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)

Walk A Mile In Your Shoes, Part 2*

Boot Selection and Common Hiking Injuries

Boot Selection

Before you walk too far–either by choice or circumstance–I’d strongly encourage you to get a good pair of hiking boots. What I believe you need (as an individual striving to be prepared) is a heavy boot made of leather, at least six inches tall, with a quality sole, and preferably with a water-proof lining. These boots will be a relatively expensive initial investment, ranging from $200 – $300. But, if well cared for, they will last for years and you (and your feet) will never regret that purchase.

A trail shoe, or light weight boot may feel very comfortable, but it won’t hold up to serious walking; especially off-trail and/or for multiple days. A heavy boot will be rigid enough to support your feet (arch and toes), will provide shock absorption for your joints (all the way up to your lower back), will provide good ankle support, and it will last.

If your feet get wet and/or cold you will be miserable. To keep your feet dry, I recommend you buy a boot with a waterproof (such as Gore-Tex) lining. To keep your feet warm, insulated boots are available. Boots insulated with 200 grams of Thinsulate will keep them warm in temperate climates, 400 – 600 grams will work well in cold climates, 1000 grams will ensure warm feet in extreme conditions.

The biggest disadvantage of a heavy boot, other than the initial cost (and the weight), is that they are stiff and require a break-in period. We’ve discussed before that you can’t  buy stuff to have ‘just in case’; this is especially true with a heavy hiking boot. You need to walk in them, start with shorter walks and build up. Figure out how to adjust and lace them up comfortably, and what kind of sock(s) to wear. As endurance improves, start going on longer walks, on dirt trails, carrying a pack.

Common Hiking Injuries

Blisters are formed when skin is damaged by friction (this is accelerated by wetness). Fluid collects between the upper layers of skin, attempting to cushion the tissue underneath and protecting it from further damage. Wet feet, poorly fitted boots, boots not properly broken in, and unconditioned feet all can result in blisters.

Shin splints–pain when you lift your toes to take a step–are frequently caused by a muscle imbalance, specifically tightness of the calf muscles and weak shin (tibialis anterior) muscles. Too quickly increasing intensity and duration of walking causes these lower leg muscles to become fatigued and makes it difficult for them to absorb the shock of the impact from each step. This impact is worse when walking uphill, downhill or on hard surfaces; wearing poor or worn-our shoes also contributes.

In addition to muscle soreness in your feet and legs, your lower back muscles can become fatigued and sore as they are forced to stabilize, along with the abdominal muscles, the upper body each step you take.

Once you throw on a pack your shoulders and neck may become sore from the additional weight. Loading a pack efficiently, with proper weight distribution, takes practice and experience. Remember to use the waist strap, and consider using the chest strap, to redistribute the weight.

We take our ability to walk for granted. We assume that if we need to we can walk as far as is required. But–in the modern, inactive, motorized world we live in–distance walking is becoming a lost skill. But it’s an easy one to regain: invest in a good pair of boots, break them in properly, and start walking.

(Friday: What I Did This Week To Prep)

*review Walk A Mile In Your Shoes, Part 1

Goals For 2012

Writing down goals–especially that others will see–is kind of scary. It takes them from being loose ideas and possible projects to specific committed tasks. Doing so will hold you accountable; peer oversight/review is a powerful motivator.

So here is my list(s). I recommend you write your own; then share it with someone. Feel free to post your goal list here in the comments, or on Trace My Preps facebook page, or even email them to me personally (email can be found in the “About Trace” tab at the top of the page). At the end of 2012 we can look back, quantify our results, and see what we did with some focus and hard work.

Major Goals

  • become debt-free
  • raise rabbits for meat
  • keep honey bees
  • add some solar panels to recharge battery bank
  • get storage unit near potential BOL*
  • buy older, diesel pickup truck (with cash)
  • continue blog through September (1 year) – then reevaluate
  • get bicycle, start cycling

Minor Goals

  • learn to make soap
  • learn to make yogurt
  • learn to brew beer
  • buy and learn to use pressure cooker
  • grow cabbage, make sauerkraut
  • store extra food for others/neighbors
  • plant ground nuts (Apios americana)
  • learn to fish
  • learn to identify local wild edible plants

To Do Goals (ongoing)

  • update evacuation/emergency documentation notebook
  • inspect and rotate BOB and other potential perishables
  • get 1/2 cord of firewood

(Wednesday: Walk A Mile In Your Shoes, Part 2)

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

Trace My Preps fan page

Happy New Year!

Just a short post to introduce our new facebook fan page: Trace My Preps.

I say “our” because if it were only me I could just continue using my personal facebook page. A fan page is a more comfortable place to interact, especially with someone you only know via the internet. It feels less intrusive posting and commenting there than on someone’s personal page. I encourage you to “like” it; then make comments, share your thoughts, and post relevant material.

I’d also like to show my appreciation for the man I consider to be my prepping mentor and my second biggest motivator, Jack Spirko, and his The Survival Podcast, by starting off 2012 with my new favorite quote from him:

“How you think is more important than what you know. What you know is more important that what you have. What you have is more important than what you don’t have.” -Jack Spirko

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.

Walk A Mile In Your Shoes, Part 1

The Importance of Conditioning Yourself To Walk

Walking. Our ancestors have been doing it since, well, a long time ago. We tend to underestimate the amount of energy and muscle exertion that goes into walking; especially when carrying a pack. We take walking for granted, heck we do it every day what’s the big deal? But do you walk any distance on a regular basis? When was the last time you took a good long walk? How did your body feel after that walk? How did your body feel the next day? Do you believe you’re in good walking condition?

To train yourself to walk any significant distance, you must condition yourself – by walking. Without proper conditioning you’ll feel it–after a long walk–in your feet, legs, and lower back; if you were carrying a pack, in your neck and shoulders also.

Keep in mind that walking, whether you work it into your plans or not, is your backup mode of transportation. We don’t carry a backup transportation system other than our feet. If a vehicle can’t get you there, for whatever reason – then you’re walking.

I work 45 miles from home. If disaster strikes when I’m there, my ultimate plan is to get to my family. Assuming there is no other transportation available, I’ll grab my BOB*, put on my good boots, insure I have plenty of water and WALK home. I’ll plan to stop and spend the night along the way. Can I do it? I believe I can…I know I could 15 years ago.

Am I in the same condition for walking as I was, 15 years ago, when I was going through Army Special Forces training? No, I’m not. So recently I’ve started a walking regime; it coincided well with getting a new dog who needs and loves to walk daily (dogs are great motivators). Kate, our four-month old Border Collie, and I have begun walking regularly about two miles. Soon I’m going to incorporate a pack, weighing about 30 pounds, and increase our walks to three miles and more.

In Part 2, I’ll cover choosing good footwear, the muscles involved in walking, and how to avoid and treat injuries. But for now, just get out and walk. Walking will help you get in better condition, burn calories, help clear your head, and your dog will love you for it.

(Friday: What I Did This YEAR To Prep)

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

The Family You Choose

What Is Meant When We Say Family

Our immediate family

I talk a lot about the importance of family. How we are doing this (prepping) for our families and how we have these responsibilities because of our families. But what does family mean?

Ryan my biological son & Chanse our 'chosen' son

There’s a quote I like that says, “There are the families that we are born into, and there are the families that we choose – our circle of friends.” Another says, “Friends are the family we choose for ourselves.” When I use the term ‘family’ I don’t just mean the family I was born with and the family I brought into this world, I also include the friends I choose to call family. I believe family is how you define it.

As preppers it is important–and I believe may become much more important–to develop significant family support. Hopefully our families will be there to assist, defend, educate, and care for us. If possible, now while things are ‘normal’, coordinate with your family. Discuss with family members what your evacuation plan is, let them know when and where you will go. Encourage and assist them in developing their own – possibly one that mimics or overlaps with yours. Talk about possible BOLs*. Do you want to find a place together? Is it better to simply be close enough for mutual support? If a family member lives in an urban area and you live in a rural area, encourage them to bug out to your home. And, if that is the plan you decide on, coordinate with them in the interim to store extra food and supplies at your home (or vice versa).

We all have family members who aren’t interested in prepping at all and see the whole concept as somewhat idiosyncratic if not downright crazy. If pushed, their entire prepping plan is to “worry about it later”. If you love them, and know that if they come knocking on your door you will let them in, then plan for them. Plan to welcome them and, to the degree you are able, prepare for them now. In a world where human labor may be required to provide food, water, shelter, security and energy; additional people–who you know and trust–will be an asset.

Booth family reunion

Adams family reunion

Just as the last couple of generations have mostly forgotten about the importance of being prepared and of “laying up stores for the winter”, many have also forgotten about the strength, support, and love that their chosen family can provide.

(Wednesday: Walk A Mile In Your Shoes)

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

(added 12/29/11) Great family quote: “Being a family means you are a part of something very wonderful. It means you will love and be loved for the rest of your life. No matter what.”