Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Urban Survival: Networking and Building Community


If you live in the city or suburbs, and for whatever reasons (usually family or financial) don't want to move to a more rural area, here is my best advice to you:  Connect with trustworthy, like-minded people near you and together start preparing and planning for difficult times. This type of survival network is often called a mutual assistance group, or MAG, and can be as formal or as informal as you want it to be.

Advantages of a Survival Network:
  • Provides mutual encouragement and accountability, enabling you to stay on track.
  • Allows all parties to draw on different experiences and skill sets.
  • Can divide up tasks among members.
  • Can divide up responsibilities.
  • Can make and split bulk purchases, reducing costs for all involved. 
  • Can split the costs of certain purchases for which your group only needs one - such as a ham radio.
Also, if the group is successful, at some point you may even consider going in together to buy a few acres of rural property to use as a bug-out retreat.

Many skill sets need to be learned by all group members (examples: basic first aid & CPR, self-defense). But you can assign certain advanced or specialized tasks to certain members. Something like this:

"Sam & Emily, you'll be our medics so you need to get advanced first aid and medical training. John, you'll be our ham radio operator and communications expert, so get the equipment and training. Bill, you have the only pick-up truck in the group, so you need to get a hand truck and dolly and be available to group members for hauling. Mary, since you're already into sewing, you'll be the group's seamstress so make sure you have plenty of supplies to repair our clothing after the SHTF."   

You get the idea. When you go it alone, you have to do it all yourself. When you are a part of a group, those responsibilities can be divided up.

You should also plan how you will provide mutual aid to each other both during a disaster and after. Plan for both natural disasters and man-made disasters. Discuss and write down these plans and expectations to prevent misunderstandings. The more detail, the better. Review these plans often.

Who should be in your network? 

Well, I did say trustworthy, like-minded people near you. You're not looking for folks with certain skill sets (worry about skills later). Rather, you're looking for folks who share similar worldviews, concerns, and goals. Start meeting people and talking to them. Look first to those already around you: nearby family & friends, neighbors, fellow church-members, co-workers, and so forth. 

I say "nearby" because you need people who are physically near your location. Its great to have a survivalist buddy who lives in another state, but transportation with be difficult when the SHTF, and will likely become even more difficult post-collapse as gasoline runs out and infrastructure breaks down. The absolute best situation is someone who lives within eye-shot  of your place. Next is someone within reasonable walking distance of your place. You can expand your search outwards from there.

How do you find "like-minded" people?

Look for clues as to their attitudes and mindset. The guy at work with a NRA sticker on his truck might be a good prospect. Your neighbor who still has the "Hillary For President" bumper sticker on his Toyota Prius, probably isn't. Pay attention and you will pick up lots of clues, good and bad.

Once you find a prospect, start feeling them out. Mention watching a hunting show, or a rerun of Dual Survivor, or something similar, and see how they react. Negative reactions, move on. Positive reactions, keep the conversations going. It will probably take several conversations as both parties feel each other out before building enough trust to get into preparedness and survival topics. 

Religion and politics do make a difference. Someone diametrically opposed to your views on these topics will make a poor fit for your group. Have discussions on these topics early on. Believe me, you'll quickly figure out if they are incompatible with you.  

A few warning signs to watch out for:

1- Addictions.  Addictions of any kind are a MAJOR warning sign.  Do not make them a part of your group until they have successfully and completely overcome their addiction.

2- Nuts/Crazies.
  I'm not referring to people who are a bit unusual or marching to a different drummer, but those who have actual serious mental problems. Avoid them. Remember, at some point in a crisis, their meds will run out. Besides, the stress and chaos of a crisis will likely make their illness even more serious.

3- Bizarre or Unusual Requests Early On. If you are just getting to know someone and they hit you with a bizarre or very unusual request, tread carefully. Bizarre requests might include asking to borrow a significant sum of money, or to quickly make a serious commitment, or to do something illegal or unethical.

4- Dishonesty. Its a good thing to be guarded with personal information, and concerned with maintaining your privacy. Its something else entirely to outright lie, especially about major issues. Don't expect someone to completely open up to you and tell you everything about their life, especially early on. But you should expect them to be honest in what they do tell you.


Some positive indicators:

1- Stability.   Look for signs of stability, or the lack of it, in their lives. If they are holding a job – its a good sign.  If they bounce in and out of work often or spend large stretches of time unemployed  - it may be a bad sign. Same goes for other areas of their lives – friendships, relationships, living arrangements, and so forth. Of course, context matters, so use common sense.  However, generally speaking, signs of stability in their lives are good, and signs of a lack of stability are warning flags. Look for trends within their life, not one time events.

2- Friendship.  If you cannot be close friends with someone, it doesn't make sense to include them in your group, no matter what skill sets they bring with them. You will be working closely together, depending on each other on a daily basis in very difficult and stressful times.  If there is  something about their personality that annoys you, it will only get worse in any collapse scenario.  If you don't like them, don't expect to be able to "put up with" them over the long-term, especially during stressful times. It will go wrong at some point. Some questions to consider: Do you enjoy being around that person?  Can you have a good time together? Are you both comfortable around each other?

3- Trust.  Do you trust that person?  Do you feel you can tell them anything without them judging you, telling others, or spreading gossip?  Do you trust them to always tell you the truth? Do you trust them enough to always tell them the truth? Can you trust them to not put themselves above the group in a crisis? Can you trust them to take care of tools and other things belonging to the group, every bit as well as they take care of their own personal property? Can you trust them to make the same commitment of time, effort , and finances to the group that you are willing to make?

4- Reciprocity. By this category, I mean how they treat you and others Is your relationship with them reciprocal (involving give and take on both sides)?  Do you get as much out of it as they do?  Are they a good host AND a good guest?  Are they a giver, taker or balanced? Do they try to live by the golden rule, treating others  in the same way they want to be treated? As you get to know each other, do they seem willing to sacrifice (time, money, effort) as much for the group as you are? 



Other Articles of Interest
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Monday, January 21, 2019

Emergency Water Storage

Water is absolutely essential to life. In a society long accustomed to having water-on-demand, most Americans give little thought to having water storage for emergencies. However, emergencies that leave us without on-demand water can and do happen. Having an emergency supply of water can be the difference between life and death in certain situations, so having an emergency supply is essential.

How Much Water to Store

The general recommendation most often given for how much water to store is 1 gallon per day, per person. So, a family of four would need 12 gallons of water for a 3-day period (1 gallon X 4 people X 3 days). In my opinion, this is an absolute minimum recommendation.

A better recommendation would be 1 gallon of potable water (that is, water safe for drinking, brushing teeth, cleaning wounds, food prep, and cooking) per day per person, PLUS additional water for flushing toilets, general household cleaning, and bathing (external only; brush teeth & clean wounds with potable water). PLUS, don't forget additional water for pets and livestock. 

Also, I would recommend storing enough water for 2 weeks (14 days), rather than just 3 days. This recommendation would be 56 gallons of potable water for a family of four (1 gallon X 4 people X 14 days), plus additional water for non-potable uses, pets, and livestock. How much additional water will depend on your situation, so use commonsense and your best estimates to come up with your target amount.  

NOTE: This is a minimum recommendation. More is always better.

Water for Washing Pots, Pans, and Dishes

Do you need potable water to wash pots, pans, and dishes? There is some disagreement on this issue. The following is my opinion, and what I do.

There is an adage "Germs dry. Germs die." I have no problem washing cookware, dishes, and utensils with regular (non-potable) water, as long as they are allowed to dry thoroughly before their next use. I've never gotten sick from doing this, and know of no one else who has. Many folks agree with me. Others don't. Decide for yourself. If you insist on washing dishes  only with potable water, you will have to add more potable water to your storage to account for this use.
 
Containers to NOT Use for Water Storage
  • Milk Jugs - not designed for long-term storage and will eventually leak; difficult to completely wash out the fats & proteins from the milk which may promote bacterial growth; plastic is of a type that may leach chemicals into the water over time.
  • Crystal Glass and Antique Glass Containers - the glass may contain lead.
  • Bleach Bottles - bleach bottles are treated with a chemical agent that may leach into water over time. 
  • Ozark Trail 6-gal water jugs - I've written about this before, but the giant X stamped into the sides is a major design flaw that will eventually spring leaks 100% of the time: read my warning article for details.
  • Containers that previously held toxic substances - impossible to clean thoroughly enough to be made safe.

Containers to Use for Water Storage
  • Water Tanks designed for the purpose of water storage - many types and sizes available on Amazon.
  • Water Containers designed for water storage - I use AquaTainers, and have never had one leak (they are also BPA-free). 
  • Food Grade plastic and glass bottles -  used bottles with tight-fitting screw-on tops that once contained water, juice, soda, or wine can be cleaned and repurposed for water storage; I use 1-gallon table wine bottles. Keep see-trough bottles in a dark room or closet, or otherwise covered to protect from light, to prevent growth of bacteria, algae, or mold.

Are Plastic Bottles and Containers Safe for Water Storage?

Plastic can leach into water over the long-term, but not all plastic leaches equally. Stick to food grade and BPA-free plastics for your long-term storage. Remember this: You will die of dehydration (in days) long before you'll die from plastic toxicity (after years of consumption, if ever). In a true long-term emergency situation, plastic water containers will be the very least of your problems.

How Long Will Water Store?

Non-potable water stores indefinitely, without need for rotation. 

Potable water, assuming it is properly stored, also stores indefinitely, without need for rotation. However, potable water will begin to taste "flat" after about six months or so. It is still safe to drink, and the taste can be improved by introducing air into it (think bubbles). Of course, if you notice algae or mold in the water, do not use it without treating first.

Additional Tips
  • Clean and thoroughly dry all bottles, tanks, and containers - both used and new - before filling with water for long-term storage.
  • If your tap water is already safe for drinking, it should also be safe for long-term storage without additional treatment.
  • Unsure of your water? Have it tested first, then treat if necessary. 
  • Want some extra insurance? Add 2-4 drops of unscented bleach per quart of water.
  • Store your long-term water away from direct sunlight and heat, and away from gasoline, kerosene, pesticides, and other chemicals (both to prevent contamination and to prevent possible degradation of plastic containers).
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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Preppers' Guide to Workshop and DIY Safety


Some preppers are lucky enough to have an actual workshop separate from their house. Others have converted their garage or a spare room into a workshop. Apartment dwellers may only have a closet where they keep their tools, pulling them out and using them as and where needed. Regardless of where your work area is, here are some important safety tips and considerations:

1) Your workshop or work area should be well-light and well-ventilated.

2) Make sure your workshop or work area is not cluttered, and that you have enough room to work on your projects without tripping over or bumping into stuff.

3) Your workshop should be correctly wired (and up to code) for the power tools and equipment you are using.

4) Check all extension cords for fraying and other damage on a regular basis. Always use the correct extension cord for the power tool or equipment being used.

5) Have a well-stocked first aid kit in your workshop (or with you, if you are working away from your workshop). Make sure your first aid kit includes a tourniquet, burn kit, and eyewash bottle.

6) Have a fire/smoke/CO2 detector in your workshop. Check/change batteries on a regular basis.

7) Have an all-purpose (ABC) fire extinguisher in your workshop.

8) Store your tools and equipment properly. Make sure items on shelves are secured so they won't accidentally fall off.

9) Read and keep the manufacturers instructions for correct and safe use of your tools and equipment, as well as the MSDS safety sheets for all chemicals and materials that you store or use.

10) Store all paints, oils, glues, cleaning fluids, and other chemicals in appropriate containers, and away from sources of flames and/or heat.

11) Keep sharp or dangerous objects out of reach of children and pets.

12) Store oily rags in an appropriate, safe container, and away from sources of flame, heat, or electricity.

13) Make sure all workbenches are sturdy and stable. Do not use an unbalanced workbench. Do not overload a workbench with too much weight.

14) When repairing or installing anything electric, make sure the power is off at the circuit breaker.

Safety/Protective Gear

15) Wear/use the appropriate safety gear for the task at hand. This gear may include:
Personal Behavior

16) Don't use power tools or equipment for the first time without proper instruction. Don't use tools and equipment that you don't know how to use.


17) Never use tools and equipment while under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

18) Use the appropriate tool for the task. Don't try to make do. Don't use tools that are damaged. Only use tools and equipment how they were intended to be used.

19) Wear suitable shoes and clothing for the task (for example, no flip-flops or clogs). Remove dangling items (such as a scarf, necklace, etc.) before using power tools.

20) Lift heavy objects with your legs, not your back. Get help lifting objects too heavy for you to comfortably lift on your own.

21) Don't smoke or use candles around gas, oil, and other flammable materials.

22) Stay focused and pay attention to the task at hand. Don't get distracted.

23) Please, no practical jokes, running, or horseplay in the workshop or work area. This should go without saying, but many accidents do happen while workers are fooling around, goofing off, or otherwise behaving inappropriately for the situation.

NOTE: If possible, have a partner with you in case of accident while working. Always have a cell phone or other means of calling for help if needed.

Please take workshop and DIY safety seriously. Accidents can and do lead to property destruction, temporary or permanent injury, and even death.

This list is not exhaustive by any means, and is not meant to replace your own common sense. Your particular situation, equipment, and activities may require different or additional safety precautions.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

A Peek at a Survivalist's Library from 1964

What books should be on a Survivalist's bookshelf? That is a question prompted by a book I recently read (Robert Heinlein's Farnham's Freehold). Its a science fiction survivalist novel about a family that survives a nuclear war. In it, the man (Hugh Farnham) who built and stocked a bomb shelter lists his "must-have" survivalist library. 

Heinlein's book was published in 1964, so all the books mentioned are from that era and before, naturally.  I'm currently working on my list of a Prepper's Library for modern times, but for now I thought it would be interesting to share the list of the books in Farnham's bomb shelter's library.

The list is a mixture of practical books (various volumes on homesteading, medicine, engineering, etc), books for entertainment value (note the inclusion of Hoyle's Book of Games for one), general knowledge (a dictionary and an encyclopedia set), and several selections obviously influenced by the Cold War (the books on guerrilla warfare, and the Russian/English dictionaries). Hugh even attempted to save some classic works (Homer, Shakespeare, etc.)

The List: 
At one point in the book, Hugh Farnham mentions regretting not including the works of Mark Twain in his library.

So, what books would you recommend for a modern day Survivalist's Library?  Leave suggestions in the comments section below. 
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Monday, January 14, 2019

Eight Tips for Bugging Out

We all know that bugging-out should not be Plan A for most people in most situations, but it may become necessary at some point. Best to think through and prepare for bugging-out now, rather than trying to figure it out at the last minute. Here are some tips to think about... 

1) Its all about the timing.  Wait too long, and you'll be trying to bug-out with the unprepared masses - a chaotic and dangerous situation filled with massive traffic jams, clogged infrastructure, no gas supplies, and lots of panicky, angry people.  In a true collapse scenario, if there is a "golden horde" escaping the city, the majority will wait until its too late to safely do so, and I predict most will fail, dying within the first 20 miles (think stress induced heart attacks and lots of violence).

2) Maintain your bug-out vehicle. Many, if not most, of us don't really maintain our vehicles on a tight schedule.The last thing we need in a bug-out scenario is car trouble. Keep your designated bug-out vehicle in excellent running condition, quickly make needed repairs, and stay on-top  of regular maintenance. (See related article: Preppers' Auto Maintenance Schedule.)

3) Keep a repair kit in your vehicle. Even if you maintain your vehicle in excellent condition, there's always the possibility of experiencing car trouble during your bug-out. You're not going to have the time or ability to deal with major problems in the middle of bugging-out (you[ll have to abandon your vehicle). Instead, focus on preparing for the smaller problems you may experience. In my vehicle, I keep several quarts of oil (and a funnel), transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, jumper cables, and a battery starter with air compressor. Make sure you have a real spare tire that is in good shape, not one of those small rubber doughnuts, and make sure you have a jack and tire tool. A can or two of fix-a-flat may also come in handy. Sure, fix-a-flat may void your tire warranty and possibly mess-up your rim, but in an emergency bug-out situation, your priority is getting to your destination, not maintaining your tire warranty. 

4) Prepare now to bug-out later. We all maintain bug-out bags (you do, right?) so we're ready to go at a second's notice, but what if we have some more time to pack? Have you thought through what extras to pack into your vehicle? Have you actually tried to pack everything into your vehicle that you want to take with you? Figure this out ahead of time. For example, you may come up with an order of priority that looks something like this: 
  1. Put Bug-Out Bags in car, as time allows, add the following:
  2. Guns & ammo
  3. Extra fuel
  4. Camping supplies (tent, stove, cookware)
  5. Extra food & water
  6. Extra clothing, blankets
  7. Toolbox, tools, etc
  8. Cleaning & hygiene supplies 
  9. Family mementos and heirlooms
  10. Predetermined selection of useful reference books
Of course, the list you come up with may be quite different and will depend on your own circumstances and concerns. The point is to think through these things now, so you're not left trying to figure it out at the last minute under a lot of stress.

5) Know where you're going. Not only have a bug-out location picked out before you need it, but have at least one back-up location, just in case. Know how to get where you are going without having to use GPS or Google Maps. Know alternative routes, too, since major routes may be blocked or otherwise impassible. Don't know where to bug-out? Check my article "But, bug-out to where, exactly???"

6) Preposition supplies, if possible. Is your bug-out location a cabin in the mountains that you own? Perhaps Cousin Eddie's farm in the country? If you know where you're going to bug-out, you may be able to preposition a stash of supplies - food, clothing, tools, guns & ammo, and so forth.

7) Stay safe along t he way. In a collapse scenario, bugging-out won't be a drive in the country, even if it is literally a drive to the country. You will likely face chaos and dangers along the way.  Stay safe by practicing situational awareness and being armed (and trained). Avoid trouble hot-spots (bad neighborhoods, areas of likely heavy congestion, major intersections that may be blockaded in a martial law scenario, etc.). This means you need to drive and learn about several possible routes to your bug-out locations beforehand. Caravanning with others you know and trust is a good idea. Use two-way radios or CBs to stay in touch with each other on the drive. Listening to local radio stations and police & emergency bands may provide information on road closings, police barricades, and areas experiencing looting and rioting.

8) Know what to do if you have to travel by foot. You're bugging out and your car breaks down. Or you run out of gas. Or the roads are barricaded or simply impassible due to traffic congestion, wrecks, and break-downs. Also, most folks don't keep extra gas on-hand for emergencies or even keep their car's gas tank topped-off, so expect lots of cars to simply run out of gas in the middle of the road. There are lots of reasons you may be reduced to traveling by foot to your destination. Be prepared for that possibility. Wear good hiking shoes or boots when bugging-out. Decide beforehand what you'll take with you from your vehicle, and what you'll have to abandon with it. Be prepared to camp out for a night (or several), since foot travel will be a lot slower than travel by car. Including an emergency sleeping bag or survival tent in your bug-out bag is a good idea.
 
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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Financial Preparedness for What is to Come


We may be facing difficult economic times very soon. Or it may be a few years off. Either way, there will be another economic downturn. There always is. When it happens, it will be especially difficult for the folks who are living paycheck to paycheck (that's most of us), in debt up to their eyeballs and with little or no savings. Debt – whether personal, business or government – is bad. It creates stress and makes one much more vulnerable to economic downturns.

Financial preparedness requires eliminating consumer debt – credit cards, car loans, payday loans, personal loans and installment plans. This will mean you have to put yourself on a budget and stick with it. It will probably mean putting off major purchases, avoiding impulse purchases and denying yourself luxury items. It may mean taking bag lunches to work. It may mean selling your new car to get out of the loan, replacing it with an older model without payments. It may mean having a major yard sale to raise some money. It may even mean taking on a second job. It will take some sacrifice to eliminate debt in your life, but the benefits will be more than worth it.

Building some emergency savings will have to be done at the same time. Yard sales are a great way to bring in extra cash to do this. So is a second job in the evenings or on the weekends. Put the money somewhere safe, such as an insured CD or money market account in a stable bank or credit union (do your own homework or check with several companies that offer ratings on the soundness and safety of various financial institutions). Don’t worry about getting top interest. Safety and liquidity is your goal for your emergency savings, not growth.

Once your debt is paid off and you have accumulated some emergency savings, then you can then turn your attention to saving for long-range goals such as the purchase of a new car, a new home, or retirement. Use common sense, avoid overly-risky investments and seek professional advice of someone you can trust.

No investment is perfectly safe. Cash savings are subject to losing value to inflation. Stocks and mutual funds are subject to the ups and downs of the market. Land is subject to property taxes and eminent domain. Converting all your money to gold & silver and burying it in the backyard is subject to thieves. There are no guarantees in life. The best you can do is use reason & common sense, to remain vigilant and to take responsibility for ensuring your own future.

The single most important thing you can do now to survive any future chaos is to start taking responsibility for your own life.

Get back to the financial basics. Make sure you are spending less than you earn. Avoid taking on any new debt - don't use credit cards, payday loans or installment payment plans of any type. Pay cash or make do without. Build some emergency savings. Get on a budget or spending plan and stick to it. Avoid impulse purchases. Scale back your lifestyle sharply. Find the best bargains by doing comparison shopping, use shopping lists, clip coupons.

Why pay off debt if we are headed towards high inflation? It may be true that by waiting to pay off debt, you will be paying it off with cheaper dollars. However, there are other considerations. For one, debt puts you, your family and your assets at risk. Pay off your debts now while you are employed and you run less risk of losing your home or other assets if you become unemployed later. Besides, deflation may be in the future if things go a certain way. Or, even worse, a period where we experience both deflation (of major assets such as homes, land, vehicles because people simply can't afford them) and inflation (of food and everyday items that we must have at any cost) at the same time.

Debt can also be very stressful, especially in difficult times, which can be a real detriment to your health and your ability to make calm decisions at a time when you most need both.

Another reason is that debt can shackle you to your current job and circumstances, when what is really needed in bad times is freedom and flexibility.

Finally, people tend not to realize how fast interest, late fees and other penalties can add up. You may be paying off your debt later with cheaper dollars, but still be paying more in real terms because of all the added interest and penalties.


Taming the Family Budget, or How to Afford to Pay of Debt and Build Savings 

When I was a small child (the 1970s) the only telecommunications expense my family, most families, had was the telephone, and that was a land line, of course. TV programs were free over-the-air, and there was no Internet. Today, many families pay for a land line, multiple cell phones, special ringtones, cable or satellite TV subscriptions, extra movie channels, Internet connections, gaming and movie subscriptions (Netflix, Hulu, etc.), special apps for their $500 (or more) smart phones, even satellite radio subscriptions. For most families major savings can be found in this budget category.

Do you really need a smart phone? Do you really need the absolute latest (and most expensive) version of your smart phone? I have a regular cell phone myself, but it is the basic model that only cost me $19.99 (and I didn't have to commit to a plan). I can text and make phone calls on my cheap phone as easily as you can on your smart phone. A cell phone may be a necessity for many today, but all the expensive bells and whistles are luxuries you probably can do without.

We have allowed them to make us addicted to our smart phones and other electronic devices. Maybe its time to overcome our addictions and spend our money on getting ready for the future instead of funding those million-dollar bonuses of telecom executives. 

The same thing goes for cable or satellite TV. Do you really need to have all the movie channels? Do you really need all the HD channels? Do you really need the expanded package with all the sports channels and all the music channels? Or can you get by just fine with the much less expensive basic package?

Or better yet, do away with TV altogether. Radical idea, but somehow humanity survived for thousands of years before TV, so technically it is possible. 


Reduce your entertainment expenses. We may hate denying ourselves, but entertainment is a purely optional budget expense. Eliminate it. Learn (or re-learn) how to have a good time for free or nearly free. Start a family game night. Play with your kids in the backyard. Invite friends over for a weekend cook-out or a movie night (with the DVD checked out from your local library for free). Next week they can invite you over.

Read a book (checked out from the library for free, of course) instead of going to a movie. Libraries are a wonderful source of free entertainment. In addition to books and magazines, many libraries today also offer audio books, movies on DVD, music CDs and even board games that you can check out. Many have story times for young children and lecture series for adults you can attend for free.

Give up the vacation away from home this year. Instead of heading for the beach or Disneyland or wherever, stay home. Spend a week visiting local museums, zoos, botanical gardens, historical sites, parks or wildlife refuges. Go on a picnic or nature hike. Go fishing at a local lake. Play Frisbee with your kids in the backyard. Or just relax at home, thinking of all the money you are saving.

Reduce you home energy use. Turn off lights, TVs and electronics whenever you leave a room. Set your thermostat to conserve energy. Consider replace old appliances with new, energy-efficient models. Super-insulate your house. Consider installing energy efficient windows. Many power companies offer free or low-cost home energy audits for their customers, which can identify weak points in your home's insulation and other energy wasters, along with advice to reduce your energy use. 


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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Prepper Do-Over - What I would Do Differently

I grew up as a good ol' country boy/farm boy, so a lot of my prepper and survivalist knowledge, skills and mindset were instilled in me since birth. However, I didn't start to become a "prepper" and "survivalist" until about 2002. Since then, I've done a lot of things right and a lot of things wrong. Here are some of the things I would do differently if I could go back to 2002 and start over:

1) I would place much greater emphasis on my health and fitness. Maybe its because I'm 17 years older now, or because of the health problems I've had over the last few years, but I finally realize how important - and fragile -our health and fitness really is. Developing and maintaining our health and fitness is really hard to do (you can't order it off of Amazon), takes time, and requires effort and sacrifice, but it is the most important prep we can make to survive whatever happens in our Earthly life.

2) I would make moving to a better location a much bigger priority. My current location is okay. It could be a lot worse, but it could also be a lot better. I had planned on moving, but the excuses of "family and finances" kept me where I'm at now. Then came the financial crisis of 2008 and its aftermath. Then came my health problems over the last four years. And now its 2019 and I'm still not where I really want to be. Looking back, I could have moved in anytime in 2003 - 2007, and things would have worked out. My family would have adjusted, and I would have found work and paid the bills. And,most importantly, I would be in a much better situation now.

3) I would make my prepping more about building a self-reliant and sustainable lifestyle, rather than about reacting out of fear. What do I mean by this? In hindsight, I think it is a mistake to urgently prepare for this possible event or that that possible crisis, because in doing so we are chasing an ever-changing target. Back in my early days of prepping, peak oil was all the rage. Now, no one talks about it. And how many different times have folks claimed "Planet X" was just months away? I think many preppers get burned-out always chasing the next calamity that fails to occur. Simply emphasizing building a self-reliant and sustainable lifestyle for yourself and your family or group is a much better strategy, in my opinion.

4) Finally, I would place much greater emphasize on building tribe. This one is difficult for me to talk about, because I know I've failed at it, even though I knew it was important. Sure, I have relatives and friends, but honestly I am the only serious prepper among them, and we certainly are not coordinating our efforts. Building tribe - a close network of family and friends sharing and coordinating common values, beliefs, worldview, and goals - is extremely important, especially in the modern fragmented world, where even close relatives, biologically speaking, are rarely on the same page when it comes to important issues and goals.
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Monday, January 7, 2019

Beef Heart Steak - Why and How

Americans don't really eat organ meats anymore. We used to, but a few generations back eating organ meats became synonymous with being "lower class" and poor. So, we stopped. That is unfortunate because organ meats are actually very nutritious. For that reason, I'm trying to incorporate more organ meats into my diet. Tonight, my supper was beef heart steak served with a salad. It was delicious.  I'll give my recipe below, but first let me tell you about the health benefits of beef heart.

Health Benefits

Beef heart contains all the essential amino acids, is an excellent source of collagen and elastin, plus has good amounts of zinc, selenium (which is often lacking in the modern American diet), phosphorus, potassium, iron, B vitamins, and lycopene. It has high amounts of coenzyme Q10 (aka CoQ10), which is a powerful antioxidant and may have heart health benefits. It also has useful amounts of healthy omega-3s, particularly hearts from grass-fed cattle.

My Beef Heart Steak Recipe

Ingredients:
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter (or Ghee)
  • 1 Beef Heart, sliced into 1" thick strips
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste 

Directions:
  • Place butter in skillet and melt
  • Place heart slices in skillet
  • Cook on high for 5 minutes
  • Turn heart slices
  • Cook on high for 5 minutes
  • Add olive oil, salt, pepper 
  • Remove heart slices (they should be nicely browned on the outside but still pink in the middle)
Notes:  Goes well with a healthy salad. Top part of heart has hard veins which you may want to remove before cooking. Do not remove fat from heart before cooking, as it will add taste and make the meat more tender. Heart has a blood taste. If you don't like that (I do - I love my steaks bloody), you could marinate the heart in apple-cider vinegar or other marinade of your choice for up to 24 hours before cooking. Enjoy this very healthy, low-cost meal.  
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Sunday, January 6, 2019

Is Health & Fitness Your New Year's Resolution? Some Tips For Success...

If health and fitness is your New Year's resolution, here are some important tips to make it a successful one:

1) Get Medical Check-Ups!  Highly important, and not just for the usual legal yada-yada of "consult your doctor before starting any new diet or exercise program." Early diagnose of any medical problems you may have is extremely important to your ability to successfully and quickly deal with those problems, and may save you HUGE amounts of money (and suffering) in the long run. This is a lesson I had to learn the hard way. Please don't make my mistake.

Regular vision exams are important not just for your eyes, but they may detect type 2 diabetes long before other symptoms show up. Regular dental exams and cleaning are important not just for your teeth, but because there are some surprising and direct links between the health of your teeth and your heart. 

2) Find external motivation. Don't try to improve your health and fitness for yourself. Its easy to make-up and accept excuses when its only about us. Make your motivation external instead - for your wife, your husband, your kids, your grandkids, or whoever. 

Instead of quitting smoking so you can live longer, make it "I'm quitting smoking so I can live long enough to see my grandkids graduate college."  Instead of getting fit so you'll feel better and have more energy, make it "I'm getting fit so I can better protect my wife and kids.

3) Start small, and take small steps. The easiest way to fail at any diet or fitness program is to try to do too much, too soon. A little pain (sore muscles) is probably a good thing, but too much will discourage you and give you an excuse to quit. Its okay to start small and slowly work your way to your goals. 

4) Its good to have an exercise or diet partner, but only if they are as committed to it as you. Having a buddy to diet or exercise with is a great idea, but don't let their lack of commitment stop you. If they call with some excuse as to why they can't jog or go to the gym with you today, GO WITHOUT THEM. Don't let their excuse become your excuse.

5) Be aware of servings sizes and "hidden" calories and sugar. A healthy, low calorie salad can quickly become a high-calorie diet nightmare as you add all the extras - croutons, cheese, sunflower seeds, bacon bits, and top it with a sugar-loaded salad dressing. Besides, if you are just dumping the salad dressing on top instead of measuring out a single serving, you're probably using 2 or 3 servings, so multiple its calorie and sugar content by 2 or 3 to find out how much you're actually adding. With salads, stick to veggies only, and a small amount of zero-sugar olive oil-based salad dressing. Read the labels! Even with their small serving sizes, many salad dressings are loaded with sugar and calories.

Read the labels for ketchup and other condiments. They often have a surprising amount of sugar and official serving sizes are rather small, so chances are your using more than a single serving each time. That means, just like with salad dressings, you need to multiple to find how much calories and sugar you're actually consuming. A single serving of Heinz Ketchup has only 20 calories, but 4 grams of sugar. So, if  you're actually consuming 3 servings (easy to do if you like ketchup), the calorie count is 60 with 12 grams of sugar (basically, half a candy bar).

Nuts are my weakness - I love them! And they do make a healthy snack in moderation - lots of healthy fats, fiber, minerals, and other nutrients. But they are also high in calories. The key is moderation - sticking to a single serving of about 1/4 to 1/3 cup shelled. If you love nuts like I do, its easy to eat a lot more than that, and those calories quickly add up.

6) Be careful of foods labeled "healthy." Words like healthy, lean, low-fat, natural and so forth sound great, but have no real meaning. Most often, they are little more than marketing terms designed by mega-corporations to get you to buy their product. Read the labels. You'll be surprised to find that most "healthy" frozen dinners have 2 to 3 times more sugar than the average candy bar, making the candy bar the  actual healthier choice (chocolate does have a lot of antioxidants). But seriously, make your food choices based on what is actually in the food, not what marketing terms they put on the packaging.
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Friday, January 4, 2019

The Skills You Really Need to Survive in Good Times and Bad

This list is not the typical list of wilderness survival and bushcraft skills that will enable you to survive should you ever live through a plane crash only to get stranded on a deserted island for years. Rather, it is a list of real-world skills that will prove extremely useful not only in a future of economic and political chaos, but in everyday life should TEOTWAWKI not happen anytime soon.

1) Situational Awareness and the OODA Loop - Situational awareness is more than just paying attention to what is going on around you, though that is an important start. It also means both knowing what to look for, and how to assess (make decisions about) your surroundings.

The end goal for situational awareness is correct action. The bridge from simply paying attention to taking correct action is the OODA-Loop. OODA Loop is an acronym for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. The Loop aspect is that one should be constantly looping through OODA since situations and circumstances change constantly. For a fuller explaination of this skill, please see my article on Situational Awareness and the OODA Loop.


2) Know how to be a "Gray Man" - The gray man knows how to fit in with his city, especially among his neighbors and co-workers. He doesn't stand out as anything particularly special or noticeable. He and his house, vehicle, and family blend in with their community. They look and act like they belong, and don't draw unnecessary or unwanted attention.

3) Know how to not look like a victim - This is somewhat similar to being the gray man, but not exactly. Don't make yourself a target by wearing expensive, flashy clothes, jewelry & accessories, or driving an expensive car. Don't make yourself a target by appearing easy prey - wear practical clothes and shoes, pay attention to your surroundings, and walk confidently, head up. Don't bury yourself in your smart phone or IPod. Practice situational awareness and the OODA Loop.


4) Self-Defense - This is the "guns and ammo" skill set, but it is so much more than just guns and ammo. Self-defense starts with awareness (see #1 above). The next step is avoiding trouble whenever possible (see #3 above, as well as my recent article Strategies for Surviving a Riot). Also, know and avoid the bad neighborhoods and potential trouble spots in your area.  

Hardening your home is also wise. Putting up fences, installing steel security doors, and increasing external lighting (perhaps motion sensitive) are great ideas. Consider a security system or a doorbell with camera and monitor. Another option is a multi-camera CCTV system with DVR recorder, which can be had for under $200 (here's one such system on Amazon).

I do recommend that most folks own and learn how to use guns, and to carry on an everyday basis if you can legally do so (know and follow the laws in your area). Don't just target shoot at the range, you need to take a good self-defense firearms training course. Consult with your local gun dealer - they will be able to guide you to appropriate courses, and make you aware of local gun laws. 

5) Protect your privacy.  Identity theft is a tens-of-billions of dollars industry in the US alone. And government intrusiveness into our private lives knows no bounds. Learn how not to be a victim. Guard your personal records - driver's license & Social Security numbers, banking & financial information, medical records, etc. - as carefully and diligently as you guard your gold & silver. 

Be especially vigilant with your computer. At a minimum, always use a firewall, maintain an up-to-date anti-virus program, and regularly scrub your computer with one or more anti-spyware programs. Only do business online with well-established companies you know and trust. Avoid over-sharing on social media.

Talk to your children about the importance of privacy, and what they should and should not share with their friends, teachers, and other people. 

6) Budgeting & Personal Finance - Prepping can be expensive. And even if a complete economic collapse does happen, we need to be able to pay our bills until then. Having the ability to make, and stick to, a budget or spending plan is essential. Personal finance is a skill set too often overlooked, in my opinion.

We all know the basics we should be doing financially. Spend less than you make. Get on a budget or spending plan. Avoid new debt. Pay off old debt. Reduce your expenses. Build some emergency savings. Get adequate insurance with a financially sound company. Plan for future expenses. Know how to invest intelligently. Improve your job skills and make yourself more employable (see #7 below).

All much easier said than done. Here are some articles of mine to help you get started:

7) Employability - The ability to make a living, working for yourself or someone else, is absolutely key to future survival. To make a living, you have to have the skills needed to convince someone to pay you to work for them directly as an employee of theirs. Or, to convince them to pay you for the goods or services you provide if you are self-employed. The ability to sell will always be important, as will the ability to negotiate. 

Having the ability to make, repair, or do something useful is crucial. Learn a trade, in addition to professional skills. Have a back-up career in mind. Have a hobby that could be turned into a business if needed. Soft skills - good work ethic, positive attitude, good communication skills, the ability to get along with co-workers, time-management, etc. - are more important than many people realize. Work on improving them. 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.

Check out these articles:



8) Self-Reliance/DIY -  Take responsibility for your own life and success. Your company isn’t going to protect you. The government is going to take care of you. You family and friends have enough problems of their own. Don't wait around for the government, your parents or anyone else to help you. Don't sit around whining that life is unfair, or that someone else has it so much better than you. Learn to take care of yourself. Self-reliance is not anti-social or selfish. In fact, building self-reliance may be one of the most generous things you can do, because the reality is that you will be of little help to your family, friends & neighbors if you are the one in need of help. 

A major part of building self-reliance is gaining knowledge, learning skills and taking responsibility for your own life. The more you know, the more you are able to do and the more you are actually willing to do for yourself, the better off you will be

9) Healthy Living - Being healthy is important to our ability to prepare for and handle emergencies. More than that, our healthcare system is an expensive mess, and will only get messier and more expensive in the future. Getting sick can ruin a person financially and destroy even the best-laid plans. 

Under the broad skill category of healthy living, I include eating right, getting and staying fit, avoiding getting sick, and knowing first aid and CPR. Also, being aware of alternative medicine to promote wellness and healing will become increasingly important as expenses rise and traditional medical treatment becomes rationed. We also need to address any addictions we have now (smoking, abusing drugs or alcohol, etc.) before any SHTF event.

10) Mobility - Naturally, this includes "bugging out" to a safer location should your present home become too unsafe. Knowing where you are going (your bug-out location, and a back-up location or two) and when you'll go is important. Being ready to go means a packed bug-out or INCH bag. It means knowing what else to grab and stuff into your vehicle if you have time. And it means having a vehicle in good condition when its time to go. An emergency is not the time to have to deal with a flat tire, bad transmission, or worn-out brakes. All this stuff needs to be planned out ahead of time!

But, mobility might also mean being ready to move to a new location in order to follow job opportunities and other considerations. If the economy slowly gets worse (or suddenly falls of a cliff), you might have to move in order to make a living, or just to find a safer place to live. A possible viable alternative is to adopt a gypsy-like lifestyle, emphasizing the ability to escape danger and follow opportunity. Just something else to think about. See my article Gypsy Survival - A Different Prepper Strategy for more on this idea. 

Bonus Skill: A Second Language - Like it or not, we are living in a much more global society these days, and borders are becoming a quaint, old-fashioned idea if the progressives get their way. Knowing a second language (or even a third) will become an increasingly valuable skill to have. Being able to communicate in multiple languages will help you in your everyday life, and will even help make you more employable. For most English-speaking Americans, Spanish is the obvious second-language to learn. However, your chosen career field or other circumstances may dictate a different choice for you.


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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Hiking - A Great Hobby for Preppers

Hiking is a hobby every prepper and survivalist should take up. It is great fun, terrific exercise, provides an opportunity to test out your gear, lets you practice various skills, and can be a great learning opportunity. 

Did you know that there are actually many different kinds of hikes, each teaching different sets of skills? In my article from last year, Learning Survival Through Hiking, I list and explain 10 different kinds of hikes and the skill sets taught by each.

Regardless of your reason why, rather for fitness, to practice bugging out, to develop new skills, or just to have fun with family and friends, I urge everyone to take up hiking this new year. Its easy to do, doesn't require expensive shoes or gear, and you don't need any special training to get started. 

Never hiked before? Worried about not being in shape? Start slowly with easy hikes around your neighborhood, city, and nearby local, state, and national parks. Stick to easy daytime hikes on well-marked trails until you get some experience and confidence. You can slowly work your way up to longer and more difficult hikes. 

Many areas have hiking clubs and organizations, where you can meet other hikers and get lots of tips and guidance as you start your new hobby. You might also want to check out the website for the American Hiking Society.

The Rules of Hiking
Stay safe by following these Rules of Hiking

1) Always check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.

2) Never hike alone. Always let others know where you are hiking and when to expect you back.

3) At least one person in the group should be familiar with the area where you are hiking.

4) Always wear appropriate shoes and clothing for the terrain and weather.

5) Each hiker should have a whistle and a flashlight in case they get separated from the group.

6) Each hiker should carry water, some extra food, and a small first aid kit with them at all times.

7) Be responsible: don't litter, be very careful with fire, follow posted rules, and respect private property.


Have fun with your new hobby!

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Of Interest:  Peterson Field Guides

https://amzn.to/2Vp9OFH
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