A Quick Look at Food Storage

I wanted to give a little overview post on some basic food storage techniques.  I’m not going to go too deep though, this will just touch on dry storage and canning.  For many, this is a boring topic, but it is essential.

 

Dry Storage

Because it’s an easy one, we’ll first look at dry storage, specifically dry bulk storage.  The reason for this is that commercially- as well as home-canned goods are going to get old after awhile.  You’re going to want variety because “food fatigue,” eating the same thing day in and day out, really sucks.  Plus, there’s something about a home cooked meal that helps with morale.

So what kinds of things are we talking about here?  Things like dried beans, whole grains, and dehydrated or freeze dried fruits and vegetables.  One of the upsides is that not only do properly stored dry goods last for a long time, like so many other things, it’s cheaper when you do it yourself.

What do you need to store bulk dry goods?  Just a few basic things: mylar bags, oxygen absorbers, and a clothes iron.  Just place what you’re storing into the bag, drop in an O2 absorber, squeeze as much air out as possible, and then seal the bag shut with the iron.  You’ll need to make sure that the O2 absorbers are of the appropriate size for the mylar bags you’re using.  I recommend Discount Mylar Bags, as I’ve used their products for several years with great success.

Here’s a good video that demonstrates how to store food in mylar bags:

 

Home Canning

 

Home canning is more involved,  but it’s a great way to preserve all manner of fresh foods.  While pressure canning is not that really that difficult, I can not stress enough the importance of paying attention to what you’re doing.  Paying attention and using quality equipment will allow you to safely pressure can your own food.  For this, I’m going to make a few recommendations:

  1. Get a copy of the Ball Blue Book of Canning.
  2. If you’re not confident that you can properly and safely can your own food, find and take a local class on this art.  The best place to check is with your county agriculture extension agent or community college.  There may be other instructional resources in your area as well, such as prepping oriented stores or garden clubs.
  3. Get a quality canner.  A cheap one is fine for starting out, but if you want one that will last, get an All American canner (I have an All American 921).  It’s American Made and built like a tank…your great grandchildren will be using it.
  4. Regular canning lids are meant to be disposable.  That’s not a problem when normal manufacturing and supply chains are functioning, but if you anticipate a situation in which the availability of replacement lids is questionable, consider having a good stock of Tattler Reusable Canning Lids.

 

If you have questions, feel free to drop me a comment. Happy food storing!

A Little Primer on Prepping

This was posted over at “the old place” and was originally written as a submission for a prominent blog (I was not taken up on the offer), but I wanted to resurrect it since the current climate has more and more people figuring out that they need to be ready for whatever may be coming our way.
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The Burning Times Are Coming – Are You Ready?

I’m intending this to be a weekly post covering generalized aspects of Emergency Preparedness, aka “Prepping.” I’ve been a “prepper” off and on for several years now, but I didn’t get truly serious about it until after a tour in Iraq. I came back from seeing what Chaos can do and decided that should Chaos descend upon The Land of the Free that I would be able to take care of myself and those around me. No, I don’t have a bunker in the backyard, but I do have a friend with a farm in the boonies an hour away that I will go to should SHTF. To put it another way, I’m like most preppers: we in no way resemble what’s depicted on the National Geographic show Doomsday Preppers.  We’re mostly like everyone else, just everyday people trying to get by; the difference is that we look at the political, economic, and natural world around us and recognize that in an instant our relatively idyllic lives can change. Usually, the media will attach the term “survivalist” to the prepper lifestyle, because it invokes images of Rambo or nutjobs like Eric Frein.  This is precisely why the vast majority of preppers reject the “survivalist” label.   While popular culture paints preppers as being monolithically politically conservative, rural, Christian, and white, nothing could be further from the truth.

For instance, most preppers are hugely anti-GMO; however, this stance based is not so much on “ZOMG FrankenFood!” as it is the knowledge that growing a multi-generational garden from GMO seeds borders on the impossible.  I can also point to examples that highlight the diversity within the crowd of preppers that I interact with: a hippie girl that makes a living selling tie-dye and as the landscaper at a nudist colony, a grandmother raising her mixed race grandchildren, and a lesbian couple.  Does this mean that there are no tinfoil hat-wearing types out there prepping?  Of course not, there are plenty of them…but they are a highly vocal tiny minority and face it, you’re going to run into them anywhere you go.  This brings me to another point: often people are in some form or another already a prepper without even realizing it.  Like the Moron Horde.  Don’t believe me?  Look at what gets posted in here on the weekends: a gun thread, a food thread, a gardening thread.  All of these are cornerstones of prepping.

 

NOT A PREPPER

A PREPPER

 

So, you’ve thought about it and this prepping thing sounds like it might make some sense, but you’re not sure where to start.  That’s where this post comes in.

First, you have to determine what it is you are prepping for.  What is your “worst case scenario” (within logical reason)? Is it a natural disaster like a hurricane or earthquake? Is it financial collapse and hyperinflation? Maybe it’s a pandemic outbreak of some dread disease. Maybe it’s on a smaller scale, but no less catastrophic to you and your family, such as an unexpected job loss.  I know several preppers whose time in the unemployment line was made much easier because they had food stashed away and were able to eliminate that concern when their cash flow was interrupted.

In each case, how you prioritize your preps will be different. Some of this answer should be driven by your location. If you live in Phoenix, Arizona, how you prep is going to differ from your cousin in Ypsilanti, Michigan or your aunt in Coral Gables, Florida will prep. Each environment poses its own challenges and will dictate how you conduct business and acquire materials and skills. That guy in Phoenix is going to have to consider water much differently from the one in Ypsilanti. The guy in Ypsilanti will have a higher priority on heat sources than the lady in Coral Gables. Another factor in your prepping will be how you answer the question, “Where will I go when SHTF?” Again, this is should be driven by where you live as well as whether or not you actually have somewhere to go. Some preppers have made their plans to “Bug In,” i.e. stay at home, while the majority have some sort of plan to “Bug Out” to a more secure location (we’ll discuss these options in future posts). The upside to prepping is that it usually covers multiple scenarios to some degree.

So where do you start?

As always, start with the basics!

FEMA recommends a baseline kit that covers you for 72 hours (you can also point to this when you need to shut up liberals when they question your prepping). A 72-hour kit is very easy for most people to assemble and usually consists of gathering items that you already have around the house into a single place so that it’s readily accessible. Additionally, there are many vendors that sell pre-made 72-hour kits but these sometimes will contain low quality items. When considering these, caveat emptor definitely applies. Most preppers prefer to assemble their own kits, as this allows them to customize for their own needs as well as avoid purchasing items that are either of inferior quality or are simply unneeded. I would recommend that you use the FEMA guidelines as just that: guidelines. Build your kit to address your specific needs, but plan on expanding to more than just 72 hours. Anyone that has paid attention to history knows that a mere 72 hours of supplies is insufficient. Just ask Katrina survivors.

No matter what you’re readying yourself for there are some primary considerations that every fledgling prepper must take into account: water, food, and shelter. Since water is the most essential of these, that’s what we’ll look into today. The conventional wisdom is that a person can survive 3 minutes without oxygen, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food (some also include “3 hours without shelter”). Assuming O2 will always be readily available, water is of primary concern. There may be a time when that kitchen faucet doesn’t have clean, potable water flowing from it and the stores have all been raided of bottled water. What’s your nearest water source? Is it a creek or pond in your neighborhood? Maybe you’re a One Percenter and have a pool or a hot tub and can draw water from there. Perhaps you have several 55 gallon drums of water tucked away in your garage. If you’re really set, you’ve got your own well equipped with a hand pump. Once you’ve identified where your water is going to come from you have to figure out how to make sure it’s safe to drink.

There are numerous methods of purifying water, everything from tablets to liquid chemical additives to filters to boiling. Ideally, you’ll be able to use a combination of methods. What I prefer to do is filter, then boil, my water when the source is  questionable. I have a few different filters for water, used depending on whether I’m at home or traveling or hiking/camping. For home use, I have one of the “Berkey” family of gravity filters (in my case, a Berkey Light). These tend to be pricey, but then again, most quality prepping items of this nature are. As a note, there have been some issues with some “candle” (so called because of their shape) filters leaking. However, there is a simple solution for this problem in which some silicone applied to the base of the filter resolves the leakage. To test your filters, add a few drops of food coloring to the water. If the “clean” water retains any of the coloration you’ll know you have a problem. These filters are typically rated to purify 3000 gallons each, so you’ll want to have some spares if you’re anticipating a long term situation. If you’re a real Do-It-Yourselfer, you can build your own gravity filter system.

        A “Berkey Light” with food coloring in the source water to test the filters.

If you’re on the road or trail, you’re going to want something smaller to filter your water. Personally, I carry a few different methods (along with some purification tablets). One of these is a water bottle with an inline filter. There are several different manufacturers for these; in my case I got three of them included when I purchased my Berkey Light. One is at my desk at work (our water supply is foul-tasting), one is in the “Get Home Bag” that stays in my truck, and one is on the shelf as a spare. Another item that I have handy in my gear is a Sawyer Mini Filter System.  Alternatively, a hugely popular option is the Lifestraw Personal Filter.

When considering chemical purification the generally accepted best method is the use of chlorine bleach. This is fine as long as you have relatively fresh bleach with no additives such as scent enhancers. The accepted ratio for mixing bleach with questionable water is tiny, so a gallon of bleach would last for a long time.

 

                Table shamelessly stolen from ModernSurvivalBlog.com

(check ‘em out)

 

The problem with liquid bleach is that it will degrade over time. If you’re looking for something that you can put away in storage that will last indefinitely, you’re going to need to head for the pool supply store. Powdered calcium hypochlorite, aka “pool shock,” gives you the ability to manufacture your own bleach solution. This solution can then be added to your questionable water for purification. According to the EPA:

“Add and dissolve one heaping teaspoon of high-test granular calcium hypochlorite (approximately ¼ ounce) for each two gallons of water, or 5 milliliters (approximately 7 grams) per 7.5 liters of water.

The mixture will produce a stock chlorine solution of approximately 500 milligrams per liter, since the calcium hypochlorite has available chlorine equal to 70 percent of its weight.

To disinfect water, add the chlorine solution in the ratio of one part of chlorine solution to each 100 parts of water to be treated. This is roughly equal to adding 1 pint (16 ounces) of stock chlorine to each 12.5 gallons of water or (approximately ½ liter to 50 liters of water) to be disinfected.

To remove any objectionable chlorine odor, aerate the disinfected water by pouring it back and forth from one clean container to another.”

I hope this has been a good introduction into the world of the prepper.  Remember, it’s not about militias and Wolverines, it’s about you being able to take care of yourself and your family should all hell (whatever that is for you) break loose.

Books of the Week

Non-Fiction: The Disaster Preparedness Handbook: A Guide For Families (Arthur T. Bradley, PhD)

Fiction: Lights Out (David Crawford)

Yes, I’m A Capitalist

Migrated Post

And to that end, I’m going to try out being an Amazon Affiliate. Buy your stuff at Amazon through The From Dirt Level Store, it helps with my prepping, too!
https://astore.amazon.com/frodirlev-20
I’ll be adding more items over the next several days as well as adding a “widget” to the sidebar (Edit: OK, thanks to the Blogger platform’s inadequacies, there’s just a link at the top right). Rest assured, I’m doing my best not to link crap, just things that I already have and know is quality or that I know through others fits that description.

Got Maps?

Migrated Post

In the age of GPS, there are two things that I have learned:

1. You can’t always trust GPS

-and-

2. Most people not only cannot read a map, they don’t even own any maps.

 

 

 

GPS is a great enabler, and I’m all for using whatever enablers you can get your hands on.  However, if your plan is to rely on it exclusively for your Bug Out, Mutual Assistance Group, or whatever other SHTF plan you have in place, you are setting yourself up for failure.  GPS reliability is limited by the laws of physics and subject to the whims of man; even a moderate solar flare can disrupt the Position, Navigation, and Timing signals from the satellites.  Add to this that the signals can also be spoofed (giving you bad data) or jammed (giving you no data) by a bad actor.  Further, you are relying on something that requires battery power…and you may not always have that available.

Get maps.  All kinds of maps.  And make sure you have the most up-to-date maps, in at least one format, that you can get.

I keep a few types of maps on hand in the GHB and at the BOL:

– Standard road maps of my state and of the immediately surrounding states.  You can easily pick these up at gas stations or truck stops.  Some states will provide them for free at visitor centers; check online as well with your state’s tourism department or Department of Transportation for free or discounted maps.  Another online resource is OmniMap, which has a vast selection of maps and atlases.

 

Commercially Produced Road Map
Free Map Provided by State Tourism/DOT

– Topographic maps of the area in which I live, the areas that I may have to travel through to reach my BOL, and the area around the BOL itself.  These can very exceptionally useful and I highly recommend that you obtain topographic maps that are relevant to your situation and know how to read and employ them in conjunction with a good compass.  The downside is that topo maps tend to get updated at odd intervals, so you may not be able to find ones of your area less than a few years old.  Get the latest you can get anyway!  For topo maps, I prefer to get mine from Trimble’s website myTopo.  While you can get US Geological Survey maps from other sources, including downloadable and printable versions directly from the USGS, myTopo allows you to order customized versions at a reasonable price.  This customizing includes the ability for you to select exactly the area you want; there is an old joke in the military that all battles will occur at the corners of four adjoining maps…with myTopo, you can have a single map incorporating areas of adjoining maps made.  Other options available include printing on waterproof paper, Military Grid Reference System (MGRS) lines, and hybrid topo/aerial imagery, to name a few.  If your planned area is in a popular hiking or fishing area such as national/state parks or the Appalachian Trail, you’ll usually be able to find more updated topo maps; good sources for these are sporting goods stores or websites local to that area or the government entity that oversees the park.

Topographic Map

– US/North America and world maps and a US/North American Atlas.  The idea behind having these is to be able to keep track of where other things in the world are happening.  This is especially useful if you are sitting in BOL, listening to shortwave radio.  If there is something going down in Pig’s Yell, Arkansas you can find that location in your atlas, mark it on your (hopefully laminated) wall map of the United States, and use that information according to your needs.

 


The other item you need to have and know how to use is a quality compass.  Do you need a tritium USGI lensatic compass?  No…but they’re nice to have.  However, the real deal can be pricey, usually in the $70+ range.  If you can afford one, get one. Or two.  Having said that, unless you are doing precision land navigation or calling in artillery fire, my opinion is that you really don’t need one these.  You can do just fine with a simple Suunto or a Silva compass; I own both of these brands and they are lightweight, durable (one of my Silva compasses is now about 30 years old, obtained back in my days as a Boy Scout, and it’s still going strong), and easy to use.  And really, don’t waste your money on the cheap knockoffs, you’ll just get burned in the long run.

USGI Lensatic Compass

 

Silva Brand Compass

 

Suunto Brand Compass

Other very useful items that I recommend:

– A map case, preferably one that allows you to make markings with a grease pencil (aka a “china marker”) or dry erase maker.  This not only protects your map, it also allows you to easily remove your markings and preventing any bad guys from having a handy dandy guide to where you’re going and what you’re doing.

– Grease pencils and/or dry erase markers.  Each have their pros and cons: grease pencils won’t dry up, but they aren’t conducive to making fine notations.  The reverse is true for dry erase markers.

Mechanical Grease Pencils
Map Case

Now that you’ve got your map(s) and compass, learn how to use them, then go out and put that knowledge to the test.  There is a plethora of instructional videos and books online, and stores like REI conduct classes from time to time, make use of these resources so that when the time comes you’re not lost in the woods!

 

Frank and Fern Bid Farewell – Rumblings From the Horizon

Migrated Post

Sadly, one the better preparedness blogs has closed down shop.  Thoughts from Frank and Fern announced that they were ending their operation to concentrate on getting projects on their homestead completed in anticipation of the world crumbling further.  They’ll be sadly missed by those of us that prep and/or homestead and I wish them the best of luck and God’s grace.

 

This departure is not unique; I’ve noticed an undercurrent gaining strength not just in the prepper community (I’ve been feeling it myself) but in the “general population” as well that bad things are coming sooner rather than later. While there are many that seem to be waking up to the possibilities of what may come and are beginning to prepare, there are many more that won’t, either because of normalcy bias or simply because they’re afraid of being labelled.  It’s not enough for just us to be ready…the more of our family, our friends, and our communities that are ready, the more ready we ourselves will be.  So reach out, talk to those you care about, especially those that are sitting on the fence, and encourage them to prepare now, while there still is time.

 

For those of you in the Southeastern area of the country, I encourage you to start building bonds with those around you over at the Southeastern Preppers’ Network.