Thursday, November 30, 2017

Prepping My Garden for Next Year

Over the past week, I've been working on preparing my garden areas for next year. I'm also buying seed and a few tools I will need for next year. Now is a good time to do so, since we are still in a "business-as-usual" atmosphere (meaning that store shelves are still full, delivery systems are still working, and the dollar still buys stuff). There is no guarantee this will still be the case when planting time rolls around next spring. 

My "Back Porch Garden."

So, what exactly am I doing?  One example is the area surrounding my back porch. This is an area where I will be growing tomatoes and peppers  this coming year. I've been using this area, which surrounds 2 and 3/4 sides of the porch, for years and have it marked of with large stones. 

To prep this area, I started by pulling up by hand  all remaining plants, grass, and weeds last week. Then I placed some large pieces of cardboard on top of the soil. Next, I raked leaves (of which I have plenty) on top of the cardboard, making a really tick pile. I watered down the leaves, which helped compact down the leaves and will assist in the decomposition process. You may also wish to sprinkle some lime on the leaves, which will also help the decomposition process as well as raising your soils ph, if your soil is too acidic. Finally, I covered the leaves with some old sheets and blankets. This will hold the leaves in place (so I don't have to keep raking them over and over) and will aid in decomposition.

The advantage to using old blankets instead of black plastic, in my opinion, is that they allow much more water- and air-flow, which will speed up decomposition. Black plastic does raise the temperature more, but cuts off most of the water- and air-flow. 

I plan to pull off the blankets a week or two before I start planting next year. I have a local source of worms that I can buy in lots of 500, so I plan on buying a couple thousand and spreading on my garden areas. The worms will quickly go to work eating the organic matter and pooping out lots of wonderful organic fertilizer throughout my gardens. 

Depending on the state of decomposition, I may or may not add a thin layer of soil on top of the leaves before planting, which I am buying and having delivered now.

Tip: You can often get large pieces of used cardboard from furniture stores (furniture is often delivered wrapped in these cardboard sheets), and grocery stores (where they are used between layers on pallets). The cardboard I used this week was from a furniture store. In the past, I've also gotten large sheets of cardboard my my local Aldi's.

This coming year, I will be growing my lettuce and other salad greens, along with radishes, carrots, and onions in special containers (watch for a future article on that). Cabbages, which need to be rotated every year, will be grown in the garden area by my backyard fence. And the rest of my crops will be planted in main garden area, which I am currently working on expanding. My plan for next year is to grow more food than I ever had.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

I urge everyone to work on getting their gardens ready for planting next year. Right now, you can still buy the stuff you need - seeds, tools, water hoses, lime, soil amendments, etc. Who knows what the situation will be next spring. 

Of Interest:
 Starter Vegetable Gardens -  This book contains 24 "No-Fail Plans for Small Organic Gardens." These easy-to-follow plans are perfect for those new to gardening in general or organic gardening in particular.
Japanese Hori Hori Garden Knife - This hybrid knife and garden scoop can do almost anything in the garden - weed, dig, prune, transplant, measure, cut, harvest. WARNING: This is a very sharp, high-quality, full-tang knife blade.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

DISASTER!! Tips & priorities for dealing with emergencies...

Its an emergency. The s**t just hit the fan. You're facing a major crisis. Disaster is all around. Quick... What do you do now?

Here are some tips to help you figure out what you should so in an emergency, and what your priorities should be:

Follow the STOP plan: Stop. Think. Observe. Plan.

>>>Stop. Don't panic. Stay calm. Don't get overly emotional. Take a few deep breathes. Maybe even sit down if you need to. What happened, happened. Panic and overly-emotional reactions will only make matters worse.

>>>Think. Take a moment or two to consider your situation. Are you in immediate danger (e.g. your house is own fire)? Or, are you in a more drawn-out sort of danger (e.g. the economy just collapsed)? Either way, you need to make rational, well-thought out, decisions at this point.

>>>Observe. Look around. What is your situation. What are your immediate threats? Near-term threats? Long-term threats? Take stock of what resources you have available (knowledge, skills, supplies, tools, people, money, etc.).

>>>Plan. Decide how you are going to deal with the crisis. Make a plan, share your plan with others with you, and stick to the plan, making changes only in relation to changing circumstances. (Making unneeded or frequent changes only adds confusion and ensures that your group are NOT all on the same page.)

!!! Depending on the circumstances, you may have only seconds to do the above. Or you may have hours, days, or even longer. Do the best you can do in the time you have. Thinking through possible scenarios ahead of time helps.

Tip: Make sure everyone in your family or group is well-versed with the STOP plan. Practice it in various scenarios.

Know the priorities in any emergency:

1) Safety. Quickly remove yourself and others out of the path of immediate danger. If your house is on fire, your first priority is to get yourself and your family out of the house. If a riot or civil unrest is happening, get out of the area.Safety may also mean "bugging out" to a safer/better location during a time of political or economic turmoil.

2) Address any serious medical concerns. Here is the basic order of concern for most injuries:
  1. Make sure the person can breathe.
  2. Stop any major bleeding.
  3. Immobilize the neck/back if there is any possibility of injury to those regions.
  4. Treat shock, hypothermia, hyperthermia, and/or heart attack. 
  5. Treat dehydration.
  6. Treat broken bones (immobilize/splint).
  7. Treat lesser injuries.
*****Please take a good first aid & CPR course before an emergency hits! 

 3) Shelter from the elements. This may mean a formal shelter, a tent or other temporary shelter, or just warm clothes, rain gear, and/or blanket.

4) Water. Clean water is a must in any situation, emergency or not.

5) Food. Last on the list, and likely unimportant in the short run. You can go longer without food than anything else on this list.

Important: Plan ahead and practice what to do in various scenarios. The more you practice, the more ingrained your responses will be. This practice will help you remain focused on what you need to do during an emergency. This is why schools hold fire drills, basketball players shoot free throws in practice, and nations hold war games.  
This article replaces an article I wrote on this subject a few years ago. 

Of Interest: First Aid Manual, 5th Edition - Everyone, prepper or not, should learn first aid. This first aid manual of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) is much more up-to-date (2014) than the American Red Cross manual, which hasn't been updated since 1992. 

326-Piece First Aid Kit for Home or Office - This is an affordable and fairly complete first aid kit that meets OSHA and ANSI guidelines. Compartmentalized and very well-organized so you don't waste much time hunting for what you need. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

How the Wealthy are Planning to Survive Economic Collapse

An article in The New Yorker earlier this year starts off with this line: “Some of the wealthiest people in America—in Silicon Valley, New York, and beyond—are getting ready for the crackup of civilization.

Steve Huffman, co-founder and CEO of Reddit, was quoted in that same article: “I own a couple of motorcycles. I have a bunch of guns and ammo. Food. I figure that, with that, I can hole up in my house for some amount of time.” He also revealed that he has undergone laser eye improve his vision in hopes of improving his chances of surviving a disaster.

PayPal co-founder, billionaire, and member of the Bilderberg Group, Peter Thiel recently became a New Zealand citizen and purchased a large tract of land there.

And these are only two of a long-list of the ultra-wealthy who are taking steps to prepare for an economic doomsday that they feel may come in the not too distant future. Over the last few years, there have been many news articles and reports of the world's elite buying land and “doomsday bunkers” around the world.

So, what is going on? What do the world's elite see coming, and what are they doing to survive?

Financial reporter Paul B. Farrell has written several articles about what he describes as a “coming global debt bomb” and the fact that many of the world's wealthy elites and financial insiders have realized that a global economic collapse is inevitable. In talking about how to prepare for the coming collapse, Farrell quotes hedge fund manager Barton Biggs (now deceased), who advised his clients to expect the "possibility of a breakdown of the civilized infrastructure". His advice: Make tons of money. Buy an isolated farm in the mountains. Protect your family against the barbarians.

"Your safe haven must be self-sufficient and capable of growing some kind of food ... It should be well-stocked with seed, fertilizer, canned food, wine, medicine, clothes, etc. Think Swiss Family Robinson." -- Paul B. Farrell quoting advice from Barton Biggs

Please realize that this isn't advice from some survivalist guru to militia-type folks. Instead, this is advice from a respected hedge fund manager and financial insider, to his ultra-wealthy clients.

Notice that first part of the above quote - make tons of money. Farrell and others are saying that the wealthy elites are doing just that. Realizing that an economic collapse is inevitable (only the timing is uncertain), they are making as much money as they can right now using short term tactics (creating a frothy stock market in the process) and reinvesting that money into hard assets such as productive land, gold, silver, agricultural and other commodities, as a protection against future collapse.

There are two ways to look at this advice: 1) the wealthy elite are selfish, greedy scumbags who are trying to take advantage of a dire situation to their benefit; or 2) the wealthy elite see what is coming, realize there is nothing that can be done at this point to prevent it, and are simply doing whatever it takes to protect themselves and their families. Greedy, honorable or both - you decide.

So, what is the average Joe and Jane supposed to do if collapse is coming? Adopt the advice of Biggs and the tactics of the ultra-wealthy. Make as much money as you can right now, turning that short term cash into the things you and your family will need to survive the coming economic chaos. Buy productive land in a relatively low-population area. Set up a homestead. Invest in security ( guns, ammo, self-defense classes, harden your home, etc.). Take care of any health needs now. Stockpile food, water, medicine, clothes and other supplies. Learn the useful skills of self-sufficiency. Get ready now to hunker down and ride out the collapse when it happens. 

Of Interest:

Going Galt: Surviving Economic Armageddon

Going Galt: Survival Gardening: Sustainable High Yield Gardening

Monday, November 20, 2017

Prepper's Guide to Mental Health and Emotional Preparedness

(Even if you decide not to read this entire article, please check out the section “Getting Help” near the bottom of the article.)

Mental health and emotional preparedness is very important in a crisis. The abilities to not panic, to stay focused, and to think clearly in a crisis are crucial. And you don't want to have to deal with addictions and other mental health challenges (your own, or that of others) in the midst of a crisis. Don't forget that many folks today “manage” their mental health problems with medications that may quickly become unattainable in any post-collapse scenario. 
Most everyone in the prepper and survivalist communities acknowledge the importance of Mental health and emotional preparedness, but few talk about it in any detail. How do we prepare our mental health? Isn't good mental health something we either have or don't have? Is it something we can actually work on? How do we prep our mental health?

Prepping Your Mental Health

1) Develop a healthy spirituality, according to whatever spiritual beliefs you may have. Some suggestions: Reconnect with God. Pray. Read scripture. Go to Church or Synagogue. Seek forgiveness. Get right with God. Be thankful. My relationship with God gives me great comfort, encouragement, strength, focus, and purpose during times of stress.
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." -- Philippians 4:13 NKJV
 2) Reconnect with your spouse. Or get married if you're single (like me). Next to your relationship with God, no other relationship in your life will be as important, or have more potential for greatness, Your spouse will be (or should be) your best friend and confidant, your helpmate, a shoulder to cry on, the one person who will always care about you, and the one person you can always trust. Of course, it is a two-way street - you have to be there for your spouse. So be there.

Honestly, this is the one area of my prepping where I have failed. I am not married and never have been. When I was in my 20s, I thought staying single was so smart. Now that I am older, I realize how stupid I was in my 20s. I could, and someday might, write a really long essay listing the many ways not being married has hindered me in my life. Folks, don't take your spouse for granted. You really are lucky to have him/her.}

3) Reconnect with family, friends, neighbors... Improve existing relationships and work on building new, positive relationships. Be a part of your community. Join a local church or synagogue. Meet your neighbors. Participate. Volunteer.

My Grandparents and their generation survived the Great Depression and WWII by doing two somewhat contradictory things - by being self-reliant and by helping each other (neighbor helping neighbor). We need solid relationships in our lives, positive relationships with our spouses and families, our friends and neighbors, and others in our communities.  Do you have solid relationships in your life? People you can count on, and who can count on you, when the chips are down?

4) Don't be afraid of "weeding out" toxic people from your life. We all have toxic people in our lives. People who seem to exist in a constant state of chaos; people who drain us of our energy (and sometimes our money); people who hurt us over and over again, and don't seem to care. Perhaps it is a relative. Or an old friend from your childhood. I'm not saying to dump people when they are going through a rough patch. But there are some folks whose "rough patch" seems to be their entire lives, and they refuse to do anything about it. Don't get sucked into their world of constant chaos, addictions, and bad decisions. Pray for them, help them if they are willing to try, then let them go.

5) Get rid of any addictions in your life - drugs, alcohol, tobacco, gambling, whatever... - before any crisis. You do not want to have to deal with an addiction during a crisis. (See the Getting Help section below).

6) Relax. Laugh. Enjoy life. Be thankful. Don’t dwell on the negatives. Be a hopeful realist. It is important to understand the problems we face. Just don’t obsess over them. Instead, start working towards solutions. Acting to make positive changes, even small ones, will increase your confidence and encourage yourself, your family and your friends.

7) Reduce stress by taking up a fun hobby or two completely unrelated to prepping and survivalism.

8) Reconnect to God's creation. Spend time in nature. Take up outdoor hobbies such as gardening, hiking, fishing, camping and bird watching. Learn the names of trees, wildflowers and “weeds” native to your area. Learn what kinds of soils are in your region. Learn where your water comes from. Visit nearby parks and wildlife refuges. Visit your local natural history museum or botanical gardens. Learn the names of the birds and butterflies common to your backyard. Participate in the National Wildlife Federation's BackyardWildlife Habitat program.

 9) Get enough sleep (for adults, that is at least 7 hours a night on a consistent basis). I know. Most people claim they can "get by" on less, but really they are fooling themselves. Lack of sleep wrecks havoc on our mental health. Sleep is also often overlooked in regards to our physical health. Being constantly sleep deprived is really bad, mentally and physically.

10) Be a life-long learner. Read. Take classes. Improve your job skills. Learn about personal finance. Study permaculture. Learn useful skills such as auto mechanics, small-engine repair, carpentry and home repair. Learn first aid and CPR. Learn to sew, and to preserve food. Learn how to save seeds. Learn how to hunt, fish and forage for wild foods. Learn the skills your grandparents had.

This will give you confidence based on real reasons (as opposed to the empty "positive self-image" pushed by the PC crowd).

A Bonus Thought:
"For as he thinks in his heart, so is he." -- Proverbs 23:7 NKJV
We are our thoughts, so be mindful what you think.  If you dwell on life's negatives, you will become a negative person. If you constantly think about all the reasons you will probably fail, you will fail. If you think yourself a confident, happy, capable person, you will become one. This isn't wishful thinking, but creating a mindset that will eventually determine your destiny. 

Where to Get Help* 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Veteran's Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline – 1-877-726-4727 
(Get general information on mental health and locate treatment services in your area. Speak to a live person, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST.)

Refer to the article Finding Help: When to Get It and Where to Go on the Mental Health America website. 

Local clergy (pastors, priests, rabbis) often will be able to refer you to local programs, support groups, and counselors that can help.

Addicted to Tobacco? Quitting Smoking (on the American Cancer Society website) 

Addicted to Alcohol? Alcoholics Anonymous

Addicted to Drugs? Narcotics Anonymous 

*Getting right with God is a very important part of getting help. I encourage everyone to pray, read the Bible, and attend the church of your choice. Not sure about God? Talk to a local minister or priest. Or read The Roman Road. Or check out Peace with God. Or check out Journey to Orthodoxy.
This article replaces an earlier article I published on the topic in 2014.

Review: Bud K Neck Knife
This is a review of a Bud K Neck Knife that I've owned for a few years. I mostly wear it when walking my dog along the trails in the woods beside my neighborhood, as well as when I go jogging.  But it could be used for numerous other purposes, too. In addition to the knife, the sheath has a built-in whistle, which could be very useful in certian circumstances.

This knife is surprisingly inexpensive (less than $10)  for its quality. Here are the details: total length of the tanto-style knife itself is 6.75 inches. The cutting edge is 3 inches. In its sheath, it checks in at 7.5 inches. It is designed to be quite light weight, with the knife, sheath, and cord combined weighing less than 3 ounces. The full-tang knife is a black anodized 440 stainless steel. It came out-of-the-box relatively sharp. Overall, both the knife and the sheath & whistle seem well-made.

The knife snaps in place upside-down in the ABS sheath, which hangs by a cord from your neck. You can adjust the cord so that the knife hangs at the desired level on your chest. You could also easily replace the cord with different cordage or even a ball-chain if you wished. The sheath has a built-in whistle, which is quite loud.

The snap-in system works quite well. I've had this knife for almost four years, and have never had it fall out of its sheath, even when I'm being quite active. It still seems to hold as firmly and securely as when I first got it.

This shouldn't be your primary fixed-blade knife, of course, but it works great for my purposes. Use it for when you don't won't to wear a belt knife (such as I do when walking my dog around the neighborhood, or jogging), or to have as a back-up. It is light enough to throw into a backpack, book bag, pocket book, or brief case without adding a lot of weight.  It would also fit nicely into the glove compartment or door pocket of a vehicle. For these purposes, I give this neck knife a 4.5 out of 5 stars.

It is currently available on Amazon for less than $10, which I consider a good buy for this neck knife.