Thursday, September 30, 2010


We have had houseguests for the past week.  It's a friend who used to live across the road and her husband and daughter.  Several years ago they moved to the mid-west.  The friend's oldest daughter is getting married locally this weekend so they are hanging out at my house for the week.  They aren't really involved with wedding preparation, they are just guests at the wedding.  This means they have a week to just hang around.  I've spent half the time working at home rather than going into the office or field.  The kids are in school during the day but get to play together in the afternoon and evening.  They all eat breakfast and dinner together.


I don't care for the husband.  It's not that he's a bad person, he isn't.  In fact, he's very friendly, plays with the kids when they get home from school, and does pick up after himself.  He spends most of the day watching tv.  I know it's not his house and he doesn't have anything to do (certainly wouldn't volunteer to do anything around here, but that's about the same as at home where he doesn't do anything but watch tv when he's home from work) but my tv has been on more this week than in the past year combined.  He has gone out to fast food each day for lunch.  The closest fast food is 20 minutes away, so it's not just a quick run to the corner.  He hasn't walked the property, picked any fruit to eat, or done much of anything other than tv and fast food.  He's like this at home as well.


My friend cooked dinner one night and has cleaned the dishes all the other nights.  The back patio has been swept and so has the kitchen.  Her daughter has taken over the feeding the chickens and watering the animals.  This evening I asked if there is any water left on because the well kept kicking on.  Oops, the animal pen is flooded because she forgot to turn the water off.  That's what I get for not checking up on what she was doing.  No harm, the mud will turn back into hard clay in a few days.  And, I do appreciate the help.


The wife buys items in bulk and tries to be as self sufficient as possible.  It's hard when she has absolutely no support for this by her husband.  In fact, he laughs that she has so much food stashed around the house.  He thinks our house is even more ridiculous, and he hasn't even seen the real stash of food!  He's just looking at a month or two supply that I keep in the pantry. 


My friends just moved onto 85 acres last summer.  The property needs lots of work as it's been neglected for quite a while.  They were put to the test last winter when their power was cut off for 17 days due to storm damage.  They had no heat other than their fireplace.  Although their property was wooded, they never got around to fixing their chainsaw so they had to purchase wood for $5.00 a bundle.  They bought lots of bundles.  If they had just cut up their downed wood they would have had a dozen cords of wood.  They have handsaws, they just didn't want to put out the effort and would rather have bought the expensive firewood.


They had a generator but didn't have the fuel stored to run it.  They lost much of the food in their refrigerator.  This astounded me since it was cold outside.  Why didn't they rig something together and have an outdoor refrigerator?  They could have also saved the food in their freezer if they had done the same thing.  They could have frozen ice blocks at night and put them into the freezer during the day.  They did have plenty of food to eat that was canned and the fresh and frozen food. 


They stored water in jars and bottles so they didn't run out of water to drink or cook with.  They didn't have any stored beforehand, but did have enough warning that the storm was going to be bad that they filled up on drinking water right when the storm started.  The well wasn't running but they were able to get water out of the pond to use for flushing toilets.  They took sponge baths to keep clean.


They learned some lessons but I asked about their chainsaw.  No, it's not fixed yet.  What are they waiting for?  What about their generator?  Yes, they have stored fuel for it. 


Why am I judging what they are doing?  I'm still looking for people to group together.  While we all get along just fine, we do not want someone who doesn't have enough to offer.  I'm not expecting them to work their rears off, after all, they are on vacation.  Just the amount the wife does is plenty to not wear out a welcome.  The wife's abilities don't make up for the husband's lack of everything.  Being able to have fun with the children isn't enough to want to include them in our group.


We are still looking.

Safes and other hiding places

There are many types of safes available.  If you are thinking about buying a safe you need to first figure out what you are going to put into it.  Are you storing money or jewelry, important papers, weapons and ammunition?  Perhaps more than one safe is needed, or perhaps many of the items don't need safes at all.


There are different types of safes available.  There are wall safes, floor safes, and freestanding safes.  There are safes that are more like lock boxes.  You also need to determine if the safe is for storing things only or if it's for fire protection.  If it's for fire protection do you need a cash/paper safe or a data/computer media safe?


I'd like to get a freestanding safe.  These are large safes that are not set into the wall or floor, but stands alone.  These can be secured to the floor through a series of bolts, but in most cases aren't because the safe weighs so much it more than likely won't be stolen.  A freestanding safe can be purchased for a few hundred dollars to many thousands.  The cheaper safes are really only for keeping children out of your stuff; they can be broken into by someone with the right tools and a bit of time.  I would like to have a safe to hold weapons and ammunition that I don't continuously have on hand.  For example, I have two handguns, but one is large and rarely used.  It would do well in the safe.  I also have my shotgun and my 22 rifle.  My 22 is always out and ready for use.  The shotgun isn't.  Instead of the shotgun being kept on the closet shelf, it would be better off in the safe as well.  On the other hand, maybe I should be spending more time shooting the shotgun and should put the rifle in the safe.


I have three safes.  Two of them are fireproof safes and the third is a wall safe.  The fireproof safes are small.  The smallest is too small to hold an 8 X 11 piece of paper.  It does just fine for holding my spare dollars and silver coins.  This safe is easily hidden in the house but by being in the fireproof container, if the house ever does catch fire, I won't have to worry about retrieving my money.  It will make it through the fire just fine.  I have a second fireproof safe.  It is about a foot deep and will hold half a file cabinet drawer of papers.  I have important papers in this safe including my passport, bank information, birth certificates, etc.  This one is hidden in plain site in the house.  My third safe is not fireproof but is in the wall.  It's nailed in between two studs.  It is not hidden at all but is rarely noticed except for someone with a keen eye. 


I used to hide money as a kid.  I would pull off my bedroom doorknob and stuff dollar bills in it.  I cut a hole in the wall (sorry mom and dad) and put in an electrical outlet that wasn't wired to anything.  I used to put silver coins in that.  I made a "bank" by cutting a hole in the drywall behind the baseboard and cutting a little hole in the drywall above the baseboard.  I'd drop money into the wall space.  These types of techniques can be used today.  One of my favorite hiding places is in the bathroom cabinet behind the sink.  Also I hide things under the kickboards of the kitchen and bathroom cabinets. 


If you do things like this make sure someone knows about it.  My sister who lives six hours away knows where my hiding places are.  I know where hers are.  I'm going to try out some new hiding spots.  My sister is coming for Thanksgiving.  I'm going to give her a list of new items hidden and see if she can find them in the week she will be here.  Kind of like an in home scavenger hunt. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Feeding your family and how much to store

A best seller in the 1970s was How I Feed my Family on $16 a Week.  This was part recipe book and part inspirational book.  It had some very good ideas for eating inexpensively, although in my family we would have all starved to death with the small portions (3 ounces of spaghetti noodles and ¼ pound hamburger total for the main dish for four people). 


Many of the recipes and tips could be used in a survival or home storage diet.  The book encourages you to make use of sale items, make a menu for the month, and to make food from scratch.  All these are good.  The book blows it for the survival program when it states that you are never to vary from your list.  You don't need to stock up for more than the month because it will go on sale by the time you need it next month. And so on. 


I'm sure the author Ms. York never had more than a week's worth of food on hand other than a couple of sale items that were purchased to be used later in the month.  This would not do for any of us.  While I also feed my family on the cheap, we aren't starving, we eat snacks, and we have between one year and 5 year supply of food, depending on the item. 


I do like making a menu.  It's not so we can be regimented each day to only eat what is listed but instead to help plan the type of food and the amount of food that needs to be stored for future use.  One of our favorite weekend breakfasts are eggs, potatoes, and fried bread.  If we raise the eggs and potatoes (and peppers and other veggies that are included in the potatoes), we only need stored food for the bread.  This includes one-two cups of flour, herbs, seasonings, yeast, salt, and oil or grease.  During the week we may eat oatmeal, packaged cereal, or if I don't have to hurry out the door in the morning, perhaps toast and eggs, pancakes, or waffles.  The kids like the sugar junk cereal and I will mix this with cheerios, rice krispies, or flakes.  For cereal we use ½ cup of milk (powdered after TSHTF).  Now the kids drink either milk or juice with breakfast and adults have coffee and juice.  The juice is home grown and canned.


If I'm planning a month menu I'm not going to put on the first we eat …, on the second we eat…, etc.  Instead I'm going to plan something like this: 6 breakfasts of eggs, potatoes, and bread, 5 breakfasts of cold cereal, 8 breakfasts of oatmeal, 4 of toast (depending on my baking mood this is raisin bread, bagels, or plain toast), 4 of pancakes, and 4 of waffles.  If I'm planning for four people, then I'd need to multiply the number of days by the amount of food needed for four people. 

Egg breakfasts

6 X 2 cups flour


6 X 1 tsp. herbs and seasonings


6 X 2 tbsp. oil

Cold cereal

5 X 6 oz. cereal (1 ½ ounces per serving)


8 X 2 cup oats


4 X 2 cups flour


2 X ¼ cup raisins


2 X ¼ cup sugar


2 X ½ tsp. cinnamon


4 X 4 servings of mix (Pancake/waffle mix)


4 X 4 servings of mix (Pancake/waffle mix)


30 X 2 servings


30 X 2 servings


If I add all of it up to figure out my monthly breakfast items, I need one five-pound bag of flour ($1.00 at Winco), 30 ounces of cereal ($2.50 at Winco), 32 servings of oatmeal (I buy the 100 serving box for under $6 at Costco or Sam's.  The raisins I make in a good grape year, otherwise I'm using ½ cup raisins in the raisin bread (or even more if I put it into cereal).  Pancake and waffle mix is more expensive because I like the more expensive brand. Still, the 80 serving bag of Krusteaz mix is $6.50.  Coffee depends on your brand and how much you drink.  We hardly use any in summer and more in winter.  We also drink tea.  Milk costs the most, 3 gallons a month of fresh (or dried equivalent) ($7.50) Breakfast all totaled comes to under $25 a month to feed four people. Aside from the cost, it gives me a good idea of what needs to be stored per month.  Multiply this by twelve months and it's easy to figure out how much to store for breakfast.  Of course, it's always nice to add extra stuff to have treats, but this is the basic with a good variety of food.


The following chart is supplemented by home grown eggs, fruit, and vegetables.  If we had to purchase those as well the list would be more extensive and more expensive.

    One year – Four people for Breakfast


60 pounds


Bagged Cereal

12-15 bags



4-5 boxes (100 servings)



2 pounds (more are always better!!!)

$  4

Krusteaz mix

5-6 bags



5-10 pounds



3/4 gallon a week if fresh,

<1/2 gallon per week if instant



3 or 4 cans


Monday, September 27, 2010

More weekend fun

We went to a family party over the weekend.  Actually there were lots of get togethers.  Friday night, Saturday morning, Saturday evening, Sunday morning.  The biggest party was Saturday evening.  Over 100 people were gathered at my relative's house.  Included in this were about 50 very well behaved teenagers. 


Of course, what came to mind for me?  What if there was some sort of emergency?  What about a medical emergency?  An earthquake maybe?  What would we do with all these teenagers?  How would they get home?  Most of them lived within 10 miles, so they could walk.  They were in party clothes and not wearing hiking shoes.  We were up in the hills.  What about water mains breaking or fires breaking out?  I have a fire extinguisher and 5 gallon firefighting water backpack in the truck.  The backpack and a McCloud have put out many fires. 


My rescue bag was in the truck.  I have a case of bottled water to wash off road rash, and lots of gauze and gloves to deal with bleeding. 


Prior to driving there I got onto Google earth.  I looked at the maps and was able to figure out many different ways to get out of dodge.  I printed up maps that showed the satellite view plus the street names.  I parked away from the party house so my truck wasn't jammed in with the rest of the visitors.  We had fun shoes on but had our boots in the truck.  I didn't drink any alcohol. I was armed. 


The weekend went smoothly.  We stopped at Ikea on our way out of town.  That's another place I wouldn't want to be during an emergency situation.  They want you to park in the parking garage across the street from the store.  There are three exits for about 1000 cars.  No thanks.  I parked down the street.  I picked up shelving that is going to hide my new spare room.  The room will be done before my self imposed deadline of October 10th. 


It's just good to be home listening to the crickets chirp and the coyotes howl.

Traffic, traffic accidents, and how long do you want to sit on the freeway?

For those of you who haven't been on Highway 101, it's a beautiful freeway as it skirts along the coast from Ventura to Santa Barbara.  At the right time of the year you can see whales swimming close to the shore.  Unfortunately for us, we weren't in Ventura or Santa Barbara Counties this trip.  We spent three wonderful days driving back and forth on 15 miles of Highway 101 in the San Fernando Valley.  For those of you unfamiliar with this section of freeway, it epitomizes every bit of what you can imagine a Southern California traffic jam could be.  The freeway is four or five lanes wide in each direction and no matter what time of the day or night it is, it will be jammed.  Last Sunday was a nightmare for those heading westbound through the valley.  Fortunately for us we were going east. 


The road was clogged from four lanes going down into one due to an accident.  I don't know how many vehicles were involved but there was only one car left from the accident.  Four or five highway patrol vehicles were on scene as well.  The car had front end damage and was untouched on the rear.  Unfortunately it was fatal accident because the front and side windows of the car were covered with a yellow tarp.  Windows get covered when people are still inside.  The freeway was backed up for over five miles (to the interchange) and it probably took at least two hours to get through that mess. 


We had a discussion about the fatal accident.  Was the driver paying attention?  Was the person eating or drinking?  Were they on the phone?  Were their seatbelts on?  How fast were they going?  Who did they leave behind?  Will their families be cared for?  Were they someone of value?  (I don't mean wealthy, I mean did people depend on them) Were their souls with God?  We said a prayer for their families. 


We also thought about the traffic.  How would we handle being on that side of the freeway?  After all, it was only 105 degrees that day!  Did anyone have to go to the bathroom?  Would we have enough gas to idle?  Could we work our way off the freeway?  How far down the road would we have been looking or would we been in the traffic before we realized we were stuck?  We weren't listening to the news on the radio.  It was the weekend and no traffic reports were running as far as I knew.  Radio Disney was on. 


My other vehicle has a scanner to hear dispatches.  This vehicle didn't.  I have handi-talkies that somehow didn't make it into the vehicle before we left.  They usually do.  How did I over look them?  I would have had plenty of gas to keep the vehicle idling if we were on that side.  We had water and snacks in the truck.  We had more in the back.  I have my "rescue" bag with lots of things inside, including a yellow tarp.  I suppose we would have come through the traffic fine if we were on that side.  Unless of course, we were the ones under the yellow tarp…


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Wow, mom hijacked the computer

I suppose being in the stealth mode doesn't work well when my mother borrowed my computer to email her friends and then got into my emails and posted a draft of what I was writing. Thanks mom.  Valuable lesson learned!  For all who read the last post, it's now corrected and mom's comment has been removed.  I also corrected the spelling.  I didn't add any more to that post.  But, I do have more to say about the southern California trip.  More tomorrow.  We'll make sure mom doesn't highjack the computer!  On the other hand, I'm impressed that a 70+ person was able to get around the computer as well as she did.

My seeds and the office folks

I was at the office Friday and a package had come for me.  It was waiting for a couple of days but I had been in the field since Tuesday and wasn't aware that it had arrived.  Everyone was curious what it was.  I was surprised that it hadn't been opened, or at least had gone through some bomb sniffing dogs or something.  I opened the box and it was the non-hybrid seeds that I won in the contest from Modernsurvivalonline.  I was very excited but didn't open the mylar packaging.  I will in the spring when I plant the seeds.  I explained to the onlookers what they were.  We then had a discussion, ok I spoke, and they giggled, about non-hybrid seeds and the difference between them and hybrid seeds.  I also explained about heirloom seeds and all the different types of vegetables that can be grown and why one type of seed is superior to the other. 

Well, as I expected this group of people wasn’t interested in any discussions.  I couldn’t really continue because I didn’t want to bring the limelight on to me. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Extra room and gasoline

We are heading back down to Southern California this weekend.  We will be having lots of fun hanging out with relatives.  With the state of the union as it is I think it may be a good time to ask my favorite question to some of the relatives, What If?  Perhaps I'll find someone who thinks like I do.  I highly doubt it.  My relatives are the types of people who have almost no food in the house because they eat many of their meals out and they shop daily to get the freshest stuff.  Few have a week of food on hand.  None of them think about disasters because even with the Northridge earthquake, or Sylmar earthquake food and water were available at the stores.  If not within a mile or two, at least within a 15 minute drive.  Some of their homes were damaged but it really didn't change their lives tremendously. 


My 14 gallon spare gas tank I got from Costco is broken.  I've had it less than a year and the plastic nozzle leaks.  What a mess I made in the garage while I sprayed myself with gasoline.  Glad nobody lit a match!  It has to go back, obviously.  I will be bringing several gas cans with me on the trip instead.  I can make this trip on one tank if there is no traffic and I drive 55.  Like either one of those things are going to happen!  At the bottom of the grapevine I'll fill up and once I get into the valley I'll fill up again.  I never use more than 8 or 9 gallons without filling the tank.  Anyone who travels with me thinks I'm just being courteous by providing bathroom breaks every two hours.     


One trip we are making when we are down there is to Ikea.  I'm constructing a new room in the house.  The family room is huge, the size of a two car garage (because it used to be a two car garage).  I'm going to be buying bookshelves to go along the back wall, but I really making the room about five or six feet narrower and putting the shelves in front of the new wall.  After it's done nobody will realize that there's a room behind the bookshelves.  I am going to have a room 18 feet long by five or six feet wide.  I am not sure how I'm going to work the door yet.  The book shelves will cover 16 feet of the wall and the door is going to be hidden somehow.  I may have a one foot gap on each side and have the door completely behind one of the sets of shelves.  It will be fun to figure it out.   

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wildland fires and House fires. How prepared are YOU?

Modern Survival Online ( today had a post about a house fire next door.  Rourke asked for comments.  Fire is one of my favorite topics, so how could I not comment?  Of course, I needed to go into more detail so it's my topic of the day too. 

There are two types of fires we have to think about: Fires inside the home and fires coming from outside the home.  These are two completely different topics, other than clutter and junk will feed a fire. 
My favorite book on firefighting is Firefighter's Handbook on Wildland Firefighting: Strategy, Tactics and Safety by William C. Teie.  There are chapters on wildland fire behavior, fireline safety, fire prevention, fire extinguishment methods, strategy, Incident Command System (ICS) and more.  Even the seven and eight year old grandkids will sit down, read the book and take notes!  The second book in this series Fire Officer's Handbook on Wildland Firefighting is also excellent.  It goes into more detail on fire weather and behavior. 

Two useful free guides for protecting the outside of your home can be found here, although they are not nearly as interesting or enjoyable to read: Property inspection guide , Structure fire protection field guide These two guides are used by inspectors to help them tell landowners what they need to do to protect the outside of their homes from wildfires. 

Inside your home is a completely different story.  Fire Prevention Week is coming up in October.  Are you prepared?  You should have a smoke detector in each bedroom or if not, in the hall outside the bedroom doors.  You should also have a smoke detector in the living area (although not right in the kitchen).  Don't remove the battery to use it in something else!  Most house fires do have smoke detectors.  Most house fires with deaths or injuries had smoke detectors with missing or dead batteries.  Don't be stupid.  It may cost two dollars per battery, so perhaps ten dollars to cover your entire house.  I know that they say to change your battery every six months when you change the clocks but you don't really need to.  Check the smoke detector.  Does it work?  If so, then the smoke detector will beep if the battery goes low.  I write the date I put the battery in the smoke detector.  I do check them when I change the clocks.  If the battery is two years old I change it whether it needs it or not.  Replace your smoke detector every ten years.  Write the date of the smoke detector on the inside of it as well.  Sharpies are very useful here.

Do you have a plan if the house catches on fire?  What would the children do?  Do they know how to check their door to see if it's safe to come out of their room to escape the fire?  Do they know that how to get out a window if needed?  Do you have a ladder for every room upstairs?  Where is the meeting spot once they get outside?  What about if you are traveling or they are spending the night at their friends?    Practice your fire drills: stop, drop, and roll.  Check the doors for heat.  Crawl under smoke.  If the fire fighters come into your house and you are trapped in your house, don't hide!  Children tend to do this, especially if they were the ones to start the fire.   Fire fighters sound like Darth Vader when breathing though their SCBA masks.  It's scary but true.  They look scary with their turnouts on, too. 

Do you have fire extinguishers?  The ABC type can be used on all types of fires.  I have one in the kitchen, one in the laundry room, one in the garage, and one in my bedroom.  These aren't tiny extinguishers, but full size, like you'd see in a school or office building.  Mine have dials on them which show if they need to be refilled.  Although I have mine checked every year they don't really have to be.  If you have a dial on yours then just pay attention to the dial. 

Do you sleep with your bedroom door opened or closed?  For fire safety, each door should be closed.  If you like to keep them open, as I do, then you should have a door at the end of the hall to at least break up the house into different separate zones.  My house isn't like that.  We have a smoke detector in my room, in the hall, in the family room, and in the garage.

In the kitchen you can pour baking soda on a grease fire.  If the fire is confined to the pan, then put a lid on it.  Don't try to take the pan to the sink.  You will spill flaming oil and you know that oil and water don't mix anyway.  Don't forget if you have a fire on the stove, turn the stove off.  It's an easy step that people often forget. 

Instead of heating the entire house, I sometimes use space heaters.  Make sure the type of heater you use is on a surface that won't burn, and if it gets knocked over make sure that it won't fall on top of anything that will burn. 

When you use extension cords or power strips make sure they will hold all the heat that your electrical items will produce.  They can overheat easily.  Check these to make sure that they aren't running hot.  Don't go from "fat" cords to "thinner" cords.  That's a recipe for disaster.  Don't run cords under your carpet or rug.  Make sure that the cords aren't cracked and that wires aren't sticking out at the plug. 

Don't smoke and you won't have to worry about falling asleep with a lit cigarette.  People die that way.  Kids like to play with the lighters.  Don't empty your ashtray into a plastic trash can or a paper bag.  Just because you think there aren't any ashes doesn't mean there aren't any ashes. 

Candles are something that we all use, either for the nice scent, as backup lighting if the power goes out, or just for setting a mood and decoration.  Don't walk around holding candles.  If your candle holder falls over or gets knocked over, where will it fall?  Onto a burnable surface?  Don't put candles on your Christmas tree.
When was the last time you had the chimney cleaned or you cleaned it yourself?  Chimney fires are often disastrous because they spread to the attic easily.  Once the fire is in the attic just get out of the house.  It's too late to save the house. 

Can you get out of your house?  Is furniture blocking the window?  Can you walk from one end of your house to the other with your eyes closed and without running into junk on the floor?  Do you have locks on your doors that can only be opened with a key?  If so, where is the key?  Do you really want to be fumbling around in the smoke for the key? 

You have to make a decision on when to fight the fire inside your home and when to leave it.  Put safety first.  If you can't put the fire out from inside the home within 15 seconds or so then go outside and use the hose to at least cool it down until help can arrive, if it comes. 

Visit your local fire station.  They will be happy to talk to you, show you their engines, and give you all kinds of pointers.  You can even have them come to your house to conduct an inspection to tell you what you can specifically do to protect both the interior and exterior of your home from fire. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Earthquake Preparedness

The Great California Shakeout is coming up next month.  It's something that is done each year to prepare people for an upcoming earthquake.  Depending on who you are, individual family, CERT, or a First Responder, will depend on the training you will need to do. 

I found a few facts on the website:  1) Earthquakes have produced over $55 billion in losses in California since 1971. The next large earthquake may produce even greater losses, especially if it affects a major urban area. California’s two largest urban centers lie in the State’s highest hazard zones. 2) A large earthquake in or near a major urban center in California will disrupt the economy of the entire state and much of the nation. Effective disaster planning by State and local agencies, and by private businesses, can dramatically reduce losses and speed recovery. 3) Current building codes substantially reduce the costs of damage from earthquakes, but the codes are intended only to prevent widespread loss of life by keeping the buildings from collapsing, not to protect the building from damage. 4) If the Northridge or Loma Prieta earthquake had occurred closer to a major population center, fatalities would have been much higher. Earthquakes in Japan in 1995 (over 5,000 deaths), Turkey in 1999 (over 20,000 deaths), and China in 2008 (over 70,000 deaths) produced catastrophic death tolls. 5) After a large earthquake, residents and businesses may be isolated from basic police, fire, and emergency support for a period ranging from several hours to a few days. Citizens must be prepared to survive safely on their own, and to aid others, until outside help arrives. 6) Maps of the shaking intensity after the next major earthquake will be available within minutes on the internet. The maps will guide emergency crews to the most damaged regions and will help the public identify the areas most seriously affected.

The website also listed seven steps to earthquake safety.  1. Identify potential hazards in your home and begin to fix them. 2. Create a disaster plan. 3. Create disaster supplies kits. 4. Identify your building's potential weaknesses and begin to fix them. 5. Protect yourself during earthquake shaking. 6. Check for injuries and damage. 7. When safe, follow your disaster plan. Not bad for newbies but a pretty lame site for people who prepare anyway. 

Perhaps this is even a way to get some people to think about preparing for TEOTWAWKI.  Of course, this website also talks about if it's declared a disaster area FEMA will provide housing, food, etc.  I wouldn't want to rely on FEMA, would you?

There were cool maps that showed the probability of earthquakes happening as well as past earthquakes.   I'm happy to say we live in a very low probability area. (there's a dropdown box to choose other areas in the state)  Even with this in mind, I am earthquake prepared.  We have food stored in more than one location on the property.  We have the ability to turn off the propane at the tank and at the house.  We can eat even if there isn't electricity to run the refrigerator or freezer.  We can preserve what's in the freezer so it won't go to waste.  The china cabinet is bracketed to the wall.  So are the bookcases.  We don't have pictures hanging above our heads at the beds.  The water heater is strapped in. 

I don't have latches on the cabinet doors.  If we get a good quake dishes and glasses will come out of the cabinet.  Oh well, I don't want to have to unlatch the doors.  On the other hand, if we lived somewhere with a little higher probability of a quake, the doors would have latches.

Whether it's fire, earthquake, or some other instant disaster, preparedness brings peace of mind. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Driving Home

Today was a day of driving.  It drives me crazy.  Sunday School, running errands, birthday party, playing with friends.  It almost makes me wish for the good old days of being an empty nester before I ended up with the responsibility of raising grandkids.  On the other hand, there are now eager little ears hanging onto every word I say.  You can't get that anywhere else! 


We live 20 miles from a big city and many of the activities we participate in are in the city.  All the relatives that live close by are also in the city.  After the girl got dropped off at the birthday party the boy wanted to go to his friend's house.  This friend is an only child who spends all his time playing video games, unless his parents are entertaining him.  Boy likes to go over there to play video games, but the friends parents somehow believe that their son should play outside only when boy comes over.  This is fine with me because I don't like the video games that the friend gets to play.  I do like that they are playing outside as this is the main activity boy has at home. 


Since I was talking about driving I need to get back to that.  The drive from the birthday party to the friend's house is about 10 miles.  Normally I'd take only four different roads from point A to point B.  Today was different.  I said to boy let's not go through any signals to get to your friend's house.  Normally I'd go through about 6 or 7 signals, depending on which way I'd go.  That's still not many if you live in the city and you have a signal every block.  What it really meant was I had to weave my way through city streets and neighborhoods to get about three or four miles away from the birthday house to the country roads. 


I had never driven through any of those neighborhoods before.  They were all very nice homes, under 10 years old, large, most over 2000 square feet.  They were all on small lots and the homes were so close to the street that I doubt my pickup would have fit on the driveway.  The back end of the truck would have been sticking out on the street.  The street was so narrow that with cars parked on both sides of the street there was barely room for my truck to drive down the street.  Boy kept pointing out nice houses.  I kept thinking "how would these people survive?" 


Just because of the way I think, I was thinking firestorm.  What if the winds were blowing and one house caught on fire.  The entire block would be burned down because the fire trucks wouldn't be able to make it through those streets.  


What if it was a TEOTWAWKI situation?  Are any of these people prepping?  I suppose the entire neighborhoods can band together to keep people out.  Would they?  Could they?  How would they approach this subject with their neighbors?     


I was wondering if those 3-7 bedroom houses were filled with children in each room?  I doubt it.  Was perhaps one of the bedrooms filled top to bottom with shelves and supplies?  I doubt it. 


Did any houses have solar?  Only a few, but the rage is to have solar that runs the meter backward to cut back on your bill rather than to have the solar directly power your house.  With their kind of solar, if the electricity goes out their solar panels do nothing.  They have no power. 


Are any of them capturing their water?  They use public water.  They don't have wells to draw on.  Do they have rain barrels, or better yet, small water tanks, to capture rain?  Remember for every inch of rain that falls, one thousand square feet of roof will provide you with 600 gallons of water.


Do any of them have gardens?  I couldn't tell because nobody gardens in the front.  The fronts were all perfectly manicured lawns.  I didn't see any fruit trees in front.  Years ago I lived in the city and had a pepper tree as the street tree and plum trees in the lawn.  The neighbors had flowering plum trees, so the trees looked the same, except mine produced fruit!  Sure it can be a mess if the fruit falls but one of the chores for the kids was to pick up fallen fruit every afternoon and give it to the chickens. 

Mice, Squirrels, Rabbits and other creatures

Our yard is being overrun by squirrels and rabbits.  The mice are in the barn and garden.  We have four cats although only two are real hunters.  The dog is good at killing rabbits.  I shoot what I can but since I work full time out of the house that isn’t really an option for critter control.  I buy poison from County Ag since it’s at most 25% of the price if I got it from Orchard Supply.  Usually I spend about $50 and that buys enough to last two years of keeping the mice, squirrels, and rabbits under control.  They aren’t completely eliminated because even if they were eliminated from my property I can’t control what the neighbors do and they don’t do any abatement at all.  This year I went though the left overs from two years ago and bought $50 of bait.  It’s gone in less than six months.  Yesterday I saw six squirrels run from the back lawn to one of the woodpiles.  Six in one spot at one time.  If only I had the shotgun in my hand!  There are squirrels and rabbits eating my garden.  Tomorrow I’ll go get more bait and eliminate them. 

Bait is a costly fix.  What is going to happen if County Ag doesn’t have the poison?  I don’t want to have 20 cats as that would create problems in and of itself.  I see farmers and ranchers with too many cats and they all are mangy and sickly looking.  But I need something cheaper than the poison and available if suddenly County Ag wasn’t able to help us out.  I need to make and set traps.  I already have one metal trap for smaller types of animal (usually used for possums) and one large trap for dogs, hogs, and mountain lions. 

We have wooden snap traps for mice and rats but you’d really need lots of them if you are getting rid of mice.  Thankfully we don’t have mice in the house…except the dead ones the cats bring in for gifts.  I’ve seen the mousetraps that you can buy that are used for catching more than one mouse at a time.  I can probably build something like that.  I have wire that’s less than ¼ inch.  Perhaps it will be a good project for the grandkids to help design. 

Why is this important?  If TEOTWAWKI was today, we would not be able to tolerate critters eating from our orchard or garden or contaminating food that we have stored.  It would be more than just an inconvenience, it could be detrimental to our health and well being. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Keeping people OUT

In the book Patriots a great deal of time was spent armoring the house, having lookouts on the property, foxholes to hide in, and fences and gates to keep people off of the property.  People still got in and eventually the entire house was destroyed.  The people in this story were able to bring their supplies into the woods and somehow have a private encampment there for a couple more years before things settled back down and they could "go home". 
Let's get back to my reality and probably yours as well.  We aren't going to be armoring the house.  We probably aren't going to be digging foxholes to hide in to ambush trespassers although I bet I could talk the kids into digging these for when they "play" war.  What we all can do though is have sturdy fences and gates.   
I just took another step.  Actually, the entire property is fenced with heavy duty hog/cattle panels.  These are 16 foot long, 4 foot high panels with wire welds.  You need bolt cutters to cut panels.  You only need wire cutters to cut the connecting wires apart.  The panels are held in place with heavy duty t-posts every 8 feet and wire.  This means you can cut four or five wires, pull two t-posts, and you are in.  On the other hand, it's easy to hop over too.   Our dog likes to eat people who do this! 
The back fence does have a row of trees lining the fence.  The animals keep it clipped up so I can see the entire perimeter fence line from the house (with the aid of binoculars since my eyesight isn't what it used to be). 

Assuming someone is going to come from the front off the road rather than the back through other people's properties, I needed a gate across the driveway.  I just ordered a 6 foot tall, commercial grade, wrought iron fence and gate.  The fence is only covering the portion of the driveway that won't have the gate.  Otherwise the place is surrounded by the cattle panels.  From the front I do have two sets of panels protecting the house because I've made a small pasture up front.  I've also planted trees in this pasture so it's more like and obstacle course and not a straight shot from the road to the house.  Someday I'd like to put the wrought iron across the entire front.  I don't see that as being the priority for the money though so it's going to be a while.  If I am able to wrought iron I won't take down the panels, instead the plan is to plant blackberries between the two sets of fences.  If there are animals in the front pasture they will be able to eat the berries that encroach into the pasture but the fence and berries will be a good deterrent. 

Tractor Supply Company is running a sale this week on a driveway alarm for $70.  I'm ordering one and if it doesn't work, I'll let you know.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Old Food for Dessert

After dinner, the grandkids asked what's for dessert?  Nothing.
As we were sitting at the dining room table I looked up the shelf that encircles the dining room and I notice a "collectible" can looked like it had never been opened.  I have a couple of collections of stuff.  Not too much and certainly nothing to overwhelm the house.  Some of these collectibles include old fashioned looking tin cans.  I have raisin, Cracker Jacks, Marshmellows, Grape Nuts, and Ritz crackers, to name a few.  I think we are going to have Cracker Jacks for dessert.  They were excited. 
I looked at the can.  1995.  Let's see what 15 year old Cracker Jacks taste like.  I took off the plastic wrapper, opened the can, and took out the package.  It was still wrapped in the silver colored aluminum package.  No evidence of bugs.  Let's try it.  Yuck.  It was awful.  It tasted like the molasses had soured.  We spit it out.  The kids thought that was funny.  I on the other hand was disappointed but not surprised.  After all, they were 15 year old Cracker Jacks.  New Cracker Jacks are that good.
Then I saw another can up on the shelf that didn't look opened.  This one was from 1996, only 14 years old.  It held two packages of Nestle's chocolate chips.  Still wanting dessert and not deterred by the awful Cracker Jacks, we decided to be brave and try the chocolate chips.  I took off the wrapper and opened the can.  The two bags were regular bags.  Just like you would buy at the store today...only the can cost $2.50 for the collectible can and two pounds of chips.  I opened one bag.  The chocolate chips were a mottled brown and white.  It was obvious that the fat had separated from the chocolate somewhat.  We ate them anyway.  After all, we wanted dessert.  They were good!  The grandkids said they wanted 14 year old chocolate chips every night.  They just want candy.
To me, this was a really exciting experiment.  I didn't do anything special to preserve those chocolate chips.  They have been heated up each summer as they were kept less than a foot below the ceiling.  I now know that I can buy chocolate chips and just keep them in the package, put them into a tin can, and they will last for a long time.  They may not look as perfect as brand new chips but they tasted great. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What's in Your Drawer?

Life is not just beans, bullets, and bandages.  That's the beginning of what we need to survive but hopefully life will somewhat be able to resemble what we have now and we won't all be trampling off into the wilderness.  Living my life as a survivalist, I figured the easiest thing to start off with in the house was to organize it.  Not only that, but to really decide what was needed, and how much was needed.  I decided to open a drawer or two at a time and take inventory.  Make a list of what's in there.  How many and what.  Also make a prediction of how much you will use.  You can't do this in a day or two or even a couple of weeks.  It's really an overwhelming project if you do it right. 

Once you have gone through everything, in another six months or year do it again.  Were the decisions you made then the same you'll make now?  How much of the inventory did you use?  How many things haven't been touched during the past year? 

Is everything in the drawer useful?  What should get donated to the local charity?  What will last "forever"?  Do I have a 1 year, 5 year, 10 year supply?  What is essential and we "can't live without"?  These questions can only be answered by you.  I'll just let you in on what I have stored away.  Items have quickly disappeared in my supply now that grandchildren live here.  They go through tremendous amounts of stuff during their "creative" periods.

In the laundry room I have what I call the office supplies.  They are in one drawer and one cabinet.  I just inventoried them. 
Drawer #1. 
Scotch tape 6 rolls – the kids got hold of this.  I need 20 more at least.
Push pins and thumb tacks 2 boxes of 200 each but one box has only 50 left.  Kids…
Dry erase markers of different colors – 10, could use some packages that are unopened
Sharpies 20 of different colors and sizes
Watercolors- wow, what happened to them?  I used to have a couple dozen.  Now there aren't any.
Colored pencils 100
Pencils 100 – need about 200 more
Pens 20 – could use more, right now the kids don't use pens except to draw on themselves
Staples – 2 boxes with 5000 in each
Paper Clips – 3 boxes of 100 regular, 1 box of large, 1 box of colored
Avery dots and color labels – many but could always use more labels of all sizes
Hole reinforcements – 200, not enough with kids around, could use 1000
Post-its – dozens of all sizes, enough if the kids stay out.  They like the 1 inch size so not really an issue.
Index cards – about 1000 of both 3X5 and 4X6
Binder Clips – several dozen of all sizes.  Love these, especially the largest size.
Correction Tape – a couple rolls.  Rarely use this but will keep these.
Erasers – Two different kinds, 5 that twist out, 10 pink erasers. Not enough. Could use 50
Mechanical Pencils and leads – Plenty.  I found the leads get brittle over time and are worthless
Scissors – 2 pair of regular, 8 pairs of scalloped edges and fun designs. (other pairs throughout the house)
Hole punch- hand held punches one hole.  One should be plenty.  Have a 3 hole punch elsewhere
Razor blades- not quite sure why they are in this drawer.
Glaringly missing – hand held pencil sharpeners.  Where did they go?  Kids…
We have an electric sharpener in other room.  I want a sturdy pencil sharpener that bolts to the wall. 

Cabinet #1
White computer paper – 15 – 500 sheet packages
Photo paper – 200 sheets
Packing tape – 5 rolls, could always use more of this
Pencil boxes – 3 out of cardboard, could use some that go into binders and some that are plastic
Construction paper – 200 sheets assorted colors
Colored paper – 200 sheets assorted colors – not enough. Could use about 1000 sheets of assorted colors
Spiral bound notebooks – 25 – went through 6 last year, expect to go through 6-10 each year
Notebook paper – 5 packages, I forgot to buy it this year at the beginning of school.  We went through about 1000 sheets last year. Need lots more.  Will try to wait for a good sale.
Binders – 10 - 1", 10 – 2", 5 – 3"
Peechee folders – 20
File Folders – 100
Accordion file folders – 20
Glue – 1 gallon

These items all get used.  There are probably some other office supply items throughout the house, especially in kids rooms, but for the most part we have a good supply that can last for many years. Other than notebook paper, erasers, and a good pencil sharpener, if TEOTWAWKI was today, I think we'd be ok with our office supplies that are stored in the drawer and cabinet.  After all, the kids that are here now wouldn't be using all this stuff up at school.  Home school would be able to keep a better eye out for waste.  Paper airplanes would not be made out of clean fresh unused paper!  Paper clips don't have to be the latest necklace craze.