Being The Grey Man

My apologies to the ladies out there, I mean no disrespect but focusing on the male terminology. But, “the grey woman” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. The term, “the grey man,” refers to blending in and not being noticeable.

I’m not talking about wearing camo out in the woods but rather fading into the crowd wherever you are. This concept applies to survivalism in that we usually strive for a high degree of OPSEC. This includes not calling attention to yourself by wearing fatigues, carrying large packs, and displaying several weapons as you pick up a few things at Walmart.

Instead, try to look like Joe Average. Avoid bright clothing or shirts with memorable phrases, no matter how funny they may be. Ball caps are fine but again, nothing odd or unusual.

Keep the overstuffed pack in your trunk and use a messenger bag for day-to-day carrying of essentials. Polo shirts are nice anytime of the year. Cargo pants are still relatively in style so you can probably get away with the fatigue pants as long as they don’t scream “wannabe commando.”

Bear in mind where you’re headed as you get dressed in the morning. Think about what folks around you will likely be wearing and mirror that image as best you can, at least within reason. If you’ll be doing business at the local courthouse, for God’s sake at least wear pants and a clean shirt.

Avoid giving the death stare to people you happen to meet during the day, unless of course they truly deserve it. You may think you’re projecting an air of confidence with a heaping spoonful of “Don’t mess with me” when, in actuality, you look like you just stepped out of the asylum. Don’t get me wrong, that can be fun to do sometimes but if you’re attempting to blend in, you’re failing miserably if people are pulling kids out of the store aisle you just entered.

By being the grey man, you’re in a much better position to observe your surroundings and practice great situational awareness. And, if comes down to it, you can fade away without being noticed.

Prepper Certifications, Part 2

Based on some of the comments I received after yesterday’s blog post, apparently I didn’t communicate my idea very well, and that’s my own fault. Let me try to expand a bit on yesterday’s topic to hopefully better explain.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a licensed private detective in my day job. I’ve been working in the security and investigation field for almost two decades now. Within the security/investigation field, there are several different certifications one may pursue, some worthwhile, some not worth the paper they are printed on. An example of the former is the CPP (Certified Protection Professional). Offered through the American Society of Industrial Security (ASIS), the CPP designation informs clients that the security professional has achieved a high level of training and education in security management. Can someone work in this field without having a CPP? Of course they can. It isn’t any sort of license that would be required to work in security. Instead, what it does is show potential clients that the security professional is serious about their job and is exceedingly knowledgeable in this field.

As it says on the ASIS website, the CPP is the, “Preeminent designation awarded to individuals whose primary responsibilities are in security management and who have demonstrated advanced knowledge in security solutions and best business practices.”

That’s sort of the idea I’ve been kicking around. Would having such a certification for those who seek to teach prepping related skills be worthwhile? At no point in yesterday’s blog post did I even hint at the idea of an average prepper wanting or needing such a certification. I want to make that point clear as obviously OPSEC is a concern for many preppers.

Let me address some of the specific comments I received.

Who is to judge who is “qualified”? Certifications will only bring divisions to our purpose. It is like the NG Prepper series where they have “experts” judge someone’s preparedness. Who are they to judge and why don’t we see the expert’s preps?

Well, the NG Prepper series and their purported experts is one of the things I was thinking about when I came up with this idea. Indeed, who are they to judge? What are their qualifications? I find it interesting that on many of these prepper type of shows, the experts are never really discussed. I’ve done enough digging to find out the name of their company but the last time I checked at least, information about the principals was decidedly lacking.

NO! Doing so would only invite the government to come in and regulate prepping. Next you’ll receive a citation or arresting for prepping without a permit/certificate.

Again, I’m not at all talking about requiring some sort of license or certification to prep. Far from it. I’m not even talking about requiring a license or certification to instruct. Instead, I’m thinking, what if there were some sort of recognized certification that would offer an air of legitimacy.

Absolutely not!!!!! Gotta be a government idea to control even more of our lives! That would be worse that gun control, they would be controlling the food…of course, that’s what they want.

As with the CPP designation mentioned earlier, this wouldn’t be a government controlled anything.

Not to mention the fact that most certifications come from those people already established in an industry to prevent competition.

To a degree, I’d agree with that. To go back to the private detective analogy, most states require a license to work as a private investigator. In some places, this is just a matter of paying a fee but in others it requires a passing grade on an exam. In many cases, this exam really does concentrate on the knowledge that would be required to perform the typical duties as an investigator. But, there are a few exams out there that truly are designed to do nothing more than keep people from passing them, at least not the first time out. I sat through one a few years back that consisted of a little less than 100 questions and perhaps a dozen of them actually pertained to the profession. So yeah, I understand the comment about trying to limit competition. But, with that said, I think most would agree there is a LOT of bad information out there, being written or presented by people who have not one real clue what they are doing.

In my opinion the answer would be “No” I say that because at least for me, and in my mind should also be for others, a fairly private thing. You learn by doing, gathering information from trusted sources / friends etc… and call it paranoia, but you never advertise your prepping. Going to a school or taking any kind of formal class on the subject while a newbie is likely to get good information, or at least a nudge in the right direction on how and where to start, classes and or instructors will do little more than advertise your intentions.

I don’t know that attending a class is “advertising” you’re prepping. Those of us who do regularly teach these types of classes are already “out there” in the public eye so being certified wouldn’t really be revealing much of anything.

To recap the basic points:

–The certification wouldn’t be required to teach at all. It would just be a means of showing the instructor has achieved a certain level of knowledge and experience.

–The certification wouldn’t at all apply to someone who wants to prep. No one, least of all myself, is suggesting a person would need to be licensed or certified to prep.

–This isn’t something that would be run by the government in any way.

Does that all help clear things up a bit?

Book Review — Wild Plants I Have Known…and Eaten

Wild Plants I Have Known…and Eaten
by Russ Cohen
Review by Dee B.

Wild Plants I Have Known . . . And Eaten (Russ Cohen, 2004)

Book Review by Dee Burke

Have you ever wondered how you’d feed your family during a crisis if for some reason your food storage wasn’t sufficient or available? What if the supermarket shelves were empty? If you know a thing or two about foraging for food in the wild, you likely won’t go hungry.

Not too long ago, I had the pleasure of attending a talk by Russ Cohen, author of Wild Plants I Have Known . . . And Eaten. Over the course of an hour or so, I sat and listened to the voice of foraging wisdom, stared at images of plants I recognized as weeds growing in and around my own yard, and sampled treats made with foraged foods: autumn olive fruit leather and barberry/hickory nut thumb print cookies. I came away with a desire to take a nibble on the wild side and felt comfortable enough after what I’d heard to seek out some wild edibles on my own. So, of course, I bought the book. I wasn’t disappointed.

Wild Plants I Have Known . . . And Eaten contains a great deal of information in a straight forward, easy to read format. It’s a good starting point for beginners. It opens with an introduction to foraging, followed by information on more than 40 edible plants that focuses on those easily identified. Cohen encourages consulting a field guide specific to the reader’s area, and he provides the necessary cautions about being sure of what you’ve found before consuming any of the plant. At the same time, he makes foraging seem like something anyone could do.

Perhaps the most tempting part of the book is the recipes, proving foraged plants are not just salad greens or nuts. After a walk in the woods at the right time of year, you might feast on cattail chowder, black locust fritters, strawberry knotweed pie, sassafras candy, and sumacade. Yes, sumacade. The fruit of the unmistakable staghorn sumac can be made into a drink that looks and tastes remarkably like pink lemonade (and is high in vitamin C). Just the thing on a hot afternoon. I know because it was the first wild edible I harvested after reading the book.

While the focus of this book is wild edibles in New England, there is information on plants found across the country: stinging nettle, day lilies, invasives like garlic mustard, and every lawn owner’s nemesis, the dandelion. A particularly nice feature is the chronological listing at the back of the book identifying when each plant (and which part) is in season.

If you can find a copy of Wild Plants I Have Known . . . And Eaten, grab it. You just might find yourself inspired to make wild edibles a part of your regular diet now simply because they’re good to eat even when you still have those easy supermarket options.

Organizing Information

If you’re anything like me, you’ve accumulated at least a few gigs worth of survival info from various sources online. Everything from recipes to bug out bag lists to entire books as .pdf files, it all gets downloaded and stored on a hard drive. However, in a true emergency, all that info will likely not be accessible due to power outages and what not.

This is why it is important to print out all that great info so you have hard copies of it. Of course, that will leave you with several stacks of paper that will then need to be sorted and organized.

Here’s what I want you to do. First, if you don’t have them already, hit up Freecycle and/or Craigslist for a printer and several three-ring binders. Ideally these binders will be different colors but if not, work with what you have. If you don’t get any hits for scoring free ones, you can pick up an inexpensive but still decent inkjet printer from Walmart for around $40. Binders aren’t that expensive either. If you don’t have a three hole punch, get one of those as well. Depending on how many files you have, buy the appropriate amount of paper. At the least, I’d start with a couple reams.

Label the binders with categories of information that make sense to you. For example, you might set up binders for Recipes, Bugging Out, Alternative Energy, Firearms, Food Storage, and/or Water Purification.

Set aside a half hour a day to just print out your files. What you might consider doing is setting up a folder in your computer where you put the printed out files, so you don’t end up printing anything twice. Print the document or file, then send the file to the folder, deleting it from the original location.

As you print out files, punch them with the three hole punch and place them into the appropriate binder. This is important, do not just print things out and put them into one big stack to sort later. You’ll never get around to doing that and you’ll find yourself trying to work around huge, toppling stacks of paper. Once everything is printed and sorted, you can go back through and organize each binder. When you get to that point, you can use tab dividers and label them appropriately.

Naturally, in a bug out situation you’ll not be able to lug around a dozen binders full of information. But, given that bugging out is generally going to be your last option rather than your first, you’ll hopefully have all that information at your fingertips when you truly need it.

Practice Drills

The importance of regular drills cannot be overemphasized. This is particularly true for families with children. There’s a very good reason why we do evacuation and other drills when we’re in school. Quite often, the typical human response to a sudden crisis is to freeze, not unlike the proverbial deer in headlights. We can counteract that tendency by giving the mind and body instruction ahead of time as to what to do. Drills provide that instruction.

Over the weekend, we did a quick evacuation drill at home. This wasn’t anything my wife and I had planned out in any great detail. Early Saturday morning, we told the kids they needed to get dressed, grab a water bottle, and meet us in the living room. Naturally, there was a bit of “What’s going on?” and “Why are we doing this?” But, they performed much better than I’d anticipated and were all ready to go in under three minutes. Considering it takes them about a half hour to get ready to head to the beach for an afternoon, this was pretty impressive.

One thing I think helps when kids are involved is to give them specific tasks to perform. Don’t just tell them to “get ready.” Instead, tell them exactly what you need them to do.

–Get dressed, including socks and shoes.
–Fill water bottles.
–Get to the living room and wait for further instructions.

Further to that point, consider delegation. Whomever is the first to the kitchen should immediately start filling water bottles for everyone, for example. Next one downstairs grabs all the bug out bags from the storage closet and puts them in the living room.

After the drill was over, we talked as a family about different scenarios that might prompt this type of evacuation. If the house were on fire, we’d obviously just concentrate on getting everyone outside, clean socks be damned. One example of when a semi-orderly evacuation would come into play is if a train carrying toxic chemicals derailed near our home. We’re not too far from the tracks that run through town.

We also stressed the importance of leaving the bug out bags alone unless specifically told to get them. The hope is to prevent any of them from digging in the bags for spare batteries for a video game or something.

Have you done any drills with your family lately? We plan to do these on a regular basis and I’d suggest you may want to do the same.

Add a Ferro Rod To Your Kit

The means to reliably start a fire is one of the key elements to any survival kit. A fire will keep you warm, cook your food, purify your water through boiling, and it is one hell of a morale boost if you’re finding yourself having to spend the night outdoors unexpectedly.

There are many tools available for lighting fires, of course. Matches and butane lighters both probably top the list for many of us. But, lighters can run out of fuel or leak and matches could get wet, rendering them almost worthless. Remember Ragnar Benson’s Rule of Threes — strive to have at least three different ways to accomplish a goal.

Ferro Rod

A ferro rod will send a stream of sparks into your tinder, lighting it immediately. It is small and weighs next to nothing, yet it will be priceless when lost in the field. It will work after being wet and you’ll be at it for decades before it will run out of “fuel.”

Sure, I carry matches and lighters in my various survival kits. But I also have several of these ferro rods as backups.

Purifying Water with the Sun

I think we can all agree that having access to potable water is a critical component of our disaster planning. Using the SODIS (SOlar water DISinfection) method of purifying water is just one more tool in our toolbox.

For this method, you need to start with reasonably clean water. By that, I mean it should have sediment and debris filtered from it and it should be free of heavy metals and chemicals. Thus, this won’t work on water you get from your swimming pool or hot tub but will work great on lake and river water.

Next, you need a PET bottle. PET stands for polyethylene terephthalate. Yeah, say that three times fast. The plastic bottles should be clear and if you look at the bottom, you should see the familiar three arrow triangle informing you the bottle is recyclable. Inside the triangle, if you see a number 1, that means it is a PET bottle and you’re good to go.

Remove all labels and stickers from the bottle. You want them as clear as possible. Obviously the bottles themselves should be clean inside and out as well. Oh, and make sure you have caps for the bottles.

A great way to reduce the amount of foreign bodies in the water is to pour it into your plastic bottles using a coffee filter and funnel. This will capture all but the very smallest debris.

For the process to work properly, you’ll need about six hours of sunlight. Yeah, this method won’t work well on rainy days. Fill your bottles to the top with water and screw the caps on tight. Then, lay them on their sides in the sun. Ideally, you will be able to place them on a hard, dark surface like a darkly stained table. The idea is that the surface of the table will obviously get hot as the day goes on and this heat will transfer to the water in the bottle. If you can get the temperature of the water to reach 122 degrees F or greater, the time the process takes is reduced considerably to about two-three hours.

What happens is the UV rays from the sun kill off the pathogens. Again, it won’t do anything for chemicals that may be present in the water so keep that in mind. This only works on bacteria and other harmful organisms.

Growing sprouts

I’m hoping for some help from my readers. We recently started growing sprouts to add to salads and sandwiches. I’m not much of a health food nut but even I know the incredible nutritional value of sprouts.

A friend gifted us with a sprout box. Clear, with two trays inside. You put your seeds on the trays, water it through the top once or twice a day and within a couple days, you’ve got some sprouts.

First question is, what are some recommendations for seeds to use? Both from a nutritional standpoint as well as taste.

Second question — um, how do you know when they are ready to eat? We have two trays of sprouts right now and I’m not sure if they are done or not. Mung bean sprouts just look…nasty. Like little maggots or something. Broccoli sprouts look better but very small.

Sprouts contain just a ton of nutrition in a small package. I’m not at all opposed to eating them. I’m just looking for some guidance.

Prepping Consideration – Birth Control

There is a widely held belief, somewhat backed up by statistics, that about nine months after a bad power outage, blizzard, or other regional emergency, there is a high number of births. While there are certainly many other less fun ways to wile away the hours waiting for the power to be restored or the roads to be cleared, having a newborn child is something that would ideally be a well thought out proposition.

When we look at extreme long-term disasters, such as a pandemic or economic collapse, things get even more complicated. Women have, of course, been having babies in turbulent times since time began. But like size XXXL spandex, just because you CAN doesn’t always mean you SHOULD. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about procreation. What I’m saying though is you might consider adding forms of birth control to your preps so you are in a position to better choose the timing of when you procreate.

Since preppers are all about multi-purpose items when possible, keep in mind that non-lubricated condoms can also serve as water skins, particularly if you place them in a sock for cushioning.

Nine months after a power outage might well be a fine time to have a baby. Nine months after an economic collapse though, maybe not so much.

Just food for thought.