Don’t Be So Defensive!

Preppers and survivalists have been much maligned in the media over the years. Seems like if we’re not being called domestic terrorists, we’re being called utter whack jobs. Even as we’re seeing more and more attention being focused on prepping, through shows like Doomsday Preppers and such, we still feel at times that we’re just being ridiculed.

And, to be honest, after seeing Doomsday Preppers, most of those folks are really not the people I want representing me in the media.

So, it stands to reason that from time to time when the subject comes up, we get a bit touchy. An offhanded comment by a coworker about “those tin foil hat wearing ‘survivalists’ (complete with air quotes)” is enough to set our teeth on edge. Occasionally, we might make a fervent wish that if a comet were to hit Earth, it lands right in our coworkers living room.

For many of us, prepping is just part of who we are. It is almost ingrained in our DNA like hair and eye colors. Sure, we might feel a bit slighted when we hear someone poking fun at survivalists. That’s normal. But, stop being so defensive about it. There’s little to be gained by pointing your finger at them and hollering, “Yeah? Well when the next pandemic rolls around, don’t come knocking on MY door for help!”

Some people just don’t get it. You can play “Facts vs. Volume” all day long with them and they aren’t going to change their minds. Don’t waste your time or energy on it. Just keep on keepin’ on, knowing you’re doing the right thing, the prudent thing, by prepping for come what may.

However, if someone does show some interest in learning more about the subject, do everything you can to encourage them. Believe it or not, there are a lot of people out there who are genuinely curious about prepping. They mean absolutely no harm by asking questions. Take the time to discuss their concerns and give them advice if you can. We were all newbies, once upon a time.

Diversifying Your Food Storage

When planning your long-term food storage plan, it is important to not concentrate on any one type of supply and instead spread out. In other words, don’t rely strictly upon canned goods purchased at the grocery store or just have buckets of rice and beans socked away for a rainy day.

Let’s look at the different options available to you.

1) Commercial canned goods: These are the canned food products you can buy at the grocery store. Veggies, fruit, and meat for the most part. Relatively inexpensive, moderate shelf life. The good thing is you can find these pretty much anywhere and picking up just a couple cans every time you go shopping won’t be a huge expense. The bad thing is if you are used to eating fresh food, canned veggies in particular will sometimes taste…off. The food can also get a bit mushy over time. In a crisis, that may not matter a whole lot though.

2) MREs and other pouch foods: Many of these taste great and are full of nutrition. But they are expensive. Buying them online is often cheaper than in the sporting goods department of your local retailer. These are great to have on hand for a short-term emergency but are usually too expensive to stockpile for a long-term solution to food needs.

3) Buckets of beans and rice: Very inexpensive and when stored properly will last years. Mix in a bit of meat and/or vegetables and you have a meal that will keep a belly full for a while. But, for those not accustomed to such meals, rice and beans two or three times a day can get old quick. Sure, you’ll survive but appetite fatigue may set in quickly.

4) Freeze-dried foods: These last darn near forever when stored properly and will provide quite a bit of variety for meals. But, they can be sort of pricey and for those not used to eating them, there may be a bit of a learning curve until the system gets used to the new food.

If you are planning for an extreme long-term event, you also need to look toward producing your own food through gardening and such. While even as long as a year or two is doable when it comes to food storage, stocking enough to provide for a family of four beyond that length of time may be a bit tough. Not impossible, just not a piece of cake.

As with any other aspect of prepping, I shy away from putting all my eggs in one basket. For food storage, diversify your preps. Have some canned goods and pouch foods for short-term emergencies as well as buckets of beans, rice, and freeze-dried goods for long-term use. Add heirloom seeds and other necessities for providing your own food further down the road.

Recognizing Value

Hypothetical scenario: It is three weeks since “The Event.” Society has collapsed and it isn’t coming back any time soon. While you are all set on food and water for quite some time to come, you’ve decided to head into what remains of town to see what might still be salvageable. Obviously, food, water, and basic first aid supplies will probably be long gone. Would you recognize the value in some of the items folks will probably have left behind?

Aluminum foil: Hundreds of uses, from cooking to building a Kearny Fallout Meter.

Crayons: Not too bad to use for making candles.

Dental floss: Like the foil, tons of uses in addition to keeping your gums healthy.

Toothbrushes, toothpaste: If your local police department isn’t taking calls anymore, you really think your dentist is lining up appointments?

Tarps: Expedient tents as well as other uses.

Plastic sheeting: Great for making hoop houses and small greenhouses.

Zip ties: Great for everything from securing wrists to fencing.

Shoes: How many pair do you have for each person at home right now?

Potting soil and soil amendments: In most parts of the country, these are of course seasonal items. But, should you need to expand your gardens, these may come in handy.

Pool shock: For water purification.

Charcoal briquettes: Sure, you can cook without them but nice to have, just in case.

What else?

Keeping Your Sanity

Depending upon the nature of the disaster, you may end up with long stretches of down time on your hands. For example, if you have quarantined your family during a pandemic crisis, you and your family will quickly be going stir crazy. It is a good idea to plan ahead for this potential scenario.

While most families probably have a handful of board games and such, odds are you’ve played them hundreds of times already. Further, if you have kids, there is a good chance they’ll have outgrown those games by the time they are truly needed. While you might get away with a round of Chutes and Ladders with your teenager, just for nostalgia, that would be truly an ideal situation. More likely, you’ll be subjected to assault by eye-rolling at the mere suggestion of it.

Here are a few suggestions of things to stock up on for family entertainment.

Books: Personally, our family has enough books on hand right now to last us probably at least a few years of steady reading. But, that’s because I’m a rabid bibliophile who has never met a used bookstore he didn’t like. One great place to find books very cheap is thrift stores. Even better prices are usually found at rummage sales.

Games: Used board games can be found very cheap but you’ll want to make sure you have all the necessary pieces. In fact, I’d bet if you posted to your local Freecycle group that you’re looking for old board games, you’ll end up with more than you need. Don’t forget things like decks of cards too.

Craft supplies: Kids generally love crafts. Colored pencils, crayons, blank paper, and glue will all go far. In fact, toss a pair of dice in the mix and let them create their own board games!

Music: While you may not have access to electricity and thus cd and mp3 players might not be working, your family could work on making their own music. Pick up some instruments at rummage sales and set them aside for later. Consider adding some instruction books as well as sheet music.

Movies: If electricity is still working, you could set up movie marathons to pass the time. While new releases are still sort of pricey, you can find older stuff on DVD for under $5 each if you shop around. Pick up a couple here and there and you’ll be all set for later.

Remember, in a long term power outage in the dead of winter, you’ll be warmer if everyone stays in the same room. Close off doors to help keep body heat from drifting away. It will be easier to keep everyone together if there are things you are doing as a family.

Hiding a Cook Fire

There may well come a time when you’ll want to build a small fire for cooking and want it to be as invisible as possible. Here is how some of the Plains Indians used to do it.

Start by digging a hole about a foot across and a foot deep. Next, dig a smaller hole a foot to a foot and a half away from it, angling it down to tunnel into the bottom of the first hole. Ideally, place this second hole toward the prevailing wind currents. The hole/tunnel should be four or five inches across.

Build your fire at the bottom of the main hole. It shouldn’t be all that large, maybe six inches high or so. The secondary hole will funnel air right to the bottom of the fire, making it very hot.

The hotter a fire is, the less smoke it will generate. If you build your fire under a tree, the branches will help disburse any remaining smoke.

You can adjust the heat somewhat by partially covering the vent hole with a large branch or a couple rocks. A cooking surface can be improvised by laying green sticks across the top of the fire hole, allowing you to place a pot or pan on them.

Everyday Carry Items

I received an email from one of my regular readers asking me to discuss everyday carry (EDC) items. These are things you carry with you wherever you go, just in case.

For some of us, one of our EDC items is a firearm. I cannot stress enough the importance of obtaining and maintaining the proper licenses for carrying a firearm. It makes no sense to me to risk having your firearm taken from you, as well as incurring fines and other unpleasantness. If nothing else, Murphy’s Law should tell you that the day you get stopped for a minor traffic offense and wind up having your firearm confiscated because you lack the proper permit, that will be the day something happens when you’d truly need the weapon.

Another very common EDC item is a knife. Most of us probably carry at least some sort of blade, typically either a pocketknife or a multi-tool. It goes without saying how incredibly useful a sharp blade can be in day-to-day life, let alone in a survival situation.

Some method of lighting a fire is also recommended. Even if you’re not a smoker, consider carrying a lighter with you. While some folks will carry a magnesium striker in their pocket, there’s nothing inherently wrong with a cheap disposable butane lighter.

Personally, in this day and age, I think a cell phone should also be considered for EDC. I’m not one for getting the latest and greatest smartphones but being able to make a quick call or send a text in an emergency can be life-saving.

An Altoids tin survival kit easily fits into a pocket. While each one is different, there are some generalities as to contents.

–Razor blades
–Adhesive bandages
–Antibacterial ointment
–Paracord or other cordage
–Strike anywhere matches
Fire straws
–Small whistle
–Fishing line and hooks
–Pain reliever like ibuprofen
–Space blanket
–Duct tape
–Water purification tablets

In my day job, I’m often called upon to visit courthouses and other government buildings. I’m unable to carry many of the above items inside these locations as they are prohibited. But, I always have my EDC items in my car and replace them in my pockets once I get back out of the building.

What do you carry for your EDC gear?

What Would TSHTF Really Be Like?

Survivalists and preppers love to theorize about what it could be like when the wheels finally do fall off and all Hell breaks loose. We talk endlessly about what barter items will have value, how we’ll go about obtaining food and medical supplies. Some of us look toward historical accounts of what life was like during the Great Depression for some insight. But, that was quite some time ago and, let’s face it, I think we can agree that those who lived through the Depression were cut from a different cloth than folks today.

Today’s email brought me a link to this article posted on The gist is there is an individual going by the name of Selco on a survivalist message board. He lived through the Bosnia collapse in 1992 and was gracious enough to share his experiences of surviving through utter chaos. While English is not his primary language, he gets his point across fairly well. Selco writes:

I am from Bosnia, and as some of you may know it was hell here from 92-95, anyway, for 1 whole year i lived and survived in a city of 50 000- 60 000 residents WITHOUT: electricity, fuel,running water,real food distribution, or distribution of any goods, or any kind of organized law or government.The city was surrounded for 1 year and in that city actually it was SHTF situation.

I would encourage all of you to take the time to read through this lengthy article. I personally found it very interesting and informative.

Here are a few of the high points:

1) He stresses several times the importance of hygiene. This is something we’ve discussed here on the blog several times. Being able to keep reasonably clean prevents illness and infection. During a total collapse, things like diarrhea can kill.

2) When you are relying upon wood fires to keep warm and do all your cooking, firewood goes quickly. It didn’t take long for Selco and his family to resort to burning furniture and even planks from wood floors.

3) Having a good skill can keep your belly full. He talks about a friend who had come up with a way to produce oil for makeshift lamps. Selco also mentions he had devised a way to refill butane lighters, which became very valuable.

4) Alcohol and ammunition were among the most valuable trade commodities available. Personally, I’m still on the fence about the idea of trading bullets to someone I don’t know. Salt, something that many of us are stocking up for possible barter, had much less value than coffee or alcohol.

5) You can never have too much ammunition.

6) He stresses several times how important it is to have family to rely upon during the collapse. A single person won’t last long.

One last thing he said that really made an impact to me:

You don’t want to be hero, you want to survive with your family.

Purifying Water Via Distillation

While boiling water is generally the best way to purify it, this won’t work for water pulled from a hot tub or swimming pool. Boiling won’t remove the chemicals present in the water. Thus, you’ll want to know how to easily distill water.

You’ll need a large pot with a lid, a large heatproof cup or mug, and string. Fill the pot 1/3 to 1/2 with water from the pool. After making sure the top of the lid is clean, turn it upside down and tie the cup to the lid in such a way that the cup will remain upright while suspended from the string. Place the upside down lid over the pot and make sure the cup doesn’t go into the water. If the string is too long, adjust it accordingly.

The lid should fit tightly on the pot, leaving no gaps. Bring the water in the pot to a boil, then remove it from the heat. Do not remove the lid from the pot until the pot is cooled down.

What will happen is the steam from the boiling water will condense on the lid and drip into the cup. Naturally, you’re not going to be able to distill great quantities of water at one time using this method. But if you’re only source of water is either from the ocean (saltwater) or from a swimming pool that has been treated with chemicals, distilling it will make it potable.

Cooking on a Log

I came across this rather clever method of open fire cooking online the other day and wanted to share it with y’all.

As the pics indicate, you take a log and cut it lengthwise in several places, but don’t go all the way through to the end of the log. You want it to spread out a bit without coming completely apart.

I imagine you could go two different ways with regards to fire. You could set this log into the middle of a campfire and let it get going, then use it for cooking. Or you could use tinder in the cuts to get the log burning on its own.

You’ll not want to start the fire at the top of the log, of course. Just get it burning in the slots you cut and let the natural chimney action draw the heat up to the pan.

I’ll be trying this out myself very soon and will report back with how well it worked.