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.


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.


Mom received her order from 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.


Have you checked out 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.


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