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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Are Preppers Crazy or is it Crazy Not to Prep?

by TheSurvivalMom

What do your friends and family say when you tell them you've been storing food, growing your own produce or that you subscribe to Mother Earth News? When they find out that you're considering raising chickens in your suburban backyard, do they think you're crazy? My own friends get this uneasy look in their eyes, and then slowly back away as if they hear the opening notes of "Dueling Banjos"!

The fact is, human beings have been survivalists, or preppers, for nearly our entire existence. Foraging, hunting, and gathering wasn't just an alternate lifestyle for our ancestors but the only means of survival. Each day, each season, brought the possibility of having no water, no food, no medicinal herbs, and no shelter. Storing as much food as possible, yes, stockpiling!, wasn't radical, it was sensible. The only alternative to preparedness was death.

Fast forward thousands of years, and self-sufficiency, by and large, is a thing of the past. We have forgotten essential, practical survival skills. Why take the trouble to grow your own food when there's a grocery store on every corner? The produce department displays not just one variety of apples but a dozen, all shiny clean and not a worm in sight. Discount stores offer shoes and clothing at a price much lower than anything handmade. Most of us revel in the quality and variety of goods that are so easily accessible, but will this era of plenty last indefinitely?

Additionally, many of the skills of our forefathers have been lost. Who among us knows how to make shoes by hand or spin wool into thread? Knowledge, as well, has been lost, often within just one generation. A farmer or an ardent gardener discovers that his or her children just aren't interested in the details and nuances of growing food. Knowledge accumulated over generations is lost forever when that older generation passes on.

It really is no wonder that preppers seem out of step with most everyone around us. There are obvious, ominous storm clouds on the horizon, and to us, it just makes sense to stock up on groceries, learn long-forgotten skills, and make plans for any number of emergencies.

Friends and family may question our sanity, but our ancestors would be proud of our efforts to prepare for an uncertain future.

The Infamous 63 Uses for Vinegar List (Plus One From Me)

This list has been floating around the Internet since the Y2K panic. Someone sent this to me recently and it was probably the tenth time I’ve come across it so I decided to archive the list here for posterity. I do not endorse all these uses and recommend caution when you experiment with some of these.
If you are a Comparative Religion or Folklore wonk like me you’ll be interested to know that some of these vinegar uses were first made popular  in the late 1800s/early1900s by “occult” chapbooks like Egyptian Secrets and John George Hohman’s Long Lost Friend which were collections of Christian prayers, eyebrow raising home remedies (like distilling black snails to cure warts!) and recipes for making such farm hold staples as molasses. Ten or fifteen years ago you’d have to visit a botanica or other specialty shop to get your hands on one of these. Now they are becoming increasingly popular, (as is folk medicine in general) as it becomes clearer to more and more people that we are pretty much going to be on our own as our economy is ridden off a cliff.
Anyway, here’s the list:
1. Arthritis tonic and treatment; 2 spoonfuls of apple cider vinegar and honey in a glass of water several times daily.
2. Thirst-quenching drink: apple cider vinegar mixed with cold water.
3. Sagging cane chairs: sponge them with a hot solution of half vinegar and half water. Place the chairs out in the hot sun to dry.
4. Skin burns: apply ice cold vinegar right away for fast relief. Will prevent burn blisters.
5. Add a spoonful of vinegar to cooking water to make cauliflower white and clean.
6. Storing cheese: keep it fresh longer by wrapping it in a vinegar-soaked cloth and keeping it in a sealed container.
7. Remove stains from stainless steel and chrome with a vinegar-dampened cloth.
8. Rinse glasses and dishes in water and vinegar to remove spots and film.
9. Prevent grease build-up in your oven by frequently wiping it with vinegar.
10. Wipe jars of preserves and canned food with vinegar to prevent mold-producing bacteria.
11. To eliminate mildew, dust and odors, wipe down walls with vinegar-soaked cloth.
12. Clean windows with vinegar and water.
13. Hardened paint brushes: simmer in boiling vinegar and wash in hot soapy water.
14. Clean breadbox and food containers with vinegar-dampened cloth to keep fresh-smelling and clean.
15. Pour boiling vinegar down drains to unclog and clean them.
16. Clean fireplace bricks with undiluted vinegar.
17. An excellent all-purpose cleaner: vinegar mixed with salt. Cleans copper, bronze, brass, dishes, pots, pans, skillets, glasses, windows. Rinse well.
18. Make your catsup and other condiments last long by adding vinegar.
19. To clear up respiratory congestion, inhale a vapor mist from steaming pot containing water and several spoonfuls of vinegar.
20. Apple cider vinegar and honey as a cure-all: use to prevent apathy, obesity, hay fever, asthma, rashes, food poisoning, heartburn, sore throat, bad eyesight, dandruff, brittle nails and bad breath.
21. When boiling eggs, add some vinegar to the water to prevent white from leaking out of a cracked egg.
22. When poaching eggs, add a teaspoon of vinegar to the water to prevent separation.
23. Weight loss: vinegar helps prevent fat from accumulating in the body.
24. Canned fish and shrimp: to give it a freshly caught taste, soak in a mixture of sherry and 2 tablespoons of vinegar.
25. Add a spoonful of vinegar when cooking fruit to improve the flavor.
26. Soak fish in vinegar and water before cooking for a tender, sweeter taste.
27. Add vinegar to boiling ham to improve flavor and cut salty taste.
28. Improve the flavor of desserts by adding a touch of vinegar.
29. Add vinegar to your deep fryer to eliminate a greasy taste.
30. Add a tablespoon of vinegar to fruit gelatin to hold it firm.
31. Steep your favorite herb in vinegar until you have a pleasing taste and aroma.
32. Use vinegar instead of lemon on fried and broiled foods.
33. To remove lime coating on your tea kettle; add vinegar to the water and let stand overnight.
34. To make a good liniment: beat 1 whole egg, add 1 cup vinegar and 1 cup turpentine. Blend.
35. Apply vinegar to chapped, cracked skin for quick healing.
36. Vinegar promotes skin health: rub on tired, sore or swollen areas.
37. Reduce mineral deposits in pipes, radiators, kettles and tanks by adding vinegar into the system.
38. Rub vinegar on the cut end of uncooked ham to prevent mold.
39. Clean jars with vinegar and water to remove odor.
40. Avoid cabbage odor by adding vinegar to the cooking water.
41. Skunk odor: remove from pets by rubbing fur with vinegar.
42. Paint adheres better to galvanized metal that has been wiped with vinegar.
43. Pets’ drinking water: add vinegar to eliminate odor and encourage shiny fur.
44. For fluffy meringue: beat 3 egg whites with a teaspoon of vinegar.
45. Pie crust: add 1 tablespoon vinegar to your pastry recipe for an exceptional crust.
46. Half a teaspoon per quart of patching plaster allows you more time to work the plaster before it hardens.
47. Prevent discoloration of peeled potatoes by adding a few drops of vinegar to water. They will keep fresh for days in fridge.
48. Poultry water: add vinegar to increase egg production and to produce tender meat.
49. Preserve peppers: put freshly picked peppers in a sterilized jar and finish filling with boiling vinegar.
50. Olives and pimentos will keep indefinitely if covered with vinegar and refrigerated.
51. Add 1 tsp. vinegar to cooking water for fluffier rice.
52. Add vinegar to laundry rinse water: removes all soap and prevents yellowing.
53. After shampoo hair rinse: 1 ounce apple cider vinegar in 1 quart of distilled water.
54. For a shiny crust on homemade bread and rolls: just before they have finished baking, take them out, brush crusts with vinegar, return to oven to finish baking.
55. Homemade sour cream: blend together 1 cup cottage cheese, 1/4 cup skim milk and 1 tsp. vinegar.
56. Boil vinegar and water in pots to remove stains.
57. Remove berry stains from hands with vinegar.
58. Prevent sugaring by mixing a drop of vinegar in the cake icing.
59. Cold vinegar relieves sunburn.
60. When boiling meat, add a spoonful of vinegar to the water to make it more tender.
61. Marinate tough meat in vinegar overnight to tenderize.
62. A strength tonic: combine raw eggs, vinegar and black pepper. Blend well.
63. Douche: 2 to 4 ounces of vinegar in 2 quarts of warm water.
The guy usually given credit for this list is Henry Godwin, and old timer from the survival forums in the 90s.
I’ll add my own little use here that ties into #6 above. If you have cheese getting moldy cut the mold off and wipe down the rest with vinegar and you’ll get a few more days from the cheese. I’ve tried it and it works.

Natural Air Conditioning

As I am woring in one of the warmest places on earth, I was speaking to an associate on how to cool down one of the buried conexes used for storage.  I explained that there was a technique used or invented by the Romans a long time ago. A natural form of air conditioning or ventilation was used roughly as follows:

A trench 6 to 12 feet deep and 100 to 200 yards long was dug leading from the "house" in a straight line away from the house.

Into this trench a large diameter pipe (these days corrugated drainage pipe 2 or 3 feet diameter) was laid, with holes drilled into the bottom to drain water that condensed inside the pipe. The trench was then covered over.

At the far end a 90 degree elbow was attached and more pipe added so that it reached above ground and the end covered with some sort of wire mesh attached to keep out unwanted things such as rodents, etc., and then another elbow could be added at this end to shield against rain.

The house end of the pipe entered the house and was the source of incoming air.

The key to making this work is to add a convection chimney.

The Convection chimney is built such that it's inside opening is at a high point inside the building.

On the outside, two intersecting sides of the chimney; are painted flat black, and the resulting V formed by the two connecting sides face south. In other words, the V needs to face the mid point between where the sun rises and sets.

The two other sides must be transparent, Plexiglas or some equivalent. Also, the higher/larger the chimney, the better.

How it works: the sun heats up the chimney causing the air inside to rise, thus drawing air through the cool pipe. The pipe cools the air drawn from the outside to the temperature of the earth at the depth at which it is buried (which is virtually constant year around at this depth). By the way, an interesting note: Even in cold climates where the ground is frozen, the incoming air is only 32F when the air outside may be much colder, we need only heat the air by 38F to bring it to 70F; as opposed to heating outside air of say -15F to 70F we would have to heat the incoming air by 85F - quite a difference in the amount of heating energy we would have to supply by some other means.

Of course, without the sun to warm the chimney (or some other source) the system isn't worth fooling with.

For more interesting stuff, come visit me at Prepare to Survive in California.

The Magic of Checklists

Checklists have been used for quite a while in the airline industry, they are becoming more and more common in the medical industry, and many list-oriented people wouldn't think of starting off their day without cranking out a "to do" list before they head out the door in the morning.

For preparedness/survivalist-oriented folks, having checklists is an excellent way to be prepared for anything that may happen. Here's some lists to consider:
  • Travel often? Or even not so often? Having a checklist of what to take, what to do before you leave, and what to do when you come home is a great way to alleviate the "did I remember to turn off the stove?" thoughts that often race through people's minds as they pull into the airport parking garage.
  • How's your BOB? Hopefully you have taken a weekend or two to live out of your BOB and figure out what stuff you need, what stuff you forgot, and what stuff was just extraneous weight that would be better left at home. The art and science of refining your BOB has everything to do with actually writing down what is in it. This way you can continually refine your BOB, share your list with newbies who are just creating their first BOB, and/or have an instant shopping list in case you get caught far from home during a disaster...say while you are on vacation in Florida during hurricane season. Simply whip out your list, head to Walmart, and stock up quickly and completely.
  • Do you have hobbies? Most of my hobbies include doing activities away from home--shooting, backpacking, distance bike rides, Volksmarching, etc. There is nothing worse than getting miles away from home, breaking open my shooting bag, and seeing that I forgot to restock my ammo from my last excursion to the range. Ditto for forgetting Moleskin on distance hikes, a spare tube for my bike on an organized ride in the next state, or my sunglasses while walking around a new city. The way that I have solved this problem is to make a checklist for each of my hobbies. This way, I can quickly scan the list before I head out to the range, or go on a weekend backpacking or climbing trip, and ensure that I have all of the stuff with me that I will need.
  • Job action sheets are de rigour in the preparedness industry. You never know who will show up (or in fact, who will be left standing) after a major disaster. Most disaster managers of entities large and small keep job action sheets on hand which include step by step instructions for completing jobs that will need to be done after a disaster. This way, even the least-trained person who shows up to help will be able to do something, just by going down the job action sheet and completing tasks as they are outlined.
  • A babysitter info sheet is not only useful, but could save your kid's life. Like any other checklist, by providing simple, outlined information, you will be able to communicate with the person who is responsible for your children while you are out. This could be a lifesaver if, for example, your kid has peanut allergies. Other important information you would want to include, besides allergy info, includes your cell number, a contact number for a neighbor, how to deactivate the alarm system, who your kids can and can't play with, etc.
  • Checklists for the family are also useful. Right after a disaster, especially if you are not home, do you want your spouse wondering if they should cut the electricity or the gas first? Do you want them to decide, in a high stress situation, who to evacuate to or where to meet up with you should communication systems be down? If information is important enough to save a life, it is important enough to write down and share with others.
The bottom line is that the more critical a task, or the more time consuming, or the more frustration-inducing should you forget something, the more important it is to create a checklist to aid your memory and provide guidance as to what you need to have/do/remember.

A Few Thoughts on the Art of Bartering for Preparedness

Bartering used to be one of those things you didn’t hear much about. People who think they’re prosperous don’t stoop to do that sort of thing. But then things changed drastically with our economy, and bartering and swapping have become trendy. Some barter on a regular basis to save money. Others are practicing for the day when barter will be necessary if the money system collapses.
A few days ago Karen Geiser wrote a post called “The Art of Bartering” on the Lehman’s Country Life Blog. Her farm family regularly barters things like garden produce, flowers, eggs, and computer skills in exchange for things they needed or wanted.
Geiser says she feels wealthier. Bartering helped their family appreciate their skills and resources as well as those of others. It has fostered creativity and generosity. If you want to barter, she recommends coming up with your own tally of skills and resources, as well as things you need. Assign dollar values to the items and services. Then ask a few friends to do the same.
To read “The Art of Bartering,” click here to go to Lehman’s site. On their left sidebar, click on Country Life Blog. Type The Art of Bartering in the search box to the right. The post should then come up for you.

A Web site for bartering is BarterQuest.com.
Click here for info on starting a community treasure chest.