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