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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Home Security Tips I Learned from My Neighbor

Our neighbors headed to sunnier climes about four months ago. Since that time I have learned a few things about home security from them...actually it was from the things that they didn't do right. Such as:
  • They don't have anyone regularly checking their house while they are gone. It appears that they have their kids (maybe relatives?) drop by about once a month or so but that isn't frequently enough to stop problem before they get out of hand. What if a water pipe breaks as spews water for a whole MONTH before someone notices? What I do when we are away from home for a lengthy period of time is either get a house sitter or have the housekeeper come by weekly just to dust. There isn't much cleaning to be done, rather this is just to have someone check out the place and make sure all is well.
  • The relatives that come over to check their house apparently don't have a key to the house since about once a month I see them scurry around to the back of the house, lift up a planter, take out the "hidden" key, then return after a half hour or so and replace the key. Um, real safe thing to do. Good thing they live in a good neighborhood where the usually observant neighbors don't want or need anything they have in their house. Our solution is to have a couple of people (a trusted friend and the housekeeper) keep keys to our house. If anyone else needed to get in our house we would have them meet up with either of these two for a key hand-off.
  • The neighbors don't make any effort to make their home look "lived in" while they are gone. There are no lights on, no noise from the radio or TV, basically their house looks abandoned. When we go on vacation or are away for work, we leave various lights and TVs on a timer. Of course our neighbors may notice from the lack of activity that we are gone, but the random burglar may be thrown off by the lights and sounds coming from our home.
  • The neighbors didn't leave any emergency contact information with anyone in the neighborhood. Most of our neighbors are friendly enough to wave when passing and will occasionally invite neighbors they see outside over for a barbecue or garage sale but mostly everyone keeps to themselves. This can be good for people who like their privacy but, as happened this weekend, it can also be a problem. Just a couple of days ago an alarm in the neighbor's house went off. We are talking a shrill, screechy alarm that continued to sound for nearly 10 hours before I couldn't stand it any more and called the sheriff. He came out, took a look around, and asked how to contact the people because it wasn't within his duty to break into their house. After going back and forth a bit, with me telling him that if the alarm continued for very much longer I was just going to cut the power to the entire house, we finally decided that he should get the "hidden" key and take care of the problem. Fortunately he was reasonable about the situation and realized that I wasn't going to listen to the alarm very much longer. He got the key, went in, fixed the alarm, and left a note. This whole problem would have been averted if they had left emergency contact info with any of the neighbors or even left a card in the window stating "in case of emergency call___". Actually a card like this would be good to have in everyone's window. Should an elderly neighbor fall or a diabetic neighbor pass out, at least it would save emergency responders from breaking the door down and the proper people (the emergency contact) would be alerted to the problem and could come over.
  • The exterior of their home doesn't look like it was "prepped" for vacation. There are no exterior lights on at all--generally a welcome invitation to burglars. Fortunately it is now winter so the grass isn't getting overly long which is a clear sign that no one has been home for a while. I do see some papers piling up in their driveway which is also a clear sign that no one is home--these are the free papers, not the subscription papers, which are stacking up so if this happens where you live, you should be sure to call the distributor and tell them you want absolutely no papers delivered to your home.
  • Here's some other random things that I hope (but doubt) they did before leaving: take the garage door opener out of the car they left in the driveway. Take valuable items (guns, jewelry, expensive electronics) out of the home and leave them in the car of a responsible friend. Unplug all electrical items to avoid being toasted by power outages (we have had three outages since they left...don't know how their electronics have fared). Secure the garage doors by disconnecting the electronic motor and/or putting a metal bar through the tracks so they can't be forced open.
Well, they did one thing right. They picked the right neighborhood to live in. However, it doesn't matter how "good" your neighborhood is, if you don't take care to secure your home before you leave to go out of town, you run the risk of coming back to a home that may not be in the same condition as you left it.
Rain barrels coming soon.

Food and Water in Retirement

Now that we've covered finances and shelter that leaves food and water.

Yesterday I touched on new technology to provide energy, but when it comes to food and water we have to look to what past generations did before 24 hour supermarkets and on-demand tap water.

Naturally this means gardening, but it also includes things like canning and pickling, water conservation and even basic cooking skills.

My wife's 82 year old grandmother still pickles all her own stuff and my friend's elderly grandfather has the most productive garden in town.

Unfortunately the knowledge and skills involved in these activities have been lost over the last few generations; however with the internet, knowledge that our grandparents never had access to is easily and cheaply available.

One thing that I think everybody should be doing is gardening.  Almost anybody can plant a few veggies from the huge row garden to the apartment balcony planter boxes.  Ideally your garden should provide the majority of your food,  however if it only provides 10%, that's still less money out of your pocket.

The "Squarefoot Garden" method is popular among preppers for it's low-maintenance and high productivity. There's plenty of info on-line covering Squarefoot Gardening and I plan on adapting it to my tiny yard this summer (which I'll post pics of here).

Our Canadian winter's though make storing and preserving food very important. Canning and pickling is the traditional method but dehydration is getting very popular.  Check out Dehydrate2Store for great info on dehydrating.

Apart from growing and preserving your own food every prepper should be stocking at least a month's worth of food but the exact amount is up to you.  You should practice the "eat what you store, store what you eat" method where begin stockpiling the foods you already eat. 

Having familiar food during emergencies makes it easier if you have to depend on your supplies. Secondly, it creates a natural rotation of supplies and avoids unused expired food.

Lastly, you can actually save money by storing food in this way.  Since we're Canadians let's use our national comfort food as an example: Kraft Diner.

I don't know about you but I'm shocked by how expensive KD has gotten lately and I refuse to buy it when it's over $1. Because of this I buy multiple boxes whenever it goes on sale.  This way if the price goes back up I can wait because I've still got a dozen or so boxes at home.

If you do this for all your regular groceries you can save up to 30%!

Now this leaves us with water which depending on where you live is either a very simple solution or a rather difficult one.If you live in the country you simply need a well, but if you're in the city this isn't an option.

However, if you can't look down for your water, you can always look up: rain.

Every downspout on your roof should have a rain barrel.  You can buy the expensive factory made ones, or you can make one out of a plastic barrel or garbage can

My town has a by-law saying when you can and can't water your lawn so I love "sticking it to the man" by using my rainwater to water my lawn during "forbidden days".  In areas where your water use is metered, you'll also save money by using less water.

No matter where you live though you should practice water conservation to either lower your water bill, to preserve your septic system and/or lower the electricity by the well pump.  You can do this in a number of ways that I'm sure we're all familiar with: low flow toilets and showerheads, short showers instead of baths etc..

Well, I think I've touched on a lot of basics in this series of posts. Please leave any ideas or comments.

I don't know about you but I can't wait for retirement!

(Cross-posted at Next Best West)

Gasifier Woodstoves by Valcas1...

Valcas1 traded me this stove a while ago with the stern injunction to do a review of it. This isn't the most thorough review I have ever done, but I am happy to report that this stove passed 9 out of 10 of my marks.

My sister wanted to go for a walk in the woods today despite the howling winds and four foot drifts. I agreed as I needed to get out of the house.

When we reached the shelter, I realized I'd forgotten the potstand. "Oh well," I thought. "I'll just set the canteen cup on top of the stove."

I must say that this stove would perform admirably with a potstand. Without it...well suffice it to say that every time I put the cup on top of the stove (without the included but forgotten potstand) it tended to snuff out the woodgas flame, which increased the boil time markedly. Also, some of the wood I gathered wasn't the best in terms of moisture content, nor was it the best in terms of wood quality.
Oh well, it was fun, and we got our mint tea anyway. It just took a bit longer


I am confident that with the proper fuel, more experience and a potstand I could get this stove to boil water in under five minutes, from ice cold to a rolling boil.

General rating? Five stars.

  • Attention to detail: Excellent. There are no "snags" or rough or torn edges where Valcas drilled the holes and cut the cans. Absolutely zero, zip nada, nothing. He is a master at this.
  • Overall construction: Excellent. (See above comment). Heavyweight cans that will not easily fall apart. Hardware cloth grate is also very decent in quality and well trimmed to prevent snags.
  • Compactness: Good to Very Good.
  • Completeness of kit: Excellent. This stove kit comes with everything you need to start cooking with (wood) gas, minus your food and cookpot, and the wood you burn.
  • Ease of lighting: Fair to Excellent, depending on how dry your fuel is.
  • Completeness of burn: Perfect-beyond Excellent. There was literally a few fingersful of white ash and one or two tiny chunks left, out of two small branches that I burned. This thing burns hot, and clean. Better than my mini gasifier experiment!
  • Usefulness: Excellent in my locale.

Unless you are going hiking above treeline, I would recommend this stove to anyone who lives in an area with trees and shrubs big enough to burn. (Not hard as this stove requires sticks pencil to thumb thick and less than four inches long). The benefits far outweigh the downside of finding dry fuel. This stove would be even better for those of us in very dry, windy areas as you could easily use this in place of an open fire for cooking and even heating, thus circumventing the burn bans. The only bad thing about woodgas stoves in general is that the fuel must be absolutely bone dry, or it just will not burn. I don't know why that is but it is true; I have experimented with my own before, and it is the same way. Altogether an excellent stove that I will carry for many a year.

Thanks Valcas!
Children in Jerusalem.

Child Related Items In Your Kit

Child Related Items in Your Kits

When I was young , very much pregnant with my first child I started to freak out about the things I might need in an kits. Some of those things are as follows :

  • Lactation Tea - In an emergency Try to keep / and dry out and use again if needed
  • Hand Powered Breast Pump - Make sure you know how to use it
  • Emergency Formula - Keep Regular & Soy on Hand
  • Barley - For Mother or Child
  • Nappies - Clothe Diapers
  • A Sling - Know how to use it
  • Extra Clothing / Sleep Sack / Shoes / Socks
  • Bottle / Bottle Brush / Nipples
  • Cheese Cloth
  • Zip Storage Bags for all , including one for soiled clothing / Nappies
  • Rags Marked for Specific Uses - Diaper , Burp , Bath kept sealed in completely different bags. Keeping them marked keeps people from using them inappropriately and spreading germs / disease.

Latter when I had my second child I my first had grown quite a bit I found the following Just as useful.

  • Child Leash - For Toddlers on a Walk
  • Stash of Toys - To keep em Occupied
  • A Stuffed Animal - Comfort Objects
  • Board Books - Entertainment , Calming Ritual with Parents
  • Children Ban-Aides - Kissing Boos make it heal better.
  • A Second Sling - In Case you need to Carry you older child.
Even if you do not have children I think that these are things you might want to look into , because sooner or later you are bound to interact with others who Do have children , or maybe even have some of your own.

I also recommend keeping the following herbs / Oils around or in pack in for use by nursing mothers and children.

  • Lavender Oil - Relaxes Small children
  • Fenugreek - For lactation stimulation
  • Anise - (NOT star Anise , please look it up ) - for gassiness
  • Ground Cloves - for teething issues

As with all emergency kits you should keep checking in and keep items up to date. I have found the formula needs to be changed out often if you hand measure it , Similac Carries a Type in Convenient bottle size doses that I highly recommend and used with my own children , these , left sealed can be stored for up to a year . Always make sure that you have proper accommodations in clothing and sleeping gear for littles. Children Grow Fast and Their Clothing becomes too small quickly so you should also keep their clothing in kits up to date or larger than they might really need. I also recommend Nappie Pins , even if you use velcro , because velcro can wear our . You should make sure you know how to use these things in an emergency , not just have them around and have no idea how to use them.

You can read more from preppermom at A Prepared Mother

Delivering Babies

Delivering Babies: So Grizzled

Delivering babies can be a grizzled job. How grizzled?

Let's just say that the field of Obstetrics (OB) is kind of a Wes Craven meets the Care Bears situation: Blood, guts, gore, and cute little baby butts.

So there's a very good reason why obstetricians prepare like nuclear fallout specialists to deliver a baby. They have to fend against an all-out military airstrike with the baby as the Drill Sergeant: "Alright you bodily substances, you better hit 'em with everything you've got! Darned, if they make me come out into the world! So bring on the rain!" Then hence starts the artillery.

During one of the last deliveries that I performed, the umbilical cord sought its revenge and sprayed my face like Old Faithful. It was not pretty; kind of like the aftermath of the movie Carrie. I think I heard the dad scream.

For instance, cesarean section yields enough blood to make a general surgeon cry, "oh mommy!", but then the OB doc pulls out a tiny baby buttocks out of the gaping abdominal wound and everyone in the room goes, "Ahhhhhh! Isn't that cute!"

Now, you are probably wondering, why I would bother to talk about baby butts in a disaster and wilderness medicine blog. But that's just the point, just like in the world of OB, anything can happen. And you just might find yourself needing to deliver a baby.

First, in this post I am going to discuss the things that you should have on hand in order to perform an emergent delivery. (Emergent delivery: if you are in a situation where in you can't contact 911 or are unable to get the laboring mother to a hospital in time.)

In the next post, I will describe how to perform an emergent delivery. This is not to replace the work of medical professionals, instead it is designed to help you handle an imminent situation where appropriate medical help can not be obtained. (Image obtained from www.lifemedicalsupplier.com.)

As for gear, many companies offer pre-made OB kits which you can purchase online, which I personally prefer, because I'm too lazy to make my own. Or you can purchase the products separately and build your own. Lazy way is better.

The following is a list of items that should be contained in any Ob kit:

*One pair or more of sterile exam gloves. These are the gloves that are generally worn by OB docs in order to perform sterile cervix exams. I suggest having more than one pair.

*One disposable plastic apron or surgical gown. I'd personally go with the surgical gown, more coverage. You know, from a disaster perspective, I would stock up on disposable surgical gowns, but that's just me and I am biased towards having more medical supplies.

*One 17" x 24" under pad. In the medical arena, we call these "chux pads". These are plastic on one side and cotton plush on the other. The closest thing out in grocery stores to them are puppy pads, but I wouldn't suggest using a puppy pad for delivering a baby.

*Disposable Absorbent Towels. I would stock up on these. They are good for any medical emergency dealing with body fluids.

*Biohazard bag. Again, good for any medical emergency where instruments can become contaminated with fluids.

*Plastic Drape sheet. Okay, I have to admit that lots of blood equals need for lots of plastic coverage, whether it be in the wilderness or in your home.

*One heavy duty feminine pad and Ice. I personally like the ones that you can either fill with ice or can open enough to shove ice in them. The ice helps alleviate the pain that occurs post-partum in the perineum. The pad itself absorbs the post-partum blood.

*At least Four Sterile 4 x 4" guaze sponges. Really, if you don't have these in your emergency medical kit already than you have a very poor quality kit.

*One Sterile Scalpel. Preferably a #10. (Image taken from www.canfsupply.com)

*One Sterile 2 oz bulb syringe. I think this should be in any emergency kit notwithstanding whether the kit is designed for baby delivery or not.

*Alcohol Prep pads. Okay, these are a must regardless.

*At least two Sterile Umbilical Cord Clamps. Or you can use Kelly Hemostats. (To sterilize the hemostats: Place hemostats in water that has been brought to rolling boil for at least 15 minutes. Note: water sterilization kills most bacteria and inactive viruses, but doesn't kill prions which are the cause of Bovine Spongiform Ecephalopathy [also known as Mad cow disease] or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. But most likely, you won't encounter Prions on clean medical equipment.) The sterile clamps are the cream colored plastic pieces seen in the picture.

If you are unable to obtain these things, or they are not on hand when an emergency birth takes place. Get out your boiling water, toss a sharp blade in and some shoelaces. Boil for 15 minutes.

In a later post, I will describe the different types of sterilization techniques.

Next time, we'll discuss how to perform an emergent delivery when birth is imminent and medical help is unavailable.

Until next post,


This is a repost from
Wilderness Medicine and Disaster Preparedness. You can read more from little doc there or in the APN forums Dear Littledoc. Littledoc says that the advice given in this forum should not replace the advice of your primary care physicians. The American Preppers Network is not responsible for any medical advice given, or taken, at this forum or blog