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So you have this prepping thing down, right? You have plenty of supplies to weather any contingency and there isn’t much left that you haven’t purchased or thought of. You and your family have every base covered, every T crossed and your stuff doesn’t stink. Congratulations! Now, you have joined an elite group of people who have stuff. Now what?

Prepping is unique from the perspective that some people get all caught up in the initial rush of the act of prepping. They devour news and information. They study the issues and scenarios, make plans, lists and begin the path to being a more prepared person. At some point though the newness wears off. Either that or the sense of urgency doesn’t seem as strong as it once did.

When Preppers believe that they can finally sit back and relax that is when we can become complacent. If we let this go on long enough we aren’t going to be too much better than someone who hasn’t prepped at all. If you let your guard down or think you are “finished” you can make mistakes that could affect your family or your group adversely and we never want that to happen. Above most other things, we don’t want to waste the time and energy and focus you placed into prepping in the first place.

Forgetting to Rotate your supplies

Most of us acquire our food from several different routes. It is wise to have a good mix of long-term storable foods like dehydrated or freeze dried food that can last years. Then we have food that has a few years shelf life like grains or canned vegetables (just speaking in generalities here) and perhaps MRE’s and Mainstay bars to add into the mix. Lastly we have our store bought foods that you can purchase at the local grocery store and then the freezer and fridge. It is easy to see a stocked pantry and sit back with contentment about how you are preparing to feed your family. I know because I have fallen into this trap also. The food you have stored is great, but you have to rotate all of it to truly have the longest shelf-life and highest capacity for nutrition.

Foods from the grocery store are the easiest to apply this principle to, but the mechanics aren’t always the best. Any foods you purchase should be used and resupplied with the FIFO process. FIFO simply stands for First In First Out. Pretty simple and every realizes this, right?

I have found that this isn’t as simple as it sounds without either a great system or a lot of discipline. When you go to the grocery store to purchase more groceries, what do you do with your newest cans? Do you have a system to put the newest in the back and move the oldest to the front? If you are storing canned food, there are simple solutions that can be purchased or built using plans online called a rotator. The process is brilliantly simple and removes almost any thought and effort from the whole FIFO equation. You simply add your new cans to the rotator and they force the old cans out to the front. These are great if you have them, but if you don’t. you need to have a system for rotating your cans or else you might have a pantry full of bad fruit and veggies that nobody will eat or worse. A drawback is that these systems are fairly expensive.

What if you don’t have a fancy can rotating system? There are relatively inexpensive cardboard options from Can Organizer that I am going to purchase and I will write up a review on those later. Optionally, you could just have the discipline to add your cans and reshuffle the stock after every grocery trip. This takes more time, but it is free and doesn’t take up any space.

Along with this is regularly checking for stores that are expiring. I know that a lot of dates are more like guidelines, but you still don’t want to have a lot of medicine that is out of date by two years if the SHTF. Ideally, everything would be fresh so those big mega packs of vitamins and aspirin you purchased need to be rotated out with fresh supplies.

Forgetting to resupply

How many of you have taken your First Aid kit along with you on a camping trip and had to use it? This has happened to me and I was thankful I had the supplies I needed to treat minor injuries. I think the people who I treated appreciated it also, but what happens when you use supplies? They need to be resupplied.

If you are using your preps, that is great for a lot of reasons. You are prepared for contingencies first of all and gaining practice and familiarity with your provisions. Don’t make the mistake of using all of your rice and not buying anymore though. If a storm comes along and you have to use your spare propane tank, make sure you get a replacement as soon as it is feasible. If you have used your spare gas to fuel the lawnmower, go get that back up tank filled the next time you are out.

Not knowing how to use your preps

This is probably the biggest mistake we can make because it can cause us to act recklessly in the future. Let’s say you purchased a big new yacht and you took it out for its maiden voyage, would you want to know how to work the lifeboats or would you just be content that they were sitting right there on the deck? Sure having life boats is great, but if your new toy hits an iceberg in the middle of the night and you are up there trying to read the user manual when you are tired, scared, maybe its raining too, will you regret anything?

Tools are necessary I believe and they have a place in everyone’s preps. Would it be ideal if you were Bear Grylls and could just use your survival mirror to catch some twigs on fire to survive? Yes, but knowing how to use your striker or even a lighter to build a fire in the first place is important too.

A lot of us have purchased a grain mill and hundreds of pounds of hard red winter wheat, but have you ever ground that wheat into flour and cooked with it? I have and for starters I was surprised at just how long it takes and I have a pretty decent mill. Maybe I was doing this wrong, but I had to run everything though the mill a couple of times and keep adjusting the grinding stones so that the consistency of the flour was right. This may not be a life or death lesson, but I did learn more about grinding than I thought I knew going into it. The same could be said for canning. If you buy a dozen cases of Ball canning jars and lids and a big old pot, but you have never canned, you may be in for a rude awakening. We have had a couple  canning mishaps that caused us to eat more veggies than we were planning on, but it taught us invaluable lessons. Like, don’t start canning red beets in a pressure cooker at 10 at night if you plan on sleeping anytime soon.

If you have firearms but haven’t ever been to the range to become proficient with them, they may end up being worthless to you when you need them. When you really need a firearm, you want to know how it works instinctively. Can you feel if the safety is on even in pitch black darkness? Do you know how to reload or clear a jam without looking at your firearm?

I and others have called Prepping a lifestyle and I believe that if you live life by using your preps instead of just buying them and throwing them in a plastic bin under the stairs you will be better prepared for whatever comes your way.

If you have any other ideas, please let me know in the comments below.

So you have this prepping thing down, right? You have plenty of supplies to weather any contingency and there isn’t much left that you haven’t purchased or thought of. You

I like knives. Actually, there aren’t many knives out there that I can’t respect on a certain level for their utility and in some cases beauty. Knives come in all shapes and sizes and have various compositions and specialties. They have different configurations and nomenclature and if you take a look around carefully you will see a high percentage of guys carry at least one clipped to a pocket. I must not like them as much as some people though because I don’t have that many of them.

Apparently I am an oddball too because if you run the circles of preparedness websites there are thousands of knife reviews and commentary. You can look at EDC pictures and there is always a knife or five in there. Bug Out bags will sometimes have two or three knives hanging off of them along with the machete, hatchet and the small key chain knife/flashlight combo. I started thinking the other day about all of this as I walked the aisles at a gun show I was visiting. Second only to guns are knife displays and they are well represented. I usually stop and glance at every table unless they are selling something like pet brushes that get all of the hair off with one whisk of the brush or ladies handbags or salsa. Not that there is anything wrong with selling any of those items, it’s just that when I am at a gun show, I expect guns; not cat grooming. although my cat does need a serious brushing though now that I think about it.

Gerber LMK II – Great knife for the price.

There are long tables of knifes in every color and dimension. I stopped and checked out an old M9 bayonet at one of the first tables and felt the big tug of nostalgia. I had an M9 that I bought myself. We weren’t issued those in the Army but I spent my own money on one and sharpened it frequently. Up until I mistakenly left my gear unsecured and my platoon sergeant took it to “teach me a lesson”. I never saw that knife again and I have always hoped that some form of justice was visited on him later in life. Seeing that old knife brought back some of those memories and I thought for just a minute about getting one again. I know that if I picked one up now my platoon sergeant wouldn’t take this one but after a long 3 seconds I thought better of it and placed it back on the table. I already have a nice Gerber LMF II that I got a few years back that is about the same size and suits me just fine.

I have talked about my Spyderco Tenacious that is part of my EDC and I love that knife but I have been looking for a backup in case I lose that one. The backup is really just an excuse to buy one for my daughter who has bugging me for a “real knife” for a while. The Spyderco knife I have is wonderful, very reasonably priced at around $38 and I would love

Spyderco Tenacious G10 – My everyday carry knife.

to have another one. For some reason, Spyderco knives are poorly represented at the gun shows I visit, but this time there was a woman who had several of them in her case next to the Kershaw and Benchmade folders so I was excited for the opportunity to purchase another one. Looking at her prices they were about $20 too high so I walked on again. Was there something wrong with me? Why wasn’t I buying any knives? The guys on YouTube all seem to have dozens each!

It occurred to me that maybe the reason why I can’t bring myself to actually purchase a new knife is that I have a few already that I feel more than meet the needs for anything I can think of. The simple fact is that I don’t think I need any other knives. I know there are people who collect knives so this is not directed at you but for the average person looking; how many knives do you need? Before I deal with the issue of quantity, let’s talk about how to find the best Survival knife for your purposes.

What will you use your knife for?

First we should talk about what you need a knife for. The answer to that is simple, isn’t it? Knives have a million and one uses. From cutting shavings off a stick to make tinder for a fire to cutting paracord or other cordage to lash your survival shelter together, you just can’t really match the utility of a good knife. Most days my knives only see action opening packages that my wife gets from Amazon, but frequently my trusty knife is called to do some really serious work like whittling sharp points on sticks for my kids’ marshmallows over the fire or opening up something sealed in plastic like that new coat hook my wife wanted me to hang last weekend. All kidding aside, knives are extremely useful tools and no self-respecting Prepper would be caught without one. A sharp instrument and the knowledge of how to use it are one thing separating us from animals, right?

OK, so a knife is useful that we can say without question. It is smart to always have a knife on you because you never know what you might need it for and when. This means you ladies too. There is no reason you shouldn’t carry a knife in your purse and it could even save your life if you didn’t have any other means of self defense.

What to look for when selecting the best Survival knife

Blade Shape – There are a lot of different blade shapes and each was designed for different tasks. Similar to how each of those knives in that big block you have sitting in the kitchen have a different strong suit, the blade shape of your knife will determine what it is best for. Some shapes are designed to take the impact of a rock or stick on the backside so you can use the knife as an axe.

SOG Seal Pup – Great knife and reasonably priced.

Blade Steel – There are dozens of different types of blade steel out there and probably millions of opinions on which is best for your knife. The steel is made up of varying amounts of carbon and iron but there are other alternatives out there like ceramic knives. Each different type has their benefits but it largely comes down to strength and hardness. A harder knife holds an edge better, but if your knife is too hard, it will be less tough; which means if you hit or drop the blade it could break. For a great list of blade composition types you can read this post on the Blade HQ site.

Serrated Edge – Serrated edges have their uses and I would recommend having some of the blade serrated. You can use this to cut through cordage like your thousands of feet of paracord or even bone if needed. The edges can be re-sharpened if you have the right sharpening stone.

Full tang – For the strongest knife you want a blade that extends all of the way to the end of the knife. This is called “full tang” and simply means that the knife is one single piece of metal. This is going to be far stronger than a folding knife and less prone to breaking when you need it.

Handle – You want a knife that feels good in your hands and the surface needs to be conducive to a good grip. You don’t want a knife that will easily slip through your fingers if it is wet. For this reason I would recommend that you always try out the knife you want to buy in person. You need to physically see how it feels in your hand. Is it too large or too small? Do the finger grooves fit you nicely?

What knives should you avoid?

If you grew up in the 80’s you probably witnessed some of the Rambo phenomenon. Rambo’s knife was a beast. I think it was something like 14” long and you could saw down a tree with it. There was a group of knives that came out after this movie that had a survival kit inside the knife so that when you unscrewed the cap on the end of the handle (which also happened to have a compass) you got fish hooks and matches and various little items similar to what you see people pack inside a Survival tin. The knives were very poorly made and would fall apart quickly. That of course didn’t stop me and my teenage self from wanting one very badly.

A knife shouldn’t be complicated but it should be well built. Don’t buy a gimmicky knife trying to cut corners. You should buy a great knife at a decent price and let it do its job. Save the matches and fishhooks for your Bug out Bag.

How many knives do you need?

The million dollar question is how many knives do you need? For me personally, I look at this in a few different ways and again, I am not talking to the collector. If you just love knives then by all means go out and buy as many as you want. For the average Joe, I would start with a great folding knife that you can carry with you every day. This should be part of your EDC and it should be something you are never without.

Ka Bar knife has been proven tough for over 50 years.

I have two knives that I carry on me every day in most cases only because my Leatherman has a knife too. Could I get by with only one knife? Of course, but I have options. So that’s two knives I own now. What about when it isn’t the easiest or best idea to carry my larger folder? Let’s say I am dressed up for work or a funeral, what would I carry then? They make the smaller Leatherman Juice just for this purpose that fit nicely in your pocket and don’t require their own holster. Ok, that’s three knives so far.

Lastly I have my big knife. For me, this is my Gerber LMF II that is big and sturdy enough for any post-apocolyptic needs I might have from chopping wood for a fire (yes, you can do that with a knife) to stabbing zombies in the head. I almost never carry this around because it is so large that you can’t stick it in your pocket obviously. Would I have this strapped to my side if the SHTF? Yes I would. If I am going anywhere up to and even camping in the woods, my little folder is just the right size and weight. I could buy another medium sized knife like a K-Bar or a SOG Seal pup, but I think I am ok with the folder and the leatherman. Your mileage may vary.

For each member of my family, we have a multi-tool and each person has a folder. Eventually everyone will also have a full-sized devoted survival knife but that is really all I can ever see needing. Sure, I could point to the two is one and one is none rule to say we should all have 4 each, but that seems like overkill. Besides, I still like wandering the aisles at the gun shows and who knows. I may still find that elusive perfect knife that I have to have.

So, how many knives do you have and what do you carry with you.

I like knives. Actually, there aren’t many knives out there that I can’t respect on a certain level for their utility and in some cases beauty. Knives come in all

A Prepper Must-Have: Solar Spotlights

I hesitate to call these spotlights instead of just outdoor lighting, but they’re easier to search that way. I’m talking about any light options that can be set up by anyone who owns a screwdriver, no electrical connections needed, that runs off the sun and-or a spare battery, and that provides quality lighting when somebody walks inside its sensor range. The range of detection, amount of light, and hours of charge are going to vary by price and size, just like the amount of light it takes to charge them will vary by the quality of their solar panels.

These aren’t as inexpensive as some of the must-haves in preparedness like soap and rice. However, it’s not like I’m suggesting freeze-dried steaks or a .308 here, either. They’re not usually as small as a sheet or a set of bungee cords, but they also don’t need their own five-gallon buckets or trunks to store each backup. They don’t have quite the million and one uses of baking soda and they’re relatively stationary unlike headlamps.

Still, they’re readily affordable, fairly lightweight and small, and they can make a big, reliable difference for relatively small outlay – a difference that’s almost impossible to match with other products. That makes them a must-have in my book.

I’m pushing the solar aspect in this one case, because not everyone has a generator and even if we do, limiting the power draw during daily life and especially an emergency makes good sense.

Too, a light tied to even our personal grid is dependent on any of several single components to function. When one goes out, so do all the lights. With a set of independent solar-powered spotlights, we still have our security and safety lights.

I actually started down this road for three reasons. One: I hate power bills. Two: It’s really, really, really dark in the country compared to the ‘burbs. Three: The spaces on my parents’ property even to take the trash behind the garage is … mined. There are anthills, random rose bushes, baby trees, whatever Pops brought home from work last, dog and children’s toys, sometimes windblown fruit like apples, and routinely neighborhood animals and wildlife. No to mention record-setting web spinners and about 20 places for them to work.

Solar-powered motion-sensor lights help us dodge all of those. Plus, the kinds I picked are easy enough for even my non-techie, non-electrician mother and now-disabled father to install and maintain.

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Unlike game cameras, a motion-sensor light lets us see what is upsetting dogs or livestock immediately, from our windows and porches, instead of looking the next day or requiring a wireless computer connection for real-time viewing, and are usually far less expensive.

I also like to have a fair chance of seeing what made the dogs go crazy, and my parents’ had a prowler at least three times a few years ago. To the rescue: motion activated lights, several sets that ranged from $30 to $60.

The peace of mind of knowing when it’s a loose cat and when it’s more is worth every penny to us. If there’s still a prowler, they’re staying way down at the road turn-off or way up past the dog lot now.

With motion-sensor lights, you can see what exactly is out there by the poultry or sheds or gardens and whether it’s nothing or an air gun versus an AR target, Moms can walk from her car to the house without hitting any puddles or icy patches, and you avoid getting annoyed at a bucket that doesn’t come when you call and can stalk right to a dog – or realize Stealthy Sam is standing two feet away looking at you waiting for the door to open.

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There are lots of times, even in this perfect, fully powered country, that the motion-sensor lights have been valuable. A lot of those values will continue or cross over should there be a widespread disaster of some kind.

Increasing the Usefulness of your Lights

For a boost to the lights, consider covering with thin fabric or thinned paint in varying colors and shades to create not only illumination, but in some cases, to even alert to direction of travel. A full-on whitewash can be difficult to judge, even with a property lit up like a full moon.

Knowing that white means interior or corners, and knowing that red means something or someone circled a hen-house, hit the register between corner lights, or that something hit two sensors but not the adjacent 2-7, can help us decide what we most need and where our response should be focused.
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These are just some examples of options available:

Solar motion-sensor spotlights can also be purchased as single units. There are all kinds, some less expensive and other, much more expansive sets.

Pre-plan by looking at the height they’ll likely be placed, the area they’re intended to cover, and whether they’re there to illuminate the ground on a path or inform us of what’s out there in the night. That will help us make the most economical decisions regarding sensor range, light size, and the amount of money we want to invest.

Downsides to Solar Lights

Okay, so besides the sun-cloud thing, motion-sensor lights have a big issue for preppers: light discipline.

It’s really dark out there in the world when there’s no light. It’s why the military still trains people to use lights under a poncho in the open. The $0.97 stakes from Walmart may seem pitiful now, but they’re plenty to catch an eye in real darkness depending on the elevation, altitude, and flora or built environment around them.

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If light discipline is of importance during an emergency, a higher-grade model with wireless remote or tied to a household switch may be more appropriate than the automatic, less-expensive models.

The cheapest of the lights don’t have on-off switches. Until you start getting into relatively pricey systems you don’t have an indoor switch option for the solar motion-sensor versions. That means if you’re trying to stay dark, you have to take them down and you’re back to handheld lights or maybe turning them on as you go.

On the other hand, let’s look at the history of disasters for a minute.

Most of our grid-down situations are temporary, and tend to relate to a localized or regional storm or somebody who dug or hit a line (or pole) or a piece of equipment that fritzed. Rolling brown-outs are something that used to be of issue, and could become so again.

Most of our financial reversals are serious on an individual/family level, or a slow decline due to a dying industrial area. There are some like 2008 that strike a lot of people over a relatively short amount of time, and there are some that are similar to Greece, Venezuela, Argentina, or even the Great Depression here and abroad.

Certainly crime increases in many of those situations, but they’re not total anarchy.

Perhaps lights would make urban or suburban dwellers a target in a Ferguson or Baltimore, and little twerps would be inclined to bust them up. In most of those cases, however, rioters tend to generally stay in areas that they live in or around civic centers.  Only in L.A. so far have these things really spread significantly into other locations entirely, and a lot of those locations have been shopping areas and roadways in most recent riots. They haven’t started trashing the random ‘burbs so much.

And in all cases so far, nobody has thrown the light switch for the entire area to plunge it into darkness. Nobody has been hungry and assuming that a light means somebody’s there and has food.

So for most of our lives, just like the lives of our parents, our disasters are going to involve less blatant violence and less chance that motion-sensor lights really make us a target instead of the reverse: aiding our security and safety.

There are exceptions, and in those cases, maybe we do turn them off or take them inside. But they’re rare.

There is another downside besides the sun, and that would be: A battery-dependent anything depends on batteries. Batteries start with a terminal charge-discharge cycle, and tend to become less and less effective over time. Sometimes our cutesy solar lights run off common batteries of a type we can stockpile in a cool place, sometimes they have an unusual battery or specialty power pack.

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Solar spotlights come with a variety of mounting options and some include long cords between the PV panels and lights. That allows us to place the light where we want it and still position the solar panel where it will collect the most energy.

Even if it’s the latter, and even if they’re lower-end, the wall-mounted solar lights tend to be pretty efficient boogers and LED lights tend to be pretty low-draw. There’s going to be a correlation to panel quality and size, light intensity and area coverage, alert zone size and accuracy, and the lifetime of the battery. Some pretty long-lived versions can be had for well under $100 easily, but those are aspects to consider as we gather information if we decide to buy them.

Solar lights also depend on that panel that’s sucking up light to power the device.

The best advice I can give is to buy the one with the best and most informative reviews, and make sure there’s a return policy that’s not going to cost half again as much to send it back. That way if an item feels a little bit cheap when it comes out of the box, we can put it right back in and try again. Doing so prevents regrets on day 32, 61, or 93 when we have that “I knew it” moment – right after a warranty or a replace-refund time period has elapsed and our receipt has gone … somewhere.

That kind of goes with anything, but especially with an item we’re buying so it’s safer and easier for us to maneuver around in darkness at our home or incorporating into our security systems.

Are Solar Lights Really Prepper Must-Haves?

In my world, yes. Being able to see at night, and further away than our porch lights, is huge for a ton of reasons.

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Solar Light,URPOWER 8 LED Outdoor Solar Powerd,Wireless Waterproof Security Motion Sensor Light for Patio, Deck, Yard, Garden,Driveway,Outside Wall with 2 Modes Motion Activated Auto On/Off(4 Pack)

It makes my life safer from insects and tripping, prevents my dogs from tangling with an unseen raccoon, prevents us from having to go outside without knowing if the thing by the birds is animal or human, armed or a kid. It tells us if we’re in a “release the hounds” situation, a shotgun situation, or if we need to head out the side door and very quietly take one of the unlit paths that are worked in (because we’re freaks) because more trouble than it’s worth risking a life over is cutting through the gate chains, or one of the lights got shot out.

They’ll provide that service regardless of whether we’re home, the area has an outage, or the alarm is set.

And they’ll do some of it for less than $30-50 bucks, most for $50-100, and absolutely all for $100-200. The cost of sets is low enough for them to be holiday presents and still have something “fun” to ask for, or we could jump above the level that only requires a screwdriver and a thumb to install, and get a really nice system by setting back ten bucks a week or twenty bucks a month.

For some of us, that amount can be saved by skipping a couple of coffees or takeout, or changing or phone plans. Some of us have already cut the cord, but if we really want to become prepared and a $120 item isn’t even an annual option, it might be time to explore Prime, Hulu and Roku and ditch cable and the house phone (there are good free and low-cost VoIP house phone service out there – I use the Google one).

When something makes our life a whole lot easier in daily life, can prevent injury, and can help us keep our homes, gardens, pets and livestock safe, and can do it for <$100-150 bucks spent in $30-50 increments with an expanding system, I call that a must-have.

Teenagers sneaking in or out and those of us arranging for a surprise in predawn blackness may not agree. (Smile and encourage a sense of humor; life’s hard enough as it is.)

A Prepper Must-Have: Solar Spotlights I hesitate to call these spotlights instead of just outdoor lighting, but they’re easier to search that way. I’m talking about any light options that can

The “green” movement can cover a lot of our preparedness interests and purchasing habits, providing a degree of OpSec and cover for us. Conservationist and environmentalist are commonly bad words in some preparedness folds, but as a professional greenie myself (certified conservation landscape designer, landscape architect, permaculture designer, Critical Areas Act consultant, and ecosystem restoration management) I can tell you we’re not all that bad. You may find that it is wiser to couch your actions by going green instead of broadcasting you are a prepper.

And sometimes, preppers and greenies are already kind of walking in lock-step. We just don’t always realize it.

Two sides of the same coin

Think about Ducks Unlimited. There the nice people are, wandering around slapping mosquitoes, risking bashed thumbs, to help the pretty little wood ducks out by building them houses and nailing them to trees, replanting marshes.

All kinds of fairly liberal news organizations and viewers go “awwww, yay, look!”

Then half the Ducks Unlimited crew is out there come frost and low cloud cover, and this time they’re hauling long-barrel shotguns, salivating over the idea of roast duck and duck-fat potatoes.

They protect the environment. They work hard to save waterways, marshes, and the woods-water edges from development. They fight up and down to keep loggers away and make sure chemicals don’t get dumped. They lobby and garner support to prevent a performance stage that would increase human traffic and noise during nesting, breeding and duckling seasons. They get a motor boat restriction.

These are typically things we attribute to the “progressive”, “liberal”, “tree-hugger”, “left” of society. But the hunters, so usually on the “right” end of the social spectrum, are right there with them.

They reap the rewards of the habitat they’ve saved and created, not just for the wood ducks, but for all kinds of waterfowl, upland birds and small game. So do all the other critters near the water, and a lot of humans. If a prepper lives near those waterway edges, they benefit, too.

Both sides are in there, fighting essentially the same fight with the same positive results, although with a different motivation.

We can take advantage of the same kind of socially conscious “left” justifications, movements, interests and acceptance to hide or advance our preparedness.

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How do tree-huggers and preppers line up?

In our bids to withstand a disaster of various magnitude, we buy into old and new technologies that limit the amount of fossil fuels we burn, turning instead to renewable resources.

We learn new and incredible ways to grow year-round, in all climates, using renewable systems that limit reliance on factory-produced chemicals and oil-burning equipment. In doing so, we contribute to saving the heirloom crops of our parents, grandparents and forbears.

We learn ways to have livestock work for us, feeding themselves as they produce a byproduct we can use. We let them be our tools instead of burning more fossil fuels, have them clearing brush, mowing and tilling or hunting down garden and crop pests, or protecting the small livestock from any predators that will fit in a pig’s mouth.

We refine and develop and apply more and more techniques for capturing rainwater, storing it, and directing it where we can use it, instead of letting be wasted and channeling it as fast as possible – with faster water carrying more sediment and chemicals – away from our homes and into our waterways.

Urban, ‘burbs, or rural living, condo to barren bug-out location, the things we invest in to go off-grid commonly result in consuming less chemicals, destroying fewer woods and forests, and polluting less air and water.

Likewise, when we stash or salvage something for a project, we can justify it from the less-waste, reduce-reuse-recycle perspectives of an environmentalist. (Soda bottle or discarded window collection, anyone?)

Our neighbors see gun cases and range bags because we practice to ensure clean, humane hunting (doesn’t matter what’s actually in them).

Gardening for the good of all

We install that rain catchment system and the mulch bed or edimentals (edible ornamentals – an actual bearing peach tree, edible flowers and unusual greens, beautiful amaranth, and colorful chard) or our woodland rain garden (of wild edibles). We limit the rainwater runoff from our roof, pollution from lawns, and limit our draw on the aquifers amid this growing national drought, and we provide pollinator forage in there with our landscaping or a little urban or suburban oasis for wildlife.

Yeah, we make food. Maybe you say so. Maybe you pretend your lavender, garlic chives, candle peppers, scarlet beans, and purple cutting lettuce are just more pretty plants. Maybe you point out that your new white willow will soak up some of that soggy spot in the lawn, but don’t mention that it’s a medicinal and rabbit feed out there with the lilies and container-grown cattails and the blueberries and aronia that are going to be stunning in autumn.

We learn the old ways of food preservation to take advantage of seasonal produce. We do so to limit our reliance on commercial products, but in doing so we also opt out of a culture of disposable food containers, and the mines and factories that produce those, the chemicals used in processing and growing the foods and containers, and the fossil fuel used in shipping a can of tomatoes fourteen times before we buy it and drive it home.

See, when we buy into self-sufficiency, we really do create a better world, regardless of our primary motivation.

That means we can go forward and “hide in plain sight” without telling any lies when we use an environmental justification for our interests and projects. We just need to apply those happy “green” catchphrases.

We might even convert one of our ultra-liberal neighbors who would have run screaming from the idea of “prepping”, because they’re introduced in baby steps that don’t challenge their norm and sense of security. That makes for a more resilient community, because it’s not all on our backs. We’re not alone.

children

Expanding our skills and knowledge resource pool

Being a greenie instead of a prepper, we no longer have to be super sneaky about how and where we learn our skills. We’re a “safe” kind of freak in the public’s eyes now. Without OpSec breathing down our necks, we open up the pool of people we can learn from.

We’re not limited to other preppers and survivalists, and the horror of arranging a meetup. We can just be hobbyists and practitioners because we’re interested in one thing – among other things.

We can now openly learn individual aspects from topic-specific practitioners. Hunting and reloading from hunters and trappers. Fishing from anglers. Livestock from those who have it. Canning from canners. Sewing from sewers. HAM and SSB CB from radio ops. Gardening from gardeners. Foraging from foragers. Bug-Out from through packers. Shooting from shooters.

And a real bonus is, unlike preppers, a lot of enthusiasts want you to come look at their babies and see what they do.

If we net ourselves a permaculturist or modern homesteader we looked up from a blog or met at a fruit stand or the farmer’s market, whoa, jackpot. We might get a whole load of knowledge about multiple fronts all in one sweet spot, OpSec still secure.

The truth but … maybe not the whole truth

You might not give a hoot about an island of plastic in the middle of the Pacific, starving polar bears, or the loss of forest in the Amazon. But these are unassailable facts. We can compare coverage maps, see them in video footage. This makes them “safe” – like the truth of fecal-oral disease risks following a flood.

You can use those facts and others in conjunction with your own activities when asked. Most people will draw their own conclusions when they’re sprinkled in there together.

Say we’re running around salvaging things to build a cold frame for greens, cabbage beetle and bird exclusion frames, maybe a vertical pallet garden and drip irrigation, maybe window lettuce towers, and somebody finally asks about it.

There’s a major drought in California and we pump water faster than aquifers and reservoirs refill. Chickens spend their lives packed into tiny cages that are barely big enough to lift their heads all the way. We want to grow our own broccoli and strawberries, and have some laying hens. We’re not buying it in one shot at Lowes; there’s an island of trash in the Pacific already, sheesh.

Ohhhh. You’re a … whatever it is.

“I’m not an extremist or PETA or anything like that, we’re still buying stuff from stores and all, but…” *Shrug.* “Every little bit, right?”

Huh. Yeah. Every little bit. Right. Okay.

Every word is true. Every statement is one of those fact-truths, not any type of twisted science. You may not actually care about the quality of life for a laying hen in Big Ag production, but you can still share the fact. They can draw their own conclusion.

You are, again, a “safe” kind of freak, the kind that hugs trees. Not the scary anti-government kind that was just on the TV. And if you really want to make them go away, try to convert them to your newfound interest, environmentalism. Many will start avoiding you.

Mission accomplished.

OpSec takes over our brains

We tend to want to learn new skills and complete projects because we’re motivated by the disasters we foresee. We learn OpSec early in preparedness, and we understand that it hamstrings us in some ways – like forming networks and groups. We just can’t seem to cut the cord, though.

We don’t want to become a target for thieves now. We don’t want somebody to know and remember us and become targets later. So we don’t talk about preparedness-related things. Good OpSec.

But sometimes we forget that other people do these things we do, too. A lot of them do the same or similar just because it suits them. This is their hobby or passion. Gardeners, scrapbookers, home births, shooters, radio types, model builders, homeschooling, scrap metal sculptors, hunters, knitters – it takes all kinds.

guns

Reenactors are a good example of a “group” who we can learn a fair bit from about off-grid living.

We also forget that we don’t always have to share our interest as being motivated by preparedness – or our newfound reason for going green. We forget that we can say “I’m interested in” or “I want to learn” because we are interested and want to learn. We forget that we can just shrug our shoulders when asked “why” and say, “I just am. It’s interesting.”

Reenactors are a good example of a “group” who we can learn a fair bit from about off-grid living. They just like to pretend to be from a time before electricity, the way some people like to paint and some people collect stamps.

Use that. Just be interested in something.

If we’re not comfortable with that, really feel like we have to have an explanation, there’s always the greenie option. We don’t even have to talk about self-sufficiency unless we hunt down a homesteader or permie. “Environmentally motivated” does the job.

The Safety Net of a Greenie

Hiding in plain sight doesn’t always work, but it can, when done right.

We’re in a major upswing where sustainability and environmentally friendly are things that are viewed as relatively common if not normal, and even laudable by a lot of society. “Environmentalist” covers a lot of our crazy projects, and can be used to explain away some of our activities.

You’re on your own coming up with a “green” explanation for that chest carrier and all the AR furniture with your spouse and in-laws, but there are regularly eco-friendly benefits to lot of our purchasing habits, if they’re done smart. Just try to stay away from the polarizing types like PETA and Whale Wars. Most of us greenies aren’t really like that. We “normal” eco-freaks tend to want to make them go away as much as we do the people who get twenty paper napkins at McDonald’s, use three, and throw the whole wad away. (Used napkins are recyclable and compostable, BTW.)

The “green” movement can cover a lot of our preparedness interests and purchasing habits, providing a degree of OpSec and cover for us. Conservationist and environmentalist are commonly bad words

Today we are going to talk about vaseline, aka petroleum jelly, aka the best thing to come out of an oil refinery apart from car fuel, of course, has many uses both in shit hits the fan situations and around the house. So, because talk’s cheap, here’s are 12 ways to use petroleum jelly for survival.

Fire-starter

If you ever run out of tinder or anything useful for making a fire, put some petroleum jelly on a tin tray or something and set it ablaze. This stuff’s powerful enough to burn through anything.

Crafting emergency candles

All out of tac light batteries, matches, lamp oil or emergency candles? Then use some petroleum jelly to whip out a batch of 6-hour candles. To do that, grab a couple of bell or mason jars and place a small wick inside. To prevent the top part of the wick from getting inside the jelly, you can drive it through a small piece of cork. Let the wick soak as much as of that stuff as possible and let it rip.

Improving char cloth

Want to add more item to that fancy tinder box of yours? Try this trick – grab a couple of cotton balls and let them soak overnight in petroleum jelly. Place them in small zip-lock bags and toss them in the tinder box.

Make a zipper budge

Nothing’s more frustrating than dealing with a stubborn zipper. If you have some petroleum jelly on hand, rub some on the zipper’s teeth, and that’s it.

First-aid

Since this stuff hit the market in the late 19th century, it has been successfully employed to treat small wounds and nicks. Apart from the fact that it creates a waterproof barrier, petroleum jelly will also make the wound heal faster. You can also use it on your soles to prevent chaffing, especially during long hikes.

Petroleum jelly is also great for itches, minor burns, and dried skin. Moreover, if you ever run out of cream, you can also replace it with a tube or box of petroleum jelly. By the way, most moisturizing creams on the market pack Vaseline – definitely a win-win!

Keep away insect from wooden and metal surfaces

Getting a gazebo was probably the best decision I ever made, apart from marrying my wife, of course. The only thing that nags at me is the fact that no matter what I do or use, those small flying insects will still land on the carpentry and on the table my wife placed in the middle. Well, I have a sure-fire remedy for that – using petroleum jelly to keep insect away.

Just apply a thin layer of this stuff whenever you’re not using it and, voila, no more flying critters. In addition, petroleum jelly also extends the life of wooden furniture, prevents sun damage, and makes the surface shinier.

Leather care

Hiking boots are great for any kind of shit hits the fan situation, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t need some looking after. To waterproof and restore warped leather, rub some petroleum jelly on those fancy boots of yours. You can also use the same trick on leather jackets and pants.

Emergency shave

I don’t mind rocking the sauvage look, but in a couple of days, that thing will itch worse than a hand-combat with poison ivy. If you don’t have any shaving cream left, rub some petroleum jelly on your face, let that stuff sink into your skin, and use a razor or whatever to debeardify yourself.  

Remove a stubborn ring

A ring stuck to the finger is no laughing matter. That’s how my wife wound up in the ER a couple of years ago because she was too pigheaded to purchase a ring that your fit those hotdogs of hers. Anyway, if you’re dealing with the same issue, rub some petroleum jelly on that ring finger of yours. The ring will off much easier.

Offers relief in case of a hangnail

There’s nothing worse than having to hike or to walk with a hangnail. Considering that you don’t have the luxury to stay on you can and perform cosmetic surgery, use some petroleum jelly to relieve the pain. When you get around to it, rub a little bit over the site. The nail bit can be snipped a lot easier.

Lubricant for moving parts

Again, not those types of moving parts, so wipe that smirk off your face. If you have machinery at home whose, moving parts simply refuse to budge, apply a little bit of petroleum jelly and try again. Hell, this thing is better than WD 40. In case you need to drive a screw through solid plywood, rub a little Vaseline on the screw’s tip. It will sink in that board like it was butter or something.

Remove candle wax from holders

Being in the dark is not a great feeling. But, at times, we just have to brave out the darkness with whatever we have on hand. Candles are a great alternative to tac light, although not one that I would recommend around the house. Still, if you’re forced to rely on candles, better to use a holder – that way you can prevent scorch marks on a wooden surface.

Here’s the tricky part – trying to yank out the old candle from the holder in order to place a new one. Yes, I know it’s annoying as shit, but if you use a little bit of petroleum jelly at the base of the candle, it will pop out in an instant. You can also use the same stuff to make emergency candles last longer – just dip the wick in Vaseline before placing them inside the mason jar.

That’s about it for my article on ways to repurpose petroleum jelly. Overlooked anything? Drop a line and let me know.

The best thing to come out of an oil refinery apart from car fuel, of course, has many uses both in shit hits the fan situations and around the house.

One of the most forgotten areas of prepping is financial preparedness. It’s as if we all think that whenever the brown stuff hits the air movement device, all debt and other financial concerns will disappear. While that might be true in a few situations, like an EMP, it’s not something we can count on. We’re just as likely to be faced with a scenario which causes us all to lose our incomes, while still being stuck with the mortgage on our homes and the loans on our cars.

Planning our finances as preppers can be challenging. We are faced with the problem of planning for the same things our non-prepping friends and neighbors do, while also planning for any number of possible disasters. So we have to have a plan for retirement; a plan to survive short-term disasters and a plan for surviving a TEOTWAWKI event.

 

This makes investing a real challenge. The things most people invest in, stocks and money market accounts, can’t be relied on in a post-disaster world. For that matter, trusting in them in a normal world is a bit dicey, as the stock market can always crash. But that doesn’t eliminate the need for investing; just like everyone else in the world, we need to have our investments in order, both for the good times and for the bad.

This really means investing in such a way as to protect ourselves in the event of a disaster. If we do that, then our investments should carry us through the good times as well. What we need, in addition to our stockpile of supplies, are things that we can invest in, which won’t lose their value, even in a post-disaster world. May I suggest the following…

Gold & Silver

This one is obvious. Perhaps the most classic investment of all time is precious metals, specifically gold and silver. During times of financial crisis, these metals always increase in value, even when everything else is dropping in value. In addition, precious metals are what people are likely to return to when needing some sort of money to trade with. So, as long as you have them, you can do business.

If you want to learn more you can check out this book. It provides specific and essential wealth-protecting ideas, techniques, and strategies.

In this regard, silver is actually better than gold, as its value is less. So when it comes time to barter, you’re not dealing with a one-ounce gold coin, which has a huge value. That might be useful when trying to make a major purchase, but not when trying to buy food.

Land

When I’m talking about land here, I’m not talking in the typical way of investing in land. What I’m referring to the land your home is sitting on or land that you can use for homesteading. One of the best investments you can make, especially for surviving a financial collapse, is ensuring that you own your home. That way, it can’t be taken away from you.

Granted, it is hard to pay off your home and the land it sits on; but if you will make an additional payment of say $100 each month, that money will go directly towards the principal on the loan, not the interest. I don’t have the exact figures at hand, but check it out; that could cut your 30 year mortgage down to 15 years or so.

Food

As preppers, we’re already stockpiling food. But we need to realize that our food is an investment too. Even in normal times, the cost of food is rising faster than the inflation rate. So, that food will increase in value faster than a savings account. Of course, in a time of crisis, it will be invaluable.

A Cottage Industry Business

Many major disaster scenarios are serious enough that they affect the world in which we live in, as well as the economy. Rather than just investing in things, think about investing in the skills, knowledge, and tools to make a go of it, if your current job falls apart. You don’t want an internet business here, but rather something that you do with your hands.

Repair businesses could be an excellent choice, as they do extremely well after a financial collapse. Many of the old trades would do well after the loss of the grid. Ideally, you want some sort of business which will provide an income after as many types of disasters as possible. Start with the skills you currently have and look at what might work well for you.

Alcohol

People will hang on to their vices, feeding them, more than they will hold on to their most basic needs. in this, I think that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is wrong. People will feed their vices, even at the cost of their lives. That’s why alcoholics and drug addicts spend the money they need for food and heat to feed their addictions.

But you don’t have to be an alcoholic to want alcohol. People drink and use drugs to escape their problems. So in a time of severe problems, many will trade away the food they need, just to get a drink. This makes alcohol one of the most powerful barter goods there is.

Tobacco

Tobacco is like alcohol, in that it is a vice. People smoke to deal with stress and in a post-disaster world, there will be plenty of stress. Having a stock of tobacco on hand could be extremely valuable, perhaps even more so than silver.

I wouldn’t recommend investing in cigarettes, as they can go stale. Rather, invest in raw tobacco and rolling papers. If people want to smoke, they’ll learn to roll their own.

Coffee

There are even more coffee addicts in the world than there are alcoholics and smokers. If you want something that people are going to be lusting after, willing to trade just about anything away for, this might be the golden ticket. Just about anyone is going to want coffee.

Whole beans will store better than ground coffee, even if you are keeping it in airtight containers. That means having a grinder on hand as well so that you can grind their coffee for them.

Ammunition

Some have said that ammunition will become the common coin in a post-disaster world, especially a post-EMP world. There will clearly be shortages, even with all the people who have already built stockpiles of ammo. Concentrate on calibers that are useful for hunting and self-defense. Probably the most popular caliber for trade will be the .22LR.

Gasoline

Gasoline is difficult, as it doesn’t store well for prolonged periods of time. The more volatile hydrocarbons tend to evaporate off and there is some oxidation of other components of the gasoline. Adding a fuel stabilizer to the gas can extend the life, but then only to about a year.

If you can store your gasoline in sealed metal containers, it will last longer than it will in plastic gas cans. I’ve kept gasoline in a sealed steel barrel for over a year, without problem. And that was without adding fuel stabilizers to it. Even so, I would consider gasoline only a short-term investment, as it won’t last forever. You’ll want to cash in on this investment faster than others.

Toilet Paper

There have always been alternatives to toilet paper. In the pioneering days, they used corn cobs and the Sears & Roebuck catalogue. But for those of us who have grown up accustomed to toilet paper, making that switch will be difficult. I’d say that it will be even more difficult for women.

This one is a bit of a gamble; but I think that toilet paper will become highly valuable in a post-disaster world. You just might want a few extra cases, over and above what your family is going to use, that is.

Seed

If it comes down to long-term survival after a TEOTWAWKI event, probably one of the most important things to own will be seed. Not only will you need it, so that you can plant a large vegetable garden and grow food for yourself and your family, but everyone else will need it too. They’re also going to need your knowledge about gardening, so that they can get their gardens going and feed their families.

This is probably only a short-term investment but could have big returns. I say it’s short-term because once they grow their own crops, they can harvest the seed as well. So you shouldn’t have people coming back to you for the next growing season, looking for more seed.

 

That concludes my mission for the day. Let me know what you think. If you find the time. Or something to add. 

Have a good one! 


Other Self-sufficiency and Preparedness solutions recommended for you:

The Lost Ways (The vital self-sufficiency lessons our great grand-fathers left us)
Survival MD (Knowledge to survive any medical crisis situation)
Backyard Liberty (Liberal’s hidden agenda: more than just your guns…)
Alive After the Fall (Build yourself the only unlimited water source you’ll ever need)
The Lost ways II (4 Important Forgotten Skills used by our Ancestors that can help you in any crisis)
The Patriot Privacy Kit (Secure your privacy in just 10 simple steps)

With all these EMP risks in mind, it only makes sense to be prepared. That’s not a chance we can afford to take.

I’ve discovered something that was rather surprising – that the ways we do things today aren’t necessarily the best ways to do them. As we look back in time we see that our ancestors had many ways of doing things that have been lost to us today. While today’s methods meet today’s needs, they may not be the best ones around. There are many cases where the tools our ancestors used produced better results than what we manage today.

You can still find many of these tools, often at garage sales and flea markets. People look at them as novelties today, but if we ever had to return to a simpler way of life – such as after the destruction of our electric grid – those methods would be the only way that we could do many things. Therefore, it makes sense for us to prepare today, buying the tools and learning how to use them.

While there are still places where these tools can be bought new, they can also be found at garage sales and especially at estate sales. Often, the people who have them have no idea what it is that they have, so they are willing to let them go cheap. That gives you and I a chance to pick them up at a great price.

Kitchen Tools

Since we’re talking about homesteading, let’s start out with kitchen tools; there are a lot of them. An incredible amount of effort has gone into making the job of the homemaker easier, mostly because it is very profitable to do so. So the modern kitchen is filled with electronic appliances, many of which are highly specialized devices. But that doesn’t mean they are the best way to go.

Cast-iron Dutch Oven

Cooking outdoors on the grill is one of the great American past times, especially in warm weather. It’s a great time to get together with family and friends over some good food. Cooking outdoors makes it especially nice because we don’t have to heat up our kitchens. Only. . . we still heat up our kitchens. Maybe the meat gets cooked outdoors, but we still cook a lot in the kitchen. Why not cook all the rest of that food over the fire as well? With a cast-iron Dutch oven that’s easy, as it won’t be damaged by the heat from the coals. You can even bake in one, heaping coals on the lid so that the baked goods are surrounded by heat.

Pressure Cooker

When I was young, before the time of microwave ovens, pressure cookers were still fairly commonplace. Cooking under pressure causes water to boil at a higher temperature, cooking food faster. While it is not as fast as a microwave, the food comes out tasting a whole lot better.

Food Mill

Anyone who is growing vegetables in their garden needs a food mill. This isn’t anything like a food processor, but rather more like a strainer with some emphasis on it. Purees, like puree of tomato, is pushed through the cone-shaped screen, providing an easy way of filtering out seeds, skins, stems, and other solids. Not only does it work well, but it’s fast too.

Meat Grinder

18 Vintage Homesteading Tools to Search for at Garage Sales meat grinder

Whatever happened to the meat grinder? Once upon a time, you couldn’t have a kitchen without one. Not only did people make their own ground beef, but they used it to make sausage.

The meat would be ground, seasonings added, and the meat run back through the grinder to stuff it into the sausage casing.

Just about any type of sausage or lunchmeat can be made the same way. Salami, in all its variations, is essentially nothing more than a sausage that has been made this way, then left to cure. The salt and nitrates in the mixture are what cures the meat, preserving it.

Lever-arm Juicer

I’ve used many juicers in my day and I don’t like any of them. At least, I didn’t until I brought a lever-arm juicer back from Mexico. Rather than using a motor or depending on your muscle power to squeeze the juice out over a ribbed cone, my lever-arm juicer is a squeezer, with the advantage of having leverage to squeeze out the juice from oranges and other citrus. Faster and easier than an electric juicer, it also gets more juice out of the orange.

French Press

If you go to a fancy coffee shop, and want a “fancy” cup of coffee that’s not espresso based, it’s probably going to be made in a French press. This is one of the easiest ways there is to make coffee, but few kitchens have one anymore.

The French Press is nothing more than a glass container with a plunger that has a screen on it. Coffee grounds and hot water are put into the press and allowed to sit for four minutes (I usually shave this considerably). Then the plunger is pressed down (hence the name), pushing all the coffee grinds to the bottom so the coffee can be poured off. Quick and easy, and even better coffee.

Grater

Long before anyone invented the food processor, there was the grater. Food items were pushed across a variety of different sorts of blades, set into a stainless steel plate. The better graters had four sides, with different types of blades on each side. Food was shredded as desired, depending on the blade used.

While modern food processors can do the same thing, most people just seem to use the chopping blades. Then they have to clean the whole thing up, which is much more work than cleaning a grater.

Apple Slicer & Corer

18 Vintage Homesteading Tools to Search for at Garage Sales apple slicer

Slicing apples is a pain, one that we put up with regularly. Yet this problem was solved long ago by using an apple slicer and corer.

This simple device consists of a number of blades, mounted into a handle. All one needs to do is center it over an apple’s core and press down. Presto! Apple slices, with no core.

Manual Eggbeater

I don’t remember when the last time was that I saw someone use a manual eggbeater. Today we break out the electric mixer for just about anything, even if it is to just beat two eggs. To me, it’s much easier to break out a manual eggbeater and give it a spin. Not only does it do a great job, but it’s less cumbersome than getting out the electric one and putting the beaters in. If you put it in water right away, giving it a few revolutions, it just about cleans itself.

Meat Hammer

The meat hammer is something else that’s rarely seen in the modern kitchen. Instead, we use chemicals to tenderize our meat – chemicals that really aren’t all that good for us. It would be a whole lot healthier and not a whole lot harder to use a meat hammer to break down the meat’s natural fiber and tenderize it.

Workshop Tools

Since homesteading is about being self-sufficient, most especially in growing your own food, it only makes sense to look at tools which will help with building things and gardening. If we’re going to be self-sufficient we need to be able to make what we need, as much as possible, rather than running out to the store to buy it. That takes knowledge, skills and the right tools.

Blacksmith Forge & Anvil

Back before there were hardware stores everywhere, filled with factory-made tools and hardware, you couldn’t count on just hopping on your horse and running across town to buy what you wanted. Rather, you’d go to the blacksmith and order the hinges for your door, a pair of pliers, or andirons for your fireplace. He’d make them to your order, having them for you in just a few days.

I’ve seen blacksmiths at work; my dad was trained as one. It’s amazing what they can do with a forge and anvil. While the blacksmith was the expert, there’s a lot that people can do themselves if they have a forge and anvil. That was common on homesteads and ranches. Granted, we might not be able to do artistic work, but we can build a lot of basic things we need.

Wood Splitting Wedges

If you don’t have a sawmill available to you, wood splitting wedges allow you to split logs, either for making split log floors and furniture, or to turn them into rough-hewn boards.

Adze

Once logs are split you need to straighten and smooth the surface. This is where the adze comes in. This tool looks like a big flat scoop, mounted at right angles to the handle. Used with a swinging motion, it cuts out the high points on that split log, making it possible to flatten and smooth it.

Drawknife

The drawknife is an incredibly useful tool for working with logs of all types. With it, you can strip bark, smooth a log, shape it into an axe handle and even make wheel spokes.

Gimlets

Gimlets have to be the simplest way there is of drilling a small hole. They are essentially drill bits, permanently mounted to a D handle. Usually limited to a maximum size of ¼”, you can drill holes into wood faster with a gimlet than you can get your cordless drill set up and into action.

Carpenter’s Brace

For heavy-duty drilling, the carpenter’s brace is the way to go. A two-handed tool, one hand provides downward pressure, while the other hand is the “motor.” Even though you can’t drill as fast as you can with an electric drill, you don’t have to run extension cords or recharge the battery. When the power goes out, the carpenter’s brace will replace the cordless drill as the tool of choice.

Sewing Awl

Leather has long been a useful material for making a variety of things. Stitching leather can be hard, though, especially if you aren’t used to it. The sewing awl makes this much easier, combining the functions of the awl and the sewing needle.You literally stitch as you make the holes. That makes it much faster to stitch leather together. It can also be used for other heavy materials, such as canvas.

Old-time Nail Puller

I’ve had plenty of frustration pulling nails out of boards so that I could reuse them. If you’ve done any carpentry work, you have too. The claws on a hammer just don’t do the job. But back in the 1800s they had a nail puller that worked, even on nails without heads. It combined the jaws of pliers with leverage. Puling the handle both tightened the grip of the pliers on the nail’s shaft or head and provided the leverage to pull it out. It works better than anything invented since.

I’ve discovered something that was rather surprising – that the ways we do things today aren’t necessarily the best ways to do them. As we look back in time we

As of right now, only extreme weather affects our daily lives, but in a doomsday scenario we would need to know the weather to properly adapt shelter, make sure our rain barrels are ready, or to know the right time to plant our seeds for the garden.  In the event of a coming disaster you should have already purchased a solar charged or hand cranked radio equipped with NOAA.  Ideally, this would provide a way for you to hear news from the outside world and let you know if a giant hurricane or tsunami is headed in your direction. Every good little prepper should have a back-up plan in the event the hand radio had to be used in defense against a hoard of zombies, or there is no one left to broadcast the weather and tell you the latest news (cue in eerie, dark music).

Believe it or not, humans have found ingenious ways to predict a coming weather event for centuries.  Long before Doppler and satellites, people used animals, their senses, smoke, and even a cup of coffee to tell the temperature or forecast a coming storm.  Here are a few tricks and tips (none of these are foolproof or guaranteed but the last time I checked the Weather Channel wasn’t throwing out guarantees either) that may give you an edge when preparing and provide you with the knowledge you need to plan and protect your family and belongings from a weather event.  If nothing else, you can wow all your buddies at the next cookout.

Bubbles in your coffee

Pour a cup of coffee into a mug and watch the bubbles form. If they move rapidly to the cup’s edge, expect good weather. But if the bubbles stay in the mug’s center, clouds and rain could be on the way.

The reason? High pressure pushes the bubbles to the edge, and high pressure is an indicator of good weather.

Use your body

Can your body tell you when it’s going to rain? Arthritis pain and physical discomfort kick in when the barometric pressure changes. It seems Grandma wasn’t lying after all.  Many people with joint diseases, bad teeth, recently healed broken bones, and even corns and bunions report feeling aches as the barometer drops. Low barometric pressure often indicates that clouds and rain are on the way.

Sinus and facial pain caused by changes in the barometric pressure can also be an indicator that precipitation is coming. The pain can become so severe that it can even lead to migraines. Headaches can also indicate other weather conditions such as extremely hot or cold temperatures and high winds.  It can also mean that your wife just isn’t that into you.

The animals know

When a storm is approaching it’s believed that birds fly lower in the sky. This may actually be the case. When the barometric pressure drops, flying at great heights becomes difficult for birds. The pressure drop is also believed to hurt birds’ ears, prompting them to fly at a lower altitude.

Counting the number of times a cricket chirps can be a surprisingly accurate means to determine the temperature, because a cricket’s metabolism changes as the temperature changes.

Try this next time you are out on a warm summer evening.  Count the number of times a cricket chirps in 14 seconds and add 40 to that number. The resulting number should come close to the temperature in Fahrenheit (I apologize to all my metric friends, you will need a piece of paper to do the conversion).  And, if you are single, this will surely win you some points with that lucky lady or fella.  If nothing else, you can prove you can count and do basic arithmetic.

News flash – cows aren’t just lazy when they lie around in the grass.  Anyone who has lived near farmland has heard the notion that if cows are lying on the grass, rain is coming. While it’s not a perfect predictor, there could be truth to the theory. Animals are known to be sensitive to changes in barometric pressure. Some experts theorize that cows sense those changes and lie down so they are positioned on a dry spot of grass before the storm begins.

If you can’t hear the sounds of cicadas when they’re normally causing a racket, it could mean that rain is coming. The reason? Cicadas can’t vibrate their wings easily when the humidity gets high, and high humidity can mean rain. So the cicadas’ silence can indicate rain is near.

Have you heard this old saying about horses?

Tails pointing west, weather’s at its best;

Tails pointing east: weather is least.

Turns out, animals tend to graze with their rear ends pointed toward the wind.  Don’t we all?  A westerly wind usually indicates good weather, while an easterly wind sometimes means bad weather is approaching.

The saying, “Trout jump high when a rain is nigh,” could have some truth to it. When air pressure drops, it could cause trapped gases on the bottom of a body of water to be released.

This release causes microscopic organisms to disperse into water, which prompts small fish to start feeding. The small fish attract larger fish that prey on them. Eventually, all this feeding can cause such a stir that the fish start jumping.

Ever notices animals acting strangely?  I have, especially when our cat won’t stop mewing because she needs filtered ice water and her food is an hour old.  I hate that cat.  But if you notice anything amiss with animals that dwell underground, the behavioral change could predict a major seismic event. Before a disastrous earthquake in Italy in 2009, a colony of toads mysteriously evacuated its pond. Similarly in China in 1975, hibernating snakes emerged from their holes prior to a major quake in Haicheng.

Scientists surmise that ground dwelling animals can sense a chemical change in the groundwater caused by rocks in the Earth’s crust releasing charged particles. The disturbance can lead them to seek safer havens.  So if you find toads in your bed, you better look out.

Look up

Red sky at night, sailor’s delight;
Red sky in the morn, sailors take warn.

Red sky at night, sailor’s delight;
Red sky in the morn, sailors take warn.

This saying dates back thousands of years and I have heard my mother repeat it many times so I know it has to be at least a thousand years old (sorry, mom). There may actually be scientific truth to it because weather tends to move west to east in the Northern Hemisphere.

A red sky at sunset will most likely result in beautiful clear skies, indicating that high pressure will keep the storms at bay.

If the sky is red in the morning, the sunlight from the east could be revealing moisture in the air, indicating that a storm is coming from the west.

This example is even in the Bible which states, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’’’ (Matthew 16:2).

A Ring Around the Moon,
Rain or Snow Is Coming Soon

A Ring Around the Moon,
Rain or Snow Is Coming Soon

The visible ring sometimes appearing around the sun or the moon is a result of ice crystals in cirrus clouds refracting the light off these celestial bodies. Since cirrus clouds generally indicate foul weather to come, you can assume that it is time to start waterproofing.

Layers of clouds moving in different directions (east and north, for example) indicate that severe weather could be on the way. When cloud layers start moving in different directions, it means an area of low pressure is nearby, and that often leads to clouds and rain.

Rainbows in the Morning Give You Fair Warning

There isn’t always gold at the end of a rainbow, sometimes there is a storm. A rainbow in the west in the early morning hours could mean the sunlight from the east is striking moisture. Moisture could indicate a storm is approaching

Keep in mind, light winds or breezes don’t necessarily indicate foul weather, but if the easterly winds grow suddenly strong, it can be an indicator of a shift in barometric pressure, another sign that a storm is approaching.

When clouds appear like rocks and towers,
The Earth’s refreshed by frequent showers.

When clouds appear like rocks and towers,
The Earth’s refreshed by frequent showers.

Tower clouds, or cumulonimbus, as they’re known scientifically, can indicate that severe weather is approaching. Also called thunderheads because of the extreme weather they tend to precede, the clouds gain their flat-topped shape from high winds and often have dark bottoms.

I can feel it comin’ in the air tonight (cue Phil Collins)

Wind direction can tell you a good deal about the weather. Easterly winds can indicate a storm front is moving in, while winds blowing west mean good weather.

The nose always knows. Prior to a storm it’s possible to smell the scent of ozone, a sweet odor, being carried to lower altitudes. Meanwhile, during a low pressure system and rain, molecules from decomposing plant matter are released from the surfaces they’ve attached to, such as soils, and often smell like compost, which can also indicate rain.

Flowers smell best just before a rain.

Everyone is familiar with that smell that occurs after a good summer rain, when the air is rich with the smell of plant life. This is a result of an increase in air moisture or humidity, which drastically increases the strength of smells in the air and the distance they carry.

When ditch and pond offend the nose,

Look for rain and stormy blows.

Unfortunately, it’s not rosy all the time; it is believed that the smells of swamps and marshes are held down near the surface when atmospheric pressure is high, but low atmospheric pressure allows these foul odors to rise and carry. Both the increase in humidity and the drop in atmospheric pressure associated with these proverbs are signs of wet weather to come.

Smoke gets in your eyes

Chimney smoke descends,

Our nice weather ends.

Keep an eye on the smoke from that roaring campfire you just built. If the smoke rises in a straight stack, you can anticipate fair weather to come. If the smoke rises in a stack as normal, but appears to be buffeted downwards once it reaches a certain height, you can bet that a storm’s a-brewin’.

All of these tricks are not scientific, of course.  They are simply good indicators of possible weather proceedings.  If you really want to ramp up your meteorologist skills, a barometer might be on your short list of emergency supplies for a looming catastrophe.

Read the Clouds

Clouds are an excellent indicator of weather that can be used in conjunction with the methods above. For a really great site with detailed information and photographs you can visit the Section Hiker site.

Tools of the Trade: The Barometer

Barometer

Although, using nature and animals can be helpful, some signs cannot be properly read or measured without the proper tool.  With a barometer, you can measure atmospheric pressure that will provide the warning you may need before a cataclysmic weather event.  Basically, a barometer tells if there is high pressure which indicates lovely weather abounds, however low pressure will signal wet weather is around the corner.

First things first.  Most barometers are aneroid barometers and contain zero liquid.  They do, however, contain a spring which is calibrated using a dial or knob located in the back.  To calibrate properly, go to  http://www.weather.gov/ to get your local weather.  It should include the current barometric pressure and you should adjust your barometer accordingly.

Once your barometer is calibrated, you can reference the following which was taken from Skills for Taming the Wilds by Bradford Angier.

 

Barometer Change Indicator

BAROMETER WIND WEATHER
High, steady SW to NW Fair with little temperature change for one to two days
High, rising rapidly SW to NW Fair with warmer weather and rain within two days
High, falling rapidly E to NE Summer: rain in 12 to 24 hours
Winter: snow or rain with increasing wind
Very high, falling slowly SW to NW Fair, with slowly rising temperatures, for two days
High, falling rapidly S to SE Rain, with increasing wind, in 12 to 24 hours
High, falling slowly S to SE Rain within 24 hours
High, falling slowly E to NE Summer: light winds, fair
Winter: precipitation in 24 hours
High, falling slowly SW to NW Rain within 24 to 36 hours
Low, rising rapidly Shifting to W Colder and clearing
Low, rising slowly S to SW Clearing soon and fair for several days
Low, falling slowly SE to NE Rain for one or two more days
Low, falling rapidly E to N Northeast winds heavy with rain or snow, followed in winter by cold

Note: These measurements only indicate proper pressure for the U.S. and Canada. I apologize, but invite any of our friend across the pond to submit any weather folklore or barometer guidance in the comments below and we would love to post it.

As of right now, only extreme weather affects our daily lives, but in a doomsday scenario we would need to know the weather to properly adapt shelter, make sure our

I have been asked before by friends how I got started with prepping. It seems the concept can be pretty daunting at first for some people. I can understand how it is when you start to think of the literally hundreds of important items that you need to consider for your family. My first list of “needs” took up an entire sheet of paper. On first glance, this undertaking can appear to be a giant behemoth and some people throw their hands up immediately and give in. I have heard excuses from not having enough money to not knowing where to start. While I agree that some prepper items require money (sometimes a lot!) often there are alternatives to spending a ton of money, but knowing where to start should never be an issue.

The uncertainty of knowing where to begin prepping could stem from the motivation that is driving you toward emergency preparedness. If your desire to be prepared is driven by some external threat that seems real and tangible like living in Tornado Alley, the starting point might be easier to find. If the motivation to be more prepared is due to what I would call common sense; which is telling you to be prepared for anything, the sense of urgency being lower in some cases might make the choices about where to start and what to do more complex.

In this article, which will be broken into a few different parts,  I will try to lay out what I consider is a basic guideline for how to start prepping with a list of areas that I have placed in order of importance. This is just an example of one methodology, but your personal needs, resources or experience might shuffle some of these around. This list was designed for the perspective of the person who is brand spanking new to prepping and is looking for a template of sorts they can follow to get their homes prepared for most emergency situations listed above (within reason). This does not address bugging out but is designed primarily for sheltering in place. My wife loves lists and something like this breaks everything into nice little chunks that is easier to digest and then she can cross off one at a time, so this type of list is designed for people like her.

Step 1 – Priorities

First things first, before you do anything it is important to understand a few things. This is also known as “So you want to be prepared, now what?” For me, it started with a gut feeling for lack of a better word back in 2008. I have said before that I believe someone was trying to get my attention so I started to listen. There was no driving natural threat like earthquakes or hurricanes, wildfires or mudslides that prompted me. I do not worry about the poles shifting too much or aliens attacking from planet Niburu (look that one up) but I did have a sense that society as we know it now is too fragile. Within this fragile society we are dependent upon systems and processes that are created to address the problem of Just in Time inventory management and if those systems break down, so does society. When society breaks down, so do people. When people break down, all hell breaks loose.  As Gerald Celente says; “(when) People Lose Everything, They Have Nothing Left to Lose, And They Lose It.”

The example that gets used pretty frequently is natural disasters so I will stick with that for a moment. Looking back at Hurricane Sandy or Hurricane Katrina, the people in both of those situations saw how quickly society could come crashing down. In both Katrina and Sandy, gas shortages, grocery stores wiped clean and looting happened almost overnight. Power outages, of course, happened right away and within 24 hours people’s lives were turned upside down.

Now, imagine your family and what you would be faced with if you were in a similar situation. But I don’t live anywhere near the ocean you say. OK, now forget about tornadoes earthquakes, fires, nuclear meltdowns, comets with aliens living in them and all of the other natural disasters. What if there is a major fluctuation with the price of gas and the grocery stores are no longer filled by the trucks that drive down the street every day? What if the trucks were rolling, but with the high price of gas, they were only able to come half as often as they were in the past? What if there is a terrorist attack at the port of Los Angeles and shipments are delayed for months? What if there is a stupid basketball game that doesn’t go right and there is rioting on your street? What if the police declare martial law because a bad guy is running around and they prevent you from going out of your house for days or weeks?

The point I am trying to make is that there shouldn’t be one single reason you are preparing for. You should want to be prepared for anything. The chances of any single event happening to you are too small, but the chance of something happening at all that could disrupt your life is much higher. To understand what you need to be prepared for, think less about the event that could cause disruption and more about the potential for disruption and what you would need to live comfortably through that disruption.

Water is easy to store now and it will be there when you need it. These containers stack to reduce storage needs.

There is a saying called the rule of 3’s and it goes like this. A person can live 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food. We will use these as a guideline for prepping going forward. In some cases, the rule of threes can drive what you need to focus on.

Step 2 – Water

Assuming for a minute that you can breathe and have or can obtain shelter easily we will skip over to water. Water is an obvious necessity, it is probably the easiest survival item to procure before any disaster and yet most people still don’t have enough of it to last the normal duration of what we might call your “usual” disaster. Without trying to be funny, a normal disaster is not measured in hours or days. At a minimum, if you are faced with a severe emergency like a tornado, hurricane or earthquake, services and life as you knew it probably won’t return to normal for several weeks. To verify this just look at the people who lived through Katrina and Sandy. There are people still that can’t go back into their homes and this happened back in October of 2012. At the time of this writing, that is 7 months ago and Sandy was only a Category 1 hurricane. Imagine the destruction had it been much stronger.

A good rule of thumb for water storage is to have one gallon per person per day. This includes cooking and cleaning, but that amount could change depending on the weather, the health of the individual and the physical activity they are participating. Still, one gallon is a good rule and it is simple to figure out. I like nice round numbers.

For every person in your home, you should plan on storing a gallon each for as many days as you can envision needing clean water. FEMA recommends 72 hours’ worth or three days. The general concept is that you need a 72 hour kit for each person for survival. I think that in order to be well prepared a minimum should be three times that amount. For a 4 person home, you would need to store 4 X 9 = 36 gallons of water.  That is a great start, but having twice as much that would be even better. Twice as much would be closer to 21 days which works out nicely with your 3 weeks of food so now for that same family we are looking at 84 gallons of water.

For water storage, the problem is space for most people. If you have a large basement or storage building, storing a couple of hundred gallons of extra water is easy. In an apartment, this is not the same because you will usually only have a small closet and some pantry space if you are lucky.  Regardless of your situation, water is an essential aspect of planning and should be one of the first items you consider for your survival kit.

For storing water, it is easier and more space-efficient to store at least 5-gallon jugs of water as opposed to a case of individual bottles. There are plenty of relatively inexpensive options at your local big-box stores or online. Just search for 5-gallon water storage and you will have plenty to choose from. For those with more space, 50-gallon barrels are ideal. Because I don’t have the storage space I incorporated two 50 gallon barrels as rain barrels outside attached to my gutters. This water will need to be treated, but if it rains I can have a fresh 100 gallons fairly easily. For inside the house, I went with 5-gallon because that made the most sense for our available space. We got ours from the Ready store and they stack easily which helps with space.

The bottom line is getting some water stored for yourself and your family. It’s easy and doesn’t take any preparation at all.

You can read more about storage and water treatment options in our article that deals specifically with water.

Later on in Part 2 we will discuss the rest of the basic options which will cover Food Storage, Firearms for Self Defense and Financial Security.

I have been asked before by friends how I got started with prepping. It seems the concept can be pretty daunting at first for some people. I can understand how

It is the final backup plan for a lot of us in the case of a disaster. A generous supply of cold hard cash to buy our way out of trouble, pick up as many last-minute supplies as possible or to acquire resources that are unavailable to anyone with a credit card in a world where the electricity is out and the internet is down. We frequently talk about having cash for emergencies, but how much cash should you have if the grid goes down? What will you be able to purchase with your doomsday supply and how long would it last in the first place?

One of our readers made a recommendation the other day to have between $500 and $1000 in cash for your bug out bag and at the time it prompted me to consider again if this amount makes sense. In my personal preparedness plans I have a supply of cash but I am always trying to figure out if what I have is enough or too much. Will it even matter when TEOTWAWKI comes and how can I best use the cash I have to survive?

Why do you need to have cash on hand?

You want to know the time when you will need cash the most? It will be when you can’t get to it. How many of you right now have no cash at all in your wallets or purses? I used to be the same way. I never had cash and relied on the ready availability of cash machines or most often the ability to pay for virtually everything with a debit card. How convenient is it to never have to make change or worry if you have enough cash when with the swipe of a card your bank account funds are at your disposal. This is a great technological advance, but the problem is that this requires two things to be functioning. First, the card readers and ATM machines require electricity. If the electricity is out, neither of these two machines works. The second thing is a network connection. If the network is down, even with electricity the transaction won’t work and you can’t pay for goods or get cash from your bank.

 

In a disaster, one of the first casualties is electricity. This doesn’t have to be due to some cosmic solar flare that has rendered the grid useless, it could be as destructive and common as a fire, flood, earthquake, tornado or winter storm. It could also be from simple vandalism or perhaps terrorism. A major fiber optic cable was cut in Arizona leaving businesses without the ability to accept payments. When the electricity is out, you aren’t going to be able to access your cash via the normal means so having a supply on hand is going to be a huge advantage for you in the right circumstances.

Even if there is no natural disaster, you are still at the mercy of your bank. What if your bank closes or there is a bank holiday declared because of some economic crisis. In any of these situations, if you are dependent on access to money that is controlled by either technology or physical limitations like a bank office it is wise to have a backup plan should either of those two conditions prevent you from getting cash.

What is cash good for in a crisis?

I think there are two levels to consider when it comes to keeping cash on hand. There is the bug out scenario mentioned above where you would have some “walking around money” to take care of relatively minor needs like food, a hotel or gas. The second is for a longer or more widespread unavailability of funds. Let’s say the economy tanks and the price of everything skyrockets but stores are still open for business. Your bank is one of the casualties, but you had a few thousand dollars of cash stored away that you could use to purchase food, gas and necessary preparedness items for your family. In this scenario, the government is still backing the fiat currency and vendors are still accepting it as a form of payment. For this scenario having a few thousand dollars makes sense.

 

 

But what if we have an extreme event where the currency is devalued and is essentially worthless? Your thousands of dollars might only buy you a loaf of bread. Don’t believe it can happen? It did to the Weimar Republic after WWI so it can happen again. That isn’t to say it will, but you should balance how much money you have squirreled away under your mattress with supplies you can purchase now that will last and keep you alive during that same event. My goal is to make sure I have the basics I need to survive at home for several months to a year without needing to spend any cash. This way, if the money is worthless, I still have what my family needs to survive.

If we have a regional disaster where you can bug out to a safer location, your cash should serve you well. Of course if you are in a safer location, assuming electricity was working your access to bank funds should still be working. If this is truly the end of the world as we know it, how long will that cash you have be worth anything?

It is surprisingly simple to disrupt all credit and debit transactions. Do you have cash instead?

How much cash do you need?

So the million dollar question is how much cash should you have if the grid goes down? I always try to plan for the worst case scenario. My rationale is that if I am prepared for the end of the world as we know it, I should be just as prepared for any lesser disaster or crisis I may be faced with. The way I see it is if we do have a disaster, you aren’t going to be using that cash most likely to pay your mortgage, student loans, rent, or your credit card bills. Cash will go to life saving supplies and this will need to be used in the earliest hours of any crisis before all of the goods are gone or the cash is worthless. Once people realize for example that the government has been temporarily destroyed, they aren’t going to want to take your $500 for a tank of gas. They are going to want guns, food or bullets.

Hiding cash is easy with these fake containers, just don’t forget where you put it.

I also don’t see you using your cash to buy passage to another country, but that’s just me. I know there is a historical precedent for that, but I am not planning on that being something I realistically attempt with my family. I am also not planning on bribing any officials with cash either. My cash is for last-minute necessities and then it is back into the hopefully safe confines of my home to plan the next steps. For that I have only a couple of thousand dollars in cash stored away. I figure if I need more than that I didn’t plan well. Also, I would rather spend my money on supplies like long-term storable food and equipment than having a large horde of cash. With that amount, I figure I can make one last run if needed or be able to weather any short-term emergency when I can’t access cash.

What is the best place to hide cash in your home?

I wrote a post few days ago titled, How to hide your money where the bankers won’t find it that had lots of good ideas for reasonably safe places you could store cash. As I said in that article, you do have risks involved with keeping cash in your house, but I think you have just the same, if not worse risks relying on banks to keep your money safe and give it back when you want it. There are a million places to hide cash, but you can get tricky and buy a fake shaving cream safe to store several hundred dollars in there. Just be careful you don’t throw that away. There are other options like wall clocks with a hidden compartment inside that might be less prone to getting tossed in the trash. Your imagination is really all that is needed for a good hiding place, but I would caution you that you don’t store cash in too many places or you could forget where you hid it. This happened to me when I had hidden some cash behind an item that I ended up giving to my daughter because I thought I didn’t need it anymore. Imagine my surprise when she came into the living room and said, “Dad, I found an envelope with a lot of money in it”. I gave her a twenty for a reward…

What about you? How much cash do you think you need to have on hand and what do you plan on spending it on if the grid goes down?

It is the final backup plan for a lot of us in the case of a disaster. A generous supply of cold hard cash to buy our way out of

In a discussion the other day concerning the GPS, I opened my big mouth and mentioned “the proper way to do that would be…”.  An additional comment got me to thinking about how reliant we have become on modern technology and the pretty much lost or dying art of navigating using celestial bodies, including the sun, moon, and stars.  Our ancestors used the sky to guide them day or night, across oceans and deserts.  Sure, our ancestors got lost from time to time or maybe they did not hit the exact point they were aiming for with pinpoint, GPS accuracy, but they did manage to get where they were going.  Like any other survival skill, navigating takes some practice and it is best practiced when you have other items (like a compass or GPS) to rely on in case you fail the first couple of times you attempt it.

If you happen to be navigating with a map but without a compass and you do not find yourself lost in the flat desert or on open water, you should be able to orienteer yourself out of trouble.  This is probably the quickest and easiest form of navigation to master when you have a map and visible terrain features or landmarks that are also marked on your map.  Where most people go wrong with orienteering is they do not take the time to determine where they are on the map.  They get in a hurry, guess, and days later find out the hill they thought that they were standing on top of was actually 10 kilometers north of where they were actually standing.  Finding your location without a compass will require you to place yourself on top of or next to a landmark that you are certain is the correct landmark from which to start navigating.  Finding that landmark may require some extra walking on your part but that extra walking will probably save you thousands of “lost steps” later.

Once you have determined where you are on the map, you will need to orient the map to the North.  This is where using the sun will come into play.  The quickest and easiest method to determine North, anywhere in the world, using the sun is the stick and shadow method.  You will need to find a reasonably straight stick approximately three feet long, a reasonably level, open spot on the ground, and a method for marking two locations on the ground.  Place the stick upright in the ground and mark the first shadow point.  Wait ten to fifteen minutes and mark the second shadow point. Now, stand with the first mark on your left and the other mark on your right and you will be facing North.  The first mark you made will always be West and the second mark you made will be East, creating an East/West line.  Naturally, behind you will be South.  Most maps are printed with a North Arrow in the legend, so orient the map the direction you are facing.

Once you have oriented your map to North, determine which direction on the map you need to head to find safety, and the approximate distance to that location.  In most cases, you will not be able to see where you ultimately want to end up from the point you are standing on the ground, so study the map and identify natural or man-made terrain features that are visible from your location AND between where you are and where you are trying to navigate to.  Determine the distance to the terrain features (orienteering points) and  keep an accurate pace count as you walk.  From that point you simply navigate from terrain feature to terrain feature, orienting your map to North as required to keep yourself on a reasonable course.  If you stop to camp for

The Stick and Shadow Method

the night, I would recommend stopping early enough to get your East/West line established before the sun goes down and making a permanent mark on a tree or lining up rocks pointing North and the direction of travel you need to head at first light.  Orienteering works best in the daylight when you can see things and even the most experienced navigators/orienteering experts tend to walk in circles in the dark.  If you do not have clear visibility of the night sky and the knowledge to navigate using the stars, I would always opt for stopping for the night.

If you do have a clear view of the night sky, you can use the stars and moon to guide you.  It is important to note, that the stars and moon can and will be obscured by clouds and canopy, so if you are attempting to navigate at night and lose sight of them, it is always best to find adequate shelter until they are visible again.  Many people have been fooled by the thought that they can continue to walk the necessary course with no visible navigational aids and find themselves right where they started at first light.  Doing this will only waste precious energy and mean the difference between life and death in a survival situation.

Personally, I find determining North at night easier than determining North using the stick and shadow method during daylight hours.  If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, finding North is as simple as finding the “Big Dipper” (Ursa Major), determining the pointing stars (the two stars that make the side of the Dipper opposite of the handle), and estimating five times the distance between the two stars in the direction they point.  There you will find the North Star (Polaris) and visualizing an imaginary line from the North Star straight down to the horizon will give you North.  The North Star does not move in the night sky, so once you locate it, you will always be able to reference it.  The “Big Dipper” does rotate around the North Star throughout the year, but the pointing stars always point to the North Star.  As an additional reference in the night sky to locate the North Star, you can find Cassiopeia, which is directly opposite of the “Big Dipper”, and is a five star constellation which forms a “W”.  The center star of Cassiopeia, or the middle peak of the “W” points to the North Star.

Facing the North Star, West will be on your left and East will be on your right, with South at the rear.  As a reference on East/West, locate the constellation Orion.  Orion’s Belt, the three bright stars that form a straight line across the middle of the constellation (the only three bright stars that form a straight line in all of the night sky)  rise in the East and set in the West no matter where you find yourself in the world.  Since Orion moves through the night sky, you will need to establish a good visual on where it rose and where it will set, by observing it as you navigate.

Once you have determined North, East, and West, stand facing the North Star and visualize yourself standing on the dial of a compass.  The North Star will represent “0 degrees” on the compass, if Orion’s Belt is rising it will represent “90 degrees”, and if it is setting it will represent “270 degrees”.  With an idea of which course you need to take from your current location, rotate away from the North Star until you are facing that general direction and reference your viewpoint of the North Star and Orion’s Belt from where you are standing.  If you can make out an identifiable terrain feature or other recognizable feature as a reference point mark it and start walking toward it.  If you find yourself without terrain features and can maintain sight of the North Star and Orion’s Belt, you can keep yourself on course by referencing them as you walk.  It is important to keep in mind that stars, including Orion’s Belt, move through the night sky.  The North Star is really the only constant here, so unless you are plotting a course due North, I would not recommend picking a star on the horizon as an orienteering point.

Now, unless you keep a sextant in your pocket and know how to use it, orienteering or navigating using celestial bodies will never get you within plus or minus 50 meters of an eight digit grid coordinate.  It should not be looked upon as an exact science and before you even attempt it, you need to go ahead and prepare yourself for some frustration.  However, it could, with some practice now, save your life one day when you do find yourself without modern technology.

As with any other survival technique, there are plenty of other ways to determine North and navigate without a compass, map, or GPS.  I only discussed a few here, but there are modifications to the stick and shadow method that take more time and are more accurate or you can use an analog clock/watch to determine North with the sun.  There is a whole host of other means of determining direction using stars or the moon.  I selected the methods that are easiest for most people to grasp, understand, and implement for this article.  If you are interested in discovering other methods, there are entire books dedicated to this very subject.

In a discussion the other day concerning the GPS, I opened my big mouth and mentioned “the proper way to do that would be…”.  An additional comment got me to

Disasters, both big and small, bring on a range of emotions. These emotions can include fear, confusion, uncertainty, anger, and others. Include with those emotions the possibility of danger and dealing with a situation you may not have dealt with before and you could experience panic.

What is panic? It is a state of emotional being that causes you to act uncontrollably, freeze, shut down and/or react in a dangerous or illogical manner. In other words, it means you are unable to think well enough to act properly. Panic is not going to help you in a disaster situation.

In this article, I will help you learn how to recognize panic, combat the onset of panic, and react in a logical and helpful manner in spite of your initial emotional state. With some practice, you can prepare now so that when emergencies happen, you will be able to lead and less likely to panic later.

Panic is an extreme state of fear, terror, dread, horror, anxiety, etc. It will either cause a bad reaction to a situation, or even worse, to freeze and not react at all. We’ve all been uneasy, anxious, or afraid. Panic is an extreme onset of these emotions. If your mind is racing, your body is tensed, your heart is beating extremely fast, and you can’t think straight, you are well on the road to panic. So, what can you do?

If you feel panicky, stop and take a deep breath. Calm yourself and think through the situation. Determine your priorities and then act. Easier said than done, for certain, but there is a three-step process to help you with situations you can reasonably expect. You must Predict, Prepare, and Practice.

PREDICT future scenarios

Determine situations and scenarios that may occur, from most likely to least likely (i.e. severe weather and nuclear war, as two possible extremes). List them out in order from most likely to least likely. Then decide what your reaction should be. Once you have decided what your reaction should be, decide what you will need to react to that situation. For instance, for severe weather, have appropriate clothing and know where the best place in your work, home, etc., is for you to shelter from that weather.

PREPARE now to keep family safe

For each of the scenarios you predicted above, determine what you will need to act appropriately. For instance, in the severe weather scenario, have appropriate clothing where you can get to it. Whether this is warm clothing, rain gear, rubber boots or other gear, obtain it and put it where you might need it. You may wish to place some gear in the trunk of your car for commuting or trips. You may want to pre-position extra gear at work or keep an emergency poncho in your briefcase or backpack. The point, get what you need and put it where you need it. A warm coat and gloves left at home, do you no good if a blizzard hits while you are at work.

PRACTICE situations you may face

This is a critical thing to holding down panic. For each of the scenarios above, practice what you would do. For severe weather, have a tornado drill and have your family all go to the safest room in your home. For a fire at work, take a walk down the emergency escape route (as long as you don’t trigger any alarms). For things you absolutely cannot practice, think through the scenario and decide what to do ahead of time. You can’t practice for every possible situation, but if you spend the time practicing for likely scenarios, you will practice keeping calm and thinking through the situation, then acting accordingly. You’ll find that even in scenarios you may have never practiced, you’ll be much calmer, and a calm person makes better decisions. That brings up the importance of preparedness training.

Do your family members, employees and associates know what to do in the case of an emergency? Sure, you’ve probably done a fire drill or two, but what about other emergencies or disasters? Are you always going to evacuate the building like you would for a fire? Probably not.

In some emergencies you’re safer if you stay inside, at least temporarily. For example, what if a chemical spill happens near your building or home? If you just run out into the street, you may run right into the fumes. Emergency responders can help you decide which way to evacuate, and when is safest. If there is civil unrest or a riot going on out in the street, you may want to wait until it subsides or the police direct you to safety. The same thing applies to terrorist attacks, as you don’t want to evacuate your building right into the line of fire.

In other types of emergencies, you won’t have time to evacuate the building. Do your family members or employees know what to do if a Tornado approaches, or if an earthquake occurs? Knowing where to go ahead of time can make the difference between safety and possible life-threatening injuries.

The Prepper’s Blueprint: The Step-By-Step Guide To Help You Through Any Disaster

Staying in place is generally a good strategy when there is more danger outside than inside. Staying inside is known as “sheltering in-place.” Sheltering in-place is usually a temporary method of staying safe until the danger subsides. For example, if a tornado warning is in effect for your location, it is safer to shelter in-place until the danger passes and the warning is cancelled or expires. Also, the place to shelter is not next to a big plate-glass window!

Still, there are emergencies where it is absolutely advisable to get out of the building as expeditiously as possible, such as a fire or gas leak.

The point is, the time to decide what to do is definitely not when the emergency occurs. You should think through the different types of emergencies and what your best course of action is for each. This is where emergency preparedness training comes into play. If you take the time to inform your family members, neighbors, or employees, you can ensure their safety, and therefore your own.

Everyone should be trained on what to do for each type of emergency. They should be taught in which emergencies to evacuate and where to meet up to ensure everyone got out safely. This will help the first-responders know if they have to rescue anyone and how many there are.

In addition, train your family members or employees on when not to evacuate. Examples include earthquakes, tornadoes, thunderstorms, etc. They should also know where, in particular, to shelter. For tornadoes, an interior, windowless room on the lowest floor is best. For earthquakes, however, choose a sturdy door-frame or shelter under a sturdy, non-glass desk or table.

The whole point of this article is to emphasize that everyone must be trained to:

  1. Understand the dangers and hazards that may occur in their location
  2. Know what to do in each particular case, including where to go
  3. Actually practice what to do in these situations.

The way to do this is to work through a Basic Plan for your business or organization, including your personal organization, your family. Then practice it!

Remember the three Ps: Predict, Prepare and Practice! Doing these things will help you learn how to keep from panicking. Perform the three Ps as much as you can, and you will be in a much better position to hold down panic and act accordingly. It may just save lives!

Disasters, both big and small, bring on a range of emotions. These emotions can include fear, confusion, uncertainty, anger, and others. Include with those emotions the possibility of danger and