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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Prepare: Stay In Place

One of the big survivalist discussions that goes back in forth is:

Stay in Place vs Bug Out

Which naturally spawns a discussion:

Stay in Place in city/suburbs vs "heading for the hills/country"

Which eventually deteriorates into:

"All of you people in the city/surburbs/exoburbs are gonna die".

Now that we have that out of the way, let's get back to "Staying in Place" and the strategy behind it.

Bug Out: The Complete Plan for Escaping a Catastrophic Disaster Before It's Too Late

First, to "stay in place" means to stay where you currently live full time be it your home in the city, surburbs or rural location in the event of a SHTF event. Most scenarios and locations lend themselves to staying in place. Even in a city, with proper preparations, one can make themselves nearly invisible.

However, having a location that is somewhat remote is probably better in the long run.

The first concern with staying in place is security. And being invisible is far better than having a huge force of armed guards and watches. A big presence means you have something worth having and it is matter of time before someone shows up with more bad guys and guns to take it. Living under the radar post SHTF is paramount.

The Secure Home
Next is knowing your surroundings. Hunkering down and hoping nobody finds you is foolish. Know the roads and ways to get to your location. Keep tabs on any other persons in your area of operation. Know the status on nearby centers of population be they a town or another group of survivors. Knowing what is going around you involves communications (monitoring radio and CB frequencies), line of sight (seeing what others are doing) and remote monitoring of the perimeter (remote cameras or basic trip wire alerts if need be).

Next is supply with water coming first. A home in the suburbs or in the city makes it hard to have a constant water supply. Even water catchment systems are limited by rainfall. Having a creek or river nearby is nice, but what happens if someone pollutes it upstream? A safe and secure water source such as a well, (or more than one) is required.

Five Acres and Independence: A Handbook for Small Farm Management
Food. Stored food will only be available so long. You will need more food than you think so plan on having the ability to grow and produce more and count on failure.

Medical. Not a doctor or trained in medicine? Find someone who is or expect that you and yours will have a short and possibly brutal ending lifespan. Manual labor, defense and salvage put the average person at risk for injury or death a hundred ways. Don't count on a medical book and some downloaded how to pages as your only medical plan.

Where There is No Doctor
Energy. This one is overlooked in so many ways. Sure, a hydro electric, wind or solar power system are nice, but energy comes in so many other forms and is mandatory for life. Energy includes having a large supply of firewood (fuel) and the safe means to burn it for warmth and cooking.

Finally, a way out. Staying in place can work, but there is a margin of error even if you have a million dollar survivalist retreat with all the comforts of home. No prepper can prevent or avoid an earthquake, wild fire, flood or tornado which wipes out their home. Be prepared for relocation without becoming a refugee.

Staying in place is perhaps the smartest move a prepper can make. You know your surroundings, might have years of supplies in place and possibly may know where to get more. However, a plan must be decided upon before the SHTF.

Travel Tips for Surviving the Family Road Trip

We've got a road trip planned next week.  We're cheap/frugal/poor, so we don't usually fly anywhere, we just go places within driving distance.  We do road trips more often than anything.  We also don't have a TV/DVD in the car and our kids don't have Nintendo DS's, mp3's, or anything electronic.  And usually we all arrive unscathed.  Well, at least we're all still alive when we get there.  So before we leave, here's a few tips to help your family survive those long road trips.

Here are a couple of ways to save some cash on your trip:

1. Stay with family or friends.  We'll be gone 7 days and only one night is in a hotel.  Hotels aren't cheap.  Even cheap hotels aren't cheap.  Especially when you have to leave in the middle of the night after finding bed bugs crawling on your pillows and check into a nicer hotel.  Yep, done it.

Family or friends are usually glad to offer you a place to stay if they know you're coming through town, and sometimes they'll even feed you!  And even if they can't have you stay, it's a good idea to stop and visit with them so they don't hear on Facebook that you came through their town and didn't even call!  Don't be totally cheap here, do offer to pay for food, help with chores, or whatever they might need while you are there.  And of course offer to return the favor if they're ever in your area.

2. Pack food and snacks.  Make some cookies before you go.  Or rice crispy treats.  Or muffins.  Try to avoid foods that get smashed or melt easily.  Taking the family out to eat three times a day for a week will add a TON of money to your travel costs.  Plan on eating out a few times, but pack some sandwich stuff, bagels and yogurt for breakfast, and snacks so you don't have to buy everything on the road.  You might even pack a camp stove and some Mountain House meals.  If it's a long trip, usually half way through you can hit a grocery store for more bread, fruit, etc.  You'll want to re-stock the ice in the cooler anyway, and it's still cheaper than eating out.

3. Don't drive the gas guzzler.  This may sound like a given, but if you're taking a camping trip, maybe the roads are good enough to drive your car instead of your suburban.  Give it a thought before loading up the big ol' beast and spending three times as much for gas.

And now for some ideas to keep the kids from killing each other in the car.

1.  Play classic games like I Spy, 20 Questions, etc.  One we like is "I'm going on a picnic" where we take turns saying things we'll take on our picnic--one for each letter of the alphabet.  Then each turn you have to remember everybody else's picnic items before adding the next letter item.  Fun.  With smaller kids you can do this one and skip having to recite all the other letter items.  You can twist up I Spy by using colors, "starts with" some letter, or using things inside or outside the vehicle (I Spy outside in a Wyoming snowstorm using colors is pretty limited, but add the inside of the car and things get a bit better).

2.  Write every passenger's name on one car tire with sidewalk chalk before you leave.  Every time you stop, see whose name is on the top of the tire.  Celebrate with a treat or something or just keep a count of who ends up on the top the most.

3.  Play telephone.  Or have one person write a word with their finger on the next person's arm and pass the word that way across the seat.  Have the last person guess what the original word was.  OR write letters on each other's backs and guess what they are.  It's harder than it sounds.

4. Get a map of where you are going.  If you're ahead of the game, you can order maps from each state's tourism department.  Otherwise, buy a map.  If you've got an "Are we there yet?" kid, this is $5 well spent.  Mark your route.  Have them navigate or count towns or answer questions about where we are.

5.  Plan some surprises.  My mom would circle random towns on the trip and when we got to that town she'd pull a "Razzle Dazzle Travel Gift" out of the trunk.  These were things like a treat, or a small toy, lego kit, something to keep us busy for a while and break up the monotony.  A couple of my favorites were plastic army men and rubber bands so we could set them up and shoot them down (in a van before the days of seatbelt laws) and bubbles we could use with the air conditioner vents.  Total driver distractions, but SO fun as a kid.  You can probably come up with things that aren't so dangerous ;)

5.  Stop at rest stops and let the kids run around.  Yes, this adds time to your trip, but kids need exercise!  You can read the Historical marker while they run around the car 29 times.

6.   Take some magazines.  Crossword puzzles or word searches for the older kids.  Other game magazines are good also.  Magazines and books to read are also good if your kids don't get carsick.  One game that kept our kids busy for hours used a magazine and a sticker.  Stick the sticker somewhere in the magazine and have the kid find it.  They might want to place the sticker somewhere else and have you find it (if you're not driving) or you can just re-stick it somewhere different for them to find or have them hide it for each other.

7.  Sing songs.  Get a handful of CD's or load up your ipod with music you all can enjoy and sing away.  The people driving next to you won't notice, I promise.  Well, unless you have your windows down.

8.  Give the kids a pencil and paper and let them draw what they see or write notes or draw monsters or whatever.  As simple as this is, it has been a lifesaver on some of our trips.  One paper game we played was where one person drew the head of a monster and folded the paper over, then the next person drew a body and they got to open it and look at their creation and laugh.  Kept them busy for quite a while.

9.  Do some research about where you are traveling, or have the kids do some and be the tour guide.

10.  Play license plate games.  Find a license plate from as many states as possible and keep a list.  Make words from the letters on a license plate.  So if the plate is 142MNY, you could use MNY to make a word like MoNeY or you could use MNY to make a phrase like My New Yucca.

11.  Let the kids take their pillows, stuffed animals, etc. and have blankets available for enforced quiet time in the car.  You'll probably need some.  We usually offer some reward for so many minutes of silence.  It's totally worth it.

Just so you know, these are not fail proof.  We still have the "she's touching me" and "he's breathing my air" times.  But we're a lot better equipped to handle them if we've got an arsenal of activities and ideas to keep boredom at bay in the car.

I will be gone next week celebrating 15 sweet years with my hubby and a couple of birthdays and the end of summer break, but still have posts scheduled that I'm sure you'll enjoy, so be sure to check back in.  We'll be playing I Spy.  :)

43 Reasons to be Self Employed

I love being self employed. Even during difficult times, even when I don't know where my next contract is coming from, the freedom of setting my own hours and having a wide margin of control over my work just can't be beat. Here's why you too should consider starting your own business:
  1. Your OTJ meltdowns should be less often (and less drastic) than this.
  2. The internet allows you to to take care of most of your business yourself; you don't need an advertising division, a secretarial division, and an accounting division, like you did in decades gone by.
  3. Start up costs can be minimal--websites are cheap, Skype is cheap, mailing costs are free (via email), etc.
  4. You can write off a whole bunch of expenses on your taxes which you can't do as an employee.
  5. You can charge less than big firms yet still make more than if you actually worked for a big firm.
  6. Staying small allows you to stay flexible. One part of your business isn't doing so great? Change it or dump it. No biggie.
  7. You can often work from anywhere (although why people choose to work in noisy, distracting coffee shops is beyond me!).
  8. You can pick your clients and your co-workers. Don't like a client? Don't work for them.
  9. You can be way more creative than in a run of the mill job.
  10. You can work as much or as little as your want.
  11. You can work without limits. In "regular" jobs you have to be careful of "showing off" by working more/better/faster than your co workers. You have to work certain hours. You have to follow policies and procedures. Ick.
  12. You can develop multiple businesses until you find something that really clicks.
  13. You get to build your own brand...which can be kind of fun.
  14. You can make decisions that make sense. Many businesses operate the same way "because that's the way it's always been done" whether it makes sense or not.
  15. You don't have to work with power hungry middle managers, hostile underlings, and disconnected bosses. In fact, most social wrangling falls away when you don't have a water cooler to gather round.
  16. You can relocate much easier by taking your business with you instead of having to quit your job and find a new job after you move.
  17. You can change your job to meet your needs. Don't like having to be in a shop doing dog grooming? Just develop a mobile dog grooming business. Simple.
  18. You can set your own hours (ie: you can start working right after your morning poker game).
  19. You will have a cool title. Instead of being a cog in the wheel, you can be COO, XO, or CEO of You, Inc.
  20. You may be able to cut your commute (and commuting costs) to nil.
  21. The sky's the limit with how successful you can become.
  22. The sky's the limit with how much money you can earn.
  23. You can retire when you want...or just take really long vacations.
  24. You can leverage the power of the net for just about everything--advertising to millions instead of just the people in your community, selling to million instead of just the people who see your ad in the local paper, doing something amazing that "goes viral" and makes you an overnight sensation.
  25. Overhead can be minimal--these days you don't need a huge office, secretary, and an expense account. Now you can have a laptop, an outsourced secretary in India, and you can make your own coffee at home.
  26. You won't be alone. Now more than ever you will find people through blogs, forums, and other online source who are self employed just like you.
  27. There's almost nothing you can't learn online. Henry Ford used to have a staff to answer his questions and do research, now you can use Google.
  28. Your business and life will flow seamlessly together (usually). No more "thank God it's Friday" since your business will become an extension of your life and vice versa.
  29. You can literally start with nothing and grow your business through to an IPO and beyond.
  30. You can focus on work that you enjoy. Hate certain parts of your new business? Outsource or contract out those parts so you will have more time to focus on what you do really well.
  31. Your stress level will decrease...probably dramatically.
  32. Your value system will feel renewed. Working for less than ethical and/or less than honest people can wear on you.
  33. Your new business can take you as far as you want to go. As a cog in the wheel you are rather limited in your time and connections, but as a business owner you may end up hob nobbing with the Rotary, successfully running for office, or impacting policy at state and federal levels. Cool.
  34. You will learn new stuff. Most jobs you can do on auto-pilot, but with a business, you learn new stuff daily in many business and non-business-associated areas. Continual learning is a good thing.
  35. You are free to make changes. Whether you are changing your business model, service model, or product model, you never know...your business might create massive change in your industry.
  36. You will quickly learn about the most important aspects of business--making money and having happy customers. From there you continue to refine your process so you will keep increasing both of the aforementioned items.
  37. You will gain confidence and skills. Your basic job may entail sitting at a desk and typing on a computer. As a business owner, you may end up making speeches, advising others, and maybe even extending your reach by writing a book or giving workshops.
  38. You won't have to worry about your lack of credentials. If people only move up in your company based on how many degrees they have listed after their name, take heart in the fact that in the real world, action and outcome matter more than a person's title.
  39. You can make a business out of just about anything...carving pumpkins, building websites, taking people fishing, etc.
  40. You can create your own job category. If no particular jobs catches your fancy, you can meld together a handful of things you love to do and create an entirely new job.
  41. You don't have to worry about being riffed, downsized, or laid off.
  42. Self improvement will be your new mantra. At a corporate job, people usually keep their head down and do the work they are assigned, however in the competitive arena of self bossers, you need to continually evolve and be better than others or you will be left behind.
  43. You will be in charge of your own destiny. 'Nuff said.