When was the last time….

When was the last time you cooked an entire meal outside or even just started a campfire without using matches or a butane lighter?

When was the last time you slept outside?

When was the last time you completely emptied and repacked your bug out bags and other kits?

When was the last time you cleaned all your weapons?

When was the last time you took a walk through a local forest looking for game trails?

When was the last time you did a complete inventory of your food storage?

Often, we get so caught up with learning new skills and doing fun stuff, we forget the day-to-day business of prepping. Like anything else, proper maintenance improves performance. You need to maintain your skills and your supplies. It isn’t always fun and exciting, but like cleaning the gutters, it has to be done regularly.

I challenge each of you to pick at least one thing from the above list, something you’ve not done in a while or perhaps have never done before, and do it this weekend. Report back here on Monday and let us know how you did.

What Does PREPARED Stand For?

I received this in my email yesterday and thought it was worth sharing. The person who sent it to me cribbed it from a handout he received at a local event, though he didn’t state the actual source.

Being prepared is an essential part of being able to return your life and the life of your family back to normal as soon as possible whenever there is an emergency or disaster. Here is a basic acronym to help you remember some very important steps in being P.R.E.P.A.R.E.D.

P is for planning. You will need to take the necessary steps to have a plan in case of an emergency or a disaster.

R is for risk assessment. You will need to know the particular risks for your area, as well as the common everyday risks you or your family might encounter in an emergency or disaster.

E is for emergency contacts and communication. You will need to make sure that everyone in your family has the proper emergency contact information and be able to communicate with each other in a time of crisis.

P is for planning for alternate scenarios. Should your first plan encounter difficulties in being implemented, you will need a backup plan.

A is for assemble. Get your emergency supplies in place. It doesn’t matter if you are planning for a 72 hour period or even longer, as long as you have put together the basic items you will need for your own level of readiness.

R is for remembering. Remember the special needs of the elderly, infants in your family, your pets and people in your family or group with special medical needs.

E is for essentials. Don’t forget the basic items that you will need to survive a disaster or crisis. Water, food, shelter, first aid, and the ability to create a fire for warmth and cooking will all be essential.

D is for determination. Have the will and the determination to survive a crisis, a natural disaster or an emergency by being prepared in advance.

Planning Next Year’s Garden

A friend of mine showed me this site today. It is a chart showing recommendations on what to plant, and in what quantities, for a family of four.

I have no idea what the process was to determine those figures but most of them look pretty accurate from what I can tell. I share this with you now because you should already be thinking ahead to next year.

Take a look at that chart and pay particular attention to how much space you’ll need for each type of plant. To grow all this, you’re going to need a lot more than just a couple flower beds along the side of the house. So, if you’re plan is to just grow all your own food should there be some sort of collapse, you might want to give serious thought to how much land that is going to take.

Obviously, you’ll also need to adjust the quantities up or down based on not only the number of family members but preferences. Personally, I’m not a fan of beets so I’d probably not grow them. On the other hand, I like peas and beans so I’d likely plant a few more of each of those plants.

Don’t forget potatoes as well. They’re not listed on the chart but you’re going to want at least a few of those plants growing in barrels or some other container.

The time to plan for next year is now. Get out graph paper and sketch out your future garden beds. Figure out what will go where and when it should go in the ground. Do this now so you’re not scrambling when the time comes.

Perception is Reality

Did you watch the Packers vs. Seahawks game last night? Was that a debacle or what? These replacement refs really need to go. Apparently the new rule is you can receive the ball if you just catch the guy holding the ball.

Crappy calls all the way around. But, here’s the thing. The refs are making those calls based on their perspective, right or wrong. Each call is how they perceive the situation. For them, taking into account what they actually saw from where they stood, coupled with their knowledge of the rules of the game and their past experience with similar situations, it was a touchdown.

Perception = Reality

That’s true for each of us. Our worldview changes moment to moment, based on what our senses tell us and how we interpret those signals. The brain takes new information and compares it to what we’ve already experienced in the past. This interpretation shapes what we “know.”

Perception can also be shaped by outside influences. You can take the smartest guy in the world and if you tell him 100 times a day that he’s an idiot, sooner or later he is going to believe it. It isn’t true, of course, he’s a bloody genius. But, our minds have a way of conforming to what it is told to think, especially when it is told the same thing over and over. All of our life experiences shape who we are today, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The good news though is, you can change your perception. Think about where you are in life right now. Are you where you want to be? If not, then change it. Sit down and physically write the next chapter, if you will. Instead of letting someone else write your life story, with you just playing the part of you, be the writer.

Think about it like this. There are an awful lot of people out there who’d love to control your reality, aren’t there? If perception IS reality, then by changing your perception, you are in control.

We can only hope these NFL replacement refs get their realities changed in a hurry.

Unexpected Visitors

This is a topic that comes up for discussion on occasion when we talk about prepping. In fact, I mentioned it briefly here quite some time ago.

What do you do about folks who show up looking for your help after a disaster?

To my way of thinking, these people would fall into two different groups. The first group are those who you’d consider fellow preppers. They are the ones you’ve networked with over the years and for one reason or another, they lost some or all their preps in the disaster or aftermath. Maybe they suffered a house fire or they lost their home after a protracted battle with mutant zombie bikers. The point is, they did what they could to prep but lost it all.

The second group are those family and friends who ignored your advice. They are the grasshoppers to your ant, as it were. You talked until you were blue in the face and they ignored you, made fun of you, talked behind your back about how weird you had gotten. Now, the crisis you always warned about has actually come to pass and, knowing you were a prepper, they’ve come to you with their hands out, pleading for assistance.

What do you do when people you know come calling unexpectedly? Really, would they be unexpected to begin with? I mean, we all have certain family and friends who have made it quite clear that they aren’t going to prep but will instead just head to your house in the event of a disaster, right?

What do we do with these folks? Those who are/were preppers, do we treat them differently? What if your mother or father show up? Even if you didn’t have anything extra, could you turn them away?

One idea that I’ve discussed here is having small “charity” survival kits to hand out. This could, of course, blow up in your face. I mean, where do you draw the line?

Personally, I have a few close friends who are preppers and, were they to show up empty handed, I’d do whatever I could to help them. I also have a few family members who I wouldn’t consider preppers but whose skills sets and such would certainly be welcome, provided I had the space and supplies to provide for them.

I also know several people who I sincerely hope don’t remember how to find my house.

This is something you should discuss with your immediate family and retreat group (if applicable) ahead of time. Make the decisions now, before you really need to do so.

The Importance of Down Time

My wife would be the first to tell you that I don’t get nearly enough sleep. On a typical day, I’ll go to bed around midnight, asleep by 12:30, and up at 6am. From the time I get up, it is go-go-go until late evening. Time permitting, I might sneak in a nap for a half hour or so but lately that hasn’t happened very often.

I’ve been doing this for 10-12 years now so I’m sort of used to it. On the rare occasion that I get a really good night’s sleep, it actually feels odd to be that awake during the day. Caffeine and I are very well acquainted, as you can guess.

I’m sure many if not most of you are in similar situations. We live in an age of immediacy. Everything needs to be done RIGHT NOW and as a result, we’re constantly stressed out. Sure, there are a few of you who live on the flip side of the coin and are quick to say how great and wonderful it is to live a relaxed lifestyle. You can just shut the heck up, no one wants to hear about that, LOL!

It is very important that we all take time to relax though. It is critical for both physical and mental health. Think of your body and mind as a rubber band. If it is kept stretched out for too long, it will lose elasticity, right? Same goes with you. Kept stretched for too long, it’ll be difficult to spring back.

This weekend, if not today or tonight, take some time for yourself. I don’t mean blow off the entire weekend, though that’s great if you can manage it. Personally, we have a boatload of home repair stuff we’re hoping to accomplish in the next couple days. Cracks in the cedar siding that need to be caulked, gutters to clean, soffit to prime and paint, the list goes on and on. But, come tomorrow night, we’ll sit down as a family and watch a movie together. Maybe popcorn and snacks will be included too.

And if I’m really lucky, I’ll even stay awake for the entire movie.

Caches

I’ve written about caches on the blog once or twice but it has been a while so let’s revisit the topic today.

A cache (rhymes with “stash”) is a container of supplies hidden in some way, set aside for emergency use. The idea is that if you were somehow cut off from your primary gear, you’d have this cache hidden somewhere to provide for your immediate needs.

One of the most common types of caches today is a buried PVC tube. There are dozens of websites detailing exactly how to go about building one so let Google be your guide. A few words of caution though.

1) Make sure you locate your cache on land you have a legal right to be on. Do NOT use graveyards or public parks. Burying a cache properly is not something you’ll likely accomplish in ten minutes.

2) Be absolutely certain of the exact location of the cache so you can find it later. Make careful note of all natural landmarks, bearing in mind that things can change quickly in many circumstances.

3) Only put into the cache things you can afford to lose. I wouldn’t go out and spend $100 on a knife just for the cache. You may never find the cache again or someone else might stumble across it before you get back to it.

Another type of cache is a rental unit at one of those U-Store-It type places. I honestly think it would take a while before looters begin breaking into places like that, simply because most folks don’t keep their good stuff there (reality TV shows to the contrary). Get the smallest unit available, pay cash up front, and stock it with some food, water, gear, and possibly weapons and ammo. If you are somehow driven out of your home or retreat, you’ll have this as a backup.

A third type of cache is a small supply of gear and such stored at a family member or friend’s home. You might consider working out an arrangement whereby you can store a box or two of goodies there and you offer to do the same for them. There is obviously a risk here that the person might, in desperation, dig into your stuff at some point but that’s a risk you might be willing to take.

Getting Started, Part 1 – The Basics

I had a request from a reader to discuss a bit on how to get started with prepping. It can indeed seem overwhelming when you’re just starting out. There’s so much to do, where does one begin?

As with many other aspects of life, it depends. For example, look at your budget. If you are independently wealthy and looking for a personal guide into the world of prepping, please email me direct. On the other hand, if you’re like the rest of us and have little money to spare, keep reading.

Start by setting aside extra food and water. Don’t worry right now about going out and buying specially packaged long-term foods. Just buy a bit more of what you already eat. If, for example, canned vegetables are on sale 5/$2.00 and you’d normally get five, pick up 10. To a degree, you’re playing the odds here. The chances of a short-term emergency happening, one that would require you to dig into your storage, is a lot more likely to happen than a long-term societal collapse situation. The idea is to stock up on things that will get you through if you were unable to go grocery shopping for a few days or weeks.

For water, store at least one gallon of water for each person in your family per day of the anticipated crisis. Start by putting aside enough for a couple days, then add to it gradually. Personally, I like to use the 7 gallon containers you can buy at sporting goods stores that are made for this purpose. While heavy, I can manage to move them around without too much trouble and it is easier than shifting around 2L bottles.

Next on the list is first aid and hygiene. Put together a decent first aid kit, keeping mind both the most likely injuries and illnesses you’re going to face as well as your own capabilities. It makes little sense to me to go out and buy a surgical kit if you have not the first clue how to use it. Stick with things like adhesive bandages, gauze pads of various sizes, elastic wraps, burn cream, antibiotic ointment, and pain relievers. Add in your favorite OTC meds for things like stomach upset. You’re not looking to do major surgery here, just keep people reasonably healthy until the crisis has passed.

Portable light is important. You have to be able to see what you’re doing, don’t you? LED flashlights are generally brighter and consume less energy than old fashioned flashlights. LED headlamps are great for when you’re doing necessary chores.

An area that is sometimes overlooked is entertainment. Netflix isn’t going to do you much good during a power outage. Invest in a few board games, decks of cards, and other such timeless activities.

In a later post, we’ll discuss this further, talking about things like bug out bags, evac kits, and making plans.

Biblical Darwinism

One of the most common arguments we hear against prepping is that God will provide and protect the person from whatever calamities may be headed our way. My good friend Rick Rourke, owner of the Survival Retreat Yahoo Group, calls this Biblical Darwinism. He defines this term as following Bible based advice to the extent that it violates common sense and perhaps leads to demise.

This is perhaps best illustrated in this oft told joke.

One day, a massive storm rolls into a small town and the rain begins to flood the town. As the water rises, the preacher in the small church falls to his knees to pray. Soon, one of the townsfolk comes by in a small boat and says, “Preacher, hop in! The water is rising fast!”

The preacher replies, “I’m fine. If I need any help, the Lord will take care of me.”

The water continues to rise and the preacher soon seeks safety on the church roof. A short time later, another member of his congregation comes by in a boat. He hollers to the preacher, “C’mon and jump in! The levee is gonna break soon and we need to get you out of here!”

Again the preacher replies, “If I need any help, the Lord will take care of me.”

It isn’t too much longer and the preacher is clinging to the church steeple, with flood waters swirling around. A National Guard helicopter swoops down. One of the Guardsmen calls to him through a megaphone. “Preacher, grab this ladder! We’ll save you!”

The preacher hollers back, “No need! If I need any help, the Lord will take care of me!”

It isn’t too much longer and the preacher finds himself standing at the Pearly Gates. He is irate and demands to see God. “What is troubling you, my son?” asks God.

Shaking his finger at Him in defiance, the preacher says, “What happened? Why didn’t you protect me? All my life I’ve lived in accordance with Your wishes and this is how you repay my devotion?”

God replies, “Son, I sent you two boats and a helicopter. What more did you want?”

Here’s how I look at the whole “God will protect me” argument against prepping. I’m a Christian and fully believe God does have a plan. I also believe God has blessed us with the ability to make our own choices and, to a large degree, make our own destinies. Life is a gift and we should fight to protect and honor that gift.

I’m not nearly as well versed (no pun intended) with the Bible as many of my readers probably are. But, I know of absolutely no verse that boils down to, “You just sit there with your XBox/Playstation/Wii and God will take care of everything.”

Historically speaking, individuals, families, even large tribes survived the lean years by having set food and supplies aside when such things were plentiful. As a general rule, people didn’t let things go to waste. To look at it in Biblical terms, if God were to bless you with a bumper crop one year, wouldn’t it be sinful to let the excess sit and rot?

If you are a religious sort, I encourage you to continue your devotion to God. But temper it with common sense and practicality. Do not fall victim to Biblical Darwinism.

Uncle Bill

Bill had been my dad’s closest friend since they were kids, so I grew up calling him Uncle Bill. For several years when I was a young child, he lived next door to us. I often headed over there after school to hang out. Uncle Bill was incredibly smart, having taught himself calculus and physics. He was always working on an experiment or working out calculations in a notebook.

Uncle Bill was also very much an outdoors sort of guy. We’d go on hikes in the nearby woods and he’d show me how to recognize animal tracks or just how to sit still and listen to the world around us. One of the lessons he taught that I’ve never forgotten is to always check to make sure your knife is on your belt as you move through the forest. Get in the habit of brushing your hand against it at regular intervals. This way, if it somehow worked loose from the sheath, you’d have less ground to cover to find it.

He showed me how to build a shelter, start a campfire, and how little one really needs to live.

Uncle Bill lived a rather eclectic life. He was a Navy veteran, having joined up right out of high school. Later, he became sort of a jack of all trades, driving a semi cross-country, working as a day laborer, or just a general handyman. He was the sort of guy who just sort of knew how to do things, y’know? He didn’t do too well with long-term employment as he quickly grew tired of doing the same thing every day.

There were times he lived pretty rough too. At one point, I recall him showing me the shelter he’d built in the woods. He’d found a low spot on the side of a gradual hill and dug it out a bit to make something like a small cave. Limbs and branches formed an extended roof over the opening. He’d pack in some food and gear and live there for several days at a stretch.

He was deeply religious and read the Bible frequently. As a teenager, he and I had some rather heated discussions about our differing viewpoints on religion. The hubris of youth and all that….

Sadly, Uncle Bill passed away a few years ago. He’d been living near a buddy of his up north and had a heart attack. I miss Uncle Bill and think of him often. I wonder sometimes what he’d have to say about the current state of affairs in this country.