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Monday, August 23, 2010

Common Scams

“I sincerely believe that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies, and that the principles of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale” - Thomas Jefferson
Here are the top 10 International Scams according to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission).
1. Asking for money to be wired
This is a scam red flag! Wiring money is like sending cash: there is NO protections against fraud and no way to know who received the money.
2. Money requests from "friends", persons in need, businesses you did not order from.
Don't send money to strangers or unsolicited businesses.
3. Asking for info by phone, text, or email.
Never give personal information to someone contacting you. They could be lying about who they represent. Never use links supplied by email.
4. You won a foreign lottery!
Playing in foreign lotteries is illegal.
5. Please deposit this check and wire me some money back immediately.
Famous scam. The check may take many days to clear before bouncing and you will be fined for the bad check. Meanwhile the money wired is gone forever. (see #1)
6. Unauthorized charges
Always check your credit card statements and bills for "Extras" that may have been added without your permission.
7. Donating to a "fake" charity
After a natural disaster, stick to established charities like the Red Cross. Don't trust just anyone offering to collect your money.
8. Miracle Health Product!
Buy drugs only from licensed U.S. pharmacies. Otherwise, you could end up with products that are fake, expired, mislabeled, or dangerous.
9. There is no such thing as a sure thing
Stay away from anyone promising a low-risk, high-return investment opportunity. This is a contradiction of the financial market. The only true "low-risk" is FDIC insured bank accounts with terrible rates. Higher returns ALWAYS require higher risk and a chance of losing money.
10. Dealing with a fake business.
With VoIP and P.O. Boxes it is easy to create fake companies that disappear with your money with no way to find out who has it. Only deal with reputable companies with real addresses.
Bottom Line
If a deal sounds too good to be true, it is!

How to Make Apple Fruit Leather

Preparation, Sun Drying,
Oven Drying, Dehydrator Drying,
Testing for Dryness,
Storage, Helpful Hints

Select ripe or slightly overripe fruit. Take care to use sound, unspoiled fruit.
There are two methods of preparing apples for fruit leather. The first method uses homemade or canned applesauce. This may be blended with other fruit purees or spices such as allspice, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Vanilla and light corn syrup or honey may also be added. 
The second method uses a fresh apple puree, with or without the peel. Cut the fruit into chunks and place it in a food chopper or blender. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice (2 tablespoons of Meyer variety lemon juice) for each quart of fruit. Chop, grind or blend until at thick puree is formed.
Most any fruit can be used for fruit leather: apples, berries, grapes, pears, peaches, plums, tomatoes, pineapple, oranges and others. Fruits that are not well suited for fruit leather, without some modifications, are grapefruit, lemons, persimmons and rhubarb.
Line a cookie sheet or similar flat tray with plastic wrap, or plastic wrap coated with a cooking spray. Make sure that the cookie sheet or tray has an edge to prevent spillage of the puree.
Pour the puree onto the sheet or the tray about one-quarter inch deep. Distribute evenly by tilting the tray; do not use a spatula or knife. When all space are covered, the right amount of puree has been applied.
This will take from two to three days, depending upon temperature and humidity. Test frequently for dryness.
If the weather is hot (above 85 degrees F) and dry (less than 60 percent relative humidity) the trays can be placed in direct sunlight or behind a pane of glass or Plexiglas to concentrate the heat. Cover or bring inside at night if the nighttime temperatures vary more than 20 degrees F from daytime temperatures, or if fog or humidity is common at night.
Set oven at lowest setting (140 degrees F). Place the sheets or trays in the oven and leave the oven door cracked open 2-6 inches, depending on the oven door. The fruit leather will be dried in 4-5 hours.
Place sheets or trays in the dehydrator. Set temperature control at 140 degrees F. Dry for 4-5 hours and test for dryness.
Properly dried fruit leather will be sticky to touch, but will be easily peeled from the plastic wrap. Lift the edge, which will adhere lightly to the surface, and peel it back about an inch. If it peels readily, it is properly dried.
After dehydrating is complete, roll the plastic wrap and the dried leather in one piece in a loose roll.
The dried fruit roll can be stored for years in the freezer, for months in the refrigerator, and for up to 30 weeks at room temperature.
Freeze leathers containing nuts or coconut unless they are used right away. For a special treat, spread apple leather with melted caramel, roll up and cut into pieces.


Home Pharmacy Preparedness, by Michael V.

Pharmacy Rx symbolImage via Wikipedia
Don’t plan on your pharmacy being open or not looted after Day 1 after the SHTF.  Just like most cops have reported on this site that they will leave their posts to protect their families, pharmacists will do the same.  Most chain pharmacists have no loyalty other than a paycheck, so unlike “One Second After” it would be unlikely that a chain pharmacist would show up to work and risk their life after the SHTF.  Independent pharmacists who own their own store, and have their fortune tied to it have a better chance of being there, armed, with a more controlled environment, but even those will only last for a few days, at most.  Once armed bands of thugs start roaming, they will be long gone.  All pharmacies get deliveries every business day. (I have worked as a pharmacist in both chain & independent stores as well as hospital pharmacy, so I am familiar with all three types of facilities).  Most pharmacies have to pay for their drug orders within seven days, and many drugs are so expensive that inventories are kept low, (typical inventories are about $200,000) since re-supply is almost daily it is not a problem until deliveries dry up.  Within one day, many drugs will be dispensed, especially if patients are given a larger than normal supply.
Insurance companies, Medicaid, and Medicare Part-D all try to stop patients from stockpiling drugs.  So, what can be done?  First of all, as mentioned here on this site; improve your health by diet & exercise.  Stock up on the vitamins & supplements your family uses.  Keep all over the counter (OTC) drugs in the sealed, original container, and rotate your stock.  Store all medicine according to the storage directions from the manufacturer; I’ve seen mentioned on this site or others where drugs should be stored in the refrigerator, but not all drugs should; so read the label or check with your pharmacist.  Have your Doctor write prescriptions for a year supply as a quantity and you should be able to purchase whatever quantity you can afford at the pharmacy.  Use the generic or ask your pharmacist if there is a generic available that is similar to the brand name in the same therapeutic drug class; he may be able to get the doctor to change your prescription for you.  Pharmacies typically carry much larger quantities of generics than the high priced brand names.  If you are on high priced brand names (like Insulin), try refilling your prescription every 23 days, a little known fact is that many insurances will allow an early refill as long as it is within 7 days.  Begin to stockpile your insulin or expensive brand name drugs by marking your calendar and getting a refill whether you need it or not; every 23 days.  Some insurance companies like Medco keep track and won’t allow any early refills, so ask your pharmacist and try.  Work with your doctor and pharmacist to increase the quantity of critical expensive medicine like insulin so you can increase the number of vials you can get, and get it refilled regularly until your stockpile grows. 

Ask your pharmacist if you can have your long term storage meds dispensed in the sealed original containers with the expiration dates visible and rotate your stock.  If not; ask that they include an “adsorbent” which is typically found in the original containers, and have the pharmacy staff write the expiration date of the drug on your label.  Having anti-virals like “Tamiflu” and antibiotics like Ciprofloxacin, a broad spectrum cephalosporin like Cephalexin, an antibiotic eye drop like Gentamycin, an antibiotic ear drop like generic Cortisporin at home is also a good idea.  Avoid Tetracycline; one of the few antibiotics that is toxic once it expires. Doxycycline is the drug of choice for Lyme disease, but is related to Tetracycline and should be discarded after the expiration date. Clearly mark your bottle with the expiration date, and rotate your stock.  Pain meds like Hydrocodone or Acetaminophen with Codeine will be useful too.  Don’t forget anti-fungal creams, topical steroids, and assemble a great first aid kit. 

In my years of being a Boy Scout leader and dealing with scouts at summer camp I have treated a large number of ‘usual cases’; so these are conditions that regularly occur while away from civilization: diarrhea: use Loperamide it’s OTC now and a good drug, prescription drugs like Diphenoxylate/atropine are better and Belladonna Alk with PB help with cramping if available. Stomach aches: have an antacid like Tums EX, plus a PPI like Omeprazole (now OTC). 
For cuts and scratches, have Hydrogen Peroxide and triple antibiotic ointment (and Band-Aids).  Knife cuts: use Steri-strips are a great product made by 3M. I have used many times to avoid an ER visit, works great except for hairy areas that are difficult to shave.  Head lacerations may require stitching or staples; so get a suture kit with 1% Lidocaine (to deaden the area before stitching).  How to suture a wound can be found in this US Army video.  Poison ivy: use Tecnu wash to cleanse the area after exposure and treat with topical steroids like Hydrocortisone or non-steroid Domeboro. Both of these are OTCs that work, but prescription steroid creams like Desoximetasone or Fluocinonide are better.  Topical fungus are common (ringworm, jock-itch); use Clotrimazole (OTC) or Ketoconazole (prescription).   Developing a relationship with your doctor and pharmacist is crucial in getting the supplies you need before TSHTF

Are your vaccinations up to date?  Recommended immunization schedules can be found at the CDC’s web site. If TEOTWAWKI does happen having your family up to date on vaccinations will improve your chances of staying healthy.  Many of the diseases that are found in third world countries are controlled here in the United States by vaccinations, proper hygiene, sanitation and working sewer infrastructure; when that disappears these diseases will reappear here.  The CDC has a very cool web site with travel information and vaccines for every part of the world. It is worth a look.

Is your training up to date?  We had not only our leaders, but all our scouts in the Venturing Crew take the Standard First Aid Course with CPR from the American Red Cross.  I have taken the Wilderness First Aid Course by them also, which is a ‘step up’ in training.  The National Outdoor Leadership Schools (NOLS) has some of the best training available for wilderness medicine; check out their web site.  Their web site is also useful in planning a good first aid kit.  Click on the WMI store tab, and search their first aid kits to get the list of items they recommend.

If you are planning on going to your pharmacy on the day TSHTF, remember; with no electricity your pharmacist is going to have to rely on knowing you and seeing your bottle before you are going to get any medication, since he cannot access any of his records.  Also, developing a relationship with an independent pharmacist if you are on life saving medication is critical, since he is going to be taking a lot of that inventory back to his home or retreat to use it for barter.  Walking into a pharmacy where the employees don’t recognize you (big box stores) and especially without your bottle is going to get you nothing.  Hopefully, by planning ahead you won’t have to be one of the hundreds of people trying to get a refill on life saving medicine with no electricity available and no deliveries coming. - M.V. in Missouri

Survival Kit Essentials - The Solar Powered Firestarter

Being able to light tinder in order to start a fire will always be necessary in a survival situation. Having a fire brings comfort levels back to normal. You can use a fire to provide heat for warmth, cooking food or water purification. A fire will also provide a certain amount of light at night and may offer some protection from nature's creatures that roam the dark hours of the night. If you have plenty of sunlight available, a simple magnifying glass will afford you a great way to start a fire.

Simple magnifying glasses can be found in small and large sizes that allow them to fit in your pocket or a small survival kit. The smaller variety that have plastic lenses are very lightweight and don't take up much room in your kit. They will usually require more intense sunlight to get your tender started. The swivel on most of the pocket versions will also allow you to attach a lanyard for easier carrying to help you avoid losing it.

The medium-sized and larger versions usually have lenses that are glass and will more effectively concentrate sunlight when lighting tender. This will make it easier for you to start your tinder when you need to make a fire. They still fit easily in your pocket or survival kit but do weigh slightly more in most cases.

In a pinch, you could even use magnifying eyeglasses that are used for reading, etc. If you end up in a survival situation, it's always a good idea to have an alternate method for starting a fire.
Got solar-powered firestarter?
Staying above the water line!

Growing Apples in the Prepper's Garden, by Whit H.

Apples are an all-American success story-each ...Image via Wikipedia
I am a commercial apple grower in New England and in this article I will explain why the prepper should consider growing apples and how they should do so.
Why Grow Apples?
As crops go, apple trees are relatively easy to maintain and can be grown almost anywhere. A properly selected apple tree can survive the cold of Canada to the desert heat of the American Southwest. After the first year, an apple tree in the Eastern United States can typically get all the water it needs from rainfall and requires little fertilizer. From planting to harvest, apple trees can be maintained with little other than a shovel, pruners, a small saw, a hand sprayer, and a ladder. (Commercial apple farmers still do much of the orchard work by hand including tree planting, pruning and picking.)
Most importantly for a survival situation, a large apple contains over 100 calories that can be stored and saved for months with the appropriate storage conditions. While one can not survive on apples (or any other fruit) alone, few plants can produce the quantity of versatile calories that the apple tree does. For example, apples can be eaten raw or made into applesauce, dried apples, boiled cider, hard cider, or cider jack. Apples contain dietary fiber, Vitamin C, and antioxidants.
Site Selection
Apple trees need full sun. Like most crops, they will not do well below the forest canopy next to a hidden mountain retreat. Traditionally, farmers have planted orchards on marginal, hilly land. Save your prime, flat, rock-free land for growing vegetables and grains. Slopes promote airflow (which can reduce some tree diseases) and they give cold air a place to go to, reducing frost damage. Well-drained soil is best; swampy wet soils will rot the apple tree roots. Rocky soils are okay, as long as the initial planting hole has large stones removed from it. Some books will tell you to plant on the southern or eastern slope of a hill, but most of us are not going to have a lot of choice and just have to work with whatever land that we have at hand. If you are attempting to conceal your position, then plant your trees in a field or slope at random. From a distance, apple trees can appear like other trees. The easiest way to spot an orchard from a distance is the orderly spacing of trees in a grid.
Tree Selection
More than almost any factor, tree selection will determine your success or failure. There are several issues to consider.

1) Hardiness: Pick a tree that is appropriate for your USDA Zone. Any apple tree that is purchased is grafted, and it is important that both the rootstock (the roots) and the scion (the grafted part above the roots) be able to withstand your winters. The easiest way to insure this is to buy apple trees from a local nursery that grows their own trees. (Who knows where the fruit trees from the big box stores are originally grown? They also don't look very well cared for, they typically have a poor selection of varieties, and they aren't much cheaper than you would buy from a local nursery or farmer.)

2) Rootstock: You'll notice that a lot of apple trees are planted on dwarf rootstock. Commercial orchards traditionally liked dwarf rootstocks because they created dense orchards with short trees that were quick to produce and easy to spray and pick. The downside is that dwarf rootstock trees are not as vigorous, long-lived or tough. A dwarf rootstock tree can die after a few years of neglect or even after 20 years of excellent care. On the other hand, I have seen abandoned orchards planted on standard (full size) rootstock that still produce apples after decades of neglect. If you have ever seen an big, ancient apple tree, it was almost certainly planted on standard rootstock. I strongly suggest that the survivalist should try to select standard rootstock for his apple and fruit trees. The extra vigor and hardiness will serve you well in a world where you won't always have the best pesticides or the ability to replace trees easily. With careful pruning, a standard rootstock apple tree can easily be kept to a manageable size.

3) Variety Selection: You may love buying Fuji apples at the store, but that does not mean that you should try to grow Fuji apples at home. Apples vary greatly in terms of their vigor and disease-resistance. Many of the store varieties are disease-prone and require lots of pesticide and fungicide sprays. You probably don't want to be stock piling extra pesticides and fungicides in addition to everything else you will need in TEOTWAWKI. Many of the most popular apple varieties are bred to look pretty in grocery stores. (I have one variety in my commercial orchard that's only claim to fame is that it is redder than other similar varieties.) For the prepper looking to grow apples to survive or just the do-it-yourselfer looking to grow their own food, I strongly suggest that you consider one of the new vigorous disease-resistant cultivars like Liberty or Freedom (Freedom is more tolerant to warmer climates).

4) Crab Apple: Even better than one of the new disease-resistant cultivars are most crab apple trees. I find crab apple trees to be exceptionally hardy, vigorous, and to require very little spraying or maintenance. Now I don't mean ornamental flowering crab apples (which are primarily bred for their flowers and produce marble-sized fruit), but culinary crab apples like Chestnut Crabapple and Dolgo that produce fruit about 2" in diameter. They can be more time consuming topick, but they amaze me in their ability to thrive in most conditions and be unaffected by apple tree diseases and pests. I picked Dolgo crabapples from an unmanaged orchard that were nearly perfect. They often have a much more tart flavor (which is likely what makes them less appealing to pests, but also means they likely have more vitamins and antioxidants.) They can be eaten raw, but also are great for canning, cooking, and cider.
Tree Care
1) Planting: Planting trees is generally done while the trees are still dormant in the spring, although it can be done in the fall in milder southern climates. As my father used to say, you want to" dig a ten dollar hole for a two dollar plant". A large, 18-inch-deep, 3 foot-wide hole will ensure that your new tree's roots have plenty of good uncompacted soil to grow into. If your tree's roots are happy, the rest of the tree will probably be happy. If your soil is depleted, you may want to add organic material like compost and some very light fertilizer at planting, although most decent soils will work fine. You want to plant the tree at roughly the same height was planted in the nursery, making sure the graft line is off the ground. The most important practice is to water the tree the entire first growing season. I typically water each tree with 3 gallons of water twice a week, counting any significant rainfall event (~1") as one watering. Dumping 5 gallons of water once a week is also okay-- the goal is for the tree to develop deep roots. If your soils are sandy and drain quickly, you may need to water more frequently, conversely if your soils are soggy, then make sure you don't overwater. Healthy new trees can take a fair amount of wind, however if you have a very windswept site, you may need to stake the tree the first few years. If you can, mulch around the trees to keep weeds and grasses back for the first few years to make sure the tree is not competing for nutrients before its roots have fully established themselves.

2) Pruning: You can find lots of online and book guides to pruning apples trees, so I will touch on the most basic ideas here. Timing is important. You primarily just want to prune in the winter after the worst of the cold weather is over, but before the tree comes out of dormancy (about March in New England). The first step is to cut out any dead, diseased, or crossing branches. Then, you want to cut out wood to encourage the tree to spread out on strong branches. They say "you should be able to throw a cat through a well-pruned tree". This means there is good air circulation and sun. Burn all prunings to prevent them from becoming a disease host.

3) Spraying: Apples trees can be beset by a host of diseases and pests that tend to vary from region to region. Ask a local farmer or nursery what the typical diseases and pests tend to be. Growing organic apples in the Eastern US without significant crop losses can be very challenging. Organic apple growing in the arid West somewhat easier; however, you will have to ensure that you have a steady source of irrigation water in a survival situation. Sprays of a broadband insecticide and a fungicide (which can be done with a common backpack sprayer) early in the growing season (after petal fall to avoid killing bees and pollinators) will likely dramatically increase your yields. If you don't like the idea of being dependent on pesticides and fungicides, then I strongly recommend that you go with culinary crab apple trees.

4) General Orchard Care: If you can, rake up all the apple tree leaves in the fall and burn them, as they can harbor diseases (like apple scab) from year to year. Deer will eat off all the lower fruit buds on your trees, leaving you with no fruit below eye level. However, in TEOTWAWKI, if there are any deer left in your area, you will likely have no hesitation about hunting them out of your orchard.
Harvesting and Storage
1) Harvesting: Harvesting apples is not rocket science. When they taste ripe and easily come off the tree, then they are ready to harvest.

2) Storage: Commercial orchards store apples in refrigerated rooms without any oxygen. That's how you can eat a 10 months old apple in July in the US. At the personal scale, you can still store apples for months in a low temperature, high humidity root cellar or basement. Periodically check your stores and throw out rotting apples. The expression "one bad apple spoils the whole bunch" comes from somewhere. For longer term storage, you can dry apples or can them as applesauce or juice. I plan to discuss the basics of making hard cider and fruit wine in an upcoming article.