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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sheltering in Place - The Home Disaster Kit - Part One

Alternate Housing

Sheltering in place is normally your best option if you aren’t forced to evacuate or “bug out”. It may be your only option if you don’t have the opportunity to leave early enough to reach your known destination without becoming stranded. If it comes down to “toughing it out at home” or being stranded on the side of the road, sheltering in place will always be the better choice.
The first step in preparing to shelter in place is making a home disaster kit. While similar in nature to a “bug out” kit, it does have other equally important components. It isn’t difficult and doesn’t need to be very expensive, but it does require some thought on your part and the necessary time to do it correctly. There will be certain costs involved but with careful planning you can develop and utilize multi-use items to help you achieve your goals for sheltering in place.
Deciding to build and keep a home disaster kit will also put you ahead of the game. Many emergency management professionals estimate that only about 10% of the population has undertaken any type of emergency preparedness. Having a home disaster kit will allow you to make yourself more self-sufficient and give you and your family better options and more choices in an emergency or a disaster. You can be doing something positive while others may not even be around and give you a chance to react in a more positive way to a disaster. It will also give you greater peace of mind knowing that you didn’t have to rely on government emergency services to help you restore order to your life. You won’t have to wait days or weeks to restore a little normalcy to your life but can put your plan immediately into action.
Just as you have a “bug out” bag in case you need to evacuate, you should also have a Home Disaster Kit should you decide to shelter in place. Many people are less prepared to “shelter in place” than they are if required to “bug out”. Having a Home Disaster Kit will put you a step ahead.
Sheltering in Place - The Home Disaster Kit - Part Two will cover the contents and basic items needed for a Home Disaster Kit. It will include the different options that are available to help you “shelter in place” safely.
Got Home Disaster Kit?
Staying above the water line!

Alternative Heat Survival Concepts, by Philip T.

It’s the dead of winter. Snow is flying. There is nothing more comfortable in the cold of a winter season than knowing you are cozy in your home. You are warm and oblivious to the penetrating cold of the outdoors. But just how vulnerable are you to a sudden and unexpected power outage from an ice storm or another failure of the electrical grid? Do you depend on oil, natural gas, propane gas or electricity for your home heating? Under any circumstance, could your home heating system become unworkable? This article should help prepare you enough so you and your family won’t freeze to death if the grid goes down.
I have spent 37 years of my life working as a chimney sweep and/or a brick mason. So my first love of heating alternatives are solid fuel heaters. When I say solid fuel, I am specifically talking about wood, coal, or other biomass, which can be combusted in a controlled environment in exchange for the heating value--as measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs)--of the fuel source.  Wood fuel will average up to 8,500 BTU of heat per pound. Coal is approximately 12,000 BTU per pound. Variations of the actual BTU of heat potential will be specific to the density of the solid fuel being combusted and moisture content. Lighter density woods like pine and cedar will take a larger amount of wood to make the heat potential that a smaller amount of oak or hickory will produce. Of course one is limited to whatever is locally available. If you have a good source of coal locally available, that could be your fuel of choice.  However, it is unfeasible to import coal or wood from other regions of the country because of the transportation costs and energy expense of the transport.  For this reason I do not recommend pellet fuel as a viable survival fuel. I will talk about pellet stoves specifically a little later.
There are three types of solid fuel appliances. Fireplaces, free standing stoves, and central furnaces. Each has unique properties, advantages, and disadvantages. Out of the three categories, a fireplace is the most inefficient. A fireplace will achieve perhaps a 10% efficiency rating because most of the heat goes up the chimney. Dampers must remain partially open during all phases of the heating cycle. Glass doors help efficiency considerably over an open fireplace. A better fireplace will have ducting around the outside of the firebox to allow more heat exchange. Masonry fireplaces store more ambient heat than metal box fireplaces. But a metal box fireplace will put out more radiant heat in a shorter period of time. And a masonry fireplace is relatively difficult to add to an existing structure without major modifications in footings and other structural considerations.
 The installation of a wood burning stove in an existing fireplace, called an Insert will increase the efficiency of a fireplace upwards to a comparable free standing wood stove. But before installing an insert stove in any fireplace, be sure to check manufacturers instructions for both fireplace and the stove insert for compatibility! Failure to follow the instructions or the use of mismatched parts can lead to unsafe and potentially deadly consequences! Safety cannot be stressed enough when using solid fuel heaters. When properly installed and maintained, solid fuel heat is safe, efficient, and economical under any conditions.
If you choose to have a gas fireplace, or gas log, be aware that the convenience comes with an expense. If the fireplace has an electric igniter and the power is off, that appliance will not function. Without blower circulation heat build up can become excessive and unsafe. Gas logs can be added, but they are relatively inefficient and ever an increasing expense to operate. Also keep in mind that if there is a disruption in gas supplies and distribution, your gas appliance may become useless within a very short period of time. Propane gas appliances allow storage on site, which may buy you some time. But under a prolonged disruption of gas supply, that appliance will no longer be useful.
Free standing wood stoves are the most popular. They can be located centrally in a house or cabin for maximum heating. Many stoves come with an electric blower system, which improves efficiency. However in a power outage, the stove will still produce enough radiant heat to keep you warm.  Stoves that have no blower,  rely upon their design to produce area heating. EPA Certified solid fuel heaters will have an efficiency rating of 85%, which is nearly as efficient as gas heaters. You may be able to pick up an older, used wood stove for not a lot of money. But be aware that the stove may not have the highest efficiency and by law may not be legal in some environmentally sensitive areas. But in a survival situation, the goal is to keep from freezing to death. On a tight budget, an older stove is still a worthwhile investment if it is sound working condition.
 There is also a class of solid fuel heater called pellet fuel heaters. While they may be the current rage of environmentally friendly solid fuel heaters, they will not function without backup electricity. I used to own a pellet stove. They are nice when you have electricity, but worthless if the power goes off. Unfortunately the cost of transporting the wood pellets is making the fuel source very expensive per BTU of heat. If there is a disruption of the transportation grid, the fuel would become unavailable in many areas of the country. By and large, I would never recommend a pellet heater for a survival heater.
Third category of solid fuel heaters is central a furnace. My home was originally "all electric". A couple years ago we had a severe ice storm in Central Missouri that knocked out power to thousands of homes for over a week. My neighbors essentially had to leave their all electric homes because the temperature became unlivable. But I was able to remain in my home. Why?  I have a central wood furnace that is ducted into my heating system. Without electricity, the blower circulation will not function. But the radiant heat rose from the top of the furnace duct and circulated naturally through my central ductwork.  When it became evident that the power might not be restored for several days, I brought my portable generator into use. I located my generator in my detached garage and ran an electric cord through my clothes dryer vent, into my furnace room. From there I was able to power the wood furnace, freezer, and extra refrigerator. Warning: Because of the risk on carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, never place a generator in an attached garage or living space! Also be absolutely sure to "lock out" the circuit breakers to prevent a back feed condition to the grid power lines. During the power outage, several people needlessly died due to carbon monoxide poisoning because they placed generators in their attached garage and the CO gas entered the home. The goal is to survive here so be smart.
Another popular wood furnace is located outside the house. A generator could run that system from outside. But one disadvantage to an outdoor wood furnace is having to go outside to add fuel. If there is some kind of outdoor environmental situation that makes it unsafe to go outside, the indoor furnace can be fueled from inside wood storage for a few days. Not having to open doors preserves the indoor air quality. The indoor furnace will still send heat into the ductwork without a fan. The outdoor furnace has a much more difficult ducting system that may not transfer enough heat to sustain livability if power is lost completely.

Having a generator is very good for short term survival circumstances. But you may be limited on how much use you may get out of a generator if there is a long term disruption of gasoline delivery. You may be able to use a good generator sparingly and operate a wood stove or furnace fan for many days on 5 gallons of gas. But in the long term your solid fuel system should be capable of sustaining enough heat in your home to make it livable under the worst of winter conditions.

A solar electric panel with battery storage will operate a blower , so that could be another consideration for power to circulate heat or other power needs. [JWR Adds: An inverter would be required to run an AC fan. But when sourcing your power from a DC battery bank, running a DC fan is much more efficient.]

You may have to consider blocking off some rooms to keep the heat in the main area of habitation.  If your wood appliance has a cook top that is capable of basic cooking or boiling water that is a plus. If there is a disruption of water supply, the ability to melt snow or boil water on a cook top wood stove could allow you to process enough drinking water to sustain an ample survival water supply.
One last item to consider for a survival situation utilizing any solid fuel appliance is the chimney. I cannot stress enough the importance of having a clean and structurally sound chimney system. If your masonry chimney has cracked tile liners, or is unlined, I strongly suggest you have a Certified Chimney Sweep inspect your chimney and perform any necessary repairs before you consider using a solid fuel appliance. There are stainless steel chimney liners available to reline your chimney. If the chimney has ever been used to vent a gas appliance, the mortar becomes weakened by chemical reactions and is unsafe to use without the addition of a stainless chimney liner. Under no conditions should you vent a solid fuel appliance into a chimney being used by a gas furnace or gas water heater. This can create a dangerous condition. In addition, the gas damages the structure as I've already outlined.
The other type of chimney system is called a Class A Chimney. These systems consist of insulated, prefabricated sections of stainless steel pipe that snap or lock together. They can be fully supported by the ceiling rafters, which allow installation in areas where a masonry chimney is impractical. Where a masonry chimney requires a concrete footing, a prefab Class A chimney can be easily installed into any existing structure. A chimney should be cleaned and checked prior to use in the fall, and cleaned and rechecked at least once during the heating season to insure safety and long term durability.
All in all, as a matter of long term survival, alternative heat should be a top priority as an equal to food and water storage. Winter may be almost over for many, but now is the time to start gathering firewood for next season. As a rule, one acre of timber produces, by natural turnover, about a cord of wood every year. Not many trees need to be cut to heat your home. I will heat my 1,900 square foot home with two to three cords of firewood a year with very little electric furnace operation. But if you do cut a tree, be sure to plant one for sustainability of your wood supply. In a survival situation. One can never have enough dry, split firewood handy if the power grid goes down in the dead of winter.

Survival Tips and Tricks to Help You Save Money - Part One

Vinegar is a very useful item and is commonly found in everyone’s kitchen. Finding alternate uses for common household items is a great way to help cut down on your costs and prevent needless waste. Here are a few simple ways you can use vinegar that may help you save a little money.

1.) Soak new propane lantern wicks in vinegar for several hours. Then let your wicks dry completely before using. Your wicks will last longer and burn brighter.

2.) Soak hardened paint brushes in hot vinegar. Then wash your paintbrushes out with warm, soapy water to soften up the bristles so it can be used again. No need to throw that dried out paint brush away.

3.) When patching drywall, you can prevent the plaster used for patching from drying too quickly by adding one tablespoon vinegar to the water when mixing to slow the drying time.

Got vinegar?

Staying above the water line!



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Garden Defense -- Repelling Four-Legged (and Two-Winged) Pests, by Jason

Finally building a cabin in the woods close to nature can be a dream come true.  But if you are a gardener like me, the morning after the first midnight garden raid by pests unknown can be a real nightmare. 
Garden pests never attack the day after harvest or when the plants are young.  They always seem to attack my garden the day before the big haul.  A garden full of just ripened fruit and veggies must look like a neon all-you-can-eat sign to a hungry deer, or rabbit. 
There are ways to effectively turn that sign off but it will require perseverance and definitely some trial and error.
The most persevering four legged pests to ravage a garden are deer.  Their sheer size and appetite can make for absolute garden destruction.  Worse yet, many times they will simply ignore the things a gardener is apt to do to repel them.  They jump all but the very highest fence and eat right through a lot of treatments to plants.
Natural (or at least passive) repellents can be used but it is a lot like using a pesticide.  Eventually the pests develop immunity to the treatment.  Repellents are theorized to work in two ways.  The first way is by presenting the deer with something they associate with human activity.  Deer in most places have learned to avoid humans at all costs.
There are a few repellents that fit into this category.  The first is soap.  A technique taught to me by an old Kentucky corn farmer was to actually put the soap in a sock and hang it from a stretch of fence.  He hung them about every 40-50 yards.  When asked if they worked he replied, “for a little while, then the damn things lose their fear”.  Some people rub the soap onto a pie pan and hang it from a string close to the garden.  I’ve never tried this but it should work in about the same way.
The second human related repellant is a little more revolting to most people.  That repellant is urine.  Collected over a period of time and poured in a perimeter around the garden, this will sometimes keep the deer away.  Just be aware that urine in its raw state can burn your grass and crops.  The theory here is that some deer just associate the smell with humans or that they can discern the smell of the urine of a predator. 
Some people claim that human hair can also be used.  Probably also best placed in a sock and hung from a fence.
There are also many plants that can be companion planted in your garden to repel deer.  This second group of repellents works by odor as well.  This group works by masking other odors.  The theory with this group is either the deer won’t go into places where they aren’t able to smell predators due to the strong scents or that they simple can’t smell the tasty vegetables due to the strong odors.  The positive thing about this group of repellant is that they are completely natural and once planted should only require inputs same as the other garden plants.
Among the many plants that are purported to repel deer are yarrow, lavender, marigolds, rosemary, oregano, sage and thyme.  The great thing about these plants is that most perform multiple tasks; repelling pest insects, inviting helpful insects, providing food or all three. 
If all else fails, there are a few “last resorts”.  The first is making a pepper spray concoction from hot peppers and spraying the solution over the garden plants.  The reason this is a last resort is that every rain requires a new dosing and it uses valuable peppers that could be best enjoyed as food instead of deer repellant.
Another last resort is the gun.  Of course, this is not easy or foolproof in a lot of cases.  For one, state laws (including hunting seasons, tags and permits) must be obeyed.  Not everyone is allowed by local law to shoot where they live.  Even then, it only takes care of the immediate problem and other deer are free to move in and continue the destruction. 

The state where I live (Kentucky) in 2008 revised statutes to allow deer control tags to be issued in cases where: 
  • Deer hunting occurred on the property during the previous deer season
  • Standard deterrent measures recommended by a department representative have proven ineffective or are impractical; and
  • A department representative certifies deer damage to crops, gardens, and property or wildlife habitat.
Again, please check local and state laws before discharging a firearm or hunting deer.
The final “last resort” is the fence.  Fencing is costly to build to a height that deer won’t attempt to jump and it can limit any garden expansions.  However, a fence to a height of 5 foot or so will at least deter them somewhat.  It is also an adjunct solution.  A fence of that height can make it easier to trap them for a moment to shoot them.  It also gives you a base from which to hang repellant.
Rabbits can wreak a lot of destruction on a garden as well.  Pound for pound they are probably more harmful than deer. 

Luckily rabbits can be stopped by most low cost fencing options.  In fact, in the early 1900s in Australia, three fences, one nearly spanning the entire continent from north to south, were erected to prevent rabbits from encroaching further.  Rabbits were an invasive species there.  I bring up this odd bit of trivia to point out the fact that the larger the fence, the more likely that erosion and other animals will breach it and allow rabbits inside.  This is exactly what happened in Australia.  The fence must be maintained.
Most rabbit fences are made of chicken wire, which is a thin strand galvanized steel woven wire fence material.  The shorter 36” height should be used and the first 6-8” should be buried in a pre-dug trench to prevent burrowing under or erosion from rendering the fence ineffective.  Stake should be driven in the ground at appropriate distances to keep the fence in place.  The wire can be stapled or tied to the stakes.  This fence will also help with raccoons.
In addition, lavender (also mentioned above as a deer repellant) is also a rabbit repellant.  With so many uses not just as a pest repellant, good insect attractant and more, it just makes sense to plant this one.  Rabbits also hate garlic; so again, you can keep rabbits (and vampires) away and enjoy the multiples uses of a delicious plant.  Foxgloves will also repel rabbits but with only one use (other than being aesthetically pleasing) I wouldn’t really bother with it unless it is a last resort before harming the animals.
For those who have no qualms about harming rabbits, a .22 LR or even a strong air rifle will do the trick.  Rabbits are delicious to boot.
Gophers and Moles
Although listed in the same category, these two mammals are different in the ways that they harm a garden but similar in how to deal with them. 
Moles are a lesser concern as they do not eat veggies but instead eat grubs, worms and other insects.  This in itself is not a concern but for the air pockets around roots that they leave which damage and kill plants.  Moles rarely emerge from their burrows.  Gophers will come out of their holes to eat your garden. 
Some methods of prevention will require identification.  This is not a difficult task.  The first obvious sign of a gopher is that your veggies are eaten (see above).  A mole will only leave wilted and/or dying plants.  Both animals create mounds.  The gopher creates a mound from which it pushes dirt and exits.  The mound will have a hole (which may be loosely plugged) and the dirt will be pushed in a crescent pattern.  The mole will push straight up and usually will not leave a hole.  The dirt will mound in a nearly perfect circle.
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a viable natural method of keeping pocket gophers and moles in check.  Poison can be used but I find this method wholly undesirable. 
The first method is to simply build a barrier.  This will require trenching down about two feet and burying your fence to that depth.  If properly planned, this barrier could serve as a rabbit fence and gopher/mole fence in one.  Just be sure that the wire weave on the fence is small enough to prevent the smaller ones from going straight through.  An alternative is to fill the trench with rock or cement.  The trench and rock could be used in conjunction with the fence.  If you are building raised beds, the fencing can be nailed to the bottom of the frame or laid in. 
The second viable method is trapping but this will require more maintenance than even the fence.  The traps will have to be emptied and reset and new tunnels will need to be addressed.  Victor makes what is perhaps the most popular set of traps for gophers and moles.  Just be aware that there are separate traps for each.  So identification of the culprit is going to be necessary (see above).
I’ve never had a major garden problem with birds.  Occasionally I will find a peck mark in a tomato or realize that they’ve dug up seeds I’ve just planted.  In most cases birds actually help a garden by eating harmful insects. 
However, I concede that there may be situation where they become a problem.  In these cases, you can use a frightening device such as the aluminum pie pan you would use for deer.  Owl and snake decoys only work for a short while.  That is, until the birds realize they are immobile.  You can also take countermeasure to eliminate nesting areas and perching areas.
No pest control method is 100% effective.  Fences break, erode, blow down or are jumped.  Killing the pest only leaves a vacuum that is quickly filled by another.  Pests will build immunities or otherwise ignore companion plantings occasionally.
The best approach is a multi-pronged approach using a double fence broad-spectrum repellant.
The proper solution, of course, will vary with your particular pest problems, garden size and other factors impossible to list here.  You could add pie pans with soap rubbed on to this setup to repel birds and add an additional layer of deer defense.
The important thing to remember is to use multiple options that address more than one pest to maximize your money and time.  - Jason, Editor of The Self-Sufficient Way.

Episode-406- Saving Seeds the How and Why

Since we just completed a show on starting plants out right yesterday I figured we would jump to the other end of the life cycle and discuss seed saving today.  Saving seeds isn’t hard, it is in fact one of mankind’s oldest skills but there are some things to understand and rules to follow. Join me [...]