Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sorry for the blackout

Things have been pretty crazy around here. I somehow managed to download a virus on my laptop that made it pretty much impossible for it to do anything. Trying to write up posts on my phone has proven to be very frustrating so I've just been neglecting the blog. I've also been ridiculously busy. I've lost 45 pounds since I started training mma/jiu-jitsu. I didn't really consider myself fat to begin with (5'11" 220) but I was getting there. Training for 2-4 hours a day 4-5 days a week, holding down a real job and being a dad tends to cut the schedule down to pretty much nothing. I've still got some posts in the works and now that my laptop is fixed I should be able to find more time to get them written up. Thanks for reading. If you need to get in touch with me you can email me at artyboy at gmail dot com.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Welcome to my new sponsors

I'd like to take a moment to welcome two new sponsors to my blog. I had the pleasure of meeting both of them at the Denver Self Reliance Expo. The first one is LPC Survival. If you've ever been to a survival blog with direct banner ads then you've probably seen one of their banners. For years they've supported several of the survival blogs in the prepping community. I'm happy to be the latest one on the list. They sell several different Berkey water filters and the parts to make your own (you did see my DIY Berky bucket filter post that I did sometime last year, right?) if you don't want one that's made out of nice, shiny stainless steel or that has a built in LED lighting system. They also sell everything from Wise food storage survival buckets (keep an eye out for an upcoming review) to emergency seed banks. Go check out their site, have a look around and patronize them if you find something that you need.

Forge Survival Supply is another new sponsor. They had one of the coolest booths at the show by far. Why? Because they were selling a wide selection of those cool survival tools and gadgets that we all love to play around with. Crank GMRS radios? Check. Knives that don't suck? Check. Ultralight 4 season bug out tents? Check. Hell, they even had a collapsible grappling hook. So what stands out about the products that they're selling? They're not junk. They don't sell anything without testing it first and they review a lot of their products on their gear review website Survival Cache. Thanks to them I finally got to put my hands on a Fallkniven F1 before buying. It's the survival knife that the Swedish Air Force has issued to their pilots since 1995. Look for the review when I finally get a chance to put it to good use. Check out their site when you get a chance. They're good guys who have good taste when it comes to survival gear.

I still have room for more banners so if you're interested in advertising feel free to shoot me an email at artyboy at gmail dot com. I'm cheap, I've been around a long time and I'm not going anywhere. I'm also selective. I only take on advertisers who sell quality products and who take care of their customers (my readers).

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Denver Self Reliance Expo was a hit

So this weekend the Denver Self Reliance Expo was held at the Denver Western Stock Show Complex. It surpassed all of my expectations. Granted I didn't expect much. I'm not even sure what I expected, exactly. Regardless, at the end of the day I was impressed by everything. Everyone was very professional, friendly and willing to make a deal. I managed to pick up some needed preps at a good price, I met some great people in the prepper community, I got some great ideas for future posts and I even landed a couple of sponsors. I will welcome them all within the next few days in dedicated posts.

The majority of the booths consisted of storage food. "Survival buckets" were the most popular item for sale by far. You've probably seen them before. They generally consist of several packages of individual, freeze dried entrees sealed in mylar, packaged in lightweight, space saving buckets. There were also a lot of vendors selling #10 cans of everything from freeze dried fruit to eggs to mountain house entrees. Besides the typical fair that you'd expect from a preparedness expo there were a couple of standout products.

The 40 day/night preparedness pail was the best "survival bucket" at the show as far as I'm concerned. It contains a 36# assortment of organic, vacuum packed, dried whole grains, beans and other necessities. It also includes a meal supplement that they call "enerfood". It's a dried powder that contains most of the essential nutrients that you're body needs. Even if you're not in an emergency situation a tablespoon of this stuff every day will be extremely beneficial to you. If you are in a prolonged emergency situation and you're down to nothing but your five year supply of beans and rice you'll wish you had something like this to ensure that your body keeps getting all of the nutrients that it needs. Would you prefer to choke down a super compressed multi vitamin ever day that's made out of a bunch of stuff that you can barely even pronounce (and barely digest) or would you rather mix a tablespoon of powder made out of easily recognizable, easily digestible organic herbs into every meal? I thought so.

Another standout food storage solution was Life Sprouts. Sprouting is something that I've always encouraged preppers to look into. Life Sprouts will show you how to do it right and provide you with the products to ensure success. They've been around for about 20 years so I'd say they know what they're doing. They've got good prices on seed that's produced especially for sprouting. Check them out if sprouting is your thing or you're interested in trying it out.

There were plenty of other really cool booths there with original ideas. There was a company selling NBC shelters that they can build under your garage floor. I've looked into several different designs and that's the first one that I've seen that may actually make sense for someone with limited space in an urban environment. If you're an engineer with knowledge on NBC shelters feel free to rip this one apart for me. The solar oven booth was cool, too. They had a few ovens set up outside when I showed up with some bread baking. It seemed to be making good progress. I'm confident that the $20 solar oven design that I have in mind will work just as well, though. I just haven't gotten around to testing it. Maybe I'll hold off until we get a nice, cold, sunny day this winter. Amanda's Darn Good Salsa was a definite winner. If you can find it you should give it a try. You can also just order it from her website if you want to take my word for it. There are plenty of flavors to choose from.

I could go on all day. I'll be mentioning some other vendors in future posts. Overall, it was a great couple of days and it was nice to see my wife get excited about preparedness for once. If stuff like this is what it takes to get the masses behind it then I'm all for it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Self Reliance Expo in Denver

This weekend the Self Reliance Expo is coming to Denver. Adult tickets are $9 ($7 if you're a senior or you preorder online). Kids 12 and under are free. It will be held at the National Western Stockshow Complex on September 16th and 17th. It's open from 10-8 on Friday and 9-6 on Saturday.

Dave Canterbury from the Discovery Channel's "Dual Survival" series will be the keynote presenter. Jack Spirko, the host of "The Survival Podcast" will be speaking as well. There will also be several workshops going on throughout the weekend. You can read all about those on the website. Of course, there will be several exhibitors offering everything from firearms to kitchen appliances. If it relates to preparedness you should be able to find someone who's selling what you're looking for. There's also a casting call going on for the National Geographic channel's upcoming prepper reality show. I have no idea what the details are behind that but I'm sure they'll fill you in if you're interested.

I plan on being there Saturday morning to check it out. I'm definitely looking forward to it. It's good to see that there's enough interest in preparedness to warrant a major expo. There's another one coming up in Salt Lake City October 7 & 8 if you can't make it to this one. I'll be posting up an after action review sometime next week so keep an eye out for it.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Results start when you do

After a few weeks of working out at my gym I posted up some before and after shots on facebook. I had lost about 20 pounds and the results were very noticeable. One of my coaches made a comment that kinda stood out to me. "Results start when you do." I'd known the guy for a few years. Every time I saw him I'd tell him that I was going to start training at his gym. Money was always too tight or I couldn't find the time. Finally, I decided to stop making excuses and just did it. Once I started going finding time was easy and it went from seeming really expensive to being a total steal.

So how does it pertain to preparedness? That statement can be applied to just about anything. Whether you're planning on starting a food storage plan, getting serious about paying down debt or just learning a new skill it's easy to make excuses and procrastinate. You've got to start doing it and stick to your plan or you'll never get results. Once you start doing it it's never as hard as you had convinced yourself it would be. If it's worth your time and money you'll find the time and money to keep doing it.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Getting into shape with MMA

I'll admit it. I have absolutely no discipline when it comes to working out. I'm the guy who walks around the gym for 5 minutes, does 10 reps then walks around for another 5 minutes. Then I get on the treadmill and walk at a pace that's barely fast enough to get me to break a sweat for 20 minutes while I watch Fox News. When I have a partner things are a lot better. It's easy to stay motivated when you're competing with someone. Unfortunately, I've never had much luck with finding a workout partner that lasted more than a week or two. Then I had my kid. At that point my workout sessions went from half assed to non existent. Waking up, going to work, coming home then taking off again to go to the gym wasn't sitting well with the wifey.

So for the last couple of years I've been doing basically nothing. I guess that walking my dog burns a few calories. I keep the beer in the basement so that when I want to go grab one I have to take the stairs. I still eat better than most people. That's probably the only thing that saved me from getting ridiculously obese. A couple of weeks ago I tipped the scale at 220. That was sort of the benchmark in my head that I had set when I knew I wasn't going to be able to do much to stay in shape.

Luckily, a friend of mine had just started coaching at a new MMA gym not far from my house. He invited me down to check things out. I went in for my free class and was instantly hooked. From 6-9:30 we get our asses kicked every night Mon - Fri. The schedule works out pretty well for me. So far I've managed to get in about 3-4 nights of training per week. That's plenty. It's brutal, it's humbling and it's great training. What better way to stay in shape than to learn how to fight?

What I like about these classes is that they're done as a group. You're not really competing with anyone but you don't want to fall behind, either. The last thing that you want is to be the loser who can't hang. It really makes me push myself a lot harder than I would if I were working out alone. After just a couple of weeks I can already feel a huge difference. I think that this is something that I'll be sticking with for a while.

It's expensive. Expect to pay $100-$150 a month to train at a quality MMA gym. Most of the "real" MMA gyms will make you sign up and pay for specific classes on a schedule. You train in the classes that you pay for. More classes cost more money. Some gyms let you pay for x nights of classes per week and others book you for a certain class at a certain time on a certain night. Some gyms have a punch card option. You show up to a class and they punch your card. With some gyms, you pay a flat membership fee and you get to go to as many classes as you want. That's how my gym is set up and it's really the only way that I'd want to roll. If you find a really good, smaller MMA gym you can usually work out a deal with the owner. Don't be afraid to try and negotiate.

Training MMA regularly is the best workout that I've ever had for a lot of reasons. First of all I actually like doing it. It's very hard work and I can't imagine how many calories it burns. You actually learn how to defend yourself in the process of staying in shape. There's so much to learn that I don't see it ever getting boring. You also get to punch people in the face. That's fun. Basically, you're always active and you're always learning new things. It's worth the money if you find a good gym.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Country My Ass - the mp3

Here's a pretty good song I heard on a local radio show. There should be a "clean" version and an "x-rated" version which isn't that bad imo. He says the f word...once. Oh my. The production value isn't phenomenal but the content makes up for it in my opinion. Anyway, check it out if you've got a second. Here's a crappy youtube video:



You can also download it here.

My Country My Ass | Peter Boyles - TalkRadio 630 K-HOW#article_comments

Saturday, June 25, 2011

"Terrorist attack" on my turf

Some "bombs" went off at a local mall today. My wife was actually in the mall. She's fine and wasn't in any danger. Apparently, a couple of knuckle heads went into Borders and set off a couple of worthless, homemade explosives. It was taken very seriously and the bomb squad, the FBI and homeland security all showed up. You can read the sad attempt at a full story here. Here's the statement from the FBI:

"The two small crude devices partially functioned in a nominal manner causing no damage to the Mall and only minimal damage to a small area of the interior of the Borders Bookstore."

Who knows where this story will go. I'll be watching next week. I'm sure that it will catch a few headlines. It might even get a lot of attention. I wouldn't be surprised if it just gets swept under the rug, though. No one got hurt. Damage was minimal. Should the msm make a big deal about it when someone lights a firecracker? The initial shock value is high but when you step back and think about it I don't think that it's that big of a deal. If you've got enough bomb on your person to do some serious damage then it will be blatantly obvious. If you can walk into a shopping mall unnoticed then it's not enough to concern me. If you know what to look for and to avod then you shouldn't have to worry about it. Even if you are totally oblivious and could care less about opsec the chances of you being affected by an explosive device in this country is next to infintisimal.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A few simple storage food recipes using TVP

I've been playing with TVP quite a bit lately. I've found it to be very versatile and one of the cheapest shelf stable alternatives to meat out there. You can buy #10 cans of freeze dried ground beef for $60 a can (if you can actually find someone who isn't backordered by 3 months) or you can get TVP for a fraction of that and not have to worry about getting put on a waiting list. Before you go all out and buy a 10 year supply on Amazon I encourage you to find a store in your area that sells the 10 oz bags of Bob's Red Mill just so that you can try it out. You may not like it. Anyway, onto the recipes.

Red Chili:

1 cup TVP
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 15 oz can pinto beans
2 tbsp dried onions
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp red chili flakes
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano

This is a pretty basic chili recipe. Just dump everything into a pot, bring it to a boil then let it simmer for a couple of hours. You can tweak this recipe quite a bit with fresh ingredients and it will taste a lot better. If you're getting deep into your larder, though, then you probably won't have many fresh ingredients left.

Pasta Sauce:

15 oz can tomato sauce
1 6 oz can mushrooms
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp dried onions
1/2 cup tvp

Once again, dump everything into a pot, bring it to a boil and then let it simmer for an hour or two. Boil up a pound of pasta of your choice and you've got a good family meal. Are you noticing a trend yet? Using TVP and canned/dried ingredients eliminates most of the prep and precooking involved in recipes using raw ingredients. Making things from scratch with fresh ingredients definitely tastes a lot better but it may not be feasible in an emergency situation.

"Beef" and bean burritos:

1 cup chicken stock (or water with a bullion cube)
1 6 oz can tomato sauce
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup TVP
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 15 oz can pinto beans
tortillas

Combine everything but the pinto beans, bring it to a boil and then let it simmer. Add some flour a little bit at a time while simmering until you get a thick consistency. Once your "meat" filling is finished put 1/4 cup of pinto beans onto a tortilla. Cover the pinto beans with the "meat" filling and then roll up your burrito. Obviously, you'll need to know how to make tortillas to use this recipe in an emergency but that's for a future post.

So as you can see working with TVP isn't rocket science. If you can boil water then you can use it in all kinds of recipes. I'm still working on burgers, meatballs, meatloaf and a few other recipes. Once I get those down I'll share them. I've even seen people doing things like fried chicken nuggets. That could be interesting.

Monday, June 13, 2011

TVP - Textured Vegetable Protein

If you've done much research on any of the long term, freeze dried, canned storage foods besides Mountain House that are being heavily marketed then you probably already know what TVP is. Otherwise, you'd have to be a pretty hard core health nut/vegan to know what it is. For those of you who don't know what it is it's a high protein meat substitute made from soybeans.

Soybean oil is separated from the soybean flour. Then the soybean flour is superheated and shot through a nozzle to create the desired size "nugget". When the "nuggets" cool they're completely dry, can store for years and, by adding some boiling water, you have a product that's the equivalent of ground beef. Is it a replacement for real meat? I don't think so. Is it a viable alternative when real meat isn't available? Yes it is.

Like I mentioned before, if you're buying a long term, canned storage food solution that isn't produced by Mountain House then it's probably made with TVP rather than real meat. Obviously, as evidenced by the severe shortage that Mountain House is experiencing right now, it's not as easy to make long term storage food out of meat as it is to make it from TVP. I'm not aware of anyone else who's experiencing severe backups in their filling of orders. Maybe it's because people would rather wait for the real thing rather than settling on a lesser product. More likely, the companies using TVP as their "meat substitute" just have very little problems getting the product that they need to fill all of their orders. Then again, maybe the government is just buying all of the Mountain House and letting us little people buy as much TVP as we want.

To be honest, I don't really care about the long term, freeze dried, canned storage items. I have a can of this and a can of that that I've acquired over the years but the bulk of my food storage consists of some bulk basics (beans, rice, sugar, wheat, etc) and the extra stuff that I buy every time I go grocery shopping (canned food, boxes of pasta, etc). After playing with TVP I've added it to my "extra stuff list".

Here's why I like TVP. The flavor is best described as neutral. If you cook up a batch with nothing but water then it will have no flavor. In my opinion that's a good trait. Because every little TVP nugget is like a sponge it soaks up flavor wonderfully. It picks up the flavor of whatever you reconstitute it in. Different stocks and spices can make it extremely versatile. Reconstitute it in chicken stock? It's like ground chicken. Use beef stock? It tastes like ground beef. Use something like hotsauce or wine? Now you've got some applications.

So what's bad about it? It does have a bit of a "fake" flavor no matter what you do to it. I think that the texture has a lot to do with it. While it's close to the texture of cooked meat it's not quite spot on. It's almost artificially chewy and rubbery. Just cook it like rice. It will pick up whatever flavor you cook it with.

I like it. Some people don't. It's a good substitute when the real deal isn't available. It's easy to prepare and it's very versatile. It's also really cheap. If you can find it in a store then you'll probably find Bob's Red Mill brand (which is pretty expensive compared to other brands). A bag of that is a few bucks. It reconstitutes to the equivalent of a few pounds of meat. Once reconstituted it's also a lot cheaper than real meat. I've tried several recipes and have yet to be horribly disappointed. It's not a replacement for the real deal but if it's all you've got you'll be extremely happy that you've got it handy. If you're local store doesn't sell it then you can always buy it in bulk on Amazon or from other online sources. I encourage you to play around with it if you haven't already. You'll probably add it to your list of "bulk necessities" pretty fast.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bank of America Gets Pad Locked After Homeowner Forecloses On It

Bank of America Gets Pad Locked After Homeowner Forecloses On It

We need to see more of this. Go ahead big banks.... Keep trying to sweep people under the rug.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pressure cooker severs woman's leg

Here's a freaky story for you. Apparently, a woman was cooking with a pressure cooker when it fell off of the stove and exploded, severing her leg. Luckily, whoever was home with her knew how to apply a tourniquet. Be careful when you're cooking with a pressure cooker. As fantastic as they are for cooking (and absolutely necessary in some cases) they can also be extremely dangerous. Use high quality, newer models. Keep the seals and gauges in good condition. Be extremely careful when moving them around. Don't skimp on your pressure cooker. All American pressure cookers are the best on the market. There are plenty of other's out there, though. I use a Presto for canning and a smaller one (can't remember the brand) for normal cooking.

In other news, despite the "good news" about the economy that the current administration is trying to get people to believe, some really rich guys are still investing in aerable farmland. We're talking about huge swaths of land with water on site. They're not exactly living on site or working the land with their bare hands but smart, successful farmers don't do that, anyway. No, these guys are buying up land in South America (Bush did this a few years ago if that tells you anything). With farmland in Kansas and Nebraska up 20% from last year people are obviously still buying it here, too. If I had serious money to invest that's where it would be going right now. For now I'll just have to stick to gold and silver.

Zombie Survival tips posted on CDC website

So the CDC finally owned up to the prospect that a deadly plague could strike at any time that turns people into flesh eating maniacs. You know the one. A few people get sick and then they get REALLY hungry. Before you know it they're taking a chunk out of Aunt Lili's arm. Then Aunt Lily gets really sick and before long SHE starts to get hungry. By the time people realize that you have to shoot anyone who's been bitten in the head there are already way more people who have been bitten than there are bullets. By then your only hope is to put all of those years of preps and training to use to keep your own ass from getting bit.

The zombie scenario is always a fun one. I maintain that it does a great job of getting people interested and thinking about preparedness who otherwise would never think twice about it. Hell, that's how I got into it years ago. Just about anyone who gets past "Dude, what would you do if a horde of zombies were breaking down your door" quickly starts to realize how woefully unprepared they would be if anything serious ever happened. The whole zombie apocalypse scenario, as implausible as it is, is about as worst case as you can get. If you're ready for a zombie apocalypse then a hurricane or an earthquake will be a walk in the park. If nothing else, it gets people thinking about what they can do. Knowledge is one of the most important resources available to you during an emergency so if it gets people to do any kind of research on the subject then it's good in my book.

The CDC blog post seems to be generating a lot of traffic. It took a few minutes for it to load for me. That's saying a lot about a government website. Expect the government to find more "silly" ways to get people to think about what could be coming. People have known for years that the "zombie apocalypse" scenario is an effective tool to get people into the preparedness movement. The fact that the government is suddenly on board does make me worry that something bad is on the horizon. Now is the time to kick things into overdrive. I have been. Between work, the baby and prepping I haven't had much time for posting. I've tried to sit down and do a few posts but they always devolve into a political rant. I really want to stay away from that stuff. I've got several ideas that I've been kicking around that don't pertain to current events, though, so eventually I'll get some of those posted.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Survival Laptop

It wasn't so long ago that I made a post about smartphones. I'm still loving mine. With the extended battery I can go all day without charging it as long as I don't play video games or watch movies. As cool as it is, though, it doesn't replace my laptop. They're faster. They have a better, more customizable user interface. They're easier to fix if they break. The screen is bigger and they're much better at multi-tasking. Some of the batteries last several hours. You just have a lot more options with a laptop.

So what should you think about when you're picking out your survival laptop? First of all it needs to be small enough to take with you. That's why I like netbooks. A netbook with a 6 cell battery (I think that they make them with 8 or 12 cell batteries now) will last several hours between charges. The screen is smaller and everything in the system is bare bones so they're energy sippers. They're powerful enough for the basic stuff that you'd need in an emergency situation. They're a lot cheaper than most regular laptops. Get a solar charger and you can keep it running indefinitely.

Make sure that you have a good case for it. Another nice thing about netbooks is that there are good cases available that are cheap, small and lightweight. All laptops are fragile. The weak points tend to be the keypads (especially if you're using it in the woods), the screen and the hard drive. I have a spare mouse and keyboard for mine. I hate laptop keyboards and the mouse pads that come standard are even worse. There isn't much you can do about the screen. Try not to drop it. Solid state hard drives are starting to get cheaper and easier to find. I've heard that they're a lot more durable than mechanical hard drives (no moving parts). They also use less power but I'm not sure if it's a noticeable difference. I have no personal experience with them. I'm still waiting for the price to come down a bit more. I plan on upgrading to one soon.

You also need to take into consideration what you're going to be using it for. The most practical uses are obvious. Rather than trying to bring along your huge collection of survival books, military manuals and foxfire magazines you can just download them all and have them at your fingertips. Having hard copies are better in a lot of ways but you can fit a lot more in a smaller space on a computer. It's also easier to navigate your library and find what you're looking for when it's on your computer. Keep everything backed up on a thumb drive. You can get them small enough to fit on a keychain. You can also install an operating system on a thumb drive that allows you to boot up the computer from the thumb drive just in case your hard drive dies. More on that in a future post. Most phones have a slot for a micro sd card. Keep a backup on that, too. Just be sure to keep an adapter card handy.

The internet is the ultimate resource. I don't think that there's a laptop produced today that doesn't have built in wi-fi. The problem will be finding a wi-fi connection. You can get a cellular modem. They're about the size of a thumb drive and they're pretty cheap. Unfortunately, they'll only work when you can get a cell phone signal. I have one. Even on normal days it can be dodgy and annoying. The internet will be an invaluable resource for news and information during a major disaster. If you're actually in an emergency situation you can count on it being spotty at best. Just expect it to be extremely difficult to access. To improve your chances of being able to access it you need to make as many options available to yourself as possible.

The entertainment value cannot be written off. You'll have plenty of space to save movies, mp3s and even instructional videos. You can also play a lot of games. It's easier to keep a journal on a computer. If I ever have to survive an extended emergency I'll want to document the experience. If nothing else you'll have all of your pictures and family videos at your fingertips.

So if you ever find yourself bugging out or otherwise on the move I believe that a laptop is one of the most important tools that you can have with you. Mine is an
Asus Eee Netbook
. I've been very happy with it for the year or so that I've had it. I suspect that it will hold up as well as any other laptop (except for maybe a Toshiba toughbook....low specs, expensive and a marketing gimick in my opinion).

As you can see from some of the links in this post and a couple of banners that I've added on the sidebar I'm now affiliated with Best Buy. I've been shopping there for years and I've always had great luck with their products and, especially, their service. Since Amazon seems to be more interested in cutting off ties with affiliates and closing down warehouses in states who threaten to make them collect sales tax I've had to find some new ways to make a buck off of my hobby. At least with Best Buy you can walk into the store and talk to someone face to face. Not that you need to do anything but call them. I've always had great experiences with Best Buy and their customer service. A few years ago a fridge that I'd bought from them died. They fixed it twice. On the third try they brought me a new one. No questions asked. No hassles. I've never used Geek Squad so I can't speak for them. The only thing that I hate about walking into their stores is that I'll probably be bothered by a Direct TV rep. The clerks can be a little overly helpful, too. If you get within ten feet of one you can expect them to ask what they can help you with. You can avoid all of that by using the site to store service. Just order whatever you want online (by clicking one of my links of course) and then pick it up at the store.

Why affiliate with Best Buy on a survival site? Well, first of all this is an urban survival site. We city folk like our electronics. Besides, what better way to practice surviving the apocalypse than by picking up a
Microsoft Xbox 360 250GB Console with Kinect
or a
Sony PlayStation 3 (320GB) with PlayStation Move Bundle
and
Fallout New Vegas
? With games like
Killzone 3 - PlayStation 3
you can practice blowing people away to your heart's content without even leaving your living room! They also sell some stuff that's actually relevant to the topic. From time to time I'll post something up. In the meantime, if you're planning on buying something there, anyway, I encourage you to do it through this site.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Aquariums, The End of the World and Other Stuff

So my aquarium has been going strong for a few weeks now. I decided to go with zebra danios and some cory's that look like plecostomus. According to the pet shop they only get a few inches long. The run of the mill plecostomus that most pet shops sell can get two feet long! That's way too much fish for my little 20g tank and I don't really want to find a home for one when it gets too big. I also added some neon tetras today. From what I've read they're pretty fragile and need very specific water conditions. We'll see how they do. I also found a tub that should be the perfect size for my grow bed. Once I'm sure that the nitrogen cycle is established and the fish are doing well then I'll go ahead and set it up. I've been using the water from water changes to water my house plants and they have exploded. That's encouraging. I'm looking forward to the results.

If you listen to talk radio then you've probably heard the commercial that tells you to visit the website www.theendofamerica11.com. I finally got around to it the other day. If you follow the link to the actual website then you get stuck watching a one hour flash movie. The words come up and a voice reads them. You can't pause, fast forward, rewind or any of that. Luckily, you can watch the exact same movie on youtube where you can pause, rewind and fast forward at will:



I highly recommend that you check it out. Just turn it on sometime when you know that you'll be at the computer for a while. You don't have to watch it. Just listen. He lays out the currency crisis that we're in, explains the consequences in detail and gives examples of it happening in recent history and how it affected those countries. Make no mistake. If it happens here then it will be significantly worse than anything since the fall of Rome. You need to know what's happening, what the results could be and what you can do to protect yourself.

Obviously, the guy is trying to sell you something. What he's trying to sell you are a bunch of reports that explain the best investments you can make to insulate you from the coming crisis. I'm not about to pay for them so I have no idea what they are. Luckily, 99% of the video consists of him explaining the crisis we're in, what could happen and how other countries have been affected when they've gone through it. The common sense things that you can do become very apparent very quickly if you've already got the prepper mindset. I actually intended to do a very detailed post about it that broke everything down and explained in detail several of the points that I found important but I did it all in notebook and I woke up to find that my computer had reset. No I didn't save said notes. Maybe I'll try it again in the future. For now I'm too lazy.

The other day I received a copy of Getting Out Alive: 13 Deadly Scenarios and How Others Survived
by Scott B. Williams in the mail. I'm saving my review for after I finish it. I love the premise. While preparing for the end of the world is fun and all it hasn't happened in a long, long time. You're a lot more likely to get stuck in a difficult situation where you have no one but yourself to rely on to get out. It's always good to know what someone else did to get out of a similar situation. That's what this book is all about.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Aquaponics project is on hold

I've decided to put my aquaponics project on hold for a little while. My biggest hurdle has been finding a suitable grow bed to match up with a 20 gallon aquarium tank. I tried a few different storage totes but none of them worked out. It's too hard to get a good seal for the siphon and drain that has to go on the bottom because the plastic is so flimsy. I need to find or build something that's a lot more sturdy. The hydroponics grow beds that I looked at were too shallow for an aquaponics system to work properly. Everything that I've read so far says that the grow bed needs to be 12 inches deep.

I haven't given up. I'm just going to set up an actual aquarium for now. I need to learn how to keep small fish alive under normal circumstances before I go crazy and try to do it on a large scale using unconventional methods. A lot of the principles that go into setting up an aquarium are used in an aquaponics setup, anyway. The nitrogen cycle is the core of an aquaponics system and you have to get it under control in a normal aquarium, anyway. I'll just use the water from my water changes to water my plants. We'll see how it goes.

Hopefully, within a few months I'll have a good sized indoor system going. I need to build a greenhouse that I can keep warm in the winter before I try to build something outside. I'm not sure if my patio slab will be able to hold a ~200 gallon tank plus a grow bed, anyway. That's the only good place in my backyard where I have room to make it work. We'll see how it goes.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Back in My Day....

I saw this on facebook and had to repost it. Sometimes we just need something to laugh at.

When I was a kid, adults used to bore me to tears with their tedious diatribes about how hard things were. When they were growing up; what with walking twenty-five miles to school ...every morning.... Uphill... Barefoot... BOTH ways...yadda, yadda, yadda

And I remember promising myself that when I grew up, there was no way in hell I was going to lay a bunch of crap like that on my kids about how hard I had it and how easy they've got it!

But now that I'm over the ripe old age of forty, I can't help but look around and notice the youth of today. You've got it so easy! I mean, compared to my childhood, you live in a damn Utopia! And I hate to say it, but you kids today, you don't know how good you've got it!

1) I mean, when I was a kid we didn't have the Internet. If we wanted to know something, we had to go to the damn library and look it up ourselves, in the card catalog!!

2) There was no email!! We had to actually write somebody a letter - with a pen! Then you had to walk all the way across the street and put it in the mailbox, and it would take like a week to get there! Stamps were 10 cents!

3) Child Protective Services didn't care if our parents beat us. As a matter of fact, the parents of all my friends also had permission to kick our ass! Nowhere was safe!

4) There were no MP3's or Napsters or iTunes! If you wanted to steal music, you had to hitchhike to the record store and shoplift it yourself!

5) Or you had to wait around all day to tape it off the radio, and the DJ would usually talk over the beginning and @#*% it all up! There were no CD players! We had tape decks in our car. We'd play our favorite tape and "eject" it when finished, and then the tape would come undone rendering it useless. Cause, hey, that's how we rolled, Baby! Dig?

6) We didn't have fancy crap like Call Waiting! If you were on the phone and somebody else called, they got a busy signal, that's it!

7) There weren't any freakin' cell phones either. If you left the house, you just didn't make a damn call or receive one. You actually had to be out of touch with your "friends". OH MYGOSH !!! Think of the horror... not being in touch with someone 24/7!!! And then there's TEXTING. Yeah, right. Please! You kids have no idea how annoying you are.

8) And we didn't have fancy Caller ID either! When the phone rang, you had no idea who it was! It could be your school, your parents, your boss, your bookie, your drug dealer, the collection agent... you just didn't know!!! You had to pick it up and take your chances, mister!

9) We didn't have any fancy PlayStation or Xbox video games with high-resolution 3-D graphics! We had the Atari 2600! With games like 'Space Invaders' and 'Asteroids'. Your screen guy was a little square! You actually had to use your imagination!!! And there were no multiple levels or screens, it was just one screen.. Forever! And you could never win. The game just kept getting harder and harder and faster and faster until you died! Just like LIFE!

10) You had to use a little book called a TV Guide to find out what was on! You were screwed when it came to channel surfing! You had to get off your ass and walk over to the TV to change the channel!!! NO REMOTES!!! Oh, no, what's the world coming to?!?!

11) There was no Cartoon Network either! You could only get cartoons on Saturday Morning. Do you hear what I'm saying? We had to wait ALL WEEK for cartoons, you spoiled rotten little rat-bastards!

12) And we didn't have microwaves. If we wanted to heat something up, we had to use the stove! Imagine that!

13) And our parents told us to stay outside and play... all day long. Oh, no, no electronics to soothe and comfort. And if you came back inside... you were doing chores!

And car seats - oh, please! Mom threw you in the back seat and you hung on.. If you were lucky, you got the "safety arm" across the chest at the last moment if she had to stop suddenly, and if your head hit the dashboard, well that was your fault for calling "shot gun" in the first place!

See! That's exactly what I'm talking about! You kids today have got it too easy. You're spoiled rotten! You guys wouldn't have lasted five minutes back in 1970 or any time before!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Quote of the day

"To those who prepare for the worst, the worst never seems to happen. To those who prepare for the best, the worst always seems to happen".

I have no idea who said this but in most cases it rings true.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Aquaponics

So I've been doing a lot of research on aquaponics lately. Basically, when you set up an aquaponics system you're setting up a miniature eco-system. Everything works together. Ideally, you'll end up with a system that requires very little maintenance and it produces a lot of food. At first glance, it sounds like pie in the sky voodoo. From what I've seen it's pretty impressive when implemented correctly. The cool thing is that you can implement it correctly on a very small scale. So what the hell is it?

Basically it mixes hydroponics with aquaculture. You raise fish and vegetables at the same time. The fish create ammonia. The bacteria in the medium that the plants are planted in convert it to nitrites. The plants convert the nitrites to nitrates and that water is pumped back to the fish. The cycle continues.

I want to try the idea but it's kind of hard to do here in the middle of winter. Once I get an indoor setup set up I'll let you all know. From what I can tell on Craigslist people are VERY proud of their fish tanks so I'll be hitting some pet stores this weekend. My goal right now is to get a small scale aquaponics system going. I'll probably plant a small bed with some herbs or easily cultivated baby greens. Hopefully, by this spring I'll know a thing or two and I'll be able to get something going that produces something meaningful. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Recipe from preps: Penne Pasta in tomato sauce

Do you cook with your preps? From time to time I'm going to post up a recipe for preps made entirely out of long term storage food that you should probably have plenty of. Mayberry gave me the idea a few days ago. I'll try to post up the recipe and then mention any tweaks you can do in case you're short on something. Of course, if you know that you need something for a recipe that you really like then you'll probably have plenty of it on hand. Experiment, tweak and, most importantly, LEARN HOW TO COOK now so that you can benefit from the cheapest, easiest, most cost effective luxury there is whether the world is ending or you're just having trouble making rent. Anyway, on to the recipe.

What you'll need:

16 oz cup Penne pasta
16 oz Can of chicken
8 oz can of tomato sauce x2
1/4 cup dried onions
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 6 oz can of mushrooms
15 oz can of chicken stock
1 tsp each of oregano, basil, parsley, salt and pepper

Drain the chicken and then brown it in a hot, 10" cast iron skillet. Add the cans of tomato sauce, penne pasta, dried onions and mushrooms. Pour in enough chicken stock so that everything is just submerged. Add the garlic powder and spices and stir it all together. Once it comes to a boil turn off the heat and cover the skillet. Let it sit for 20 minutes and it should be ready to serve.

Tweaks and notes:

You can sub the pasta for any other type of pasta. The chicken can be subbed for just about any other canned or dehydrated meat. I, personally, have a couple of cans of freeze dried hamburger lying around just in case I can't keep the freezer running. If you're using canned chicken you can dump the entire contents of the can into the skillet to save a bit of water/stock. You can use a jar of pasta sauce in place of the tomato sauce. I just prefer the little cans of tomato sauce because they're MUCH more versatile and they're cheaper. If you don't have chicken stock you can just use water. Throw in a bullion cube to spice it up some more. If you've got fresh herbs, garlic, onions, mushrooms or chicken handy you should definitely use those rather than the canned/dried versions.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sensible Food Storage

There are a few different approaches to food storage. As long as you're doing it at all I don't care how you do it. Just make sure that you're actually doing it and you don't just think that you are. It's really easy to make mistakes and assume that you've got "enough". What if you couldn't leave your house for a week? A month? If the power went out for more than a day or two how much of the food in your house would go bad? If we're talking worst case scenario how long could you really hold out? Your food storage strategy will go a long way towards answering that question.

If you've got the money then the easiest solution is just to buy a freeze dried food supply. Mountain House is the most recognized name in the industry and you can get it from several reputable dealers. Nitro-Pak is an excellent source. They ship free if you order $100 or more. I do have some Mountain House in my supplies. It's very convenient, lightweight, stores easily and never goes bad. They claim that the shelf life on their #10 cans is 25 years. If in 50 years I'm wandering the wasteland and I stumble across a case of Mountain House #10 cans that are dated 1970 I won't even question whether or not they're still good. They don't go bad. They just lose their "nutritional value". A vitamin D deficiency probably won't kill you. A calorie deficiency will. Mountain House meals will continue to provide a source of calories and a lot of the "nutritional value" long after they're "expired". If you can afford it, a supply of Mountain House really is the best "get it and forget it" solution. Keep in mind that a lot of people have come to this realization, including the US government. Supplies are tight because so many people are freaking out.

Then there's the budget "get it and forget it" option. Lots of beans, rice and wheat sealed in mylar bags inside of 5 gallon buckets is by far the most economical solution. Pinto beans and rice are both easy to find in big box stores for around $.50 a pound. Combined, they also provide a complete protein. Some say that you could survive on it indefinitely if you had to. I have no intention of trying. One thing you have to keep in mind when going with this approach is that you need to have a way to process the food. Rice is easy enough. A stock pot and a heat source will get the job done. Technically, you can also cook beans in the same way but it takes several hours and if they're not fresh then you can count on them being hard, chewy and nasty. Get a pressure cooker if you want to get serious about cooking some beans. If you want to store wheat then you need to get a grinder. Some people recommend a Corona. I have one and after spending a bit more on a Back to Basics grinder I will never use the Corona to make flour again. I would also HIGHLY recommend baking bread with your preps often enough to get comfortable with the process. Making bread with freshly ground whole wheat flour is tricky and you might need to implement some tricks of the trade to end up with an edible product consistently. At the end of the day, though, wheat, beans and rice will probably stay wholesome longer than we do if properly stored. They have found wheat in Egyptian tombs that actually germinated. That tells me that there is still some nutritional value packed away after a couple thousand years.

The other food strategy is the one that I use. I have some bulk rice, wheat and beans. I also have some #10 cans of Mountain House. Then there are the cases of MREs and CRATs. The bulk of my preps, though, is what I eat every day. My cabinets are packed with canned vegetables, soups, tomato sauce and pasta. If the power goes out I have plans to use everything that's in the (packed) fridge and the freezer. As I use stuff I replace it. I use my wheat storage to make bread. I eat a lot of rice. I even break open an MRE every now and then. My Mountain House is really the only thing that I never touch. Use what you eat. It's the best way to rotate your preps.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What I could have done better

Hindsight is 20/20. I didn't really become interested in current events, investing or prepping until after I bought my house. When I was young and in the army I took my bonus and put it in a mutual fund. Then within 6 months I lost $1000 in it. That put a very bad taste in my mouth toward the stock market and I steered away from investing for a long time. I tried to follow the mantra that if I can't pay cash then I can't afford it. The fact that I had no credit made it easy not to bother applying for it. This went on for years. Eventually I wound up with a good job, in a cheap apartment and a good sized bank account. Then I met my wife.

While we were dating she received a good chunk of cash from an inheritance so we decided to buy a house. This, of course, was at the top of the real estate market. We put our 20% down and got a payment that we could easily afford. We still have the house and we still love it. We're still living well within our means. We bought the house with the intention to live in it forever. It's big enough that I don't see us growing out of it unless we have a 3 or 4 more kids which will not happen. It's small enough that we're not going to feel like it's "too much house" when we get older. It's in a great neighborhood. If we decided to sell it tomorrow we'd probably lose a little but we wouldn't be upside down. So what did I do wrong? I got a mortgage.

We could have bought a small condo or townhouse outright or even just taken out a small mortgage. Of course, the idea of an HOA always turned me off. I was also sick of moving. Still, though, we could have lived in a place like that debt free for just a few years and then either rented it out or sold it when we could afford something bigger. At the time I couldn't have imagined spending 10s of thousands of dollars to live in a place equivalent to my apartment just to save a grand or so a month. Now I'd love to have that opportunity.

So what the hell am I rambling on about? Having that big mortgage hanging over your head really changes your perspective on debt. While it's more than I can hope to pay off "quickly" it's also manageable. As long as I can keep making that payment then no one will bother me. If I can pay a little more then it will shave a few years off of how long I have to pay. With a concerted effort I could probably pay it off before my kid gets old enough to start worrying about money but it would involve some major sacrifices that I highly doubt the wife would be onboard with. If business continues as usual then right about the time I start thinking about retirement it'll be paid off. The world will be completely different by then.

So before I go ranting about things like investing in the stock market, managing credit cards and things as simple as using storage food before the world ends (future posts maybe?) I wanted to put my personal situation into context. What works for me won't work for everyone. I base my financial decisions on my personal situation. Keep that in mind whenever you're reading any of my posts. I'm no expert on anything. I just know enough about the important stuff to feel qualified to weigh in. If I mention something that you think is completely off then I encourage you to call me out. You might just have a point that makes me reconsider my whole take on the situation.

Friday, January 28, 2011

What a year

This last year has flown by. Between everything going on with the news (has anyone else noticed that the world is on fire?), my job and the baby (who's already almost a year old! Didn't I just bring her home from the hospital?!) I'm still having trouble figuring out where the time is going. Maybe I'm just getting old. I hate to think about how fast it will go when I'm 50. Anyway, despite everything else that's been going on I've still been prepping. I also need to improve in some areas.

I admit that I need to spend a lot more time at the range. Ever since the price of ammo skyrocketed I pretty much quit going. A couple hundred rounds every few months just isn't enough to stay proficient. Have you noticed that I don't talk about guns much, anymore? I also need to work out more. I wake up. Go to work. Come home. I have the kid handed to me by the wife when I walk in because "she's been watching her all day". It's not an environment that's conducive to a regular workout schedule. I'm still eating well, though, so at least I'm not getting fat(ter).

So what have I been focusing on? Food is always the most important aspect of a preparedness plan as far as I'm concerned. I just make sure that the pantry is stocked, the spice rack is full and I'm always trying new recipes. I'm not really sure if I've got the venerable year's supply but I'm close enough that it doesn't concern me too much. I just make sure that I'm constantly adding to it. I always buy extra non perishables when I go to the store and then I make it a point to use them when I'm cooking.

I've also been working on my credit. Five years ago I thought that credit cards were the devil and that if you couldn't pay cash for it then you shouldn't buy it. Since then I've learned that if you're responsible with credit it's an extremely valuable tool that can help with preps and life in general immensely. It's not free. It can get you into trouble. It can also be extremely beneficial. Just don't abuse it.

All is well on the precious metals front (for me). In fact, I feel good enough about what I've got stashed that I'm going to start investing in *gasp* the stock market. I opened up a brokerage account that I'll be throwing a few bucks here and there into. There's no minimum balance and the price per trade is really good so I don't plan to lose too much. Ever since silver touched $30 I just decided to back off. While I'm fully convinced that silver will hit $100 easily if the economy does collapse I'm not sure that it will go much past $30 if the powers that be manage to reign things in. Either way, we'll have time to react if we keep watching things closely. Pay attention to the news and you should be able to predict what's going to happen in the precious metals markets.

So what are my plans for the near future? I've seen a few pieces of gear that I'd like to try out. I also need to get crackin on making more beer. I haven't done that in a few months. Keeping my job and taking care of my family are my top priorities, though. When I get the cash I want to buy a chunk of land in the boonies. Besides that I'm just going to keep doing what I've been doing. It's worked well enough so far.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A couple of months off is all it takes.....

I take a couple of months off and I don't even make it into the top 50 survival blogs. Sheesh...everybody's a critic. Was it something I said? While I'm disappointed I can't really say that I'm surprised. It doesn't matter what you've done on the internet over the last few years. What matters is frequency and consistency. People care about what you did two seconds ago. Two weeks ago? That's REALLY old news. If you don't keep people interested then their attention is quickly diverted. I've started several posts in the last couple of months but I just never seem to get around to finishing them. Then when I get time to sit down and finish them off they already seem outdated or I'm just not that interested in the topic anymore. I think that the biggest downer is that I keep seeing a lot of what I've been talking about actually appearing in the mainstream media. Why bother repeating stuff?

It's not like everything is right there spelled out in a single article but I'm a big picture kind of guy. After I read the paper everything tends to come together. The individual stories don't really matter to me. It's amazing, though, how a snippet here pertains to a snippet there. Maybe I'm just a crazy busy body but I think I'd rather figure out what's going on for myself than have someone tell me what's going on.