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 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?

What I Did This Week To Prep

& What I’m Thankful For

When I thought back to what I’d done this week I realized I hadn’t done much prepping. When I wondered why I realized, oh yea, it was Thanksgiving week (did I mention we had a house full of family?). So I decided this week–keeping with the Thanksgiving theme–to also talk about what I’m thankful for, especially in the prepper aspects of my life.

But first the couple prepper things I did do. As anyone with a deep freezer knows, it’s hard to keep track of what is in there – especially at the bottom. I didn’t come up with this idea, but I’m trying it and passing it along: how to keep a simple food storage tracking system. As shown on the right, using graph paper, make a list of all the food items you store. Then make a slash (/) for each item you currently have. When you remove an item, turn the far left / into an X; the remaining slashes show your current count. When you add more, add more slashes. When you take things out change the appropriate amount of slashes into Xs. For example, bacon: X X / / / / /, would show that you currently have five packages of bacon. When you take two out, it would now show: X X X X / / /. Hopefully that makes sense. We stapled the list to the wall, and hung a pen, next to the freezer so everyone can add and deduct as necessary – we’ll see how it works.

At Costco we bought less normal stuff and more stuff geared toward Thanksgiving and the holidays. The only good sale item which we got for our preps was D cell batteries. Batteries are, by definition, a finite/self-reliant source of power. But short-term they’re very nice and convenient to have; they are also one of the first things that sell out when the masses rush to the stores for a pending disaster. If you store them correctly and rotate them appropriately, then it’s good to buy and store extras (not much different than how we do all our preps).

During this time of year we celebrate the bountiful harvest, and we lay up stores–so we know we will be prepared and we will make it through–for the coming winter. I am thankful for:

  • my wife and children. Without them I wouldn’t be doing most of this; I prep because of my family. I love and care for them very much, and I believe it is ultimately my responsibility to prepare to keep them safe and secure in case things ever go bad.
  • my wife Sarah. I’m thankful I found, fell in love with, and married her. I’m glad we’re partners in this life. I’m thankful for her support, advice and active assistance (and tolerance) as I prep and plan for our family. I’m thankful for her help with this blog; three times each week she reads through and makes sure it’s well written and makes sense.
  • being able to live near my kids (it hasn’t always been this way). Ryan, Brynn, Emily, and Alison (and Chanse). I’m glad I can see them on a regular basis, really get to know them, and be an active part of their lives. I’m glad I can be their dad and do my best to watch over them now, and teach and prepare them for the future.
  • the rights and liberties that are recognized in this country that allow me to be a prepper, to move as I choose, to own firearms, and complain about my government.
  • the members of our military; especially the true warriors, the ones who keep the wolves at bay.
  • true friends who stand by and support you through thick or thin. “Friends help you move, good friends help you move bodies.” I’m thankful for body-moving friends.
  • the many prepper resources available (especially for Jack Spirko’s TSP). I’m thankful for the internet where all compiled knowledge is at our fingertips, all we have to do is search for it.

What did you do and what are you thankful for? (Feel free to put what you’re thankful for in the comments.)

(Monday: Only Seconds To React)

‘Course It’ll Always Be There

When people ask me why I prep, I tell them–assuming they are actually willing to listen to the answer–that we have five basic needs: food, water, shelter, security and energy. These needs are delivered via a series of integrated systems. In an emergency, big or small, when one or more of those systems fail, the delivery of these basic needs may be in jeopardy. We, as individuals, are powerless to control these systems or fix them when they fail. At that time, all you can depend on is the preparations you have previously made.

What kind of systems are we discussing and where might they be vulnerable? We’ll use food as an example:

  • Agricultural system – food production. Affected by: inclement weather, including droughts and floods, also blights, equipment costs, fuel prices, shortened growing seasons
  • Local laborer system – harvesting and packing food for shipment. Affected by: local regulations, regional (civil or economic) instability, employee shortages
  • Transportation system – getting the food from there to here. Affected by: ‘vehicle’ system – trucks, ships, airplanes, trains; fuel prices, inclement weather (snow, ice and wind storms, rough seas), transportation worker strikes
  • Processing and warehouse system – where food is received, repackaged, and temporarily stored (refrigerated as required). Affected by: power failures, worker strikes, inclement weather
  • Grocery store system – where food is stocked, refrigerated, rotated, and sold. Affected by: power failures, local inclement weather (real or anticipated), civil unrest, hoarding

We eat every day and we depend on these systems to function almost flawlessly. Most people give little thought to how these multiple systems interact to get food to us; they just assume the food will always be there when they want it. But if one of those systems fail and that food item doesn’t arrive, you may have to do without.

Now, say, this food item is your favorite type of apple from New Zealand. If it’s not in your grocery store today, you may wish it was but, you can make do with another type. What happens when it wasn’t just that apple shipment, but none of the local shipments arrived that day, or the next? Grocery stores don’t keep a large inventory on hand; their business model is based on inventory arriving on a regular basis for consumer purchase. Very quickly shelves would be emptied. Ever been to a grocery store when a large storm is predicted?

And similar events affect our other needs as well (with shelter being somewhat of an exception):

  • water: lines break, contamination, droughts, flooding, sewage leaks or backups
  • security: inclement weather delays police or medical response, civil unrest ties up resources, power failures cause security systems to be down
  • energy: power failure from storms, broken lines; fuel systems affects almost every level of every other system, i.e. fuel costs go up, food prices go up

Jack Spirko, on TSP, talks about how we buy all of our needs a la carte. But we know what those needs are, and we know we’re going to need them everyday. Most, if not all, can be planned for ahead of time and we can have extras stored and redundancies built-in. Ready your preps so you can be self-reliant when those systems temporarily fail, and build the knowledge and skills to be self-sufficient so that you will not be bound to those systems you can’t control or fix.

(Wednesday: Something To Lean On)

Self-Reliant vs Self-Sufficient

We tend to use these phrases interchangeably, assuming they mean basically the same thing.

Recently on TSP (episode 754) Jack clearly defined and delineated them. I did a quick Google search and–even though these words previously existed–I believe Jack has created a new prepper definition of these words; Jack Spirko originals, if you will.

Self-Reliance is having stored preps; it’s like having money in a ‘rainy day’ account, or an insurance policy; it just sits there, available if we need it. Jack defined self-reliance as: “a finite resource that’s held in reserve in case another system fails”. We preppers understand this. We all have stockpiles of stuff that we don’t want to use unless we have to; we will only use enough to keep things rotated. In a total TEOTWAWKI most of these items, once they were used up, would no longer be available in their modern forms. Examples, organized into bullets of our five basic needs, include:

  • short and long term food storage, factory canned food, food not locally produced
  • bottled water, chemicals used to purify water
  • toilet paper, clothes, plastic bags
  • ammunition, most pharmacological medicines including antibiotics
  • batteries, flashlights, fuel, light bulbs

Self-Sufficiency is sustainable. Jack defined self-sufficiency as: “it’s own independent system that’s not dependent on someone else’s system . . . even when the system of support is currently available.” This describes the portion of your needs you are able to produce, and use on a daily basis, whether the current systems are in place or not:

  • gardens, livestock, canning and other food preservation
  • wells, septic systems, water filters, rain barrels
  • handmade furniture, handmade quilts
  • bows and arrows, musket balls and powder
  • solar, wind, and/or hydro power

A defining characteristic is how they are measured. Self-reliance is measured in time, it is “finite, it’s wholly self-limiting,” e.g. you have enough food stored for six months, enough batteries for three months, enough water for 30 days. Self-sufficiency is measured by percentages, it is essentially indefinite (for the sake of a human life-cycle), e.g. you can produce 20% of your food needs, produce 30% of your energy needs.

This is not to say that one is better than another, just different. Both, in our typical current worlds, are necessary. Right now the systems are in place; use them, enjoy them, just don’t become overly dependent on them being there forever. Self-reliance is typically the main thing people focus on when they initially move into a prepper mentality. Self-reliance is about stockpiling needed stuff. As we’re building our preps, look toward the goal of self-sufficiency and developing and using skills to produce needed items. Remember to view self-sufficiency as a percentage of our needs, not our wants.

Being self-reliant will give us a buffer to get our self-sufficient skills up to full speed, i.e. using our food storage for the winter and spring, until the gardens begin producing.

As preppers, if we understand these concepts we can use them to help us define our plans and set our goals. As we know–and I discussed in Buying Stuff Is Easy–stuff can be destroyed, taken, left-behind, or lost. But knowledge and skill sets exist as long as you maintain proficiency with them.

(Friday: What I Did This Week To Prep)

P.S. I was using these words interchangeably myself when I initially started my blog. My subtitle under the name ‘Trace My Preps’ said ‘A Prepper / Self-Reliant Blog’. I have now changed it to: ‘My Journey through Self-Reliance into Self-Sufficiency’.

Finding Direction = TSP

There is so much ‘out there’ these days about prepping, self-reliance, and survivalism. In the last couple of years prepping has actually become ‘cool’, almost ‘normal’ in some circles. There are many resources: books, podcasts, online forums, other blogs. As frequently is the case, the hardest part is the myriad of choices; knowing where to look to find good, reliable sources, that you like, and that are worth your time.

I had never listened to podcasts before and Sarah suggested that might be a good place to start. We figured a podcast would work well because I drive an hour to and from work four days a week. I searched ‘survival’ and found a number of options. After listening to a few, I found Jack Spirko’s: The Survival Podcast (TSP) (

I feel like Jack Spirko created a very good survival ‘wheel’–I don’t need to recreate it. So, much of what I discuss will be taken directly or indirectly from his podcasts or his YouTube videos*.

Jack and I are, of course, different people, with different backgrounds and thus different prospectives. Jack grew up hunting, fishing, and gardening in a small rural town; I grew up in medium size city in suburbia. We both enlisted in the military, but he was a mechanic and I was in combat arms. After the military he became a successful entrepreneurial businessman; I was a police officer, back in the military, then a civilian paramedic. Jack is an expert on many things, specifically the economic system, growing your own food, and gathering wild game. My strengths are in the areas of emergency first aid, personal health and fitness.

Jack does an exceptional job making difficult concepts understandable and seemingly overwhelming tasks doable. He stresses everything becomes easier when divided into manageable categories. There is the old adage: ‘How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.’ To teach modern survivalism Jack uses the survival model of your five basic needs: 1) food, 2) water, 3) shelter, 4) security, and 5) energy.

I believe Jack’s ideas and teaching methods are very effective. So why am I restating them in another blog? We all know there are a lot of things that sound good in theory, or work for someone else. I began by significantly increasing the breadth of my knowledge. Now I’m deepening the understanding and implementation of those specific skill sets and sharing that with you; what I learn and what I wish I had known.

(Starting this week I’ll begin posting on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Check back on Wednesday: “Aesop on Prepping”)

The Survival Podcast logo

* I have no commercial interest or association with TSP, I just like the show. I emailed and asked Jack for permission to share his information, his response: “Of course, no worries at all.” TSP site states: “Non commercial distribution of this show from short segments to entire episodes or even many episodes is not only acceptable, it is encouraged.” (Full TSP Disclaimer & Policies)