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Friday, March 26, 2010

Landscape to Enhance the Security of Your Home

By Bruce Hosea

Yup, landscaping can make your home less attractive to burglars and still be attractive.
Burglars like to observe their targets before they strike. They may look for a quick strike at a home that offers them the opportunity to look into a window and hide behind shrubbery.
Take a look at your property and consider these things:
Where would you hide?
Can you get into a flower bed and look into your windows and not be seen from the street?
Do you have really dark areas around your home?
There are simple options that can solve these problems without breaking your bank.
Instead of planting smooth leafed plants close to you windows, consider thorny bushes. There are attractive bushes that defend themselves with thorns. Consider the pyracantha bush. You may have to wear gloves to trim this jewel; bad guys will not hide close to it. Holly and cactus are other plants that deter close contact! These types of plants can be decretive and appealing to the eye. You don't have to choose ugly plants for protection.
Lighting can be a dramatic landscaping tool. Properly used, it can highlight and focus attention on outstanding features of your home. Lighting can also erase dark spaces that bad guys use for cover. Another option is a solar powered light that includes a motion detector. These only turn on when something moves in a specific detection cone and does not draw current from your home. These solar lights work even when power has been interrupted.
Areas to consider lighting with solar lights:
Drive way
Corners (use motion detectors)
Alcoves (use motion detectors)
Remember: You can increase the security of your home with surprise landscaping
For more information and training visit http://www.jbventuresabq.com

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Bruce_Hosea


Doomer Fiction

I make no apologies or excuses for my book collection. In fact, I highly recommend building a library. In a lower energy world, without mind-numbing entertainment, like television, reading books, as a pastime, will enjoy a resurgence.

I enjoy reading all sorts of books, on all sorts of topics, but I've definitely had my favorite genres and favorite authors. For a very long time, anything by Stephen King was in the TBR. I read The Tommyknockers in a day.

It's probably no surprise, therefore, that the first doomer novel I read was The Stand. I was in high school, and I had some reasons for wishing that such a thing would happen ... and, of course, I'd be one of the survivors ;).

At the time, King's vision was completely fantastic. Certainly, the idea that a super-flu bug could wipe out the entire world was possible, but in that time, in my world, it just seemed incredibly unlikely. And, then, of course, there was that supernatural spin with Granny and the Randall Flagg. Oh, please!

Several months ago, I read Eternity Road, which was an amazing story, and which was probably, partially, responsible for some of the book culling we've done recently. Like Stephen King, Jack McDevitt envisions a post-epidemic world, but unlike King, McDevitt's world is centuries after the epidemic has killed off most of the population. The epidemic decimated the population, and in their attempts to simply survive, many parts of culture were lost, including the books, but there is the rumor of a library where the old volumes were preserved.

While I was reading the book, I thought, if I had to compile a collection of the best of the best, what books would I include ... which would I exclude? Which books would I want our future generations, people who will not have grown up as we have, to read to give them a sense of who we are? It's a fairly daunting exercise. There are a lot of things about our society and our culture of which I am not proud, but I think knowing about our ancestors, with all of their warts, is useful, if for nothing else than to show us how bad we can be in hopes that we'll strive to be better. It doesn't happen, usually ... but it's a useful theory, I think :).

Mass die off from disease seems to be a popular theme in doomer fiction. Despite his belief in the Long Emergency and the inevitable economic collapse leading to TEOTWAWKI, Kunstler's doomer novel World Made by Hand also speaks of a mass die-off due to disease (although it was preempted by some other catastrophy, and the die-off was exacerbated by a lack of modern medical treatments). What I don't like about his novel is that he also inserts a supernatural element. It's small and very minor to the story, but it's there. I'm actually looking forward to The Witch of Hebron: A World Made by Hand Novel to see where he takes it.

Some writers explore other end-of-the-world scenarios. In his novel, Last Light, Alex Scarrow explores the possibility that we are being manipulated by some group of very powerful, very wealthy individuals. He brings to full focus the conspiracy theories regarding who is really controlling our world economy and the irony is that in trying to manipulate population control, the "group" ends up destroying what they've worked so hard to build. The comeuppance aspect was actually pretty satisfying to me.

So far, Last Light is probably my favorite, except that I like to think that we wouldn't degenerate so quickly to mass chaos. I'd like to think that the average (adult) person is a little smarter than to drink untreated water. I like to think that, but I know it's probably not true. Many people tend not to think much in an emergency situation ... and then, there are, of course, the winners of such dubious honors as The Darwin Awards, who would do just as Scarrow predicts ... well, we can hope their stupidity will kill them before they can do any real harm to the rest of us.

Compared to Cormac McCarthy's The Road, those other novels are optimistic. To say that McCarthy's novel is not optimistic is a gross understatement of mass proportions. All life, with the exception of man, has been destroyed, and while McCarthy seems to want to end on a happy note, he's already set the precedent - there is no plant life, thus, there is no hope. The novel actually gave me nightmares.

Currently, I'm reading S.M. Stirling's Dies the Fire. It's both optimistic and hopeful. If any of the novels prove to be true, I hope it's this one, and I hope I can find some horse wrangler who knows how to make swords out of old car parts ;).

The likeliest TEOTWAWKI scenario is one that we haven't even considered or planned for, and we can't plan for all possibilities, but we can explore our options for when the world becomes something we no longer recognize.

What's useful to me about these fictitious TEOTWAWKI scenarios is the thought exercise that is involved. I don't read for pure entertainment value (although some books certainly provide a lot of that, as well), but rather to push me to think about what I would do if ....

The Importance of Having a Survival Seed Bank

Along with storing food, storing garden seeds should be of primary importance for any well-prepared individual or family. There are many indications that there is a major food shortage right now and that it will continue to grow worse in the coming years (see here and here for some good explanations into this crisis).
Given the right conditions, it could get bad enough that food becomes more valuable than gold or silver. In times like these, having a backup of seeds that can be planted as a “crisis garden” to supplement or support the needs of your family will be worth more than its weight in gold.

What Types of Seeds Should I Store?

The most important types of seed you’ll want to store are seeds that consistently put out the same type of plant/fruit generation after generation. In other words, if you were to plant the seeds of the parent then the fruit/vegetable that is produced by those seeds would maintain the characteristics of the parent plant.
For the beginning gardener this includes purchasing open-pollinated seeds instead of the typical hybrid seeds found in your garden center. As a general rule (there are exceptions), hybrid seeds are first-generation seeds and if you were to use the seeds produced by one of these plants they will be sterile or more likely fail to breed – not a good option if next year’s crop is dependent upon the seeds produced by this year’s. This also requires a yearly visit to the garden center — a dependency that’s great for the seed dealers but not so great for the survivalist.
Heirloom seeds are a type of open-pollinated seed that have been conserved by repeatedly growing them out again and again over the years. These are perfect for seed storage.

Where Can I Buy Them?

With all the seed sellers out there here are the companies where I recommend you purchase your open-pollinated and heirloom seeds. I’ve broken them down based upon the climate where the seeds are produced and tested. This will ensure the greatest success of germination and production in your area. (Be sure to order the open-pollinated or heirloom seeds as these companies also sell hybrids).
Short Season Climates (northern U.S. and Canada)
Moderate Climates (middle-American states)
Maritime Climates (Cascadia)
Other Sellers
These companies I’m not sure where they are best grown but I’ve heard good reviews nonetheless (both deal exclusively in non-hybrid open-pollinated seeds):

How Do I Store Them?

Now that you’ve grown your open-pollinated seeds and have fruits and vegetables that are producing their own seeds, you’ll now want to be able to store those seeds for the next year. If seeds are stored properly, they can last for years (10+ or more).
The three big killers when it comes to seed storage are temperature, moisture, and oxygen with the most important being temperature and moisture. For the ideal temperature, store them in an area that is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below (refrigerator or freezer) and to combat moisture, the best process is to dry them to 8 percent moisture or less by drying them at 100 degrees F for six hours.
You can do this by drying your seeds in the sun, with a food dehydrator, or by using a conventional oven (never use a microwave oven):
  • Sun Drying: Spread the seed out in the sunlight and try to obtain 100 degree temperature for 6 hours. Longer times are expected if the temperature is less.
  • Food dehydrator: Set the dehydrator to 100 degrees F. Dry for six hours.
  • Conventional oven:Keep the oven door open several inches, and make sure the seed is not heated to more than 100 degrees for 6 hours.
Seed Moisture Tests:
Here are 2 methods that are a easy way to tell if the seeds have been dried to a proper moisture level of around 8 percent or less:
  1. Longer seeds should snap smartly and cleanly in half when bent.
  2. Wheat, beans, peas, corn and other large seeds should shatter and turn to powder when hit with the head of a hammer.
Once your seeds are dry, you’ll want to place them in an airtight moisture-proof storage containers. Be sure to mark the containers with the seed names and date of packaging, then store them in a cool dark place (again a refrigerator or freezer are ideal for this purpose).

All-In One Solutions

If you would rather have an all-in-one solution that takes the guess-work out of choosing what types of vegetables and fruit seed to buy, dries and stores them to last for years and packs them in a container that can be stored for years then I would check out the following resources:
  • Survival Seed Bank: They also provide a book that describes in detail how to plant your seeds, cultivate them as well as how to gather and store your seeds for the next growing season.
  • Heirloom Organics: These guys provide multiple “seed packs” based on the size of your family and needs.


Related posts:

  1. Identity Survival: The Importance of Emergency Documents
  2. Testing out the Survival Stove
  3. WD-40: The Ultimate Survival Spray

Review: How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It

Well, this is ones of those books that every survivalist/prepper should have on their bookshelf. While nothing earthshaking for regular readers of Survivalblog, How to Survive TEOTWAWKI does a good job of collecting and detailing much of Rawles' survival advice. If you've been a long time follower of Survivalblog, there will be plenty of refreshers here. If you're new to survival/prepping, this book will get you off to a good start as you prepare your "list of lists."

The book is a comprehensive overview and discussion of the various categories of preps and discusses the techniques for figuring out what you need. There are a lot of gear recommendations here, but they're mixed in with plenty of smart advice. I found the book very easy to read.

If you're not a fan of Rawles (Survivalblog haters do exist!), well, this book probably won't change your mind. Survivalblog is often criticized as being survival for yuppies/wealthy people. And honestly, much of this book is listing off the vast array of preps that Rawles recommends--a massive shopping list for would-be survivalists. Other common complaints--somewhat outdated firearm recommendations, for example--still apply as well. So, if you've got nitpicks with the Rawles approach, don't expect those to be resolved.

If you're a complete neophyte and unfamiliar with Survivalblog, well, this book may seem daunting and/or excessive. The sheer number and cost of the recommended preps is vast and expensive--like into the hundreds of thousands of dollars range when you factor weapons batteries, ammo, communications gear, bug out vehicles, night vision gear, generators, and a full-time retreat into price tally. And if you're a newbie or casually interested in survivalism, some of the recommendations may seem a little extreme--stockpiling barbed wire, surgical kits, and so on. Really, Rawles recommends a fairly hardcore survivalist approach--a lifelong pursuit, requiring major investment, time and sacrifice. It might scare some away.

The above being said, this is a great book. It is great to have the comprehensive SurvivalBlog approach & recommendations laid out in one place. No digging through archives here. As I read through the book, I was constantly being reminded about preps that I needed to get, techniques that I needed a refresher on, and details that I've never heard. I'm going to read through it again and write notes as I go, and may post an update to this review afterward.

Also, this is a great book to give those interested in survival but who can't/won't read through the online blog. Blogs are a new thing, and many people just aren't blog savvy. But everyone understands a book. I plan on getting a copy to pass around to some of my friends and extended family--people who already have an interest in surviving when TSHTF, but who aren't the blog-reading type.

For the cover price--about $12 from Amazon--it's certainly a must-have for every prepared family.

How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It: Tactics, Techniques, and Technologies for Uncertain Times > 

Esbit Fuel vs. Wetfire cubes

I made a trip over to REI and got my hands on both of these products. Both are available with small stoves for cooking/heating with the fuel, so I figured a little testing was in order. I wanted to see if either were capable of bringing water to a boil, which burned the longest, and which was the easiest to get ignited and burning. These would primarily be used in survival kits and bug out bags for a compact, emergency source of heat and fire starting.

The stove I used was a POS little foldable piece of stamped metal that came is sold as an "emergency stove" with three Esbit tablets. I thought it looked like in might fit in one of my survival tins, but it was a bit too big. I should have just made a cheap pop can stove to use with these tablets, but that is another story. Conditions were warm (about 70 degrees--living in the desert has its perks this time of year) with a light breeze. No wind screen was used, my "pot" was a GSI Nalgene nesting cup, filled with 2 cups of tap water. No lid.

I know these are not ideal conditions--I could have used a better stove, windscreen, a lid, a cup of water instead of two cups, but I wanted to see what these cubes were capable of.

I took some pictures, but they didn't turn out well--I blame the piece of junk camera, not my photography skills :).

WetFire Tinder Cubes

You've probably WetFire Tinder Cubes sold on survival websites--they're the fire cubes shown burning while floating in a cup of water. These are marketed as the "best fire starting material available anywhere in the world." A little folding three-pronged stove is available for cooking on. The cubes come individually packaged and cost about $1 each. The cubes themselves are white, look a little like a packing peanut and have a dry, soapy texture. 

The directions instruct you to shave off a portion of the cube and then use that as "tinder" to help light the rest of the cube. I did so and was able to light the cube on my second try with a ferro rod. Pretty good.

The cube burned for approximately 6 minutes and 45 seconds before going out. It was not able to get the water boiling, but there was some small bubbles on the bottom and side of the cup. This suggests temperatures between 155F and 170F. I should have had a thermometer on hand, but I would be surprised if the water did not get sufficiently hot to pasteurize any bugs in it. You do not need to bring water to a rolling boil to pasteurize it--temperatures above 149F will start to kill the nasty creatures. Of course, boiling is an obviously safer bet--no guessing at the temperature of the water and hoping that it got hot enough for long enough to kill the creatures.

The Wetfire cube actually left a small nugget of fuel--I broke that open and found some intact fuel inside, which I was then able to re-light. This leftover fuel burned for another 15 to 20 seconds and then went out.

Esbit Fuel Tablets

Esbit fuel tablets have been around for a while--invented waaaay back in 1936 by a German scientist. They have been used by soldiers and hikers for decades. They come in a sealed pill-style packaging, and the tablets themselves are pre-marked to divide into quarters. They cost about 50 to 75 cents each.

I was unable to get the tablet to light with a ferro rod, despite several minutes of trying. Fair to say that these will not work for ferro rod tinder if that is your preferred fire lighting method. It lit fairly easily with a match...but that means you need to have a match/lighter or other ready source of fire.

The Esbit tablet burned for 10 minutes and 25 seconds, and the water looked quite a bit hotter than with the Wetfire tinder, but certainly not boiling. Just more tiny bubbles and some steam.


During the test conditions, neither product was able to bring the 2 cups of water to a boil. They did get the water hot, probably hot enough to kill any creatures living in it, and definitely hot enough to use for hot chocolate, a Mountain House meal, or a hot shave in the morning.  The WetFire tinder cube lit easily, the Esbit tablet were harder to light but burned longer and hotter. Esbit tablets are about 1/2 the price of WetFire tinder.

Between the two, which would I choose for my kits? The WetFire tinder. It's a very robust/water resistant tinder that burns so long that you can some basic heating/cooking on. With one of these and a source of sparks, you've got at least one very sure fire. In a survival situation, you would probably use only small pieces of the WetFire cube to start up each fire--stretching one little cube out long enough to start several fires. If my life depended on using a piece of tinder to get a fire going, this would be what I would use.

Why not the Esbit tablets? They are a little tricky to light--in pretty ideal circumstances, I spent several minutes trying to light the cube with a ferro rod and failed. Holding a lit match to it for a few seconds did the trick...so, basically, you need a ready source of flame, not sparks to get this thing going. And if I have an open source of flame for 5-10 seconds, I can light any kind of scavenged/brought along tinder. Sure, that tinder probably will not burn as long and as hot as an Esbit cube--you're not going to cook over a PJ cotton ball, dryer lint, piece of inner tube, etc., but you can use it to get a real fire going.

The Esbits are better for pure heating and cooking, but neither of these would be my first (or second or third) choice as a standalone cooking solution. As a real "stove," these don't cut it. They just don't have the oomph to do a whole lot--especially when you compare it to the tiny alcohol and fuel canister stoves out on the market, where you can actually cook and boil for not a whole lot more weight.

So, WetFire tinder cubes are the winner for me.

WetFire Tinder Cubes >
Esbit Fuel Tablets >