Wednesday, August 27, 2008

SHTF: Canned goods

Canned food has taken a bad rap over the past 20 or so years. For instance, the other day I was speaking with a family friend and I commented jokingly, "Make sure you get plenty of canned goods.." or something.

The woman of the family turned to me and laughed, "I don't think we even have any canned food at home..". The husband said, "Sure it's in the bomb shelter!" and we all laughed.

When people where I live have canned food, it is in the form of the following, (2) cans some flavor of Campbell Soup, (1) can of pumpkin pie filling leftover from 1998, (1) can of chicken stock from same time period and (1) lonely can of SlimFast.

Which is a shame because canned food is a great value and should be in your home regardless of you preparedness mindset. A can of soup is a meal for a child on a cold day waiting up to two years (!) for you to enjoy it. Amazing. What's more is canned food is a surprising value as that same can of soup may only run you a buck or less depending upon the type.

Canned food sales happen frequently at your local supermarket. We received a flier from the local super with prices at 10 for $10 and a further 20% off when spending more than $25. Basically, we could get 100 cans of soup, ravioli and other ready to eat foods for $80.00 - that's a bargain and could be the beginning a home preparedness food plan.

Now, what sorts of canned goods should you stock up on?

First, you want canned foods you actually eat. That can of Vegall will probably sit on the shelf until the next apocalypse if you don't eat lima beans.

Next, consider canned foods which might be eaten cold or only partially heated. What will you do if the power is out ahd a can of Sterno is your only heating element?

Finally, if at all possible, consider the healthiest choices when possible. Those canned tamales may be filling, but they also are about as good for you as eating a spoonful of Crisco.

After making your canned food purchasing decision, determine where to put all of that food. Many in the preparedness community have sturdy canned food storage racks or canned food storage systems which not only hold the food, but help keep track of "what's new and what's oldest". Type "canned food storage rack" or "canned food storage" into Google and see what's available out there.

Further, store canned food in multiple locations in your home if need be. We keep food stored under the counters in the bathroom and in a closet near the kitchen. Space can be found in nearly every home no matter how cluttered.

Remember, canned food is your friend whether you are into preparedness or not. It is a healthy and convenient food source for nearly every budget and no, you do not need a bomb shelter to have some on hand.

Monday, August 25, 2008

SHTF: Suburbs - Should I stay or should I go?

Welcome Woodpile Readers! Thanks for stopping by and please visit again!

Big fracas today over on TB2K about whether one should stay in the suburbs after the SHTF or flee to a pre-positioned rural location... see if here..

A lot of hotheads and hotter opinions being expressed which is a shame, because both sides are missing the real problem.

First, more people, I would hazard to guess without looking at census information, live in urban and suburban locales rather than in true rural areas.

And with the national and international scene being what it is, more and more of these suburban dwellers today are developing the prepper mindset like their rural prepping counterparts do which is "How do I prepare for what if?".

That being the case, the real problem is "how do suburban dwellers responsibly and creatively prepare for TEOTWAWKI without planning on becoming a burden to their country pals?".

Here are a few of my plans/suggestions that might be of value to the suburban dweller post-TEOTWAWKI.

1) Prep now. Buy lots of non-perishable foods, storage equipment, tools, supplies, etc. now while prices are reasonable and stocks are high. For instance, this weekend the wife and I invested in more storage buckets, water filters, OTC medicines, vitamins and other essential stuff.

"Do you really have enough food stocked when the SHTF?"

2) Put a plan in place for Day One of the SHTF for your home and family. How to get from point a to point b. Communications. Safety. Transportation.

3) Can you disguise your presence in the neighborhood? Some of these suggestions have to be done beforehand while others they day of SHTF..
a) Have measured pieces cut now and plywood over exterior visible windows from the street and rear of house once the trouble starts.
b) Erect the highest fence around the exterior rear of your property as allowed by the city and neighborhood association. (Do this now).
c) Move running vehicles to rear of home or into garage. Cover over garage windows with more plywood ( have that plywood ready now). Back cars into garage and be able to open doors manually if forced to evacuate.
d) Consider leaving one, partially disassembled vehicle in front of the house. Put it on blocks or jacks or flattened tires.
e) Put a pink or yellow typewritten piece of paper on the front door which declares the property is foreclosed and uninhabitable. (Before the emails start.. I know, a piece of paper is not going to stop a determined group of illiterate gang bangers. Rather, it is part of a complete illusion.. work with me).
f) Put a sign in the yard which states the house is foreclosed as well. See above.
g) Limit activity and leave and come only through the rear of the property. Let no sign or presence be known i.e. generators, bar-b-que grills, etc.

4) Devise a defensive strategy for your home. Early warning alarms, (can be as simple as trip wires and cans), peepholes, viewpoints, sniper nests, diversions, reinforce exterior walls, create an interior saferoom, fall back positions and escape routes. Besides your favorite firearms, purchase a number of inexpensive weapons for backups and handouts to those joining you. I particularly prefer the SKS as it is inexpensive, can take a lot of punishment and is relatively easy to use.

5) Connect with other neighbors. This is tricky because unless you know your neighbors real well, they may or may not be reliable in a scrape. I fully expect most of my neighbors to collapse under the strain or flee before hand. That being the case, my presence will be as low as possible and I plan on using any left behind resources as possible.

6) Get a replenishing water source. I am a big proponent of sand point drilled wells for suburban situations. Of course your water table must be taken into consideration and if a hand dug or sand point well is out of the question, you are going to need, at minimum, the following:
a) a creek, river or lake on your property.
b) lots of bleach, filters and fuel for boiling. (solar panel, batteries and hot plate work too).
c) Big storage like multi hundred gallon containers or cistern.
d) rain water catchment system.

Remember, your rural friends will have this same consideration as well. Just having a well on a rural property does not mean an unlimited, uninterrupted supply of water.

7) Once the back yard is hidden from view as best as possible, expand your garden. Start on this now. I have been gardening edibles for years and it is something learned over time not the day after the SHTF.
Along those lines, stock plenty of seeds, (multiple years), hand tools, fertilizer and build at least one large composting area (I have two).

8) Lay out areas where additional gardening can be done. For instance, nearby vacant lots, golf courses, abandoned backyards, etc.
Remember, most of these areas will be overgrown in a few weeks. Pick out a spot as far from view as possible and surrounded by higher weeds or grass. Create a 6 x 6 garden square, till, replenish the soil and plant. Surround with chicken wire. Leave a couple of empty five gallon buckets in the enclosure to catch rain water. Check a few times a week under cover of darkness or in early morning hours and tend.
If possible, plant fruit trees in back yard. Drive or walk your neighborhood and catalog existing fruit trees and types. I have found over two dozen good producers in my neighborhood. Know how to prune and tend to these trees after the original owners have "moved on".

9) Stock up now on anything needed to preserve food including a couple of dehydrators, canning jars (and lids!), spices for jerky, etc. Target had a starter home canning system available for less than 40.00 this weekend. That is a fast food lunch for a family of five. No excuses why you have not bought this type of hardware.

10) Get solar panels and deep storage batteries. You are not powering a fridge and clothing dryer, but a few basic appliances and communications gear. A battery powered hotplate emits no smoke like a grill or fireplace. My suggestion is to check online for panels or try a Fry's if they have them where you live. Fry's had 85 watt panels on sale not too long ago. A simple home system is not that hard to set up (or tear down and hide if need be). My neighbor has four panels he rolls out onto his side-of-house driveway on sunny days and uses them to power his workshop tools.

11) You don't have to be in the country to have livestock. Most municipalities allow homeowners to have a few chickens or rabbits. Mine allows me up to 6 hens and one rooster. I can also have goats and rabbits as long as they are not a nuisance. Better to have two laying hens now than none the day after.

12) Plan an escape route and fall back position. No plan, suburban or rural is perfect. You may have to flee as well. Have a plan.

I have a choice. For right now i am staying in the suburbs. I know the area and I have my supplies in tact. Your plan may be completely opposite, but any plan is better than having no plan at all.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Prepare: SHTF Weekend hints and tips

A few things to keep you going on your preparedness plans for SHTF or some other equally fun event.


Go out this weekend and buy four big jugs of common bleach. It can be Clorux or the store brand, doesn't matter just as long as it is non-scented. Bleach can be used to purify water, (like from rainfall or the nearby creek). Water is more important than food or firearms for daily survival. Bleach is also used as a disinfectant. Nothing can survive bleach. Plan on needing lots in the event of a pandemic or to clean up after someone of something drops dead in your space.


Hunting season is about to get underway. That means two things: the big box retailers are stocking up on ammunition and shooting irons. It also means that prices have gone up, too. Take advantage of any pre-sales on ammo you may see. Also, take advantage of the larger inventory (I could not believe how many black guns my local big box sporting goods store had lately).


Lots of grocery stores are having final sales on berries, peaches and other summer fruit. I found pints of blueberries this week at Kroger for 1 dollar each. Buy extra and freeze at the very least. If you have a dehydrator, dry it out! If you are feeling particularly homemaking, can a few jars. You will appreciate the fresh fruit this winter.

Seeds and garden supplies

Fall means the big box retailers are cleaning out the garden centers. Pick up seeds (if you can find them) and potting soil at cut rate prices. I saw soil go from a dollar a bag to .39 in two weeks. Get in now and stock up for next spring (if it comes) and be ready for the next planting season. (The same can be said for canning supplies. All should be going on sale soon).

BTW - my corn has come in quite nicely.

School supplies

Many stores are having blowouts on things like pens, paper, workbooks and other things you will need for post-SHTF daily life and homeschooling. Take advantage of these sales.

Look for a post soon on the SHTF home school.

If you see the common thread here, preparedness folks are frugal by nature and save money for tangible supplies whenever possible.

Get busy and then enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Prepare: Junk silver prices

Check out the Kitko graph today (August 23). Silver is down again.

Now is the time to visit your local coin or jewelery shop and pick up a roll or two of pre-1964 dimes. I say junk silver dimes because they will be of most use in the post-SHTF economy.

It should not set you back very much and is probably a good deal considering the volatility of the markets right now.

No. I am not an investment professional and all advice on junk silver, silver coins, coin investments, pre-1964 silver U.S. coins is purely my opinion and not reflective of the management.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Prepere: Earthquake Survival Kits

I have read of a number of earthquakes in China and California the past few weeks. Unlike most natural disasters, earthquakes are nearly impossible to avoid if you live in a earthquake prone area.

Having a good earthquake survival kit is two fold; it is there if a quake strikes and it can also be used for a "bug out" or "get out of dodge" bag.

I found a great list on the internet of supplies which are mandatory for an earthquake survival kit. Being a flatlander who lives in non-quake country, this type of reading is mandatory and enlightening.

Besides the standard water (two quarts per person per day, don't forget the pets!) and food (non-perishable, canned, needs no heating, ready to heat), an earthquake survival kit should include items most likely associated with quake preparedness.

First instance, tools. More than your standard all in one Gerber multi tool, but heavy duty tools like shovels, picks, crowbars, axes and pipe wrenches. In a post-earthquake survival situation, you may be called upon to rescue friends and loved ones from collapsed structures.

And all the debris calls for heavy duty boots, dust masks, hard hats and thick palmed gloves. Many of the items found in an earthquake survival kit would be a surprise in a standard home or car emergency kit.

What about shelter? If the home is damaged by the quake or is at risk from aftershocks, most earthquake survival kit owners have temporary shelter one hand such as a tent, tarp or other temporary shelter.

Here was a novel item on the earthquake survival kit; powdered lime for the "natural toilet" to control odors and keep away pests. After a quake, most survivors have no intention of abandoning their home and wish to protect their possessions. That means roughing it on site until organized help arrives.

An earthquake survival kit has a greater number of contents than the standard survival kit, but has a greater and more pressing need in earthquake prone parts of the world. Those of us into preparedness can learn quite a bit from the earthquake crowd about everyday preparedness.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Prepare: Emergency Food Supplies

Take a look at your food situation at home. What sort of shape are you in?

The average home has food in the refrigerator and freezer, the cupboard and maybe in a closet type pantry.

This same average home emergency food supplies consist of whatever is on hand in these locations. Now, how long can those supplies last in a real emergency? I am not talking about a 8 hour power outage but real emergencies like a biological or nuclear attack, pandemic, or massive and widespread civil unrest.

Now how long can the average home's food supplies last? A few days? Maybe a week?

For real preparedness, you have to start thinking about your home's food supplies and what you and your family will do in a real emergency.

To start, break down your food supplies into a "consume order" plan. For instance, foods which are perishable in the refrigerator will go first, followed by foods from the freezer.

Next, foods which do not require refrigeration or freezing, but have a shelf life all the same.

Finally, ling term food supplies will be consumed when augmented with other food sources.

So to get started on your emergency food supplies and your plan.

Take an inventory of your shelf stable food supplies such as canned and dry goods, macaroni and pasta. How many days will those foods last? Your goal should be to have at least three months of those types of foods on hand for your entire family and with some available for others. Better yet, because these foods last longer, shoot for six months or a year if possible.

Next, concentrate on your long term emergency food supplies such as sugar, flour, rice, dried beans, cooking oil, honey, corn starch, baking powder, dried fruits and vegetables and jerky.
Attempt to store at least one year supply of these basics.

Finally, consider long term storage foods like those available from specialty retailers like Emergency Essentials, Provident Pantry, etc. Some people like to store military Meals Ready to Eat (MRE), but I have mixed thoughts about those.

The goal behind your emergency food supplies is to have a long term stored food plan in place before a real emergency takes place. Remember, the day IT happens will be the day it is is too late to do anything about it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Prepare SHTF: School Emergency Kits

With August drawing to a close, the "back to school" sales begin in earnest around the country. While the wife and kids hit the big box retailers for clothes, lunch boxes and three-ring binders, you and I are going shopping too. Just for some other back to school stuff..

Your child needs a school emergency kit. Why? Very likely, you have a imagined a scenario where you are at work or home and the children are miles away at school waiting for you to come get them. It is best to have them prepared with a few supplies which might help them out during the interim.

First, your child already has a bag for their school emergency kit; their backpack. Yes, they already have books, lunch and what not in their backpack, but there is always room for a few more things.

Food -

Your child will need food for their school emergency kit. Add a few protein bars, Ramen noodle packets or spam singles. Combined, they will be part of a three day/800 calorie a day food supplement. Tuck some hard candy into an outer pocket as well. Don't forget, your child will have their lunch and there may be additional food sources available from the school cafeteria. Train your kids now to know where to track down food sources for them and their friends in the event of an emergency.

Water -

Water is invaluable in the school emergency kit. Two things - At least one bottle of water in the backpack for emergencies only and an additional water storage container. My kids have half liter water bottles they take to school. They know to refill them from the water fountains when they run low. If possible, add a low cost reusable water filter to the school emergency kit. Make sure kids know where water can be found at school; the water fountains, cafeteria, bathroom fountains, etc. Drink tap water first and save sealed water bottles for last.

Lighting -

An emergency kit should always take lighting into consideration. Include a sturdy AA flashlight and two light sticks. Put those light sticks in an outer pocket or in the bottom of the backpack wrapped in foil or in a sealed ziplock bag.

Communication -

Emergency kits mean emergency communications. Most kids older than 10 have cell phones. Even if you need to pick up a "pay as you go" pre-paid phone for emergencies, do it. Always make sure kids know which number to reach you and other trusted adults.

Am option might be a two way family radio service radio. If you choose this route, make sure it runs on AA batteries like the flashlight.

Warmth/Bedding -

If your child is stuck at school or in the bus overnight, staying warm might be important. Pick up at least one folding rain poncho. They cost less than a dollar at the sporting goods store. Get one of those reflective blankets. Add at least one spare pair of socks as well.

Work gloves are useful as well.

Additional -

The school emergency kit should include one bottle of hand sanitizer (travel sized of course), an N95 face mask, and a pair of nitrile gloves. All of these things are invaluable, "when used correctly" during a potential pandemic or to even to avoid nuclear fallout.

Protection -

You know the zero tolerance policy so avoid adding anything to your school emergency kit which might be considered a weapon. Instead, make sure your child's kit includes a small first aid kit and a good whistle.

Most of all, include in your school emergency kit the one thing which cannot be bought in a store - knowledge. Prepare and train your child for a variety of short term and long term emergencies. Knowing what to do when the time comes up saves lives.

Back to school is a busy time. Don't forget to make emergency preparedness plans for your child which includes their school emergency kit.

Friday, August 08, 2008

What currency after SHTF?

This came up the other day: What currency will work best after the SHTF? You know, what forms of payment for debts, public and private and all that stuff...

My answers?

Gasoline, any amounts, but one and five gallon containers for counting purposes.
Toilet paper
.22 caliber cartridges

What do all three of these things have in common?

Once used, they cannot be reused. Well, in the case of the .22 cartridge I am sure some enterprising person will figure a way...

But gasoline once used is gone forever. Same with toilet paper thankfully.

But in many cases, hauling a couple of rolls of Charmin down to the trading post or swap meet may not be handy, will there be a more liquid form of money?

For many in the preparedness community, it has always been considered that gold and silver would make a comeback for post-SHTF money. After all, precious metals have a real intrinsic value that any of us would relate too.

However, I think some may question whether or not a Silver Eagle is indeed what you say it is. That is why I suggest that "junk silver", pre-1964 U.S. silver coins such as dimes, quarters and halves have a more convinient value than gold or specialty silver coins.

For those just joining us, junk silver coins have 90% silver content and are easily recognizable as legal U.S. tender.

More to the point, small silver coins will have greater value in common trades say for a dozen eggs, a bag of roofing nails or a quart of honey. What's more, common coins are easily recognizable and in most cases, trusted as not being forgeries. WHo knows if that Silver Eagle or Kruggerand is really a foil coated fraud or not?

My advice is as always is to stock up on real everyday tangibles first. Then, and only after your preps are at a comfortable state, consider investing in some junk silver coins.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

SHTF: Power outages

Last night, Saturday, a transformer blew in my neighborhood right around nightfall. Most of our neighborhood was plunged into blackness and worse, heat. It was 100 degrees when the power went out.

I happened to be around the corner at the grocery store (picking up ice cream of all things) and returning home when I came upon my street. "Funny", I thought, "the street light is out.". Then I realized what had happened.

After I pulled in the driveway I took my three cell battery flashlight out of the console and brought the ice cream inside the house.

Everything was pitch black and my youngest runs up screaming about the power being out. A couple of good things at this point:

- My wife already had four flashlights out and distributed.
- She also herded our three kids and two errant neighbor children into one room with her where she keep an eye on all until I arrived.

I set up two battery powered lanterns in the same room and took stock of the situation. I went to the next door neighbors and got the layout of the land; the transformer had blown due to the heat and most of the neighborhood was blacked out. Yes, someone had already phoned the electric company.

After letting the neighbors across the street know about their two children safely at our home (and discovering how unprepared this family was - two candles for the whole house), I walked to the end of the block and met another neighbor wandering light-free around the block also assesing the damage.

After returning home, I heard a couple of trucks in the alley. I went back and found the electric company staring at a burned out transformer - the same one which then blew again right in front of me, another neighbor and the electric company workers.

"Not good" says the worker. This might be a while.

"Great" says neighbor clad only in his shorts. "My house is already sweltering".

I guestimated it would be somewhere after midnight before the power came back on, so I went ohome to transfer the information to the wife and kids.

First thing we did after that was close all the bedroom doors and keep everyone out. This kept most of the cool air in and colder than with the introduction of warm bodies.

We then concentrated everyone in one room to build heat and keep it out of the other parts of the home. The children were given ice cream to cool off and told to avoid lots of crazy activity less they get hot.

I pulled several bottles of cold water from the both fridges and kept everyone hydrated. I also put several pitchers of water in both refrigerators. They would stay cold and be available for drinking and the dogs.

A knock came at the door and I considered this might be trouble so I prepared accordingly. As it would happen, it was the neighbor across the street coming to get her two kids. She had a pen or something similar in her hand and I asked what it was.

Turns out she was using one of those Bic lighters used fro lighting grills or stoves as her light source when she crossed the street.

"Don't you have a flashlight?" I asked. "No, we don't have anything like that" she replied.

I gave her a spare and told her to be careful. Hmmm..

Afterwards, we shut down at my house. The kids were put to bed with a flashlight each while I locked up and checked the house.

Only at this time did I strip down for bed. A quick rinse off in the shower and I felt cool. What's more, the bedroom still felt pretty cool as well. We turned in and hoped the power would be on in the morning.

As luck would have it, around 2:30 AM, the power came on and with that, the air conditioner as well.

Some observations for when the SHTF and power losses become widespread and possibly permanent.

- Obviously, have alternative lighting and plenty of options. My battery powered lanterns run off common AA batteries and were purchased on sale at Target for less than three dollars each.

- Know where flashlights and lanterns are before the power goes out. My youngest knew where two flashlights were in the dark as did my wife.

- Have extra batteries! One of the lanterns lost power and a) I had batteries and b) I knew where they were.

- What is the long term plan? What if the power stayed off indefinately? That was on my mind as the hours ticked by last night.

- Have water and food available. Fortunately, we had running water, but what if that was gone with the power as well? Wife and I agreed to invest more in water storage for long term outages this morning.

- Be ready to be called to help neighbors. I never once thought about telling my neighbors to go pound sand. I would eventually depend upon them as well. Don't burn bridges.

- We are all aware of what to do when its cold, but what about heat? Have a plan there as well. Battery powered fans would have made a world of difference last night.

In the end, I had no fewer than two women (mind this guys) tell my wife and I how well prepared we were this morning. Seems most of the nighborhood was really in the dark. Keep that in mind and hope the power never stays off permanently.

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