Sunday, April 20, 2014

Buying "Prepper" Supplies and Gear

Like most folks, I don't have unlimited money. Cost is always going to be a concern for me when buying supplies and gear. Quality is also important. Often times the higher priced option is actually more cost-effective because it will last longer and be more useful than the cheaper option. It is a matter of common sense and balance.

When quality isn't a determining factor, I shop for the cheapest price. Often I will buy supplies and gear at my local Wal-mart, Target, Lowes, Ace Hardware, Sam's Club, and Ollie's, or at a salvage store that is just up the road from me. I also haunt local flea markets and yard sales looking for deals. Online, I buy a lot through Amazon.com, Half.com, and eBay (carefully checking the ratings for vendors on the last two).

When quality does make the difference, or when I need specialty items I can't find at regular stores,  I do shop at several other online merchants. Over the years I have been burned by a few (overpriced, poor quality, poor service) and therefore am reluctant to try new merchants. I also have checked the websites of several that supposedly cater to the prepping and survival community, and frankly have found most of them not just overpriced, but ridiculously overpriced.

So, I thought it would be a good idea for me to mention the online merchants with which I have had good experiences and can recommend to people. The following list is comprised ONLY of those merchants I have actually purchased from and had a good experience. Please note that I am not affiliated with any of these folks in any way, and am not being paid to advertise them nor will I receive any form of commission if you buy from them.

Tim's Recommended Suppliers

Cold Steel - maker of knives and other edged weapons. Excellent quality. Good prices and good customer service.

Maxpedition - maker of packs and bags. Excellent quality. Good prices and customer service.

Medical Gear Outfitters - You may know him as Skinny Medic from You Tube. He puts together a variety of first aid kits, and sells other first aid supplies.

CountyComm - a government supplier that sells excess inventory to the public. I've gotten some really nice items from them that I haven't seen elsewhere. Only issue I have is their shipping rates seem too high.

Survival Resources - one of the few "survival and prepping" retailers that don't gouge their customers. A large variety of useful supplies and gear, great prices (!), and great customer service. HIGHLY recommended.

LA Police Gear - a retailer that primarily services law enforcement, but also sells to the general public. Mostly high quality merchandise, good prices (and great prices if you watch their sales and close-outs), and good customer service. Currently offers free shipping on orders over $89, but under that you will pay high shipping rates.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Finding a Job in Difficult Times

I hope the following guide can provide you some help if you are looking for work, or think you may be in the near future.

Before You Lose The Job

First, it is important to mention some things you can do if you can do if you haven't yet lost your job.
  1. Prepare financially to the extent you can. This means getting on a strict budget, paying off debt and building savings (see my three-part series Get Back To Basics for more ideas and tips). Building up an extra supply of food and other needed items could also come in handy.
  2. Get ready to look for a new job now, don't wait until you are fired. Update your resume. Make some phone calls to your friends and contacts to see if their companies or industries are hiring. Be discrete - some companies frown on their employees job hunting, but what they don't know won't hurt them.
  3. Take steps to protect your job. Check out Fifteen Commandments of Keeping Your Job. Don't give your employer a reason to fire you.
  4. Learn new skills. Take some classes at a local community college. Brush up on your computer skills. Learn bookkeeping/accounting. Learn Spanish for the workplace. The more you know, the more employable you will be.
You're Fired. Now What?

Okay, you've been downsized, laid-off, restructured, or whatever euphemism for being fired that your company choose to use. Now what? How do you find a job during the middle of an economic crisis? Your job-hunting strategies will be much the same as during the good times.

  1. You are much more likely to find a job through a friend or family member than through the classifieds. So get out there and work your "network." Call or email all your friends, family, former co-workers, fellow church members, old college roommates, neighbors, industry colleagues and anyone else you know. Tell them you are out of work and ask them if they know if their company or industry is hiring. Ask them to let you know of any openings they hear of.
  2. Step away from your computer. Job hunting sites like monster.com and careerbuilder.com are useful job hunting tools, and you should use them. However, you are still more likely to find a job through your network of contacts than though the Internet. Don't let your Internet search consume all of your job hunting time.
  3. Take advantage of any job-hunting help that may be offered by your former employer or your local government. I've noticed that my local government has been conducting job fairs specifically for people laid-off in several recent plant closings in my area. Local governments, and occasionally the companies themselves, will often try to help people left unemployed by large-scale lay offs by conducting job fairs, holding job-hunting seminars or even offering special training.
  4. If you are a college graduate, get your college to help. Most colleges and universities have a career development office to help both current students and alumni. These offices offer everything from aptitude testing and resume help to job boards listing openings provided by other alumni.
  5. Check out the resources of you local community college. Many have career development centers that offer everything from free and low-cost training courses to aptitude testing to skills assessment to help writing your resume. Best of all, these resources are available to the community as a whole, not just current or former students.
  6. Consider temporary or part-time work while continuing your job hunt. The extra income will help. Be aware of how this may or may not effect any unemployment benefits you might be receiving.
  7. Consider learning a trade. Demand seems soft for many so-called "white collar" professions, and likely will remain so for the foreseeable future. But there is an actual shortage of qualified trades people. Training can be had for low cost at your local community college, and you may even qualify for reduced rates (or even free) if you have been recently laid off or are currently unemployed. For more information of the trades, see the wikipedia article Tradesman, the website of the Center For America, and the mikeroweWORKS Foundation.
  8. Don't be a "Job Snob." Be willing to settle for less until you can find more. You may have to take a job making less money, or with less prestige, then your old job. Be willing to work outside your preferred industry. Don't despair, you can always find a new, better paying job once the economy turns around.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Fifteen Commandments of Keeping Your Job

The following is from the website of the Texas Workforce Commission:

TEN (MAKE THAT 15) COMMANDMENTS OF KEEPING YOUR JOB


(This first appeared in Texas Business Today, 2nd/3rd Quarters 1998 issue. Since then, it has appeared on a lot of company bulletin boards and employee break room walls. The last five are new for 2010.)
  1. Be on time, whether it is with showing up for work, returning from breaks, going to meetings, or turning in assignments.

  2. Call in if you know you will be tardy or absent. Most companies treat absences or tardiness without notice much more seriously than simple absence or tardiness.

  3. Try your best; always finish an assignment, no matter how much you would rather be doing something else. It is always good to have something to show for the time you have spent.

  4. Anticipate problems and needs of management - your bosses will be grateful, even if they do not show it.

  5. Show a positive attitude - no one wants to be around someone who is a "downer".

  6. Avoid backstabbing, office gossip, and spreading rumors - remember, what goes around comes around - joining in the office gossip may seem like the easy thing to do, but almost everyone has much more respect - and trust - for people who do not spread stories around.

  7. Follow the rules. The rules are there to give the greatest number of people the best chance of working together well and getting the job done.

  8. Look for opportunities to serve customers and help coworkers. Those who would be leaders must learn how to serve.

  9. Avoid the impulse to criticize your boss or the company. It is easy to find things wrong with others - it is much harder, but more rewarding, to find constructive ways to deal with problems. Employees who are known for their good attitude and helpful suggestions are the ones most often remembered at performance evaluation and raise review time.

  10. Volunteer for training and new assignments. Take a close look at people in your organization who are "moving up" - chances are, they are the ones who have shown themselves in the past to be willing to do undesirable assignments or take on new duties.

  11. Avoid the temptation to criticize your company, coworkers, or customers on the Internet. Social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and blogs offer many opportunities to spout off - remember that anyone in the world can find what you put online and that employers may be able to take action against any employee whose online actions hurt the company or its business in some way.

  12. Be a good team member. Constantly focusing on what makes you different from others, instead of how you fit into the company team, makes you look like someone who puts themselves first, instead of the customer, the team, or the company.

  13. Try to avoid ever saying "that's not my job". Many, if not most, managers earned their positions by doing work turned down by coworkers who were in the habit of saying that, and they appreciate employees who help get the job done, whatever it is.

  14. Show pride in yourself and respect toward others. Never let yourself be heard uttering minority-related slurs or other derogatory terms in reference to yourself or to others. Use of such terms perpetuates undesirable stereotypes and inevitably disturbs others. It also tends to make others doubt your maturity and competence. The best way to get respect is to show respect toward yourself and others.

  15. Distinguish yourself. Pick out one or more things in your job to do better than anyone else. Become known as the "go-to" person for such things. That will help managers remember you favorably at times when you really need to be remembered.

Friday, March 28, 2014

About the Modern Victory Movement

A lot of people are concerned about what they future may bring. We see multiple problems on the horizon - massive government debts, geopolitical dangers, economic problems, political turmoil, loss of individual liberty, terrorism, and risks of pandemic disease, to name but a few.

The Modern Victory Movement (MVM) is about teaching people how best to navigate these difficult times of change. The core of MVM is not waiting around for the government to solve problems for you, but rather to take the steps necessary to solve your own problems, to become much more self-reliant. Not only will doing so benefit you and your family, but also your friends, neighbors and community.

For more information:

Introduction to the Modern Victory Movement

The Eight Main Points of the Modern Victory Movement

History of Victory Gardens


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

More Small Plot Gardening

My earlier article on small plot gardening has proved so popular, it seems like a good idea to post more tips for gardening in small places.

Small Plot Gardening Tips

Be sure to read my previous post on small plot gardening and the resources linked to in that post. Here are a bunch of additional small plot gardening tips. Tips quoted from other sources are marked with a link to the original source. Unmarked tips are from me.

1- With any type of gardening, it is important to plant crops that you and your family actually like and will eat. Planting foods that you dislike, no matter how productive, will simply be wasted space (unless you plan on selling or trading them, an unlikely goal for those with very limited space).

2- Tomatoes are probably the most productive crop you can grow. Since they are tall, however, you should take care not to plant them where they will shade the shorter plants in your garden. Tomatoes are a good choice because they are packed with useful nutrients, store well (canned, frozen, or dried) and are a basic ingredient used in many dishes.

3- Green leafy vegetables, such as turnip greens, spinach, mustard and kale all make excellent choices for small plot gardening. And they are all highly nutritious.

4- "There are all sorts of herbs that can be planted in containers and moved around as you please. And a lack of space doesn’t mean that you can’t grow some fruit or berries. Try raising strawberries in a strawberry jar, plant a fig tree in a container, or grow a compact blueberry bush in place of ornamental shrubs." -- veggiegardeningtips.com

5- "Many vegetables, including peas, pole beans, cucumbers, squash, melons, and tomatoes, will naturally climb a support or can be trained to grow upwards, leaving more ground space for other crops. Support structures include cages, stakes, trellises, strings, teepees, chicken wire, or existing fences let your imagination take over!" -- Small Plot and Intensive Gardening

6 - "Vegetable breeders have been emphasizing smaller plants for container and small plot gardening. Although some of the dwarf or mini plants produce smaller fruits, often a greater number of fruits are produced, yielding a good total harvest. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and peas are just a few examples from the mini ranks. Some new cultivars of vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers have compact, trailing growth habits ideal for growing in hanging baskets." -- Small Plot and Intensive Gardening

7- Water less often but more deeply. Frequent light watering will result in shallow root development. When needed, water only once or twice a week but thoroughly enough to soak the soil down to at least six inches. This will encourage deep root growth.

8- Most small plot and intensive gardening techniques naturally discourage weed growth, but weeds are still likely to appear in your garden. Pull weeds as soon as you notice them. Weeds are easier to pull when young and pulling them earlier will help prevent them from spreading.

9- "For minimum maintenance and weed control, apply an organic mulch around the plants after the soil has warmed. A mulch also helps retain moisture in the soil. Grass clippings (3 to 4 inches), straw (4 to 6 inches), and sawdust (1 to 2 inches) are excellent mulches." -- Small Plot Vegetable Gardening

10- "Do not sow seeds too deeply or they may not germinate. Place carrots, radishes, and lettuce no deeper than 1/4 inch. Large seeds such as peas, beans, and cucumbers can be sown 1 to1-1/2 inches deep. Vine crops can be planted six seeds in a cluster or hill and then later thinned to four plants per hill." -- Small Plot and Intensive Gardening

11- "Thin seed rows to their proper spacing after the plants are 1-2 inches tall. Thin the plants with scissors rather than pulling them so you won’t disturb the other plants. Use the thinnings for salads." -- Small Plot and Intensive Gardening

12- Grow only a few varieties. Trying to grow a little bit of everything creates more work and yields less food. Since your space if relatively limited, try growing only a few favorites, or look to grow whatever costs the most at the market in your area.

13- Most herbs do really well in small pots. The pots can be moved around to take full advantage of sunlight, and even taken indoors in the fall to extend their productivity. Some herbs to consider: parsley, chives, mints, basil, dill, oregano and thyme.

14- "To select your vegetable garden plot, consider what vegetables need to thrive. Vegetables and fruits need 6-8 hours of sunlight daily. The vegetable garden plot should be well-drained and convenient to water (vegetables require 1 inch of water weekly or 75 gallons per 100 square feet)." -- Preparing a Garden Plot (no longer available online)

15- "Soil that is loamy, well drained, and high in organic matter is ideal for your vegetable garden. Visit your local cooperative extension or health department and pick up a free soil-test kit. The ideal pH for vegetables is 6.0 to 6.5. The test tells you if your soil needs lime added (available at your local gardening center)." -- Preparing a Garden Plot (no longer available online)