What I Did This Week To Prep

and Storm After Action Review

Anytime you use your preps–after you neatly put them away for the next time–it’s important to review how things went. What went well? What needs to be changed or improved? And what did you learn? We were pleased with how our preps worked during the storm, and because of them the power outage was only a minor inconvenience.

However, there were a couple of things I needed to follow-up on. I checked the generator to see why it had stopped running. As stated, I assumed it had stopped because it ran out of gasoline. I looked in the tank, it still had plenty of fuel left, and it started just fine. I let it run for about 20 minutes and there were no issues. I don’t know why it had stopped. My only concern was the age of the gasoline in it. When we bought it a year ago the tank was full and we still had that same fuel. The previous owner had added Sta-Bil, but I don’t know when. I decided to drain the tank and fill it with fresh gasoline. I siphoned as much as I could into the Jeep, then let the generator run until it was empty (it ran for over an hour before it stopped – an inadvertent but useful test). Then I added new gasoline and Sta-Bil, started it up to double-check, and put it away.

While working with the generator, Sarah, Ryan and I all practiced starting it.  It’s important that all adults (and as many of the kids as possible) in the home know how to run the critical prepper equipment. We had been concerned that Sarah wouldn’t have the ‘bulk’ to pull-start the generator, but she was able to do it without much trouble.

Next, when the battery bank was in use it had shut off earlier than I expected; I thought it was because of some kind of a surge. But my understanding may have been flawed. Fellow prepping blogger Homestead Fritz send me a link to The 12volt Side of Life; a 12-volt battery information site. I’m going to do some additional research on that topic. I’ve said before, I have a decent amount of knowledge about a variety of topics – but electricity is not one of them (though I’m learning).

Finally, I went by the hardware store and bought an 8-foot, 14-gauge extension cord that will be dedicated to use with the furnace. During the power outage I realized I was one cord short, so we had to shuffle cords around. The battery bank and the furnace are only about six feet apart so it seemed like a waste to use a 25-foot cord, but the smaller ones I own were only 2-prong household types and I needed a heavier duty 3-prong one.

Also this week, I found out my favorite collapse medicine experts, Doctor Bones and Nurse Amy of the Doom & Bloom Hour, had written a book. The Doom and Bloom Survival Medicine Handbook was published last week. I immediately ordered one and just received it in the mail. I’m very excited to have what I believe will be a fantastic medical reference. I’ll post a review on it soon.

I’ve started posting more to the TraceMyPreps Facebook page. I’d encourage you to “like” it and join our budding community; use that forum to comment, ask questions, and give advice. To make it easier I’ve added a ‘TraceMyPreps on Facebook’ like button on the top of the right side of my blog page. Also, right below that is a ‘Follow Blog Via Email’ box, if you sign up there each post I write will be automatically sent to you as soon as I publish it – this is an easy way to keep up on the posts as they come out.

What did you do?

What I Did This Week To Prep

Taking my own advice, I bought some new heavy hiking boots. I needed to replace my old Danner boots that I have owned for over 14 years – since I was in the military. I knew they had finally given up the ghost when the Danner Refurbishing Department said they couldn’t rebuild my boots again (they had been rebuilt once and resoled three times – I loved those boots). So I went to a local shop and got them repaired and resoled as best as they could, and passed them down to Ryan. When Danner said they couldn’t rebuild my boots, they did send me a 25% off coupon for a new pair. For a late Christmas gift we ordered me a new pair of Danner Rain Forest Plain Toe Work Boots. They arrived in the mail this week. I was thrilled to have them, but not thrilled to have to break in a new pair of boots. It’s much easier to talk (or blog) the talk, then walk the walk (pun intended). Fortunately today’s genre of hiking boots is far better and easier to break in then they were a generation ago. But they sure felt stiff when Kate (our Border Collie) and I went out for the first three-mile walk. Now, I no longer have an excuse when it’s time to take her for a walk.

We visited Costco this week. (For the record, this month’s coupons sucked; nothing in the way of good prepper stuff.) We purchased a cross-cut paper shredder to be able to ‘create’ more browns for our compost pile (reference last week’s What I Did This Week To Prep). We also got a three-pack set of basic utilities knives for $10 to put in our BOBs*, they’re not as cool as the Gerber EAB, but at 1/3 of the cost they’ll work just fine and they–the utility knifes and the Gerber EAB–all use the same blades so we’ll only have to stock one type. Also, interesting to note, peanut butter (that went up in price in November, see What I Did This Week To Prep 10/21/11) is still $2 higher than it’s price last fall. We’re glad we had our SWYE all stocked up with plenty of PB and don’t need to buy it now at the higher price.

I also ordered the book, The Eagle Has Crashed by Ted Lacksonen. A novel about an economic meltdown and how society collapses in the aftermath. I heard him interviewed on The Survival Podcast (Episode 814) and was impressed with his insights and attitudes. I look forward to reading his book and plan to write a review of it.

What did you do?

(Monday: Adding New Page: My Reading List)

*For my list of abbreviations and other information, open the above ‘Check Here…’ page tab.

What I Did This Week To Prep

We’re expanding our garden this week, not a whole bunch–our yard isn’t that big here in suburbia–but some. We’re making more room for the strawberries and to maximize the areas that get good sunlight. The cool thing about it is that this time we’re using compost that we made.

We’ve been composting for about a year now with very slow, unpredictable results – learning as we go. Our compost pile has had lots of ‘greens’ (high in nitrogen) coming from kitchen vegetable and fruit peelings, coffee grounds, and plant cuttings. It hasn’t had enough ‘browns’ (high in carbon) that can come from fallen leaves, hay and straw, or paper and cardboard. You need significantly more browns than greens to achieve the right ratio in your compost pile, and we’ve been short on browns. You wouldn’t think that here in Washington we’d have a shortage of fallen leaves, but the problem is (here in suburbia) all the trees were cleared when they developed our subdivision. We also can’t just pick up someone else’s bagged leaves because they’re all put in large yard waste bins for collection. So I sent Ryan out to an area with lots of leaves on the ground and he collected three big bags. We added one bag of leaves (unfortunately I didn’t shred them first – next time) to some coffee grounds from Starbucks and continued adding our normal kitchen wastes. A a week later our pile was actually ‘hot’, it had never been hot before! There are still good leaves to be had so we’re going to collect some more to have on hand (“One man’s trash…”). We’re also going to buy a cross cut paper shredder to produce more usable browns. (I found good composting tips at compost-info-guide.com)

We also took advantage of Sarah having a few extra days off over the holidays to make a day trip over to the Sequim area and look at potential homestead properties. We had plenty of time so we ambitiously visited all eleven listings we have been loosely following online. It was a long, but fun day. We brought Kate, our four month old Border Collie, and she had the time of her life tramping through the wooded areas as we walked around the different properties. We found one we liked, sure it has it’s issues – there’s a reason why it’s listed so cheap and is still on the market. But it was kind of cool. It feels remote, on a hill in a very forested area, while still being close to services in the nearby small town. When we got home Sarah looked up the plat information and found everything she could about it online, including that it is adjacent to state forest land. We asked our realtor to follow up on it for us and tentatively scheduled a date with him to go back and look at it closer. Is it “The One”? Probably not, but it has potential. We figure the more we look at, and the more we understand the process, the better prepared we’ll be to make that final decision.

As I mentioned in my What I Did This YEAR To Prep post, my wife Sarah is my “biggest prepper asset”. You’ve seen her hand in every post I write because she sits down with me, after I’ve finished writing, and helps me edit it before it’s published. She’s a good writer with very strong technical skills (she gets it from her dad, CJ Booth, he recently published his first book, Olive Park). She and I talked, on our Sequim property search road trip, about the blog and we discussed her writing a post as sort of “guest blogger” (possibly even on a monthly basis). The more we discussed it, the more we liked the idea. Next Wednesday, the 50th TraceMyPreps post, Sarah will answer the question every prepper’s wife gets, “So what do you think about all this?”

What did you do?

(Monday: Product Review: Gerber EAB Lite Utility Knife)

What I Did This YEAR To Prep

2011 In Review

(This will be my final post of 2011. I’m taking the last week of the year off to enjoy some quiet time, peace, and, of course, family – I encourage you to do the same. My first post of next year will be: Goals For 2012.)

2011 was our first full-fledged prepper year. I got back on the prepper bandwagon in the fall of 2010. By January 2011, we had pretty much adopted it as a lifestyle.

When I say we, I mean my wife Sarah and I. I consider our partnership–and our ability to discuss and share goals–our biggest prepper accomplishment. I feel fortunate to have such strong support from my wife. I’m so glad she understands my need to keep our family safe and prepared; [in her words] “That’s how he shows his love for me.” We work together to decide what purchases are made and what activities are undertaken. She’s my biggest prepper asset, and I love her very much.

The other, similar, accomplishment was getting my kids involved. They’ve helped, showing varying degrees of willingness, with many of our smaller activities and all of our major ones. They accept the fact that their dad is “that guy” and don’t roll their eyes nearly as much as they used to. They will even acknowledge that some of the things have been “fun” and “kind of cool.”

Since this was our first real year, there were a lot of big goals and priorities. Anytime you start a new project, especially on that is such a lifestyle change, there’s a lot to acquire and learn. We got more “stuff” this year than I’m sure we will in subsequent ones. I assume future years will involve more fine tuning, including smaller purchases and developing the items we have and projects already in place.

A big advantage we had was that we were both gainfully employed, and that we were willing to cut back on our spending and live a more austere lifestyle. Almost all the extra money we spent this year was with the goal of getting out of debt and building our preps. Also, on the financial side of things, I sold my 2003 Road King Harley Davidson motorcycle; Harleys hold their value well and we were able to get a good price for it. From the sale, half the money went to preps and the other half went to pay off debt.

Goals accomplished in 2011:

  • Grow a ‘learning’ garden. We grew an adequate garden. We learned a lot and will expand it next year. We also spent time improving the soil.
  • Store food, both LTS* and SWYE. We purchased, and have stored a good amount of LTS (blog post), this involved several trips to the Mormon cannery. We also created, and developed a good rotation of SWYE foods (blog post).
  • Buy a deep freezer. And develop a tracking system so stuff doesn’t get lost in there (blog post).
  • Build a compost pile. I don’t feel it’s as efficient as it could be yet, but it’s there and being used.
  • Buy a dog. Kate, our now four-month old, Border Collie. (blog post)
  • Develop a backup power system: generator and batteries. Bought, and learned to use, a Generac generator, AMC batteries, and an inverter/charge controller. Then successfully (with some help) hooked it all up to the battery bank. (blog post)
  • Create BOBs. We put together a total of three BOBs, one for each vehicle. I think they came together well, we put them in good packs in a modular setup. They’re built so one person could eat for 10 days. They are probably too heavy.
  • Develop BOB documentation package. We put a completed one in each BOB, one in the house, and one was given to the kid’s mom. Didn’t cost anything, but took a lot of time.
  • Buy non-electric heating source. Mr. Buddy Heater. A propane heater that can be used indoors. We also purchased several 5-gallon propane tanks.
  • Buy non-electric cooking source. Volcano II stove. A collapsible, portable stove that can cook with propane, charcoal, or wood.

In addition we also:

  • Bought a set of MURS radios. To be used as a backup form of communication (short-range). We used them extensively on our two car road trip to Lake Tahoe.
  • Bought, and learned to use, a straight razor. (blog post)
  • Bought a Berkey water filter.
  • Bought a coffee percolator, a french press, and a hand grinder (and stored plenty of coffee).
  • Bought, and installed, fire extinguishers (blog post) and a CO2 detector.
  • Added fish antibiotics to our collapse medicine preps. (blog post)
  • Learned the basics of canning (canned jelly and salsa).
  • Developed a ‘blackout kit”: flashlights and lighters stored in a central area, also lanterns (with fuel) and candles.
  • Bought extra gas cans and stored gasoline. (blog post)
  • Bought, and regularly use, a cast iron pan, pot, and dutch oven.
  • Added crutches to our collapse medicine preps (blog post)
  • Bought Emberlit Stoves for BOBs (blog post)
  • Bought an Airsoft pistol (blog post)
  • Built a rain barrel water collection system (blog post)
  • Began writing this blog (TraceMyPreps.com)

What did you do this YEAR? (Please leave a note in the comments!)

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

*For my list of abbreviations and other information, open the above ‘Check Here…’ page tab.

What I Did This Week To Prep

Sarah and I are having a quiet Christmas. The kids are celebrating with their mom (we alternate holidays) and Sarah’s parents are travelling, so it’s just the two of us. Since it’s the first Christmas with just the two of us, we decided to start some new family traditions. One was, instead of buying a pre-cut tree (that has to be hauled away afterward – they’re not even good for composting), or an artificial tree (that has to be stored using valuable storage space); we chose a live Christmas tree. Our plan, after the holidays, is to transplant it into a whiskey barrel and set it in a good spot in the yard. Then each year we’ll get another tree and place them together. Until–this is the cool part–we finally get our homestead, then we’ll move all the trees there and plant them permanently so we’ll have our own family Christmas tree forest. We’ll still continue to add a new one each year, so we’ll have from the oldest (this year’s) to the newest, each representing a Christmas together. We got a Blue Spruce. It was my idea, I grew up in Colorado and the Blue Spruce is Colorado’s state tree, and Sarah happily supported my decision. The tree is about five foot tall, we decorated it simplistically — and it looks beautiful.

I had a couple of minor opportunities to use our preps this last week. No big deal, but it did make me realized how nice and safe it feels to be prepared. The first one, we were up in Anacortes and had just finished watching Sarah’s mom, Libby, in a local production of Over the River and Through The Woods (she was great!). When we finally got out to the parking lot, most of the cars were gone, and an older man timidly approached me and asked if I had jumper cables because they had left the lights on in their van and it wouldn’t start. Without hesitation I grabbed the cables and, with Sarah’s help, quickly got him going again. Why is this a prepper topic? Because when we added a BOB* to Sarah’s car we also added some emergency car items, including the cables. We purchased heavier gauge wires, figuring if we needed them we wanted to be sure they’d work. Interesting to note, we were the only car around that had jumper cables (he had been asking around for a while and was almost ready to call a tow truck).

The second time was when someone (not naming names, but it wasn’t Sarah or I) let the Jeep run out of gas (coincidentally and luckily it was in the garage). We couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t start, until I checked the gas gauge… Normally I don’t let any of our vehicles get below a quarter tank (most of the time I fill up at about half tank), so I was surprised it had gotten so low. Fortunately we had plenty of gasoline right there available. I grabbed a 5-gallon can full of gasoline and the super siphon (those things are great, if you store gas you need one) and about three minutes later the Jeep fired right up. Again nothing we couldn’t have overcome with a trip to the gas station, but it was nice to be prepared.

What did you do?

(Monday: The Family You Choose)

*For a complete list of abbreviations/acronyms, and other information, open the above ‘Check Here…’ page tab.

What I Did This Week To Prep

Sometimes it’s hard to stay motivated in our prepping, especially this time of year.  November 21 to January 21 are the darkest days of the year; in Washington State on the ‘shortest day’ there are eight hours from sunrise to sunset (time to break out the Vitamin D). The holidays are here, everyone’s schedule is hectic, and money is going toward gifts, food, socializing, etc. I know, I feel it too. On TSP Jack did a show this week entitled, Avoiding Prepper Burn Out (episode 797). It was a timely and appreciated. So during this month, if you’re feeling it too, know what you’re not alone. Also realize that, statistically speaking, the world probably isn’t going to end this month (that’s not scheduled until December 2012). If you need to ease back on your prepping in December (as I do) do it, and do it guilt-free. Use this holiday season to really enjoy your family, they’re the reason we’re prepping after all.

This week we (and by ‘we’ I mean Ryan) expanded our compost bin system from two to three bins. When we had two bins, we could only have one pile going at a time because the other had to be left open for rotation. Now with three bins we will be able to have an ‘older’ and ‘newer’ pile going and use the third open one for rotation. This is the way I’ve seen others do it and think will work best for us.

We went Costco shopping early this month to get ready for Christmas. I saw a new item that I had to get: a 4-pack of industrial grade duct tape! As a good prepper I couldn’t pass this up; I’ll probably get another one next month. We all know how duct tape is the physical ‘glue’ that holds together the concept of improvise, adapt, and overcome. I also bought some more household surface disinfectant wipes. Again, in any kind of disaster keeping clean is essential and water could be in short supply. Both these items store long-term and can be regularly rotated.

What did you do?

What I Did This Week To Prep

We planted our winter compost crop seed mix this week. The seeds arrived last week (from Bountiful Gardens), but because the ground was frozen we had to wait for warmer weather. There is a mixture of vetch, wheat, and rye, and then the fava beans are planted separately. We’ve never done this before and are not exactly sure what to expect. Will it look like just a bunch of weeds growing? And it seems strange to plan to grow stuff, just to cut it down and leave it in the dirt. I understand the concept and the experts say it’s a good idea, so the only way to fully understand it is to do it. We also sprinkled Dutch White Clover seeds on the backyard areas with less grass which, hopefully, will expand throughout the yard.

Shooting real firearms in suburbia isn’t very convenient, plus winter is frequently cold and wet when you go to the range, and ammunition quickly gets expensive. So I’m going to try using airsoft guns as an alternative way to practice and teach shooting skills. I got the idea from listening to Jack Spirko’s TSP, Becoming a Better Shooter and Trainer with Airsoft Guns (Episode 671). Last week Ryan and I went and bought a Crossman Air Mag C11 CO2 pistol, a box of CO2 cartridges, and a 2000 pellets (total cost less than $100). We came home and built a frame (8 1/2 by 11 inches), with a plywood back, lined the inside with a towel (to absorb the impact and prevent ricochet), and tacked up a normal piece of paper with a target drawn on it. We hung it on the wall and paced off ten feet. Sarah, Ryan, Alison, Emily and I took turns shooting in our custom indoor-range. I think it will be a good cost and time-saving, teaching and practice tool. Of course it’s not the real thing, but it’s the right weight and size and it allows you to practice: stance, grip/hand placement, sight alignment and sight picture, and trigger control. About the only thing missing is the loud “bang” and recoil. I’m excited about this new training venue. Once we get our skills up to a good level, we can–since it’s not a real gun and can be shot in the house–practice some “what if a stranger breaks into the house” scenarios. I think this will be a good winter activity that will allow any and all of us, who want to shoot, to have almost unlimited practice.

December 1st was yesterday. 2011 is almost over. Now is the time to reflect on our 2011 goals and either hurry up and finish, or revise as necessary. My post the last Friday of this month/year will be: What I Did This Year To Prep. Then, in early January, I’ll write: Goals For 2012. I’d encourage you to reflect back on this year and start thinking about your goals for next year.

Lastly, I wanted to link to some follow-up information regarding antibiotics in our long-term preps. From The Doom and Bloom Hour blog with Dr. Bones, a medical doctor, and his wife Nurse Amy, a Nurse Practitioner: Antibiotics And Their Use In Collapse Medicine, Part 1 and Antibiotics And Their Use In Collapse Medicine, Part 2. I applaud this couple for their diligence and determination to share life-saving material about collapse medicine. It is difficult to get good information on this topic and they are my top resource.

What did you do?