food storage plan, they are particularly useful when you have children in your family. Any parent knows the frustration of getting their kids to try new foods, right? Add in a stressful emergency situation and any iota of interest they may have had in trying something new goes out the window.

Many comfort foods aren’t intended for long-term storage. Instead, these are for those “everyday” emergencies like power outages.

Here are some suggested comfort foods to keep on hand.

Popcorn — both bagged “pre-popped” and old fashioned kernels if you have a way to make them without a microwave.

Candy — chocolate, candy bars, hard candy, gum. For myself, this would almost have to include Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Granola bars — marginally healthier than candy bars and will help satisfy a sweet tooth.

Chips — potato, nacho, whatever. Something crunchy and salty.

Nuts — Personally, I love honey roasted cashews.

Drink mixes — Here, I’m not talking about pre-mixed margarita but stuff like instant juice, Kool-Aid, lemonade, that sort of thing. A cup of hot cocoa would be great on a cold winter day. We buy the large “commercial” size canisters of hot cocoa mix and always have at least a couple on hand.

Again, the idea here isn’t to live off this stuff for days on end. Instead, these are treats to be doled out during a crisis to help calm nerves and reduce stress.

What comfort foods would you include on your list?

Black Friday Recap

Well, I once again ventured out this year on Black Friday. Unlike years past, I didn’t have a huge list though. Just a few things here and there that were priced right and worth my time. I’ve been doing the Black Friday thing for seventeen years now. This was the first year in all that time that I actually felt uneasy about my shopping experience. I was at my local Walmart a little before 10pm Thanksgiving night, as that is when the first round of sales started. I have never in all my life seen that large of a crowd in any store. People were literally shoulder to shoulder throughout many areas of the store and many of them were just plain mean!

Why did I stick it out and get what was I there to buy? Well first, turning around and leaving would mean giving up. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, I know, but still the principle applies. Second, I thought it would be sort of an interesting way to do a “dry run” in case there ever were a major catastrophe headed our way. This type of crowd is exactly what you’d see in stores if word got out that a meteor was truly headed our way or something.

How did I make out? I got what I was there for, so that part was a success I guess. And I was able to do so without my wife needing to post bail for me either. But, I’ll tell you, if you have any inkling in your survival plan of heading to your local Walmart to stock up quickly before an emergency, forget about it! Get your preps in place now so you don’t have to make that last minute run. I saw enough hostility from folks who were there buying cheap video games. I can just imagine what they’d be like if they were there for food they felt they’d need to outlast a disaster.

I’m tellin’ ya, people are getting crazier and crazier. I’d advise you all to be extra watchful this holiday season. Desperation makes good people turn ugly in a hurry.

This Tactical Shoulder Bag Fits Alot of Gear

Despite the fact that this blog is inherently part of a website where we sell various items of interest to the survivalist and prepper, I rarely ever mention any specific products. There’s a reason for this. The purpose of this blog is not to just be a running advertisement for the company. Ideally, the hope is that you come to the blog, read something worthwhile, then end up perusing the store for things you may need or want.

In fact, now that I’m thinking about it, I cannot recall a single blog post in the entire year that I’ve been doing this that I’ve more than made a passing mention about a product or two.

With all that said though, I really wanted to spotlight a new pack we’re selling. I badgered Steve for months to find something like this that was both affordable and did not skimp on quality.

I received my Tactical Shoulder Bag last week and I have to say, it is just all sorts of awesome! Very good quality, well built, and rugged enough for whatever you want to do with it. Tons of pockets to keep your supplies organized. The water bottle pouch is large enough to handle the bottle with an internal filter I use. It is Molle compatible as well.

While it isn’t large enough to fully replace a well stocked Get Home Bag, it is a great addition to your overall survival supplies. It is perfect for taking along on hikes and day trips, full of your “just in case” equipment. It is quite comfortable even loaded to the gills. All told, I give it very high marks!

The Importance of Good Health

Could your body handle the stresses of an extended emergency situation right now? When was the last time you had to chop firewood? Haul water in buckets? Walk more than a half-mile?

I think most of us, myself included, could stand to lose a few pounds and get in better shape. While I am fairly active, were I to have to spend a few days without any modern conveniences, I’d certainly be feeling it in the mornings. Used to be, my wife and I would go on long walks around town. It was a nice way to spend some alone time with each other as well as get a little exercise. I think we’re going to start doing that again.

A healthy body is not only better capable to handle the physical tasks that become necessary during and after an emergency, it also is better able to cope with the psychological stresses. If you get winded walking from the kitchen to the bedroom, what do you think will happen when your already elevated heart rate spikes during an adrenaline rush?

This time of year, we tend to worry less about our waistlines and more about getting that second (or third) piece of cheesecake. There are parties with friends, with families, and with coworkers. It seems as though every time you turn around, someone has placed a platter of cookies in the break room, right? Cakes, pies, not to mention turkey, ham, and all the trimmings grace our dinner tables.

I’ve decided this year, my Christmas present to myself is to get in better shape. Round is not the shape I’m after either. Just a little more physical exercise, coupled with cutting out bit of my daily junk food intake, and I should start seeing results fairly quick. I’m not looking to become ripped and cut enough to grace the cover of Men’s Health magazine. I just want to be better able to provide for the safety and security of those I love.

Who’s with me?

TALK to your kids

As I’ve mentioned several times on this blog, I believe a prepping mindset includes not only disasters large and small but also safety and security in daily life. Recently, my wife and I sat down with our kids and talked a bit about the Penn State scandal. Not in any great detail, mind you, due to their ages. But, we felt it was important to discuss the topic a bit and use it to illustrate the importance of believing they can come to us about anything.

What happened at Penn State is absolutely horrific and I honestly believe they’ve just scratched the surface of what all transpired over the last couple decades or more. From my understanding, at least some of the victims came from broken homes or were otherwise in situations where they felt they had no one in whom to confide.

If you have children, grandchildren, or even nieces or nephews with whom you are close, I feel it is imperative they know they can talk to you about anything, no matter how potentially embarrassing or uncomfortable. Children who become victims of abuse often feel they have no where to turn, no one who will believe them or protect them. That is absolutely inexcusable and cannot be tolerated.

Talk to your kids every day. Ask them about what is happening in their lives. Offer advice when they are having trouble. Let them know you are there for them.

We’ve discussed “stranger danger” with our kids at length. We’ve also talked about inappropriate touching and all that. But, the other day we also talked about what to do if they hear about something happening with a friend or classmate. To my mind, one of the truly horrid details of the Penn State scandal is how an adult allegedly stumbled upon the abuse as it was happening…and did virtually nothing about it. And how others were made aware of the situation and again did nothing. These poor kids were victimized again and again, over and over, at every stage of the game.

We’ve stressed to our kids that if they hear about abuse happening to someone, to say something. To us, if no one else. We’ve assured them that we will do everything in our power to make sure it doesn’t continue.

Our kids are born loving us unconditionally. The very least we can do is return the favor. Talk to them and, just as important, listen to what they have to say.

Please, if you are the praying type of person, bow your head and say a few words asking your Higher Power to grant those victims strength to get through what will almost assuredly be a stage of their life just as difficult as they went through as children.

Layering for warmth

One of my readers here asked me to talk a little about layering. The idea behind layering for warmth is to trap dead air between your body and the outside world. This provides insulation and keeps you warm.

Layering your clothing also gives you a better ability to regulate your comfort. If all you have is a flannel shirt and a heavy parka, you won’t have a lot of “middle ground.” The parka might cause you to get overheated if you’re working outside, but removing it exposes you to dangerous cold, especially if you’ve been sweating as you work.

Where I live and work, winter temps of well below zero are the norm. Seeing wind chills of -20 or more aren’t all that uncommon. Here’s what I typically wear during those cold snaps.

–Long johns
–Cargo pants
–Flannel shirt
–Thick socks
–Hooded, fleece lined sweatshirt
–Knit hat
–Thick coat/parka

If it gets really frigid, I’ll replace the knit hat with a fleece balaclava. Then, while I’m working outside and start to get too warm, I’ll remove the coat. The hat might come off as well, depending on the weather. These different layers keep me much warmer than would just a pair of snow pants and a parka.

Incidentally, this principle works just as well with your home. If you have drafty windows like I do, but can’t afford to replace them like I can’t, first cover them with plastic. You know, those little packages you can buy at hardware stores where you put double sided tape along the window frame, then use a hair dryer to shrink the plastic once it is applied. During the day, leave the curtains open to allow sunlight in, which will not only help warm the room but it warms that dead air between the glass window and the plastic sheet. When applied properly, these do work pretty well.

You might also crawl up into your attic and check the insulation. If critters get into your attic from time to time, you might find out they’ve moved the insulation around, leaving large gaps. You want the insulation to cover all of the attic floor for best results.

Do what you can now to be prepared for the winter chill. I’ve been saying for a while now that I think it is going to be a brutal season this year.

Now’s the time to stock up on food storage

Between now and Christmas, you’re going to see some really good sales on various food items. Take advantage of these sales to bulk up your food storage.

With the holiday season approaching, many folks are looking at parties and family dinners. This being the case, most grocery stores start using staple items as what are called loss leaders. These are things the store is selling at or below their cost, just to get you in the door and hopefully sell you other stuff. So, turkeys for example will start selling at $0.48/lb or maybe even less. Spend six or seven bucks and you’ll have a pretty good size turkey. After it is cooked, you could can the meat itself or use it to make soups and such, freezing or canning it in smaller amounts.

Baking staples like flour and sugar will go down to mere pennies. Pick up a few pounds of each and store them in tightly lidded containers. Toss ’em into the freezer for a few days first so as to kill any potential bugs that might have found their way into the packages.

Canned and frozen veggies also typically go on sale this time of year. Obviously the canned ones are pretty much ready for storage as is. The frozen veggies can be canned up as well.

Shopping these types of seasonal sales is a great way to stretch your prepping budget. If you watch the sale ads closely and pay attention, you can easily spend not much more than say $15.00 and get enough food to feed a family of five for a week.

Well, that test was a dud!

Apparently there are still some kinks to the emergency alert system that need to be worked out. I’ve heard many people say they either never heard the alarm test at all or they did hear something but it was so garbled they couldn’t make out anything that was said. All of those reports are from folks who were listening to the alert on their local radio stations. I’ve not heard from anyone yet who saw anything on either regular or cable TV stations.

So, what does this mean? Obviously, back to the drawing board for FEMA, Department of Homeland Security, and the other agencies involved. But, even if the system were functioning at 100%, you should still have your own alert system in place.

What you want to do is come up with a workable system for your situation where if someone in your family or retreat group is made aware of an imminent threat, that information can be communicated to everyone rapidly. For some, this might mean a good, old fashioned phone tree. For those not familiar, the way that works is each person in your group is assigned two or three people they are to call in an emergency. So, if I get a call about a terrorist attack, I call Steve, Jeff, and Bob. Each of those guys has a list of three other people they are to call and so on. As has been seen during many recent disasters, even if the phone providers get overwhelmed, text messages often still go through.

Another possibility is to set up distribution lists via email. Any one person can blast a message out to everyone in the group that way. Obviously, this presupposes the continued availability of the Internet.

If you have group members who are ham radio licensed, take advantage of that and be sure to include them in your alert plans.

The point is, as we saw today, we cannot rely on the government to get the word out to us in a reliable manner…at least not yet.