Thursday, February 28, 2008

Gadget, Hobby, Lifestyle

Preparedness means different things to different people. After they gain some sort of initial awareness that a need exists for them to do something to prepare for unforeseen eventualities, people begin the transformation from sheeple to preppers. Most follow a predictable path and if they continue on their journey from prepper to survivalist they will generally hit the same points or zones along the way. As they progress, their focus will usually shift as they perceive their destination as first a gadget, next a hobby, and finally as a lifestyle.

Most people never begin the journey (we call them “sheeple”). Most of those that actually start out do not get to the final destination of complete self-sufficiency with multiple redundant backups. Let’s be clear: any step along the path of preparedness is a good thing. Merely deciding to carry a micro-flashlight and small pocket knife on a daily basis is a step towards self-sufficiency and should be applauded.

I saw “72 Hour Kits” for sale at the local Chinamart last summer. They came in a cute little orange backpack and were filled with all sorts of “useful items to survive any kind of calamity.” In reality, they were just large “comfort packs”. I am sure countless numbers bought these kits, stored them in the front closet and called it “Good”. They are now prepared. It’s tempting to poke fun at them but like I said above – any step along the path is a good thing. They are now more prepared than they were. Farther on down the trail we will find those who have actually built their own BoBs and perhaps placed some useful gear in their vehicle and at work. These people are still focused on stuff but this focus alone puts them ahead of the vast majority of Americans out there. With a little luck they may actually do okay with just these gadgets when some emergency occurs. Gadget focused people are really into gear – knives, firearms, stoves, tents, clothing, bucket lids, and so on. As a rule, Americans are obsessed with gear - we would rather invest money in stuff than invest time and effort - which leads us to our next destination along the path to preparedness:

At some point, some folks actually start doing things with their stuff. Oh, the path is definitely less tread upon here – far fewer people actually get out and use their gear than merely amass it. The people walking along this portion of the path are those who spend some of their free time learning practicing skills. They get their gear dirty – and then they clean it up and repack it again. They use vacation time to go camping or go to a bee keeping course. They enroll in a Red Cross CPR class or they try their hand at growing some tomatoes or canning some strawberries they bought in the grocery store. It is here that you will find people who can speak with some authority - they speak from personal experience and do not merely repeat what they heard or read somewhere. Whereas along the gadget portion of the trail we find gear obsessed people, along this portion we find those who Go and Do.

There is no line across the trail that designates entry into the Lifestyle Zone. It just kind of creeps up on you. “When does a hobby become a lifestyle?” Probably somewhere along the way where it turns from “fun” to “chores”. Here you will find survivalists living on self-sufficient (to one degree or another) parcels, raising their own food, providing their own energy needs and generally “taking care of it” themselves. It is here that that vacations are used to get away from the preparedness lifestyle instead of to pursue it. Instead of going camping to practice building snares and fires, these guys and gals go on vacation for the room service – if they can find someone reliable to mind the homestead while they are away. Mindset changes and instead of considering preparedness as something outside of one’s day to day existence, one hardly “considers” it at all. One just does. It is along this portion of the path that we find “experts” though you’ll seldom hear them refer to themselves as such. You also won’t find them discussing what they do as much because it’s not a hobby – it’s just life. It loses some of its specialness and excitement.

Now, this is a path – it’s not a hallway with different rooms off of it delineating where one level ends and another starts. Preparedness minded folk travel along it, sometimes getting off to rest for a spell and sometimes leaving the trail altogether. Anyone on the path is headed in the right direction and we all walk at our own speed. As we proceed we slowly realize there is no real destination and what counts is the journey.

See ya out there.

Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. – Psalms 16:11
If you have any comments I’d love to hear them.
If they really interest me, I may even post them.
You can reach me at

Prepared Americans for a Strong America

Sunday, February 24, 2008

An Ounce of Prevention...

My wife and I are very good friends with a couple who thinks like us and who finally made the leap and moved out into the country. The down side is it was a fair piece away from where I live and so we did not see each other for several months. One day we bundled up the kids and headed out to the sticks to see them in their new digs and give them a dog (another story, that).

My buddy who we’ll call Tommy is a young, strong man. I have known him for years and I’ve seen him bulk up with weight lifting and I’ve seen him slim down – heck I’ve even seen him a bit chunky after the holidays. Well when we got to his house and met in the kitchen I was thinking “man, he looks like crap”. But I’m too polite to say so. My wife (God bless her) has no such compunctions and said “Tommy, you look like crap – what’s wrong?” He was emaciated and had a weird a coloring.

Tommy’s wife who we’ll call Tammy gave him the Death Eyes that only she can throw and said, “See? Tell them!” Bottom line – Tommy needed to have his gall bladder removed and had been putting it off and putting it off. He is a smart man – he knew it was a simple operation. He knew he would feel better when it was over. And yet he procrastinated.

He is a survivalist (my word – not sure how he’d characterize himself) and he KNEW that he was putting not only himself, but his entire family at risk if TEOTWAWKI occurred while he was in his current state. So I resolved to bug him until he had it taken care of. He did and he’s fine now.

Not to criticize the mote in my brother’s eye – I have needed to have some dental work for a few months now and I haven’t gotten around to scheduling an appointment. Right now this type of preventive medicine is no big deal – easy to schedule, easy to complete. Let Murphy throw a monkey wrench into the scheme though and we have an entirely different set of problems.

Guys and gals – the time to take care of these basic medical concerns is now. Army soldiers cannot deploy if they haven’t had their teeth checked in the past 6 months. And they are going to a place that has field hospitals and dental clinics. In a TEOTWAWKI situation you will have neither. When was the last time you visited the dentist? Or had your eyes checked? Or got a complete physical? How are your cholesterol and blood pressure levels? How is your back, or knee, or elbow?

Your ability to deal with any lingering medical issues will be severely restricted in any type of emergency. Additionally, medical problems will be much more significant issues in your life at that time because of your inability to gain relief. Take care of yourself now.

Diagnosing and dealing with on-going medical problems is one aspect of preventive medicine but there are others. Ensuring clean water is one – if you drink dirty water you will get sick. Directly related to this is proper disposal of human waste. Do you have a back up plan for when your porcelain throne ceases to function? Do you have the proper supplies and training to support this plan? Along the same lines is personal hygiene and proper washing of dishes and laundry. How is your hot water and soap supply? How are your backups?

Preventive medicine also includes preventing disease. Are your shots up to date? Do you practice proper hand washing on a daily basis? Do you practice avoidance strategies when dealing with sick people not loved ones or others in your care? Do you have proper pest control measures and back ups? Many people have been killed by mosquito and flea borne diseases over the years. What are your plans to prevent this from happening to you and yours? Supplies such as extra screening, insect repellant, mouse and rat traps and poison and so on all come to mind.

The key here is to get any ailments treated and then prevent yourself from becoming sick. It’s not as sexy as thinking and talking about guns. It’s not even as cool as laying in another case of baked beans. But it could be more important in the end. Please give this some thought, make some plans, and take action.

See ya out there.
If you have any comments I’d love to hear them.
If they really interest me, I may even post them.
You can reach me at

Prepared Americans for a Strong America

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Walkin' The Goats

It was a warm morning compared to what we have had as of late - so when my wife suggested we take the goats for a walk I agreed and grabbed the camera. She walks them through the back 40 a couple times a week so that they can supplement their winter diet of hay and grain. In summer, spring, and fall, my wife just ties them out in the woods or pasture edges so they can forage for what they like. Goats are not cows - they don't graze on grass. They browse like deer taking a nibble here and a nibble there.

Our goats are primarily milk goats - they are all Alpines except one Alpine/Boer cross - she's the white one. Milk goats produce a lot of milk compared to meat goats and although their flesh is just as edible - there just isn't that much of it -they are skinny. Boers are meat goats and I'd like to raise some goats that are decent for both milk and meat. The black one is our Alpine billy goat.

Milk goats need to be "freshened" (have a kid) every year to keep the milk flowing. Around here you can either take your does to the billy or bring the billy to the does to get them impregnated. It costs $10 per doe either way. One way, your does "eat for free", the other way, you have to put up with a billy. Billies can be cantankerous, escape prone, mean - and they STINK (unlike other goats). Transporting your does back and forth can be a pain in the neck. To have our five does impregnated would have cost $50. We bought our billy from a family of homeschoolers for $50. I figure if we sell him for $1 we are ahead of the game. He was raised with a lot of family love and care and so far he is fine to be around. His only down side is that he stinks. So, we are going to keep him and stud him out next fall.

Right now we think four of our five females are pregnant. Our Alpha-goat (my term) got sick with parasites - bottle jaw - and although we had her treated and she got better we think she may have just not been interested in getting pregnant. What do I know - I have goats but I am by no means a goat expert. We'll see in a month or so. We keep the does and the billy together 24/7 so who knows. Each doe will have at least one kid and some may have two (and three is not unheard of though we have not been so lucky). We are expecting a whole passle of kids come March/April. Photos to follow.

The dog is our "goat dog". He's 3/4 Anatolian Shepherd and 1/4 Great Pyrennes. His coloring matches our Boer cross exactly. We got him from an Amish family and he really was not raised properly as a puppy - no human contact until we got him at twelve weeks old. His only food consisted of a rotting cow carcass in the field. He was almost feral. Hard to get close to. Impossible to collar or walk on a leash. He chewed on goats at first. Just a mess. I thought I was going to have to give him 230 grains of love but I'm glad we stuck it out.

He is now a wonderful guard dog and takes his job of protecting the goats and the family very seriously. He walks on a leash just fine although we have him voice trained and use the leash only rarely. His one major flaw now comes from us letting him in the house a couple times when it was getting down to single digits at night (not necessary, but my wife has a soft spot). He was naturally housebroken - he woofs to go out. But he was not naturally shy of human food. He has to date eaten two loaves of homemade bread right off the kitchen table when we were not looking. He ate a stick of butter each time too. He's big and he's fast. I was not happy...

So, no words of wisdom - just sharing my day.

And thou shalt have goats' milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens. - Proverbs 27:27

If you have any comments I’d love to hear them.
If they really interest me, I may even post them.
You can reach me at

Prepared Americans for a Strong America

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Caching Wheat

A cache (pronounced “cash”) is a hidden, typically secret, store of provisions or supplies. There are several types of caches (pronounced “cashes”). Perhaps the most discussed is the underground cache whereby one buries supplies (weapons, food, money, medical supplies) in some type of suitable container for eventual recovery and use. Underground caches are typically the most secure. Other types include submersed and concealment caches. The problems with submersed caches are using an appropriate container, emplacing and recovering the cache, and ensuring it remains submerged. Concealment caches are generally easier to emplace and recover but suffer from a security weakness in that someone may stumble upon it easier than if it was buried.

A little over five years ago I decided to experiment with caching some wheat above ground in a concealment cache. The area I chose was rocky, home to a variety of rodents and critters and had light human traffic – hunters and trappers visited the area but not in large numbers. I had the idea of caching a bunch of wheat in this area selected for a potential bug out scenario and I did not want to go through the effort of burying it or the eventual effort of recovering a buried cache. I also did not want to conceal a whole lot of wheat only to find out a year or so later that something bad had happened to it. So I though I’d just start out with one bucket – about 30 pounds of wheat.

I bought the bucket and lid at Chinamart, lined it with a clear plastic trash bag, poured in about an inch of seed wheat, added a fist sized chunk of dry ice, filled the remainder of the bucket, loosely twisted the top of the bag closed, set the lid on and walked away for a few hours. When the CO2 had finished doing its job of displacing all the oxygen, I twisted the bag closed and held it that way with a wire tie. I then put a thin bead of silicon along the underside of my lid and put it on correctly. Next, I wrapped a strip of duct tape around the top edge seal to ensure nothing got in.

At this point I was pretty sure bugs and water would not ruin my cache of wheat. I was concerned however that mice or other varmints would gnaw through the plastic to get at the grain. I also had a white bucket. It would stand out like a beacon to anyone traipsing through the area. To solve those potential problems I first wrapped the entire bucket in hardware cloth – you can see it in the first picture. I used some wire to hold it all nice and snug. Then I simply painted it with Krylon spray paint - primarily gray and brown.

I then selected a place off of any trails or ridgelines and placed my bucket up against a rock. I tilted other rocks around it and it was basically invisible. I checked on it every year or so when I showed it to buddies or just to make sure it was still there, to see if critters had figured out a way into it and whether or not the constant sub zero to over 100 temperatures had affected the plastic. It was not really in the sun so UV was not a big problem.

And there it sat for five years. No special wheat. No oxygen absorbers. No Mylar. No special lid. No special paint. Five years enduring the elements, subject to all manner of potential problems.

Recently I was back in the area with one of those buddies I showed it to, lo those many years ago and he suggested we open it to see if it was okay inside. Bugs could have turned it into powder, moisture from fluctuating temperatures could have molded and mildewed it – who knew? I figured 5 years was as good as 10 – if something was going to go wrong it would have by then. It was after all an experiment – I needed to see results, so I agreed to open it.

We dragged it out of the rocks and into a clear area. The wire came off easily with a Leatherman. The silicon seal was still good - too good. I could not get the lid off. In the end, I just hacked out an access hatch right through the top of the lid. This of course ruined the lid and risked puncturing the plastic liner bag – both which would create problems if I intended to keep it out there longer.

The wheat? It was as fine as the day I put it in there. Dry, hard, and beautiful. I have since made bread with it. If you are interested in storing wheat in this manner – scroll down to an entire entry on the process of putting it up.

So what did I learn? I learned that this is a viable means of storing supplies in general and wheat in particular. Nothing fancy, nothing expensive. I could have just as easily stored 30 buckets in a similar manner. So for those of you in apartments or other situations with “no room” or for those of you looking for a way to store wheat (or anything else) at a potential bug out location – this method worked for me.

Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:
Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.
- Proverbs 6:6 – 8

Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen; howl, O ye vinedressers, for the wheat and for the barley; because the harvest of the field is perished. – Joel 1:11

See ya out there.
If you have any comments I’d love to hear them.
If they really interest me, I may even post them.
You can reach me at

Prepared Americans for a Strong America

Saturday, February 02, 2008


My partner Doc was in town and he and I went to the gun show today. Let me tell you a bit about Doc. I met him long ago when someone told me he knew how to "start fires with sticks". Well long story short, he is the guy who taught me to make fire with a bow drill. I have since passed on the knowledge to countless others. But, I originally learned from Doc and he is the true Master of the Fire. As you might well imagine, being a friend, he is also just mildly interested in firearms. Okay, more than mildly.

So we went to the show. It was well attended. In fact we got there just 45 minutes after opening and the lot was already full so we had to drive through mud and crud and grass and park in a “non-designated spot”. Well, that’s what 4x4 is for. We were not alone in our choice for parking space and it all turned out fine (no tickets).

It’s been awhile since I attended a gun show and I had forgotten how much I like them. I really didn’t plan on buying anything but you know how that goes. You can see my purchases there in the photo.

I was walking down an aisle and a guy said, “Did you know Ron Paul is the only gun-friendly candidate?” Now this is not a political blog so bear with me… I told him the four voters of my household would be voting for Ron Paul. That surprised him and made him happy and he said, “Do you have a Ron Paul yard sign?” I told him I did not and he handed me one and then asked if I could donate five bucks for it. Sure, no problem.

Hey, if you are planning on voting for someone else – we can still be friends. It’s your right as an American to vote – for whom you please. And that’s about as political as I intend to get today.

I plan on “getting my wife” an under-folder AK when Uncle Sugar sends us some of our tax money back – if he does. I don’t want to spend money I have allocated for other things for one right now but you know what? She is going to need magazines and they aren’t getting any cheaper. So I found two for $10 bucks each (actually, Doc found them) and three for $15 each. They are Chinese but Doc assured me they will work just fine. He ought to know. ‘nuff said there. I said it before, I’m not an AK guy but I saw an under-folder last weekend and it was just so sweet. I really think my wife will like it. Despite the fact she told me she is perfectly happy with what she already has. And if she just doesn’t cotton to it… well now, I’m sure I could find a place for it in the safe, or on the wall, or in the truck, or….

I also picked up some magnetic key boxes. They were a buck a piece for two of them and the third came in a grab bag of “three items for a dollar”. Some of you with more interesting backgrounds will realize right away just how handy a small box with an attached magnet can be, for everyone else – it was a fine price and we’ll leave it at that.

I also got in the grab bag two key chains. One has an orange floating dealy-bob on it so your keys don’t sink if you drop them in the water and the other has an led light. I will use them both as demonstrator models in some of the classes I teach.

The final item I got is one that I am really excited about - an orange GI one quart plastic canteen. How cool is that? I met the guy who makes them and may be going into business with him as a distributor. I have a web site for my training business that is not quite ready for prime time (when it is, I’ll link to it from here). One thing we are going to do is add a “store” to it. I think I’m going to sell these canteens there as well as distribute them to other businesses and organizations. If you are interested - drop me a line. I may even do a separate blog on them at some time in the future. The major points are these: for the vast majority of us, survival gear need not be “tactical” meaning camouflaged. If you drop something in a survival situation when you are cold, wet, tired, and hungry – and probably injured, you want to be able to find it immediately. Another thing is, you want multi-use gear. A canteen that also serves as a signaling device is a good thing. More on this later maybe.
If you have any comments I’d love to hear them.
If they really interest me, I may even post them.
You can reach me at

Prepared Americans for a Strong America