Sunday, November 28, 2010

Family Communications


Our Neighborhood has more ham radio operators of any neighborhood in our city. That is excellent news for all living in it and in the city. All of the operators participated in a recent citywide Emergency Drill at all levels of the emergency organization in the city, communicating reports from Block Captains up to clip_image002Neighborhood Command Centers on to Area Command Centers and finally to the City EOC.

In a real emergency, Neighborhoods will use both runners and ham operators to communicate the needs of the Blocks and Neighborhoods up stream to the Emergency Command Center so it can respond to our needs as a result of a disaster or emergency event.

However, about half of our Neighborhood ham operators will soon be leaving to attend college, get married and continue on with their lives. We need more city residents to get ham licenses they can help not only their immediate family but the folks in their Blocks, Neighborhoods and Areas.

In our part of the country, there is a wonderful organization of ham operators that teach regularly scheduled amateur radio classes so residents can easily obtain a ham license with a little work, reading and successfully taking an amateur operators test.

You’ll find a similar organization in your area by doing an Internet search for them.  A schedule of the classes and the dates tests are offered will be on their sites.

Training materials are available from numerous sources including the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) site.

Be sure to become a licensed ham operator as part of you emergency preparedness activities.  You very well may be instrumental in saving not only the lives of your loved ones but of other residents in your community, state and nation.

Family Communications Plan

Each of us also needs to create a Family Communications plan. It should contain the pertinent contact information for every member of our family as well as an out-of-state contact and a family meeting location plan in case we have to evacuate the area.

Free – downloadable family communications plan forms are available from the Federal Ready America site.

Create your Family Communications Plan and keep it current. Be sure that each of your children has a copy of it in their school packs. Wallet sized forms are among the selections from the Ready America site so they will easily fit in your children’s packs.

In our family, I produce a laminated family communications wallet sized cared for all of our children and their spouses every year. They are passed out on Thanksgiving. We have met together and have determined our own family meeting locations if we have to bug out. The plan is in always current and because it is discussed regularly by our overall family and in each of our children’s families, each member is aware of the content, contacts and intentions of our family / families in emergencies.

Our wallet-sized communications cards have already been used in an emergency. They have saved a great deal of trouble and consternation at a time when those typical responses would be most detrimental. Make your own plans soon! Regularly review them with your family.


Ham Operators Helping in Katrina
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A First-aid Kit in Every Home

Several years ago, our sons and I attended an Emergency Preparedness presentation in Utah by Maralin Hoff, Utah’s Earthquake Lady. She conveyed many great ideas that we dutifully noted and avowed to adopt in our own preparedness activities.
First Aid KitAt the end of the presentation, she merrily opened a box of Bandages and tossed them like candy to the audience. Of course we all reached out to make sure that we got at least one of these dollar store treasures for our very own. Maralin’s purpose for the audience participatory give-away was to get us to put one in our wallets or purses. She bolded stated that we would all find a need for them before too long.
We dutifully tucked them in our wallets and then inspected the extra one that was attached to another from the grabfest. They really were from the dollar store and weren’t made of the woven stretch any direction material like the expensive Band-Aid brand plasters. It was an inexpensive but effective presentation of the concept. We never expected to use them, but we were prepared.
Plano_FirstAidKit_contents_smA few weeks later, the boys and I were talking about properly fitting our 72-hour backpacks so they didn’t wear out the Dad that was carrying them. Our oldest son mentioned that he had used the bandage in his wallet to patch a cut on his son’s finger while at a remote camping site. “It was very handy. I just opened my wallet rather than finding the big kit. The cut wasn’t much, but it wouldn’t stop breaking open every time he gripped something.” Then our youngest son spoke up saying he’d not only used the giveaway bandage but had gone through the two he’d used to reload his wallet. I couldn’t top that story but I too had used my bandage on the hand of another of our grandchildren.
We hadn’t carried bandages in our wallets up to this point in time. Why did we suddenly need them now? Did we use them unnecessarily just because we had them? Actually, all of the hurts they covered needed a bandage. A unique sequence of events in cosmic convergence or had we actually needed them all along but had brushed that thought off for years?
PL_kit_tubs_contents_smOur conclusion was that we really had needed them. The tip to carry them was not only needed but was provident counsel. You’ll want to consider putting a Band-Aid or two in your own wallets and purses. You’ll inevitably use them and be glad you had them within easy reach.
Do you have a good First-Aid kit in your home? In your vehicles? In your emergency kits? A few years ago, the Provident Living section of the church’s website included a list of items that should be in a home first-aid kit. The list has been added to the First-Aid Kit content suggestions.
If you have a First-Aid kit already, do you have it in a place where it can be accessed easily? Do you refill it frequently?
All too often, families purchase or make a First-Aid kit and then shop from it over time. Young folks seem to constantly need a band-aid and Neosporin on cuts and contusions. We shop from our kits and all too soon they are fairly severely depleted and quickly descend in to disarray.
PL_kit_tub1_smWe should add “review and replenishment” of the contents in our kits to the checklist and updating activities to regular bi-annual events so we remember to do it.
If you don’t have a good First-Aid book, get one. The American Red Cross has published a good basic book as has the American Medical Association. They can be found on if you can’t find them locally and are less than $13.00.
Basic First-Aid skills training should be high on our ‘must’ lists. Classes are taught by the Red Cross and other entities such as hospital personnel, emergency responders (typically associated with the Fire Department – Paramedics). Take the class and then teach your families how to care for minor injuries. Clinics are close to us, but when an injury happens, you may be in a remote area. Even seemingly minor injuries can become ‘major’ if they are not properly addressed.
Two other books you may want to consider adding to your library are: “Where There Is No Doctor” and “Where There Is No Dentist”. Fathers would enjoy receiving them as Fathers Day or birthday gifts or they can be downloaded for no cost from the Hesperian Foundation at the addresses below: (Don’t assume you’ll have power for your computer in an emergency though…. That would indeed exemplify very poor planning on our part. Hard copies are for sale on the site.)
Where There Is No Doctor
Where There Is No Dentist

First Aid Kit Suggestions

Airway, Breathing and Circulation
  • Pocket mask
  • Face shield
  • Oropharyngeal airway
  • Nasopharyngeal airway
  • Bag valve mask
  • Manual aspirator or suction unit
Adhesive Bandages
  • Moleskin
  • Dressings
  • Eye pads
  • Gauze pads
  • Non-stick Teflon pad
  • Petrolatum gauze pad
  • Gauze roller bandages
  • Elastic bandages
  • Adhesive roller bandages
  • Triangular bandages
  • Butterfly bandages
  • Saline to clean wounds
  • Soap to clan superficial wounds
  • Burn dressing
  • Adhesive tape, hypoallergenic
  • Hemostatic agents to clot bleeding
Personal Protective Equipment
  • Gloves, disposable
  • Goggles
  • Surgical mask or N95 masks
  • Apron
Instruments and Equipment
  • Trauma shears
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Lighter to sterilize tweezers or pliers
  • Alcohol pads
  • Irrigation syringe
  • Flashlight
  • Chemical cold packs
  • Alcohol rub or antiseptic hand wipes
  • Thermometer
  • Space blanket
  • Penlight
Life Saving Medications
  • Aspirin
  • Epinephrine auto injector (brand name Epipen)
Pain Killing Medications
  • Acetaminophen
  • Ibuprofen or Naproxen
  • Codeine
Symptomatic Relief Medications
  • Anti-diarrhea medications
  • Oral rehydration salts
  • Antihistamine
  • Poison treatments - activated charcoal
  • Smelling salts
Topical Medications
  • Antiseptic ointments - Neomycin
  • Iodine
  • Aloe Vera gel
  • Burn gel
  • Anti-itch ointment - Hydrocortisone and Antihistamine creams
  • Calamine lotion
  • Anti-fungal cream
  • Tincture of benzoin
First Aid Kit List from Provident Living 2006
  • Medical-grade vinyl gloves
  • Poison ivy relief cream
  • Burn relief cream
  • Sunscreen, SPF of 30 or greater
  • Antibiotic ointment, Polysporin® or similar
  • Sting relief lotion or ointment, calamine or similar
  • Box of sterile gauze pads, either 3" x 3" or 4" x 4"
  • Abdominal (ABD) or combine sterile pad, 5" x 9"
  • Rolled gauze of 2 sizes, 2" x 4 yards and 4" x 4 yds
  • Bandages of assorted types: finger, knuckle, plastic, Telfa®, and general adhesive
  • Sterile oval eye pad
  • Small sharp scissors
  • Tweezers with pointed tip
  • Thermometers, oral and rectal (for babies)
  • Elastic bandage, 3" x 6"
  • Instant ice pack
  • Roll of adhesive tape, 1" wide, may use plastic type if preferred
  • Triangular bandages, 2
  • Package of safety pins, assorted sizes
  • Absorbent cotton balls, 1 box
  • Diarrhea remedy, Pepto-Bismol® or Kaopectate®
  • Popsicle® (craft) sticks or finger splints
  • Antibacterial soap, liquid or bar
  • Medicine dropper
  • Water purification tablets
  • Small bottle of bleach
  • Sharp knife or multipurpose knife/tool
  • Bottles of aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen (children’s or liquid if needed)
  • Splint materials: thin boards 2-3' long
  • Cough syrup and throat lozenges
  • Large plastic trash bag and several smaller, zip-closure bags

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sliced, Diced and Dehydrated

It is a typical harvest season.  Walking into our home makes your mouth water.  The smells of sauces, chilies, catsup, juices and other delights seems to permeate everything. 

The kitchen is always warm this time of the year because the burners on the range top rarely cool.  In fact, several of the burners had to be replaced recently due to the constant use. 

Step through the door into the garage and the smell is just as intense.  Our dehydrator does turn off from time to time, long enough to clean it between loadings but it is always ready to ingest another full load.

We put it in on my workbench this time of year so the heat from the dehydration process is shared in another location rather than adding to the heat in the kitchen. 

Of course our 3-burner propane stove adds to the available heat surface area as well.  It cooks the large loads, the messy loads, the annual family canning Saturdays.  That means that the garage is warm even when it is cold out side.  We lift the doors half way, then fire that baby up to create shirt sleeve temperatures for our family crew as we work the preparation line.

I continue to be concerned about my seeming addiction to the dehydrated fruits and vegetables though.  I can’t walk by them without reaching for a handful of tomato, strawberry, gooseberry, raspberry and all of the other ‘chips’ that were dehydrated this year.  Hopefully, there will be some left for the rest of the family during the coming winter and spring months.

Our neighbors seem to drop by to talk a lot this time of the year too.  At first I thought the ladies were just addicted to my wife’s chocolate zucchini cake, but the supply of dehydrated goodies drops precipitously during their visits too.  I don’t blame them.  You can’t resist either of them.  (See a similar cake recipe here.)

We are often asked how much shrinkage occurs during the dehydration process.  The answer is that it varies from variety to variety based in the solid mass of the item when it is fresh.  Broccoli flowerets shrink at a constant 60% + –.  Tomatoes shrink about 70% when all of the water is removed.

The photo below shows one-third bushel of tomatoes that have been dehydrated.  The dried result was about three quarts of product.  I say about, because of my heretofore described snacking addiction which tends to inhibit an accurate one-to-one measurement.



These photos show three trays of broccoli after dehydration.  The trays were completely full prior to the dehydration process.  The resultant dehydrated product filled one quart.






So far, our vacuum sealer keeps the bottles sealed and vacuum packed as long as we use new canning lids on clean bottles with smooth lips. 

The rehydrated produce tastes fantastic in our meals.  We are guessing that our sons and sons-in-laws may reap the harvest in pears, tomatoes, apples and other goodies when Santa comes to visit them this year.  We’ll see if they have the courage to break the seal on the ‘beautiful’ contents or will use them for show-and-tell in their emergency preparedness assignments and as decorations on their storage shelves.

If you haven’t dehydrated the produce from your garden before, give it a try this year.  Remember this selling point – dehydrated pineapple is a fantastic snack and expensive by the slice.  Dehydrating it at home is much less expensive.  If the men in the family still aren’t convinced about the benefits of dehydration, tell them of the fantastic jerky they can make in your dehydrator at a greatly reduced price compared to the stuff sold at your local gas and goodies store.  If they still aren’t convinced, borrow a dehydrator for a couple of days, set it on the kitchen counter and then dehydrate a few trays of strawberries.  The smell will make the sale.



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Monday, August 2, 2010

Mountain House Taste Test

We’ve always kept a selection of Mountain House dehydrated food packs in our 96-hour kits and bug-out-bags (BOB’s).   Our selection of verities have always been narrow: spaghetti w/meat sauce and blueberry granola. 

We love the taste of them and chose them for that reason, thinking that we wanted something to eat that was a known quantity. 

Over time, I’ve picked up most of the entree’s and other items offered by Mountain House and added them to a separate food bag.  Unfortunately, we didn’t take the time to taste some of them.  Fortunately, they aged to the expiration date during the last few months, so we decided to eat them over ten consecutive days and keep notes about our tasting experience.

We were surprised that our taste buds have either changed in that time frame or the taste of them was different than it was at the taste test center in the store.  Certainly, our memories couldn’t be faulty….

That said, the taste test has reinforced our earlier selection of ‘favorites’..   Here are our subjective taste rankings and results:


Granola w/Blueberries

#1 favorite breakfast. This entrée is so good, they should sell it as breakfast cereal in the store. Makes its own milk.

Scrambled Eggs w/Ham

2nd (tie) favorite breakfast entrée. Not bad at all. Just remember to pour off any water that wasn’t absorbed.

Scrambled Eggs w/Bacon

2nd (tie) favorite breakfast entrée. Not bad at all. Taste stayed with us all day. Pour off excess water at the end of the reconstitution time period.

Beef Stew


Ok but I wouldn’t want to use it in an emergency bag.  The taste was a little ‘off’ to our taste and the beef never fully reconstituted.

Green Peas

Not ranked.  We mix the peas with potato pearls as a quick and easy side dish.

Pork Sausage Patties

Ok, but they aren’t a good slice of turkey, etc. 

Blueberry Cheesecake

#1 favorite dessert (tied).  We don’t eat many desserts but this one topped the list.

Raspberry Crumble

#1 favorite dessert (tied). I personally like the crumble a little better than the blueberry cheesecake but again, it is subjective to the pallet of the taster.

Spaghetti w/Meat Sauce

#1 favorite lunch / dinner entrée. This selection is excellent. It reconstituted perfectly in 10 minutes. 4.5 oz in bag with 2 cups water (16 oz).

Lasagna w/Meat Sauce

#2 (tie) favorite lunch / dinner entrée. This selection is excellent. It reconstituted perfectly in 12 minutes

Pasta Primavera


#2 (tie) favorite lunch / dinner entrée. Be sure to let it fully reconstitute – it takes a little longer than noted on the package unless you use a water with a rolling boil.

Beef Teriyaki w/Rice

#3 Middle of the pack. A little spicy. The beef didn’t fully reconstitute after 12 minutes. Left a slight after taste that is hard to define.

Chicken Polynesian

#3 favorite lunch / dinner entrée. The selection is excellent. It reconstituted almost perfectly in 10 minutes. 6.44 oz in bag with 2 cups water (16 oz).

Sweet & Sour Pork w/ Rice

#4 favorite lunch / dinner entrée. The taste was good. Let it reconstitute for 14 minutes (4 minutes longer than instructions), but the meat didn’t fully rehydrate. 6.0 oz bag with 2 cups of water (16 oz). A little stomach upset.

Chicken w/Rice

#4 favorite lunch / dinner entrée. The selection was excellent. It reconstituted in 10 minutes.

Seafood Chowder

Last place entrée. The entrée can’t be recommended. It has a very strong sea food flavor and didn’t reconstitute very well. Some of the chunks were ‘chewey’.

It made our stomachs upset – digestion issues.



Thursday, July 29, 2010

‘Tis The Season To Dehydrate’

The garden harvest at our home is in full swing.  Long anticipated fruits and vegetables make every meal a culinary delight. 

We’ve always used the produce from our gardens and orchard for home storage but hadn’t included dehydrated foods in our food storage mix – until this year that is.

After listening to others rave about their dehydrated garden produce, apples, cherries, apricots and pears for years, we closely questioned them about their choice of dehydrator.  The responses were enlightening.

In years past, we had a large greenhouse and closed the doors and vents to turn it into a big dehydrator to make cherry, apricot, peach, apple and pear leather.  Our kids loved it the stuff.  They would invariably choose it over candy. 

When we moved, we left our green house behind.  It has yet to be replaced.  In the interim, we purchased one of the round dehydrators at a discount store and have never been happy with it.  Thus, dehydration efforts of any kind fell to the wayside.

The favorable responses to our ‘What dehydrator do you use? and would you recommend it?” question had a common theme.  

  • Stay away from dehydrators like the round one that we had. 
  • Stay away from flimsy shelf dehydrators. 
  • Buy an Excalibur dehydrator and love life.

This spring, we purchased a 9-shelf Excalibur model 3926T with temperature and timer.  We also purchased a food slicer.  Now we delight in finding things to dehydrate that we wouldn’t have considered earlier.  Our pantry is lined with rows of quart bottles filled with produce from our garden, fruit bushes, products that were on sale and produce items that couldn’t eat quickly enough to keep from spoiling.

The Excalibur seems to be in constant use. We use the produce we've dehydrated in it constantly. The soup mixes created from our dehydrated vegetables are always in demand. Our children have asked us to give them quarts of dehydrated fruit from our orchard as Christmas presents this year. They love our dehydrated produce as much as we do.

The secret to successful dehydration batches is to create slices of a consistent thickness. They dry at the same speed, negating the tendency of us to fuss with them if the dehydration process requires too much ongoing attention. The slices also pack easily and let’s face it …. they look good too.

chiefs_choice_610f After reading thousands of comments about the likes and dislikes of the food slicers on the market, we settled on the Chief’s Choice model 610 and are very happy with it.  We also purchased straight cut blade for additional cutting options.  It cuts, cuts, cuts and never overheats and rarely bogs down with hard cuts very much.  Briefly freezing meat to firm it up for slicing has resolved any ‘wandering cuts’ that are common with all slicers.

Who knew that preparing items for your food storage could be so much fun?

Our friends and family are becoming dehydration converts too. 

Our raised bed garden boxes are producing at record levels this year and now nothing goes to waste.  We laugh at ourselves some times because we’ll mistakenly dehydrate items that we meant to cook fresh for dinner.

If you have questions about how to prepare foods for dehydration or about the benefits of using this method to prepare produce for storage, watch the videos on the Excalibur website here.  

Good luck in your own food storage and emergency preparedness efforts.  Hopefully, this unsolicited user review will be beneficial to you in your own preparedness quest.



Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Vehicle Emergency Kits

A few weeks ago, Angela of the Adventures in Self-Reliance blog shared the vehicle emergency kit that they have in one of their vehicles.

In our family, we’ve always had emergency kits in our vehicles.  Who knows what is going to happen to travelers?  The more miles you drive, the more crazy events happen to you, especially if you don’t always stay on paved roads.

What should you put in your vehicle kit?  It depends on your lifestyle, where and when you travel and how many folks ride in your vehicle.

Everyone needs the basics..

  • A Good First Aid Kit
  • A Basic Set of Tools
  • A Good Set of Jumper Cables
  • A Coat or Jacket
  • Flares and Reflective Triangle
  • Gloves
  • An old Rug or Mat to lay on
  • Water
  • Food or Nourishment of some type that will survive the hostile environment of your trunk
  • A Blanket
  • A Shovel

Add to the contents based on your lifestyle.  If you drive any distance to work, put in a good set of walking shoes.  There are many types of disasters that may put you afoot trying to get home.

Some of us carry a few more items than the ‘basics’ though.  We’ve learned what we need and what ‘can’ happen to you from personal experience.

Below are two photos showing the contents of the emergency kit in our road vehicle.  The off-road rigs have really good kits but they won’t be included here.  Build your own kits.  You may be REALLY happy that you did someday. 

Just remember, it gets HOT in the back of your vehicle and food will spoil fast, hence the box of MRE’s shown here are for demonstration purposes only.  We only carry boxes of them on shorter term journeys.  Otherwise, we carry the dreaded sawdust food blocks like everyone else.




Saturday, April 24, 2010

Using Dutch Ovens

Dutch Ovens are one of the best cooking tools available to man. If you weren't born with pioneer ancestors who passed the love of these great cooking ovens down to their descendants, you may not know how to to prepare and use them.

The International Dutch Oven Society based in Logan, Utah created a series of 'How To' videos as part of the 2009 International Dutch Oven Cookoff Event (see below)

If you don't have a Dutch Oven yet, get one and start using it this summer. You'll discover a whole new world of flavor that has sadly been missing from your life and at the same time gain a method of cooking that by using charcoal or wood coals can indefinitely bridge the loss of utility services.


Seasoning Dutch Ovens


Dutch Oven Safety


Heating Up a Dutch Oven


Dutch Oven Accessories


Dutch Oven Accessories 2


Dutch Oven Rule of 3’s


Dutch Oven Cleaning


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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Emergency Kit for Disabled and “Over-The-Hill Folks”

After spending the day cleaning the garage and working on the garden and picnic tables, my memory has been reaffirmed.  My back is shot. 
Several of the vertebrae in my back have degenerative arthritis and the damage has reached the point that I couldn't possibly carry more the 20lbs (if that) on my back for any length of time now.  Unfortunately, my wife suffers from the same affliction. 
So what do we do about Bug-Out-Bags / 96-hour kits, water, etc.? 
A few years ago, I purchased new rolling bags for our kits.  Granted, they can be carried on your back like a backpack, but really aren't suited to that task.  They do however, work extremely well if we put the weight on the wheels and tow them behind us.
Hopefully, if the earthquake faults in near us let loose with huge trembler's, levels our house and creates a 20 ft deep depression in our orchard behind the house, we will still be able to tug them behind us to the park by the church to meet up with the rest of the neighborhood family.  
That scenario isn't going to happen ... If our conditions are that bad, the neighbors homes will all be on the ground too and the church will have been leveled long before our homes.   We'll probably all end up camping in our back yards, even though the 'Big One' will probably arrive at 2:00 a.m. on January 15th and it is -10F outside...
The wheels on our bags will get us that far if we can get them the 10ft from their storage closet to the back door.
The real use for the wheels would occur if we were forced to abandon our property for some reason and be mandated to gather in some 'safe' gathering location or building.  Assuming we can get through the bottleneck Interstate corridor in our area, odds are that our new safe shelter won't have drive up 'drop offs'.  We'd be lucky to park within a mile of the shelter if the whole Wasatch Front population was on the move too.   Wheels will save our 'day' in this scenario. 
The weight of our kits and water is far more than we can manage on our backs.  I don't care who you are ...  If you have a family, especially a young family, are seeing more gray in your hair than the color you had when you left high school or even if you have grown kids to help, the weight of all your stuff is going to be a huge limiting factor.
Some folks would be able to bug out to locations where they can obtain and treat their water with relative ease and may not take as large a supply with them as do the folks in more urban areas.  Good for them.  But even folks in that fortunate circumstance still have to contend with weight and the age and physical condition of the folks who will be carrying their emergency kits.
Two years ago, I was asked to visit the class of younger men in our church and teach a lesson on Emergency Preparedness.  I threw a couple of packs on the backs of the two youngest, brawniest fellows in the group with 10 liters of water in the bladder, two bottles on the sides and the food, minimal clothing, a super light sleeping bag and tarp and the other 'stuff' we put in light packs. 
Moving the group to the gym, I asked the two gentlemen to slowly circle the outside walls while I talked for the next 30 minutes. 
You know the results.  Neither of these basketball, softball and tennis players made it to the finish line  These to scout leaders were in trouble.  They hike in the mountains with their scouts every summer, so what was the problem now?  They don't carry 3-gallons of water with them when they go on their summer hikes.  The 25+ pounds associated with it and was a killer in addition to the rest of the weight in the packs.
Ten minutes after the first two started, I loaded up another brawny father with water and a pack for himself and water for his three little kids.  He struggled, he groaned, and to save face, he stayed walking a lot longer than anyone expected, but by the time the first two had thrown in the towel, he was approaching his own personal 'wall' and soon gave up.
Water and weight.  If we ever have to actually bug out with our families and actually have to carry our water with us, we all have a problem ahead.
How are you addressing this issue? 
The answer in our family and our children's family has been to carry a light pack on our backs and put the weight each of us needs in rolling bags.  Even our 3-year old grandsons have amazing abilities allowing them to tow their bags along for lengthy periods of time.
What is your solution to this very real problem?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Is That A Mummy In Our Food Storage?

We married a few years ago.  Well, I guess few is a bit of a misnomer.  Let’s say it was closer to 40 years ago than to 50 years ago.

We’ve always been concerned about being prepared for difficult situations from loss of income to a failure in the food chain for any reason.   So, as young married folks we started our food storage regimen. 

Our plan was to have our shelves full of cans and bags of foods that we normally eat but were purchased when stores sales came around.  We slowly added freeze dried #10 cans of basics from time to time by applying our federal and state tax returns to their purchase.

The stuff on the shelves was rotated and eaten as a normal course of living and even ‘saved our bacon’ from time to time when the need to pay for a doctor and hospital expenses associated with a new baby or the subsequent broken arms and orthodontic expenses that are part of the lives of young folks.

The freeze dried foods were supposed to be good for “30-years” or so said the still attached advertisements on the labels.  How the company knew this is beyond me now, since they had only been in business for 5 years when we purchased their products, but the number stuck in our minds and it was easy to leave the cans in their original boxes that were safely tucked in the back under other ‘stuff’.

Flash forward 40 years.

The cans still look as clean and sharp as they did on they day we received them.  They’ve moved from home to home and have been stored in bedroom closets, crawl spaces, basement storage rooms and as support for kids beds.  They’ve admirably occupied the space they were given all of this time and filled the role that we’ve assigned to them in our minds.

Feeling adventurous, I donned my pith helmet, headlamp and a work shirt before beginning the ‘dig’ to exhume these ancient treasures.  My ‘Raiders’ fedora remained hung on the wall.  I own this museum..

The ‘stuff’ on top of them must have gained weight over the years according to my back.  Calories quickly  evaporated during the debris removal process to get to the treasure.  It was easy to date the materials as I moved them based on the evolution of my hand writing that was exhibited on the boxes.  Drafting to engineering to management tilt and inflections surfaced.  Actually, it was in the reverse order based on time but this old explorer took that into account before asking for carbon dating.

Treasure!  The Sam–Andy cases were exposed to light for the first time in a long time just like the statues found under the sea at the Library of Alexandria in Egypt.

How did the products look when the cans were opened?  They were originally nitrogen packed and as far as I could tell, the nitrogen was still in place.  The grains, pasta and beans looked like any that you’d buy today.  The powered milk was solid and will make great foundations for new porch posts.

How did they taste?  Fine.  Did they have any nutritional value after all of this time?  I don’t know.  They were filling when consumed.  We didn’t loose any weight after eating them (for any reason) but we weren’t trying to live on them exclusively either, so the long term effects of eating them exclusively was lost.

The 40-year-old toilet paper was a mixed bag.  The ‘hard’ kind was as good as the day it was purchased.  The ‘soft’ kind had air slagged and will only be good as fluff used to to start fires.

Someone with the knowledge and skills will have to tell us if the old Sam-Andy food still had nutrition but because of the food types, it was still readily recognizable in its original form. 

I can’t say the peaches from an errant jar found in the dig can make the same claim.  I’m not even sure the old Kerr bottle is as clear as it once was.  Maybe the blue color comes from being cold --- not old? 

Moral.  Store food.  Use it.  Rotate it.   Build up some cushion in your food bank to bridge rough spots in the road ahead while you can.  Don’t be trapped on a financial or availability hole looking up hungry and wondering how to get out and how to feed your family.


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Friday, March 12, 2010

The Ever Increasing Price of Seeds

We know that we always want to have enough seeds on hand to plant for a couple of seasons.  The news today is that the price of basic farm seeds has increased 135% since 2001. 

A New York Times headline dated 12 March 2010 reads: "Rapid Rise in Seed Prices Draws U.S. Scrutiny".  The first paragraph of the story reads: "During the depths of the economic crisis last year, the prices for many goods held steady or even dropped. But on American farms, the picture was far different, as farmers watched the price they paid for seeds skyrocket. Corn seed prices rose 32 percent; soybean seeds were up 24 percent."

The price increases are for just the last year!




The cost of purchasing new seeds will probably continue to rise in the years ahead.  In an economic / societal collapse, the value of viable planting seeds will skyrocket.  

2010 is a good year to learn how to save seeds from your garden and to join groups like Seed Savers Exchange.

Heather Coburn has written a good article on how to create a Seed Swap in your area that you may want to entertain this year.

Click on the links to visit the related sites.

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Monday, March 1, 2010

Tools For Your Emergency Kit

How much ‘stuff’ should you include in your emergency kit? 
We are all tempted to include too much into our kits, yet leave out a few essentials. 
Weight must be carefully considered for any emergency kit.  An ideal adult kit should weigh approximately thirty pounds, which doesn’t seem like a lot until you have to carry it for any length of time or distance.
When water and shelter items are added to the weight of your pack, there is very little left of the weight allowance for other items. 
Two tools should be considered for in your weight table; the VersaTool and the Pocket Survival Tool.  Combined they weigh 8.5 oz.  In an emergency, we may well need a small basic set of tools.  I carry them in addition to my Leatherman tool:

1. Doc Allen’s Versa Tool   
Wallet Tool

The tool comes with a stainless steel handle and magnetic extension along with a selection of flat, Phillips and hex bits.  Also included is a zippered carrying pouch with a belt loop.

I’ve added three sockets to my kit a 3/8”, 5/16” and 1/4” – the most common sizes associated with the items I encounter regularly.
The total weight of the tool pouch including the sockets is 7.5 oz.

The VersaTool’s handle design creates three different torque configurations: screwdriver, control and high torque.

The extension includes a strong magnet which keeps the bits and sockets securely in place in any orientation of the tool.

The handle has three dimples that establish the three positions.  A spring loaded bearing in the handle socket locks it into place in each of the positions.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the amount of force that can be applied using the tool.

Recently, we used the tool kit to fix the diesel injectors on a stranded vehicle.  The owner didn’t have any other tools with them but had a VersaTool in their glove box. 

Within ten minutes, the problem was resolved and they were back on the road.

The loaded tool pouch is approximately 4” x 3” x 3/8”

If you have a bicycle, motorcycle or 4-wheeler, the VersaTool should be included in their tool kits.

2. Multipurpose Pocket Survival Tool

The pocket survival tool is advertised as being small enough to fit in your wallet.  In my experience, the 1 oz stainless steel tool can fit in a wallet, but it is too thick and stiff to be comfortably carried.
It would certainly be confiscated if you forgot to remove it before checking in for a flight.

The tool includes 11 functions:
  • Can opener
  • Knife edge
  • Screwdriver
  • Ruler
  • Cap opener
  • 4 position wrench
  • Butterfly wrench
  • Saw blade
  • Direction ancillary indication
  • 2 position wrench
  • Lanyard hole (key ring)

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Emergency Kit Documents

Your home has been destroyed or you've had to relocate to a distant location in a disaster.  No problem.  You family all has 96-hour kits with cash in them and your vehicle is full of fuel, (you know this because you never let it get below a half tank on the fuel gauge).  You are going to be ok.  Right?

Well, as the folks who were similarly prepared when they were hit by Katrinia found out, they were still in trouble.  Not only from the intensity of the destruction and the duration of loss of living facilities and jobs, but also due to the separation of family members from each other.
Some family members were injured and taken to a medical facility - somewhere.  Children were taken to safe housing - somewhere.  Senior adults were stranded or taken to temporary housing - somewhere.  Some did not survive and when their bodies were finally retrieved, they were taken - somewhere - and few had identification.
Unfortunately, the initial disaster was just the start of the grief in the lives of Katrina victims.  As time passed after the initial days, families tried to find each other and gather at the same location.  Young children were protected by security.  They wouldn't be released to just anyone claiming to be their parents or legal guardian.  You needed proof that they were your kids
Frequently, the parent(s) were severely injured and couldn't search for their children.  Even if the kids could tell rescuers their parents names, it was a very hard and long term process to match the families members with each other.

A family photo in the emergency kits with each person identified on the back would have helped everyone in the quest to find other family members.

Flash forward a few weeks or more.

Mom or Dad go to a bank hoping to withdraw money from their account.  So do an army of thief's who are trying to rob every penny they can in the confusion created by the devastation.

"I'm sorry sir or ma'am.  Your account shows that it you have withdrawn all your money -- or -- we need your account information and photo I.D."  "We need to see a recent statement." - to prove you own the account, that you are who you say, etc.   Without it, retrieving your money may be difficult to impossible.

"We need medical care.  We have insurance."  "Who is your insurance carrier?  May I see your insurance card please?" 
The family is together and safe but wants to get back to as much of a normal life as possible.  Water has receded and even though the house is in ruins, it can be rebuilt.  All you needed to do is call your insurance agent, just like they'd seen on television over and over.

"What is your policy number?"  "I don't' know.  My house was destroyed!  You know me.  I've paid premiums to your company for years."  The insurance agent knows that they can't proceed without proper records and identification but telling the devastated policy holder is tough.  "I'm sorry, but we can proceed until you can provide the information needed.?
 Then finally make it to your home to start retrieving the few possessions that have survived.  A police officer or member of the military sees you and asks for proof that you own the property and that you aren't a looter.  Just because your drivers license says you lived at this approximate address (there aren't and surviving address numbers anywhere) four years ago when you renewed it, that doesn't mean you still have any claim to the property.   "I need to see a recent utility bill, lease, deed, etc., before you will be allowed to touch anything on this site."

When you go to the FEMA tent hoping to receive federal assistance to rebuild your life, if you don't have all of these documents, you don't have a chance of receiving help.  In fact, local government will work against any effort you make to clear your property and rebuild.  As far as they are concerned, you are a thief, a squatter, a bad person.

Every adult emergency kit should include a copy of important documents...
  • Government issue photo ID
  • Insurance card
  • Special medical needs ID's and documents
  • Copies of recent bank and financial statements
  • Copies of account numbers from utility bills
  • A copy of your insurance policies
  • A copy of deeds, leases, etc.
  • A copy of your will and living will ( you may die in an emergency )
  • A copy of your notarized last wishes for burial including any burial insurance policy, burial plans, cemetery plot ownership.
  • A recent photo of your family with each person identified on the back of it - in permanent ink
  • Names and contact information of in-state and out-of-state contacts
  • Employee card
 Think through your own situation.  If you had to prove who you are in every step of restoring your life and family, what documents would you need?   You may be surprised if you make an thoughtful inventory.

Put the copies of your documents in a waterproof / water resistant case that you can easily open repeatedly over time when you replace the old copies with new copies.

Hide the documents in your emergency kit.  Your life is in that bag.  A thief would love to get their hands on it.
If you have an opportunity to talk to anyone who has been severely impacted by a disaster, ask them what they would have in their documents kit now.  The list may be a lot longer than the one listed here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

GoBe – Solar Power

We purchased a GoBe solar briefcase and power hub for use in emergencies and outings.  So far, we’ve enjoyed its form factor and service.

The GoBe power hub is not designed to run large loads for extended periods of time, but for light loads, such as a 13-watt fluorescent light, charging electronics and smaller loads, it is great.  The power hub will keep the light burning for about 10 hours.

Recharge time for the hub is about 12-hours of direct sunlight or slightly less when plugged into a wall socket.

The form factor is excellently designed and includes rubber edging on both units.



As you can see in this photo, the system can power a laptop and charge small electronics at the same time, although the user must be careful to manage loading.

The power hub contains a six-cell, 14.5 amp hour AGM battery.






Setup only takes a second.  Slide the two latches on the solar panel, extend the support legs on the back of each panel and plug the power supply cord into the power hub.  One minute – maybe two max.


Adjust the angle of the support legs so the surface of the panel is approximately 90 degrees from the plane of the orbit of the sun.  If it is a windy day, you may want to add an additional support because the panels will act as sail even though the panel is wrapped in a non-skid rubber edge.


Accessories included in the power hub package include 12 volt male and female cigarette lighter connectors, a 120 volt / 12 volt transformer brick for home charging and a 3 pin to 2 pin adapter plug.


When the solar panels are opened to light, a flashing blue indicator light in the bottom right corner of the panel flashes.  When I opened the panels in our kitchen under fluorescent lighting, I was surprised to measure a 12-volt output.  I haven’t measured the output in direct sunlight but assume it will match the 12 to 13-volt output noted on the GoBe fact chart.


The power hub offers three outlets.  120v -- Because it has a built in 80-watt inverter, one of the outlets will support normal 120v plugs, but the losses associated with the voltage conversion will reduce the length of the charge duration.   A 12-volt outlet accepts either of the cigarette lighter adapters and lastly, a USB power outlet rated at .5A.  The configuration is well designed. 




The use of the 12-volt outlets will extend the life of the charge because the voltage transformation losses are absent.


















My wife quickly sewed a small draw string bag to hold the power adapters which we keep attached to the power hub.


















The support legs for the panels snap into holding slots on the back of each panel for storage.


The panel is about 1” thick and secured by two latches and a piano hinge on the back.


The GoBe is much easier to use than our other solar panels but lacks the advantage of deep cycle marine batteries that we use with them.  However, the GoBe is our choice for travel and quick setup when relatively low loads will be used.  If our house was on the ground in the days after an earthquake, the Gobe would keep our Ham radios, phones and entertainment handsets in service along with providing the equivalent of 60 watts of light at night.  The other panels and batteries would take a lot longer to setup, especially if we had to lug them to a remote location on foot.

Monday, February 1, 2010

96-Hour Emergency Kit

A 72-hour kit it the popular description of an emergency kit. In real disaster situations, 72-hours frequently pass and emergency responders haven't reached a large percentage of the victims.

Most adults can skip eating for a day and not be affected in normal life. In a disaster / stress situation, not eating for a day may severely compromise our ability to physically respond to the immediate needs of our families. We need to consider increasing the water and food stored in our kits for a few extra days. Even if help comes within 72-hours, other people may not be as well prepared and will need our surplus.

Most of the list below has been around for years. I've tweaked it to include items included in the 96-hour kits of folks we've met who use their kits with their families in emergency training activities at least twice a year.

It is just a list. It is not intended to be all inclusive or serve as a strict rule of thumb. Scan through the items in the list and compare their function to the contents in your own emergency kits.

All of us need to use our emergency kits several times a year for a number of reasons:
  • Rotation of the food. You may not like MRE's, weevil ridden energy bars or 'sawdust' food bricks!
  • Rotation of the water Becoming comfortable and proficient in the use of the food and tools in the kit
  • Replace clothing if needed due to growth, utility, durability, warmth, convertibility, etc.
  • Gaining confidence in being able to actually survive with the kit
  • Tweaking kit contents to fit reality
Our children and grandchildren camp out with us in our orchard for three days every summer. We all live out of our emergency kits. Not only are they fun family gatherings, but they are great learning experiences for our grandchildren. They are very comfortable living out of their bags for these gatherings. Fortunately, bathrooms, showers and baby stations are still available for all of us during these fun mini-vacations.

Every spring and fall, the individual families travel to locations that they enjoy and again live out of their kits while they bicycle through the slick rock or camp on the shore of a favorite lake. Thus their kits are old friends, constantly being used and renewed.

Consider implementing the regular use of your emergency kits in your family. During your adventure consider: Is 72-hour preparedness enough? .... and be thankful for working bathrooms.

96-Hour Kit List

 Personal Emergency Plan
 Contact List / Phone Numbers

 Gallon / person / day = 8.35 lb / gal
 Poly canteens, 1 quart
 Sierra cup
 Water purification tablets
 Water purifier & extra filters
 Water bag, nylon
 Water bag liners, plastic
 Solar still
 Rubber surgical tubing Bedding
 Foam pad, closed cell
 Sleeping bag - temp rating your area.
 Air pillow

 Personal daily rations
 Energy bars, tablets
 Trail snacks
 Freeze dried packs (Mtn. House, etc.)
 MRE's
 Your Own Food List

 Scouring pads, soap filled
 Sanitary tablets & dunking bag
 Dish towel - black dries fastest in sun

 Hiking boots - broken in
 Trail sneakers
 Socks
 Underclothing
 Thermal underwear
 Shirts, short sleeve
 Shirts, long sleeve
 Shorts, hiking
 Sturdy trousers, long
 Sweat pants - can cut off if hot
 Belt and buckle
 Sweater
 Down vest
 Down jacket
 Parka
 Poncho
 Gloves, leather and snowboarder
 Mittens, wool
 Scarf
 Balaclava
 Bandanna, large
 Hat - brimmed -
 Swimsuit

Cooking Equipment
 Frying pan, folding
 Cook set, nesting
 Can opener, P-38
 Eating utensil set
 Book matches, water proof
 Pack stove
 Windscreen
 Fuel bottles - w / fuel
 Condiments
 Salt & Pepper
 Sugar
 Flour
 Honey
 Milk, dry, instant
 Aluminum foil

 Tent - test assemble it before buying
 Tent fly  Tent poles  Tent pegs
 Ground cloth  Ultra light weight tarp
 Tarp clamps  Paracord (550), 50 ft. 2 ea

Personal Hygiene & Sanitation
 Toilet trowel or small shovel
 Toilet tissue, biodegradable
 Feminine hygiene items
 Shampoo
 Comb and brush
 Eye drops
 Tooth brush & tooth paste
 Shaving gear
 Deodorant
 Soap & soap dish
 Bath towel - black - dries faster in sun
 Plastic bags dbl wall - w/ties for waste
 Mirror - small - non-breakable
 Moist towelettes
 Sewing kit
 Paper towels

First Aid
 Personal First Aid Kit
 Family First Aid Kit
 Build own kit(s) to fit your family
 Prescription medicines you need
 Thyroid blocker - potassium iodide

Preventative Aids
 Foot powder
 Body powder, medicated
 Moleskins
 Chigger powder
 Mosquito repellent
 Lip balm
 Sun block
 Body powder, medicated
 Corn starch
 Hand lotion

Emergency Gear
 Signal flares, night
 Signal smoke, day
 Signal die, water
 Signal mirror
 Strobe light
 Whistle
 Space blankets or bags
 Hand warmers
 Headlamp
- LED "AA" batteries
 CERT kit if trained
 Whistle
 Dust masks - N95 valved
 Vinyl gloves

Personal Items
 Camera, lenses, flash and film
 Binoculars
 Swiss Pocket knife
 Sharpening stones and oil
 Wallet - Cash $100 - $200 in small bills
 Extra house and car keys
 Copy of important papers, ie. titles, bank statement, drivers license, etc.
 Put docs in waterproof bag - hide in kit
 Change $10 / $20 - quarters for phone
 Handkerchief
 Watch
 Sun & prescription glasses
 Pencil and note pad
 Scriptures  Photos - Self - Family - names on back
 Photo I.D., Copy of HAM license

Light, Heat, Fire Making
 Pack lantern
 Spare lantern mantles
 Flash light w / L.E.D. light
 Spare bulb, batteries
 Candle lantern
 Spare plumbers candles
 Glow sticks
 Match safe & matches
 Magnesium block
 Magnifying glass
 Lighter
 Spare flints
 Fire starting kit

Fishing Equipment
 Pack rod case
 Pack rod, spin -fly combination
 Ultra lite spinning reel
 Ultra lite fly reel
 15 lb test Spiderwire monofilament
 7DTF fly line
 Fly line leaders, various lb test
 Tackle boxes, small double sided (2)
 Hooks, size 8, 10, 12  Fly assortment
 Sinkers, split shot
 Spinners
 Spoons
 Small plugs, poppers, bugs
 Fanny pack.
 Copper wire – spool

 Map case
 Maps
 Map measure
 Pedometer
 Compass
 Altimeter
 Global positioning system (GPS)

Pack - Pack Frame
 Pack or rolling duffle bag
 Frame
 Clevis pins
 Stuff bags
 Compression straps
 Plastic garbage bags
 Twist ties

 Pocket radio, battery/solar power
 Cell phone ... and / or
 Two way radio: HAM, CB, GMRS, FRS
 Spare batteries - know your equip.
 Solar battery charger

Clothing Maintenance and Repair
 Sewing Kit  Spare shoelaces
 Biodegradable detergent
 Woolite  Small scrub brush
 Clothes pins

Tools and Repair Kits
 Leatherman.or Gerber tool
 Doc Allen Versatool
 Sven saw
 Hatchet/Boys axe w/sheath
 8-inch mill file
 Spare parts: pack, stove, lantern
 Tent/ Pack patch kit: ripstop tape
 Small shovel
 Needle nose pliers - small wrench
 Duct tape

 Pistol - Concealed carry & training
 Extra ammo
 Knife - Emerson CQC-7
 Leather belt - bidirectional dbl layered
 Personal protection training
 NLP - neuro-linguistic programming

Modify kit list to fit your needs. Use your kit 2 or 3 times a year. If you can't use the contents instinctually before an emergency, you'll be in serious trouble when one hits.

Test all equipment in mock disaster scenarios in backyard or camping activities. Run tests on the coldest day / night of year and then tweak your kits to match your needs.

Remember, you'll be carrying the kit so pay attention to weight. You may have to put some of your kits including water in wheeled bags. Even little folks can maneuver rolling luggage.


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