Thursday, January 27, 2011

Root Cellar 1

The other day I was returning home late afternoon/early evening and all along my road were parked several working pickups. You know: the 4 door big white ones full of tools and gear in the back. A track hoe was parked in the field, there were a bunch of dudes standing around the boss’s truck, and I could tell they were wrapping up a long cold day.

I thought to myself, “I ought to ask them if they could do a small job for me for some beer or something…” But then I thought that their day was over, they were tired, and since the track hoe was parked – they were likely coming back in the morning. There is a gas pipeline underground near High Prairie Acres and I assumed they were working on it. I was correct.

As I exited my vehicle, my wife came out of the barn looking and acting strange. Her body language was just “weird” and she was motioning me to “come here” in a rapid manner. She obviously didn’t want to speak.

I immediately went to Code Orange and started scanning the area for trouble. I’m looking at her for signs of physical distress, I’m scoping out the guys by the trucks over there; I’m looking for other people possibly hiding in the area…(It was one of those days and I just defaulted to a more “tactical state”.)

She led me to our pasture off the drive and pointed at track hoe tracks going across our field and said in an excited whisper, “We need to call the Sherriff – look, they drove across our property”. She was still acting very strangely and I was thinking very fast.

I don’t care if they drove across our field – it doesn’t look like they did any damage…Sure, they don’t have an easement or permission but still, we are not like that…

I said, “So what?”

My wife said, “You should see what they did over here!”

So, looking back at the guys saddling up to leave for the day and thinking they were “getting away” I said, “Well call 911 NOW”. I figured I’d figure out what was going on later but we better get these guys who upset my wife fast or they are gonna get away…

We were still walking and following the tracks and my wife said, “they drove through our fences, and they drove into the bottoms and, THEY DUG YOU A ROOT CELLAR!” At this point she was giggling and jumping for joy.

We have been planning a root cellar down there for a long time. We want a place to store produce. Yeah, we actually want to use it as a root cellar. We had tried putting teenagers to work with shovels and they did dig a pretty good hole one afternoon but we figured out we would need more mechanical advantage.

I talked to folks about borrowing or renting a back hoe or a bobcat or something but we just never got around to it.

Until the crew showed up that afternoon.
When they all pulled up on the land next to ours my wife went over to the first truck and asked if they were the Boss. They said, “Nope, we’re the surveyors – the boss is in that truck.”

She went over there and said, “Are you the Boss?”

The guy said, “Yep – I’m the one you complain to.”

My wife said she had no complaints but heard that sometimes they would do a good deed if it was a small job and close by and described what she wanted. They said, “Sure” and drove that huge beast down into my bottoms and dug the hole. Took about 15 minutes and my wife says there is a Bobcat-sized rock in the dirt pile.

Anyway – a really tough part of the root cellar build is now done thanks to some really cool guys and a pro-active wife.

I’ll keep y’all informed of the progess.

And thou shalt be secure, because there is hope; yea, thou shalt dig about thee, and thou shalt take thy rest in safety. – Job 11:18

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 Joe

You can also join us to discuss this and other issues at Viking Preparedness Forums

Prepared Americans for a Strong America

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Last night our CiC group got together to do BoB layouts and show-n-tell. It was a lot of fun as well as a good learning experience. CiC is Christians in Community and we are a group that gets together fairly regularly to discuss and undertake activities related to Preparedness and Intentional Community from a Christian perspective.

These men and women are well ahead of the average person as far as preparedness goes – physical and spiritual. It is because I want everyone to be more prepared in these areas that I write this blog.

Below are some observations and lessons from last night.

First – it was FUN. It was good to get together again (we had taken a break for the holidays), share some food and just fellowship in a very safe, non-threatening environment. Ten people showed up and we laid out eight BoBs.

The last time I used my BoB I failed to put it completely back into a ready state. Hanging on the outside of it was my European mess bucket (cook kit) and I a.s.s.u.m.e.d it had been cleaned and was hanging on the outside so that I could repack it at my leisure. Yeah – NO. It was dirty and had trash in it (I carry out all my trash). It would still WORK – just not as well as if it had been cleaned and put away properly. Same with two pairs of socks. Hey, dry, dirty socks are better than no socks but c’mon, Joe!

Also, I “borrowed” my white gas camping stove from my BoB and failed to put it back. I’ll do that on Saturday.

As dirty and tired and busy as you are when you get back from an event – square your gear away before you forget about it.

Things to add
Based on what others displayed there are some things I will consider adding to my BoB:

o Sutures. One the one hand they are light, and cool. On the other hand I will very likely be in a non-sterile and even filthy environment and suturing dirt into a wound is probably a bad idea. I do have duct tape…

o Handcuff key. I will buy several and squirrel them away here and there.

o Fishing kit. EVERY time I get together with folks and look at BoBs I tell myself I’m going to add a fishing kit. I saw a pocket fisherman and a really neat deal made from a short section of PVC pipe.

o Maps – my maps are in my vehicles. I need to get another couple sets.

Looking at other folks’ gear I made some observations:
o Have a trowel to bury your waste. Chinamart sells a very good, very light, very tough plastic one for about a buck.

o Waterproofing. Waterproof your stuff – especially your paper products. Double Ziplock bags work well.

o Sleeping bag. If you live north of I-40 you better have on in winter.

o Tarps – have you practiced setting it up?

o Fire – can you build a fire with the gear you carry?

o Clothing. I have a lot of clothes in my bag – parka, sweater, rain suit. Here's why: If one plans on starting out fully dressed for the weather and carrying your BoB any kind of distance at all you will quickly find yourself warming up,...then getting hot....then overheating. You do NOT want to sweat in cold weather - it will come back and bite you when you sit down. So, being the smart bugger outers you are, you will remove layers....where will you put them? Have a plan for that. You could easily strap your clothing to the outside of your BoB - do you have cordage cut and ready to go to do so? Sure, you all have cordage - but getting it out and cutting it (especially if it's your tarp set up cordage) might not be the best idea. Experiment now and leave some straps or already affixed cordage on the outside ready to use.

A few folks had pouches they intend to retain if they had to dump/leave their BoB for some reason. Good idea. I also like to keep certain items on my person. I have a bag I call “pocket litter” that I transfer from the ruck to my body as soon as possible upon commencing to bug out. Is has a multi tool, Viking Pocket Fire, compass and so on. The more knowledge you have and skills you own, the less gear you will need to survive. Acquiring this knowledge base takes time and effort and does not happen over night.

Some folks were new to the whole concept of BoBs and going on the National Winter BoB exercise might not be the best idea. We will likely set up some easier training events once things start thawing out. Things like taking the BoBs to a park or piece of woods some morning, setting up camp, building fires, eating lunch, breaking it all down and going home to sleep. Maybe follow that up with a one-night campout where we also bring all the amenities – we can experiment and play with the BoB gear but enjoy other more civilized camping gear like coolers, chairs, stoves and what not as well.

Baby steps.

I'll see ya out there.

When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. - Matthew 24:15 - 18

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 Joe

You can also join us to discuss this and other issues at Viking Preparedness Forums

Prepared Americans for a Strong America

Monday, January 17, 2011

Rocket Stove

I have been watching rocket stove videos on YouTube for some time now – they fascinate me.
These are stoves that are basically shaped in a J. The fuel goes in the lower horizontal end and the heat and flame exit the vertical part of the J at the top. They are extremely fuel efficient as all of the heat goes straight up to your pot. They are also efficient in that they take twigs and scraps.

I decided before Christmas that I’d eventually get around to making one. I think these would be just the thing for emergency off grid cooking. Some folks build beautiful ones. Some folks turn them into cob oven home heaters. Some folks charge way too much money for them if you want to buy one. Anyway, I had some free time today so here we go!

I won’t go into explicit detail concerning how I built mine – there is plenty of better stuff in video. Just go to Google video and type in “rocket stove” – you’re welcome. But the basics for mine were as follows. A friend from church gave me a popcorn tin for the outer container and I had some stove pipe of different diameters laying around for the guts. The wider pipe is vertical, the narrower stuff is the horizontal bit. I cut holes in the big popcorn tin and the vertical pipe with my angle grinder (thanks, Viking 1 for recommending I get one) and tin snips. I’m no artist with metal – the holes were ugly and ragged. This is just a prototype though.

On one video I watched, the instructor said to fill the outer container with vermiculite ( I THINK I remember that correctly – it’s not like I took notes). It is used to insulate everything and it doesn’t burn – I think.

So after cutting and fitting pieces it was time to go buy some vermiculite. Home Depot – no go. Tractor Supply – no go. Chinamart ...(Yes, I went there and I’m hanging my head in shame...) – no go. My wife said I should have ordered 50 pounds of it on the Internet a month ago because, “no one is going to have it now and we could use the excess in our garden”. Whatever...

Finally, the place I should have gone to FIRST – ACE Hardware – had it. At least they are semi-local and not huge corporate monsters...

Back home I assembled the pieces – they did not fit perfectly because I did not cut the holes perfectly so when I poured in the vermiculite and started tamping it around the stove pipe it spilled out of the gaps. So I filled the gaps with aluminum foil. Ugly. Un-professional. Hey, it’s a prototype and it’s for ME – I’m not selling them.

I drilled three holes just outside of the vertical pipe hole and put 1 ½” bolts through them to act as a pot rest or trivet or whatever.

Finally, I cut up a metal gallon soy sauce container (that was destroyed by sorghum but that is another story entirely) to serve as the shelf in the intake tube. You put the fuel on top of the shelf and air flows (rushes) in underneath it – thus creating the “rocket” I guess.

We needed to par boil some chicken for supper and I needed a test so we set it up outside and had a go. I rigged up a hasty wind screen of aluminum foil around the top to concentrate as much of the heat as possible on the pot.

Normally one would use twigs but our twigs are currently soaked so I split kindling even smaller to replicate twigs and used that. Start with a piece of newspaper shoved in the chute and feed the twigs across the shelf. Wow – these things DO work well. The only downside is it turned the botom of our pot black.

One thing I failed to do was insulate the bottom from the picnic table and now we have a scorch mark. Ah well, as my daughter says, “THAT’S why we can’t have nice things!”

Hey – I’ll see ya out there.

And Samuel said unto the cook, Bring the portion which I gave thee, of which I said unto thee, Set it by thee. – 1 Samuel 9:23


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 Joe

You can also join us to discuss this and other issues at Viking Preparedness Forums

Prepared Americans for a Strong America