Saturday, December 5, 2009

Finals; Christmas Shopping; Question for Readers

Happy early, early Saturday, everyone! I’m taking final exams next week, so I’m busy putting together study sheets, reviewing, asking God to please help me so that I can be done with undergraduate work, that kind of thing. However, I’ll be finished next Thursday, so I might actually have a worthwhile blog entry next week.

In the meantime, I drew Kid Sis’ name from the hat for Christmas shopping/gift giving, so I’ve been trying to figure out what I’m going to get/do for her. Christmas is not primarily about gifts – we’re Christians, so we celebrate the birth of Jesus first and foremost. (Yes, I do know that Jesus probably wasn’t born on December twenty-fifth, but we take what we can get, right?) However, giving gifts is nice too because I get to figure out what the recipient will most like.

Kid Sis is easy to shop for because she’ll flat-out tell you what she wants when you ask. I’ve never bought or done something that she absolutely hated, so I guess that my ears work pretty well. However, she probably doesn’t have any idea of what I’m getting her this year…she didn’t ask for it, but I know that she’ll like it.

I know that she wants a particular Wii game, so I’ll see if I can get a good deal on that. Sixty bucks for one stupid video game is ridiculous if you ask me – a gently used copy, or one on mad sale because it’s the Christmas-shopping season, will do just fine.

However, she also needs a few important, emergency items for her car. I didn’t realize until yesterday evening that the spare “universal” donut in her trunk was not actually designed for her make. Oops…it turns out that the donut won’t fit on her car, making it utterly useless should she have a flat.

First, I’m tracking down a spare rim with a decent tire because I really don’t want her stranded with a busted tire, tempted to rely on strangers if family or her boyfriend can’t get to her very, very quickly. She’s capable of changing the tire herself – she’s demonstrated that fact more than once – but she has to have the right spare.

I’d also like to put a few other, important things in her car for her, such as an ABC fire extinguisher. Yes, I know that Kid Sis should already have one of those – preparedness and all – but, um, we’ve kind of overlooked the whole “fire extinguishers for the vehicles” bit for some reason.

So, yeah, she’s probably going to get a new toy for Christmas – but she’s also getting things that she can actually use. There’s no point in having a new video game at home if you don’t make it back because the wrong person stopped to help you out with your flat…or whatever.

I’d like to hear from the readers, though, because I know that many of you have great ideas. What sorts of emergency/survival items do you keep in the car? My essentials include things like spare fuses; electrical tape; reflective triangles; a fire extinguisher; tire-changing essentials; first-aid kits; and the like. What else do you store in the car?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Sleeping Arrangements for Houseguests

I hope that your Thanksgiving (or regular ol’ week if you don’t do Turkey Day for whatever reason) was outstanding. I’m writing this entry a day early and setting it to auto publish tomorrow (today from your perspective) because my family’s celebrating a day late. Travel and work schedules didn’t work out so well for Thursday, which is fine. Thanksgiving is about family more than anything else, at least in my opinion, so we’re happy to put off turkey and dressing for one day if it means that we can eat and spend time together.

This week, let’s talk about accommodating extra family members or friends. That’s a good subject because a) many of us have family over, especially around holidays and b) in a sufficiently large emergency, your relatives could very well drop in on you. Not all of them will give you warning in advance, so there’s no good way to predict how many folks you’ll have to house, feed, clothe, etc. should something go wrong.

Despite not necessarily knowing how many people you can expect, you can probably accommodate a few houseguests, especially if they’re family. (Many of us will go an extra two or three miles in order to help out family, which is good.)

Even in small houses like our trailer, it’s possible to squeeze in some extra people for a few days, if not weeks or even months. We’ve done just that before plenty of times, and are doing it right now because Wayward Bro’s home for the holidays (very cool, by the way – we’ve missed him). Sleeping arrangements tend to pose the biggest challenges, but a little planning in advance tends to make things work out. Here are some tips and ideas for the time when your people show up on your doorstep.

No matter what sleeping arrangements you make, people are going to need bedding. Don’t assume that someone who’s dropped in on you without calling first is going to be prepared enough to bring blankets and pillows. Even if that person did grab bedding before heading to your place, it’s better to have too much than too little. You can pick up fantastic bedding for very good prices at thrift stores and garage sales. Give the pieces a thorough cleaning, make sure that they’re completely dry, and use your Food Saver to seal them up. These vacuum-sealed packages take up only a small amount of storage space and are protected from pretty much everything (assuming, of course, that you don’t store them in a harsh environment). I use the Food Saver for “off-season” bedding: the big blankets in the summer and the thin ones in the winter, but that method will also work for storing extra bedding for guests.

When Wayward Bro came home Thursday, he brought his U.S. military cot with him. He found this item at a surplus dealer for about thirty-five bucks. The cot is relatively small; folds up into a really small bundle for storage; and is made of durable materials. My brother found his locally, but USMilitarySurplus has them for…um…a rather-high price in my opinion. You can, however, get the cot’s exact dimensions as well as a photo if you visit the site.

You can, if necessary, make the cot even more comfortable with one of those foam toppers, or by folding up some blankets and lying on top of them. In my experience, these cots are fine the way they come, but we’re all different.

Alternatively, you can use bunk beds. That’s how Mom and Dad managed to fit three boys into one bedroom and two girls into another when we were growing up. Granted, we were much smaller than we are today, but you can squeeze even bigger bunk beds into tight places.

I don’t, however, like pallets on the floor – for a few reasons. One is that a cot or other bed that’s off the floor gives a little storage space underneath. You can put your shoes and day clothes under a cot or bunk bed and not trip over them if you need to get up in the dark. I also dislike the floor because I’ve yet to sleep on one that’s actually comfortable. I always – even when I was a spry, carefree kid – wake with stiff joints (which puts me in a bad mood).

If weather permits, you might pitch tents near the house and put people out there. That idea depends on various factors, though, including the type of emergency (I wouldn’t put people outside if there were, say, a toxic-chemical spill in the area); how much room you have in your yard/outdoor area; and what the area’s like (it would really stink if one of your relatives were mauled by a bobcat or devoured by mosquitoes, after all).

Some of you are bound to have other ideas. What’s worked for you all as far as beds/cots go? We’re all here to learn, so comments are, as always, encouraged.

If you want to give people a bit of privacy – which, by the way, becomes more and more important as your time together drags on – you can suspend blankets from the ceiling. That’s what my sister and I did when we had to share a bedroom. We hung blankets around our bunk beds to form private sleeping areas. I was much more comfortable in my own bed after the blankets went up. Maybe it has something to do with the illusion of privacy? I really don’t know, but it worked.

You might also try to keep kids separated by both gender and general age group. My sister is eight years younger than I am, so we didn’t have diddly in common when we were growing up. I wanted to stay up later, being a teenager and all, and she wanted to play with her obnoxious toys. Maybe these kinds of things won’t be big problems if you’re dealing with an all-out crisis, but a little separation will keep the kids in better moods…which, of course, makes your job as the adult a bit easier.

It also helps to give everyone a chore related to the sleeping area. When each of the people who use that area have a task that they can perform (even little kids can do things like collect the pillows and put them in the storage area), they tend to be in better moods. Human nature leans toward doing: if we have a task, we’re usually happier than if we’re just sitting around, thinking about the situation that we’re in.

Also, making sure that everyone has an assigned task can prevent some arguments, especially in the kids’ area. Kids love to gripe, as anyone with kids (or, like me, a bunch of younger sibs) will tell you. “He isn’t doing anything.” “She messed up my area.” “Tell that jerk to stop throwing his candy wrappers on my bed.” If they’re all busy with their small, but important, chores, they won’t be quite so quick to argue over who’s not doing anything, or whatever else.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thrift-store Finds

Happy Thanksgiving to all the people who are celebrating next week. We like smoked turkey here at The Homestead, but I hope that whatever holiday meal you prefer is nice and tasty!

I’ve been dealing with schoolwork, laundry, and other mundane things all day. I got up late because I went to bed late, so I’m off schedule in a bad way today. That’s all right, though, because I work best at night: my circadian rhythms just aren’t designed for the morning-person stuff.

Anyway: Some of you probably know by now that I have a tough time driving past a thrift store, especially when I have a few bucks in my pocket and something specific on my mind. Thrift stores are fantastic places to find all sorts of neat things, most of them in decent (or even new) condition. If you have enough knowledge about what you’re trying to find, you can come out of these stores with great stuff for little to nothing compared to the retail price.

Earlier this week, I visited the huge thrift store by my campus and came home with an old, Dell keyboard. That’s a big deal to me because I really like the old, sturdy keyboards: they’re more comfortable to use; don’t wear out nearly as quickly as the new, cheap crap does; and aren’t very expensive. The Dell that I snagged cost me all of four bucks and, after I get my ten-dollar signal converter from Amazon in order to connect the device to my computer, I’ll be ready to go. For fourteen bucks, I could get a keyboard from Walmart that’ll fall apart in six months or so…or I could get something that doesn’t suck. Yeah, that’s not a hard decision.

Of course, your local thrift store is a fantastic source for all kinds of other things, from clothes and cookware to books and electronics. The inventory is unpredictable, of course, so it’s a good idea to stop in on a regular basis. Making friends with some of the employees also helps, because one might be willing to put aside something that he or she thinks you’ll like.

I’ve found all sorts of great clothes, including jeans and tee shirts. I’ve come home with a keyboard for Mom’s computer as well as some shirts that I knew she’d like. I’ve found books and CDs, too, for just a few bucks each (if that much).

There’s also some survival-related stuff at thrift stores. I’ve seen all kinds of backpacks, for example, which make great bug-out or get-home bags. You sometimes find different types of cookstoves, such as Coleman models, for decent prices. Hurricane lamps, hand-powered kitchen gadgets, and rain gear are also on the shelves or in the bins.

So, if you’re worried about not being able to afford the gear that you need, make a list of what you’re trying to find and start haunting thrift stores. Garage sales are good, too, by the way.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Watson the Wonder Dog

I’m getting another stinking migraine, so please bear with me today, folks. School’s been stressing me right out, so I’ve been getting these skull bangers over the last couple of weeks. And I thought that the month before graduation was supposed to be a little easier than this. Hah!

Let’s talk about dog training today, mmkay? Mom just adopted a Rottweiler from a local drunk who was starving the poor puppy – seems that the dog growled at the drunk’s illegitimate offspring when it got too close to the food dish. Anyway…Mom’s happy because she got to save a dog from a piece of garbage, and the dog’s happy because he actually sees a food dish every day.

Anyway…the dog’s only about six months old, but that’s more than old enough for basic training. Mom’s been working with the little guy (who isn’t, by the way, so little) for a few hours every day (interspersed throughout the day, that is). He’s quickly learning his name (“Watson”), as well as commands like “come” and “sit.” Watson genuinely wants to please Mom, which is a big help because he wants to hear “Good boy! Oh, good boy, Watson. You sit so well.”

If you keep in mind that your dog probably wants to make you happy, then basic obedience training is not usually too difficult. Your main challenge lies in communicating your desires to the dog so that he can associate your commands – verbal, visual, whatever – with the appropriate response.

Here’s how Mom trains her canine pals. More often than not, the training works well and takes only a few weeks to really kick in. Remember, though, that I’m talking only of basic, obedience training: none of us are experts at raising proper guard dogs or other, such things.

Teaching the dog his name
Just keep saying the dog’s name over and over when you speak to him. Use the name as punctuation, in fact, so that the dog hears it plenty of times. Soon enough, he’ll figure out that he’s “Watson,” or “Fido,” or whatever, and will start looking your way when you say it in the future.

Example:

“Hey, Watson. You’re a good boy, Watson – such a good Watson. Do you like your new food dish, Watson? Oh, yes, Watson likes the dish. Good boy, Watson.”

Yes, that’s annoying as crap, even to type out. But it works. Watson already turns around to look at us about twenty-five percent of the time when we say “Watson,” and he’s been here for only a few days…and we didn’t name him, officially, until last night.

Coming when called
If the dog receives some kind of reward every time he comes to you, he’s going to come when you call him. Watson gets petted sometimes and told that he’s a very good boy. Other times, he gets a piece of a doggy biscuit. When he finally decides to pick out a toy of his very own (so far, he isn’t into any of the ones that we’ve offered him), we’ll also use that: if you call the dog’s name while waving the toy around or making it squeak or whatever, the dog will usually respond.

Even after the dog’s very good at coming every time he’s called, you should still reward him. No, you don’t have to give him a doggy biscuit every time he comes from now until his death, but petting or “Good boy – such a good Watson” aren’t bad ideas…maintaining the training and all that.

Sitting
Mom doesn’t push down on the dog’s back end to show him what she wants: instead, she makes him do the sitting, then rewards him.

She starts by taking a piece of a doggy treat in one hand and making the visual sign for “sit.” While she does this, she gives the command: “Watson, sit.” As she speaks, she slowly moves the hand with the treat up and over the dog’s head: Watson sits down, naturally, because he’s trying to keep the treat in sight.

As soon as his butt touches the floor, he gets the treat and a litany of, “Good Watson – you sit so well. Watson knows how to sit, doesn’t he? Good sit, Watson.”

Again: annoying, but effective.

Those are just the things that Watson’s already learning. Unfortunately, the drunk didn’t do much with the poor dog, so Watson doesn’t know a lot. He’s not even housebroken, I’m sorry to say, but we’re working on that as well as the commands.

It’s important to train your dog because you are then in control of the situation. If he knows that you’re in charge, and if he knows what to do when you give commands, then both of you are happier. He gets to please you, and you don’t have to worry about a disobedient, reckless dog tearing through the house or neighborhood.

Ultimately, Mom’s thinking that Watson will make a good travel buddy when she leaves the house. Before she can find out for sure if Watson’s suited for that kind of thing, though, she has to get through the basic training. Even if Watson ends up being another lump on the living-room floor (like most of our other dogs), at least he’ll be a well-trained lump.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Talking About Prepping

To me, it’s important to talk about preparedness with neighbors, family, and friends. That’s because, the more people are prepared, the easier my life is going to be when we have to actually use those preps. There will be more people taking care of themselves, so there won’t be as many panicking, clueless folks running around. Those of us in the survivalist/prepper community will have more allies, too, which is usually a big plus. I’m thrilled whenever I hear about another prepper joining the “movement,” even if her progress is limited to buying an extra five bucks’ worth of groceries each week, because that’s one more person I don’t have to worry about when things go terribly wrong.

However, I don’t run around telling people, “Hey, the world’s going berserk – let’s all stockpile a year’s worth of food and other stuff!” Frankly, I don’t want the rest of my small community to know that they could, in theory at least, drop in on my family and me when things finally go completely insane and there isn’t easy, affordable access to essentials like food. If God sends someone my way, I’m happy to help – but I don’t want half the county knocking on my door when things go terribly wrong.

However, I encourage people I know to be prepared for other, lesser situations. Most of these folks are very receptive to the concept of shopping grocery-store sales and buying extras, for example, because they see rising food prices and know, intuitively, that crap’s only going to get worse. They aren’t convinced that everything will be just fine, so they’re happy to follow my family’s example of getting extras when they’re cheap and putting away as much of that food as we can.

Everyday situations are fantastic things to discuss, by the way. I tend to focus on rising food prices because my part of Texas is rather poor. Lots of us are at or below poverty level, and grocery-store bills are not always easy to afford. Even neighbors who don’t have much to worry about re: basic bills nod their heads when we talk about how everything is getting more expensive – and some of these people are starting to show concern because they’ve figured out that, at some point, the rising prices will become real problems for them, too.

However, I’m not a doomer when I talk about this stuff. I don’t segue into my, “the world’s going berserk” speech because I’m trying to avoid a) causing panic, and b) earning a reputation as the community’s chief nutjob. Sorry, folks, but a lot of our neighbors and friends aren’t going to believe us right now when we talk about end-of-the-world scenarios. They’re struggling to accept the reality of higher grocery bills…and some of them are still fuming over having to drop to a basic cable package several months ago. If they haven’t yet processed the everyday problems, they’re not going to have an easy time grasping the huge things that some of us are so concerned about.

I also talk about situations that my family and I have actually faced. A creek crosses the only road leading in and out of The Homestead, and said creek floods when there’s enough rain. This year alone, we’ve been stranded here at home more than five times because of flooding.

When I talk about the flooded road, I always add that I’m glad we have plenty of stuff at home to keep us fed, clothed, warm, etc. despite not being able to go to the store. Even when we’ve been stuck here for two days in a row, we’ve never missed a meal or gone without any of the other essentials. There’s always plenty in the house to get us through even the longest flood.

People tend to react positively to all that because they see that being prepared for these situations really does pay off, at least in my family’s case. They can see, for themselves, that we’re right to always have plenty of groceries at home: we’ve actually had to use the provisions, so our preparedness paid off.

But try telling these same folks that you’re stockpiling against the possibility of the Antichrist showing up while you’re still alive…or that you’re convinced that hyperinflation could hit this country…and, well, you’re a nutter.

So…I’d suggest sticking to basic, real situations that actually happen, like natural disasters and short paychecks. However, we also have to accept that some people simply will not listen. I recently spoke with one guy who is convinced that, regardless of what happens, he can just take his debit card to Walmart and grab anything that he needs. He does not understand that a whole bunch of other people will get the same idea; the shelves could be empty by the time he gets there; the debit card may not work when he swipes it; roads might be impassable when he decides to get off his butt and go shopping…so forth and so on.

I just leave those folks alone because they aren’t going to listen no matter how reasonable and logical I am when I present my point of view. Even when I offer solid evidence for prepping – like being stranded at home with a flooded road – guys like that have the, “It can’t happen to me” attitude. This guy in particular is convinced that his road could never flood because he lives in a city, not the middle of nowhere, and therefore has better maintenance as well as city workers who can fix the problem.

Whatever…I hope that he can take care of his family should something go wrong, but I doubt that he’ll have that ability. He doesn’t want to take even simple, reasonable steps, and that’s his choice and problem.

Fortunately, most of the people who hear what I have to say are more receptive than that. Many will agree with the basic, simple things that I talk about, and some will actually go out and start doing them – like getting extra food, or making sure that they know where their flashlights are in case of a power outage. That’s why I’m so optimistic about discussing the ideas: they’re well received more often than not, so there’s hope that we can continue spreading the ideas and helping more people take care of themselves.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Finally, A Blog Entry!

As far as survival goes, I don’t have much new to say right now. My family and I are still doing what we normally do: adding to the stockpiles; learning how to be a little more self sufficient than we were the week or month before; and hanging in there.

Dad’s facing big cutbacks at work, so we’re anticipating smaller paychecks. Everyone else in the house is facing the same situation…recession’s over, my foot. We haven’t done proper, full-fledged grocery shopping in a few weeks now because money’s been so tight lately, but we’re surviving. Nobody’s missed any meals, so we aren’t complaining. Like I told YB: “It’s real tough to gripe with your mouth full of food, huh?” He agreed. We go into the survival stash, grab what we need, and make a meal – this is why we prepare, and everyone’s grateful that we had the opportunity to build up the stockpile before finances started to get really tight.

The chickens are just about ready to start laying – finally! We’re working on the final chicken coop because the one that we put together for the interim just isn’t big enough. They obviously couldn’t live in their little cage forever, so we did what we had to do until we could get plans and materials together to build the big, permanent coop. This coop’s going to be a little closer to the house, and we have plans to put access doors on the outside of the roosting area: that way, we can reach in and get the eggs without necessarily entering the coop. Naturally, there will still be a proper door because we do want to go in there with the chickens sometimes.

There just isn’t much going on beyond the usual, everyday stuff. Mom’s current project, now that we got her laser printer up and running again, is updating her cookbook. She prints out full-page copies of her recipes, puts them in plastic sheets, and then sticks those in a ring binder. She likes this because she doesn’t have to worry about getting flour, or other stuff, on the actual pages – and because she can change the recipes whenever she wants.

My brothers are still working on collecting firewood – for us, but also for our neighbor. He’s really sick, and just can’t deal with that this year. His two sons are worthless: they’re old enough to buy beer, and therefore should be capable of making sure that their dad stays warm, especially now that he’s so sick (in and out of the hospital and all that unpleasant stuff). But no…they’re too busy riding their BMX bikes, or going out to the honky tonk, to bother with Dad.

Sis is busy with work, mostly, but she and I are trying to work out some free time on weekends so that we can hit local garage and yard sales together. She has to work Wednesday through Sunday, and I have school and homework, but our schedules are bound to coincide sooner or later.

As for me…work and school are taking up most of my free time, but it’s finally the right weather for knitting. Dealing with a bunch of yarn just isn’t as pleasant when it’s hot and humid: I’d much rather knit when it’s cooler. I’m doing the washcloth thing – I think that I wrote about that already, right? There are some great, free patterns available at About.com if you’re interested.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Still Sick; Still Surviving

I’m still sick, which is really ticking me off. It appears that I have a nasty chest cold, which is making it insanely difficult to breathe or move very far without running short of breath.

Lately, my family and I have been preparing for the coming winter. We’re doing things like pulling out electric blankets and winter clothes; checking the wood-burning stoves to make sure they’re clean and in good working order; and making sure that we have plenty of winter-related gear (firewood, for example).

We’re also, of course, still stocking up on as much food as we can buy. There’s a few months’ worth of food stashed here at The Homestead now, but prices are still going up. We want to get more as quickly as we can, if only because we don’t know when price increases will stop…if they ever do.

Mom’s trying to find a local source for powdered, whole milk because she’s tired of wasting valuable refrigerator space on the two gallons that we consume just about every week. Nobody in this family likes skim or nonfat milk, so we aren’t buying those in powdered form. That’s the only stuff that the local Walmart carries, but we’re looking at different stores to see what else is available. If we can’t find anything locally, we can shop online: we do that often anyway because, in this tiny community, lots of much-wanted things just aren’t available.

I’m still looking for cast-iron cookware, but am not willing to pay full retail prices. Like I’m really going to cough up thirty-plus bucks for a skillet at Walmart when I can find a perfectly good one at a flea market or garage sale for a lot less than that. My philosophy is that, if you can find something that’s used but still in good condition, you should probably go with that in order to save money. I buy used clothes, used books, used cookware, used cars…and I haunt thrift stores and flea markets, along with garage sales, just to see what neat things I can find.

However, I do buy some things new. I decided, recently, to start knitting some wash cloths. I didn’t have any cotton yarn, so I went to Walmart and found some on sale. I grabbed all four skeins and will start knitting sometime soon – probably next week or the week after, because I might have some extra down time after mid-terms are officially over.

Puritan.com is running another pretty good sale on various vitamins and other supplements, so you might want to check out that site if you’re looking for that kind of thing. Mom’s placed three or four orders with that company so far and has been very pleased with the service and the products every time. I’m not officially affiliated with the Web site, but I’m happy to tell you all when we find something that we like.

This week, Mom also decided to reformat her computer – finally. Make sure, folks, that you back up your data on a regular basis. That way, if something goes wrong, you don’t lose everything. You can find CD-Rs for almost nothing now, so burn CDs if that’s what you have to do. You can also buy a converter cable that turns an inexpensive, internal hard drive into an external model. I paid roughly thirty bucks for the cable, and have been backing up all of my important files to that “external” drive ever since. Another option is to burn to DVD. You can use thumb/USB drives, too, or an online-backup company. Heck, e-mail the vital stuff to your own Web-based e-mail account if that’s the only thing that you can do. Any backup method is better than nothing at all, especially if your collection of survival-related information is important to you.

Anyway: I’m out of here because I just took yet another dose of cold medicine and will probably crash in bed pretty quickly. I hate being sick, especially when it’s drawn out like this chest cold has been. Take care, folks, and don’t forget to enjoy the present while you’re preparing for the future. Survival isn’t supposed to be a grim, doom-filled lifestyle: we can still have a great time, and laugh, and enjoy being alive, while we make sure that we’re prepared to survive whatever happens next.

Friday, October 9, 2009

More on Get-home Bags

I’m frickin’ sick right now, so I really don’t have much to say about survival or preparedness right now. This proves, though, that you can practice great personal hygiene – keeping the hands clean, avoiding common surfaces as much as possible, keeping your fingers out of your eyes, that sort of thing – but still pick up nasty germs and other bugs.

So, let’s talk about something that I can concentrate on long enough to write a few coherent sentences about, mmkay? Yeah, that would be good. Let’s talk about get-home bags because, judging by the high number of “Get home bag” search queries leading to this site, folks are interested. Even though I’ve discussed these bags before, there are a few more things worth saying about them.

Okay…let’s just do the questions that I hear most often, because they’re important. Lots of you want to know these things, so let’s get right to it.

What kind of bag should I use?
It doesn’t matter. Really. Find a bag, pack, or sack that’s well made, sturdy, and large enough to hold all of the necessities. You should be able to easily, comfortably carry this thing, preferably on your back because you might have to do some heavy-duty walking. I’d also keep the bag’s weight in mind, both empty and fully loaded, because it’s easy to get weighed down.

What sort of stuff should I include?
Well, what sort of items do you think you’re going to need? I would definitely include changes of clothes; some snacks and other food; plenty of water; and a first-aid kit, because these are all vital to your survival. However, there are other things that you might want to consider packing, like fire-starting gear; a flashlight with extra batteries; and maps of the area. Also, remember that you can always add or remove items as you learn more about your personal needs and preferences: you don’t have to get everything right the first time, I’m glad to say.

Why should I worry about a get-home bag in the first place?
Emergencies don’t often announce themselves very long in advance, meaning that you can be stranded with little warning. Do you want to give yourself the best possible chance of getting back home in one piece, or do you want to rely on other people and luck to get you through?

Even if you don’t think that anything terrible is going to happen, you have to admit that everyday emergencies are entirely possible. If your car breaks down in an area where you don’t get cell phone reception, you might have to walk several miles. Wouldn’t that hike be easier if you had a bag with comfortable walking shoes, some water to keep you hydrated, etc.? Sure!

Should I pack a weapon in my bag?
No! Your weapon should stay on or near your person whenever possible because, that way, you can quickly reach it in order to defend yourself. My handgun, for example, usually goes in an inside-the-waistband holster because I carry concealed. However, when I’m in the car, I can’t easily reach the handgun in its holster: therefore, said gun is near my person, but still concealed in order to comply with state law.

However, storing duplicates in the get-home bag is not a bad idea. If you have a folding knife that you keep on your person, stash the second one in the bag – just in case.

What kind of food do you recommend?
I like food that’s easy to prepare without any additional tools, including can openers. I bought pull-top cans of ravioli, for example, and I can easily open the snack crackers and peanuts and such without anything but my fingers or, in the worst-case scenario, my folding knife.

Plan for both energy-giving snacks and full meals, because you really don’t know what sort of situation you’ll be in. You could end up camping out in the vehicle for a day or more, which would be a fine time to have some decent food – versus a box of Cheez-Its and Spongebog Squarepants fruit snacks.

Do you have any weird items in your bag?
Yep. I have a 24-ounce bottle of Mountain Dew in my get-home bag because I’m a caffeine addict. Yes, there’s plenty of water in there too, but I’d hate to go without my Dew if I had down time and didn’t have to have the water to stay hydrated. You can call that a crutch if you will because that’s basically what it is, but I don’t see any problem with comfort food (or comfort beverages in this case). I just wouldn’t overdo comforts like alcohol or pot because you might need a clear head to get out of the situation you’re in.

And now, if you’ll all excuse me, I’m off to bed. The medicine’s starting to kick in and I’m feeling rather loopy, so this is probably a good time to sleep.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fulfilling Your Survival Wish List

I imagine that most of us have wish lists full of survival-related items that we have yet to acquire for whatever reason, but would like to get in the future. My family’s list includes things like a solar oven; more food in storage (that’s a constant, though, because we keep extending the goal when we reach the current one); and a solar-powered battery charger for the cell phones and rechargeable batteries.

One way to go about completing your list is to follow my family’s “One for now, one for later” rule, which applies to most of the groceries and other essentials that we buy. It doesn’t take long to get into the habit of adding two to the cart or splitting up the one item when you get home.

If you buy a six-pack of tighty whities, throw three pairs into the stockpile so that you’ll have them later. Of course, it helps to keep an eye on your size as you go – it would suck if you lost twenty pounds between now and the end of society as we know it and, therefore, couldn’t wear your nice, new underoos.

When we need a container of salt or pepper, we buy two and put away the extras. If we can afford only one bag of beans or rice, we halve it and use the Food Saver to seal the portion that goes into the stash. Right now, my family and I are cutting back on how much sugar we use because we really can’t afford to buy a bunch of it – but still want to put half in the stockpile.

Should we find a fantastic sale on something – a grocery item or some other essential – we buy as much as we can possibly afford. Closeout sales are great ways to get these great deals: stores will put perfectly-good stuff on clearance because the package design changed; the stuff is on the verge of expiring; or next year’s version is about to hit the shelves. I recently bought the mother lode of canned pinto beans because of such a sale, for example.

Some big-ticket items are exceptions to the “One now, one for later” rule. I’m not going to go buy two computers, for example – obviously. However, nothing says that I can’t acquire some extra parts so that, should my PC crap out, I have a good chance of fixing it. I can’t afford to buy two handguns, but I CAN keep mine in good working order and accumulate spare parts so that I might be able to fix it if something goes wrong. There isn’t an extra car sitting in the driveway, I’m sorry to say, but we can repair the ones that we do have, right? Right.

You can offset the extra cost of stockpiling and buying extras by shopping sales. Supermarkets, hardware stores, and pretty much every other retail outlet have “loss leaders,” or heavily-discounted sale items that are designed to lure you into their stores. They can afford to take a hit on this merchandise because they know that a good number of shoppers are going to stick around and buy regularly-priced stuff as well. If, however, you go in and buy just the loss-leader merchandise, you end up saving a big chunk of cash.

Also, take a look at weekly store circulars. In many areas, these show up in your mailbox, or with the Sunday paper. You can also check them out online at SundaySaver.com, of course. My family and I use these ads to find out what’s on sale and plan the weekly menu around that. There have been a few nice surprises some weeks – like pork chops being half off at one store. Oh, man, was that Monday’s dinner awesome. And the pork-chop sandwiches the next day? Fantastic.

Of course, with the economy sucking like it is at the moment, all sorts of stores are closing all over the place. Earlier this year, I grabbed several memory cards for a fraction of the retail price because the Circuit City near my university was having a closing sale. Just last week, a popular chain of grocery stores closed one location: they sold off all of their store-brand groceries for at least fifty percent off, which presented a fantastic opportunity to go spend some serious money on everything from canned goods to paper towels.

So: Save money, buy more than what you need right now, and be happy knowing that the work you’re putting into this will pay off. Even if nothing ever goes wrong as long as you’re alive, you’re going to eventually eat the food and use the other stuff that you’re accumulating. If nothing else, the stuff that you’re buying today is cheaper than it will be in six months when you rotate your stockpiled food.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Changes; First Aid; Get-home Bags

I’m very sorry about the nonexistent post this week, folks. I was already thinking about moving to Fridays because I have school on Wednesdays – but then one of the kittens tried to blind me with a well-placed jab right in the middle of my eye. That eye is still swollen – almost shut - so I’m having a tough time seeing much of anything. It turns out that you need both eyeballs for depth perception. I already knew that, but now I have firsthand experience to enhance my understanding. Yay me.

I also learned that having two contact-lens wearers in the house is a good thing because we have a bunch of saline solution. You might want to get some of this stuff even if nobody wears contacts: saline solution is great for flushing your eye following a cat scratch. Even though I adore all of my fur balls, I know that their claws aren’t the cleanest things on this planet. Flush well, folks, and do it more than once.

However, I am NOT a doctor and am not involved in the medical field in any way other than being the occasional patient. I would most definitely haul butt to the doctor’s office if I were you because your eye and sight are not things that you want to fart around with. We’re talking nasty infections, blindness, eye disease…all sorts of things that none of us really want to have happen.

While we’re on the subject of first aid: do you have kits in all of your vehicles as well as your home and bug-out or get-home bags? Multiple kits might seem redundant, but you might have to ditch the vehicle at some point – if that happens and you forget to grab the kit, you’re screwed if you cut yourself or get debris in your eye. It’s better to have multiple kits spread out as far as I’m concerned.

Oh, and don’t forget to check the supplies. Adhesives can lose effectiveness over time and, even though it’s safe to use most medicines after their expiration dates (within reason, of course), fresher is usually better. A visual inspection also jump starts your mind, which can help you notice an important item that you didn’t think about when you first assembled the kits.

There really isn’t much else to say about first-aid kits other than the fact that it’s a good idea to store all of your supplies in a waterproof case. You never know when you’ll encounter moisture, rain, flood water, etc. along the way, so keeping the first-aid supplies dry and clean is a priority.

I also, recently, checked my get-home bag’s contents. It’s always a good idea to rotate your supplies when needed and make sure that everything is still in good working condition. I changed from an old backpack to an ALICE pack because the backpack was dry rotting when I dug it out of storage…and because I got the ALICE pack for a really-good price at the newly-opened milsurp store in town. I used this type of pack when I was in the Army, so I already knew that it’s comfortable, durable, and roomy: mine holds all of my essential gear with a little space left over for other stuff.

This time around, I added a few pull-top cans of food: ravioli, mostly, because I love that stuff whether it’s hot, warm, or cold. Even though it’s easy to heat up a can of food – camp fire, engine compartment, the sun, whatever – I don’t know that I’ll necessarily be able to do any of those things.

While you’re checking the supplies, don’t forget to inspect the bag. Make sure that the straps aren’t rotting or worn and that the seams are all in good condition. You really don’t want the bag to fall apart or tear when you’re out in the woods or the side of the road, right? Right.

My eye’s starting to really hurt again, so that’s about it for today. Take care, folks, and keep on doing what you’re doing. Progress is slow sometimes – my family and I are in that stage right now, in fact – but keep moving forward. Things improve soon enough if you stick with them.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Germs in the Grocery Store

Kellene Bishop (Preparedness Pro) recently posted an article about a movie theater where good food-handling practices are actively discouraged. Eww. Just…eww.

I don’t go to movie theaters very often, mostly because they’re expensive places for family outings. However, her article made me think about grocery shopping because most grocery stores are disgusting places to visit – even the ones that appear to be very clean.

I used to work in a grocery store. I’ve also been dragged along for Mom’s weekly grocery shopping since I came out of her womb. Well...technically, I accompanied her before I was born, but whatever. There’s also Kid Sis, who works in retail as a cashier. She’s been on the job for nearly a year, and has seen many things that I, too, see.

This all relates to survival because the swine flu and other contagious illnesses are real threats. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to avoid even non-life-threatening sicknesses because I can’t afford to take time off from school or work.

So, let’s take a walk through the store and see what’s going on, shall we?

You park your car in the lot and then grab a cart from either the outdoor corral or the indoor area. Where I worked, and where Kid Sis works, there are no sanitizing wipes or Germ-X/Purell at the front of the stores. None of the grocery stores in our area offer either of these things, actually.

One interesting fact, though, is that some stores in other parts of the country use misting systems that cover the whole cart with food-grade sanitizer. Pretty neat, huh?

What kinds of germs might you find on a shopping cart? According to Dr. Chuck Gerba, a germ specialist, samples that “The Today Show” took from carts located all over the United States often (more often than not, that is) included such lovely things as fecal matter and E. coli.

Now you take your dirty shopping cart through the store, loading it down with everything from canned peas to pretzels. You pick up a package of tea bags, which seem to be as clean as can be. However, you don’t know if they’ve been handled in the last few minutes. For all you know, someone with a contagious illness coughed into his hands, picked up the box, then changed his mind. He then put down the box, leaving his germs behind for you to pick up. (Oh, and women can also spread germs. I meant nothing sexist by the male pronouns.)

After you put your infected tea bags in your cart, your nose starts to itch. Or your cell phone rings. Maybe you have to touch your kid’s shoulder to signal him to get out of the way because a stocker is coming up behind him with a huge pallet of merchandise. Regardless, you’re probably spreading the germs that you picked up from the tea bags.

Your shopping trip continues. Along the way, you touch all sorts of surfaces that an untold number of people have recently handled: the shelves; the coffee-bean scoop; the produce-bag dispenser. Where I worked, and where Kid Sis works, none of these surfaces are routinely cleaned, much less disinfected.

Now let’s talk about the cashier. We’ll use the feminine pronoun because most of the cashiers I know are women. She’s touching your food, the conveyor belt, the cash register, and everything else within reaching distance. The sacker (or bagger, or carryout clerk, or whatever) is also touching all sorts of surfaces, and most of them are not disinfected or even regularly cleaned.

Even when a store’s manager or owner is very conscientious of food-handling practices and other safety measures, there isn’t enough manpower or time in the workday to routinely disinfect all the common surfaces. You might, occasionally, find a store that’s truly clean – one where common surfaces are actually disinfected – but that’s the exception, at least where I live. I don’t know of any store around here with that kind of practice in place, actually.

You might keep in mind that some grocery-store managers are better about sick days than others. Kid Sis developed a sore throat and a mild fever in the middle of one of her shifts last week. She came home before her shift ended…but she had to take one point for it. If she racks up three points within X months (six, I think), she’s out of a job – no questions asked.

Her store’s employees collect one point for everything from showing up late to leaving in the middle of a shift to insubordination. To management, leaving in the middle of a shift because you’re sick is exactly the same thing as snapping at your immediate supervisor. I think that this is stupid, but nobody asked for my opinion.

This is why some of Kid Sis’s coworkers, especially those with families to support, keep their mouths shut and continue working even when they’re sick. Their families are, understandably, more important than a stranger’s health and well being.

As I’ve already stated, there are some exceptions to the “grocery stores are cesspits” idea. I’m not trying to say that no grocery-store owner or manager in the entire country has found a way to make the places a bit cleaner, because that’s not true. However, I know for a fact that all of the few grocery stores in my area are cesspits, and that it’s up to me to take care of business. Keep the hand sanitizer and wipes at the ready, folks, and don’t forget to clean your food and other purchases.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fun with Search Queries

Note: Last week, I suggested making lists of the “little things” that you might overlook when you add to your stockpiles. My family added some interesting things over the last few days: shoelaces, for example, and small sewing kits. We also realized that you really can’t have too much duct tape.

Fun with Search Queries

Today, as a bit of a break from the usual routine, I decided to see what search terms people are using to find this blog. Because I’m the helpful sort, I’ll also try to figure out what these folks want, and come up with an answer or two.

Bad toothache; antibiotics not working
How long have you been on the antibiotics? They don’t do away with the pain the first few days, especially if you’re hurting a LOT. Oh, and see a dentist: that bad tooth needs treatment, unless you want to pretend that you’re in “Castaway” and knock it out yourself with an ice skate and a rock. Having never done anything of that sort, I have no advice for you about it, but I imagine that removing your own, infected tooth would be a bad idea, considering that you would be spreading an infection around. That could be, you know, bad.

What are four sources of water?
Let’s see: The magical tap in your kitchen; the stockpiled barrels or jugs of water in your cache; the creek or river if you have a way of purifying the water; and the toilet tank or water heater if you’re in a bad way.

Alternate answers include: Rainfall; the magical tap in the bathtub; the water well, provided that you can access the water (no electricity means no pump, unless you have a backup plan); and the bottled-water section of the grocery store. Not all of these sources will be available all the time, of course, so be sure to have backup plans for your backup plans.

Natural pest repellents
My family and I have had success with horse apples, as I’ve said before. We’ve also learned that ground cinnamon, sprinkled around the area we want to protect, repels everything from roaches to scorpions. Bay leaves also repel a variety of critters as long as you remember to grab said leaves every week or so and crumple them a bit between your hands (keeps the pungent smell vivid, it seems).

If you’d like a solution that you can spray directly on anything that you’d like to kill – black-widow spiders, scorpions, etc. – go find cold-press orange oil. We get ours at the feed store, but we’ve also found the stuff at organic nurseries. Mix one part of this with two or three parts water (either mixture works fine, I’ve noticed) in a spray bottle and you have a nice-smelling firebomb for those nasty critters. It’s even better than dousing them with Raid – trust me.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of organic pest control: roosters and chickens eat all sorts of critters, including the dreaded scorpion. Our rooster roams near the house. This works out because he has plenty of room to move around and because he eats things that we don’t want around the house. He LOVES scorpions. Loves them. Good, good rooster!

How to avoid taking the swine-flu vaccine
Just…um…don’t take it? But seriously, if you’re in a position where you could be required to take this shot, you’re going to have to weigh the consequences of refusing against the consequences of being vaccinated, and then make a decision.

Alternatively, you and a whole bunch of other people in the group can collectively refuse, seeing as there’s usually some strength in numbers. When I was in the Army, that sort of attitude would get you into deep trouble, but most of the rest of us can refuse. Just say no, folks.

Can you boil an MRE in a pot?
Yes! Take the entrĂ©e out of its cardboard box and drop it in a pot of boiling water: a few minutes later, you have a piping-hot meal. You can also heat the MRE in the sun, which works best if you put the food on a dark surface (still sealed in the bag, that is). Ideally, though, you’ll have the MRE heater, which requires only a tiny amount of water to operate.

However: I don’t stock up on MREs, at least not at this point, because they’re a bit overpriced. If you’re in a place where you can boil a pot of water, you can make all sorts of inexpensive, but nutritious and filling, foods: oatmeal; rice; noodles, that sort of thing. None of those foods take up much room, depending on how much you pack and how, so why not?

Survivalist scams
Well…I’m not exactly sure of what this means, but my first thought is “overpriced gear.” Folks, you don’t have to have an AR-15, Mountain House freeze-dried food, or ten thousand acres in the middle of nowhere. It’s entirely possible to work within your budget, whatever that may be, and come out ahead in the end. Survival is more about the preparedness mentality, which includes acquiring knowledge and skills, than about the gear anyway, as evidenced by the fact that more than one “adventurer” has died despite having a pack full of crap.

That being said: I highly encourage you to buy good books about the things that you’re learning to do. Oh, sure, most information is free if you have Internet access and decent search skills, but there are times when a “real” book is best. I love books anyway, so this isn’t a burden or a challenge for me.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Thoughts for the Week

Well, howdy, folks. This entry’s later than usual because my class schedule got switched around this semester. I’m at school on Mondays and Wednesdays, so I’m a little behind today – sorry about that!

So…here are my thoughts for the week. They’re a little disorganized because school’s been insane so far, but I’ll do my very best to get back on track as soon as possible.

A good holster makes concealed carry more comfortable…and easier. You don’t have to spend tons of cash on a good holster, either: mine was only eighty bucks, including shipping, which is downright cheap when you look at how much some of the other holsters out there cost. Mine’s custom molded to my firearm’s model, too, which is a huge plus when it comes to retention.

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Be sure to actually wear the clothes that you’re going to put away for the future…or stash in your bug-out or get-home bag. I say that because I just bought two dozen pairs of socks at Payless – they had a “buy one, get one half off” sale, so I figured that I might as well stock up.

The socks turned out to be total crap. I’ve worn only twelve pairs so far, but two of them have very-weak stitching around the toes. In other words, I have holey socks, and I’ve worn the suckers only once. This is the first time that I’ve ever had new socks fizzle on me…weird. Fortunately, I noticed the problem, and will be replacing the pair of unworn ones from my get-home bag – because, frankly, they could be a bigger pain to me than they’re worth if I ever need them in a crisis.

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Mom received her order from Puritan.com today – a crapload of D3, along with a few other things that she wanted. Because this order showed up so quickly, and was exactly what Mom wanted, I’m giving the Web site both thumbs up. If you’re looking to stock up on something like D3, give this site a look: they’re currently having a fantastic sale.

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Have you checked out AllRecipes.com yet? I have no affiliation with the site whatsoever – I just use it to find new recipes. It’s free, easy to use, and even lets you search by ingredients (things that you want as well as things that you don’t). If you’re stockpiling staples, which you probably are, it’s a good idea to have a variety of recipes that use these things. Trust me…you want a somewhat-diverse menu.

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Unfortunately, I have to get busy with homework if I want to pass this semester and, you know, graduate. I’ve spent too much time in school to fail now, so I’m off to study. In the meantime, I leave you with a thought about the future:

When things go wrong, pretty much everyone will rush to the stores to grab all sorts of stuff that they just realized they’re going to need. This is why we have extra food on hand, but what about the little things? Mom and I were talking yesterday, while we were hanging clothes on the line, when one of us said, “You know…it would suck if we couldn’t buy more clothespins.”

The other agreed, and said that getting a few extra packs would be a good idea – just in case. Even though we bring in our (wooden) clothespins at the end of the day, the things still wear out and break. They aren’t made of the best materials, unfortunately.

So…this week, my family is focusing on the “little things” that we regularly use: stuff that we might overlook when we stockpile. Perhaps, this week, you can join us? Keep a small notepad on you and write down everything that you use – especially small things like clothespins, or the eyeglass-repair kit. Even if you use this stuff only once or twice a year, it would still suck to have only one, right? Right. Maybe this week of observing and list making will help us all figure out how to be better prepared in the future.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My Family's Progress

The last several days have been good for stockpiling, because my family and I came into a little extra cash – nothing big, but enough to make some progress toward our food- and gear-storage goals.

We shopped sales, like we normally do. One of the local grocery stores had all sorts of great stuff on sale. Canned goods that are normally two bucks or more were ten for ten dollars, so we stocked up on everything from canned pinto beans to tomatoes. We also got a buttload of bacon because it was on mad sale. Extra salt, pepper, and other spices went into the shopping cart, along with staples like rice.

I grabbed a crank-powered, LED flashlight because, even though we have batteries and several flashlights, diversity isn’t a bad thing. However, the marine flashlight is still with the get-home bag, because the body’s square (and weather resistant). If I have to put it on the ground to, say, change a flat tire in the dark, I don’t have to worry about it rolling into a ditch, or running out of juice because I didn’t crank it long enough.

There are even more Ziploc bags here now, too, along with tin foil and wax paper. We added more sandwich bags, too, for lunches. I’ve decided, this semester, to take lunch to school instead of hitting the dollar menu at Wendy’s. I’m saving only two bucks a week, but still: that will buy a few cans of veggies, or some rice. Why spend the money on a crappy burger when I can contribute something to the family’s food stash, right?

The local Walmart is finally carrying a store-brand version of Excedrin Migraine, which is fantastic news. Walmart’s version comes in two packs of 100 pills each…for four dollars. I can’t get one tiny bottle of Excedrin Migraine for that price, so I grabbed two boxes. If this stuff doesn’t work (that, however, is doubtful) for me, someone might barter with me for it later.

Mom and I stopped in at the flea market. We filled two plastic grocery bags with paperbacks for about twenty dollars: a great deal when you consider how much we love books around here. When there’s not much else to do but read, we’ll be basically set, I think.

While we were there, I looked for cast-iron cookware. We found a pan that was made in Taiwan, and didn’t look very sturdy or well made. A skillet from China was automatically ruled out because it didn’t look any better than the other one. Mom prefers Wagner or Lodge for cast-iron cookware, because she knows and trusts those brands. Do any of you have other suggestions? Is there another brand that you’ve found to be reliable, well made, etc.? Mom prefers cast iron without wooden handles, incidentally, and she has no problem seasoning the cookware herself.

I did, however, find an IBM “M” model keyboard for two bucks. For those of you who don’t know: these keyboards are the “clicky” kind, and hold up for years and years. Some people are still using the same ones that came with the IBM computers they bought YEARS ago. I had to order an adapter as well as a replacement buckle-spring assembly (a key on the number pad is stuck). However, I still made out like crazy with this one, because these old keyboards cost at least fifty bucks on eBay and at sites that specialize in refurbishing and reselling them.

Besides: I can’t get a new keyboard for two bucks, plus my other expenses, and new ‘boards definitely don’t hold up to all the typing that I do. (English major…freelance writer…survival blogger…I’m at the keyboard several hours a day.) The new ‘boards – even “nice” ones – die within two years, if that long, despite good care and maintenance.

When you come into a little extra cash, take it to the grocery store: even if it’s only ten extra dollars, that money will put you closer to your food- or gear-supply goal. Buy extra batteries for the flashlights, or stock up during one of the local grocery store’s canned-goods sales.

But even when you don't have that bonus money, buy something extra - give up some small thing that you don't have to have so that you can afford to put away some food or other necessities. It might not SEEM like you’re doing anything when you come home with only a small amount of extras every week, but keep going. Every time you add to the stockpile, you’re giving yourself extra time to either ride out the situation that we’re facing…or get the other plans up and going (like the garden).

Stay focused, stay motivated, and stay safe, folks. Every time I look around, it seems like the world’s getting nuttier and nuttier. We don’t have to be part of that, though!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Avoiding Swine Flu

I won’t be taking the swine-flu vaccine because I have better things to do than worry about the potential side effects of something that has not been thoroughly researched and tested. Even though I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist, common sense tells me that all sorts of things can go wrong with something like this: we don’t know the long-term effects, or even the short-term ones for that matter, so there could be dangerous, if not lethal, consequences to taking the injection.

There are, fortunately, alternatives to taking a shot that I don’t trust or like. The main idea is to reduce the risk of even catching the flu in the first place, which beats going through the misery of having that crap. We can all do a few things to stay as safe as possible without having to go get a swine-flu shot.

Hygiene
My family and I are improving our already-decent hygiene because many people pick up all sorts of germs by contact with infected surfaces and people. Mom has been stockpiling hand sanitizer as well as liquid hand soap. She has travel-sized bottles of Germ-X and Purell for our vehicles or backpacks, and larger bottles for the house. We also have the liquid soap in the bathroom as well as by the kitchen sink.

While I was doing some reading in preparation for writing this article, I came across the CleanWell company. These folks make natural hand sanitizers, which could be a good bet. I personally have never even heard of CleanWell before, much less used any of their products, so I’m asking you, readers, if you have any experience. Would this be worth checking out? I don’t have any problem using Germ-X and Purell, but it’s nice to learn something new every now and then.

Common Surfaces
We’re also more conscious of common surfaces, and what could lurk on them. When we go to the grocery store, we take the hand sanitizer with us and use it once or twice while we’re there. We touch as few things as possible, too: if we want to look at a product, we do so without touching it if we can. Who knows how many people have touched that can of beans before, and how sick they might have been when they did it?

Speaking of common surfaces: We keep the bathroom, kitchen, car interiors, etc. clean with Lysol. This is a bit pricier than a bleach-and-water solution in a one-buck spray bottle, I know, but we’re lazy. We also have the bleach and water for surfaces that it doesn’t hurt, like the stainless-steel kitchen sink. (I’ve never given this a try, but I’m fairly confident that using bleach and water inside my car would be, you know, bad for the upholstery.) Mom mixes up one tablespoon of standard-strength, household bleach per one quart of water. Inexpensive spray bottles from the dollar store, properly labeled, make it easier to spray the solution on the possibly-infected surface.

Seclusion
Then there’s the ol’ hermit routine: staying at home as much as possible in an attempt to avoid exposure. I do this anyway, because I don’t like being out and about in society very much. I’d really rather just stay here at The Homestead and enjoy the peace and quiet – but even so, I do have to go to school, the grocery store, church, et cetera. That’s when practicing good hygiene habits, and paying attention to common surfaces, really matters in my opinion.

However, some folks really enjoy getting out of the house, and do it a lot more often than I do. My brothers are a few of these people. When they go out, they keep their hands as clean as possible, especially when they visit places that are overloaded with germs. Movie theaters aren’t the cleanest places in the world, and you’re stuck in there with a bunch of possibly-sick strangers for two or more hours at a time. Common surfaces in fast-food restaurants might look clean, but can be infected with all sorts of germs. Shopping malls aren’t so great, either.

Supplements
My family and I are also taking vitamin D3 in an effort to boost our immune systems. This is, I believe, better than taking an unproven vaccination, especially when you do some reading about vitamin D3 and the pharmaceutical industry to gain a better understanding of the situation. Frankly, I trust a vitamin a lot more than I trust the pharmaceutical industry, especially when it’s rather clear that our bodies really do benefit from the vitamins.

Ultimately, our faith in God’s protection as well as His insistence on giving us common sense, and expecting us to use it, beat taking an unproven, untested swine-flu shot. I can’t guarantee you that I’ll be flu free forever, but I couldn’t guarantee that even if I took my shots every year.

Useful Links:

Dr. Miller’s “Avoid Flu Shots, Take Vitamin D Instead” – well worth reading. He mentions that seventy percent of doctors do not take flu shots. Interesting...

CleanWellToday.com - the hand-sanitizer company I mentioned in this entry.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Books and Your Survival Stash

One of my favorite television shows has to be “The Twilight Zone.” I’m talking about the old, black-and-white version, with Rod Serling’s pithy commentary and the actors’ horrible dialogue. (I mean, really. Could they be any more obvious about having the characters discuss information that they should already know, simply for the sake of bringing us into the story? I think not.)

That was a fantastic TV show despite my criticism. My favorite episode: “Time Enough at Last,” from the first season. (By the way: You can watch the episode online here. If you’d like to see the show for yourself, go ahead and go now, because I’m about to spoil a 40-year-old TV program.)

In case you aren’t a “Twilight Zone” fan, here’s the basic gist of that episode: a lonely, bookworm type of guy works at a bank. His psycho hose beast of a wife disapproves of his reading, even going so far as to destroy his books (what an oxygen thief). Because the bookworm dude can’t chill out and read at home, he sneaks in as much as he can at work.

While he’s in the vault, reading during his lunch break, nuclear Armageddon destroys, well, pretty much everything. He pops up, sees the devastation, and considers offing himself – but then, hope appears in the form of a library. FINALLY, he’ll have enough time to read, which is the only thing that he really cares about doing. The poor guy’s spent his whole married life being nagged and ridiculed about having his nose between some pages, but now the world’s literature is all his! Yes!

Oh, stop asking questions about nuclear fallout, hot zones, radiation poisoning, and all that other sensible stuff. The man’s going to get to READ! That’s all that matters! Suspend your disbelief and rejoice in the fact that this character can now enjoy the finest literature ever printed and bound.

Oh. Wait. Things can’t be that easy. Because this is “The Twilight Zone,” not “You Get What You Want in This Crazy, Fantasy Land,” Mr. Bookworm’s mind-bogglingly-thick glasses slide off of his face and break – just when he’s ready to settle in and get down to the business of enjoying his books for the rest of his life, naturally. Yeah, that’s the ultimate, “NOOOO!” moment as far as I’m concerned. I happen to wear glasses, and I happen to prefer reading over interacting with most people, so I definitely sympathize with the dude.

Even though I try not to let television teach me anything – honestly, I can come up with far better sources of info than the boob tube – the story makes a few excellent points despite my nagging thought that the dude won’t have to worry about his broken glasses after the radiation gets to him.

The obvious lesson here, of course, is that backup eyewear is fairly important. Right now, I have only one pair of glasses – that, however, is changing later this month, when I go to the optometrist for the first visit in two years. You would think that I would have acquired two pairs of glasses the last time I was there, but I was paying 100 percent out of pocket (no insurance at the time), and we don’t have one of those “Buy one, get one free” lens centers in our area. I just couldn’t afford a backup pair, as much as I wanted to be prepared. Now, though, I’m looking into contacts, because glasses just suck. (I’ll still have a pair for backup, though.)

However, all the glasses and contact lenses on this planet don’t help me if I don’t have anything to read. There are buttloads of books here at The Homestead. We have all sorts of paperbacks and hardbacks around here because Mom and I love the written word so much. Even Dad, who would rather chop off his big toes than read, has a small collection on his shelf. We have how-to books about gardening; some dusty romance novels that nobody actually likes, but came in bulk-buy deals from library sales and other sources; creative nonfiction (because that’s what I most enjoy writing); quite a few genre novels; some awesome short-story anthologies; books about baseball; books about poker…the list goes on and on.

We also have a fairly-large collection of Bible-study-related books: commentaries, study guides, sermon notes, that sort of thing. These are the most-important books to most of us, and have their own bookcase in the living room.

Books help pass the time. They teach or remind you how to do all sorts of things, including survival-related skills. You can escape the cruddy situation that the world is currently in, if only for a few hours, or make new friends when you meet fascinating, though fictional, characters. If you love books, and if you love reading, then you know what I mean.

If you’re a reader, then you probably have a decent-sized library. I’d definitely continue adding to the shelves, because reading is an easy, leisurely pursuit. Even if you’re sitting in your house, without power, waiting for the swine flu (or some other huge problem) to pass, you can still read. You can read to your family, which is a fine way to spend quality time together. You can lie in bed and read during a rainstorm. You can get into your hammock, under the trees, and read when there’s no air conditioning and it’s 100 degrees in your house.

But if you aren’t big on reading, you can still gain something from books. I don’t know if they’ll make good barter items, but I wouldn’t be surprised if folks like me will trade with you for some cheap paperbacks – even novels that don’t offer so much as one small piece of information related to surviving a world-gone-crazy type of scenario.

I’m also thinking about survival. The Internet, computer, or power can go out at any time without much (if any) warning. If you have hard copies of vital information, whether they’re printed versions of Web sites or “proper” books, you don’t have to worry about remembering everything that you’ve read about this sort of thing. You have the leisure of going back and looking up information about repairing your car, or distilling water, or whatever it is that you need to know.

Speaking of survival literature and printouts: a lot of owner’s manuals are now in CD-ROM format. That does me no good if my computer isn’t working for whatever reason. Check all of the gear that you’re going to need for survival: if the owner’s manual isn’t a hard copy, make it happen. You’re going to want easy access to that information if something goes wrong, after all.

You might, in fact, become a bit of a reader if you’re stuck at home, waiting for the all clear so that you can try to get back to your normal life. When you don’t have the usual activities to pass the time, you might find that a good book is all the companion that you need during the tough times.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Making A Little Extra Money

If you’re a survivalist and/or prepper, you’re probably thinking that it would be nice to pick up a few extra bucks here and there. This would be helpful for buying some extra food, or taking care of a small bill or two.

There are lots of ways, both on the Internet and in the “real world,” to pick up some bucks. If you’re willing to put in a few hours of work before or after the day job, you can earn cash. One of my brothers did nothing but odd jobs for a while, when he was between carpentry gigs. He made enough to pay the few, small bills that he has, with some left over for other things.

As far as real-world work goes, my family and I have a variety of things to do. MB and YB have built up a very-good reputation in the community, beginning in our church, for working hard outdoors. People in our church, and friends of our fellow church members, often call my brothers to see if they’ll mow the lawn, tear down an old storage shed, or repair the house. My brothers have been doing this for years, and tend to enjoy most of the work.

Kid Sis cleans houses for people she knows. Right now, she has only one house, and cleans it once a week, so this isn’t the best-paying gig. However, she knows the family very well, and they like to give her extra food – like freshly-butchered deer meat – that they can’t eat before it spoils. They give her this in addition to the money.

I’m fairly adept with computers and, like my brothers, have a pretty-good reputation in our church for being able to make just about any system do what it’s supposed to do. Most of the time, the people who call me are having problems with slow systems. That’s easy to fix, more often than not, and it’s worth a little bit of money to the folks who would otherwise have to pay a professional to come out and take a look.

However, I like to work online, too, because my strongest skills involve writing and computers. I’m also a pretty-good researcher, with or without the Internet, so I like to put that to use. Do remember that many “work online” offers are either scams or not worth the time and effort, so do some research before you waste your energy. Some of my favorite online gigs include these sites.

Constant-Content.com is a great place to sell freelance articles about almost anything. CC acts as the “go between,” connecting customers and buyers. For a small percentage of each article sold, CC handles a lot of the things that I don’t like doing, such as tracking down customers to get my money.

You can write “on spec” or use CC’s request system to find topics that specific customers would like you to write about. CC also handles videos, photographs, and illustrations, so artists might want to give this site a try.

One of my favorite things about CC, other than being able to set my own prices, is the quality control. The editor will reject crappy articles and other pieces because he does not want a low-rent, cruddy site. This is why CC customers are willing to pay us a bit more than they pay other folks for content – they know that they’re buying decent, if not good, work.

AssociatedContent.com is another writing site that I occasionally use. This site doesn’t let you set your own prices, and the quality standards aren’t really there, but it’s a quick and dirty way to try and rack up a little bit of money. I would not, by the way, expect to make very much cash at either of these writing sites, even if you produce lots of high-quality pieces on a regular basis.

Mahalo Answers isn’t a bad place to answer peoples’ stupid questions. A lot of the questions are mind-numbingly simple because idiots will ask things like, “What happened to this band I like so much?” Honestly, they could just use Google and get the exact-same information that I do when I go to answer their questions.

However, I get paid a little bit to answer these questions, so it’s not all bad. There are also some interesting, thoughtful questions here and there that require some serious research. (Fortunately, most of these pay more.)

If you’re familiar with Yahoo! Answers, then think of Mahalo Answers as the paid version of that site. They even have a “belt” system to rank you according to how many otherwise-meaningless points you’ve racked up. This isn’t a big deal – not to me, at least – but whatever.

Mahalo recently unveiled “page management.” Basically, they pay you a small sum to manage pages about, well, pretty much anything. I couldn’t possibly care less about this time-consuming task, so I’ll leave that to you all. I’ll just stick to answering questions.

None of the gigs that I just wrote about are perfect, and none will make you rich – not even when you put them all together. They are, however, great ways to fund some of your stockpiling efforts – and in my case, the online gigs pay for the monthly Internet access, which is a huge plus if you ask me.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Some Required Reading

I think that, at this point, George Orwell’s “1984” and “Animal Farm” should be required reading. If you’ve never picked up these classics before, you’re missing some fantastic, but terrifying, literature.

Both of these works are very political in nature, and attempt to say very-large things about society, government, et cetera. Though both of these pieces are older than I am, they’re still extremely relevant. Few fiction titles actually scare me, but both of these come very, very close.

Oh, and if you’re broke like I am most of the time, you can read both of these classics online for free at George-Orwell.org:

1984

Animal Farm

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Things are Changing

Some observations about my small, Texas community in the middle of nowhere:

The local Walmart’s not very large, at least by Supercenter standards, and therefore can’t stock the biggest selection. However, they’ve been adding some items over the last few weeks that we survivalists/preppers might like.

Recently, I noticed that this location now stocks concentrated whole milk. This is a fantastic addition to the inventory, because nobody in my family likes powdered milk, which is plentiful at this Wally World. The powdered stuff is skim milk, which just isn’t our “thing,” so we’re going to pick up some of the new stuff and give it a try.

There’s powdered buttermilk now, too. This is another item that my family and I want to try, because we love dairy products – and, of course, the idea of having buttermilk even without electricity or grocery money.

A few days ago, I wandered into the sporting-goods section – specifically, the tiny camping area that takes up all of half of one aisle – and noticed bags of Mountain House food on the shelves. There aren't any number-10 cans, of course, but the "main meal" pouches hold two servings of food each - or so it appears. There are a few choices, including a ready-to-eat, Mountain House version of strawberry ice cream in a pouch. These are, of course, expensive meals and desserts, so my family and I won’t be buying too many, if we grab any at all. We prefer using the Food Saver to vacuum seal various foods: it’s cheaper, and we can control the amount of food in each bag.

More and more generic or store-brand items are selling out in grocery stores all over this area. Weekday mornings are usually great times to shop because the stockers tend to put out plenty of items the previous evening (or overnight, in Walmart’s case). Now, though, it’s getting difficult to find these items, even during the “prime shopping times.” However, it’s getting easier to find the brand-name stuff.

We've been shopping at this Walmart for nearly twenty years. Some of the cashiers have been there longer than that, and know my family and me very well. They happily tell us things that can be useful, even going so far as to give us competitors' sales prices on items even when we don't have the ads with us.

One of these cashiers told us, recently, that shoppers have been stealing other shoppers' ads out of their carts. This, the cashier said, has never been a big problem before. Lately, though, this sort of thing happens a few times a week, if not more often. The cashier's getting lots of complaints from the customers coming through her line, so she told us to keep an eye on our ads.


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I go through pocket change to see if I can find old coins. They could very well be a good hedge against inflation because they contain precious metals. I’ve been finding more and more old change all over the place. When this sort of thing happens, it usually means that people are spending their old, accumulated change. If things are hard, and stay that way long enough, people will take giant containers of change to the bank or Coin Star machine so that they can put gas in the cars, buy some food, et cetera.

Of course, this influx of old change could also mean that people are dying, and that their survivors are spending the buckets and buckets of change that the now-deceased folks left behind. When my family and I cleaned out my grandmother’s home a few years ago (she moved), we found change stashed all over the place. She’s a Depression survivor and, as such, hordes anything she could possibly want or need, including money.

We found Shedd’s Spread tubs in all sorts of strange places, often at least half full of coins. There were coin banks all over the house, too, with a few bucks’ worth of change in each one. We found coins in closets, in milk cartons, in the pantry. I don’t know how much we found, because none of us were interested in messing with Grandma’s things; we were just there to help her pack up and move.

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Our local community college is running out of seats. This has never happened before – not at this school. They’re capable of accommodating a few thousand students, which is a small number to most people. However, this is a small community. School officials are recommending that students register as early as possible, just to be sure they can get into the classes that they need.

Unemployment, or the threat of it, often encourages people to get more credentials in an effort to either get, or keep, jobs. A two-year school is very affordable, and many campuses offer night classes for those who can’t be there during the day. It doesn’t take much money or time to earn an Associate’s Degree, which is usually a good investment for those who are trying to keep earning money.

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Times are hard and, judging by the things that I’ve seen around here over the last couple of weeks, aren’t getting much better. If you aren’t preparing, now would be a fantastic time to start. Even if we’re all wrong, and the economy rights itself overnight (unlikely, but almost anything is possible), we’ll have extra food and other gear for future use. We’re going to eat all those groceries anyway, regardless of what happens tomorrow or six months from now, so I can’t think of any good reason to neglect stockpiling.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Flea Markets

If you don’t visit the local flea markets – or whatever, similar places you have in your part of the world – why not start? You really have no idea of what you’re going to find at these places, and the prices are usually good. If you know something about what you’re buying (like how much that thing’s actually worth), you can walk out of there with all sorts of great, useful things for a fraction of what they’ll cost you at Walmart, the sporting-goods store, et cetera.

Mom and I visited the flea market over the weekend. We hadn’t been in a few months, so we decided to drop in – the weather being decent and all – to have a look around.

You have to look closely to see some things: otherwise, you might miss something that could be very useful. I have zero interest in car racing of any sort, for example, but I took a look at the NASCAR-gear stall anyway. Why? Because not many flea-market vendors specialize in just one thing. Even if they’re really pushing a type of thing that I couldn’t care less about, they might also have something interesting in the back of the stall.

The guy had a ton of racing-related items all over the place, including the walkway in front of his stall. A very-small sign on his door, however, informed the public that he’s in possession of old coins, including wheat pennies, silver half dollars, et cetera. This is good to know for future reference, because the flea market is only about fifteen minutes away from my house – and we don’t have any actual coin dealers in any shops around here.

While we were there, we stopped by the book store. A retired gentleman has had that stall for years, selling nothing but used books. Mom and I really like giving him our business because he charges less than Half Price Books does for the same titles in the same condition. Also, he’s trying to earn money to care for his chronically-sick wife, without ripping off anyone, so I’m happy to help. His selection is limited mostly to fiction, in paperback form of course, but there are some other gems hidden on his shelves.

During this last trip through his store, I found a copy of “Stocking Up” – an old, 1970s-era hardback from the people who edited “Organic Gardening and Farming.” The seller doesn’t like hardbacks, mostly because they take up so much room in his small space, so he’s currently selling them all for fifty cents each.

The two quarters that Mom spent on this title were well worth it, I think, because the book gives good information, with photos, about your food. You can learn how to wrap meat for the freezer; when to harvest your vegetables; how to build a root cellar or similar structure; et cetera. If you stumble across a copy, I’d pick it up if I were you, especially if you can get it for a few cents. The information in this title is all available, for free, on the Internet, but that would require me to spend more than half a buck on printer paper and toner, along with the protective sheets and ring binder that I use to preserve the printouts.

We were actually at the flea market in search of a stove because our old one is dead – really, truly dead. Most of the time, Mom or one of my brothers can fix the appliances around here when they go down, but this stove has had it. We aren’t going to buy a brand-new one, for various reasons (including the cost), but a used one from the flea market is fine by us. The vendor who sold us the washing machine a few months ago has a few stoves for sale, and his thirty-day guarantee applies to them, just like it did the washer. I’d give him my business again without any hesitation because we’re all happy with that machine.

However, there’s also a lot of total crap at flea markets. I paused to check out an octagon-shaped dining table because I wouldn’t mind finding an inexpensive, but decent, one and felting it myself (poker table). The table had hollow, metal legs; the whole thing was visibly leaning to one side; and the top was made of pressboard. This sucker was well used, too, with lots of dings and dents – no good if you’re trying to add felt. The seller wanted $75 for it: not in this lifetime, and probably not in the next one, either. If I want Walmart furniture, I’ll go to Walmart.

There was also the usual assortment of decent-looking clothes; overpriced sports memorabilia that might or might not be authentic; and slowly-eroding VHS tapes. Flea markets can be a lot of fun if you know something about what you’re going to buy, and if you don’t mind the fact that you’re going to find trash and treasure in the same stall (or, in some cases, the same bin).

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ingenuity – Sometimes Funny, Sometimes Not

I just found a site called ThereIFixedIt.com – a photo blog that shows us various peoples’ sometimes-hilarious, sometimes-brilliant attempts to fix problems.

This site is good for a laugh, sure. And some people are going to sit there and think, “Wow, these people are pathetic.” I’m going to have to disagree, at least in some cases. When it comes to survival, ingenuity is one of our most-powerful tools. If we can think creatively, and if we can put these thoughts to use, we can come up with some pretty-good ways to make things work.

Here are a few of my favorite entries from said blog:

I like this idea because it's fairly inexpensive, relatively quick, and seems to be effective. If you can't get your hands on another water heater, or the parts to fix the old one, an old tea kettle or other appliance with a heating element could be useful. Yes, there are other ways to do things, but this is pretty slick for the circumstances.

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This, to be honest, makes me cringe. I know that the power strips are supposed to have ground-fault interrupts to prevent you from being electrocuted. But still...don't fart around with the juice, folks. I like the creativity here, but there are better, safer ways to go about doing things.

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Duct tape and a zip tie can, apparently, become a spoon if you're creative. I don't know how the food would taste - never had any occasion to lick duct tape to answer that question - but I like the fact that this person is thinking.

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This one is insanely obvious, but still worth a mention. I've heard people complain before because, during snowstorms like this, their food went bad. Why? Because they left it in the dead refrigerator or freezer. It never occurred to them to take out the food and stick it in the nearest snowbank, or on the porch or something.

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I don't know if the ability to think creatively - to come up with things like the stuff on There, I Fixed It - is innate or learned. Maybe it's a little of both. Regardless, we can all at least try to look for workable solutions. And, because we're part of a blogging community, we can share our ideas with others and, hopefully, learn from them as well.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Girly Stuff

Gentlemen: I don’t know how each of you feel about discussing a lady’s once-monthly personal needs, so please take this as fair warning. However, many of you have women in your lives. If you’re the primary devotee to prepping, you might have to think about her needs when you’re adding to the stash. Those of you who want to add barter items to the stockpiles might also be interested in this one.

When my grandmother was a young woman, during the Great Depression, she used rags once a month. She didn’t have the same options that I have. Even if her family had possessed lots of cash, she wouldn’t have had the overwhelming number of choices that I have today. She was thrilled with the old belt system that’s been obsolete longer than I’ve been buying pads and tampons.

Though I admire my grandmother for surviving the Great Depression, and though I’m very interested in how people got things done during that time, I don’t want to go digging in the rag bag when the economy goes completely insane and one small package of maxi pads costs twelve dollars. Oh, heavens, no. I’m going to be as comfortable as possible one week a month, because there are certain creature comforts that I insist on having. My period is miserable enough, what with the backaches, cramps, and general irritability that come with it. If I have to shove old t-shirts down my pants while the world is falling apart around me, I’m not going to be a happy person at all.

Besides: feminine products are slowly going up in price, just like everything else. What cost me two bucks and change several months ago is a little more than three bucks now. When everything that I buy creeps up in price like this, I can save a good chunk of cash later by buying early, and buying often. Every week, my family and I buy something extra, whether it’s toothpaste or canned food, rice or maxi pads. Whatever we can save by buying gradually is good, because we don’t have much extra money around here. Even if we save only a few bucks, we consider that a good deal.

So, a few months ago, I bought an extra bag of pads. I took them out of the plastic wrapper and put them in a Ziploc Big Bag. This bag went into one of my storage boxes, where it’s nice and safe. Over these last few months, I’ve added more when I could, building up a nice little supply just in case they become too expensive, too hard to find, et cetera.

The pads have adhesive strips which, over time, can break down. This is why we should change out the bandages in our first-aid kits, and keep an eye on our stashed maxi pads. I do not know how long a maxi pad has to sit before that process becomes noticeable. Even though I’m sure that broken-down adhesive won’t prevent the pad from doing its job, I’d really rather have something that functions as it should. Rotating is good for the stocks, and good for me, so why not, right?

I should mention that I bought the plain, unscented pads. I despise the scented, foo-foo version, but there are other reasons to buy the “regular” kind. One huge advantage to unscented maxi pads – even for those of you who don’t use them once a month – is their ability to absorb lots of liquid. Blood, urine, whatever: these pads will soak up a good bit of whatever you’re trying to clean up. You can use them as bandages, which was actually their earlier purpose, for example.

There’s more to this than the pads, though. Midol’s good to have on hand, too, because of the backaches and other symptoms. I also like keeping chocolate around because, sometimes, a bite or two makes me feel better than all the Midol in the county. If there’s something else that makes you feel better when you’re riding the crimson tide, go ahead and add that to your stockpile.

How much feminine-related stuff do you need in your stash? I don’t know. Are you planning to not buy anything related to your period for a month, or six months? Figure out how much stuff you use, on average, and go from there. Don’t forget to account for any girls in the house who haven’t yet started menstruating: plan for their needs, too, especially if you think that you’re going to be without a means of buying more stuff for a while.

Also: even if you don’t have gals around, guys, tampons and other such things could be very easy to trade with other people. I would consider throwing some generic tampons or pads in with the other supplies if I were you, guys. The tampons don’t take up all that much room, are individually wrapped (meaning that you don’t have to trade away a whole box unless you want to do so), and can sit in storage for months, if not longer. If a woman’s feeling rotten enough, she’ll give you pretty much anything for some Tampax or a dose or two of Midol. That’s worth considering when you build up a pile of things to trade.
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
-George OrwellAnimal Farm