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One woman's life as a survivalism prepper

Tuesday, September 24, 2013
> boy, have I changed!

Today, while enjoying my lunch of homemade salmon patties, homemade pasta salad, and home-canned green beans, I'm browsing the Internet for videos about the 20 hp Pro-XL DR Power Field & Brush Mower. It's a gasoline-powered mowing machine you can tow behind an ATV. It cuts tall grass and brush, and — according to the specs — it will even take down a 2-inch sapling.

I've been researching machines like this for awhile (a machine like this is sometimes referred to as a "brush hog" or a "bush hog"), and now I'm getting serious about buying one. I have about 20 acres of fields, and I want to buy the machine soon so I can mow the fields before winter. If I postpone the job until next year, it will be harder to mow.

The title of this blogpost is "boy, have I changed!" because I was chuckling to myself today as I mused about my Internet-browsing habits of a few years ago. Back then, I would browse for cute clothing or shoes, or high-end home furnishings. No more. These days I'm all about homesteading and self-reliance and pragmatism. Also, back then I probably would have been eating fast food or convenience food instead of home cooking.

The DR Mower should work well with the ATV I bought this past weekend. That ATV has a 500 cc engine — much bigger than the 150 cc engine on the tiny red ATV I bought a couple months ago. I purchased the larger ATV specifically for bush hogging, as the little 150 cc ATV isn't powerful enough.

I considered trading in or selling the smaller ATV, which I've named "Little Red," but I decided not to. Little Red is VERY useful to me, and Little Red uses less fuel than the bigger ATV — and besides, I've formed an emotional attachment to Little Red. Plus, if I ever want to take an ATV excursion with a guest, I'll have an extra ATV for the guest to ride.

I wasn't sure the new ATV would fit into my storage building along with my lawn tractor, Little Red, and tons of other stuff. However, by rearranging some things, I was able to fit everything in. Good, because my fallback plan was a tarp, and I hate dealing with tarps.

I've been prepping for about a year now, and I've managed to accumulate almost all the equipment, tools, and supplies I'll need to get a serious start on my homestead next year. (The DR Mower will be my last major equipment purchase for awhile.) Here is a partial list:

  • John Deere lawn tractor
  • John Deere tow-behind cart
  • Kymco 150 cc ATV ("Little Red")
  • Polaris 500 cc ATV
  • Drop basket for Kymco ATV
  • Utility trailer
  • A collection of ratchet straps (these are tie-downs for the utility trailer)
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Hand truck
  • Logging arch
  • Logging cant
  • Two battery-operated chainsaws
  • An assortment of various other battery-operated power tools (drill, circular saw, reciprocating saw, palm sander, weed whacker, more)
  • Hand saws for logging
  • Manual, hydraulic log splitter
  • Sprayer (for spraying apple trees and other plants with organic stuff to keep worms and insects away)
  • Organic stuff to spray with the sprayer
  • An assortment of hand tools (hammers, wrenches, screwdrivers, more)
  • An assortment of garden tools
  • Heavy-duty garden hose
  • Various kinds of oil: bar oil for chainsaws, appropriate kinds of oil for lawn tractor and ATVs)
  • A stockpile of gasoline, diesel fuel, and kerosene
  • A stockpile of fuel stabilizer
  • 30-gallon fuel caddy
  • An assortment of warm-weather work gloves
  • An assortment of warm-weather work boots
  • An assortment of cold-weather work gloves
  • An assortment of cold-weather work boots
  • An assortment of wet-weather work boots
  • Safety equipment: hardhat, chaps, safety glasses, ear protection
  • Fire extinguisher
I'm pleased about the fact that in less than a year I've gotten together nearly everything needed to get me on my way to a self-reliant existence. The only major thing missing is a place to live on my farmland! But of course that will be taken care of next year when I build my cabin.

On another subject: I'm still stockpiling fuel. I plan to buy quite a lot more of it before winter. And good news: while shopping at Kmart a few days ago I was given a "fuel rewards" card that provides for a discount of 30 cents per gallon at "participating Shell stations." There are quite a few Shell stations in this area. I hope some of them are "participating."

Saturday, September 14, 2013
> real-estate sale, canning, flashlight

A couple days ago I closed on a real-estate sale. Some of the proceeds from the sale will fund the construction of my survival cabin. I'm excited about the fact that I'm now actually in a position to build the cabin. I'm a bit frustrated, though, because I won't be able to start the construction this year — it's too late; winter will arrive in a few weeks. I'm hoping to get an early start on the project next spring.

Canning has taken over my house! I've canned well over a hundred jars of food this year: green beans, blackberries, and applesauce. Boxes of empty canning jars are stacked in my kitchen. Jars of preserved food are all over my office, waiting to be labeled and stacked on the shelves I bought at Kmart last week.

I've also made ten pies. (Bought a chest freezer at a yard sale for $30; froze the pies.)

I very much enjoy the process of harvesting and preserving foods, but the canning has made a mess of my house. Now more than ever I'm really interested in building the "canning shack" I mentioned in my August 21, 2013 blogpost.

There are quite a few projects I want to wrap up before winter: transplanting some trees, applying preservative to the wooden siding on my storage building, digging out the boulder I mentioned in my August 15, 2013 blogpost (yes, I'm still working on that boulder!), mowing my paths and trails at least once more before winter, filling in some holes and ruts with dirt, improving the organization of the things in my storage building, stockpiling more gasoline and kerosene, bucking more firewood, splitting and stacking firewood...the list goes on.

This spring and summer I've stolen serious time away from my professional life to do work on my acreage. My office work has really gotten short shrift, and I am behind schedule on many things. Having my professional life out of control is an uncomfortable feeling for me, and I have been thinking about how best to budget my time and energy so my office work doesn't get so far behind. It's been just about a year since I purchased my acreage. Having gone through almost an entire year, I now understand how I'll need to organize my life going forward. This is the plan: November through April will have a focus on office work; May through October will be the time when I work the land, deal with firewood, harvest and preserve food, and so on. During the November-through-April time period, I will do my best to get ahead with my office work. I won't ignore office work completely during the warm months, but I'll do as little of it as possible so I can devote a fair amount of time to outdoor endeavors. Since I own and operate the company on which I rely to support myself, I have quite a lot of freedom when it comes to how to approach my work, how I schedule various projects and tasks, etc.

Two days ago I got caught in the dark at a Walmart. There was a power outage due to a thunderstorm, and the lights went out. I had flashlights in my vehicle, but I had no flashlight on my person. It was a little scary standing there in the dark amongst a bunch of strangers.

Fortunately, I and my fellow shoppers weren't in the dark for very long: the store's auxiliary-power system kicked in in less than a minute. But what if it hadn't? Here I was thinking I was so well prepared for emergencies away from home because I always carry a cell phone and a pepper-spray canister and because my vehicle has not one but two flashlights in it, along with tow straps, jumper cables, a power inverter, a 5-gallon gas can, a blanket, and several other emergency-type items. Foolishly, though, I never thought to put a flashlight in my backpack prior to my spooky Walmart experience. When I arrived home, I took a little flashlight from one of my prep piles and put it in the backpack.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013
> anise seeds, canning shack

For most people, prepping entails learning to cook "from scratch" to the extent possible. Lately I've been experimenting with recipes quite a bit. One thing I've learned is that anise seeds can enhance the flavor and texture of many different kinds of foods. Here are a few examples of how I've been using it.
  • Add it to pasta salad.

  • Put it in tuna salad.

  • Include it in bean salads of many types.

  • Sprinkle it into spaghetti sauce.
I use A LOT of anise seed. For example, I made pasta salad yesterday — maybe about two pounds of it — and I probably included at least three generous tablespoons of anise seeds. (I didn't measure.)

I like anise seeds so much I've purchased five pounds of them for my survivalism stockpile.

Fennel has a licorice-like taste similar to anise, and fennel is good too, but I think I like anise better because its texture is slightly crunchier than any form of fennel I've tried.

On a different subject: Yesterday evening was my fourth canning session (7 more pints of blackberries). When I finished, the entire house was steamy. I'd observed this during and after my other three canning sessions, too, but last night it seemed worse than it had the other three times. All windows had condensation on them, even though I had a couple windows open while all the boiling was happening. Even some of the glassware inside my kitchen cabinets was moist with condensation. If I continue to do a lot of canning, I wonder if I'll grow mold in the house.

Even if I don't grow mold, all the humidity can't be good for the fabrics and paint. Not to mention the electronics.

So, in planning the new cabin, I wonder if it would make sense to create a separate structure dedicated to canning. What I have in mind is a good-sized shed, maybe about 12 feet square. A canning shack.

I have friends who make maple syrup every spring, and they have a rustic building they refer to as their sugar shack. They do a lot of canning, and they always use the kitchen in the sugar shack to do the canning instead of using their kitchen at home.

My canning shack would probably have a cement floor. It would contain a simple kitchen with a good-sized sink (maybe a laundry sink). It would have a wood cookstove. Maybe it would also have a gas stove or kerosene stove. It would need electricity, and it would need hot and cold running water. There should be some kind of provision for keeping foods cool after they're harvested and before they're preserved — maybe a root-cellar type of thing.

If I plan the infrastructure for the canning shack at the same time the cabin is being built, I could keep the cost of the canning shack relatively low. For example, the two buildings could probably share the well and the septic system/graywater system. I know this can be done, because several years ago I was involved with a construction project that was designed this way.

The plumbing for the canning shack would need to be configured such that the system could be drained in the winter. (The canning shack would probably be a three-season building.)

Maybe the canning shack could double as a guest cabin...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013
> it's harvest time!

It's time in my part of the country to harvest fruits and vegetables. Even though I didn't plant a garden this year, I'm very involved in harvest activities and food-preservation activities.

As I explained in my August 15, 2013 blogpost, I've been picking vegetables from friends' gardens.

And this year, for the first time, I have my own stuff to harvest! I have two big blackberry patches and six apple trees.

Take a look at this loaded blackberry bush.

This week I attempted canning for the first time ever. Two days ago I pressure-canned 26 pints of the bush beans I picked from a friend's garden last week. The canning class/food-preservation class I took several weeks ago really paid off. Had I not taken that class, I would have been intimidated by the whole process. (Would I make a mistake and poison myself with botulism? Would the pressure canner explode?) But everything went smoothly. All 26 jars sealed properly. One of them, for some reason, lost most of its liquid while in the pressure canner. (Our canning-class instructor had warned that this happens occasionally.) I am going to discard the contents of that jar. The 25 jars I have left will more than serve my need and desire for bush beans until next year's harvest.

And yesterday I canned 9 pints of blackberries. As instructed during my class, I used my water-bath canner for these instead of using the pressure canner. Using the water-bath canner is an easier and faster process than using the pressure canner.

I was concerned about how the berries would taste after canning. I knew the taste of the canned berries would be quite different than the taste of fresh blackberries. I just wasn't sure I'd like the taste. So of course I decided to sample the contents of one of the 9 jars today, after giving them a chance to cool overnight. The berries, which I canned in a heavy syrup made of sugar and water, taste really good. I'm thrilled.

I have about 5 quarts of freshly picked berries in my refrigerator, and there are many more berries to pick (even though I invited a friend to pick berries yesterday, and she picked 2-3 quarts). I'm going to use the same process I used yesterday to can lots more pints of berries. I'm also planning to can some blackberry pie filling after I receive the "Clear Jel" I purchased on line yesterday. (As I learned recently, Clear Jel is a thickening product that's used to make pie fillings, fruit toppings, and similar concoctions.)

As happens with just about any new endeavor in life, I learned some important things during my first attempts at canning:

  • I'm going to want an oversized sink in the cabin I'll build. Washing the canners in the standard-sized double sink I have now was a cumbersome task because I can barely fit the canner in the sink at all, and I can't position it properly for rinsing. I ended up rinsing off both canners in my bathtub.

  • Following along with this thought, I will definitely want a high, gooseneck faucet in the new cabin.

  • In the cabin I would very much like to have a large stove for canning. I'd like it to be least 36 inches wide. Both the pressure canner and the water-bath canner are really big, and there was barely enough room for either of them on my 30" stove. I had to position each of them precisely to seat it properly on top of the burner — and also, each of the canners was encroaching on other burners, which made it difficult to use other pots for doing all the boiling and blanching that has to be done prior to actually filling the jars and loading them into the partially heated canner.

  • I have now experienced first-hand the reason why "serious" cooks prefer a gas stove over an electric one. It's because it's much easier to control a burner's temperature with a gas stove. I've heard serious cooks state this, but I've always attributed their remarks to snobbery. Now I know better. My stove is electric, and when I was using the pressure canner I found it necessary to actually lift the canner off the burner a few times in order to control its pressure. The loaded canner is very heavy and so it got jerked around a little when I lifted it up. When I opened the canner at the end of the process, I saw that two of my jars had tipped over sideways. I surmise that this happened when I lifted the canner off the burner, and I also surmise that the tipping-over is the reason why most of the liquid escaped from one of my jars. If I'd been using a gas stove or a kerosene stove, I could have regulated the temperature without lifting the canner up off the burner.

  • I've learned that I should try to become more adept at using the special canning tongs to lift and move the hot jars. Clanking jars into the canner and into each other probably is not good. I'm sure I'll get better with practice.

  • For a long time now I've been thinking about installing a special "canning area" in the basement of the new cabin, and I'm now extremely interested in doing this. The canning area would be an inexpensive and very utilitarian kitchen with a cheap (but big) stove, a oversized double sink (maybe a double laundry sink), plenty of shelf space, plenty of counter space, and places to store canners, jars, lids, and other canning equipment. I'm hoping my budget will permit this.

All in all, I'm feeling very good about my first foray into canning. This weekend, weather permitting, I'll pick apples and start canning applesauce. Stay tuned...

Thursday, August 15, 2013
> bush beans, berry blight, pond plans

I haven't started gardening yet, but some of my friends have big gardens. Now is harvest time, and I'm often invited into somebody's garden to pick.

A couple weeks ago I picked peas from my friend Sally's garden. I've been getting lots of enjoyment from them. Fresh peas or fresh-frozen peas are wonderful in a pasta salad or a bean salad. And, the picking of the peas was fun, in particular because the pea plans are exquisite, swirly, twirly works of art.

Last week I picked a little over two quarts of green bush beans from a different friend's garden. I ate some of them fresh and froze the rest.

Today this same friend invited me to pick more green bush beans. I picked a boatload of them. I'll probably can them later today. It will be my first attempt at canning.

Midway through my bean-picking endeavor this morning I took a break and visited my survival acreage, which is just a couple miles down the road from the garden where I was picking the beans. I puttered around on the property and took care of a few miscellaneous tasks — stashed some boxes of powdered laundry detergent in my storage building, did some weed-whacking, and continued my efforts to excise a huge boulder from one of my fields. I've been picking away at the boulder with my shovel off and one for about ten days. I'm down about 14 inches now, and I still haven't reached the bottom of the boulder. I'll persevere.

I also checked on the progress of my blackberries (to find out if a lot of them have ripened) and was very disappointed to see that more than half the bushes in the larger of my two blackberry patches have been hit by blight. I doubt I'll get many more berries from that patch this season. I'm glad I at least picked two quarts of them last Saturday.

Maybe my other blackberry patch has escaped the blight. I'll take a look next time I'm on the property. I was so disappointed about the blight I found today that I didn't have the heart to even visit the other patch.

While picking beans this morning I had a discussion with my friend Randy about how I could use the water from my pond to irrigate my vegetable garden next year. Early this summer I gave this some thought. My idea was to locate my garden downhill from the pond and somehow gravity-feed water from the pond to the garden. I wasn't sure how exactly how to go about it, though, and I didn't really have time to pursue it this year. My conversation with Randy this morning was very fruitful. He knows exactly what I should do to accomplish what I want. He has done this kind of thing himself, many times. Randy grew up on a farm and has always made his living off his land, in one way or another — plus, he is very, very intelligent — so I am a hundred percent sure he knows what he's talking about. I'm looking forward to setting the plan in motion next year.

Well, I'm signing off for now. I have a ton of office work to do today.

Happy prepping...

Wednesday, August 14, 2013
> I'm back! (Why was I gone? What have I been up to?)

I haven't done a blogpost for about ten weeks. The main reason I stopped blogging is that I've been concerned about preserving my identity and security. Specifically what I mean is that if TSHTF we could at some point be living under martial law, at which time the government might start demanding from the citizenry things like guns, ammunition, fuel, and food. People known to be preppers will of course be targets of this effort; hence my worry.

But I've decided to start blogging again in spite of these concerns. For one thing, I'm small potatoes compared with some other preppers who are known on the Internet. For another thing, I am harder to identify than the high-profile preppers who use their real names, show their faces on YouTube videos, or do other things that would make it easy to figure out who and where they are — and if we are ever at a point where government personnel are ferreting out preppers, they will of course go for the low-hanging fruit first and perhaps will never find survivalists like me who keep a relatively low profile and have relatively small stockpiles of things that might be of interest to a government. For another thing, I realized today, after re-reading one of my blogposts, that I really miss blogging about My Prepper Life! The blogging does something for me emotionally, and in the Department of Emotion I need all the help I can get, as I'm still striving to get my sea legs under me after having my heart ripped to shreds by my recent divorce.

Moving forward, I think I'm going to be a little less specific about my prepper purchases, my stockpiles, and my prepping activities than I have been in the past. I'll do things this way just to make it a bit more difficult for anyone reading this blog to discover who and where I am, what I have, and where I've stored it. I do feel that this approach will compromise the "quality" or "usefulness" of the blog to some extent, because when I conceived of this blog I hoped it would serve as a tool for getting new preppers up to speed on what serious prepping actually entails — and to this end I planned for the blog to contain a lot of blow-by-blow descriptions of my prepping activities, with many nitty-gritty details. I will do my best to make the blog useful to inexperienced preppers within these new constraints I've established for myself.

So, what have I been up to this summer? A LOT. Here is a quick rundown.

I've cleared and mowed quite a few paths and trails on my acreage. Having the paths and trails makes it easy to access various parts of the property (much easier than it would be if one were wading through hay and weeds that are four or five feet tall, which is what one would need to do without the paths and trails). Having the paths and trails also makes it very enjoyable to walk around the property.

Making the paths and trails has been a lot of work. I've put my chainsaws, weed whacker, shovels, rakes, and lawn tractor to good use. I've pushed the little tractor way beyond what it is designed to do, but I've nursed it through the thick hay and weeds slowly and carefully, at times using the weed-whacker and rake to create a crude trail ahead of the tractor, and as far as I know, I haven't caused any damage to the tractor. While making the paths and trails I did get the tractor stuck a number of times and had to tow it free with my Jeep. By now I've gotten pretty good at finessing the tractor, though, plus I pretty much know by now which areas of my paths and trails are problem areas (difficult to mow), and I've developed techniques for dealing with these areas so I don't get the tractor stuck in them.

I still want to extend a couple of the paths and trails, and I want to make some new ones, but those endeavors will probably need to wait until next year. I have too many other projects on my plate, and cold weather is fast approaching.

I bought an ATV. I have a wire-mesh basket attached to its rear rack. The ATV is very useful for all kinds of work: hauling firewood, hauling brush, carrying tools, and more.

I bought a pull-behind John Deere cart. It's a little trailer I can tow behind my lawn tractor or my ATV. I bought it unassembled and had a heck of a time trying to put it together. Most of the assembly process was actually pretty easy, but there was one procedure that I struggled with. I ended up going back to the John Deere dealership where I'd bought the cart so I could take a picture of the problem area on a fully assembled cart that was on display there. That's when I discovered the illustration in the instruction manual is completely bogus. No wonder I'd been struggling.

I've found five apple trees on the property so far. Recently I pruned one of them, but then I found out that — according to some people experienced with fruit trees — it's not a good idea to prune them in the summer. It's not good for the health of the tree, these folks say. My other four apple trees need pruning too, but I'm going to wait until next spring to do it. I'm hoping I haven't caused too much damage to the apple tree I did prune.

The apples on all five trees look great. They should be ready to harvest within the next few weeks. I'm planning to can a big batch of applesauce. Which leads to my next topic...

I took a Food Preservation Class offered by our local Cooperative Extension Service. The class was excellent. The main focus was on canning, but we also learned how to dehydrate foods and how to freeze foods.

I've bought almost 30 cases of canning jars of various sizes. I doubt I'll ever use all of these myself; some of them will probably end up being used for barter and charity.

By the way, the Ball company (the well-known maker of canning jars) is now offering BPA-free lids on their jars. I was happy to see this, as I try to stay away from BPA as much as I can.

I have two big blackberry patches on the property, and last weekend I picked and froze two quarts of blackberries. Only about five to ten percent of the berries were ripe last weekend, so I'll be picking many more quarts of them. I plan to can the rest of the blackberries I pick this year.

Just a couple days ago I discovered I not only have blackberries on the property, I also have raspberries. I stumbled upon a good-sized patch of raspberry bushes in an area of the property where I don't normally go. It's too late to pick the raspberries this year, but I'll get them next summer.

I've developed a low-tech fuel-storage plan and have been stockpiling fuel a few gallons at a time, when I have the time and money. (Sorry — I'm not comfortable being specific about my fuel-storage plan.)

I continue adding to my stockpile of nickels when my budget permits it.

I've added quite a lot to my food stockpile. I now have more than a year's worth of food in the stockpile. I've begun rotating some of it.

Now that I've reached the one-year milestone for the food stockpile, I'm devoting money to fuel-stockpile purchases and have slacked off on buying items for the food stockpile. Eventually I want to have much more than one year's worth of stockpiled food, but for now I've established that fuel is a higher priority.

I continue adding toilet paper and paper towels to my stockpile. You can never have too much of either.

I've given up my satellite-TV service because I thought I was spending too much time watching TV. I don't miss it at all. To get news, I listen to the radio and visit news sites on the Internet. For entertainment, I have the radio, and sometimes I watch episodes of favorite TV programs via the Internet. I've also subscribed to Netflix and am enjoying the Netflix subscription very much.

I've cut more firewood. I've stopped cutting 16" lengths (16" is the standard); I'm now cutting 12" lengths because the small woodstove I'm planning to install in my to-be-built cabin can't accommodate the 16" length. (If I do in fact end up with this particular woodstove, I'll cut my 16" lengths in half.)

I've been working on finding and/or developing recipes that call for ingredients I'm likely to have on hand after TEOTWAWKI. The big challenge is oil — actually, lack thereof. Foods like cooking oil, Crisco, etc. don't have a very long shelf life and so will probably be hard to come by after TEOTWAWKI. Just today I did find a recipe for Oat Quick Bread that doesn't call for oil, except that you're supposed to grease the pan you bake it in. I made the recipe today, and I greased the pan, but I probably could have gotten by without greasing it because most of my bakeware has a non-stick coating and also because one of the recipe ingredients is molasses, which is a little oily. The bread has an excellent flavor and texture! And, the main ingredients are oat flakes and oat flour, so it's ideal for somebody with a cholesterol problem. My "bad cholesterol" level is borderline high, and I've been trying to coax it down by eating a lot of foods containing oats. Anyone interested in having the recipe should email me at

So now you're up to speed on what I've been doing. Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 1, 2013
> learning not to panic

One of the survivalist forums I frequent has a thread entitled "Do you ever get tired?" Early in the thread there were a number of posts from people saying they take frequent breaks from prepping because of burnout. This discussion morphed into discourse about panic over doomsday predictions, which is a topic near to my heart because of my frequent struggles with panic since becoming a prepper seven or eight months ago. For example, I felt agitated for a period of several weeks when we were hearing all the media hype about the U.S. government's fiscal cliff. Likewise when the Cyprus bank-deposit tax was in the news recently.

Posts from other folks engaged in the on-line discussion enabled me to realize that part of the journey to successful prepperdom entails developing a way to manage your emotions in the face of the doomsday predictions that come down the pike so often. Here is an excerpt from a discussion between two forum participants:

FIRST PERSON SAYS: "Do you ever get tired of the doomsaying sometimes? I have basic preps, and firearms (I'm an enthusiast, SHTF or not), and want to get into more outdoors stuff and self-sustainability, but the SHTF impetus seems to get old sometimes. All the self-sufficiency, basic preps, outdoor living stuff seems prudent and fun....but not because of SHTF freakouts anymore. The SHTF 'sky is falling' kind of stuff is just losing its appeal to me. Have you felt this way?"

SECOND PERSON RESPONDS: "I've felt this way for a very long time now. Especially all the idiotic sky is falling predictions. They do nothing but harm our cause. It also contributes to prepper burnout. And that's one thing I always suggest to someone who's burning out. Start avoiding all the sky is falling stuff and just focus on your life and prepping. It makes life more pleasurable, and you focus more on what really matters. Instead of being unnerved by a bunch of crap that contributes nothing but stress anyway."
Another person makes this comment:
"We really aren't very concerned about the doom flavor of the month. Keeping up with the daily chores and making improvements in the way we eat and live keeps things plenty busy & interesting."
Another person:
"...I don't expend any emotional energy..."
And there is this comment:
"I'm just living and enjoying my life and preparing to keep living if SHTF ever happens. So in other words I balance it all out. All work and no play is boring and so is all prepping and no play."

All these posts came from folks who have been prepping for longer than I have.

As I poked around in this thread over a period of several days, I came to understand that these preppers and others have undergone what I'll call an emotional-maturation process. In other words, it appears there is a common theme, which is: "I used to panic a lot, but I've figured out how not to panic, and I don't panic anymore."

At one point while reading the thread, something clicked in my head: I realized I don't have to be at the mercy of my panic anymore. It actually felt like this new, calm state of mind was comfortably seated in my psyche. I then bravely posted this:

"I became a prepper only a short time ago (approximately October 2012). I am just now getting to the point when I don't panic anymore when a pundit or a group of pundits comes out with a doomsday date of some kind. For example, I was really agitated for a period of several weeks when the media were full of talk about the fiscal cliff. Same thing when the Cyprus bank-deposit tax was all over the news.

"I have now gotten to the point where I can pretty much maintain a calm state of mind in the face of doomsday predictions, even when they come from sources I think are probably credible.

"I think the primary reason I can do this now (but could not a few months ago) is that my ability to manage my emotions has matured. In my early prepper days, I didn't realize that one of the hallmarks of a mature and strong prepper mindset is an ability to function in an emotionally hardened and resilient way when impending doom is predicted by somebody. Now I understand that most serious preppers probably develop this ability over time.

"For the sake of clarity, let me state that I'm NOT saying that all the doomsday predictions that we hear are hogwash. What I am saying is that I have, over time, figured out how not to be consumed with fear when I hear such predictions."

When I said, "I bravely posted this," I meant that my new-found resolution not to give in to panic had not yet been tested. Though I had strong confidence in my fledgling panic-suppression skills, I was in fact white-lying when, in my post, I presented my new, sans-panic self as a done deal.

But this morning when I read several on-line articles predicting global financial collapse later this year, I sort of panicked momentarily, but then I settled myself down within a couple minutes.

I've come a long way, baby.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013
> new (prepper?) neighbors, wheelbarrow, tiny tree

A nice young couple bought acreage that abuts mine. I've been told they are living there in a tent. This morning I went over there and introduced myself.

They seem intelligent and educated. They say they'll be home-schooling their two young children. They are committed to off-grid, green living. They explained they are planning to build a cabin from logs found on the property, using only hand tools. They like finding ways to carry out work without petroleum-based fuels. They are organic gardeners.

We talked for a good half hour. Their family seems like a perfect addition to the neighbordhood. I think we'll get along swimmingly.

I wonder: Are they preppers? Could be. As I get to know them better, I'll put out a few conversational feelers and see how things play out.

After saying goodbye to the new neighbors, I drove to my storage building and spent about an hour inside assembling a wheelbarrow I bought awhile ago. I then dug a big stone out of one of my field roads (to prevent damage to the mowing blades on my tractor). I finished up the morning by transplanting a tiny spruce tree.

It's been a good day.

Saturday, May 25, 2013
> a step back and a step forward

Today was both frustrating and satisfying.

The "couplers" I mentioned in my May 23, 2013 blogpost were delivered yesterday. They are pieces of angled steel that are supposed to facilitate assembly of one of the modular shelving units I bought for my storage building. I've been eager to finish assembling the shelving unit I struggled with a couple weeks ago, so this afternoon I drove myself and the couplers to the storage building.

Fighting a hard rain and blustery wind, I unlocked the building, stepped inside, and was disappointed to see water pooled on the floor near the building's double doors. Not only was there water near the doors; a trickle of water had made its way into the building for a distance of about ten feet.

How annoying this was. Surprising, too. The building has been there since last October, and it's never been wet inside before. At least, not that I know of.

I attempted to determine where the water was coming from. I could see that the roof wasn't leaking at all; instead, what was happening was that the water was coming in around the edges of the double wooden doors.

The rainstorm that's been with us for the past couple days has been unusually severe and accompanied by high winds. In fact, during my drive to the storage building, I saw a couple big limbs that had been torn off of trees by the roadside, and I also passed an electric-company bucket truck with a linesman hoisted high and in the process of making some kind of repair. I reasoned that whatever damage he was dealing with had probably been brought about by the storm. This storm is a bit unusual and therefore, hopefully, the storage building won't be wet inside on a regular basis. Still, I've begun playing with the idea of building a small roof structure over the doors — an overhang. Something like that would channel rain away from the doors and would, I think, take care of the problem.

For me, building a little roof over the doors would be a major undertaking. We'll see.

Anyway, once inside the building, I attempted to figure out how to use the couplers to assemble the shelving. No joy. I couldn't understand how it was supposed to work. Instructions had not been enclosed with the couplers, and the couplers didn't seem to fit with the other shelving components. The manufacturer had shipped the wrong kind of couplers, I thought.

Now I was getting really frustrated. Not only was I dealing with a wet floor inside the building, it looked like I wasn't even going to be able to complete the task I'd come there to do. In my head I started composing a nasty email message to the manufacturer of the modular shelving. Their customer service thus far had been nothing to write home about; the fact that they hadn't sent me what they'd promised to send was getting my dander up.

What to do?

I puttered around a little, snacking on a granola bar, sweeping the floor (the dry part), and thinking about my shelving dilemma. I REALLY wanted to get that shelving unit assembled TODAY.

After thinking about it for a few minutes, I decided I would try to follow the assembly instructions that came in the box with the shelving unit. This, of course, is what I'd done two weeks earlier on my initial attempt to assemble the shelves, but there had been one procedure I had been unable to complete without a helper to hold some things in place while I attached some of the components together. But I decided to try it again.

To make a long story short: I did it! I had to balance some things carefully, and at one point I ended up using a rope to hold one of the components in position temporarily, but in the end, the shelving unit got built.

I then had the satisfaction of stashing a big collection of disaster-preparedness items on the shelves. Once I'd done that, the building looked a lot more organized.

The building would be better organized, though, if I had one more shelving unit. I decided I'll buy another one as soon as I can afford it.

Since I was apparently on a roll, I considered assembling the new wheelbarrow I bought awhile back. I opened the box, took a brief look at the components and instructions, and decided I just wasn't up for it. As I've mentioned before, I have limited tolerance for dealing with mechanical tasks. Plus, I was cold and a little wet, and I had to pee. I would put the wheelbarrow together another day.

I headed for home, and just a few hundred feet from my house I saw a big moose drinking from a large puddle created by the heavy rain, about ten feet from the side of the road. I enjoy seeing moose (they are so funny and gangly), so I made a U-turn so I could get another look. He was still there. Another U-turn to go back home: he was still there. Such fun.

Friday, May 24, 2013
> tips for gadget-challenged solo preppers

I live alone, and I carry out virtually all my prepping activities by myself. I'm female and not highly experienced with tools and mechanical devices (though I'm learning). While I'm in pretty good health, I'm not a young person.

I do have highly skilled friends and neighbors who could and would assist me with some of the work I'm doing. However, I prefer handling things on my own because I don't necessarily want my friends and neighbors knowing about my disaster-preparedness bent and also just because I am a self-reliant kind of person who feels most at ease when I manage my own affairs. There will be times when I'll need to get people to help me with some things, but those occasions will be few and far between.

I want to share with you some information about the techniques and philosophy I'm using to handle prepping on my own. Some of my tips are simply about getting things done by yourself, but a number of them are about safety. Safety is paramount for any prepper but especially so for a prepper working alone. If you're working solo, you can't afford to slip up, safety-wise. The last thing you want is to end up bleeding to death by yourself because you were careless. That would kind of defeat the purpose of prepping, wouldn't it?

So here is my list of tips.

Build things in place. If you're going to build something — for example, a compost bin — build it in the location where you ultimately want it to be. If you build it in a workshop or garage, it might be too heavy for you to transport to the site you've chosen for it. This leads to my next tip, which is...

Invest in some state-of-the-art, battery-operated power tools. If you're like me, you need to build stuff or repair stuff in places where you have no electric service. I have several good battery-operated power tools: drill, circular saw, reciprocating saw, palm sander, and last but definitely not least, chainsaws. Invest in the most powerful models you can afford: for example, if there is a 20-volt model and a 36-volt model, get the 36-volt model. If you buy a less-powerful model of a tool, I can almost guarantee you'll wish you'd bought a more-powerful model, as some of the weaker battery-operated tools just don't have enough juice to do serious work and/or will deplete a battery quickly.

Buy some extra batteries and keep them all charged. That way, you won't have to stop work in the middle of a project because your battery is dead — you can just swap out the depleted battery for a fresh one.

Don't try to learn how to use a bunch of new tools all at once. Working with my hands is not something I have done all my life, and that's probably why I get stressed and impatient when I'm learning about a new tool. How to assemble it. How to hold it steady. How not to injure myself while using it. Last year I bought a bundle of DeWalt battery-operated tools: drill, circular saw, and reciprocating saw. I've used the drill quite a bit, but the circular saw and reciprocating saw are still in the box. When I feel ready to learn how to use one of them, and when I have a need for one of them, I'll get to it. And this tip leads to my next tip, which is...

When using a new tool, don't try to make use of all its features right away. Take my battery-operated drill, for example. First I just used it to drill holes. After I'd gotten comfortable with that task, I bought screwdriver attachments and used the drill to drive screws (and to back out screws when I made mistakes!).

Be willing to pay for convenience and for other people's expertise. Don't try to do everything yourself, "from scratch," unless you have unlimited time, energy, and patience. Here are some examples from my own life:
  • Instead of building shelves in my storage building, I purchased some sturdy, modular shelving units from Lowe's.

  • Instead of learning how to use a vacuum sealer and mylar bags to package foods for long-term storage (LTS), I'm buying all my LTS foods specially processed for LTS and packaged for LTS in #10 cans.

  • The photovoltaic system in my new house will be a pre-assembled system that comes with comprehensive instructions and is easy to install and manage.

Take advantage of on-line forums and other on-line resources. Two of my favorites are and This kind of leads to my next tip...

Be satisfied with ways of doing things that are less than optimum, but achievable for you. On line you'll find information from lots of people with highly developed mechanical skills and technical knowledge about construction methods, alternative-energy systems, gardening, food preservation, firearms, and so forth. These folks engage in fascinating debates about the best way to achieve this or that. You can learn a lot from these discussions, but please don't get too carried away with the idea that you must do everything the "best" way.

Take my gasoline stockpile, for example. When I first started prepping, I was sure I needed a big tank for storing gasoline. My tank should have a capacity of at least 300 gallons, I thought. I surfed and surfed the Internet, learning about above-ground tanks, below-ground tanks, metal vs. plastic, different tank shapes, different kinds of pumps. I checked into permit requirements. I considered the pros and cons of different locations for a tank. I thought about the logistics involved with rotating the gas in the tank.

And then one day I just admitted to myself that I was never going to have a tank! Several reasons. I'd need to get a permit, and I probably would not be granted a permit by the powers that be. And, the process of applying for the permit would raise eyebrows and alert people to my plan to store fuel. Maybe I could risk circumventing the law (going without a permit), but I decided I wouldn't sleep well at night if I did that. And, I couldn't transport my tank to my property myself — it would be too big and heavy — so somebody would have to deliver it, and the delivery person would then know about the tank. And, I don't really have the skills needed to install a pump. And in thinking about rotating the stored gasoline, I realized I'd actually need TWO tanks if I wanted to do it properly. And of course there is the cost of a good-sized tank: several hundred dollars at least.

Once I'd accepted the reality — that I wasn't getting a tank — I developed my current, super-simple plan for stockpiling gasoline. Here it is. I bought a bunch of 5-gallon gas cans (currently I have 45 of them). I carry a few empty ones in the back of my Jeep. When I have the time and money, I fill one or several of the cans at a filling station. I add STA-BIL to the contents of the can, write the purchase date on a key-tag label, and use a string to attach the key-tag label to the can. Currently I'm storing the filled gas cans in my storage building, but I'll likely move them out of there soon and store them under a camo tarp in the woods on my property. (Keeping the filled gas cans in the storage building probably isn't a particularly good idea because my lawn tractor is stored in there, and starting the tractor could conceivably ignite the gas vapors. In fact, I haven't yet started up the tractor this spring for just this reason.) I won't store the gas cans in the woods permanently; when I have the time and money, I'll buy or build a storage building for the gas cans.

Think safety all the time. Think ahead and move carefully and deliberately when walking on uneven ground, climbing over and under things or into and out of things, using ladders, moving heavy items, and using tools. Understand safe and proper use of tools, and utilize the safety features on them. Don't leave things lying around to be tripped over (tools, logs, stones, lumber, packing materials, etc.).

Buy and use good-quality safety gear that fits properly. I have an MSA hardhat that fits well and is very comfortable. I have safety goggles. I have chaps. I have rugged, comfortable work gloves. I have sturdy boots. I wear all this stuff when using a chainsaw. I wear all of it minus the hardhat and chaps when working with other tools (though sometimes I take off the gloves if my task requires fine manual dexterity).

Don't allow clothing, jewelry, or hair to cause trouble for you. Tie shoelaces securely, and make sure the loops of them and the ends of them aren't so long that they'll catch on twigs or cause you to trip over them. Tie back long hair so it doesn't get caught in power tools. Likewise, remove or restrain jewelry.

Keep a first-aid kit close at hand when possible. It's a good idea to have bandaids and antiseptic ointment nearby for small cuts and scrapes. A well-equipped first-aid kit will also contain supplies for dealing with more serious injuries: for example, a tourniquet, gauze pads, surgical tape.

If you're allergic to insect stings, always be prepared. Carry your EpiPen everywere.

Always carry a cell phone (and/or maybe a two-way radio). I always carry my cell phone. There are some places on my property where I have no cell-phone signal, but the cell phone does work in most locations on the property. If I had a two-way radio and a friend with a two-way radio, I'd carry that, too. (This is something I want to put in place. It's on my list of things to do.)

Protect yourself from animals. Here where I live, it's not unusual to see bears, coyotes, and other wild animals. Normally I strap a canister of bear mace to my belt when I'm working outside on my property. I have a gun, too, but I bought it only a few months ago, and since I haven't yet learned enough about it to feel comfortable carrying it, let alone firing it, I don't carry it when I'm working outside.

Plan carefully when getting help from others. There will be times when you'll need to get assistance to carry out a particular task. If you want to keep your prepping under wraps, you'll need to plan carefully. For example, I'm going to hire a neighbor to till the plot for my garden. Before he comes onto my property, I'll make sure all evidence of prepping and stockpiling is out of sight.

One more comment about safety: Practicing good safety habits now, before TEOTWAWKI, is excellent preparation for life after TEOTWAWKI, when we'll all need to do whatever we possibly can to avoid health problems because medical care as we know it today might not be available.

Thursday, May 23, 2013
> The Humanure Handbook

Today I downloaded and printed out The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins. I've had casual thoughts about using humanure for my vegetable garden but have heard lots of negative things about doing it. Maybe reading this book will make me comfortable with the concept. I've been considering a Nature's Head composting toilet for the new house; using humanure would fit right in with that plan. I'm going to try reading a chapter or so of The Humanure Handbook every night before going to sleep, or at least most nights. We'll see where it leads.

You can download The Humanure Handbook free of charge, in PDF format, at the following URL:

BTW, I found out about The Humanure Handbook on, an excellent forum for preppers.

The company that makes the modular shelving I mentioned in my May 16, 2013 blogpost is shipping some "couplers" that are supposed to solve my assembly problem. I don't know what the couplers look like, but I think I can guess: they are probably short pieces of angled metal that overlap the two pieces I haven't been able to attach to each other.

The couplers are due to arrive next week. I'm looking forward to getting all the shelving put together, because once I've done that I'll be able to clean up and organize my storage building. During the past couple weeks I've transported a whole bunch of disaster-preparedness stockpile items to the storage building, and it's getting kind of crowded in there because most of the items are sitting around on the floor.

Last weekend I explored a discount grocery store I hadn't patronized very much. I discovered they have good pricing and good expiration dates. I bought a bunch of canned fruits, canned vegetables, and bottled juices while I was there. These new food items have been shrink-wrapped, labeled, and added to my stockpile-inventory spreadsheet, along with some other food items I bought recently at Walmart and at dollar stores. My spreadsheet calculations show that I now have enough food to last somewhere between six and a half months and eight months, assuming 2500 calories per day or 2000 calories per day, respectively.

Thursday, May 16, 2013
> building shelves and counting calories

I've been focusing very hard on getting my survival stockpile really organized.

Last weekend I assembled modular shelving units in my storage building. Well, sort of. For one step in the assembly process, I need a couple extra hands to hold things in place before they get riveted together. I was working on my own, so this was a problem. I did get some of the shelving assembled, though, and I put it to use right away, storing some tools and other items on it.

I have a thought about an assembly technique that might enable me to finish the job on my own. If that doesn't pan out, I'll need to get somebody to help me. The thing is, I really don't want other people to see some of the things I have in that storage building: for example, a three-year supply of toilet paper and paper towels, 100 gallons of gasoline and kerosene in 5-gallon cans. If it turns out I can't handle the assembly solo, I guess I'll move some stuff out of the building before getting somebody to assist me. This will be quite an inconvenience, unfortunately.

During the past couple days I shrink-wrapped and labeled a bunch of canned foods for my stockpile and added them to my stockpile-inventory spreadsheet. At this point just about all the stockpile items I've purchased are shrink-wrapped, labeled, and on the spreadsheet.

I also added to the spreadsheet columns for number of servings per container and number of calories per serving. I just took the info from the Nutrition Facts specs on each container (can, box, or pouch). When the spreadsheet tallied up the calories, the total was 423,194. This is about a 5-7 month supply of food for me: ~5 months if I assume 2500 calories per day; ~7 months if I assume 2000 calories per day. This falls in line with the estimate I'd come up with, which was 6-9 months. It's good to have concrete numbers (i.e., calorie counts) to work with, though.

Here is a link to the spreadsheet.

I'm shooting for a 3-year supply of food, so I have a long way to go. But now that I've developed procedures for bundling and labeling the items and monitoring and managing the stockpile, things can only get easier.

And speaking of calories: I've finally broken through the 162-pound barrier with my weight-loss effort. For several weeks I was unable to get below 162 — my weight was hovering between 162 and 165. But this morning it was 159.8! Yay! I want to lose another 25 or 30 pounds. This summer I'll be gardening like crazy and harvesting firewood like crazy. Those activities will burn some calories, to be sure.

Thursday, May 9, 2013
> airport, ammo, nickels, tiny roasting pan

I went to the airport yesterday, but I didn't fly out, and I didn't pick up anybody that flew in. My mission was buying Jet A fuel. I've been researching different kinds of kerosene for months, and after talking with many people and reading tons of information on the Internet, I've come to understand that Jet A fuel is almost identical to K-1 clear kerosene and can be used for the same purposes as K-1 clear kerosene.

I was told a few months ago that some people around here buy the Jet A fuel for kerosene lanterns and heaters and stoves. They do it because there are no commercial establishments in this area that allow you to pump your own clear kerosene. You can pump red-dyed kerosene, but the dye generates smoke when the kerosene is burned, making this kind of fuel unsuitable for indoor use.

Some stores sell K-1 clear kerosene in 5-gallon cans that are VERY pricey. A couple months ago I paid more than $40 at Lowe's for one of these 5-gallon cans; the pricing works out to over $8 per gallon. In contrast, I paid $4.48 per gallon for the ten gallons of Jet A fuel from the airport, which got pumped into two blue 5-gallon cans I'd brought with me.

Before going to the airport yesterday I knew from my research that I wanted to get Jet A fuel WITHOUT additives, if possible. When I use the term "additives," I'm referring to chemicals airport personnel sometimes add to Jet A fuel to make sure an aircraft's fuel lines don't freeze. As it turns out, getting additive-free fuel was easy. I didn't even have to bring up the subject: the airport employee I was dealing with explained that he would pump my fuel directly from a tanker truck so I wouldn't get any additives (he told me the additives are put into the fuel after it's pumped from the tanker truck into one of the holding tanks at the airport).

I had quite a detailed discussion with this gentleman during which he told me of several people that use the Jet A fuel in lanterns in their homes and in heaters in their barns. Hearing this gave me a good feeling, as it seemed to confirm what I've learned during the past few months: that Jet A fuel is a viable substitute for K-1 clear kerosene.

Yesterday I also made a stop at a gun shop and, for the first time in weeks, I found the ammunition I needed, in stock, right on the store's shelf. I was very surprised about this, because prior to yesterday I hadn't had any luck buying ammunition at any stores around here for at least two months or so — the shelves had been virtually empty. I bought 200 rounds yesterday. The price was higher than it would have been several months ago, but not sky-high.

I also bought a tiny black-and-white spatterware roasting pan. I've been looking for a really small roasting pan because I think I'm going to end up with a pretty small oven in my new house, and the small roasting pan I already owned isn't small enough for the oven I'll probably have. My new little roaster is only 9 inches wide and 13 inches long. It's the smallest roaster I've ever seen, but it's big enough for a good-sized chicken — perfect for a roast-chicken dinner for a one-person household like mine; adequate, even, for a roast-chicken dinner for three or four people.

I also did some miscellaneous stockpile shopping at Walmart and at a dollar store: dental floss, bath soap, bandaids, four more 5-gallon gas cans, and other miscellaneous items.

This morning I read this article and decided I'd start buying nickels again. I got into the habit of buying $20 worth of nickels here and there this past winter but slacked off because my budget was tight. I've now bumped the nickels up higher on my disaster-preparedness list.

After talking with friends and reading some on-line posts in a gardening forum, I decided I won't be canning foods in the wire-bale canning jars I found last weekend. The issue is that with these old-style jars it's difficult to know if the seal on a jar is tight, but with the modern-style jars it's easy to tell when a seal is tight. I've known about this for awhile, but while I was cleaning up the wire-bale jars I found last Sunday, I kind of coerced myself into thinking I should use them for canning. However, talking with my friends and reading the on-line information have convinced me this would be a bad idea.

The jars will be put to good use, though: I'll keep dry foods in them (flour, sugar, corn meal, baking soda, bread crumbs, etc.). My house gets very humid during the summer months, and because of that I've been keeping such foods in tightly closed plastic bags. Using the cute canning jars for storage will be much nicer and more convenient than using the plastic bags.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013
> free canning jars after church, getting serious about woodpile

Now that spring has arrived, people are starting to do yard sales and garage sales and giveaways. Driving home from church this past Sunday, I passed a hand-written sign that said "FREE." I U-turned the Jeep and backtracked to the house where the sign was located. They were giving away a bunch of stuff: ice-cube trays, window blinds, books, children's clothing, and more. One item caught my eye immediately: a cardboard box full of old Ball and Atlas canning jars — the old-fashioned ones with wire-bale closures. I scooped up the box and loaded it into the Jeep. Here is a photo.

I'm going to wash the jars thoroughly and look them over carefully. From the research I've done, I understand it's especially important to look for nicks and other imperfections on the mouth of the jar and on the lid. I took a quick look at one of the jars this morning, and aside from being filthy, it looks perfect.

After I've cleaned up the jars and inspected them, I'll show the ones that pass muster to a couple friends who are experienced with canning. Assuming I get a thumbs-up from my friends, I'll buy new rubber rings for the jars, and I'll use them for my first canning attempt this harvest season.

Now that I've gotten these free canning jars, I'm going to be on the lookout for more canning jars at yard sales and garage sales.

I'm going to end up buying a big batch of new canning jars, too. The new ones will be the modern kind with screw-on lids. Recently I found out about the Tattler BPA-free reusable lids, and I think I'll buy a boatload of those as well.

This morning I spent a few hours on my new property. After STA-BILizing and labeling a few 5-gallon cans of gasoline I bought recently, I spent a good hour establishing a new base for my small but growing stack of firewood. I'd been stacking the 16-inch bucked logs on top of a couple of long, split logs, which was okay; but I wanted to move the woodpile to a different location where it would get more sun and more breeze, and I wanted to use evergreen boughs (spruce and fir) as a base. To prepare for this, I cut quite a few evergreen boughs last week. This morning I carried the boughs to my chosen site for the woodpile and then took some time arranging them so they form a springy and somewhat-level base for the logs. Then it took me about a half hour to move the logs from the old location to the new location about 150 feet away. After I'd stacked the logs, I folded a tarp and kind of stretched it over the top of the stack, using a few logs to hold it in place. This stack, when finished, will be 8 feet long, 4 feet tall, and 16 inches wide: a third of a cord of wood.

Assuming this stacking system works out well, I'll just keep building more stacks like this one. As the stack grows taller, I might need to build vertical braces for the ends of the stack. We'll see how it goes.

I want to explain, in case anybody is wondering, that I haven't split any of the logs yet. Most of them are quite small, and I won't split those. Some are larger and probably need to be split. I put the larger ones on top of the stack of wood so they'll be easy to access when I'm ready to split them. I have a manual, hydraulic splitter. I bought it last year, and it arrived just before our first big snowstorm. I didn't get to use it last year and haven't yet used it this year. Soon I'll take it out of its box, set it up, and give it a whirl.

Sunday, May 5, 2013
> megashopping at the dollar store

Yesterday I had in-town errands to do. I stopped at one of the dollar stores to pick up some prepper provisions. I really got into the prepping spirit; ended up spending $100.75! I bought:
  • 12 cans of clam chowder
  • 6 cans of seasoned lima beans
  • 3 bottles of cinnamon
  • 4 packages of emery boards
  • 2 toenail clippers
  • 15 packages of dental floss
  • 15 deodorant sticks
  • 15 bottles of aspirin
  • 15 bottles of Ibuprofen
  • 3 packages of hemorrhoid ointment
  • 3 packages of gauze pads
  • a package of zip ties
I doubt I'll need all this stuff myself; much of it is intended for charity and barter.

I also bought two more 5-gallon cans of gasoline for my fuel stockpile.

Saturday, May 4, 2013
> It's official: my satellite-TV account is cancelled

In my April 22, 2013 blogpost, I explained that I'd started weaning myself off TV. I wanted to do it to prepare myself for the off-grid life toward which I'm working and also to free up time for important tasks and pursuits. The prospect of not paying $59.19 per month to Dish Network was appealing, too.

Going without TV is not unprecedented in my life. I had several TV-less years when I was in college.

I haven't watched TV at all since April 22nd, and everything is fine. Beyond fine, even. I'm accomplishing more than I did when I was a TV watcher. I feel calmer than I did when I was a TV watcher.

I've gotten into the habit of listening to National Public Radio when I'm working in the kitchen. And, I have a few unwatched movies on DVD; I've been watching them on my laptop at bedtime some nights, to wind down. Maybe I'll subscribe to Netflix so I can have movies on hand on a regular basis.

Having survived ten sans-TV days with no withdrawal pains, I decided yesterday to cancel my Dish Network account. When I called, the Dish representative tried to talk me out of cancelling, but I held firm. Within a few minutes, the cancellation was done.

Friday, May 3, 2013
> Bucking firewood, my sweet sheeple girlfriends

I've been very busy this week — haven't even had time to blog. I will take just a few minutes today for a short blogpost.

The fantastic weather I talked about in this past Monday's blogpost has been with us all week. Except for this morning, each morning this week I've spent a couple hours bucking firewood on my new property before heading to my home office for desk work. At this point I have made friends with my new Stihl 36-volt battery-operated chainsaw, which I love. I was a little intimidated by it at first, because it is much more powerful than the tiny Black and Decker 18-volt chainsaw I used all year last year. But now I'm pretty comfortable with it. I'm very "respectful" of it, though. And of course with both my chainsaws I follow all the recommended safety procedures, and I'm dressed head-to-toe in safety gear: helmet, goggles, gloves, and chaps.

My concern about national and global financial instability continues. When will the crash come? I really, really hope it doesn't happen until next year at the earliest. By then, with any luck, I will be ready for it to some extent. I now understand global financial interdependencies well enough to realize the powers that be around the world want to keep the U.S. Federal Reserve's Ponzi scheme going as long as they can, because when the U.S. dollar collapses the global economy will collapse. For example, Chinese powers that be want to stave off the collapse as long as possible because Americans won't be able to buy Chinese-produced electronics and clothing and toys and Walmart doodads if the U.S. dollar fails. So what I'm saying is that influential people in China surely are aware that the U.S. government is woefully insolvent, but the Chinese keep lending money to the U.S. government anyway because they know their own economy will collapse if ours collapses.

And BTW, as most of you probably know, when I refer to "the U.S. Federal Reserve's Ponzi scheme," I'm talking about the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing policy, which means the Federal Reserve increases the money supply by printing more money so the U.S. government can pay its bills.

On a separate but closely related subject: This morning one of my friends was talking about withdrawing money from her savings account to pay for dental work. I used this conversation as a jumping-off point to tell her just a little bit about my concerns about the U.S. banking system and the U.S. dollar. I talked about what happened recently in Cyprus. I told her I don't keep much money in the bank. I told her I've invested in silver. I explained why. Then, predictably, I got the eye-roll. She told me, "Well, I just feel secure having that money in savings." When I pressed on, explaining that I believe it's possible people with savings accounts might lose some or all of the money in them, she told me, "Oh, well, there's always something to worry about. You can drive yourself crazy worrying about everything that might happen." This comment was her way of dismissing my remarks.

Did I get my feelings hurt? No. Her response to my comments was exactly what I'd expected. She is, for sure, one of the sheeple, as is another friend with whom I had a similar conversation a few weeks ago. This other friend responded to my comments by saying, "Well, I don't worry about things like that. I just pray."

Both these women are really good people — dear friends of mine — and actually that is the reason why I even broached the subject with them at all. When interacting with most people, I keep my prepper thoughts to myself. With these two women, I guess I just wanted to feel I'd done what a good friend should do by expressing my thoughts about the unstable financial environment within which we live and work and conduct commerce.

In closing, I feel compelled to say one more thing about my efforts to look out for other people's interests by expressing my concerns about the instability of the U.S. financial system, etc.: When TSHTF, it will be horrible and terrifying — but I'm sure I will take just a moment, silently, to say to myself, "I told you so" when my unprepared sheeple friends cry and moan about the shambles their lives have become. I'm not ashamed to admit I will for sure derive a little satisfaction from my feelings of validation. Then, I will do what I can to help these wonderful friends of mine. My disaster-preparedness stockpile contains charity items and barter items destined specifically for some of my dear sheeple friends.

Monday, April 29, 2013
> Beautiful weekend, great results with Hawthorn, suspected market manipulations

What a glorious weekend we had! Blue skies, bright sun, no wind to speak of, temperatures in the 60s. There were a few small piles of snow here and there, but for the most part the snow had cleared sufficiently so one could work outside easily, which I did.

Saturday morning, before starting my outside work, I went into town and did some prepper shopping and other errands. For my disaster-preparedness stockpile I bought 48 more rolls of toilet paper; also, nine big bottles of vegetable juice with Q3 2015 expiration dates. I also bought three little pear trees at Kmart. I'm kind of excited about the pear trees! It would be great to have pears to eat fresh, to can, and to dehydrate. Each tree is only about six feet tall, but according to the labels on the trees, each tree should ultimately grow to about 30 feet in height and 20 feet in diameter. The labels also indicate that the trees will have pretty white or pink flowers in the spring. I'm going to do my best to make the little trees grow strong and healthy.

After picking up a foot-long tuna sandwich at Subway, I headed for home and took all my purchases inside. Then I tinkered with my two chainsaws for awhile, getting them ready to use. I loaded up the Jeep with chainsaws, extra chainsaw batteries, other tools, plus my sandwich and some grapefruit juice, and headed to my new property on the other side of town.

Arriving there, the first thing I did was modify the way my rope was tied across the entrance road to the property. Last fall when hunting season started I wanted to discourage hunters from driving all over my land, and I hastily kludged together a somewhat-sloppy arrangement with some nylon rope and a KEEP OUT sign. What I did Saturday morning was re-tie the rope in a different way to make it easier to untie it quickly and easily and re-tie it quickly and easily when I want to enter and leave the property in my Jeep. I also cut some brush to clear a path to one of the trees to which the rope is tied. In addition, I fished the KEEP OUT sign out of the ditch where it had come to rest after winter winds ripped it off the rope. I'd need to repair it a little before re-attaching it to the rope.

I then spent most of the afternoon and evening bucking (cutting) firewood. Though I have two chainsaws — a little Black and Decker 18-volt battery-operated one and a larger Stihl 36-volt battery-operated one — I used the little Black and Decker saw exclusively, mainly because it was familiar to me, as I used it a lot last year. The new chainsaw remained in the Jeep, because I hadn't yet taken time to read the instructions for "breaking it in."

Late in the evening I took a little walk up the hill to my pond. I scooped some pond water into a glass jar so I can take it to a local water-testing lab. I want to find out what, if any, bad stuff it contains before I move forward with my plan to plant a vegetable garden near the pond and use pond water for irrigation.

On the way to and from the pond, I saw several piles of deer scat. I didn't see any actual deer, though.

At home yesterday morning I repaired the KEEP OUT sign and reinforced it by gluing it and stapling it to heavy cardboard I'd cut out of a FedEx envelope. I took the seven 5-gallon cans of gasoline out of my bathroom, loaded them into the Jeep, took them over to the new property, and stashed them in my storage building there. It's great not having the gas cans in my bathroom! I also attached the repaired and reinforced KEEP OUT sign to the rope, and I bucked some more firewood. I returned home tired and dirty, but contented.

Let me also tell you about a success I've had in terms of my health. As I mentioned a few days ago, I've started taking Hawthorn capsules because Hawthorn is supposed to be good for lowering blood pressure. Well, great news, folks: it's working! My blood-pressure readings, which had been in the 130s over 90s (borderline high), are now right around 105 over 68 (well within normal range). I'm thrilled! Assuming things remain this way, I won't need to resort to pharmaceuticals for blood-pressure control. Instead, I'll keep taking the Hawthorn capsules. Sometime I'll probably even try to plant and grow a Hawthorn tree on my property. It would be great to have Hawthorn berries available after TEOTWAWKI, not only for myself but also for my hypertensive friends and neighbors who probably won't be able to get blood-pressure meds at a pharmacy.

This weekend I also did some casual Internet research focusing on two phenomena that are uppermost in a lot of people's minds these days: 1) ammunition scarcity, and 2) falling prices for gold and silver. I'll make two brief comments.

  1. I'm pretty much convinced our federal government is responsible for the scarcity of ammunition we are experiencing these days, and I think it's likely they've created the situation as a means of disarming the populace to some extent. I believe they (specifically the Department of Homeland Security) are expecting financial collapse and resultant societal collapse in the near future, and withholding ammunition from the American people is one tactic they're using to make it easier for them to control the unruly masses when society collapses.

  2. I'm pretty sure the powers that be on Wall Street are manipulating the market for precious metals (PMs), causing prices to fall while at the same time causing lack of availability. (This situation flies in the face of the basic supply-and-demand market forces with which we are all familiar.) I believe the Wall Streeters are expecting financial/societal collapse soon, so they are using their influence to cause PM pricing to plummet so they themselves can buy PMs at low prices to prepare themselves for TEOTWAWKI.
To sum up: from where I sit, the economic climate in our country seems very out of balance, very precarious, very peculiar. I'm concerned about the possibility that our nation and planet could be headed for major financial collapse in the near future. I'm not ready!

Here are some pertinent links:
UNPRECEDENTED Shortages Of Ammunition, Physical Gold and Silver

Is The Takedown Of Gold A Sign That The Entire Global Financial System Is About To Crash?

The Assault On Gold

Thursday, April 25, 2013
> Are you worth saving?

Today I want to recommend an excellent article by a talented Texan named Jian~Ashen. In his piece, entitled "Are You Worth Saving?," he considers how things are likely to play out after TEOTWAWKI, and he urges you to "get your mind right, if you want to survive."

In a way that's both insightful and entertaining, he poses the question "How will you survive in a post-TEOTWAWKI society?" For the most part, his piece is targeted at folks who will seek refuge with well-prepared survivalist communities because they themselves are not adequately prepared. However, the advice he offers is valuable advice for just about anybody.

Like me, Jian~Ashen thinks "our societal bonds could disintegrate thanks to erosion of our financial system." Here are a few excerpts from his article.

"[Today] we actually trade for money which is then converted into satisfying our needs and wants. But how is worth estimated when your neighbors no longer value green toilet paper with pictures of dead presidents? When the intermediary is gone from the equation, you must trade directly...What is special and valuable from an individual? The quick answer is skillset — what you bring to the table besides a consuming belly."

"For success after TEOTWAWKI, you need to be accepted into a community that somehow works without our current authority and currency. Yet outside of immediate family members, who would take you in?

"If you have no obviously valuable skills (carpentry, plumbing, cooking — all those things learned by the vo-tech kids you looked down on in high school), you had better learn to have a valuable attitude...These days we get away with character traits that can hardly exist in less evolved societies. White lies, prejudice, insecurity, finicky, fastidious, vegetarian, promiscuity, addictions, high-maintenance: after TEOTWAWKI, those days are over."

Take a few minutes to go and read this exceptional article.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013
> gardening discussions, Hawthorn capsules, stockpile shopping

As I've explained in earlier blogposts, my attempt at vegetable gardening this year will be my first.

I've been doing some Internet research, and to be honest, I feel a little overwhelmed. There is a vast amount of information out there about different approaches to growing vegetables. And unfortunately, with everything else that's going on in my life, I'm not in a position to spend as much time educating myself as I'd like to spend.

To till or not to till, that is the main question.

Last night I had a long discussion with a friend about planning my garden. She pretty much convinced me I should do some semblance of a no-till, raised-bed garden, as opposed to doing things the traditional way, which would require tilling the soil. We were discussing the cost of a RotoTiller, the fact that I'm not sure I could handle the weight and torque of a RotoTiller, and the fact that the soil where my garden is to be located might not be ideal for growing vegetables. This particular friend owns and operates an organic farm, so I'm convinced she knows what she's talking about.

This morning I had another discussion about it with two different friends, and our talk evolved in the opposite direction. These two women have had success with traditional gardening methods that require tilling. Also, one of them tried no-till gardening a number of years ago, and it didn't work out well for her. I walked away from this morning's discussion feeling like a tilled garden is the way to go.

This evening I again talked with the friend who's advocating the raised beds, and I'm beginning to vacillate a bit.

You know the phenomenon that happens when you're exploring a new idea or topic and every time you read something about it or talk with somebody about it you end up feeling like the last thing you read or heard makes more sense than what you'd read or heard previously? Well, that's what's happening with my gardening research.

During both last night's discussion and this morning's discussion it was suggested that if I decide to till, I should get somebody with a tractor to do the initial tilling. The soil in my chosen area for the garden has never been disturbed, it appears, and because of that, powerful machinery will be needed. I'm friendly with my two closest neighbors, and both of them do major gardening and own good-sized tractors, so it would probably be easy for me to arrange for one of them to do the tilling.

I'm told by all three of the aforementioned friends that I could probably handle the tilling on my own after the tractor has done its work the first time around. One of my friends is going to let me try out her RotoTiller, just to see if I think I can handle it. I won't actually attempt to till my garden with it; instead, I'll just walk it around her garden a little to get a feel for it. After the tryout I'll be in a better position to decide whether I want to till, and if so, whether I want a RotoTiller or whether I want to tackle the job by some other means. Stay tuned.

I made a trip into town today for a few errands. On the way, I did some banking and also visited a small country store to inquire about buying canning jars and lids in bulk. I'm not planning to purchase massive quantities, but I am going to buy several hundred pint-sized jars, probably about half as many quart-sized jars, and a ton of extra lids. I got some pricing from the store's manager.

Then I continued on into town. In the grocery store, in addition to buying some everyday groceries, I bought a bottle of Hawthorn capsules. Hawthorn is a tree. It has berries, and the berries are known to lower a person's blood pressure. My blood pressure is borderline high. The capsules I bought today are made from Hawthorn berries. For reasons well known to all serious preppers, I don't want to manage my hypertension with pharmaceuticals. I'm already using some natural substances for lowering blood pressure (garlic, for one). It's been a few weeks since I've measured my blood pressure. After I've been taking the Hawthorn for a week or so, I'll start measuring my blood pressure. If the Hawthorn capsules have the desired effect, it will give me some peace of mind, as Hawthorn trees grow quite well here in my area and so I could probably get my hands on some Hawthorn berries in a disaster scenario.

My next stop today was Staples, where I bought more tags for labeling the 5-gallon cans containing my growing fuel stockpile. At the hardware store I got more string for the tags. At Walmart I picked up a big box of tea bags and eight more cans of B&M Brown Bread for my food stockpile.

After arriving home and bringing everything into the house, I did some office work and also did a bit of on-line price-shopping for canning jars and lids. The pricing I was given today by the manager of the country store beats all the on-line pricing I saw. Good, because I like giving my business to local merchants.

It's after 7 pm now. The day really got away from me. It's time for a Lean Cuisine Shrimp Alfredo dinner and a glass of wine.

Monday, April 22, 2013
> scaling back on TV and TP, stabilizing and labeling gasoline

I'm waiting for a big file to download from my company's server. The download will take awhile because of the anemic Internet service I have here in the boondocks, and I decided to report on my recent prepping activities while I'm waiting.

Yesterday I made a couple resolutions.

One of them is a commitment to cutting down on the time I spend watching TV. I have three reasons for wanting to do this:

  1. I feel pressure about not having enough time to do all the things I need to do and want to do. The four or five hours of TV I've been watching almost every evening could be devoted to other things, and getting those other things done would relieve some of the pressure. Stress and depression about my divorce got me into the habit of vegging in front of the TV. It's now time for me to break that habit.

  2. Ultimately I want to live off grid. I'll have solar-generated electricity, but most of it will be devoted to essentials like my refrigerator, freezer, small microwave, laptop, and other devices and systems that will make my house habitable and comfortable and will allow me to operate my company from home. I'll likely have enough extra power to watch TV now and then, but watching for several hours every day is probably out of the question. If I wean myself off TV now, I won't have to go cold turkey when I transition to my off-grid life.

  3. I'd like to stop paying $59.19 every month to Dish Network!

I also decided yesterday that Iíll start trying to use less toilet paper. I won't share the nitty-gritty details about exactly what I'm doing. Let's just say I'm experimenting with different folding techniques. The idea behind this is that even though I currently have a two-year supply of toilet paper in my disaster-preparedness stockpile (and I'm planning to have much more than that), I will still want to conserve the TP in a disaster scenario. Besides, minimizing use of TP is good for the environment.

This morning I added STA-BIL to seven 5-gallon cans of gasoline that I purchased a few weeks ago. I also developed a simple system for labeling the cans. I'm using key tags (round, metal-rimmed labels with strings attached). They work well because each tag can be anchored to a gas can by attaching a string and looping the string around the handle of the can. The tags came with strings attached, but those strings weren't long enough to fit around the handles on the cans, so I replaced them with longer strings.

Each tag has hand-written information that identifies what's in the can and says when it was purchased. For example, each tag I wrote today says:

87 octane
gas, stabilized
MAR 2013

Here is a photo of one of the tags.

Here is a photo of one of the cans with its tag attached.

I'm using a pencil instead of a pen to write on the tags. This will allow me to modify the purchase dates on the tags when I start rotating the gasoline stockpile in a few months. To do the rotation, I will start using the cans with the oldest purchase dates to fill up the fuel tank in my Jeep. Each time I empty a can into the Jeep's tank, I'll take that can to a service station and fill it with fresh gasoline; I'll then erase the old purchase date on the can's tag, write in the new purchase date, and add the newly filled can back to the stockpile.

When writing the purchase dates on the tags, I'm specifying the month and year, not the quarter and year as I've been doing with foods and other stockpiled items. For the gas I'm writing the month instead of the quarter because I think it's important to be a little more precise about gasoline-purchase dates, as gasoline is finicky about being stored for long periods of time. Adding STA-BIL to the gas improves that situation quite a bit, of course, but I figure you can't be too careful.

To wrap up this discussion about long-term storage of gasoline, I just want to send out kudos to the company that makes STA-BIL. Not only do they make a product that meets an important need, they've also designed a bottle for STA-BIL that allows you to measure your STA-BIL precisely and pour the measured amount into a container without using a second container for measuring and without spilling a drop! I won't take time to explain this here, but if you're not familiar with STA-BIL and if you want to see what I mean, take a look at a bottle of STA-BIL the next time you're in Walmart or in an auto-parts store.

A few minutes ago I received a call from Ready Made Resources. They called to discuss the dent in the can of garbanzo beans I received from them last week. Arrangements were made for me to return the dented can via UPS. Ready Made Resources will ship a replacement can to me.

The people at Ready Made Resources are great people to do business with. One of the folks there, Bob, is the person that recommended the Yeti generator I mentioned in my March 21, 2013 blogpost. I did some more research on the Yeti generator yesterday, and I'm now pretty confident it will meet my needs quite well. I might actually end up with two or three Yeti generators.

I urge you to check out the Ready Made Resources Web site, There you'll find many items you'll need for disaster preparedness.

Another excellent on-line source for disaster-preparedness provisions is Safecastle. I have made some purchases from them and have gotten some good advice from them. Check them out at

Well, that's all for today, fellow survivalists. It's time to make some lunch. Until next time, Happy Prepping!

Saturday, April 20, 2013
> Big Brother at doctor's office, other frustrations

Yesterday was one of those days.

It started out as a lovely day. As I explained in yesterday's blogpost, I really enjoyed the time I spent on my new property yesterday morning. From there it was all downhill, though.

At about 1:00 pm yesterday I left the house for an afternoon of errands.

First on my list was a trip to my doctor's office to pick up a prescription. I've been taking this particular medication for years, and normally the script is waiting for me at the receptionist's desk, and I just grab it and am on my way. So yesterday when the receptionist told me, "I have your script right here, but you just need to see the nurse first," I wondered what was going on. Whatever it was, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to like it.

A few minutes later the nurse called me into the inner sanctum. She then said, almost apologetically, "We're doing urine today. It's nothing against you — the insurance companies are requiring it now. They just want a baseline." I took the little plastic cup she handed to me, murmuring something about being surprised. Peeing in the privacy of the bathroom, I realized I was pretty angry about this demand for one of my body fluids. The words Big Brother were running through my head. As I left the doctor's office there was an up-tick in the intensity of the anger I feel toward insurance companies.

My next stop was my post-office box, where I took delivery of a couple packages of prepper provisions I'd ordered on line. Of course, I was also the recipient of a big handfull of junk mail and bills, including several medical bills, including one for for the X-ray ordered by my chiropractor a few weeks ago. The total charge for the X-ray is $899.00. My health-insurance company has made a "generous" payment of $89.75, leaving $799.25 for me to pay.

Next on my agenda was the landfill. While driving there, I ran some numbers in my head and came up with an estimate of how much money I'll spend on health care this year. Probably at least $10,000.00, I realized. That's how much I'll spend on health-insurance premiums and co-pays if I remain healthy this year. If I end up sick or injured, I'll spend even more, of course.

After dropping off three bags of trash and one bag of recyclable paper at the landfill, I made my way to the pharmacy. I filled two prescriptions, and the charge for one of them was about double what I'm accustomed to paying. When I questioned the charge, the young lady behind the counter told me she'd been surprised about it too, and she said had "run it" (through the insurance company's computerized system) twice just to double-check. She had no idea why the insurance company has upped the charge. I wasn't blaming her for the situation, as I know the health-insurance companies don't explain their rate structures to people at pharmacies. Seething silently at the insurance company, I rejected the young lady's offer to call them for a discussion. I told her I didn't want to waste her time or mine with such a phone call. In my experience, phone calls like that always turn out the same way: you're on hold forever — at some point you finally get a human on the phone — that human either doesn't have an explanation for you or gives you a stupid explanation such as "the rates have increased" — if your behavior is sufficiently irate you're then passed to another human — and maybe another. At the end of the phone call you've lost an hour or more of your time and you've gained nothing. So I just wrote a check for $79.32 and left the pharmacy.

And by the way, while I was at the pharmacy, another customer picked up a prescription and paid $3.00 for it. He was a young and apparently healthy man. I thought to myself, "I wonder what government program he is on. Probably some program for low-income people." I couldn't help noticing he reeked of cigarette smoke. Interesting that he can afford cigarettes but can't afford to pay even a tenth of what I pay to fill a prescription. Okay, I'll admit it. I'm a snob. I'm sorry, but I'm really sick of subsidizing the lives of other people. For sure, the $79.32 I'd just paid for my own two prescriptions includes money that subsidizes the purchase of the prescription the young man bought for $3.00. And at some point I'll be subsidizing the medical care he receives for lung disease. And of course a substantial portion of the $799.25 I'll be paying for my X-ray is a subsidization of other people's medical expenses.

Next I visited a farm-and-garden store. I was looking for hand tools for gardening. A salesman showed me a wimpy little hand-tiller and cautioned me that it's not good for anything but a very small garden. He also showed me a gas-powered tilling machine made by Stihl. It has a tiny gas tank, which encouraged me a little, as I was thinking the small gas tank might be an indication that it's a pretty efficient machine. I could envision getting a lot of use from this machine after TEOTWAWKI without depleting my gasoline stockpile very much. (This was just a gut feeling. I hadn't read any specifications or any performance data.) The salesman explained that although the Stihl tiller is a big step up from a manual tiller, it is a lightweight, light-duty machine, and he said he didn't think I'd be happy with it. He suggested I consider a RotoTiller, which is yet another step up, but he said even with a RotoTiller I'd be working really hard if dealing with a garden of any size. He told me they don't have any RotoTillers in stock, but they could order one for me if I wanted to purchase one. Really, the gist of my conversation with the salesman was that if I'm going to have a big garden I might as well hire somebody with a tractor to do the tilling. Because I'm keeping my prepper agenda under wraps, I didn't explain my desire to be self-reliant nor did I discuss concerns about availability of fuel in a disaster scenario. I thanked the salesman for the information and told him I was going to take some time to consider the different options.

I've dealt with this salesman before, and I don't think he was saying what he was saying just to get me to spend a lot of money. I think he was just being honest with me.

On to Walmart, where I picked up three little packages of temporary dental fillings for my three disaster-preparedness first-aid kits.

I then drove to Staples and bought a big package of 3,000 labels that I'll use for labeling stockpile bundles.

Next was a quick trip to Lowe's for another roll of sticky plastic for bundling stockpile items. While there I also spent a few minutes looking at the RotoTillers outside the front of the store. I ended up thinking that a RotoTiller might be just what I need. The RotoTillers I looked at are much beefier than the Stihl tiller I'd seen at the farm-and-garden store. It seems like I could get some serious gardening done with a RotoTiller. The RotoTillers have pretty small gas tanks, too, so I'm thinking a RotoTiller might get a lot of tilling done without using a lot of gas. I think I'll ask around and try to have some discussions with people that own RotoTillers. I also priced peat moss while I was at Lowe's. I'm kind of interested in peat moss because I'll probably be buying a Nature's Head composting toilet if I end up building a cabin this summer. The Nature's Head toilet requires a supply of peat moss. The peat moss isn't very expensive. I estimate that a year's supply of peat moss for the Nature's Head would cost only about $20.00.

Lowe's was my last stop, so I headed home and began the task of hauling everything into the house. That's when I discovered I'd forgotten to return six bottles of diesel preservative to Walmart. Darn! The bottles had been riding around in my Jeep for about a week and a half, and now they were going to continue riding around in it until my next trip to town. I'd written a list of errands to be accomplished during the afternoon, and the return of the diesel preservative was on the list, but my being pissed off about the afternoon's events had destracted me enough so that I'd stopped checking the list.

(The reason I'm returning the diesel preservative to Walmart is that I've found a different kind of diesel preservative on line that would be more effective, I think. The on-line stuff contains an anti-bacterial substance, but the Walmart stuff does not. As I continue my efforts to educate myself about different kinds of fuels and about long-term-storage techniques for fuels, I make wiser choices.)

Inside the house, wanting to get comfortable, I stripped off my clothes right away and got into my pajamas. I stuck a Lean Cuisine Cheese Ravioli entrée into the microwave, and while it was cooking I opened the two packages of prepper provisions I'd gotten when I picked up the mail from my post-office box. That's when I discovered one of my #10 cans of garbanzo beans has a big dent in it. After indulging in a little profanity, I had to laugh because this was, after all, an appropriately crappy way to end a crappy day!

Basically, as I'm sure you've noticed, most of today's blogpost is a bitch session. I can't help it. I'm tired of putting up with intrusion of big, powerful organizations into my life. And I'm tired of subsidizing other people's lives.

If society suffers severe collapse when TEOTWAWKI happens, maybe there will not be so much of this kind of thing. Or, things could swing the other way, and there will be even more intrusions into our lives. Time will tell.

Friday, April 19, 2013
> first springtime walk-around on new property

This morning I decided to take a drive out to my new property to see if the snow had dissipated enough so I could walk around comfortably. Though there is a fair amount of snow in some places, there are lots of clear areas where walking was easy. I spent a very pleasant hour drifting around. I started to formulate plans for the coming weeks and months.

The first thing I did was check out my storage building. I hadn't been inside it since the snow came last November. The building is near the bottom of a hill, close to a place where a small, temporary brook forms every spring, fed by snow run-off. I was a bit concerned about the slight possibility that the brook might grow large enough to encroach on the building. The building was fine, though, as was everything in it.

It was warm enough inside the building to be comfortable in shirtsleeves, which means I can start working inside the building anytime. Last November I was in the midst of trying to wrap up some important tasks when we got our first big snowstorm, and several things were left undone because the snow cover made the building inaccessible. For example, I didn't get to install the window shades I'd bought for the two windows, and I didn't get to assemble the two shelving units I'd bought. I'm really looking forward to getting those shelving units assembled, because once that's done I can start storing cans of fuel on the shelves in the building, which means I'll be able to get the 7 gas cans out of my bathroom!

While I was in the storage building this morning I tested the batteries for my Black and Decker 20-volt cordless drill. The batteries were in the unheated storage building all winter, along with a bunch of my tools. I hadn't really intended to leave the batteries in the building during the winter because I know it's not a particularly good idea to store batteries in cold places. Last November I was kind of caught by surprise by our first big snowstorm, though, and so the batteries spent the winter in the storage building. But they seemed in perfect condition this morning, as the drill came to life immediately when I squeezed the trigger. I hadn't been super-worried about the batteries, because they are Lithium Ion batteries, and it's my understanding that Lithium Ion batteries handle cold temperatures pretty well.

I left the storage building and walked uphill to my pond. I was curious about whether the ice was still on it, for two reasons. The first reason is that once the ice is off the pond, the deer and moose will start drinking from it, which means I should be able to get some photos of them if I set up one of my motion-activated cameras on the little path they use to access the pond. The second reason is that I want to have the pond water tested to see if there's anything toxic in it. The pond was still ice-covered, so I'll need to wait a little while to get the water sample I need.

I then started scoping out an area for the vegetable garden I want to grow this year. My pond is on a bit of a plateau, and I plan to gravity-feed pond water to the garden, assuming the pond water tests out okay, so I want to locate the garden downhill from the pond. I identified a couple areas that might be suitable. I'll take a closer look and give it some more thought in a week or so, when more of the snow has cleared.

I also spent a bit of time thinking about where I might put a cabin this summer if I can't afford to build my house this summer. As I've mentioned in earlier blogposts, I need money from a real-estate sale to build the house; if my other real estate doesn't sell this year I won't be building the house this year but might build a small cabin this year. I'm very eager to have some kind of habitable building on the property because I want to be ready for TEOTWAWKI sooner rather than later. (As I've mentioned in earlier blogposts, the house where I live now is not well suited for a survival retreat.)

I considered a few different spots for the cabin. Several factors would influence where I might put a cabin: quality of cell-phone service and Internet service (because I want to be able to work from the cabin), proximity to the pond (because ideally I'd like the cabin to have water gravity-fed from the pond), proximity to the road (for easy access to the cabin), setback requirements (to comply with our local building code), and views (to feed my soul). I came up with three potential cabin sites.

Though I do love the extreme winters we have here in my area, I'm very much looking forward to warmer weather this year because there is so much I want to get done on the new property. The big challenge will be finding time to do everything I want to do out there.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013
> bombing in Boston makes me thankful I live in the boondocks

Yesterday's bombing at the Boston Marathon was horrific yet not completely unexpected. Which is sad. I mean, it's sad that the American public isn't more surprised these days when news breaks about a bombing or a mass shooting or a similarly heinous incident. Things were not that way in our country a few decades ago, and I long for the old days.

I don't know about you, but whenever there's an affair that gathers a huge crowd, I kind of hold my breath until it's over, knowing that such situations are favorite targets for terrorists and other sickos. For example, I go through the breath-holding exercise every Independence Day, every New Year's Eve, and every Superbowl Weekend.

I'm very thankful I'm able to live in the middle of nowhere, far from terrorist targets.

My heart goes out to the families of folks injured and killed in Boston yesterday.

Sunday, April 14, 2013
> bleach bundling, and please get your money out of the bank!

Yesterday afternoon I used my roll of sticky plastic to bundle up 12 bottles of chlorine bleach that had been sitting under my kitchen table for weeks. In my basement, on a shelf in an old, dilapidated storage cabinet, there was room for all 12 bottles. I stowed them there and then tucked a plastic drop cloth around them to keep dust and mold and cobwebs off of them. Now that the bleach bottles are gone from my kitchen, there are actually 2 entire rooms in the house that don't contain any disaster-preparedness items. Yay! I feel much better about the house.

On another, much-more-important topic: I don't have a ton of time to keep myself apprised of national and international affairs, but I do what I can. Since the news broke several weeks ago about the Cypriot banking crisis, I've been making an effort to stay informed about that situation, about fallout from it, and about related issues.

When I first read about the bank-deposit tax proposed for Cyprus, I was appalled, as I explained in an earlier blogpost. There was no escaping my thoughts about the possibility that something similar could happen here in the U.S. Though I myself don't keep much money in the bank, I'm concerned about the devastation that would be suffered by people that do stash money in banks. I'm also worried about the possibility that such a situation in our country could be the trigger that crashes our financial system and our economy.

People well-informed about such matters have been making noises about the possibility of such goings-on in the U.S. Here are just a few examples.

Stephen Lendman of SteveLendmanBlog
"Depositor theft is coming. Europe is banker occupied territory. So is America...Money printing madness can't go on forever. Regulators, like FDIC, haven't enough money to insure depositors. It's simple mathematical logic."
full text here

Alex Jones of INFOWARS.COM
"The government of Cyprus wants to grab bank deposits, and the chief economist of the German Commerzbank has called for private savings accounts in Italy to be similarly plundered, and other nations may be moving in that direction as well.

"The American government has seized private assets before, and President Obama authorized seizure of property again last year. (The Argentinian government grabbed 401k assets; and some in the American government have mulled the same thing.)"
full text here

Lauren Lyster of The Daily Ticker
"SitkaPacific Capital Management's Mike Shedlock, who is also the author of the Global Economic Analysis blog, says the Cyprus fiasco is an example of what can happen in a banking system that really canít guarantee everything it's promised. He argues these are issues that exist in the U.S. banking system too."
full text here

You can find a lot more discussion about this topic by googling Cyprus AND FDIC.

As I did in my March 28, 2013 blogpost, I again urge you to GET YOUR MONEY OUT OF THE BANK.

Saturday, April 13, 2013
> newbie mistakes with fuel

In some of my blogposts I've talked about stockpiling various kinds of fuels in 1-gallon and 5-gallon containers. I've been doing this since January of this year.

I'm stockpiling gasoline, diesel fuel, and kerosene. In a disaster scenario, I'd use some of the stockpiled fuel for my Jeep, for my little lawn tractor, for the kerosene cookstove I plan to buy, and for some kerosene lanterns I plan to buy; and some of the fuel would probably be used by other people. My providing fuel to other folks might be an act of charity or barter; there might also be circumstances in which it would benefit me directly in that if heavy equipment is needed to do some work on my property, one of my neighbors might have the equipment but not the fuel — so if I could provide the fuel, the work could get done.

When I started stockpiling fuel, I was focusing on kerosene. If you've read my blogposts for this past winter, you know I've discussed my confusion about various kinds of kerosene. A few weeks ago I became aware that because of my lack of clarity I'd ended up with 24 1-gallon cans of fuel that I wasn't sure what to do with.

What happened is that I'd been pumping red-dyed fuel into 1-gallon cans for several months, and I'd been making those purchases at several different service stations that were selling different kinds of red-dyed fuels, and I'd thought that that all the fuels I'd been buying were similar enough so they could be used for the same purposes. Specifically: I was buying red-dyed K-1 kerosene at one service station, red-dyed K-2 kerosene at another service station, and red-dyed #2 off-road diesel at another service station, believing that these were all various types of kerosene. Basically I would just buy the fuel at whichever service station was nearby when I was out and about doing errands.

By mid-March I had 40 1-gallon cans of the red stuff. I hadn't labeled each can to identify its contents. I'd been planning to label each one as "Red Kerosene" but hadn't gotten around to doing that. About 3 weeks ago, because of conversations I'd had with various people and because of some Web research I'd been doing, I realized I had a bit of a problem.

The problem was that I now understood that the 3 kinds of fuels I'd been buying probably are not interchangeable, really.

  • The red K-1 and red K-2 kerosene could be used in a kerosene cookstove or lantern or heater (though the more-expensive, clear — not red-dyed — kerosene is a better choice for indoor use because the red dye can generate smoke).

  • The red #2 off-road diesel is just the thing for diesel tractors and other heavy equipment, but I wasn't sure it would work well, or at all, in a kerosene cookstove or lantern.

  • And neither red K-1 kero nor red K-2 kero is the right kind of fuel for a tractor or any kind of heavy equipment that requires diesel fuel, because there isn't enough lubrication in the red K-1 kero or red K-2 kero.

As I've said, the 40 gallons of red fuel I had were a mixture of red K-1 kero, red K-2 kero, and red #2 off-road diesel. That is, each can contained one of these kinds of fuel, but I hadn't labeled each can with information specifying which kind of fuel was in it.

In thinking about the neatly stowed 1-gallon cans of fuel in my basement, I realized the problem could have been worse. I'd arranged the filled cans in rows, 8 cans per row, on top of a wooden pallet. Every time I came home with a few filled cans, I would take them down to the basement and store them next to the ones already on the pallet. I made the first row of cans along one edge of the pallet and kept adding more rows, working toward the opposite edge of the pallet. The good thing is that during the first few weeks of my fuel-stockpiling endeavor, I always bought the fuel at the same service station: the one where they sell the red K-2 kerosene. Considering the timeframe, considering the frequency of my trips into town, and knowing I'd been buying between 3 and 5 gallons at a time, I knew I could assume I'd filled the first 2 rows of cans (16 cans) at that particular service station and therefore I could assume each of those 16 cans contained red K-2 kero.

Once I'd worked that out in my head, I was left wondering what I would do with the fuel in the remaining 24 cans. I had no way to determine which of the 3 kinds of fuel was in which cans, as there is no apparent difference in color or viscosity among the 3 kinds of fuel.

What to do? I wasn't sure, but I was confident the answer would come to me eventually. For a week or so I thought about the situation.

I considered simply discarding the 24 unidentified gallons of fuel. This didn't seem like an attractive solution, for 2 reasons. The first reason is that the 24 gallons of fuel are worth about $100. The second reason is that, even if I was willing to throw away $100 worth of fuel, where would I dump it? You don't just want to go out into your back yard and pour 24 gallons of fuel onto the ground. It's toxic, and besides, there is surely a law against doing something like that.

At some point I remembered conversations I'd had at the pump with a couple other people who'd been buying the red K-2 kero when I was there buying it myself. It seemed like these folks were buying the kero for their furnaces at home. I also recalled a discussion I'd had with the owner of the service station that sells the red #2 off-road diesel during which he'd told me that some people buy the red #2 off-road diesel a few gallons at a time because they can't afford to pay hundreds of dollars to have furnace fuel delivered.

So, I thought, some people are apparently using both red K-2 kero and red #2 off-road diesel as fuel for their furnaces. That's when it hit me: would my furnace burn my 24 unidentified gallons of fuel?

I called Dan, the contractor who'd gotten my furnace up and running that bitter-cold day a couple months ago (see my Feburary 6, 2013 blogpost).

"Hi, Dan," I said. After identifying myself, I told him, "I have a quick question."

"Sure," he said.

"I have some red kerosene and some red off-road diesel, and I'm wondering if I can pour it into the fuel tank for my furnace. Will it work okay?"

"It's K-1 kerosene, K-2 kerosene, and #2 off-road diesel," I added.

"Well," Dan replied. "I think it should be okay. Of course, it's kind of expensive to use as furnace fuel."

"Yeh, I know," I said. "But I'm not planning to use it for anything else, so I just thought I'd like to use it to heat my house if it will work okay with my furnace."

"Yeh, I hear ya." Dan told me.

He added, "Of course, it might clog your nozzle."

"How would I know if my nozzle is clogged?" I asked him.

"Well, your furnace will stop working," Dan told me.

"Would a clogged nozzle damage the furnace?" I aked.

"Nah, it wouldn't really hurt anything," he told me.

"Ok — well, if it happens, I guess I'll be calling you," I told him. "Thanks so much for answering my questions, Dan."

"No problem," he replied.

So now I had a plan for using the 24 gallons. It was actually good timing, too, because the fuel gauge on the tank for my furnace was getting low.

I wasn't looking forward to the task of pouring the fuel into the tank, though. I thought it would probably be a messy job.

And it was. I hauled 4 of the 1-gallon cans of fuel up from the basement and took them outside onto the deck on the front of my house. The pipe for filling the fuel tank is at the edge of the deck, next to the exterior wall of the house. I unscrewed the cap on top of the pipe, stuck a small plastic kitchen funnel into the top of the pipe, unscrewed the cap on top of one of the cans, and started pouring the stuff down the pipe. The can is obviously not made for pouring. In spite of the funnel, the fuel dribbled down the side of the can and onto the deck, splashed against the house, splashed onto the toes of my rubber boots, and made a mess of the jeans I was wearing. I did manage to get the four gallons of fuel into the tank, except for what had dribbled and splashed elsewhere.

I then spent a good 45 minutes cleaning up. Carrying a container of hot water, I made several trips from the kitchen sink to the deck, where I poured the hot water onto the siding of the house and onto the deck where the fuel had splashed and dribbled. I used a paper towel to scour the fuel off the exterior surfaces of the four cans and then took the cleaned-up, empty cans down to the basement. I scrubbed my rubber boots with dishwashing liquid, rinsed them under the kitchen faucet, and set them outside to air out. I cleaned the drips off the kitchen floor. My jeans and socks went into the washing machine and got laundered immediately. Several kerosene-soaked paper towels got wrapped up in several layers of plastic bags and were stowed in the basement with some other trash that's destined for the landfill. Even after all this cleanup, the downstairs rooms in the house reeked of fuel, so I opened a couple windows, revved up the ceiling fan in the kitchen, and left it spinning for about half an hour.

"This is ridiculous. There has to be a better way," I thought.

Once again, I knew the answer would come.

In a few days, the answer did come. I remembered seeing (sometime in the distant past) a wide-mouthed funnel under the open hood of a car in a repair shop. That's what I needed — a wide-mouthed funnel.

Early this week after one of my appointments with the chiropractor, I visited an auto-parts store and, with help from one of the employees, found a wide-mouthed funnel that seemed perfect for my needs. It's lopsided — made for situations where you're pouring liquid down a pipe that is against a wall, which is the situation I have here at my house. Taped to the side of the funnel is a filter made of a fine metal mesh material; you can put the filter into the neck of the funnel if you think there are specks of dirt or whatever in your fuel. Here are some photos of the funnel.

I tried out the funnel yesterday, using it to add 9 more gallons of fuel to the tank. The procedure was much less messy than it had been without the funnel. There was still a bit of splashing and dripping going on, but not nearly as much as before. Cleanup took considerably less time, and I didn't even have to do any laundry.

The wide-mouthed funnel is a fine addition to my collection of disaster-preparedness equipment, what with all the fuel-handling I've been doing and will be doing.

Thursday, April 11, 2013
> are you one of the American sheeple?

Last week I saw the word "sheeple" on somebody's Web site. I didn't understand it and thought it was a typo.

Yesterday I saw it on another Web site. This time, because of the context, I understood the meaning of the word immediately. It's a melding of the words "sheep" and "people" — sheeple. It refers to people who behave like sheep or lemmings — who follow leadership blindly — who trust traditional information sources without hesitation — who don't question authority.

Thinking about my own history, I'm proud to say I've never been one of the American sheeple. Well, not since my twenties, anyway (when I was pretty naive). Since then I have always been quite self-directed — an independent thinker. For the most part, I'm not one to take things at face value. Some might even describe me as a cynic.

But I will admit to having been more "sheeple-like" in the past than I am now. Here are some examples:

  • I used to believe that everyday, middle-class people sufficiently talented and sufficiently wise to the ways of Wall Street could make money in the stock market.

  • I used to believe that capitalism is a sink-or-swim environment and that if you engaged in extremely risky business practices you deserved to fail in business and, barring a fluke or a stroke of luck, you would fail in business.

  • I used to believe that FDIC insurance would protect my money in a bank in the event of a bank failure.

  • I used to believe that people preparing for doomsday were fringe lunatics.

  • I used to believe that if you worked hard and planned carefully, with any luck you could achieve the American Dream.

During the last four years or so, I've changed.

My metamorphosis was set in motion sometime around 2006 or 2007 when it was made public that one of the big Wall Street investment houses was behaving badly. I don't remember now which investment house it was, and I don't even remember the nature of the corrupt conduct in which they were engaged. What I do remember is that it was obvious to me something was seriously wrong on Wall Street. Within a week I withdrew my retirement money from several money-market accounts held by a different Wall Street firm and stuck the money in CDs at a tiny local bank.

Then when Lehman Brothers failed in September 2008, I felt really uneasy. I had a sinking feeling that the demise of Lehman Brothers might be the beginning of a downward spiral in our country. Within a few weeks, I knew I'd been right about that. I derived no satisfaction from being right, though — I'd rather have been wrong!

My husband and I watched with alarm as other Wall Street firms stumbled and fell. Then — horror of horrors — we stood by helplessly as the powers that be in Washington decided that we, the American taxpayers, would pony up billions of dollars to keep corporations like AIG, Citi, American Express, and others afloat "because they were too big to fail."

The banksters they ripped us all off
when they flocked to the taxpayer trough.
The billions they got
left the people in shock.
Those banksters are villainous sloth.

Within a couple months, the credit-card companies with whom I had my credit-card accounts had hiked my interest rates to exhorbitant levels: in some cases three times higher than before the crash. These were some of the same companies that had just received billions in taxpayer bailouts. Clearly, these companies were raising interest rates simply because they could get away with it. The intentionally obfuscated "cardholder agreements" printed in tiny fonts pretty much gave them carte blanche to do whatever they wanted, and they did just that, to me and to millions of others. I was enraged about the hike in interest rates because I didn't deserve this kind of treatment, as my FICO score was near perfect (over 800) and my payment record with all these companies was top-notch. In fact, prior to the 2008 crash I hadn't really paid much attention to the interest rates on my credit-card accounts because it had been my practice to pay the balance in full, on each account, almost every month, so I rarely saw any interest charges on my statements. But after the crash, my income level dropped precipitously because my company's customers were suffering severe adverse effects from the crash. Caught in a bind, like millions of other Americans I began using my credit cards more and paying less against the balances. And of course now, because I was carrying balances on some of the accounts, I had good reason to pay close attention to the interest rates.

As we all know by now, more bad news was to follow: real-estate values plummeted throughout the country. This was not a good thing for my husband and me, as we were heavily invested in real estate. Like so many other Americans, we'd heeded advice from "experts" who'd convinced us that real estate was one of the best investments we could make. We now knew the soaring real-estate values we'd enjoyed in recent years had been created artificially by Fannie Mae and similar companies who'd manipulated the real-estate market for their own greedy gain.

Companies downsized. Companies went out of business. People lost their jobs. Unemployment figures soared.

On TV, in newspapers, and on the Web, my husband and I learned about the credit default swaps. Like most Americans, we were introduced to credit default swaps by confused journalists who were obviously struggling to make sense of these cutting-edge, exotic investment vehicles even as they attempted to explain them to the public. It was a few weeks before we came to understand the harsh reality: Wall Street was a casino and had been for some time — unless, of course, you had "inside information," like the investment firms that had touted the promise of credit default swaps to their clients while at the same time they themselves were taking the very opposite position in the market.

It amazes me and confounds me that so many middle-class people are still today investing in Wall Street. Didn't they learn anything from the crash? I can only surmise that they either have conduits to insider information or they are sheeple.

Your portfolio isn't complete
without stuff from someplace on Wall Street.
At least that's what "they" tell us
to try to compel us
to play their mean game of deceit.

As if all this wasn't enough to convince me about the sad fate of the American people, within the past couple of years I've watched two movies that did a very good job explaining just how pathetic our American economic situation really is. One of the movies is Michael Moore's documentary film Capitalism: A Love Story. This movie explains very clearly just what happened leading up to and during the 2008 crash; and it leaves the viewer with no doubt that Wall Street, not Washington, is running our country. The other movie is a documentary entitled End of the Road. Produced by 100th Monkey Films, this movie explains just how unstable the U.S. dollar is and warns of impending hyperinflation. After seeing these two movies, I withdrew almost all my money from my bank. As explained in earlier blogposts, I've invested some of it in silver, and I've invested some of it in disaster-preparedness supplies. And, no longer convinced that real estate is a good long-term investment, I'm in the process of selling all but one of my real-estate holdings.

I keep just enough cash (paper money) to take care of everyday expenses and to have a cushion for the near future. And, as I've said, I keep little money in the bank. Living this way can be inconvenient and can cause raised eyebrows — see my March 18, 2013 blogpost — but I do it anyway.

To some people, not keeping money in a bank seems like odd, extremist behavior. The sheeple comfort themselves and attempt to reassure people like me by insisting that FDIC insurance will keep their banked money safe. I, on the other hand, don't have faith in FDIC insurance. One need only consider the current situation in Cyprus to understand why I take this position. The issue is explained eloquently by Monica Davis in her April 7, 2013 article "Get Prepared For Economic Catastrophe: You Are Being Sacrificed To Save The Too Big To Fail Banks."*

She says,

"...the precedents set in Cyprus and Iceland show that deposit insurance is only a legal commitment for small bank failures. In systemic crises, these are more political than legal commitments, so the solvency of the insuring government matters."
This concept isn't that hard to understand, is it? I don't think it is. So how come the sheeple don't get it? THAT's what's hard to understand.

I have developed a hypothesis that might explain the sheepleness of some Americans. It goes like this:

Let's say you've had a stable, successful career. You own a nice home, too. And let's say you've been smart enough and solvent enough to avoid overextending yourself financially. Let's also say you have a retirement fund that should allow you to live securely and comfortably during your later years. You lost some of it in the crash, but the monthly statements you're receiving these days are looking pretty good.

You've built quite a nice life for yourself. You've worked really hard to get where you are today. Everything in your life is stable. The crash didn't affect you very much. You've attained the American Dream!

Do you want to consider the possibility that our country's economic woes could destroy the wonderful life you've created? If you're like many Americans in similar positions, you resist considering this possibility because thinking such a thought is unpalatable. After all, you've worked hard to create security and happiness for your family, you enjoy feeling secure and happy, and why rock the boat?

So what do you do? This is what you do: every morning, you don your Pollyanna Filter.

And when the media deliver terrible tales of unemployment and foreclosure, you are smug. You tell yourself you are smarter than those other people. You've worked harder than they have and planned better than they have. Such awful things could never happen to YOU and YOUR family. Your snug-fitting Pollyanna Filter distills the bad news for you so you can go about your day without feeling distressed about the possibility that such tragedy could intrude on your own life.

And when you hear about a situation like the Cypriot bank-deposit tax, it's barely a blip on your radar screen because, in your mind, bizarre things like that only happen in far-away places. Nothing like that would happen in our country, you tell yourself. The Pollyanna Filter takes care of any germ of a thought that such things would happen here.

And when the mainstream news media deliver stories about the profitability of corporations that were bailed out by taxpayers after the crash, you feel good inside. Washington's bailout plans and stimulus plans worked the way they were supposed to, you think. The Pollyanna Filter makes it so. News about the creative accounting methods used by some of these corporations doesn't make it through the filter.

And when a TV news anchor says, in a soothing and upbeat tone of voice, that tens of thousands of new jobs were created in our country last quarter, your Pollyanna Filter enables you to enjoy rosey thoughts about this bit of good news by suppressing your memory of other news stories reporting that hundreds of thousands of jobless American citizens have been looking for work for so many years that they are no longer counted among the unemployed because they have "dropped off the roles."

Your Pollyanna Filter is of a comfortable, lightweight design. Most of the time, you forget you're even wearing it. On a few occasions you've removed it temporarily to see what it would be like to think unfiltered thoughts about the trillions of dollars our federal government owes to China or about our federal government's quantitative-easing monetary policy. You've always ended up putting the filter back on pretty quickly, because the contented life you live when you're wearing the filter is so much nicer than the existence you have when you remove it.

So you walk through your life, a good life, with your Pollyanna Filter strapped on securely.

Getting back to the topic of handling your money — my philosophy about management of personal wealth is as follows: If you can't physically touch and feel the assets you own, you are in danger of losing them. To put it another way: if your money is in digital form, it isn't safe. And by the way, paper currency doesn't actually fall into the category of assets you can physically touch and feel, because the worth of paper money is solely dependent upon promises made by our federal government, and I (and many others) am pretty sure there will come a day when the government will break those promises.

I hate to say it, but I think the American Dream is dead. Middle-class folks just can make it anymore. Middle-class families are slipping down to lower rungs on the economic ladder. Many pundits believe the American middle class is disappearing. Based on what I see around me, I do think that's the case.

So, my advice to you, the reader is this: Don't be one of the sheeple! Don't be lulled by the news you get from mainstream sources. If your life is still good — if you've somehow managed to escape the devastating effects of the 2008 economic crash and maintain your standard of living and your solvency — resist the urge to believe that I and people like me are alarmists. Take off the rose-colored glasses, have the courage to investigate and acknowledge what is really going on around you, and take steps to protect yourself and your family from the really big crash that is surely coming.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013
> can't buy ammo, why are junk-silver prices falling?

Yesterday after leaving my chiropractor's office I drove to a local gun shop to see if I could buy some 38 Special ammunition for my little revolver. As I've mentioned in other blogposts, it's been getting harder and harder to buy ammunition. This is the fourth time during the past couple weeks that I've tried to buy 38 Special ammo at this gun shop, and yesterday I struck out again, just as I had the other three times. The owner of the shop told me he could have replenished his inventory last weekend by buying 38 Special ammo at a gun show he attended, but he didn't because the prices were ridiculously high.

For the past month or so I haven't been able to buy 38 Special ammo from other local sources, either.

Since the school shooting in Newtown, CT last December, the country has gone crazy, gun-wise. When I say "the country has gone crazy," what I mean is that people are buying up guns and ammunition and hoarding them because they fear the possibility that new legislation will soon make it difficult or impossible to purchase the guns and ammunition they want.

I'm thinking of buying a shotgun because, I'm told, shotguns are still readily available and ammo for shotguns is still readily available, in spite of the country's gun-craziness. The reason for this, I guess, is that in terms of personal defense a shotgun isn't nearly as effective as many other kinds of guns. But the way I'm looking at it, a shotgun with lots of ammo is definitely better than a revolver with just a small amount of ammo. (Unfortunately, the Newtown shooting had already happened when I bought my revolver and started purchasing ammo for it, and I don't have nearly as much ammo as I'd like to have.) And, there's another good reason for me to purchase a shotgun: because I'm very inexperienced with firearms, I stand a better chance of hitting my target with a shotgun. That's because a shotgun doesn't shoot bullets; instead, each time you fire it, it shoots a collection of pellets that "spray out" and cover a fairly wide area.

I'd probably have bought a shotgun already if money weren't so tight. I'll definitely consider buying one when I have funds available.

On another subject: last December I bought quite a lot of junk silver. The term "junk silver" refers to worn, circulated silver coins — dimes, quarters, half dollars, and so on — that were minted in 1964 or earlier.

The word "junk" as used in this context is a bit misleading. These coins are not junk at all; they are actually quite valuable in terms of their precious-metal content. 90% of each dime I purchased last December is silver; the silver in each of the dimes was worth, at that time, about $2.60 — so the worth of each dime was 26 times its face value. As I understand it, "junk silver" is just the term numismatists have come up with to distinguish silver coins that have been in circulation from "collectible" silver coins.

Dimes, quarters, half dollars, and "silver" dollars minted after 1964 either have no silver content or they have little silver content as compared with coins minted in 1964 or earlier. Therefore, the post-1964 coins aren't nearly as valuable as the earlier ones.

My decision to buy the junk silver was based on recommendations from other survivalists. Wikipedia does a good job of explaining the reason for these reccomendations:

"Junk silver is popular among survivalists. In the event of a crisis or catastrophe during which traditional currency collapses, it is speculated that silver coins could provide a viable alternative, temporarily or indefinitely, while fiat currency, which is not backed by precious metals or other commodities, has no inherent value and can be subject to extreme inflation, even hyperinflation, similar to Weimar Germany, post WWII Hungary and, more recently, Zimbabwe. Proponents of junk silver and other precious metals adhere to the principle that, while fiat currencies have historically been subject to hyperinflation, precious metals will always have inherent value and can act as a medium of financial exchange when fiat currencies are obsolete."*

Now that I've explained what junk silver is and why I've invested in it, I can get to the crux of this discussion about junk silver, which is: "Why has the value of junk silver declined recently?" The value of the dollar has been falling, which means that the value of precious metals should be rising. But that's not what's happening. If you take a look at this Monex chart, you'll see that silver prices have fallen dramatically since late January 2013.

Last December a coin dealer I know told me Chase bank had been doing dirty deeds to keep the price of silver artificially low.

Today when I googled Why are silver prices falling? I found lots of explanations by lots of pundits. I confess I don't understand most of what's in those explanations, but there is one theme that unites all of them: all the pundits are convinced there is something "artificial" going on that is keeping the silver prices low.

Now, just to be clear, I'm not at all concerned about the investment I've made in junk silver; I know that when TSHTF, my junk silver will be VERY valuable. In fact, with silver prices being as low as they are right now, I wish I could buy more junk silver and would do that today if my budget weren't so tight.

The apparent artificiality of the situation is bothering me, though, and I kind of wish I could understand what is actually driving the decline in silver prices.

For silver the prices are down.
In the market confusion abounds.
Since the dollar is low,
silver prices should grow!
The "why" of it does make me frown.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013
> some disaster-preparedness items you might not have thought of

Anybody who's been prepping for awhile has a long list of items he or she wants to acquire: foods, fuels, guns, ammunition, seeds, canning supplies, tools, medical and dental supplies, personal-hygiene supplies, lighting equipment, radios, batteries, extra boots, extra clothing...the list goes on. There are a number of books and on-line resources that provide lists of recommended disaster-preparedness items.

I've thought of a few items that I haven't really seen on anybody else's list.

Wind-up wristwatch. If you're like me, you've given up wearing a wristwatch because you use your cell phone as a watch. There's a good chance cell phones won't be operational after TEOTWAWKI, and if that happens we'll want to start wearing wristwatches again. It seems to me a wind-up watch is a better choice than a battery-operated watch because fresh batteries might not always be available, and even if you have a supply of rechargeable batteries, electric power might not always be available to charge them.

Wind-up clocks. I want to have a couple wind-up clocks in my disaster-preparedness stockpile, too.

Calendars for future years. After TEOTWAWKI we'll need a means of knowing what day it is. In my January 16, 2013 blogpost I explained that I found a Web site that enabled me to print out calendars for the next 20 years.

Personal-grooming supplies. Life after TEOTWAWKI will be stressful. To combat the stress, it will behoove us to do whatever we can to feel as good as we can. For most of us, looking our best helps us feel better. That's why my disaster-preparedness stockpile includes a generous supply of hairspray, hair gel, and cosmetics, plus 3 little hairdryers. And I plan to add a few teeth-whitener kits to the stockpile.

To wrap up this blogpost, here is another Apocalimerick:

The powers that be I don't trust,
so prepare for disaster I must.
If my budget goes bust,
I won't make a big fuss.
I don't want to be left in the dust!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Like Martin Luther King, I have a dream. It goes something like this:

It's early January, just a few days after the holidays. Our society collapses. It's The End Of The World As We Know It.

The disaster was triggered when China lost all confidence in the solvency of the U.S. government. This caused the Chinese to stop buying U.S. bonds, which caused the value of the U.S. dollar to plummet, which caused economic chaos all over the globe, which resulted in catastrophic disruption of our society.

The hyperinflation (i.e., the rapid and dramatic decline in the value of the dollar) has made it all but impossible to conduct commerce, and there is bedlam.
The power grid is down throughout the country, and it's not clear when, if ever, it will come back up. Supermarket shelves are empty. Fuel is not available from conventional sources. Land lines and cell phones don't work. The Internet is down.

Businesses cease to operate. Government offices are empty. Law-enforcement bodies have disbanded. Post offices are closed, and there is no mail delivery. Banks and credit unions are closed. Hospitals and pharmacies are closed.

Most people find themselves unemployed.

People can't feed their families. People can't heat their homes. People can't get their medications.

Highways are littered with vehicles that have run out of fuel.

Nothing is normal.

There are riots and looting and rape and murder. Those of us who are prepared and well armed stay ensconced in our homes, for the most part, and do what we need to do to protect ourselves and our families. As much as possible, we provide help to good friends and neighbors who aren't as prepared as we are.
Things finally quiet down after a couple months, and we survivors begin to assess the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

As we'd expected, unfortunate friends and neighbors who were battling serious chronic illness have passed away, having been unable to obtain medications and other things needed to sustain their lives.

We use short-wave radios to get in touch with people in other places. Gradually we piece together a picture of the current state of affairs throughout our country and in other countries.

We learn that millions have died of starvation, more millions have frozen to death, and more millions have been murdered.

We learn that many of the pompous, greedy federal officials and bureaucrats who participated in the gross mismanagement of our country's finances are dead. Drunk with power and lulled into complacency by their cushy lives inside the D.C. bubble, they'd thought the gravy train would never end, so they were left unprepared for societal collapse. They starved, or froze, or died because they couln't get their medications, or were murdered.

Most of the sociopathic Wall Streeters have been killed by enraged citizens who blamed them for everything that's happened. Many corrupt, overcompensated insurance execs, oil-company execs, defense-contractor execs, and food-conglomerate execs have met with similar fates.

Most hard-core drug addicts have passed away because they couldn't sustain their habits after the crash. (Their bodies couldn't handle the severe detoxification effects.)

Local sleaze balls and criminals have been slaughtered by vigilante groups who took things into their own hands once it was apparent that they wouldn't be arrested for doing it (because there are no law-enforcement officials to do the arresting).

The people left standing are good souls who have been preparing for this situation for years, along with other good folks who did not prepare but whose lives have been saved because of assistance from the preppers. We preppers have chosen to help close friends, neighbors, and family members whom we care about and/or who have important skills and resources we ourselves don't possess (skills and resources that are essential to survival). Some of the preppers, including myself, have known for quite some time which people we'd want to help when TEOTWAWKI happened. We made these choices long ago, secretly, and we even laid in specific provisions for the people we were going to help.

After the initial shock wears off, we survivors find ways to band together to figure out how to sustain our lives. Some families whose homes are ill equipped to operate without electricity move into the homes of neighbors who have solar-electric or hydro-electric systems. Close-knit groups of families are established quickly. Generally, alliances are formed among families whose homes are within walking distance of one another. Mainstream fuel supplies are no longer available, so nobody jumps into a vehicle and travels 10 or 15 miles or more just to visit somebody or just to do one or two tasks or errands. Fuel is available only from preppers who stockpiled it, so it is precious, and no one uses a drop of it without a really good reason.

No one family is self reliant. Groups of families decide upon specializations among themselves: some families grow potatoes and carrots, some grow beans and broccoli, some raise chickens, some have cows, some harvest firewood, some are tasked with keeping everybody's machinery up and running. We in this very rural locale are extremely fortunate in that our neighbors who are natives of the area grew up learning these skills. We are also fortunate in that quite a few families here have raised farm animals for decades; families without farm animals have been able to purchase farm animals via barter.

The members of the newly formed groups develop mutual trust right away. They all know they are depending upon each other for their very survival. Nobody breaks the trust.

Since there has been no nuclear, chemical, or biological disaster, our planet can still support our existence, provided we plan carefully, make good use of the resources available to us, work hard, and use common sense.

Our survivalism stockpiles carry us through the first several years during which we get good at growing fruits, vegetables, and herbs; caring for farm animals; harvesting firewood; developing new ways of supplying pure water to our homes; making butter and cheese; making soap; handling snow removal; hunting; cooking and cleaning and canning. We do all this without much electricity and without much fuel. Many families have no electricity at all. Some of us produce some power with our solar-electric systems and hydro-electric systems. Some of us are learning how to produce our own biofuels.

We barter to exchange food and other items among families. The concepts of money and currency are defunct, for now anyway.

White-color folks and blue-collar folks are experiencing a role reversal, or more accurately a status reversal. In this new world of ours, a Master's Degree in Whateverology doesn't have much value, whereas the skills of farmers, mechanics, plumbers, electricians, and welders are in constant demand. These blue-collar folks are held in high esteem, and we white-collar people are at the bottom of the totem pole. Not that we really care — we're just grateful to have people in our lives who can help us make our gardens grow and make our wells pump water and repair that broken window in our garage. And we're eager to learn whatever we can from these very talented blue-collar people who are keeping everything together.

There are a few exceptions to the white collar/blue collar status reversal: doctors, dentists, nurses, vets, and other medical professionals are invaluable to us. On occasion we use precious fuel to chauffeur them to places where people or animals are sick or injured. (We use radios to keep in touch with folks in nearby towns, and that's how we learn about medical emergencies.)

We all stumble and fumble and fail at some of our endeavors, but over time we get better at what we are doing.

We birth babies and raise children.

We do our best to learn about herbal medicine; the herbs we grow aren't just for seasoning our dinners. We care for the sick and injured as best we can. When a person is so ill or injured that it's obvious he or she is dying, we don't pretend otherwise, and we don't attempt any heroic measures that will prolong the person's agony and the agony of those that love the person. We care for the person with compassion, making him or her as comfortable as possible. When the person dies, we lay him or her to rest respectfully and lovingly.

We hold regularly scheduled church services.

Often we congregate for socialization and entertainment, playing and singing music, reading books aloud, playing games, telling stories. Once in awhile we get together to watch a movie on DVD if there's sufficient power available at someone's home.

Though we're peace-lovers, we all own guns and ammunition. We all know how to use them, and we do use them when necessary to keep evil at bay.

Like the Native Americans from whom our forefathers stole so much those many years ago, we treat our environment with reverence and care, never squandering resources Mother Nature has provided.

Though life is hard, all of us gradually come to understand that something wonderful has happened. What we realize is that our lives are much better than before! There are no bureaucrats poking their noses into our affairs. No insurance companies yanking us around. No Wall Streeters cooking up nefarious schemes for dispossessing us of our hard-earned assets. No piles of junk mail in our mailboxes. No telemarketers. No jangling, plinking, chirping, tweeting cell phones attached to our bodies. No mortgage payments. No car payments. No credit-card payments. No phone bills or electric bills or gas bills or cable bills. No taxes. No traffic jams. No blowhard congressmen and senators blathering bombastic jibberish about stupid pork programs our nation can't afford. No Internet intruding on our lives with scams, sypware, and viruses. No TVs delivering programming that damages our children's psyches and dazes them and us with marketing hype. No smokestacks spewing pollution into the air. No food-processing conglomerates tinkering with genetics and infusing foods with chemicals.

Bloated, malfunctioning, centralized education systems are a thing of the past. Children are homeschooled or are schooled in small groups in their own neighborhoods. For advanced topics, our children use short-wave radios to participate in "on-line classes" taught by experts in far-away places.

Most of us are more slender and healthier than we had been before the crash. Many people who'd been borderline diabetic now have normal blood-sugar levels, and many who'd been hypertensive now have normal blood-pressure levels. It's easy to figure out why: we're all doing much more physical labor than we'd done before the crash, and we're not eating a lot of foods that are highly processed and refined, and we're not overeating because food scarcity is always a real possibility.

The teenagers and young adults among us aren't involved with drugs. They don't have time for such things; they know they need to spend their time working very hard just to survive.

There are few worries about rising prices for necessities. We ourselves produce much of what we need. For other things, we conduct commerce via barter. Sure, there are market pressures even in a barter economy, but if you're trying to use a sack of potatoes to buy a dozen eggs from your neighbor, your negotiating position is much stronger than it would be if you were at the mercy of a huge and corrupt corporation on which you depend for your food supply.

Society has been cleansed of dysfunction and corruption and evil. We no longer race through our days like gerbils on treadmills. Life makes sense, and it is good.

So that's my dream.

Of course, it's a Pollyanna scenario. A fantasy. When TEOTWAWKI actually happens, it will be awful and terrifying and stressful and unpleasant and uncomfortable. And corruption and evil will always exist among humans. I know all this.

But I do think that, to some extent, TEOTWAWKI will be an opportunity for us to "start over" and build a better society. The process of structuring our new and improved civilization might look something like what's portrayed in my dream.

I allow myself to enjoy my dream — even though I know it is flawed — because it makes me feel good.

No man is happy without a delusion of some kind. Delusions are as necessary to our happiness as realities.
    — Christian Bovee

Wednesday, April 3, 2013
> organizing my stockpile, refining my food-rotation plan, trying to buy ammo

For the past several days I've done quite a lot of work straightening out piles of survivalism supplies in various locations around the house. I continue to bundle like items in the sticky plastic I've mentioned in earlier blogposts. I try to make at least one bundle every day. Bit by bit, things are becoming somewhat organized, and I can now walk around several areas of the house without tripping over prepper provisions!

By the way, just so you know, it's not like I've just been buying disaster-preparedness items willy-nilly without any kind of plan whatsoever. I do have a list of items I want for the stockpile, but currently my list isn't very detailed when it comes to food items, with the exception of foods processed and packaged specifically for long-term storage — my list is very specific about those. When I say "foods processed and packaged specifically for long-term storage," I'm talking about foods I buy on the Internet from Web sites like and — most of these foods have estimated shelf lives of 15-30 years.

What I've been doing is looking for canned vegetables, fruits, meats, fish, and poultry whenever I'm in town for errands, if I have extra time and money. Oh, and pasta, also. I buy the pasta that comes in boxes, not bags, for easy stacking. Oh, and household-cleaning supplies. And personal-hygiene supplies. I just look for good deals, and, for items with expiration dates, I look for dates that are pretty far into the future.

Tuna with a February 2017 expiration date — Yay! — Gotta have it!
Likewise for personal-hygiene products and household-cleaning products.
3-quart bottles of chlorine bleach at $1.00 per bottle — Can't beat it! — Gotta have it!

I've been shopping locally this way since last December. I've made something of an effort to put together a balanced collection of foods. Though I haven't been maintaining detailed records, I have a general idea of what's in the stockpile so far. Once I've entered all the data into my Excel spreadsheet, I'll know exactly what the stockpile contains, and where each item is located, and when each item expires (if applicable). More about the Excel spreadsheet later...

While building the stockpile during the past few months, I've been refining my plan for storing and rotating the items in it. Here is my plan as it stands currently:

Most of the food supplies I've bought from local sources have expiration dates in the years 2014 through 2016. (My main local sources are supermarkets, Walmart, and dollar stores. I've also bought a few disaster-preparedness foods from a food co-op that delivers to our area once a month.) I've amassed quite a big stockpile of locally sourced foods already, and I add to it often. Almost all of the 2014 through 2016 foods are vegetables, fruits, meats, fish, and poultry — all canned. I also have 76 pounds of pasta expiring in the years 2014 through 2016. In addition, there are miscellaneous items like snacks, condiments, salt, pepper, baking soda, baking power, yeast, dried herbs, and more.

I will also have substantial quantites of food supplies in the form of foods processed and packaged specifically for long-term storage. Most of these foods will be freeze-dried/dehydrated vegetables, fruits, meats, fish, poultry, and beans, along with whole-grain wheat and corn, and oat groats (all canned). In addition, I have bought canned butter and canned cheese processed and packaged for long-term storage, and I plan to buy more. I'll buy other long-term-storage food items, too: powdered milk, powdered eggs, meals consisting of seasoned beans and rice, many other items.

The stockpile does have a few foods that expire in 2013. Near the middle or the end of 2013, I'll start eating the foods with 2013 expiration dates; at the same time I'll replace them with like foods having expiration dates in 2017 or 2018. I'll do the same thing in 2014, replacing the foods I eat with like foods having expiration dates in 2018 or 2019. And so on. I won't touch the long-term-storage foods until TEOTWAWKI.

Also, if my gardening endeavor is successful, I'll add my own canned foods to the stockpile. I'm not sure how to determine expiration dates for foods I can myself, but I'll figure it out when the time comes.

For some items, I am stockpiling more than I myself will eat, because I'm planning for charity and barter in addition to planning for my own nutrition. Any expiring foods that I don't eat will get donated to a local food pantry.

There are a couple more things I want to say about my plan for stockpiling survivalism supplies.

The first thing I want to mention is that my survivalism supplies will be divided into 3 stockpiles, and the 3 stockpiles will be stored in 3 separate locations. As I explained in earlier blogposts, I'm doing things this way as a hedge against the possibility that something could happen to some of the stockpiled items. For example, if somebody breaks into my house, sees a stockpile, and steals it, I'll at least have the other 2 stockpiles (which, if things go the way I want, will be stored somewhere other than my house).

The second thing is that, for some of the items I'm stockpiling, the 3-stockpile plan influences how many items I purchase and/or how I bundle up the items. For example, I've made 3 first-aid kits instead of just one. And, for example, my 40-dozen pairs of cold-weather socks are bundled in 3 boxes, two of which contain 13 pairs and one of which contains 14 pairs.

You might be wondering why I don't just stockpile foods specially processed and packaged for long-term storage and stop stockpiling foods from grocery stores, Walmart, dollar stores, and the co-op. The reason is that the foods specially processed and packaged for long-term storage are much more expensive than the foods I buy from grocery stores, Walmart, dollar stores, and co-op. That's why I've settled on a plan that entails having about 3 years' worth of foods from local sources plus several years' worth of foods processed and packaged for long-term storage. (I can't really get beyond 3 years with the locally purchased foods because I'm not finding many expiration dates beyond 3 years from now in the local stores.)

Concurrent with my recent efforts to organize the items I've been buying during the past several months, I've been developing an Excel spreadsheet that I'll use for maintaining inventory records. I've worked on it off and on for a couple weeks, and I'm pretty satisfied with it at this point. I'll share it with you in a future blogpost.

On another subject: it seems like it's getting harder and harder to buy ammunition. The Walmart ammo shelves have been virtually empty for at least a couple months. Also, I've tried repeatedly during the past several weeks to buy some ammo from each of the two gun shops here in my area, and both of them have been out of the kind of ammo I need each time I've talked with the people at the shops.

I will continue trying to buy ammo from local sources. I haven't yet tried to buy any on line, but I guess I will look into that soon.

Some folks think we preppers with guns
are nuts like Atilla the Hun.
these same folks will be left
with nothing to do but to run!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013
> learning how to dance in the rain

Though my husband and I have been separated for nearly three years, I'm still dealing with tons of emotional fallout and financial fallout from the divorce. Without going into detail, let me just say there are a lot of residual issues that need to be cleaned up.

As I've mentioned, I'm a person who's not comfortable with messes. Dealing with the disarray in my life is distressing for me. I've been looking forward to the day when I'm really on top of things again.

But for most of us, that day never really comes, does it? Life is never really sublime and worry-free, is it? As Gilda Radner said, famously, "It's always something."

I thought about Gilda's wise words last Friday afternoon when I was sitting in the waiting room at a doctor's office. There's a wooden plaque on the wall that says,

"Life is not about waiting for the storm to end.
It's about learning how to dance in the rain."

After reading that quote, I reminded myself that this is in fact the way one should live life if one wants to get the most out of life. What I mean is that I've always tried to rise above the trouble in my life and enjoy every pleasurable moment to the fullest, but sometimes I get dragged down in spite of my best efforts — so reading the plaque on the waiting-room wall kind of put me back on track.

Here is another Apocalimerick to make you smile and brighten your day.

Some people think prepping is lame.
They believe it's a maniac's game.
When I try to explain,
"That's just silly!" they claim.
With their heads in the sand they remain.

There's a big pile of office work waiting for me, so I'm signing off for now. Have a great day, fellow preppers!

Monday, April 1, 2013
> migraines, steel wool, gift certificates

My migraines haven't been as problematic lately as they usually are. I think there are two reasons.

First, I believe my chiropractor is largely responsible for the improvement. I had an appointment with the chiropractor this morning, and she said my "readings" are much better than they were about a month ago when I started seeing her. When she uses the term "readings," she's referring to temperature measurements she gathers by using a little meter on my spine and neck. The migraines have been fewer and farther between lately, and I think it's because of the work she's done.

Second, for the past week or so I've been experimenting with something new: if I wake up in the morning with the beginnings of a migraine, I drink a few ounces of fruit juice. This seems to be as effective as taking migraine medication!

If I can get rid of the migraines or at least find a way to cut down on the frequency and intensity of them, I will be thrilled! The general quality of my life will be greatly improved; also, I won't feel compelled to lay in a colossal supply of migraine meds for TEOTWAWKI.

After leaving the chiropractor's office this morning, I stopped at the hardware store and bought some steel wool for my disaster-preparedness stockpile. As I said in yesterday's blogpost, steel wool was one of the things I needed to check off my list. Now that I have the steel wool, I can bundle up and label three of the boxes I packed up last weekend. Ah — progress!

Yesterday's Easter Brunch with a group of friends was lovely. We had scrumptious gourmet food, good wine, and good conversation.

When I returned home from the brunch yesterday, I found good news in my email inbox: a message from the folks at stating that I'd won two $20 gift certificates as a reward for two of the Apocalimericks I submitted to their contest. Yay! My disaster-preparedness shopping list includes a number of items on the Web site, so the $40 in gift certificates will come in handy.

During the past few days I've had great fun writing a collection of Apocalimericks. Here is another one:

The Feds have a big Ponzi scheme
that props up the American Dream.
But I am no dummy –
They're just printing money!
Their plan is short-sighted, it seems.'s Apocalimericks contest is still running. Click this link to read other Apocalimericks and to find out how to submit your own Apocalimerick to

Easter Sunday, March 31, 2013
> big bundling session, getting serious about inventory

Yesterday I spent several hours organizing piles of household-cleaning products, personal-hygiene products, and lighting equipment for my disaster-preparedness stockpile. These items include toothbrushes, dental floss, tooth powder (I'm stockpiling tooth powder instead of toothpaste because tooth powder won't be harmed by freezing, because it occupies less space than toothpaste, and because I think it probably has a longer shelf life than toothpaste), hairspray, bath soap, deoderant, hand lotion, dishwashing liquid, scrub brushes, scouring pads, rubber gloves, flashlights, lanterns, and more. I put most of the hygiene products and cleaning products in boxes, for easy stacking. In keeping with my plan for dividing my stockpile into three smaller stockpiles, I divided like items into three piles and stored them in three boxes with roughly identical contents. The lighting equipment went into the three plastic totes I've been using for rechargeable batteries, battery chargers, and battery testers.

Once I had everything organized, I was able to see where my stockpile is lacking. For example, I know I want a lot more dental floss for the personal-hygiene boxes, and I need to buy some steel wool for the household-cleaning boxes.

I bundled some of the boxes in plastic, but some of them remain open pending addition of items that are lacking.

Once the items were well organized, I loaded information about them into my inventory spreadsheet. I created the inventory spreadsheet a couple weeks ago but didn't enter very much information into it then because I just didn't really know what I had.

I still have a long way to go in terms of organizing my prepper provisions and entering information about them into my spreadsheet. Yesterday's focus on items for personal hygiene, household cleaning, and lighting was a good start; but I have many, many bags and piles of food and other things to be organized, counted, bundled, and inventoried. I'm eager to start working on this, but conflicting priorities are demanding my time and attention. I probably won't get to it until next weekend at the earliest.

I've gotten caught up in writing Apocalimericks just for fun (see yesterday's blogpost). Here is another one:

I need more ammo for my gun.
Twice a week to the gun store I run.
When I try to buy ammo
I'm stuck in a jammo
'cause on the store shelves there is none!

Well, it's time to get ready for Easter Bruch with some friends. Have a happy Easter, fellow preppers!

Saturday, March 30, 2013
> prepper humor

Prepping is a serious business, to be sure. However, it doesn't have to be all doom and gloom!

A case in point is the Apocalimericks contest at (If you're puzzling over the word "Apocalimericks," think about it for a couple moments, and you'll get it.) The folks at will give you a $20 gift certificate if they decide to publish an Apocalimerick you submit to them.

To get you into the spirit, here are a couple Apocalimericks authored by Your's Truly.

I know a wise prepper named Stan.
He's determined to do what he can
to find the best way
to prepare for the day
when the proverbial S hits the F.

Most folks keep their money in banks.
They think preppers are lunatic cranks.
But I hoard silver dimes
knowing there'll come a time
when bank accounts everywhere tank.

Click this link to read other Apocalimericks and to find out how to submit your own Apocalimerick to

Thursday, March 28, 2013
> get your money out of the bank – now!

In some of my recent blogposts I discussed my anxious feelings about the bailout/taxation situation in Cyprus. I explained that I'm not keeping much money in any bank nor am I keeping a lot of cash.


Seriously: I can't emphasize this strongly enough.

It's not just me saying it. Check out the links below, and note that the authors of the material have been studying the fiscal health of our nation and planet (or should I say fiscal disease of our nation and planet) for much longer than I have.

Those Anticipating Fiscal Crisis/Collapse Converting into Real Assets

Money In The Bank? No Thanks

Become Your Own Central Banker

How to Hide Your Money Where the Bankers Won't Find It

The European Union bails out Cyprus (and why it is very bad for everyone)

So am I saying you should initiate and/or participate in a bank run? Well, I guess I am in fact saying just that.

As I've implied in this blogpost, and as I stated explicitly in my March 18, 2013 blogpost, I don't think it's a good idea to keep a lot of cash (i.e., paper money) — because, in my opinion and in the opinions of many other folks who know more about such things than I do, there's a pretty good chance that the value of paper money will decrease dramatically and rapidly at some point in our future. Specifically what I'm saying is that it's likely we'll experience hyperinflation, which means the price of everything will become very high in a very short period of time. In effect, what this means is that paper money could become virtually worthless.

What should you do with your money once it's out of the bank? My advice regarding investment is not unlike the advice of others who are preparing for TEOTWAWKI. The general recommendation is this: buy things that can facilitate survival, health, and comfort for you and your family when TSHTF. Such things include but are not limited to foods packaged for long-term storage; non-GMO seeds packaged for long-term storage; garden tools; large quantities of fuel; rechargeable batteries; solar chargers; medications; first-aid supplies and other medical supplies; guns; ammunition; communication equipment; household-cleaning supplies; laundry supplies; personal-hygiene supplies; LOTS OF TOILET PAPER; water-filtration equipment; a hand pump for water, if you have a well (get the kind that won't freeze); piping for the hand pump; extra socks and boots... the list goes on. Dental work and elective surgery are wise investment choices, too. If your personal circumstances allow for it, you should strive to acquire and equip a survival retreat in a rural location. Buy some silver, too. Do the research to find out which forms of silver are good investments for TEOTWAWKI. (The recommendations I'm making here are really just the tip of the iceberg. There are many good sources of disaster-preparedness guidelines on the Internet, of course.)

To wrap this up: if you've been an ostrich (sticking you head in the sand), now's the time to come up for air, brush the sand out of your eyes, take a good look at what's going on around us, and plan accordingly.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013
> burnout

Today I'm feeling glum and really don't have anything positive to report. When I started this blog, I promised myself I'd strive to portray an accurate picture of what it's like to be a prepper. Here goes.

Though I'm enthusiastic about my disaster-preparedness activities most of the time, for the past week or so I've been feeling seriously overwhelmed. I am suffering from a bad case of burnout.

The main issues are:

  • Prepping takes a lot of time and energy, and when I started prepping a few months ago I was already overcommitted!

  • I can't make any major prepper purchases right now because money is tight; this frustrates me and concerns me because I haven't yet purchased some big-ticket items that will be essential for survival after TEOTWAWKI.

  • I'm battling sadness and depression because of my recent divorce.

  • My house is a total mess. I can barely walk through a room without tripping over piles of prepper provisions, and it's been a couple months since I've done serious housecleaning. As I've mentioned in previous blogposts, having my house in disarray gets on my nerves.

  • I've fallen way behind in business-related tasks.

  • I've fallen way behind in personal-admin tasks.

  • I'm involved with an important initiative for my church, and I can't give as much time to this effort as I'd like to give.

  • I'm scheduled to take a test for my Amateur Radio License in a couple weeks, and I've barely studied for it at all.
I'm trying to keep my chin up, fellow preppers, but it's really hard!

Friday, March 22, 2013
> more kerosene, conversation with chiropractor, nine chirping chicks

This morning I had another appointment with my chiropractor. I arrived about 15 minutes early. One of the service stations where I've been pumping kerosene is just down the street from the chiropractor's office, so I decided to take advantage of the extra time to buy 5 more gallons of kerosene. I am now in the habit of carrying empty kerosene cans and empty gas cans in my Jeep on a regular basis, and I pump at least a few gallons of kerosene, gasoline, or both whenever I have the time and money available.

A couple weeks ago, the chiropractor identified a problem area on my neck while viewing some x-rays. The first time she worked on my neck was a week and a half ago, and for several days after that I had almost no problem with migraines — I had just a very mild migraine on one occasion. For years I've woken up with a migraine almost every morning, so I was feeling encouraged.

On my next visit the chiropractor attempted to perform the same procedure on my neck but wasn't sure she was targeting the right spot. (She's explained that, on me, the "right spot" can be difficult to identify just because of the way my neck is shaped.) For the next several days I woke up with migraines and was feeling disappointed.

Today I visited the chiropractor again. I told her the migraines were back. She used her little meter to take some measurements on my spine and then said she thought the problem was moving down my spine (because she'd straightened out some problems higher on my spine during earlier visits and today was finding issues lower on my spine). She encouraged me to be patient and explained to me, "It's a process."

Several people have told me this particular chiropractor has had success treating people with migraines, so I'm willing to be patient.

I'm really hoping the chiropractor will be able to give me relief from the migraines. I'm going to do my best to lay in a big supply of migraine meds in preparation for TEOTWAWKI, but it will probably be difficult to accomplish this, and it will surely be expensive.

After leaving the chiropractor's office, I did a little grocery shopping and then headed for the home of my friend Toni to purchase a dozen organic eggs. Toni and her son, Shawn, showed me 9 newly hatched baby chicks that were chirping around under a heat lamp in a little cage in their basement.

Though I know several families here in my town that raise chickens, Toni's family is the only one I know that hatches their own chicks. All the other families buy new chicks each year. (Interestingly, the chicks they buy are shipped through the mail via the U.S. Postal Service!)

Working toward sustainable living is an important part of my disaster-preparedness plan. I hope to raise chickens, so I was really interested in learning about the procedures Toni's family uses to hatch their own chicks. Toni explained it all: the candler (a device you use to find out whether an egg is fertilized), the incubator (a device you use to keep eggs warm until they hatch), the survival rate (Toni says they often lose at least one or two chicks from a batch of hatchlings).

Toni offered to help me with my chickens, when I get them. As I mentioned in an earlier blogpost, Toni has also offered to help me manage my first vegetable garden and help me can the vegetables I will (hopefully) harvest from it. It's wonderful having a friend like Toni who knows so much about topics new to me.

Thursday, March 21, 2013
> stepping up my prepping, a small success with meditation

I have been panicking a bit since the news broke last week about the Cypriot government's proposed plan to suck money out of people's bank accounts as a means of accumulating €5.8 billion the European Union says Cyprus must have before the EU will agree to give Cyprus a €10 billion rescue package. The news today is that leaders of political parties in Cyprus have abandoned the plan to levy bank deposits and have instead agreed to raise the €5.8 billion by issuing bonds backed by state and church assets. My question is: "Who in his right mind is going to buy these bonds?"

The Cypriot government closed the banks several days ago so people can't withdraw their money, and the banks are still closed. If and when the banks open, people will of course want their money right away (who wouldn't?). Of course, the money isn't there (the banks don't have it).

So the situation in Cyprus is getting media attention currently because the Cypriots are in crisis — but of course, such problems aren't limited to Cyprus: banks all over the world are leveraged way more than they should be. Aren't they? I'm not a financier or a banker, and I'm not particularly well informed about current events and international affairs, but I think I understand some basic stuff about the risky behavior of big banks in recent years.

The planet's finances are a mess. How much longer can this be sustained?

My disaster-preparedness plans have been affected by my thoughts and feelings about the situation in Cyprus. For one thing, I've now re-prioritized my survivalism-shopping list, and I've also added a new item which is currently at the very top of the list: a GOAL ZERO YETI 1250 Solar Generator Kit. The super-high-priority section of the list now looks like this:

- Yeti Generator
- crosscut saw with sharpening kit
- extra chains for chainsaws
- extra batteries for chainsaws
- extra chargers for chainsaws
- garden cart with solid tires
- meds: buy 2-year supply on line
- manual well pump that doesn't freeze (SimplePump?)
- Country Living Grain Mill
- grains: wheat, oat groats, probably corn
- vinegar (buy a case)
- more gasoline
- diesel fuel
- more kerosene
- kerosene cooker/heater
- matches
- filters for Big Berkey?
- book on how to deal with various poisoning situations
- med/surgical equip and supplies, including suture kits (vet supplier?)
- dental equip and supplies
- antibiotics of some kind - aquarium supplier or vet supplier?

I'm also making tentative plans to move out of my current house and onto my new property just as soon as possible. Ideally I will be building my new house on the new property really soon (this summer); however, that plan is contingent on the sale of some other real estate I own. I need money from that sale to build the new house.

So I'm now formulating a contingency plan which I will probably implement this summer if I can't build the house this summer. The contingency plan entails drilling a well on the new property, installing a hand pump that won't freeze, building a small cabin with very limited energy needs that can be met by the Yeti solar generator mentioned above, making the cabin habitable for 12 months a year, building trashcan root cellars to store my food stockpile, and moving myself and my various stockpiles over to the new property. If I then get to build my house before TEOTWAWKI, the cabin will be used as a guest house and/or a storage building.

The Yeti solar generator should also be capable of charging the batteries for my battery-operated chainsaws, which is very important because I need the chainsaws to harvest firewood to heat the cabin. The crosscut saw on the list above will be used to harvest firewood if I can't charge the chainsaw batteries, but I don't want to rely on the crosscut saw; I'll do that only if I absolutely have to.

Carrying out this contingency plan will stretch my finances. In fact, I might not be able to do it without cashing in some of my silver, and I really don't want to do that. We'll see what happens.

One good thing that happened this morning is that, for the first time ever, I tried meditating and actually felt like I was getting something out of it. I've attempted meditation off and on during the past couple years but have always felt like I wasn't doing it right — like I didn't feel the way I was supposed to be feeling. I've discussed this quite a bit with a few people who practice medication. Recently one of them recommended "just sitting there for 20 minutes even if you keep getting destracted and even if you don't feel like you think you're supposed to feel." So that's what I did today, and when my 20-minute session was over, I felt kind of relaxed and grounded. My feeling of panic had been replaced by a calm resolve to forge ahead with the work I need to do. I felt more ready to tackle the day than I usually feel.

I have a long way to go in terms of achieving what I'd like to achieve, meditation-wise, but this morning's experience was definitely a good start.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013
> gas cans in the snow, building first-aid kits at Walmart

All winter I've been postponing the task of stockpiling gasoline because I won't have a good place to store it until the snow melts. Well, the snow hasn't melted yet, but I decided to start buying gasoline anyway because I'm panicking a little. Things keep happening that make me even more uneasy about the stability of our society than I was when I first started prepping. Yesterday I decided I absolutely had to lay in a supply of gasoline, so I pumped 25 gallons of it into 5-gallon cans.

Now the cans are sitting in my kitchen. After I add Sta-BIL to each can, I'm going to label each one with the purchase date, wrap each can in the sticky plastic I got at Lowe's, and carry the cans one by one, through the snow, to a secluded area in the woods behind my house. I think I'll cover them with a tarp.

Over the next few weeks I'll continue stockpiling filled 5-gallon gas cans in the woods here at my house. By the time spring comes, I should have close to 200 gallons.

In the spring, I'll take the cans to the storage building on my new property. They will be wet, and it will be a messy job, but my peace of mind trumps the mess and the inconvenience of moving them twice.

As I mentioned in yesterday's blogpost, I bought first-aid supplies for my survivalism stockpile yesterday. What I actually did was put together three customized first-aid kits. I spent about an hour and a half at Walmart doing this. In the Walmart pharmacy department there were some wimpy little first-aid kits containing bandaids of assorted sizes along with a few foil-wrapped packets of antiseptic ointment. I want something much more substantial for TEOTWAWKI, so I decided to create my own kits. In keeping with the stockpiling plan I described in an earlier blogpost, I created 3 first-aid kits instead of just one.

I'd been thinking about what I wanted in a first-aid kit almost since the germination of my interest in disaster preparedness, so I had a pretty good idea what I was looking for.

My first step was finding a suitable container for the kind of first-aid kit I planned to create. For each kit I wanted a good-sized, sturdy, water-resistant container, with a handle for carrying.

Initially I thought it might be a good idea to use a fishing-tackle box. In the Walmart sporting-goods department I found several types of tackle boxes, but after examining the inside of each type of tackle box I decided a tackle box wasn't well suited for my needs because most of the space inside each tackle box is taken up with tiny shelves and compartments — there's not much room for bulky items like bandages, bottles of peroxide and alcohol, and latex gloves.

Then I thought of using a cooler. Not a big, hard-plastic cooler, but a relatively small, soft-sided cooler with a zipper — the kind of cooler that's designed primarily for beverages. A cooler large enough to hold all the first-aid items I wanted to include — with room to spare, so I can add more items later if it seems necessary and so I can throw in extra items ad hoc for particular emergency situations — yet small enough to carry easily.

I found several types of these in Walmart's sporting-goods deparment. The Coleman 30-Can Cooler seemed ideal. It has a hard-plastic liner (an open-topped white-plastic box that can be removed for cleaning). It zips closed. For carrying, it has two handles as well as a padded shoulder strap. The outside of it has another zippered compartment plus two open-topped compartments made of a mesh fabric. In addition, there are some bungie cords stretched around part of the body of the cooler. You could use the bungie cords to carry extra items — for example, a towel or a rag or a light sweater or sweatshirt could be stuffed between the bungie cords.

I needed 3 of these coolers, and there were 5 on the shelf, which was good.

So the Coleman 30-Can Cooler seemed an ideal choice, but I wondered whether or not all the stuff I wanted to put inside it would actually fit, and if so, would there be room to spare? Then (duh!) I realized how I could assure myself that the cooler's dimensions were appropriate: I would just put one of the coolers into my cart, trek over to the pharmacy area, choose the items I wanted for one of the first-aid kits, and arrange the items inside the cooler right there in the pharmacy department.

That's what I did, and it worked out perfectly. I was able to fit the items neatly into the cooler, and there was room to add more items later. Once I'd created this first kit, I grabbed 2 more of each item and then traversed the store to the cooler shelves, where I loaded up 2 more of the coolers with the first-aid items.

When I was done, I was faced with the task of fitting the 3 kits/coolers into my cart, which was already piled high with five 5-gallon gas cans. I wanted to leave the items inside the coolers because they were packed very neatly and also because I didn't have much room in the cart. The only place available for the coolers was on top of the five gas cans. I balanced the coolers there carefully but was pretty sure they'd topple over on my way to the checkout line, spilling my first-aid items onto the floor. I'd left the coolers unzipped because I was concerned about the possibility that store-security personnel might think I was attempting to steal the items inside. (I though they might have been watching my activities on camera.) But I ended up zipping all three coolers closed in spite of this concern, because otherwise I wasn't going to make it to the checkout line without dumping bandaids and ointments onto the floor. In my head I prepared an explanation for any security people that might approach me.

I made it to the checkout line, and through it, without incident.

One item I wanted but could not find in Walmart's pharmacy department was syrup of ipecac. It's been included in every well-stocked first-aid kit I've ever seen, so I thought it prudent to put a bottle of it into each of my kits. After searching the shelves several times, to no avail, I asked about it at the pharmacy counter. The pharmacist said, "We don't stock it anymore," and when I asked if a substitute was available, he said, "No" and didn't seem willing to discuss it further.

This morning I called another pharmacy in the area and asked if they stock syrup of ipecac. The person answering the phone told me, "They don't make it anymore." I asked, "Do you mean the FDA has banned it or something?" She replied, "Yes, because it's dangerous. Children have died because of violent vomiting."

I googled Why can't I buy syrup of ipecac at my pharmacy? and found information about the dangers of using syrup of ipecac (allergic reactions and side effects), abuse of syrup of ipecac by people who are bulemic, information about FDA recommendations against keeping it in your home, and advice to "Call your poison-control center if somebody in your family swallows something poisonous."

So our nanny the FDA has decided we can't be trusted with syrup of ipecac.

I doubt very much that poison-control centers will exist after TEOTWAWKI, so I'd really like to make some kind of disaster-preparedness provision for a situation involving the poisoning of a child (or the poisoning of anyone, for that matter). I've found that I can probably buy syrup of ipecac on line without a prescription, and maybe I will. I guess I'll explore other options too — maybe charcoal tablets? This issue, like so many disaster-preparedness issues, will require research. I don't have time for that project now but am putting it on my ever-growing to-do list.

Here are some photos of one of the first-aid kits.

Monday, March 18, 2013
> Cyprus bank-deposit-tax proposal is a scary proposition, and I'm feeling panicky

I was appalled when I heard about the proposal to tax bank deposits in Cyprus. I was beyond appalled when I learned that the tax was to be collected by sucking money directly out of people's bank accounts. Then today when I found out Cypriot banks have been closed so people can't withdraw their money, I started feeling panicky.

Are there any readers of this blog who don't assume, like I do, that there will be major bank runs in Cyprus if and when the banks re-open?

Are there any readers of this blog who don't speculate, like I do, that this kind of thing could actually happen at some point here in the U.S.?

I don't know about you, but for the past year or so I haven't kept more than a few hundred dollars in bank accounts or investment accounts. I keep a supply of cash. Sure, I sometimes get funny looks from cashiers when I use hundred-dollar bills to pay for large purchases. And sure, I sometimes get funny looks from bank tellers when I make a big fat cash deposit so I can then then write a big fat check to somebody. And yes, I'm concerned about the possibility that I'm on an IRS watch-list because of my cash dealings. But I absolutely don't have faith in our country's banking system, so I live a cash life in spite of the associated inconvenience and risk.

And by the way, it's not like I'm sitting on hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash. These days most of my net worth is tied up in silver, survivalism supplies, and real estate. Sitting on a big pile of paper money would not make me feel at all secure, as I'm of the opinion that there will come a point when U.S. currency isn't worth much.

Because I was feeling panicky about the situation in Cyprus, I spent the afternoon today buying first-aid supplies and fuel (gasoline and two kinds of kerosene). These purchases broke my budget, but I felt strongly that I had to make the purchases.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013
> my mortgage company is bankrupt, U.S. official concerned about cyberattacks, high hopes for chiropractor

I own quite a lot of real estate. Most of it is owned free and clear, but there is a mortgage on one of my properties. Recently I learned that the company that holds my mortgage is going bankrupt. U.S. taxpayers have loaned billions of bailout dollars to this company. Clearly, we taxpayers will never see all this money. If we're lucky, we'll be awarded some percentage of it in the bankruptcy proceedings. I think it's pretty likely that other companies who received bailout billions will probably go down the tubes in the near future. (This has probably happened to some of them already — I'm not somebody who's on top of current events all the time. I'm too busy to be as well informed as I'd like to be.) I view the bankruptcy of my mortgage company as an indication of the very diseased state of our nation's economic health.

As I write this I listen to a radio talk given by General Keith Alexander, head of the United States Cyber Command and the National Security Agency/Central Security Service. In his talk he admits concern about the possibility that cyberattackers will take down Wall Street, or part of the U.S. power grid, or both. It could happen at any time, he says. This is yet another reason to prep, I say.

As I've explained in earlier blogposts, included in my disaster-preparedness plans are initiatives geared toward improving my health and lessening my dependence on the medical establishment and the pharmaceutical companies. My weight-loss undertaking is going well: I've lost 9 pounds! In addition, I'm working to titrate off of a medication I've taken for about 20 years, and so far it's been smooth sailing. There's also another medication I'd love to get off of, but I haven't been able to: my migraine-headache medication. I've had a major problem with migraines for about 40 years. For the past 15 years or so, I've been able to live a pretty normal life thanks to a migraine-headache drug called Sumatriptan Succinate, which, for me, is nothing sort of a miracle drug. But how would I obtain Sumatriptan Succinate after TEOTWAWKI? In all likelihood, it won't be available to me. This is of great concern to me, because if I can't control the migraines I'll be totally debilitated at least 50 percent of the time.

Over the years I've tried many kinds of treatments and potions to improve the migraine situation: acupuncture; various prescription meds, including blood-pressure meds taken prophylactically; several over-the-counter meds; Chinese tea; energy channeling; muscle-relaxation techniques; various herbal remedies — all to no avail, except for the Sumatriptan Succinate. Probably the only thing I haven't tried is chiropractic medicine, and so now I'm working with a chiropractor who has had success treating other migraine patients.

I've undergone two chiropractic manipulations so far: one two days ago and one today. I haven't had much of a migraine problem during the past couple days, which is encouraging, but it's much too early to draw any conclusions, as it's not unusual for me to go for a couple days without any migraine issues. The plan is for me to visit the chiropractor twice a week for the next month or so. I'm keeping my fingers crossed! We'll see how it goes.

I continue to shop for survivalism supplies, though I've cut back on my spending somewhat because money is tight at the moment. Today I picked up the last of the shampoo I'd planned to buy, so I've crossed shampoo off my list. I also picked up 3 big boxes of laundry detergent today. I'm pretty close to my stockpiling goals for personal-hygiene supplies, household-cleaning supplies, and laundry supplies. Once I've met those goals, I'll move on to some big-ticket items: crosscut saw with sharpening kit, Country Living grain mill, non-electric washing machine, more.

Friday, March 8, 2013
> checking things off my list, big harvest of Walmart boxes, continuing refinement of storage plan

Yesterday evening I went "into town" (as we country folk say) to attend a lecture. It was about 8:45 pm when I left the lecture hall, and I had some shopping to do, so I went to Walmart. (Of course I went to Walmart — where else would I shop at that time of night?)

My mission at Walmart was twofold: I was doing survivalism shopping, and I was also shopping for a few food items and household items I need currently for my pre-TEOTWAWKI life.

My survivalism-shopping list is loosely prioritized in terms of which items would be most needed at TEOTWAWKI time for preservation of life, health, and comfort. I use the term loosely prioritized because some of the items at the top of my shopping list actually are not things critically needed for disaster preparedness — instead, they are at the top of my list simply because I've set goals for quantities of some items and want to reach those goals so I can check things off my list and bundle up the items for stockpiling. Neurotic, I suppose, but I'm a person who derives satisfaction from checking things off a list and managing things in an organized fashion.

For close to 3 months I've been buying personal-hygiene supplies, household-cleaning supplies, and laundry supplies for my survivalism stockpile. As I've said, I've decided how many of each item I ultimately want to stockpile. For quite a few of the items I've acquired the quantity I've targeted, but for some items I have not. For example, I've purchased all the toothbrushes and dental floss and Ajax and scrub-brushes I plan to purchase, but I haven't yet purchased all the shampoo and laundry soap and bleach and toilet paper I plan to purchase.

Because the personal-hygiene items and household-cleaning and laundry items are relatively inexpensive, I kind of feel okay about positioning these items higher on the list than really essential emergency-preparedness provisions like a crosscut saw and a kerosene cooker/heater. In other words, what I mean is that since the hygiene/household/laundry items don't cost a lot, I'll probably be crossing all of them off the list pretty soon, after just a few more shopping trips. Of course, if TEOTWAWKI hits before I get that far, I'll be chastizing myself for allowing the hygiene/household/laundry items to trump more-important purchases. So I'm taking a gamble and assuming I'll get away with it.

Anyway, the first part of the survivalism-shopping list I took to Walmart last night looked like this:

- 5 more bottles Apple Green shampoo
- 5 more 11 oz. cans Suave Max Hold non-aerosol hairspray
- 3 more boxes Arm & Hammer laundry soap (see camera pic)
- 10 more 16 oz. round boxes of Great Value Iodized Salt
- 7 more 8-paks of Lever 2000 soap
- 8 more boxes of 10 ZipLoc 2 gallon Double Zipper bags
- 3 more boxes of 4 ZipLoc XL Big Bags
- 8 more big bottles of Great Value DW liquid
- 12 more 3 qt bottles of bleach
- crosscut saw
- sharpening kit for crosscut saw
- small kerosene cooker/heater
- lots of extra wicks for small kerosene cooker/heater
- more gasoline
- more kerosene
- a few kerosene lanterns
- lots of extra wicks for kerosene lanterns
- at least one portable photovoltaic system
- extra chains for both chainsaws
- gardening tools
- canning supplies
- ammo
- Country Living grain mill with accessories and spare parts
- whole wheat grain packaged for long-term storage
- oat groats packaged for long-term storage
- toilet paper (spring)
- paper towels (spring)
- meds - buy on line
- medical instruments and supplies (research)
- dental instruments and supplies (research)
- 3 more Survival Seed Vaults
- crank flashlights and/or crank lanterns
- crank radio

(On my list I have the word "spring" next to "toilet paper" and "paper towels" because I've declared a moratorium on purchases of these items pending the end of winter. I just don't have storage space for any more toilet paper or paper towels here at my house. When the snow melts, though, I'll be able to utilize some storage space that's inaccesible right now because of deep snow.)

The kids stocking the Walmart shelves yesterday evening were all eager to accommodate me when I asked for empty boxes. One of them even suggested I point out which boxes I wanted so he could unpack those boxes first and give me the empties. He folded each box flat so it takes up as little space as possible. (Who says you can't get good customer service at Walmart?) I ended up with maybe 40 boxes.

When I arrived home last night I checked a few things off the list. (Ah, such a nice feeling of accomplishment!)

This afternoon I finished the task of bundling up several dozen new pairs of socks (putting the socks in ZipLoc bags, then in boxes, then wrapping each box in the sticky plastic, then labeling each box). I have 3 boxes of warm-weather socks and 3 boxes of cold-weather socks. I could have put all the socks into one big box. There are reasons I didn't do that, though. These reasons have been gelling in my head for the past several weeks during which I've refined the details of my storage plan to the point where I now have very specific criteria for bundling stockpile items. Some of these criteria are related to ease of lifting and carrying the bundles, some have to do with the dimensions of the shelves I plan to build, and some sprung from my commitment to incorporating redundancy into my prepper plans. The "ease-of-lifting-and-carrying criteria" and the "shelving-dimensions" criteria are explained in my February 23, 2013 blogpost. The "redundancy criteria" are part of my contingency plan (Murphy's Law plan) for stockpiling disaster-preparedness items. You can learn my thoughts about contingency planning by reading my January 26, 2013 blogpost.

Regarding redundancy: I've known for awhile now that I don't want to store my entire survivalism stockpile in one place. If I were to store everything in one area of my basement, for example, I would be in big trouble if somebody broke into the basement post-TEOTWAWKI and stole my stockpiled items, or if the basement became flooded. It would be much better, I believe, to have several stockpile locations; and for somewhat arbitrary reasons I've settled on the idea of having 3 stockpile locations. So when I bundle like items, I create at least 3 bundles; and if I have more than 3 bundles-worth of items, the number of bundles I create is a multple of 3 so all 3 stockpiles will get the same quantity of a particular item. So 3 bundles of toothbrushes (or 6 bundles, or 9 bundles), 3 bundles of laundry soap (or 6 bundles, or 9 bundles), 3 or 6 or 9 bundles of canned lima beans...the same with canned tuna, boxes of pasta, long underwear, warm-weather socks, cold-weather socks, and so on. I've evolved to the point where, when planning quantities of various items to purchase, I decide on a number that will make all the bundles "come out even," so to speak. I do this because I don't want any "partial bundles" or "lopsided bundles," as partial or lopsided bundles would make it difficult to stack things on top of each other.

Having several stockpile locations will complicate things a little when it comes to rotating items and keeping inventory records, but the peace of mind I'll have will far outweigh the complications and inconveniences.

Sunday, March 3, 2013
> church, shopping, sunflower-oil production

I went to church this morning and stayed for 4 hours: an hour for the service, an hour for refreshments, and a couple hours for a committee meeting. I love my church! My fellow congregation members are good people, and smart, and educated. I've been attending this church for about a year and a half. Prior to my decision to attend this church, I hadn't attended a church service for more than 30 years. Participating in our church services feeds my soul, and I feel more and more at home each time I'm there.

When I left church this afternoon I was feeling mellow and relaxed. I spent a couple hours doing survivalism shopping. I won't enumerate all the items I bought today, but I do want to mention that I found a great deal on bleach at one of the dollar stores in the area: I bought 12 3-quart bottles for $1 apiece. Next time I'm in town I'll buy another 12 bottles, and that will probably be enough for my survivalism stockpile — for now, anyway.

When I arrived home I was confronted with piles of prepper provisions sitting around on the floor where I'd deposited them after my last couple shopping excursions. This evening I spent some time organizing the items, taking inventory, and bundling up a few things in the sticky plastic. The house is now a little neater than it was when I arrived, which makes me feel better.

I also want to mention that yesterday evening I spent some time on the Web researching the process of producing oil from sunflower seeds. This project kind of fell out of yesterday morning's conversation with Toni about ordering seeds from High Mowing Organic Seeds. That discussion got me thinking about seeds for vegetables and from there it was a short leap to thinking about sunflower seeds (because I think sunflower plants are so cool! especially the really tall ones!) and from there it was just another short leap to thoughts about making oil from sunflower seeds. For awhile now I've been wondering how I could make provisions for availability of cooking oil after TEOTWAWKI. Cooking oil doesn't store well for more than a couple years, so stockpiling cooking oil isn't a long-term solution to this problem. A few times I've taken a stab at Web-researching small-scale production of vegetable oil, but the information I turned up during those research sessions left me feeling overwhelmed because the equipment I found was big and expensive and because the crops I learned about seemed difficult to grow.

But yesterday I hit paydirt. I learned that sunflower oil has a mild, pleasant taste; I learned that sunflowers are very easy to grow; I learned that there are two basic kinds of sunflower seeds — 1) confectionery seeds, which have hard, gray-striped shells and are good for snacking, and 2) oil seeds (or oilseeds), which have softer, black shells and are well suited for producing oil. I also found an organization called Bountiful Gardens that sells a small, simple, and relatively inexpensive hand-crank oil press for $164. To my shopping list I've now added sunflower oilseeds and the Bountiful Gardens oil press. I'm looking forward to putting in my first crop of sunflowers this spring!

Saturday, March 2, 2013
> planning my first vegetable garden and hoping to do gravity-fed irrigation

I want to learn how to grow organic vegetables. I was planning this endeavor even before I became a prepper, for my own enjoyment and also as a means of keeping my food budget in line. Of course, after I started prepping, I started viewing my gardening endeavor in terms of survivalism.

Except for growing a few herbs in pots inside my house, I've never done vegetable gardening. I've had a flower garden here at my house for the past two summers — not organic, though — I confess to using chemicals for pest control and for bloom-boosting.

Several of my friends here in town are avid gardeners. Some of them use chemical fertilizers and pesticides, but two of them, Toni and Sally, have had success year after year with organic vegetable gardening; and another, Donna, grows organic vegetables on a much bigger scale, as her family owns and operates an organic farm.

I've been talking with Donna and Toni about my modest plans for an organic vegetable garden this year. I've been thinking I'll start small, with only a couple crops, one of which will surely be potatoes because I really like potatoes and also because potatoes will be a good crop to have in a TEOTWAWKI situation, as they keep well in a root cellar and can be used in lots of ways when you're cooking.

This morning I got a call from Toni. She told me she and Donna are purchasing some organic seed potatoes and seeds via the Internet from High Mowing Organic Seeds in Vermont, and she wanted to know if I wanted to combine my order with theirs.

We ended up having a detailed conversation about what crops I should plant. We decided on Yukon Gold potatoes, spinach, and bush beans — potatoes because I am determined to learn to grow organic potatoes for the reasons I mentioned above, spinach because I enjoy salads and because Toni said spinach is pretty easy to grow, and bush beans because Toni explained they are super-easy to grow. We talked about irrigation and fertilizer and fencing and root cellars. We also had a discussion about canning. Toni is very experienced with canning. In the past she's offered to help me learn how to can, and she offered again today. And she and Donna are eager to help me learn how to do organic gardening.

I'm grateful I have these good friends who are willing to take time from their busy lives to help me with this new undertaking!

I think I'm going to try to use the pond on my property for irrigating the garden. I want to try doing this in a very low-tech way that requires zero energy other than energy expended by yours truly. My plan is as follows: I'll plant the garden downhill from the pond, and I'll use a garden hose to gravity-feed water from the pond to the garden.

I have some concern about the purity of the pond water. It's a bit murky. When I bought the property last year, there was an automobile wheel, with a tire attached, lying on the bottom of the pond; I'm wondering if rubber has leached into the water. And of course there is the possiblity that people have dumped toxic substances into the pond over the years, not to mention the fact that the pond water might be contaminated by agricultural chemicals used to farm the land in years gone by. I'm going to have the pond water tested befor I attempt to use it to irrigate my garden.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed regarding the pond water. Assuming the water tests out okay, my plan to irrigate my garden by gravity-feeding water from the pond seems like a no-brainer. Stay tuned to to find out if it actually works as well as I think it will.

Friday, March 1, 2013
> evening with friends, other people have problems worse than mine, trolling for boxes at Walmart

This evening I attended an art exhibition at a university campus near my town. Works by local female artists were featured because it's Women's History Month. I went with two friends, Jill and Janice. After leaving the exhibition we headed to a favorite restaurant for dinner.

As we were making our way to the restaurant, we ran into Don, a friend of Jill's. When she saw him she hugged him, asked him how he was doing, told him she was sorry for everything he'd gone through, and invited him to join the three of us for dinner. I'd never met Don, but from Jill's interaction with him it was clear he's been dealing with difficulties of some kind.

Once we were settled at our table, the story came out: Don's wife died of cancer a few months ago, his father in law also died at about the same time, and his mother in law was admitted to a nursing home shortly after her husband's death. Poor Don has had to deal with all of this tragedy within a period of just a few months.

After hearing Don's tale of woe, my divorce heartache seemed a bit less painful. I have been through hell and am still reeling from it, but Don's life for the past year or so has probably been even more nightmarish. When I start to feel overwhelmed by the problems in my life, it helps me to remind myself that many peopele have problems that are worse than my problems!

We finished dinner at 8:30 pm or so, and after dropping Jill off at her house, I headed to Walmart. They start stocking the shelves there at about 8:00 pm, so it was a good time to scout around the store for empty boxes. I need lots of boxes for storing items in my survivalism stockpile. I cruised the Walmart aisles with my cart and hit the jackpot, scarfing up about 25 small and medium-sized boxes that had been neatly flattened by a young lady that was stocking shelves in the electronics department.

My drive home was really pretty, with moonlight spilling onto trees still laden with snow from the 14-inch snowfall we had last night.

All in all, today was a pretty nice day.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013
> thrift stores are great resources for affordable survivalism supplies

I want to take a little time today to talk about the deals I've found at thrift stores here in my area: Salvation Army store, Catholic Charities store, and similar stores.

Today I was out and about for some medical appointments, and since I was driving past a Catholic Charities store, I decided to stop in. Here's what I bought:

  • a heavy, olive-green winter jacket with lots of pockets for $1.00.
  • 3 pairs of work boots/hiking boots for $2.00 per pair.
  • 8 new pairs of white, 80% cotton/20% polyester crew socks for $1.00 each.
A couple weeks ago at a Salvation Army store I bought:
  • a very heavy, olive-green military jacket with a hood and lots of pockets for $7.99.
  • a brand-new pair of leather work boots for $4.99.
  • a beautiful, almost-new, olive-green Woolrich jacket with a hood, a wool-plaid lining, and several pockets for $7.99. (This jacket is really nice. I've worn it quite a bit since I bought it. I'm not sure it's going to make it into my survivalism stockpile!)
A couple months ago at a different thrift store I bought 2 more pairs of work boots/hiking boots.

I figure you can never have too many spare pairs of boots or too many spare pairs of socks. After TEOTWAWKI, most of us will probably be spending a lot of time outside doing physical labor. Boots and socks will get wet, and we'll need spare ones. And with heavy use they will just wear out quickly.

Likewise for jackets, though they probably won't wear out as quickly as footwear.

I'm not concerned about proper fit for boots and jackets. For one thing, I always buy boots several sizes too large, even why I'm buying new ones. In fact, even though I'm female, I almost always end up buying men's boots. Over the years I've learned that my feet stay much more comfortable if I wear boots that are very loose. As for jackets, I like to have lots of room under a jacket for turtlenecks, sweaters, and so on.

I plan to continue buying things like this at thrift stores. Not only might I need them myself someday — they could also come in handy for barter and charity after TEOTWAWKI.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013
> kerosene konfusion kontinues, cute and affordable kerosene cookstoves

One of these days I'll find time to research and understand all the ins and outs and ups and downs of kerosene. I'm still confused about the differences among the various types of kerosene available here in my area. Not as confused as I was a few weeks ago, but confused nevertheless.

Today I went to a new place to buy kerosene. It's a service station one town over from my town. I drive past this service station all the time. Today I had an errand at a bank just down the street from the service station. Since I was going to be in the area, I decided to try to find out if I could buy a few gallons of kerosene.

Before leaving home I wanted to call the service station to ask about the kerosene. I couldn't find their phone number, but I did have the phone number for somebody I knew would know their phone number, so I called him (Dennis).

I told Dennis I was wondering if the service station sells kerosene. He said they don't. Then I said, "I'm looking for the red kerosene." He said, "Oh, you mean Number 2 fuel oil. Yeah, they sell that." I thanked Dennis and hung up.

After completing my bank errand, I drove to the filling station. There are three pumps outside. Two are obviously for gasoline. On the third pump, which is set off to the side, I saw the word Diesel. Since I didn't see a pump labeled with the word Kerosene, I went inside to inquire. To the young woman at the cash register, I said, "Somebody told me you sell the red kerosene." She said, "We sell the off-road diesel. Is that what you're looking for?" Even though I wasn't actually 100% sure that's what I was looking for, I said, "Yeah." (Since Dennis had told me I could buy what I was looking for at this filling station, and since this was the only pump I saw other than the two gasoline pumps, I figured "off-road diesel" must be another name for "Number 2 fuel oil" which must be another name for "red kerosene.") The young woman said, "You can pump it at the pump out here next to the building." She was referring to the pump labeled with the word Diesel. "Use the right nozzle, not the left one," she said. "The right one is for the off-road."

Here is a photo of the pump.

I pumped 3 gallons of the red stuff and then went inside and paid the young woman for it. The place wasn't particularly busy, so I decided to ask about the difference between the substance delivered by the left nozzle vs. the substance delivered by the right nozzle. She said, "The left is for on-road and the right is for off-road." I said, "The right one is red kerosene, right?" The young woman looked unsure. An older man sitting in a chair near the cash register said, "Pretty close." Another elderly gentleman sitting next to him said, "It's the same stuff." I said, "So is the left side kerosene?" One of the elderley men offered "Not really" and the other elderly man said, "I'm pretty sure it's the same stuff except for the C-tane rating."

We then had a befuddling discussion about what a C-tane rating is, which I won't even attempt to repeat here. (NOTE: When I got home I attempted to look up "c-tane rating" and "seatane rating" and ended up learning that it's spelled cetane and that a cetane rating is a measurement of the combustion quality of diesel fuel during compression ignition.*)

A younger man (the owner of the service station, I thought) asked me, "What do you need it for?" I said something like, "I just use it for a lot of things around my property."

I then said to the young man, "I'm planning to buy a kerosene cookstove. If I buy the fuel from the left side of the pump, would that be the right kind of fuel for the cookstove?" He looked puzzled. I then said to him, "Is that the same thing as Jet A fuel? Last week a man at the airport told me the Amish buy the Jet A fuel for their cookstoves." The young man replied, "The stuff I sell at the pump is low sulfur."


I pressed on with "I think I read somewhere that Jet A fuel is another name for K1 Kerosene." He said, "I sell the reg'lar clear 1K kerosene." He took me into an adjoining room and showed me a black plastic 5-gallon bucket labeled Kerosene 1K Low Sulfur.

Here is a photo of the bucket.

He said he sells the bucket for $40. "That's eight dollars a gallon," I said. "Pretty expensive." He said, "Yeah, but this is the clear." I said, "The left side of your pump outside says 'On Road Diesel Low Sulfur' — and I'm assuming it's clear in terms of color — but you're saying what's in the bucket is different? At the pump you're selling it for a lot less than eight dollars a gallon." He explained, "Yeah, but this (pointing at the bucket) is better."

AARGH!!!      AARGH!!!      AARGH!!!

I don't want to earn a degree in petrochemical engineering. I just want to end the konfounding kerosene konfusion!

By the way, last night on the Web I found two really small, reasonably priced, and "cute" kerosene cookstoves. I might end up buying one of them for the kitchen in the new house. The very simple, basic design of these stoves appeals to me for both aesthetic and practical reasons, the practical part being that if something went wrong there's a chance I could diagnose and fix the problem myself even though mechanical skills are not among the repertoire of skills I've managed to master during my time traveling around the sun. See links below.

Perfection Kerosene Cookstove

New Perfection Kerosene Cookstove


Saturday, February 23, 2013
> criteria for bundling stockpile items, prepping for babies, TEOTWAWKI laundromat, ammo flying off the shelves

Still trying to find time to catch up on many important blogging topics. My head is swimming with all the tasks on my plate: admin tasks for my business, sales/promotion activities for my business, studying for amateur radio license, preparation of tax returns...the list goes on. Today's blog won't contain all the information I want to write about, but I do want to take time now to mention a couple things.

As I said in my February 10, 2013 blogpost, my house has been really messy lately what with prepper provisions sitting around all over the place. I don't like the mess. It makes me feel agitated. Today I decided I had to take some time to organize things to some extent. I bundled up a lot of my prepper supplies carefully in Ziploc bags and/or in the sticky plastic I bought from Lowe's. Socks, shampoo, hairspray, household cleaning solution, extra boots, boxes of Ziploc bags in many different sizes, and some more things got bundled today — including the three Survival Seed Vaults I purchased on line recently. I suppose I went overboard when packaging up the seed vaults, wrapping them carefully in redundant layers of plastic inside a cardboard box and then wrapping the cardboard box itself with plastic. As the seed vaults themselves are sturdy metal containers with tight-fitting lids, they probably would have been safe and secure without any additional packaging. However, I figure I can't be too careful with these seeds, as they might someday end up making the difference between survival and death for me, and probably for some of my neighbors.

I'm planning pretty carefully when using the roll of sticky plastic to bundle items together. I use these criteria for bundling:

  • Identical items with identical expiration dates or identical purchase dates get bundled together.
  • Each bundle must be able to stand up without wobbling or falling over.
  • Shelving dimensions are taken into consideration when building each bundle. (See below.)
  • No bundle is too bulky or too heavy for me to lift and carry easily.
  • If the individual items in a bundle are packaged in a way that makes the contents vulnerable to moisture, each individual item gets packaged in plastic. For example, this is the case with bundles containing cardboard boxes of baking soda. Once the plastic surrounding the bundle of boxes is unwrapped, each box of baking soda will still have its own plastic jacket to protect it from moisture.

As I explained in an earlier blogpost, I'm labeling each bundle on the front, on the top, and on one side. I'm using labels purchased from Staples. I just use a pen to write the information on each label. I've been covering each label with scotch tape to protect the label from moisture.

The items with expiration dates are labeled like this:

10 16 oz. boxes
Hannaford Baking Soda
EXP Q4 2015
The items without expiration dates are labeled similarly, but instead of an expiration date each label has the purchase date:
8 15 fl. oz. bottles
Suave Juicy Green
Apple Shampoo
PUR Q1 2013
(Even though some items probably have infinite shelf life or at least very long shelf life — shampoo, for example — I still want to be able to follow a FIFO (first-in, first-out) rotation procedure when using the items. It only makes sense to use the oldest items first. That's why I'm labeling such items with the purchase date.)

My shelving will be about 12 inches deep, so I'm bundling everything so the front-to-back dimension of the bundle is about 12 inches or a little less. And, I'm making sure that the front-to-back dimension of each bundle is not much less than 12 inches, because I don't want to waste any shelf space and because I don't want to shelve any bundles behind other bundles, as they might be overlooked if I do this — instead, I want to make sure I can see all the labels on all the bundles by just standing in front of the shelves without moving any of the bundles. This will make it easy to find things and will facilitate FIFO rotation. The top-to-bottom dimension of each bundle is also a maximum of 12 inches; this will allow me to put the shelves pretty close together, vertically — about 13 or 14 inches. The height of some of the bundles is 6 inches or less; I'll be able to stack such bundles on top of each other. The left-to-right dimensions of the bundles varies quite a bit.

In case the information in the preceding paragraph isn't clear, I'll give a couple examples. A bundle containing cans of hairspray has two cans left to right and five cans front to back, for a total of ten cans; the bundle is about 3 1/2 inches wide, 10 1/2 inches deep, and 9 1/2 inches high. A bundle containing boxes of salt has 2 boxes left to right and 3 boxes front to back, for a total of 6 boxes; the bundle is about 7 inches wide, 10 1/2 inches deep, and 5 3/4 inches high.

And speaking of shelves: the plastic shelving unit I bought at Lowe's got returned to Lowe's after I realized it's too tall to fit in my basement. After I'd returned the shelving unit to Lowe's, I'd planned to use cement blocks and boards to build some simple shelving in the basement; but now that I've plastic-bundled a lot of my prepper provisions I've begun to think I might able to get away with storing almost all of them in upstairs living areas here at my house. When items are packaged in bundles, I've realized, they take up less floor space because they are squeezed tightly together and because it's easy to stack bundles on top of each other (stacking individual cans and boxes of stuff wasn't working out too well, because the stacks kept falling over). Also, the fact that bundled items don't topple easily and can be stacked allows me to stash them easily in various areas in the house instead of putting almost all of them in my spare bedroon. As I mentioned in a earlier blogpost, I've been a bit concerned about concentrating a lot of weight on the floor of the spare bedroom because I'm not sure the structure of my old house can handle it. My current plan is to hold off on trying to store a lot of things in the basement here at my current house. I'll need to put up with some clutter, but not too much. In my new house there will be lots of storage room in the (hopefully dry) basement.

Two of the things I added to my list today are cloth diapers and diaper pins. Not that I'm planning to have any children, for several reasons, not the least of which is that I'm way past childbearing age! However, as my prepper plans have evolved, I've given more and more thought to incorporating provisions for charity and barter into my survivalism-shopping lists — to the point where I'm actually gravitating toward building survival stockpiles for five or six people. I'll write more about this in future blogposts, but for now, getting back to the diapers and diaper pins — my thought is that somebody in my neighborhood will probably have a baby after TEOTWAWKI, and since they won't be able to run to Walmart for disposable diapers, I'd like to be able to provide those most basic of baby necessities: diapers and diaper pins. I plan to have a non-electric washing machine, too, and if I'm able to maintain trusting relationships with some of my neighbors after TEOTWAWKI, I envision that the basement of my house could become something of a laundromat, if you will, for these folks, not only for washing diapers but also for washing clothing, bedding, towels, and so forth.

The laundromat situation could be a pretty nice barter arrangement, I think, because some of my close neighbors have skills I don't have (e.g., gardening, canning, carpentry, plumbing, electric wiring); these same neighbors also own equipment I don't own (e.g., big tractors).

In addition to the cloth diapers and diaper pins, I'll probably purchase just a few additional infant-care items: probably just glass baby bottles, nipples, baby lotion, baby powder, and baby shampoo. Neighbors in my area surely have just about everything else needed for infant care: crib, blankets, pacifiers, tiny clothing and shoes, toys, and much more; and I speculate that even in the worst of times, people will be willing and even happy to donate such things to a household with a new baby.

Baby food is another matter entirely. In a TEOTWAWKI situation, I figure people will just need to revert back to doing things the way they were done years ago. I suppose this means cooking foods thoroughly and mashing the foods up — not sure — haven't done the research. And I'm not going to get into buying baby formula. My budget definitely could not handle it. Also, I hope and expect mothers of newborns will be able to nurse their little ones. In a situation where a mother isn't able to nurse, maybe a wet nurse could be found.

Switching gears now: every time I'm out and about, I look for ammunition to add to my stockpile. The local Walmart has been out of the 38 Special +P ammunition I need the last four times I've checked, undoubtedly because of all the media hoopla about the possibility of new gun-control legislation. (As of this writing, the December 2012 school shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut is still fresh in people's minds.) However, I've learned there are a couple gun stores in the area whose ammo shelves are better stocked than the Walmart ammo shelves, and I've been buying small amounts of ammo from time to time at these stores. I've been thinking too about buying ammo on line but haven't pursued this because money is tight at the moment.

I have lots more to say but need to sign off for now, because duty calls.

Sunday, February 17, 2013
> gloves, socks, undies, batteries, lighting, and of course, kerosene

Today after church I did some survivalism shopping. The stores are having end-of-season sales on winter clothing, and I found some great deals on gloves, socks, and long underwear.

This afternoon I also picked up 3 Energizer battery chargers and an assortment of rechargeable batteries at Walmart. For the past couple months I've been buying rechargeable batteries for my survivalism stockpile pretty much every time I visit Walmart. I've standardized on the following types of batteries (all rechargeable Nickel-Metal Hydride, or NiMH):

  • AAA
  • AA
  • C
  • D
  • 9 volt
My Energizer battery chargers can charge all these battery types. I have 1 Enercell battery tester that can test all these battery types plus several more battery types. I plan to buy 2 more of the Enercell battery testers. Incidently, I had a heck of a time finding a battery tester that can handle all these battery types. I finally found the Enercell tester at the local Radio Shack.

The goal is to have 3 "battery kits," if you will. Each kit will contain one charger, one tester, and an assortment of the types of batteries listed above. Ideally there will be at least a couple hundred batteries in each kit. I have a plastic tote for each kit. When I've finished building the kits, each item in each tote will be encased in multiple layers of plastic, as will the tote itself.

Why 3 kits? 3 reasons:

  1. Redundancy. I'll store the kits in 3 different locations. If one gets wet or damaged or stolen, I'll still have the other two.
  2. Barter.
  3. Charity.

I also picked up some lighting equipment at Walmart today: 4 "Energizer 360 Degree LED Area Lights" and 5 "Coleman Max Multi-Color LED Headlamps." The area lights are shaped roughly like kerosene lanterns, with a flat bottom that can sit on a level surface and a handle at the top for carrying. The headlamps are similar in concept to miner's helmets: each headlamp has a strap for strapping the headlamp onto your head, and there's also a clip you can attach to the brim of your hat. The headlamps can emit any of three different colors of light: white, blue, and red. According to the information printed on the package, the blue color is a "sportsman's light" and the red color is supposed to give you night vision. I'm not sure what a sportsman's light is, but I'm kind of interested in the night-vision feature. Sometime soon I'll try out the night-vision feature on one of the headlamps. It will be interesting to see how effective it actually is. If it works well, the headlamps are a great deal, as each one costs just $24.88.

Of course, when buying anything that is battery operated, I make sure it can run on one of the five types of batteries on which I've standardized. Each Energizer LED Area Light can run on AA batteries or D batteries, and each Coleman Headlamp runs on 3 AAA batteries. At Walmart there were other headlamps I liked better than the ones I purchased, mainly because the others were lighter in weight, but I turned down the lightweight ones in favor of the heavier ones because the lightweight headlamps require a type of "button" battery that can't be charged with my Energizer chargers.

Switching subjects now — I've found another place to buy kerosene: the municipal airport. I went there today and spoke with someone about it. They sell "Jet A" fuel, which, I've learned, is highly refined kerosene. It's different than the red-dyed kerosene I've been buying at gas stations.

I've been very confused about the different kinds of kerosene! There are apparently quite a few different kinds. Some can be used in a diesel vehicle but some cannot — and if you do use kerosene as fuel for a diesel vehicle, you might or might not need to mix oil with the kerosene, depending upon the type of kerosene you're using. Some kinds of lamps can burn kerosene but some cannot. Some kinds of kerosene smell and smoke when burned in a lamp or in a kerosene heater but other kinds do not. Some kinds of kerosene are more expensive than other kinds. Some kinds are taxed and some are not.

When time permits, I'll educate myself further on this topic. So far, this is what I think I know:

The red-dyed kerosene is what you find at gas stations. At least, that's how it is around here. From government perspective, the red-dyed kerosene is intended for agricultural use — for eample, as fuel for a tractor. The chemical makeup of the kerosene is very similar to the chemical makeup of diesel fuel; therefore, most if not all diesel vehicles will run on kerosene. However, it's illegal to use the red-dyed kerosene as fuel for transportation (for example, in a truck), because the red-dyed kerosene is not taxed, and fuel used for transportation purposes is supposed to be taxed. Fuel used for agricultural purposes is not supposed to be taxed.

Kerosene can be used in oil lamps, even though they are called oil lamps. (This is what I was told by a sales representative a Lehman's.)

The Jet A fuel I can buy at the airport is "clear kerosene." It doesn't smoke much or smell much when used as fuel for a kerosene heater or lamp or refrigerator. The guy I spoke with at the airport told me many of the Amish families in this area come to the airport and buy the Jet A fuel for their lamps and refrigerators. (There are several Amish communities in this area.)

As I mentioned above, it's my understand that there are more than just 2 kinds of kerosene.

I didn't buy any kerosene at the airport today because it was a very cold day, and very windy — so windy that the airport was grounding all its planes. Pumping kerosene in such nasty weather would be a miserable and cumbersome chore, because, of course, the kerosene pump is outside. But at least I now know where I can get the clear kerosene.

A couple months ago I bought 80 1-gallon empty metal cans for my kerosene stockpile. I've already filled 39 of them with the red-dyed kerosene. I plan to fill one more can with the red stuff, for a total of 40 gallons; I'll fill the remaining 40 cans with the clear kerosene from the airport. Having both kinds will probably come in handy in a TEOTWAWKI scenario.

If I ever want to grow my kerosene stockpile beyond 80 gallons (and I think I will), I'll take time to gain a better understanding of different kinds of kerosene before making additional kerosene purchases.

Sunday, February 10, 2013
> systematic shopping, basement-storage plans, herbs and spices, freeze-dried foods

I've done A LOT of prepping during the past week or so but haven't had time to blog about everything I want to say, and still today I don't have very much time for blogging. However, I'm going to take a little while this afternoon to write about just a few of the prepper tasks I've been working on, and I'll do some catch-up blogging when time permits.

The first thing I want to discuss is the fact that my shopping habits have become much more systematic than they were when I started stockpiling for long-term food storage a few weeks ago.

For one thing, I've become an "Expiration-Date Elitist." When shopping for things like canned foods or pasta at Walmart or at the supermarket or at one of the dollar stores, I'm now turning up my nose at anything with an expiration date earlier than the third quarter of 2015. (When I use the term "expiration date," I'm referring to the "Sell By" date or "Best By" date.)

Also, I'm now buying almost all food items in quantities of 12, with identical expiration dates: 12 1-pound boxes of pasta with the same expiration date, 12 15-ounce cans of lima beans with the same expiration date, and so forth. I'm doing this to make it easy to keep track of expiration dates and also to facilitate some rough calculations, such as: if I have 12 15-ounce cans of lima beans, and if I count on eating a can of lima beans in a month, I know I have a year's worth of lima beans. Most of the time, if I can't find 12 identical items with identical expiration dates, I move on. However, in some instances, if I'm considering a food I don't necessarily think I'll want to eat frequently, I'll buy a quantity of four — one for each quarter in a year. For example, a few days ago I bought four 9.75-ounce cans of cooked chicken breast with expiration dates of October 22, 2015.

In addition, for some items I've decided to stick with the same brand and the same packaging. This makes it easy to stack these items for storage, because the packages to be stacked are all the same size and shape. For example, I've settled on the 12-roll package of Marcal Small Steps 1-ply toilet paper (1000 sheets per roll), and I've settled on the 12 Big Roll package of Bounty 2-ply Select-A-Size paper towels (103 sheets per roll). I find that the camera in my smart phone is a great tool for facilitating this system of allegiance to like items: if I know I want to purchase more of an item I've already purchased, I just take a photo of the item; then, when I'm shopping, I can refer to the photo as an aid to make sure I buy exactly the same thing.

(NOTE: I've explored the possibility of purchasing toilet paper on line, by the case, but I've found that the pricing at my local supermarket is actually much lower than the on-line pricing, which surprised me a little.)

I've started carrying a magnifying glass in my backpack so I'll have it available for reading expiration dates. Sometimes they are barely legible because they are smeared or because they are printed in tiny fonts.

The kerosene-pumping chore is still a pain in the bitter-cold weather we've had off and on for the past month or so. A couple weeks ago I bought two new pairs of gloves just for pumping kerosene. One pair is made of a heavy, rubber-like material which offers good friction for grasping the caps on the 1-gallon cans and screwing them tight. The other is just an inexpensive pair of jersey work gloves that I wear inside the rubber-like gloves, for warmth. While this glove configuration is a big improvement over the gardening gloves I'd been using to pump kerosene, it's far from perfect. My hands stay fairly warm with the new gloves, but my dexterity is compromised because the gloves are so bulky. But I'm managing. I've decided that in very cold weather I won't try to pump 5 gallons at a time because it's such a miserable chore; instead, I'll just do 3 gallons. To date I've filled 39 of the 1-gallon cans. I have 41 more cans to fill, for a total of 80.

Prepping is MESSY! My little house is strewn with canned foods and boxes of pasta and family-packs of bath soap and huge packages of toilet paper and huge packages of paper towels and bottles of dishwashing liquid and tons of other stuff. When I first started stockpiling, I was stacking everything neatly in my spare bedroom. At this point, though, I'm actually concerned about the weight of all the stuff in that bedroom, so I'm not stashing any more items in there. My house is old, and I don't feel comfortable loading more stuff into that room because I don't want to put stress on the joists that support the floor.

I've come up with a plan to store some of the items in one of my closets, and I've also come up with a plan to store some things in my basement. At first I wasn't even considering storing any of my survival-stockpile items in the basement because it is wet. At times there are puddles of water an inch deep in some areas on the basement floor. I've also wondered if it is too cold down there during winter for storing food. But during the past couple weeks I've been revisiting the idea of storing foods and other prepper-stockpile items in my basement, because I'll soon run out of room in other parts of the house and also because anyone that stops by my house might wonder about the stacks of toilet paper and canned foods, etc. that are scattered about the kitchen and living room and also because I like my home to be neat and organized — having piles of pasta boxes and toilet paper and canned chicken and ZipLoc bags all over my kitchen and living room is driving me crazy! (Did I mention that prepping is MESSY?)

I began planning my basement-storage endeavor by choosing the area in the basement that seems most suitable for storing the items I need to store. Initially I decided upon an area along the north wall because, for some reason, that area stays drier than other parts of the basement. Then I realized the north wall isn't an ideal spot because most of the house's plumbing pipes run along the ceiling in that area, and what if the plumbing leaks? My house's plumbing doesn't leak currently, but if the plumbing ever decided to start leaking, I wouldn't want water dripping on my stored foods and other stored items — especially not water from the sewer pipe (blech!). So I've zeroed in on an area along the west wall. The floor in that area does get wet sometimes, but not often.

To address my concern about the temperature in the basement, I've purchased a cheap thermomenter and leaned it against the west basement wall. I'm going to monitor the temperature reading over a period of at least a week or so. I particularly want to find out what the temperature is like in that spot on a frigid winter night when it's 20-25 degrees below zero outside. The thermometer has been down there for three days, hovering between 38 degrees and 41 degrees. From my research, I know this temperature range is ideal for long-term food storage. However, we haven't had any below-zero weather during the few days the thermometer has been down there, so at this point it's premature to conclude that it will be okay, temperature-wise, to store foods in that spot. I'm hoping for a cold snap so I can see what's what in terms of temperature in that area of the basement when the outside temperature is well below zero. I also want to move the thermometer higher up on the wall and monitor it for a few days in that position. I think it will be especially important to keep an eye on the thermometer when it's positioned higher on the wall during a very cold night.

Of course, I'll need shelving in the basement. In the interest of simplicity and convenience, I'd like to just buy a couple pre-fab plastic shelving units at Lowe's, assemble them, and set them up on top of some cement blocks to keep everything off the floor. This plan won't work for me, though, because there's not enought headroom down in my basement. I have only about 70 inches of vertical space down there. Most pre-fab shelving units are at least 72 inches tall — and as I've said, I'd need to put cement blocks under the legs of the shelving units — so I'd need at least 80 vertical inches, give or take, to accommodate the pre-fab shelving units with the cement blocks underneath. Considering all this, I've decided to build my own simple, basic shelves, using cement blocks and wood planks, in a college-dormesque kind of way.

I also know I'll need a way to keep moisture away from the items I'm storing in the basement. Even though most of the things I'll store there will be canned foods, moisture is going to be an issue, as I don't want mold forming on the labels on the cans. Mold grows on just about anything I store in my basement. Last week when I was watching one of my favorite TV shows, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, I came up with the answer to this problem. In this particular episode of Law and Order..., Police Detective Eliot Stabler, one of the show's main characters, was posing undercover as a convenience-store owner who wanted to buy a large quantity of bootleg cigarettes. The seller of the bootleg cigarettes showed Eliot a warehouse containing huge stacks of big cases of cigarettes, all wrapped in clear plastic. It was the kind of plastic that comes in a large roll; to encase something in plastic you just wrap the plastic around and around the item, pulling it taut as you go. There's a small amount of adhesive on one surface of the plastic, so it sticks to itself as you wrap.

On my next trip to Lowe's, I found and bought a 1,000-foot roll of this stuff for about $20. It's called Stretch Wrap Film Extensible.

I'm planning to use this plastic not only for the items I'm going to store in the basement but also for just about everything else I'm putting into long-term storage. There are a couple reasons I want to do this.

The first reason — the main reason — is that moisture is an issue just about anywhere I want to store something. In the summer my house gets pretty damp not only in the basement but also in the living areas: kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms. In the bedroom I use for my office, I have a big box of envelopes whose flaps are stuck closed because the envelopes got damp just from the moisture in the air the first summer I lived here. Most of the envelopes are salvageable because I've developed a technique for prying them open, but I've learned to keep all my envelopes in tightly closed plastic bags. I've also learned to use tightly closed plastic bags and glass jars for storing dry items in my kitchen (flour, sugar, corn meal, baking soda, etc.). I'll be storing some things in the storage building on my new property, too — not temperature-sensitive items like food, but items like toilet paper and paper towels. The storage building gets damp, of course, so I'll plastic-wrap all items carefully before putting them in there. (The toilet paper and paper towels I've been buying are already wrapped in plastic, but there are some holes in the plastic.)

The other reason I want to use the plastic wrap on most of the long-term-storage items is that it's a very neat and tidy way of organizing things and keeping like items together. This morning, I experimented with the roll of plastic for the first time: I used it to package up 50 pounds of various kinds of pasta that came in 1-pound boxes. I used an Avery label to mark each plastic-wrapped package with a description of the items, the quantity, and the expiration date. Observing that the labels were having trouble sticking to the plastic, I taped over each label with scotch tape. The tape adheres to the plastic quite well, and it also forms a moisture barrier that should discourage mold from growing on the labels. Here are some photos.

I've been thinking about herbs and spices. I want to have a nice supply of them as part of my long-term food-storage plan, but I don't necessarily want to go overboard, budget-wise. What I've decided is that I will build good-sized stockpiles of my very favorite herbs and spices, and for other herbs and spices I'll rely on the small jars I have in my kitchen when TEOTWAWKI hits. With this plan in mind, I've ordered 5 pounds of whole anise seeds and 5 pounds of dill weed from the food co-op I belong to. The person that handles co-op orders for our town is aware of my prepper plans, so I don't need to cloak this unusual purchase in secrecy. When I'm cooking, I use anise seeds and dill weed liberally, in lots of different and unusual ways; and I know I could cook delicious meals even if these were the only two herbs in my pantry (in addition to salt and pepper, of course). The other herbs and spices on my long-term-food-storage list are basil, cinnamon, and nutmeg; I'll be purchasing some major quantities of these soon. And as I write this I'm reminded that I also want an adequate supply of vanilla.

I also want to mention that a few days ago I bought some foods specifically processed and packaged for long-term storage. I purchased them on the Internet. This was my first purchase of food products geared specifically for long-term storage. I have a lot to say about these foods and about the research I did before purchasing them, but those details will have to wait for a future blogpost. I need to wrap up this blogpost because I have a lot of work to do around the house this afternoon.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013
> a temporary taste of TEOTWAWKI living

This morning as I write this blogpost I'm not in my usual spot at the desk in my home office. Instead, I'm perched on a kitchen chair next to the open door of my electric oven, with my laptop in front of me on the kitchen table. I'm bundled in multiple layers of turtlenecks and sweaters and socks. Why? Because my oil-fueled, forced-hot-air furnace refused to run when I woke up this morning.

I was fortunate enough to convince a plumbing-and-heating contractor to come to my house on very short notice. He took a look at the situation and declared that there is icy sludge in the rubber oil-supply hose that runs from the oil tank to the furnace, and because of the sludge, the furnace's fuel pump is unable to draw oil from the tank.

Undoubtedly this problem has happened because of the gaping hole in the foundation of my old house. The hole is right next to the oil tank. Last fall I stuffed some insulation into the hole to plug it up, but the insulation fell out a few weeks ago. Getting access to the hole is awkward because the oil tank is kind of in the way — so I haven't attempted to stuff the insulation back into the hole. My bad. Temperatures were well below zero last night. The oil-supply hose lies, like a dead snake, on a frozen water puddle on the basement floor.

The contractor is now on his way to an appointment in a nearby town, but he's promised to come back later to help me deal with the situation.

I need to repair the hole in the foundation, of course. But thinking beyond that, I cannot resist musing about how much simpler and how much more reliable my home-heating scenario would be if I could count on a woodstove for warmth. There is nothing in a wood stove that can freeze. There are no pumps or fans in a woodstove — in fact, no moving parts at all. No need to depend on a truck for oil delivery. And of course, no need to bank on the power grid for electricity.

My frosty awakening this morning has caused me to remember a news story I heard on the radio last weekend. A town about a hundred miles from here had been without electricity for five days because an ice storm had taken down some power lines. A reporter was interviewing some of the townspeople. One man was running a gasoline generator in his driveway. He'd been making daily trips to a nearby town to haul gasoline for the generator. He couldn't buy gasoline in the town where he lives because electric gas pumps there were inoperable. "We have a 5-month-old baby," the man explained. "We have to keep things warm for the baby." The reporter also interviewed a couple that had been staying with neighbors who have a woodstove; the couple's own house was too cold to be habitable, and the house's plumbing was frozen. The reporter wrapped up the story by telling listeners about 2 "warming centers" that had been established in the town. The warming centers were gymnasiums in schools that had electricity produced by stand-by generators fueled with gasoline.

The infrastructure of our society is so, so fragile. It doesn't take much to upset the applecart. Most of us have become way too complacent in that we somehow presume there will always be oil and gasoline and diesel fuel and electricity. But I and my fellow preppers have evolved to believe there will come a day when we're forced to reckon with havoc created by long-term unavailability of these resources.

Friday, February 1, 2013
> thoughts about food-storage locations, including trashcan root cellar

I've been thinking quite a lot about where I will store survival food at the house I'm going to build.

The home's basement is the logical place for long-term food storage. However, I have a lot of other plans for the basement. In it there will be a small guest bedroom, a tiny bathroom, and an area for canning and laundry which will have a gas or electric stove, a sink, a combo clothes washer-dryer, cabinets, and counter space. There will be a wood furnace or wood cookstove down there as well. In the basement I'll also want to store tools, sports equipment, out-of-season clothing, holiday decorations; also survival supplies such as books, medical equipment, water-filtration equipment, and more. And of course I'll need space for storing firewood. In addition to all this, I've allocated an area for a "cold room" in the basement. This room will be dedicated to food storage — current plans call for room dimensions of 4 1/2 feet wide x 9 feet long x 7 1/2 feet high. I can store quite a lot of food in a space this size once I outfit the room with appropriate shelving. In addition to the basement cold room, I'll have a couple closets in the home's living area where I can store some foods.

Even though there will be a fair amount of room for long-term food storage in the house's basement and in other parts of the house, I really want another place for long-term food storage, outside the house. There are two reasons I want this: 1. I just don't think I'll have enough space in the house to store an adequate supply of survival food, 2. If my house is raided in a disaster situation, there's a possibility that most or all the food I've stored in the house will be stolen, and I'll be left in a sorry state.

There's the issue of temperature control, so I can't just build a shed for storing food. Winters are very cold here, and most foods would not be fit for consumption if allowed to freeze. I think the solution to my food-storage challenge is underground storage.

An Internet search for "underground food storage" turned up all manner of contrivances, the simplest and least costly of which is the trashcan root cellar. Even with my limited mechanical skills and muscle power, I'm pretty sure I could build a trashcan root cellar myself — and I could and would store food items other than fresh vegetables and fruits in it. It would be, essentially, "climate controlled" in that it should remain at a constant temperature — cool but not freezing — all year. I could store canned foods and dehydrated foods in it.

I might build several trashcan root cellars. Once my garden is up and running, I'd use some of them to store root crops like potatoes and carrots, and I'd use some to store other food items.

Given the fact that I live in an area that gets really cold in the winter, I'd probably beef up the insulation arrangement beyond what's shown in the illustration at the above link: instead of just relying on a straw bed to insulate the top of the can, I'd put a few layers of rigid foam insulation under the straw.

The idea of a trashcan root cellar is very appealing because of its simplicity, but while thinking about it I also mused about a more-ambitious project: a walk-in, bunker-type structure that would be much larger than a trash can. Of course there was then the inevitable segue into thoughts about an underground shelter for protection in the event of nuclear, chemical, or biological warfare. This is a big, big, topic, and I will save it for a future blogpost, or more likely a series of future blogposts.

Thursday, January 31, 2013
> the U.S. National Debt in terms we can all understand

Here is an excerpt from an email I received today from a friend.

U.S. National Debt is nearly $17 Trillion — soon Twenty Trillion Dollars!
That puts you and your financial security in GREAT Danger.
The "Fiscal Cliff" and our national debt problem are truly dangerous to you and your way of life.
Here it is in perspective:
First, let's list the financial statistics of the U.S. Then we'll convert the numbers to compare them to a family budget. Prepare to be shocked.

Financial Statement of the United States of America:

U.S. Tax revenue $ 2,170,000,000,000
Federal budget $ 3,820,000,000,000
New debt $ 1,650,000,000,000
National debt $ 16,571,000,000,000
Recent budget cuts $ 38,500,000,000

Let's now remove 8 zeros and pretend it's a household budget:

Annual family income $ 21,700
Money the family spent $ 38,200
New debt on the credit card $ 16,500
Outstanding balance on the credit card $ 165,710
Total budget cuts so far $ 385

"Uh-oh. We're in BIG trouble. $165 thousand dollars in credit card bills?!?" says any reasonable family.

"I'm thinking $385 should do it," says OUR Washington family.

Total budget cuts so far: $385
$165,000 of debt and we're only cutting $385?

The email I received from my friend gives a link you can use to join the Association of Mature Americans (AMAC). According to the AMAC Web site,, the organization fights for "conservative values." I don't know anything about AMAC and haven't joined. However, the exercise of stripping zeros really put things in perspective for me!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013
> could my new neighbors be preppers? books for medical guidance after TEOTWAWKI

This morning I met one of my new neighbors, Bonnie. She and her husband and two children moved here a few months ago. She told me they are from the Washington, DC area. Just chatting, I asked her what made them decide to move to our town (because this area couldn't be more different than DC). She said, "We were just tired of the rat race." I thought to myself, "Could that be code for 'We wanted a survival retreat?'" I couldn't help wondering, because the house her family purchased is in the woods, hidden from the road, and it has a bit of acreage. Not that everybody that buys an isolated country house with acreage is a prepper, but as I've said, I couldn't help wondering.

Bonnie just started a new job at a local business that I patronize often, so I'll be seeing her from time to time. I'll try to get to know her — first, because she seems like a nice, intelligent woman; second, because I'm going to explore (cautiously) the possibility that she and her husband might be fellow preppers. We'll see how it goes.

On another subject: prior to running into my new neighbor Bonnie this morning, I was talking with Sandy, a friend who hasn't been feeling well for the past couple of weeks. She has been experiencing heart palpitations and has been quite concerned about them. Today, though, she is feeling great, and she explained why. It turns out that recently she learned about two people approximately her age who have been hospitalized recently. Both were found to have been severely dehydrated, and in both cases their medical problems were remedied simply by hydration. We've had very cold, dry weather here for the past six weeks, and it's easy for a person to become dehydrated — especially if the person's home has a forced-hot-air heating system.

After learning about these two cases of dehydration, Sandy jumped on the Internet, did a search for "symptoms of dehydration," and quickly learned that heart palpitations are one of the symptoms a person might experience if dehydrated. She bought a humidifier and now carries bottled water in her coat pocket. The heart palpitations have disappeared completely.

I think it's great that Sandy has apparently cured her condition by doing her own research and implementing a solution herself. And today's discussion with Sandy reminded me that after TEOTWAWKI we will all be left to our own devices to manage our medical problems, unless we're fortunate enough to have a close friend or family member who's a medical professional and unless that medical professional has access to medical supplies and equipment.

But here's the thing: after TEOTWAWKI there almost certainly will be no Internet. No longer will we have the luxury of getting up to speed on virtually any topic by exploiting the colossal cyberspace library we've come to take for granted.

We'll need to rely on books for guidance on medical issues. I've already purchased these books:

  • Where There Is No Doctor by David Werner, Carol Thuman, and Jane Maxwell
  • Where There Is No Dentist by Murray Dickson
  • The U.S. Armed Forces Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Survival Manual by Dick Couch
I'm planning to add to this collection The Emergency War Surgery NATO Handbook by the U.S. Department of Defense.

In addition to these books I think it would be prudent to buy at least one comprehensive medical reference book and at least one really good book on herbal medicine. And maybe a good human-anatomy textbook.

At some point I'll be purchasing some surgical instruments and supplies, some dental tools, and some other items related to medical and dental care. I won't be prepared to make those purchases until I've done some research. I'll write more about this in a future blogpost.

Monday, January 28, 2013
> dieting, minimizing meds

I'm a bit overweight, and my blood pressure is a little high, and my "bad cholesterol" level is too. My eating habits got out of control while I was going through my divorce. Some people lose interest in food when they are sad; others turn to food for comfort. I fall into the latter category.

Modifying my diet is my one and only New Year's resolution this year. I made that resolution for three reasons: 1. I'm not comfortable with the way my body is now, 2. physical conditioning is part of my disaster-preparedness plan, 3. I want to avoid taking blood-pressure meds and cholesterol meds.

I've always tried to medicate myself as little as possible because I don't like the idea of ingesting a lot of chemicals, because I don't like to be dealing with doctors and pharmacies all the time for refills, and because I don't like spending money for drugs. And now that I'm preparing for TEOTWAWKI, I have another reason for minimizing my dependence on drugs: in all likelihood, chains of supply for pharmaceuticals will not be operating in a TEOTWAWKI scenario.

My dieting has been going pretty well. I'm not scientific about it — for the most part, I don't count calories or carbohydrates or fat grams or points. What I'm doing is just common sense. I've been cutting down on my intake of starch (bread, biscuits, rolls, pasta). I've reduced my intake of cheese and eggs. I'm eating more fruits and vegetables, though I've banned fruit juices from my refrigerator — temporarily at least — because they are loaded with calories. And, I'm just trying to eat smaller quantities of everything.

Most mornings, I prepare steel-cut oatmeal for breakfast instead of toast. It's my understanding that oatmeal reduces your "bad cholesterol" level. I add a small amount of brown sugar to the cooked oatmeal, and I also add dried cherries if I have them on hand. Have you every tried putting dried cherries on your oatmeal and microwaving it for a few seconds? Yum!

I'm lacking in the will-power department when it comes to food, so I play games. For example, if I'm making mashed potatoes, I use just a single, medium-sized potato so there aren't any leftovers. If I take cookies or brownies to a social event, I give away any uneaten ones instead of bringing them home. I've stopped buying the scrumptious Kashi crackers that I'd been oversnacking on, and I also don't buy the Buttermilk Ranch dip I'd been eating with the crackers.

Something terrific has happened now that I've cleaned up my eating habits: even though I haven't yet lost very much weight, I have TONS of energy. Which is a good thing, because preparing for TEOTWAWKI requires a lot of time and energy, and I was a very busy person even before I became a prepper. Prior to improving my diet, I was running out of steam most days in mid-afternoon or late afternoon, sometimes even earlier. This was disappointing to me, and I was concerned about it. I just wasn't getting as much stuff done as I needed to and wanted to. I was falling farther and farther behind; my to-do lists were growing, not shrinking. But I'm feeling very encouraged because of this new lease on life I have now that I'm being more sensible about food.

Sunday, January 27, 2013
> why preppers are not fringe lunatics

Today I read this excerpt from a Buffalo News article about preppers:

"We know that the system we live in is unsustainable and a significant alteration to our way of life is coming — this is inevitable. Fully half of Americans believe a massive financial collapse is imminent and some 15% of the world's population is expecting the end of the world over coming decades.

"Yet, when one takes steps to insulate themselves from the possibility of these very disasters they are looked at by most as paranoid, fringe lunatics who are acting completely irrationally.

"This begs the question: What's rational about expecting the end of the world, or a black swan event, or a natural disaster, but taking no practical steps to prepare for it?

"One could argue that it's those very people, who are aware of the possibilities but refuse to make preparations, that should be labeled the practically certifiable ones."

These words really hit home with me, particularly because my concerns about weaknesses in the underpinnings of our country's financial system are what started me down the road to survivalism.

Don't let your fears of ostracism deter you from making preparations for TEOTWAWKI. Read through this blog to find tips on how to stay below the radar with your prepper activities.

Saturday, January 26, 2013
> good computer programmers make good survivalists

I postulate that good computer programmers make good survivalists.

"Why?" you might wonder.

A little backgound. I've been programming computers for more than 25 years. I've worked with great programmers, mediocre programmers, bad programmers, and everything in between. I consider myself a really good programmer.

A really good programmer strives to write code that handles every conceivable contingency in a particular programming situation. Likewise, a really good survivalist strives to make provisions for every conceivable contingency in a particular disaster situation.

Here is an example from the world of computer programming. Something every programmer must do, from time to time, is write code to open a file. I'm talking about the behind-the-scenes programming that causes the contents of a file to display on your monitor when you double-click a file's icon, or when you click the Open button from within an application and highlight the name of the file you want to open (or type the name of the file you want to open).

A programmer who is inexperienced or lacking in talent or lazy might write code that looks something like this:

fopen(FileName, "rw");

fopen is the command for opening a file. FileName designates the name of the file to be opened. "rw" stipulates the file is to opened for both reading and writing — generally this means you'll be able to see the file on your screen and you'll also be able to modify it (edit it).

As far as the inexperienced or untalented or lazy programmer is concerned, once the computer executes fopen(FileName, "rw"); one can assume the file has been opened.

A good programmer, however, would not be at all comfortable relying on a single line of code — fopen(FileName, "rw"); — to open the file, because there is no guarantee that the file can actually be opened. In other words, the computer might not be able to execute the code that's supposed to open the file. Specifically, what's going through the good programmer's mind is:

  • What if the file designated by FileName doesn't exist?
  • What if the file designated by FileName is already open?
  • What if the computer doesn't have enought memory available to open the file?
A good programmer will also entertain the possiblity that the application being used isn't capable of understanding the format of the file being opened.

To provide for these eventualities, a good programmer would write code something like this:

if(FileName doesn't exist)
  result = fopen(FileName, "rw");
  if(result = failure)
    If FileFormat is unexpected


It's not really necessary to understand every line of this code (actually, this is "pseudocode" — computer code that's simplified and written in English-like words). The main point here is that the code/pseudocode makes provisions for just about everything that could possibly go wrong when attempting to open a file.
Most programmers worth their salt would probably agree that the most important word in programming is if. A responsible and conscientious programmer always tries to think about all the worst-case scenarios and writes code to handle each of them. When an application hangs or crashes, it's usually because a programmer failed to include enough "if tests" in his code. In the pseudocode above, there are three "if tests" before we even get to the code that does what's supposed to be done after the file is opened. If any of those three "if tests" fail, the code doesn't allow things to progress any further.

Carrying on with the analogy between good computer programmers and good survivalists: if is a very important word when it comes to making plans for TEOTWAWKI. It behooves a survivalist to think like a conscientous computer programmer — that is, to think about all the things that could go wrong. Recently I began to devise a plan for stockpiling food in the house I plan to build next summer. There are many "ifs" to consider. Here is some pseudocode that represents some of my thought processes:

If I store my entire food stockpile in one place in my house
  The entire stockpile will be unavailable to me if somebody breaks in and steals it.
else If I distribute the food stockpile among several areas in the house
  It's unlikely all the stockpiled food will be discovered and stolen during a break-in.
  If most or all the stockpiled food in the house is stolen or destroyed in spite of my best efforts
    I'll need to resort to my "bunker stockpile."
    The bunker stockpile will be a supply of food in a large hole in the ground that's
    deep enought to stay cool in summmer and to stay above freezing in winter.

    If I eat almost all the food in my bunker stockpile and haven't produced
    or acquired sufficient food for continued survival
      I'll use fuel or cleaning supplies or personal-hygiene supplies
      or silver coins to barter with neighbors for food.
      If my attempts to barter for food are unsuccessful
        I'll execute my last-resort plan, which is to use my short-wave radio
        to try to form an alliance with friendly survivalists elsewhere.
          If I succeed in forming an alliance
            I'll pack some necesseties, gifts, and fuel into the Jeep
            and attempt to join my allies at their location.
            I'm out of options!

* * * * * * * * * *

If my stockpile consists mainly of canned foods
  I won't make the best use of my limited storage space
  because canned foods are relatively bulky.
else If I stockpile a lot of dehydrated and freeze-dried foods
  I'll make better use of my storage space.

* * * * * * * * * *

If I can't afford to invest in a huge food stockpile immediately
  I can work on developing a modest stockpile to start with.
       If I don't have time right now to research all the important technical details
       required for long-term storage of dehydrated and freeze-dried foods
      I can start building the stockpile with familiar foods available locally.

To wrap up this post, I just want to reiterate the importance of thinking about every conceivable thing that could go wrong in a particular situation when you are formulating disaster-preparedness plans. Think contingency. Think redundancy. Think Murphy's Law!

Thursday, January 24, 2013
> volunteer shift at food pantry, too cold to pump kerosene, stocking up on nickels

This morning I did a three-hour volunteer shift at the food pantry in town. Normally, we who work at the food pantry prepare boxes of food for twelve recipient families — our official giveaway limit on any particular day is twelve families. It's a first-come, first-serve system, and we usually have more than twelve families that request food, so on most days we have to turn people away. Today, though, only four recipient families showed up. The woman that manages the food pantry was sure this happened because of the bitter-cold weather we've been having (because some people can't start their vehicles in such cold weather).

Today's situation at the food pantry reminded me just how vulnerable most people in our country really are when it comes to food. Few families have long-term food supplies at their homes; to replenish their larders they need a vehicle and a steady supply of fuel.

Not to mention the fact that I feel such concern for the people that couldn't make it to the food pantry to receive food they probably need desperately.

I left the food pantry and drove to a local restaurant; spent a couple hours there on line with my laptop while I ate lunch. I managed to do a fair amount of making-a-living work while I was there.

My next stop was the bank, where I withdrew $100 in cash: four $20 bills, plus $20 in nickels for my stockpile.

My next stop was supposed to be the filling station. Before leaving home this morning, I stowed a few empty 1-gallon cans in the Jeep, intending to fill 5 of them with kerosene while I was in town. But because of the bitter cold, I was having trouble coaxing myself into actually driving to the filling station and completing the task of filling up my five cans. It's a nasty job in bad weather, because I have to stand outside, fill one can at a time while trying not to spill or splash any of the smelly stuff, screw the cap on carefully and tightly, stow that can in the vehicle while trying not to slip on the ice-covered asphalt, go on to the next can. If it's windy, I have to make sure the can I'm filling doesn't get blown over.

After an unplanned shopping excursion at the grocery store (which was, I knew full well, just an excuse to delay the kerosene-pumping chore), I finally made myself drive to the filling station. I got the first can out of the car, set it down on the asphalt, and immediately the wind started to blow it over. While steadying the can with my right hand and foot, I attempted to start the pump with my left hand. The pump wouldn't start. I was MISERABLE because of the cold and wind. Mostly, I was dressed very well for the weather: several layers of long underwear, sweaters, etc.; a wool scarf; a snorkel jacket; warm socks; and big puffy sturdy boots. But on my hands I was wearing only the gardening gloves I'd dedicated to fuel stockpiling, and the gardening gloves did almost nothing to protect my hands from the cold. So, my hands were the main problem.

I capped the empty can, put it back into the Jeep, and scurried inside to ask the clerk what might be going on with the kerosene pump. I was informed that it hadn't been reset since the last customer used it. The clerk offered to reset it for me, but I decided I couldn't face another kerosene-pumping attempt today. I thanked the clerk but said I'd come back another day when it wasn't so cold.

So, the day didn't go exactly as planned. But so often, in life, that's the way it is. At least I got to add another $20 worth of nickels to my stockpile.

Tuesday, Januaray 22, 2013
> stockpiling water for a short-term emergency

I've been focusing on making a living the past few days so haven't had much prepper activity to report. While I was washing my lunch dishes this afternoon, though, I thought of something I want to to post today.

Recently I developed a simple system for storing a moderate quantity of water that will come in handy during a short-term water shortage. I deal with short-term water shortages somewhat frequently at my house, because my neighbors and I experience about five or six power outages each year. The outages usually happen in the summer, during thunderstorms, and in the winter, during snowstorms or ice storms. Most of the power outages last for a few hours, but one time a couple summers ago my neighbors and I were without power for more than an entire day. Of course, without electricity, there's no running water for drinking or bathing or washing dishes or flushing the toilet or anything else.

Sometimes I buy fruit juices in plastic jugs. The jugs are a half-gallon or a gallon in size. I used to wash the empty jugs, discard the caps, and turn in the empties at a local redemption center in exchange for a little cash. But lately when I have an empty jug I've been washing the cap as well as the jug; then I fill the jug with clean water from the kitchen faucet, cap the jug, and store it in my basement. I now have a small but growing stockpile of potable water. I don't know why I didn't think of this idea years ago!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013
> disappointing dental visit, more kerosene issues

This afternoon I have a dental appointment for a tooth extraction (blech!). On my way to the dentist's office I'll be near the filling station where I've been buying kerosene for my stockpile. Pretty much every time I know I'm going to be in that area, I throw a few 1-gallon cans into the Jeep, fill them up at the filling station, and bring them home. The last time I did this, the Jeep ended up reeking of kerosene because, for some reason, a fair amount of kerosene spilled onto the carpet on the floor in front of the passenger seat — even though I thought I'd taken great care to make sure the caps were screwed tight on all the cans and even though all the cans were propped up so they wouldn't fall over. Not sure how kerosene ended up spilling onto the carpet. This little mishap cost me a good hour of scrubbing the carpet with Pine Sol and a stiff brush, then rinsing with water, then blotting with rags. This was two days ago, and the carpet is still soaking wet. It probably will be wet for a good long while because the weather has been cold and will continue to be cold, as it's January.

I have 65 1-gallon cans yet to be filled, and I don't want any more kerosene spills in the Jeep, so I decided I'd have to come up with a better way to stash the filled cans in the Jeep. I've devised a way to transport 6 filled cans without spilling any of the smelly stuff onto the Jeep's carpet (hopefully). 3 of the cans fit snugly in a plastic dishpan I have, and 3 more fit snugly in a sturdy cardboard box I've lined with two layers of plastic bags. See photo.

Filling 6 kerosene cans per trip will work out nicely, I think, for 3 reasons: 1) it's bearable in terms of budget (at current prices, filling the 6 cans will cost me about $25), 2) being out in the cold for the time it takes to fill 6 cans is just about tolerable in cold winter weather — filling more than 6 cans would border on being really unpleasant on a bitter winter day, 3) the dishpan and cardboard box containing the 6 cans don't take up a lot of room in the Jeep — plenty of space left over for groceries and so forth.

Since I'll be near my bank again today, I'll probably pick up another $20 worth of nickels. Yesterday when I got $20 in nickels, the teller gave them to me in a nice sturdy little cardboard tray that is made specifically to hold $20 worth of nickels packaged in ten rolls of $2. I'll take the tray with me in the Jeep whenever I plan to get nickels. Transporting the nickels in the tray should keep them from rolling around in the vehicle.

I continue today's blog post several hours after writing the above.

My trip to the dentist's office was a bust, because the nitrous oxide (a.k.a. laughing gas) didn't work! After the dentist's assistant put the gas mask on my nose, I took deep breaths, as instructed, but I kept saying, "I'm not feeling anything," and the dentist keep turning up the dial on the gas machine to increase the concentration. After about 15 minutes of this, the dentist concluded it just wasn't going to work. He said most people are totally loopy after breathing much less of the stuff than I'd breathed, but "nitrous just doesn't work on some people." He now wants to send me to an oral surgeon who will "knock me out" (administer general anesthesia) to extract my cracked tooth. Darn! I was hoping the toothectomy ordeal would be behind me after today. Also, I'd been almost looking forward to the nitrous-oxide experience, because the last time I'd been given nitrous oxide during a dental procedure I'd enjoyed some lovely "hallucinations" (or whatever) involving fantastically beautiful swirly colors and pipe-organ music.

Anyway, after leaving the dentist's office I drove to the filling station where I've been buying kerosene, and I filled 6 1-gallon cans. I did run into a glitch: when I paid for the kerosene, I was instructed to sign a form. I was surprised by this, because I'd bought kerosene at this filling station a few times, and I hadn't been asked to sign anything. I asked the clerk, "Is this somethig new?" He replied, "No, we've always had it. You have to sign if you buy over 5 gallons."

This made sense to me because prior to today I think I'd been filling just 4 1-gallon cans at a time. Maybe once I'd filled 5 of the cans, but I believe I stopped short of pumping exactly five gallons on that day. Apparently this is why I hadn't been asked to sign when I made the other purchases. I scrawled my signature today but made a mental note to keep future kerosene purchases under 5 gallons, because I'm always striving to stay below the radar with my prepper activities and therefore, to the extent possible, I try to conduct commerce in ways that don't leave paper trails. I told myself it would be good if I could find several different places to purchase kerosene so I don't become a familiar face at any one vendor location. I also decided that from now on I'll pay for kerosene with cash.

My next stop was Lowe's. I went there to look at kerosene heaters. I'm planning to buy one because, given my current living circumstances, I would be in deep doodoo if the power grid went down for an extended period of time. I feel compelled to take measures to up my chances of survival in such a situation. The specific issues are: 1) My only means of heating the house is a forced-hot-air furnace fueled by oil, 2) my only water source is my well, which has an electric pump. Without electricity, I wouldn't be able to heat the house, because the furnace blower wouldn't work. And obviously I wouldn't be able to get water from my well without electricity to drive the pump.

If I had a kerosene heater waiting in the wings, along with a supply of kerosene, I'd at least be able to keep the house warm enough so neither I nor the plumbing would suffer damage from freezing. I did see a 23,000-BTU kerosene heater at Lowes. It would absolutely heat my house and then some, and the text printed on the box states that it's safe to use it indoors. According to the specs printed on the box, it will burn for 16 hours on 1.9 gallons of kerosene, which sounds good to me. It's available at a reasonable cost: $148. It's perfect for my needs except for one thing: what I really want is a heating appliance that can also be used to boil water and even do some cooking. Remember I said my only source of water is my well, and its pump is driven by electricity. If a disaster happened in the winter, I could melt snow for water; in warm weather, I'd be reduced to hauling water from a brook about a quarter mile from my house. I'd use the water for cleaning, washing dishes, bathing, flushing the toilet — and I'd boil any water to be used for drinking, cooking, and baking. Instead of or in addition to boiling water, I could use the Big Berkey water filter I bought a couple weeks ago.

Of course, I could buy some other kind of appliance for boiling water and for cooking (for example, a butane-fueled burner like the ones you see at a buffet). But that would require additional money, additional fuel, and additional storage space for the appliance and the fuel. In a survivalism situation, fuel will be very precious, so it only makes sense to kill three birds with one stone, so to speak, by acquiring one device that can heat my house and also provide water and also provide a way to cook food. I'm going to keep looking to see if I can find something that meets this criterion.

Before wrapping up the discussion of this topic, let me make it abundantly clear that purchasing a kerosene heating appliance and using my modest kerosene stockpile to handle things here at my current home is by no means a long-term TEOTWAWKI solution for providing heat and water and for cooking. It's just a stopgap measure that — combined with my food stockfile — would probably get me through a few weeks or months. My current home is not and never will be suitable for a survival retreat.

I left Lowes and drove to Staples. I wanted to find a big 3-ring binder in which I will keep various kinds of important survivalism information. Right now I have only two things to go into the binder: a printout of a Wikipedia article on Morse code, and the twenty years' worth of calendars I printed yesterday. I ended up finding something I think is perfect for my needs: a 3-ring binder that is covered with a water-repellent fabric, zips closed, and has an expandable file inside as well as 3 rings. It also has some zippered pockets. link

From Staples I drove to a Ruby Tuesday's restaurant where I enjoyed a salad-bar dinner. My laptop was set up and on line while I was eating dinner. I googled "Why do I have to sign a form when purchasing more than five gallons of kerosene in [my state]?" From my quick scan of the hit list I didn't glean an answer to that question. However, I did get a few hits that reminded me how fortunate I am to live in a state where a person can actually purchase things like kerosene, mace, and even guns without a license and without any kind of big hassle!

I drove home through a lovely snowstorm. Once in my driveway, I unloaded all my purchases from the Jeep and brought them into the house. When I brought in the dishpan and box containing the cans full of kerosene, I saw that a small pool of kerosene was floating on the top of each can, and kerosene was running down the sides of the cans. Darn! How could that be? Did the cans have manufacturing defects? Were the caps loose? I'd tried to put the caps on tightly at the filling station, but my hands had been really cold, and I'd been attempting to keep the kerosene off my gloves.

At home, I used a paper towel to clean all the kerosene off the top of one of the cans. I then tipped the can sideways and saw immediately that droplets of kerosene were leaking from under the cap. I grabbed the cap to see if I could screw it tighter, and in fact I was able to screw it much tighter than it had been. So that's it: I hadn't screwed the caps on tightly enough at the filling station. After some experimentation I developed a technique for screwing the caps as tight as possible: I put on a pair of gardening gloves that have a rubber-like fabric on the fingertips; the friction between the glove fabric and the stainless-steel cap allowed me to screw each cap so tight that no kerosene leaked when I tipped the can sideways. I ended up using Dawn to wash the oily exterior surface of each can, in the kitchen sink. Then I dried each can with a paper towel, polishing the kerosene remnants off the metal as best I could. I took the newly filled cans down to the basement and set them next to the other filled cans I'd stowed down there during the past week or so. I screwed the lids tight on the other cans, too.

I'll just carry the gardening gloves around in the Jeep so they'll be available when I'm buying kerosene.

The good news is that transporting the filled cans in the dishpan and in the cardboard box lined with plastic bags seemed to work out as expected in that I don't think any kerosene spilled in the Jeep.

What did I learn today?

  • Don't buy more than 5 gallons of kerosene at a time.
  • Pay cash when buying kerosene.
  • Be sure to screw the cap on each kerosene can as tightly as possible immediately after filling the can.
  • Dedicate a pair of rubbery gloves to handling the purchase, transport, and storage of fuel.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013
> 20 years of calendars, botched cover story for purchasing gas cans

This morning I was thinking about calendars. If TEOTWAWKI happens, it will be important to keep track of what day it is, and so I think a serious survivalist should have on hand calendars for future years. I googled "future calendars" and found a Web site that can generate calendars for future years. I used it to print out calendars for the next 20 years — two copies of each year. The calendars are formatted simply: all 12 months of each year are laid out on 1 page. The calendars will go into the big 3-ring survivalism binder I plan to buy.

While printing the calendars, I planned today's trip to an auto-parts store in the area. A couple weeks ago I ordered 30 5-gallon gasoline cans from that store. The 30 gas cans are integral to the system I'm planning for stockpiling fuel. This past weekend someone at the store called and told me the cans had arrived.

Before leaving for the store, I moved a lot of stuff out of the Jeep and into the house. I wanted to make as much room as possible inside the vehicle. I thought I'd need to make more than one trip to transport all 30 cans because I was doubtful all of them would fit into the Jeep.

On the way to the auto-parts store I picked up a few groceries at the supermarket, and I also stopped at my bank and got $20 worth of nickels. My survivalism stockpile of nickels now totals $70.

At the auto-parts store I paid cash for the gas cans. I didn't want to leave much of a paper trail — cuts down on my chances of being labeled as a fringe-lunatic prepper. Lately I've been moving toward making most of my disaster-preparedness purchases with cash when I'm buying in person. (Of course, I have to resort to the debit card when buying on line.)

One of the guys behind the counter asked, "What the heck are you gonna do with 30 5-gallon gas cans?" I'd kind of expected a question like this, so I'd prepared an answer. I told him, "I own some hunting cabins down at [name of town south of here], and I want to store fuel for snowmobiles and ATVs so somebody can stay there for awhile without driving into town for gas." I hoped that would be the end of the discussion, but then he continued, "Oh yeh? I like to hunt down there. Where are your cabins?" I thought fast and said, "I inherited some land down there from a relative, and we're just building the cabins right now. They're in a really remote area. Some of the roads don't even have names. It would be hard to explain the location." "Would this terminate the discussion?" I wondered to myself. It did, thankfully. MENTAL NOTE: Next time I fabricate a cover story for prepper purchases, I'll need to be a little more vague.

I drove around to the back of the store, as instructed by the guy that took my money. He helped me load the cans into the Jeep. All 30 of them fit inside easily, with room to spare. I envisioned that a really small building would house all 30 cans, and I mused about buying a bunch more. Right away I talked myself out of doing that, for now, because I need to curb my spending for awhile. I'll consider buying more gas cans in the future, though.

To minimize the chances of running into anybody I know, I'd been planning to drive straight home with the gas cans. However, I've been wanting to round out my survivalist shampo stockpile and decided to make a quick stop at a "dollar store" where I'd bought some shampoo I like. If the Jeep's windows hadn't been so filthy, I probably would have resisted the urge to go to the dollar store — but the dirty windows made it difficult for anybody to see the gas cans inside the vehicle, so I felt fairly comfortable.

In the dollar store I found the shampoo I wanted. I grabbed all the bottles they had on the shelf, and I was loading them into my cart when a tiny elderly woman in the aisle with me asked, "You're buying them all?" I explained, "I was going to take all of them, but do you want a bottle?" " Oh yes," she said, "I like that apple-scented shampoo. They were out of it the other day." "Here, take one," I smiled at her, handing over one of the bottles.

As long as I was there, I couldn't resist doing "expiration-date shopping" for canned foods. I've gotten into the habit of looking for well-priced canned foods with far-away expiration dates when I'm in a supermarket or in any kind of store that sells canned foods. After a little rummaging, I ended up with a great find: 9 cans of fruit cocktail, on sale for $1 per can, with December 2015 expiration dates — almost 3 years from now. I also picked up 4 pouches of dried apricots. The expiration dates for the apricots are only 15 months from now, but that doesn't concern me much since I really enjoy dried apricots and I plan to be diligent about rotating my food stockpile.

At home, I briefly considered waiting until dark to take the gas cans into the house so as not to make a big production of it for neighbors and passing motorists. I felt like I wanted to get the job done right away, though, so I decided to back the Jeep into the driveway (instead of driving straight in as usual) so as not to be on display when taking the gas cans out of the Jeep's tailgate area. The home of my nearest neighbor is a few hundred feet away, none of my neighbors were outside, and no vehicles passed my house while I was unloading the gas cans — so I don't think anyone observed what I was doing.

Once I'd brought all the cans inside, I had to face an issue that has been nudging at my brain for the past couple of weeks.
I've been buying A LOT of survivalism supplies, and I'm having trouble finding places to store everything here in my small house. This problem will be alleviated when winter is over in a few months, because I'll be able to stash things in the storage building on my new property. Right now, though, we have a couple feet of snow, and the road to the storage building isn't plowed. I'm not going to be filling all the cans with gas right away — probably won't do that until spring, because I don't have a safe place here at my house to store gas. So for now I just needed to figure out where to put the empty cans. My house has no barn, garage, or shed. The basement is wet at times, so I didn't want to just set the cans on the basement floor. What to do? I came up with the idea of using large trash bags with built-in ties. 3 gas cans fit inside each trash bag. I used the built-in ties to hang the bags on some nails that had been driven into the joists overhead. My basement reminds me of a meat locker now (hanging bagfulls of gas cans are reminiscent of sides of beef in a meat locker).

As a prepper, one challenge I face is time management. Specifically: I'm having trouble balancing time spent on emergency-preparedness activities with time spent making a living, taking care of my home, maintaining a social life, and meeting other commitments. This past weekend I decided that, on any weekday, I would not spend more than 3 hours on TEOTWAWKI tasks. But here it is 4:30 pm, and I've spent only about an hour and a half on "making-a-living tasks" — the rest of the day has been dedicated to dealing with the gas cans and doing survivalism shopping and banking. So, I've already broken my 3-hours-per-day rule. I'll spend some time making a living this evening, but my body is giving hints that I'll run out of steam pretty soon, so I doubt I'll accomplish much work tonight. Oh, well. I'll try to be better tomorrow.

What did I learn today?

  • When fabricating cover stories for prepper purchases, be vague, and try to anticipate how the conversation might evolve.

Sunday, October 7, 2012
> construction of storage building, a.k.a. "camp"

My 12' x 24' storage shed was constructed today.

The modules for the building arrived on a flatbed trailer at 7 am this morning. I was glad it was so early, as I thought people would be sleeping late and not likely to notice any activity on my land. But you know what they say: "The best-laid plans of mice and men quite often go astray." Such was the case with my plans for clandestine construction. Everything would have been fine if it hadn't been raining heavily for several days. As we all know, rain creates mud. In spite of numerous attempts, even with a running start the contractor's van towing the flatbed trailer couldn't make it up the slight incline leading to my chosen site for the building. The van just spun its wheels in the slippery mud. So, a neighbor with a tractor was pressed into service by the contractor. The tractor pulled the trailer up the little hill, no problem, but my cover was blown. Not only did my neighbor with the tractor know about my new building, the next day one of my other neighbors knew all about it, too. News travels fast in a small town like ours. Oh, well. I now refer to the building as "my camp" when talking with my neighbors, and I think they buy it.

The building was constructed by a crew consisting of a middle-aged man, his teenaged son, and a younger teenaged boy. It went up in a few hours. It's a nice-looking building, with "novelty siding" made of pine, two sliding windows, and a metal roof.

Thursday, September 27, 2012
> closed on the new land!

Today I closed on the new land. It was a beautiful, cool, crisp autumn day. After the closing, I bought a Subway sandwich and some apple juice. I then drove to Randy and Julie's office to drop off some paperwork. Julie wasn't there, but Randy was. I gave him a big hug and told him, "I feel like I'm finally getting my life back!"

I then drove to the new property, set up one of my collapsable camp chairs, and drank in the beauty along with the apple juice. I walked all over the land and said to myself repeatedly, "I own this. It's all mine. Nobody is going to take this from me."

I felt excited and almost contented.

I felt some sadness, too, because Sam wasn't sharing the experience with me. I want very much for Sam to be happy.

Sunday, September 23, 2012
> struggles with sadness, picking more rocks, darn lawyers

Day after day I strive to rise above the sadness I feel because of the divorce. I succeed sometimes, for a few hours and, on rare occasions, for an entire day. But most of the time I feel deep, deep sadness and despair. Will I ever be okay?

I went to church this morning and ended up crying while singing some of the hymns. This happens to me a lot at church. It's embarrassing.

It's a beautiful, sunny autumn afternoon. I think I'll go to the new property and hang around for awhile. Spending time there usually lifts my spirits and brings a measure of peace.

While there, I'll scope out a good spot for the storage shed that will arrive in a couple weeks. I'll pick some more rocks, too.

On my computer's desktop I have a photo of a little gravel road that's on my new property. I'm now calling it "my" property even though I haven't actually closed on it yet. Darn lawyers. The paperwork and rigamarole surrounding this land purchase are taking a really long time.

Saturday, September 15, 2012
> important movie: End of the Road

On public TV this evening I watched a movie called End of the Road: How Money Became Worthless. It's a documentary film that explains, in terms very easy to understand, that the underpinnings of the U.S. financial system and money supply are very weak. According to the information presented in this film, the United States is absolutely headed for hyperinflation; and national financial collapse — probably even global financial collapse — will follow.

I've known for decades that the U.S. Federal Reserve has been printing money like crazy, and I've always known that wasn't good; but before watching this movie I didn't have a comprehensive understanding of the situation. I did a little Internet research this evening after watching the movie, and I'm convinced that the movie's portrayal of the situation is accurate.

Watching this movie and doing the followup research has caused a major shakeup inside me. I know I need to invest in gold and/or silver, and I know I need to do it soon because prices are rising. This is stressing me out because I have no idea how to go about buying gold or silver, because I've been planning to be very frugal with my money, and because I already have way too many projects on my plate.

Thursday, September 13, 2012
> planning for storage building

I'm buying a 12' x 24' wooden storage shed. It will arrive pre-fab, in panels. I'm buying it from a small company about 50 miles away. I'm excited about it. Buying the storage shed is another step on the road toward rebuilding my life.

Saturday, September 8, 2012
> utility trailer, Alone in the Wilderness

For awhile now I've been thinking about buying a utility trailer to tow behind my Jeep. I want to use it to haul firewood, stones, dirt, etc. on the new land.

I got a trailer hitch installed on the Jeep this past Tuesday. I've been looking around at utility trailers for a few weeks now. I've considered big ones, small ones, new ones, used ones.

After careful consideration I decided to buy a new, small, metal-mesh trailer at Lowes. I think it will serve all my needs, and its lightweight design means I won't stress the Jeep when I'm towing it and also means I can hitch it and unhitch it and move it around by myself.

I bought the trailer yesterday evening and towed it to the new property. I haven't closed on the new property yet because the attorneys keep making mistakes on the paperwork, but I got permission from Randy's wife to park the trailer on the property.

I've never driven a vehicle towing a trailer before. It took some getting used to. I drove very carefully. After about the first ten miles or so, I felt somewhat comfortable. I'm still not very good at backing up with the trailer, though. I can't get it to go where I want it to go. I'll need to practice. I made a stop on the way home from Lowes; then got back on the road headed in the wrong direction because that's the only way I could manage to back up. I ended up driving about 7-8 miles in the wrong direction before I found a suitable place to turn around (a big, flat parking area when I could circle around to get going in the other direction without backing up).

I stowed the trailer at the back of the new property, behind some trees. I found a big log to rest the hitch on. I unhitched the trailer myself without incident. I tucked the wiring connection into a plastic bag to keep it dry, and I covered the trailer with a big tarp I'd bought at Lowes.

Stowing the trailer on the new property gave me such a fantastic feeling of satisfaction! Having the trailer will allow me to do lots of things I want to do out there. I am so excited about it. I am such a tomboy!

Writing about the trailer has caused me to think about the movie Alone in the Wilderness that I've seen so many times on public TV. It's the story of a man named Dick Proenneke who lived by himself for decades in the Alaskan wilderness. He documented his life there by making movies of himself building a log cabin, making tools and implements for hunting and fishing, gathering berries and other native foods and using them to feed himself. His self-narration of the movie was, I thought, wonderful. My endeavors here are not as wild and challenging and exciting as his; however, I am drawing some parallels between his story and mine: he was not a young man when he began his Alaskan adventure (and I am now beginning my adventure at the age of 62); he had a deep love for nature and remote areas (as do I). I am seriously thinking about buying a video camera and using it to document my adventures.

Sunday, August 26, 2012
> picking rocks suspends sad feelings for a few hours

I feel "hung over" with sadness from yesterday's meeting with Richard the realtor. Not that my discussions with Richard were problematic. My sadness stems from the emotional stir-up I experienced yesterday because of memories of Sam and me. In an effort to shake off the sadness, I decided to spend some time today on my new land.

Even though I don't own the land yet, I've gone there a couple times with Randy and his wife, Julie, to pick blackberries. The berries are huge and sweet and abundant. I've gone there by myself a couple times, too, since signing the Purchase and Sale Agreement last week.

I've become obsessed with stones. Big, flat stones. On the new land there are a lot of really pretty ones in colors of gray and brown and rust. I'm gathering a nice collection of them, and they are laid out neatly in the woods near one of the property boundaries. I'll use the stones for flooring in the mudroom and bathroom of the house I'll build. Today I spent several hours on the land and collected some beautiful stones while there.

I was hoping my outing on the new land would pull me out of my funk, and it did. I came home filthy, bruised, and exhausted, but less sad. I think picking stones will be my therapy from now on — at least until winter sets in.

Saturday, August 25, 2013
> ready to sell the old land

When I said in my August 20th blogpost that I'd lost the property my ex-husband and I had bought together, I didn't mean it literally. The property was actually awarded to me as part of our divorce settlement, so it is not "lost" to me per se. But it might as well be, because I can't bear to think of living there without Sam, and because there are painful memories of things that happened between us there. Even though I cherish the property, I could never be at peace there. So I'm going to put it on the market.

Today I had a meeting with Richard, the realtor I've chosen to sell the property. He's the realtor who sold the land to Sam and me five years ago. I thought he did a good job of recruiting us as buyers back then, and I'm hoping he'll do as good a job this time around. Thanks to the Wall Street shenanigans that culminated in the burst of the housing bubble in 2008-2009, the real-estate market is very slow currently, so I need all the help I can get.

While I walked around the land with Richard and showed him through the garage, I had to deal with memories of Sam and me. So many memories. The garage is designed to be habitable, with an apartment upstairs where Sam and I were to live until our house was finished. I recalled my discussions with Sam about the configuration of the stairs, about window placement, about the kitchen design, about the plumbing layout. I recalled the joy I felt when I thought we were building a life together there.

My meeting with Richard would have been unbearably painful had it not been for the fact that I am soon to be the proud owner of 26 beautiful acres in my new town.

Monday, August 20, 2012
> first blogpost: divorce, heartbreak, new life

The events described in this first blogpost on took place almost six months prior to the day in February 2013 when I actually wrote the blogpost. When those events occurred, I wasn't a prepper and had no idea I'd ever be one. But thinking back over the past several months, I realize this is the day I began my survivalist journey.

I'm relying on notes from my journal to put together this blogpost as well as all other blogposts through November 2012.

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It's been two years since I made the very painful decision to divorce my husband, Sam, the love of my life. We'd been married for nearly 20 years.

The divorce process was protracted and heartbreaking. We reached a settlement only a month ago. I am relieved that the divorce ordeal is at last over, but I'll never be able to erase the wretched memories of that final day in court. It was one of the saddest days I've ever had to endure.

I struggle daily with sorrow and despair and remorse, yet I know my decision to divorce my sweet Sam was the right decision for both of us.

When I lost my marriage, I also lost the beautiful acreage Sam and I had purchased together a hundred miles from where I now live, along with the garage we'd built in preparation for constructing our house. I love that property the way one loves a child, and I've been mourning the loss of it almost as much as I've been mourning the death of my marriage.

But today I took a huge step toward rebuilding my life: I made an offer on 26 beautiful acres several miles from my current residence (a little house I bought in a big hurry when Sam and I separated).

My current house has lots of potential in terms of functionality and in terms of aesthetic appeal, and there is no reason I couldn't live here for the rest of my life. But the house sits on just an acre of land, and I need acreage in my life to feel complete. I just do. So when the 26 acres became available, I couldn't resist making an offer.

I wrote a lot of contingencies into the my offer to purchse the land; then spent several hours working through the details of the contingencies with Randy, the seller. At the end of this process, my offer was accepted. It's going to happen! There shouldn't be any glitches, because I know the property, I know the seller (Randy is a friend), and I'm paying cash.

I am beyond ecstatic about buying this new land! It has mountain views, a meadow, a pond, berry bushes, and many species of lovely trees. After signing the Purchase and Sale Agreement today, I drove to the new land and spent about 45 minutes there. It was a gorgeous summer day. The views are fantastic. I began to envision the site for the tiny house I will build. I imagined ideal locations for windows that will frame lovely vistas.

I also appreciated and enjoyed the silence. The property is on a quiet, dead-end country road. Only two other families live on the road.

I know in my heart that having this land in my life will allow me to start healing from the pain of losing my marriage.



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