Saturday, August 28, 2010

Back to Basics Grain Mill

One of the most popular preparedness food items that survivalists and preppers everywhere like to tout is wheat. It lasts forever when properly stored. It's extremely affordable. It's nutrient dense. I have more wheat put away in my long term storage than any other single food item. The problem with wheat is that you need a way to process it.

Enter the grain mill. There are a lot of grain mills on the market. You can get electric and hand crank mills. Since extended power outages can result from a wide range of situations worth prepping for I'd recommend getting a hand cranked mill. Now if you start using it a lot and find out that you like fresh flour then by all means splurge on an electric one. I'm sticking to hand cranked options for now. They range from the cast iron Corona mills that you can get online for $10 plus $50 shipping to the venerable Country Living Grain Mill. I own and have used a Corona mill. I actually use it regularly to crush my grain when I'm making beer. I've even made bread out of the flour. The problem with the Corona mill is that it's extremely labor intensive to make flour that's suitable for baking. It's good for a lot of things but if you want to make flour on a regular basis you really need something better.

Yesterday I picked up a Victorio grain mill. It's basically a rebadged Back to Basics Grain Mill. It uses precision machined cutting burrs to grind the wheat. It comes apart very easily and is only made up of a few pieces. It's mostly machined aluminum. The burrs are steel. It does have a few plastic parts but nothing that looks like it could wear out under normal use. It's simple, lightweight and compact.

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It was very easy to set up. The instructions are just a few pages and most of those pages are recipes. You just clamp it down to the edge of a counter, attach the handle and you're ready to rock. You can set it for different grinding consistencies by loosening the knob that holds the handle on. Just don't tighten it too much or you could damage the burrs.

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For this exercise I tightened it down to finger tight. It was a lot easier to turn than my Corona. I did have to switch hands a couple of times but I managed to grind out about 3 cups of flour in 5 minutes or so. The clamp was extremely solid. It's got a rubber strip in the top part that prevents it from sliding around. It works wonderfully. The flour was perfect.

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I've heard in the past that you can't get flour from these in one run. Either they've improved on the design or someone was trying to sell a more expensive mill. This mill fits the bill perfectly if you need a quality mill that you can have on hand just in case. The Country Living Mill is obviously much more solidly built. It's got a flywheel handle so you can motorize it or even hook it up to a bicycle (just make sure that you gear it right or it will spin too fast and you'll lock it up and/or cook your grain). You can also get replacement parts for the Country Living Mill. You can buy four of these Back to Basics Mills and still have enough left over for a couple of sacks of grain, though, so it's up to you whether you think you'll go through enough replacement parts to justify the expense. Even if the SHTF and I'm using this mill every day I don't foresee the need to grind more than a few cups of flour at a time with it. If I had a big family or was planning for the whole neighborhood then I'd seriously consider the Country Living Mill. Whatever mill you want to go with be sure to check out Our Happy Homestead first. They've got a great selection of mills to fit anyone's needs plus a ton of other stuff.

Friday, August 27, 2010

One cheap knife to stay away from

So I was at Big 5 a couple of weeks ago. They have some pretty good deals on occasion. On this particular day they had a Schrade Extreme Survival Knife on sale for $20 (marked down from $60). Helpful hint: Never pay full price for anything at Big 5. Ask the manager what the last sale price was. They'll look it up and sell it to you for that. Anyway, one of the first rules of buying survival related anything....if it has the word extreme in the name it's probably worthless crap. Schrade sold out a few years ago to Taylor Brands who now slaps the Schrade name on the cheapest China made crap that they can find. I couldn't find any reference to the type of steel that this knife was made out of. I only knew that it was stainless which usually means the cheapest stainless grade available that's not heat treated for shit. Knowing all of this I decided to give the knife a shot, anyway.

On it's face it's a pretty cool looking knife. The factory edge was pretty sharp. It's got nice heft with a bulky handle. The blade is 5mm thick and 7 inches long. The knife is 12 1/4" long overall. Unfortunately, most of the weight is centered in the handle so it's worthless for chopping. Speaking of the handle, it's got a big, heavy pommel that would make a pretty good hammer and a nail puller. The nail puller is a pretty silly idea for a knife but maybe someone's gotten some use out of it. It doesn't have a proper finger guard so if you do decide to use the end as a hammer then you need to be extremely careful. It's shaped similar to a dagger. It's got a mean looking sawback that won't actually saw anything because it's just a bunch of notches cut across the spine of the knife. The sheath is decent. It's made out of canvas and it has two pouches in the front. They're big enough to hold a sharpening stone and a small survival kit. It had it's pros and cons at first glance but it was only $20.

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So once I got it home I just had to put it through a few tasks. I started by chopping at a big log in my backyard. Like I said before, between the huge handle and the shape of the blade this thing is a horrible chopper. Don't even bother with anything that's more than a few inches thick. I also had to clear a few lower branches from a tree so I got to hacking. It made short work of them. At first I thought things were looking up for the knife until I stabbed it into the tree while I was picking up the branches. When I went to pull the knife out the tip broke off.

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I have a habit of breaking the points off of cheap, crappy knives. If it happens while I'm hammering away on concrete blocks then I can understand the point not holding up. When I stab a tree and it happens then as far as I'm concerned the knife is crap. This Schrade Extreme Survival Knife definitely falls into the crap category.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Old Jarhead always has something worthwhile to say.

Today he hasn't failed us. Go check out his Bigotry and the Measles Post. He didn't write it but it's still worth passing on. Give it a click if you get bored.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Tactical Diaper Bag

When I was in the hospital waiting to take the baby home we were offered a couple of "diaper bags".  They were full of stuff like formula, butt wipe samples and baby books.  Most of the stuff was useful.  Against my wishes and better judgment we went with formula because the wife couldn't stand breast feeding.  Luckily, a few days after bringing the baby home I found a crapload of formula on clearance at a local grocery store.  At least it wouldn't be too expensive.  Anyway, all of that free stuff was great.  The "diaper bags" provided SUCKED, though.  Then I picked up a Maxpedition Versapack EDC.

This thing seems to have been made to be a diaper bag.  It's got plenty of room, it's got a ton of accessible compartments, it's extremely comfortable, it's very durable and it's got a pocket for a gun.  What more could you want??

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Did I mention that it makes carrying a full sized handgun easy?  I'll admit it...I'm a wuss when it comes to carrying.  I compromise by carrying a Keltec P3AT most of the time.  But when I've got my kid with me I hate to make that compromise.  I don't have to when I'm rocking this pack.

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The water bottle pocket that's obvious in all of the pictures is extremely handy.  It's also got a few other handy little pockets that I use to carry everything from multitools to spare lighters to bandanas and maps, pens and notepads.

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and even butt cream when I think the baby will need it. BTW Boudreaux's Butt Paste is the only stuff that worked for us after our kid came home from the hospital with a rash. After a 2 oz bottle the rash was gone and her butt has had no problems with any kind of rash since.

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When I want to leave the baby at home there's plenty of room for my netbook.

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This pack easily fits everything from my get home bag minus the pot (and everything inside) and the water bladder.  The water bottle almost makes up for the missing bladder, though.  I hate to leave behind my pot and alcohol stove but I think that I could manage to fit them into the kit with a bit of ingenuity.  I'll have to take a look later.  Anyway, if you've got one of these packs lying around and you've got a kid on the way they make a first class diaper bag while retaining the features that make it a good bag for any guy, anyway. If you don't have a kid on the way then it makes an outstanding day bag. It allows you to carry a lot more than you could normally carry in your pockets without even noticing it. I'd recommend it to anyone.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Best sleeping bag ever!

This thing is just too awesome for words.  I wonder if it'll fit in my BOB. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Mexican Fisherman and the Businessman

Bison's post today made me think about a story I read a while back.  I was sitting in a Jimmy John's and they had it hanging up on the wall. 

A fisherman docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.

"Not very long," answered the Mexican.

"But then, why didn't you stay out longer and catch more?" asked the
American.

The Mexican explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his
needs and those of his family.

The American asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

"I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar and sing a few songs."

The American interrupted, "I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help
you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat."

"And after that?" asked the Mexican.

With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you could sell them directly to the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You could leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City!  From there you could direct your huge new enterprise."

"How long would that take?" asked the Mexican.

"Twenty..maybe 25 years," replied the American.

"And after that?" the Mexican asked.

"After that? That's when it gets really interesting," answered the American, laughing. "When your business gets really big, you could go public, sell your stock and make millions!"

"Millions? Really? And after that?"

"After that you'll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends."

Sunday, August 1, 2010

You don't believe the economy is recovering???

Then you're obviously part of the problem. I wonder how long it will be before the administration starts blaming the "double dippers" when we go into another recession or even a depression. According to this piece by NBC the chance that there could be a double dip recession has nothing to do with the fact that the government is borrowing against our future and rewarding liers, thieves and cheats with our money. If the naysayers would just shut up and tell people that everything is fine then the economy would recover in no time!