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.

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.

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.

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... - 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. 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. 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


Animal Farm
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
-George OrwellAnimal Farm