Prepper Aniversary

I hit upon a funny thought this morning concerning prepper anniversary presents.  You know there are the traditional presents like paper for the 1st anniversary, wood for the 5th and the 50th is gold, and I had the thought of trying to come up with a prepper’s version of that same list, and wouldn’t it be funny.
So I researched and downloaded the list and found several variations between cultures- mostly European cultures- and time periods.  Though the cultural differences did much bother me I discovered that there were only 6 “named” anniversaries traditionally celebrated prior to 1937; 1st, 5th, 10th, 15th, 50th and 75th.  In 1937 the American National Retail Jeweler Association introduced the current list, gee wonder why?
I was interested to find that for the later anniversaries, again of the European variety, the celebration of the 25th and 50th anniversaries were community oriented.  In Germany, for instance, the friends and neighbors of a couple celebrating their 25th anniversary would congratulate them by presenting them with a silver wreath, or a gold one for their 50th.  Apparently, from  what I can determine, Asian cultures don’t traditionally celebrate wedding anniversaries with the exception of the silver 25th and the golden 50th.  My friend Mark, who is married to a Philippine woman, said that these types of things (birthdays, anniversaries and such,  always revolve around a big party with lots of food.  In essence, the gift is the party and the food.
So, to help be on down the road figuring out my prepper aniversary gifts I created a spreadsheet of the 6 anniversaries by year and created a column called Traditional, one called Prepper, and a third called Optional.  I then used a spare column to make a list of prepper things like, a meat grinder, 9mm hand gun, and large fermenting crock.
I then thought about what gift would be appropriate for which year I moved an item from the list and dropped it in the Prepper or Optional column for the specific year unfortunately I immediately ran into a problem.  As the item dropped into the spreadsheet cell I would ask myself, “Why doesn’t he/she already have that?”  Or, “Wouldn’t they need that in year one not year 5?”  This thinking spread further, like that pseudo virus that ran up Neo’s arm in The Matrix; “If she didn’t have the meat smoker in the first year, why did he even marry her?!”  and “Would I trust her with a 9mm hand gun in year 5 if she didn’t have one for the last 4 years?!”
Of course this is all in humor because everyone, preppers included, likes nice things and there is nothing wrong with giving your wife a crystal broach on your 15th anniversary nor for her to give you a Glock (hey, I’m not much of a traditionalist) but what if we utilized the stereotype, what would that look like?  What kind of gifts would hardcore preppers get for each other after putting up with each other for some number of years, especially if the “norm” is that only one person of the couple is a prepper and the other simply allows them to conduct their craziness as a hobby.  I mean, if I bought my wife a meat smoker for our anniversary she’d find physiological inappropriate things to do with the leather hiking boots that I got her in the previous year!  But me, she could award my faithfulness and longevity with 70 rounds of .223 and some paper zombie targets and I would know that she honored loved and respected me.
I will continue to work on this list though its not so humorus as it first was.  Maybe for the space of one day in the year we could just accept tradition and buy the silk roses, the crystal broach, or the diamond studs and be “unpreppery.”  Afterall, your spouse is going to be your backup if bad things go down so make sure you have primed the pan and they are ready to fire!
Cheers – Tony
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Imagine that you have the ability to walk to an exterior building, a greenhouse, or even your basement and harvest a few pounds of fish.  Right after you pull the fish out of the tank you walk a few steps away and harvest several types of lettuce, a cucumber and some cherry tomatoes.  Life would be grand, right?

Let’s also say that you are able to raise the fish, Tilapia, and the vegetables in the same system and in fact, the water that the fish swim in is used to feed and water the vegetables and that medium in which the vegetables live (which is not dirt) and the vegetables themselves clean the water that is sent back for the fish to swim in.  What I’ve just described not only exists but you can build it yourself, and since it is a closed system you can set one up just about anywhere.

An aquaponics system is a merging of two agricultural sciences; AQUAculture, the raising of fish or other aquatic life in a closed environment and hydroPONICS, which as many of you know is raising plants without soil.  It is usually configured with a tank for raising fish and other containers that are filled with some type of medium like pea gravel which is used to support the plants and more importantly it gives a place for the nitrifying bacteria that clean the water to live.   Often a sump tank is also included in the system into which the water from the grow bins drain.

My large system, the one in which I am raising edible fish and vegetables, has a sump.  A medium sized continuous flow pond pump lifts the water from the sump to the fish tank.  The water in the fish tank gravity flows from the fish tank into the grow bin system and fills the grow bins exposing the highly ammoniated water to the hungry nitrifying bacteria who begin to convert the ammonia to nitrogen.  The water fills the grow bin until it triggers an Affnan siphon which creates a vacuum in the siphon and sucks much of the water from the grow bin and sends the now cleaned water back to the sump where the process starts over again.  The process of siphoning, the travel through the piping, and the spilling back into the sump also aerate the water supporting the fish’s oxygen needs.

Aquaponics systems recycle about 80% more water than that of traditional irrigation methods and, depending on the configuration, use very little electricity.  I have built several systems from a desktop model that sat on my desk, to a system that sits on 1800 square feet with a greenhouse, and each of these systems functioned on one pump the size of which was selected to fit the system’s size.

As I have already said you can sit one up just about anywhere depending on size and the types of plants you intend to raise.  There might be some challenges involved depending on your decisions; for instance if you wanted to place a system off grade or in a second story or an attic, so depending on its size, you would need to be aware of supporting structure for not only the weight of the tanks and containers but also the water and grow medium in the system.

Another challenge will be light for the plants.  If you want a purely ornamental system for inside your home then you could choose Goldfish and low light house plants, or raise Tilapia and use house plants since the fish aren’t that concerned with the light.  If you chose to raise edible fish and plants inside then you would necessarily need a grow light system for proper plant health but ask any basement marijuana grower and you will be told that it is completely doable!

There are a few things that I have learned from the several years that I have been building and maintaining aquaponics systems that I should pass on.  First, use a fish that research has shown works well in a closed aquaculture system.  Tilapia is one of these and also easily breeds in captivity making the system even more sustainable.  There are other fish of course but to increase you’re the probability of success don’t experiment for your first try.  I lost a couple hundred catfish before I understood that my oxygen levels were just not high enough to raise catfish.

The second thing you need to know is much like the first.  Though someone might be able to raise any fruit or vegetable in an aquaponics system it is highly unlikely that a novice will be able to and, in my experience, unwise to try.  There are just some vegetables that thrive in the aquaponics environment, some that can get by with a little help and some that take a bit of coaxing.

Generally speaking, green leafy vegetables are a no-brainer for aquaponics.  Lettuce (most types), for instance thrive on consistent water and high nitrogen levels as do cabbage, collards, broccoli and many of the other Cole crops.  Herbs like Basil seem to grow well. Cucumbers also seem to thrive within the same environment and to some extent other melons.  There might be many more vegetables that do well with no help but if you plant these that I have mentioned you are guaranteed some success.

A couple of years ago I experimented with a thing that we eventually called a ”tea-bag” which was nothing more than a mixture of organic potting soils and amendments containing low levels of plant nutrients other than nitrogen.  We placed this dirt in a cotton pillow case and submerged it in the sump.  With this addition we were able to grow cherry tomatoes extremely well, as well as some yellow squash.

All I’m saying is that if you’re planning to grow Bass and Bell peppers you might want to try something other than aquaponics, or be prepared for a significant learning curve!

When I started my journey into aquaponics there was very little information for the common man about this science but now the Internet is saturated with YouTube videos and articles.  Do a little research then give it a try.  Maybe in a few months you’ll be inviting the neighbors over to a fish fry complete with fresh tomatoes and Cole slaw!

Look for “Building An Aquaponics System” by Anthony Faircloth on -via the link found on this page -in both paperback and Kindle download.  Check out my other books too!



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Day Of The Weavil

It was a bright sunny morning on the infamous day of macabre happenings.  My 19 year old son Samuel called me on the phone while I was at work.  With a startled and somewhat frantic voice he said, “Dad, there are little black bugs all over Bruce’s room, and I mean ALL OVER!” (Bruce is a friend of the family and lives with us.)  “They’re all over; in his bed on the walls… everywhere!”  He said. “We looked up bugs on the Internet and they don’t look like bedbugs but they’re all over!”  I asked Sam to describe them for me.  He said, “It has one antenna on its head and two antennas that come out of the one!”  His description made me think that we might be in the midst of an alien invasion!

I told him that I didn’t know what they were but to get all of the clothes off of the floor and drag all the stuff out of the room and spray it well with an insecticide.  Every so often we will be invaded by Fire ants (as can happen in the Deep South) but this apparently was different.   He said that Bruce, while pulling stuff out of the room, had discovered a high concentration of bugs beneath his bed.  He said that they had just drug out a 50 lbs bag of wheat and discovered hundreds of bugs.  I remembered that I had stored a bag of wheat under Bruce’s bed so that it would be easier for me to get to it if I wanted to use it for making wheat berries, or to grind whole wheat flour for muffins.

They had already put the bag on the front porch but when Bruce realized a connection they went back out to look in the bag.  Sam opened the bag and exclaimed still on his cell phone, “Dad, they’re hundreds of them coming out of the bag!  They’re all over the place!”  This was confirmation that the bugs in question were weevils.  It was, ‘The Day of the Weevil!’  <queue sci-fi music>

After a little research I now know that Wheat weevils (Sitophilus granarius), also known as Grain weevils, are a common pest found all over the Grain Weavilworld. They can cause significant damage to harvested and stored grains. The female lays an egg in a kernel of grain, the egg hatches and the larvae begins its journey through the grain eating as it goes.  At some point the larvae stage is over (somewhere between 4 and 20 weeks depending on the temperature) and the beetle emerges to mate and start the whole process over again.  This must have been what happened with this current weevil invasion.  I had purchased the wheat several months ago and the weevils had hatched out and reproduced increasing the population until they either found a hole or gnawed through the bag to escape into Bruce’s room.

I have to say that until that day I had not considered weevils to be an issue.  I don’t know why, just didn’t.  Until then I had always considered weevils to be those annoying bugs that you discover in your cereal, usually after you’ve eaten a couple of bites.  With the cereal I could just throw the box away and buy another one but for someone who is storing grain long term I had to reconsider my strategy.

Bucket & GrainThe process I use to store my grains is called “bucketing.”  I purchase large Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers from Amazon, and white general purpose buckets from the local retail store or home fix-it store.  I place the bag in the bucket, then the grain in the bag, and then I place an O2 absorber packet on top of the grain in the bag.  I can order about 30- 2000cc O2 absorbers from Amazon for around $20.00.  I have had it suggested to me that I could buy food grade buckets with gasketed lids and thereby saving the cost of the bag (though these buckets and lids are more expensive than standard plastic buckets and lids) but I am not totally convinced of the permanence of the seal so I am sticking with the bag/bucket method.

This bucketing process, if done correctly, should minimize damage done to the grain by bugs, unfortunately if the O2 absorber is not large enough to evacuate the bag then insects might continue to feed and breed.  There are several additional steps that one can do to decrease the chances of bug survival.

One recommendation is that you bag your grain in the bucket then place a golf ball sized piece of dry ice on top of the grain and leave it until it is the size of a quarter, then seal the bag as before.  The science behind this says that since CO2 is heavier than air the CO2 will sink into the bucket and down through the grain displacing the oxygen so that when the bag is sealed not only is the oxygen decreased by the O2 absorber but that what gas is left is not breathable by insects.  Be careful during sealing that you don’t allow the bag to suck air back in.

If the two gas options seem too much, a cheap A variation on this is to use a Nitrogen gas tank and a wand.  Simply insert the wand to the bottom of the bag/bucket, turn on the knob on the tank and allow the bucket to fill with the gas from the bottom up.  Since Nitrogen is also heavier than air the air is displaced leaving little to no air in the bucket.  Heat-seal the bag and put the lid on the bucket, and just in case you’re wondering both CO2 and Nitrogen are inert gasses so you should have no worries about explosions.

Diatomaceous EarthAnother option is to mix a couple of cups of food grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE) into the grain either before or during the bag/bucket fill, and then finish the bucketing process as before.  DE is made from tiny Diatoms (small fossilized algae like creatures) that have extremely sharp edges.  The edges are too small to be a problem to humans but they get lodged between the plates of shelled insects and cut the exoskeletons exposing their interior membranes.  Once the shell is compromised the air simply dehydrates the bugs and they die.  The food grade DE won’t hurt you and when you go to use the grain you can just wash it off like dust.  Please remember to get food grade DE since it has no additives.  There is also an insecticidal DE that may or may not have added insecticidal chemicals so carefully read the label.

Food grade DE can be added to chicken feed, or rabbit feed, horse feed- whatever -and will not only help keep bugs from living in the feed but may also kill worms as the DE travels through the animals intestinal tract.  DE can also be used in chicken nest boxes or for dust baths to help control mites, and in the garden it can be sprinkled onto vegetable leaves and stalks help to combat hard shelled insects like stink bugs.  Again, remember that the only thing I am talking about is food grade DE.

I can’t remember where I got my DE but it was a local home improvement, feed or hardware store since these are the only places I go.  I don’t think that I got it from a retail store but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t look for it there.  Let me just finish with these words- Overall, DE is cheap, safe and has multi-uses, buy some.

There are two ways to stop these bugs, one is to microwave the grain for 5 minutes, and the other way is to freeze it for 24 hours.  The first way, though no doubt effective, is not conducive to quick grain storage but the second method has possibilities.  The local grain mill operator was just telling me that he thought that he would buy a couple of large chest freezers to do just that very thing for his high dollar feeds.

Eaten WheatI feel that now I must now open a couple of my wheat buckets to see how well my process worked (or should I just use a stethoscope?) either way what will I find?  Will I have a bucket of wheat or a bucket of bugs?  Remember that if you leave your grain exposed or easily accessible, all grains and grain related products can get infested whether it is a 50 lbs bag of wheat, or an open box of cereal on the top of the refrigerator.  Develop discipline in storing your food appropriately, as I am obviously still trying to do.

At the end of this creepy yet enlightening event I must decide if using feed grain for long term storage is worth it or not.  I do know that the cost of feed grain compared to grain sold in the #10 cans or pre-bucketed is MUCH cheaper, and before you start in- YES, I did think about the possibility of insecticides on the grain and decided that the risk was minimal, especially if I washed the grain before use.

So, if I can kill or otherwise stop the larvae in the seed, AND my methods of storage are adequate to halt the bug growth, then I think the answer is yes.  What I absolutely know is this; my prepping journey seems to be full of a never ending amount of learning and I seem to be one of its more inelegant learners.



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Looking At Preparedness From the Other Side

I find people’s reaction to preparedness interesting.  What a person’s great grandparents did 75 years ago is now looked upon as craziness.  If one “puts back” (stockpiles), or “puts up” (cans meat or vegetables) then it somehow equates to over-reaction, or I’ve even heard the term- hording.  How did we get here?!

 Today, if I have the money, I can go to the store and buy… whatever.  In fact, I can buy multiples of whatever and when I store them I am stockpiling; I am putting back needed supplies for a time when I might need them for myself or for someone else.  When I buy a whatever while there is enough for anyone who wants one and has the money to buy it, then it’s called stockpiling.  If, after a catastrophe, I go to the store where there are only 10 whatevers and I buy all 10 of them even though I have no immediate use for them, this is called hording.  The misconception lies in timing and attitude.

 To advance my point let me do non-preppers a favor and create a scenario that HAS happened and WILL happen given the correct set of circumstances:

 There is a married guy named Jim who has a wife and a newborn baby.  Like many of us Jim lives paycheck to paycheck but has some disposable income.  Jim watches the news and tracks some of the world situations; war, economic, etc. and yet he doesn’t see any need to store food or water, or anything else for a time when it might be needed. 

 In the same neighborhood- maybe next door -lives Sue who is a married mother of two toddlers.  She has about the same amount of disposable income and she and her husband also keep track of world events.  Sue sees possible economic problems and has devised a strategy to provide for the needs of her family should things go pear shaped.  As a result, she has chosen to spend some of her income buying water, extra canned foods to stock her pantry, and even some large amounts of beans and rice for a possible “crazy” emergency.   Oh did I mention that Jim and Sue live on the Gulf Coast so even without the possible economic problems there is reason enough to stockpile some supplies. 

Well, in the course of time that inevitable Category 5 hurricane arrives one summer and turns out the lights for nearly two weeks but because Sue has the extra food, water, camp stove and fuel for it, they go on with their lives and with little change.  Jim however had most of his two week supply of food in the refrigerator and freezer with no generator or fuel to ensure his food stays cool, and though he also has five gallons of water, a few cans of vegetables, and some boxed hamburger skillet entree mix (with no hamburger) he begins to see that there might be a problem ahead of him in a very short time, and worse, he has only a little formula for his baby.  Fortunately and currently, in a normal hurricane situation, the government will be poised to help Jim with his challenges.

. I was one of those people and because I did what Sue did in the above scenario, I was not much affected.

 A non-prepper might see this situation and conclude that Sue is hording and should open up her  coffers and give her surplus to those who are in need, and guess what, in this scenario I might tend to agree.  It is a time limited event and if Sue has enough food for her family for two weeks she should think about helping her neighbors as best she can.  However, Sue should never have to sacrifice her family’s health to provide for those who made a decision not to put back food, water and supplies for themselves.  It’s very easy to judge someone else’s circumstances, but what happens if Sue’s job was managing a mini-mart on the beach and now the beach isn’t there let alone the mini-mart?  She may need to live off of her surplus a little longer than two weeks while she finds another job.

 One might say, “But Jim didn’t know the hurricane was going to hit them!”  And I would say, “Bull crap!!”  Anyone who lives in this part of the country knows that if you haven’t begun to stockpile BEFORE the news reports the hurricane is coming your way, then you begin AFTER it’s reported!  Seriously, with today’s technology a tropical depression is tracked until it becomes a tropical storm, then tracked to a Cat 1 hurricane, then until it makes landfall and even then the weather man will report on the leftover rain storms that surge up into the central part of the country for several days after.  The important part of this however is that from the reporting of a tropical depression until the storm makes landfall could be up to two weeks, certainly enough time to make basic preparations. If you’re even halfway smart you will keep a few things stored all year round, like a camp stove and the appropriate fuel.

 When did we begin to lose this habit?  When did we begin to decide that we didn’t really have to provide for our families; that we really weren’t accountable for ourselves, our wife and our kids? I mean, it’s such a no-brainer that when May roles around you could easily buy a couple of extra cans of condensed soup, a can of SPAM, or a camp lantern and put them back.  With a can of beef and gravy and a couple cans of mixed vegetables you can make a quick, “Hurricane Stew,” or add a can of chicken to your favorite boxed ‘chicken helper.’  What I’m saying is that it’s so incredibly easy to just put back a little at a time.

 My guess is that our lack of preparedness occurred around the time that the government stepped in with the welfare system, but maybe it was before that.  I mean, it was SO easy to let the government provide for our basic needs so perhaps we had already turned away from our personal accountability prior to the “New Deal.”

 Before you rile up the village to grab their pitch forks and march off to catch and burn the monster (me) let me say that I am all about helping people that can’t help themselves.  These people include children, the sick and infirm, and the elderly, who have no family to take care of them, but additionally if anyone was hungry and it was in my power to feed them, and I wasn’t taking the food from the mouths of my own family, then I would see it as a moral obligation to help them.

 We have come so far away from the idea of providing for our self and our family that now when we hear about someone being personally accountable we smile knowingly… or is it cynically?  We think that they are the crazy people!  And, because each family is not self-supporting then the community is not ready and it cannot fill in the gaps when a family needs help.

 I think I see some of the issue, at least in part.  I think that we are short sighted, only seeing this whole preparedness thing from the ‘preparing’ side instead of the ‘prepared’ side.  I’d like to think that if we looked 5 years down the timeline of most preppers we would probably see that many of them have stockpiled enough food for their family for a year, as well as little extra for charity.  We would see that they are making fewer large purchase, perhaps only enough to replace the foods that they’ve consumed in the previous month because they are rotating their pantry food.  No big purchases of ammunition, bags of beans or grain, or freeze dried food- the “crazy stuff” -because these were already bought and stored.  These preppers may be located in the same house they were in 5 years previous, or they may have moved out the edge of town where they have room for a garden and a few chickens, or they may have a residence completely out in the country were they are raising larger livestock and canning their own vegetables and meats. 

 If you were to ask these “prepared” preppers about their decisions they might say, “That’s just how we live.”  Looking from the other side, the prepared side, you would just see normal people living normal lives.  They have already put their money where their mouths are and taken a step backwards towards past generations to whom preparing for the unknown was a normal part of life and in my way of thinking this is “normal.”


Anthony Faircloth

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The “Life-cycle” of Animal Husbandry

When I decided to learn some the traditional heritage skills I knew that raising my own meat animals would be one of the skills that I would choose to learn.  I also knew that if I was going to raise the animals I would also need to learn to dispatch them humanely and process them effectively.  I understood that it was part of the skill.

I started with chickens.  Since my small “micro-farm” is set up for Bantam sized chickens I bought Bantam chickens.  Unfortunately since Bantam sized chickens are so small they are only shipped as “straight run” meaning that they are not sexed previous to shipping which means that I was bound to get some roosters and I could only ‘hope’ for a 50-50 split.

On my first order of 12 the breeder sent me 16 which was my order plus four non-Bantam rooster chicks they had packed in the box for warmth.  In the end I had 6 Bantam Cochin roosters and 4 Barred Rock roosters- 10 roosters in all.  I kept one of the Cochins who is presently still the leader of the flock, but that meant I still had to dispatch 9 roosters.

I watched several YouTube videos and found one that I thought demonstrated the proper respect for the animal and I invited a couple of friends over who wanted to learn also.  I previously built some “killing cones”- metal cones in which the chickens are inserted head first and that confine them until they are dead – which eliminates all the thrashing about that one so often hears about.

I set up the area with a clean table, trash cans, and water hose.  I attached the killing cones form the nearby chain link fence, and got the scalding water heated to around 170 degrees.  This water is used to loosen the chicken feathers after the chicken is dead to help the feather plucking to go easier.

When all was ready we each got a chicken from the cages where I had separated them the night before and hung them upside down in the cone.  We carefully slit their throats as the video had shown and let the animals bleed out.  To tell you the truth, the chickens didn’t seem to feel any pain.  No, I mean it; they didn’t struggle, thrash or squawk, they just hung in the cones until near their end when their heart stopped then they had a couple of spasms and… that was it.

We removed their heads, dipped them in the hot water and plucked them which is BY FAR the most work intensive part of the process.  We then removed their organs and feet, and cut them in the standard pieces and bagged them for the freezer.

Rabbits were a bit different and less work intensive since there were no feathers.  I again invited friends over.  I set up the area with the same equipment as the chickens minus the killing cones and the hot water, but with the addition of a couple of gambrels- a piece of equipment that hooks through the rabbits Achilles tendon (after death) and hold the rabbit in the correct position for processing.  We watched a couple of YouTube videos then began the process of breaking the rabbit’s neck, skinning them, removing the guts and cutting them up for the freezer.

Now, here’s the point, I didn’t “like” any of it!  What sane person would “like” to kill and break down animals?  But see, it’s not about “liking” it’s about responsibility.  It’s about following through with learning the whole skill and not failing at the end. And its about its about sitting down at the dinner, lunch or breakfast table and knowing- absolutely -where your food came from and what’s in it.

Most of us would say that there is nothing morally wrong with eating meat, but most would also agree that they don’t want to have a previous relationship with their food!  But this is the homesteader’s choice of lifestyle, to know your food, to know your meat, eggs, cheese, bacon and rutabagas; to know it all.  It is the homesteader’s lifestyle choice to raise his food, to know what goes into it, to nurture it and care for it, to cause it no unnecessary discomfort or pain, then to dispatch it with respect and thanksgiving for what it will provide.  It is our heritage, our tradition, and though I don’t enjoy the killing aspect of it, I enjoy what it provides for me and my family.



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Preparing for the Wind

I live in Northwest Florida so every year from June 1 through November 30 my ears perk up to listen for reports of hurricanes that might  be entering the Gulf of Mexico.  With each hurricane that heads for Pensacola I must make a strategic decision; stay or go.  To date, after 19 years, I can say that I have chosen to stay.  Even when Hurricane Ivan wiped our coast off the map and caused many if not most of us to live without power and the niceties of civilized life for a couple of weeks, I was here.  It WAS an experience!

This is why I yearly assess my resources and gear so that I am prepared regardless of if decide to leave, or stay.  My assessment is fairly simple but attempts to cover the basics.  Food, water, and essential equipment & supplies, and repair materials.

First, I take stock of my pantry.  This is the third level of my storage strategy and includes the foods my family and I eat every day.  Things like dehydrated entree’s “<place selected protien here> Helper”, as well as canned fruits and vegetables, condensed milk, canned meats, etc.   I include two other levels of food storage in my overall preparedness strategy; Level 2 is dehydrated and freeze dried fruits and vegetables, and Level 1 is what I call, “The Morman Basics” but I will cover that in another article.

I try to keep a well stocked pantry capable of providing food for four people for three months, however I frequently find that I have slacked off in this area from two sides.

The first side is that I have the food physically stocked on the shelf, and though I try to pick up a few things when I’m out shopping, especially when they’re on sale, to keep my pantry food levels up, sometimes I don’t keep up with the desired amounts.  With three young men living in the house it is easy to find myself without… whatever.  But the second side is equally important and that is to ensure that what is in the pantry is well within date.  Having out-of-date foods usually comes from not rotating the cans, boxes and jars; eating older ones and buying newer ones to replace them.

In most foods like vegetables and soups a few months, even a year past the due date is not a problem.  Most canned foods are good for at least 24 months but do not actually “go bad.”  They may loose some nutritional value, flavor or textural quality, but they are still safe to eat as long as the can has remained intact.  Physically rotate milk since the milk solids will settle on the bottom of the can and make a goo.  One exception that I would not play with is baby formula.

Remember that in most hardships where you will be clearing brush, raking, repairing, lifting and walking you will be burning more calories than prior to the event so make sure that the foods you have are both nutritious AND filling.  An average male adult in their low 20s to low 40s who will be engaged in a moderate level of exercise needs around 2500 callories per day to maintain their body weight.  An adult woman in the same category needs aroun 2300 so plan for the correct amount of calories.  Do not under-supply.  The stress level at home will already be higher than normal.  My advise is that if you would like to lose weight it would be better to start a diet AFTER the lights come back on.   You don’t have to eat the calories but at least you will have them if you need them.

Another issue is water.  Remember that all the freeze dried and dehydrated food in the world is useless unless you can rehydrate it.  I know, I know, you can eat it dry but seriously… generally speaking you can’t cook without water so store it!

Yes, hours before the hurricane you can fill up tubs and sinks with fresh water- and should!  If nothing else you can use it to flush toilets, however these are EMERGENCY measures, and it is what those who haven’t prepared will be doing.  What YOU should be doing is filling the bottles and barrels that you have been cleaning and saving for just such an occasion.

Two liter soft drink bottles or large plastic juice bottles work the best.  Milk jugs, not so good but they are OK in a pinch.  The biggest thing is to ensure that they are clean.  Rinse them out to ensure that they are clean, fill them, then add about 5 drops of chlorine bleach- 15% sodium hydroxide -into each to a liter bottle, or 6 drops per gallon.  Place these in a cool dark area away from activity so that they don’t get kicked and punctured.

You could also use large barrels as long as they are food grade and have had nothing toxic stored in them that could bleed back into the water once they are filled.  Clean, then fill and add 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach.  How I came up with that is that “I” use 6 drops of bleach per gallon of clean water.  Remember this is a short term thing, maybe 1 to 3 weeks, so no need to go overboard on the purity thing, especially if the water came from your tap to begin with.  So 1 tblsp = 3 tsp = 360 drops. 360 drops divided by 6 drops/gal = 60 gal which is obviously more than 55 gallons but I suspect 30 more drops isn’t going to kill anyone. (I got these equivelencies off the Internet so I know they’re correct!)  Some people will even tell you that it should be seven drops so I don’t think that there is a problem.  Regardless, seal the drums so that nothing- even rain water -can get inside.  If you can place them in a cool place out of the way thats even better!

Now, how about cooking that food?  I have found that a small propane camp stove works great.  It is compact and easy to store, and the little cylindars can be stored without giving up a lot of space.  You might even want to upgrade your cooking system and buy an adapter and hose to allow your camp stove to be attached to a larger propane bottle like the type used for grills.

You should also ensure that your grill is working and the bottles are filled, however if you have a big grill it will be fairly hard to take it with you so adjust your strategy accordingly.  You should consider packing a plastic storage box with the stove, propane bottles, pots, pans, and other cooking utensils so that it can be easily accessed if needed, or staged for packing if you decide to leave the area.

And don’t forget the cleanup aspect of cooking!  A couple of inexpensive plastic wash basins, a bottle of dish soap, a couple of towels and dish clothes, and a box of 30 gallon plastic trash bags can go far to ensure good hygiene in the kitchen.

Light is another basic preparation that should be addressed.  Unless you want to go to bed when it gets dark you will need a reliable source of light.  I advise you to have several different types; kerosene, propane, battery powered, and candles are the few I’ve used and each plays its own part.

A propane of liquid fueled camp lantern, the kind with the mantels, is great for times when you need a lot of bright light to cook and or do chores.  We use nice glass kerosene lamps in the kitchen and living rooms to light the room for general use, and some reading.  We also have a couple of the old outside lanterns for lighting our deck, or for eating outside.

I think battery powered lanterns are great for short term tasks, and make good walking light.  Say you need to go check on something in the barn, or get some wood from the stack, or go pull little Timmy from the well, the battery lanterns are both light and bright.  Buy newer ones that utilize the LED technology and therefore tend to be gentle on battery life.  Also, in an enclosed space they do not give off any fumes or heat.

We also use candles for kitchen and living room to supplement the kerosene lamps.  And we place a large voltive candle in each bathroom in a safe non-flamable holder as a night light.  This should be done in such a way so as to keep them away from small curious hands.  Don’t forget fire starters like matches and lighters, both are invaluable for use with lamps, candles and the cooking stove.

An area that I believe needs to be mentioned is that of repair materials.  If you can, build or buy hurricane shutters for your home.  These should be strong enough to keep sticks and debris that the neighbor down the street forgot to secure, from crashing through your window.  But also, keep an extra piece of plywood handy, as well as some 1″x2″x8′ and 2″x2″x8′ boards, a roll of 6 mil plastic, a couple rolls of duct tape, and some nails for quick repairs.

Just the boards, nails, tape and plastic will take you a long way towards keeping rain from comming in a broken window, or the next days rain from soaking the insulation in you attic through an open wound in your roof.

A few quick remarks about some other resources:

  • Ice bottles- Place 3-4 water filled plastic bottles (1-2 liter soda
    bottles) in your freezer when you first hear about the hurricane, or
    on June 1st if you have the room.  After the hurricane passes and the power is off you can leave them in the freezer to aid in keeping the frozen food cold.
    After Ivan my family ate all the frozen stuff we had first, then we
    moved some things like milk, butter, eggs and codiments into the
    freezer with the still frozen bottles basically turning the freezer
    into a cooler.
  • Coolers- Ensure you have a couple clean coolers ready.  After the
    hurricane and when the government starts offering ice you will have a
    place to store it.  Plus, if decide to leave you can haul out some of the food in your freezer and refridgerator.
  • Roof and window repair supplies-  Purchase a role of 6 mil sheet
    plastic, some 1″x2″x8′ boards, two headed nails, and plenty of duct
    tape.  With these things you can conduct emergency repairs your roof,
    or damaged windows.
  • Batteries- Don’t overlook batteries.  1) Check each emergency
    lantern, flashlight and radio and replace the batteries.  2) Stock-up
    on batteries of not only the sizes needed for emergency equipment but
    also those that run entertainment equipment; TVs, CD players, DVD
    players, electronic game systems, etc.  This will help ease stress,
    especially for your children.
  • Gasoline- Its always a good idea to keep enough gas in approved gas
    cans to get you and your family a couple hundred miles out of the area
    without the need to stop.  This will allow you to evacuate
    immediately, even if you didn’t get a chance to fill up.  So if you
    drive a very gas efficient car that has around a 13 gallon tank, then
    plan on storing two 6 gallon gas cans.  Store more if your car’s
    aren’t as gas efficient.  It won’t go to waste especially if you
    rotate it.  And remember that you can also use it for chainsaws and
    generators not to mention lawn mowers and weed-whackers.

So hopefully this will help to ensure that you and your family are prepared for the Wind!

Respects- Tony


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Food- A Quality Decision

I just bit into an apple wedge that I pulled from a bag purchased at a big food retailer. No joke, the apple was crunchly but tasteless. It didn’t really have an identifiable taste but the closest I can come to is, “non-sour.” And can I say that as a flavor, non-sour is far from my favorite.

It brings back a memory of a specific lunch I had while I was in the Navy. The cooks had fried up the awesome greasy hamburger that we called, “sliders,” and I was lined up with my crew mates to pass down the line.   The line was setup in an orderly fashion with plates and silverware, then the standard hamburger vegetables; onions, lettuce, pickles and tomatoes, then the buns and sliders. When we got to the huge tray of tomatoes I saw that most of them were a pale red, not really a pink, more like a “non-pink” and when I stuck the fork in a slice to retrieve it I found that it was crunchy. I exclaimed to the guy next to me that when I go home to Indiana next I hope its during the Summer so I can get some nice fresh, ripe tomatoes and not these crunchy ones. He looked to me and said, “I thought all tomatoes are crunchy!”

Since then I have learned to describe tomatoes a bit more than I would have thought necessary previously, so when I tell you that tomatoes are NOT crunchy, they are sweet and juicy and messy if ripe and eaten correctly- sliced, between two pieces of multi-grain bread with a little bit of mayo, salt and pepper! Again, tomatoes are NOT crunchy, and just as a side- neither are peaches, nectarines, plums or pears… NOT crunchy!

We have become so wrapped up in our modern notions of agribusiness, and food acquisition; retail grocery stores, wholesale clubs, etc. that we’ve actually stopped remembering- or are too young to know -where food comes from and what it really tastes like. Perhaps we are setting ourselves up to mimic the 1973 Richard Fleischer movie, “Soylent Green” where unbeknownst to the community at large, humans where being recycled back into food cubes to feed the starving masses of an overcrowded world. All Soylent waffers basically tasted the same.

Please hear me, I am not slamming agribusiness as such. I think that good, wholesome, tasty and nutritious food CAN be grown on large business oriented farms. They just aren’t, and why? Because YOU don’t care! Yea, thats right, I said it, you don’t care about your food because there is one thing that I know for sure, agribusiness is all about money! You want wholesome, tasty food and you decide that you are not getting it at Wallyworld or KrazyMart, the business side of agribusiness will feel that and will find away to get you back. It is what they are all about.

Now, I’m not a crazy promoter of ‘grow all of your own food’ sometimes its not possible due to health or geographic situation, or time.  Sometimes you can’t grow enough to make a substantial difference in your lifestyle. Nor will I tell you to stay away from anything at a retail grocery store. Nor vault to the other extreme and tell you to ONLY shop at a “whole foods” store. But I will say that it would be wise to find a couple whole foods stores in your area, and to see where the Farmer’s Markets are located, or even stop by the old guy on the side of the road selling watermellons, tomatoes, or whatever.

Buy a sample and taste it for yourself.  Ask some questions, ensure that the produce is actually locally grown, or you may just be getting the same unflavorful, unnutritious food you would have at your local retail store.  I asked the owner of a local well established Farmer’s Market where they got all of their produce and she told me that during the Winter they have to import it in just like everyone else, but in the Spring/Summer they only buy 100% local.  Hey, as long as they’re honest about it I’ll support it!

I believe that if we begin to buy our produce from a vender who is getting it closer to the source, and purchasing less from big business who is in it for the dollar, then big business will begin to feel it and come back around. Big Agi will produce what sells and as long as we continue to pay for a lower standard product we will get a lower standard product.

Cheers- Tony

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Transmissions Happen!

I am frequently irritated by people who want to poo-poo my preparedness lifestyle choice.  It really doesn’t take a rocket scientist to follow the two lifestyle choices to see which one has the most resilience.  I take command of my life and stock up on food, water, medical supplies, etc, the other guy doesn’t.  We both move through time and whenever I hit a snag I fall back on my skills and supplies, as the other guy scrambles to figure out which bill he is not going to pay, or as in the case of a natural disaster like Hurricane Ivan, he has to stand in line for water and food.

I feel the same irritation when I hear people say that there could never be a medical emergency so huge that it overwhelmed our medical community, as if the doctors, nurses and paramedics can stop a flu outbreak!  Tell that to the doctors who survived the Spanish Flu in the early 1900’s.  The low estimate is that 50 million people died worldwide, that 3% of the WORLD’S population, and 27% of the world’s population (500 million) were estimated to have been infected.  Paraphrasing the great poet MC Hammer, “Can’t stop this!”  Because it’s not just the virus… I mean it’s not just that the virus exists.  It has to travel, and the quicker the transition from host to host the better, and this is where I’m heading- transmission vectors.

I was in the book store I frequent the other day when a man sneezed. Now men have been known to sneeze so it was only the noise that initially attracted my attention, and the noise was on the far side of the shelf so I couldn’t see him.  In fact, I wasn’t really sure it was a man, and anyway I paid little attention until he sneezed several more times.  I rounded the end of the set of shelves and saw him standing on the far end looking at some books.  He appeared to be a man in his 60s, decently dressed in khakis and a button-up shirt, leather shoes you know, normal old-guy stuff.  Then he sneezed again, and two more times after that. The man was sneezing into the open air towards the books without covering his mouth or blocking the spray in any way!  While this is an article on disease transmission I still have to state my disgust at sneezing into the open air in a public place… really?  Your mamma didn’t teach you any better?!  But I digress.

Watching this guy sneeze reminded me of the casualness of man in the area of disease control.  Had we understood this better in past history many millions of people might have survived the plagues and diseases that ran rampant through villages and families during ancient and Medieval times.  And even today, how many people does the simple act of covering your mouth save from colds and influenza every year?   How about just washing your hands regularly… a couple hundred thousand maybe?

This gentleman wasn’t some homeless, disease ridden bum (just using a stereotype I am not anti-homeless, or anti –disease- ridden-bums for that matter) this was a guy who looked like he was probably looking for information on tire swings so he could get one made before his grand kids’ visit on Saturday, but my point is- IT WON’T MATTER! Influenza doesn’t care who it passes through!  A millionaire COULD pass it to a homeless bum if neither he nor the bum took proper precautions.  And the Rhinovirus (common cold)- just using a common example –can be transferred through the air (someone sneezing or coughing into the air, and through contaminated surfaces; and the more porous the surface the longer the virus will live.  This guy was rolling doubles for winning the Typhoid Mary award; he was sneezing into the air and at rows of paper books!

So to all of you who think, “I’m safe in this modern world, giv’r a try H1N1!”  I would suggest you look around for the next week.  Watch
how many times someone coughs or sneezes without covering their mouth, or sneezes into the hand, wipes their hand on their pants (now labeled a disease storage area) then touches something thus contaminating it. Then remember that those pants still have the virus on them so rub your hand on your pants after washing them and you can re-contaminate your hand. Sneeze, hand to pants, open a door- the pants and the knob are contaminated so that the next person who comes along and touches the knob can potential transfer the virus. If you keep your eyes open for the behavior you’ll begin to wonder why we all don’t have each other’s diseases!

My purpose in this writing is to bring awareness.  In a viral epidemic I think there are two options; a strict personal adherence to personal protection protocols (which YOU will need to create), and at some point I think staying home. You will need to have what you need to enable you and your family to pay bills and eat for 1-3 months.  Also, you will want to have an infectious disease protocol in your home (BTW- a protocol is a systematic way of doing things, feel free to use your own name for it.).  What will you do if little Sally gets sick?  Well, take her to the hospital of course!  But just realize that that’s were all the sick people will be so mask up, wear long sleeves/pants, maybe some latex gloves; use common sense knowing what the transmission vectors are.  And what about when you get home, what will you do with Sally then?  Or what if the reports are that the hospitals and clinics are full, or that there are reports of medical facilities running out of medicines?  You will need to establish a “sick room” until Sally gets well, with only limited contact from the other family and then only after wearing the appropriate safety attire.

As the medical event moves on you will either see the cases drop off within a week or two and things will get back to normal, or it will get worse and you will hear reports of clinics and hospitals being overloaded.  If you haven’t gone-to-ground before then, that would be the trigger point.

I recommend you research the areas of viral transmission, and care, and come up with your own protocol that will help to take you safely through one of these events.


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Non-Traditional Protein Production Has Its Place: A brief look at Aquaponincs

One of the keystones of preparedness philosophy is learning and practicing the skills of raising, slaughtering and preparing or storing animal protein. Traditionally this has been in the form of chickens and rabbits, or larger animals like cows and pigs however fish can also be raised to support a families dietary needs. In this article I will give you a quick look at an easy and scalable way to do this right in your backyard.

No one would argue that a retreat property with a decent sized pond on it would be a great asset to a homesteader’s attempt at self sufficiency however, if you don’t have a pond you can still raise the fish if you know how to build an aquaponics system.

Just like with any other pillar of self-sufficiency there are both benefits and challenges to aquaponics:



Aquaponics systems can be fairly simple to construct since they are made of common and inexpensive materials like wood, cement and PVC, and they can have a long life-cycle and a relatively low daily maintenance depending on materials used and system configuration. On the other hand there is some initial cost in the construction, the amount depends on materials and configuration. And there can be quite a bit of sweat equity needed at the beginning.
Aquaponics systems can be fully controlled. You know what is in the water, you know what the fish are fed, and you know what is in the “soil” in which the plants grow.

You must be extremely careful that what you add to the plants (fertilizers, insecticides, etc.) are not harmful to the fish. Also, the water must be amended if the the plants are to be in top health.

Aquaponics systems are not expensive to run. A medium sized system with a 50’x25′ footprint has the capability of raising 200 lbs of fish and having 192 sqft of organic garden space is all run with a medium sized fountain pump. The water MUST flow! If the pump stops for very long the water will not be cleaned or aerated and the fish will die, and of course electricity is needed to run the pump.
An aquaponics system can also be built inside a building, even in a basement, out of prying eyes. This might also be part of a preparedness strategy if you thought you might be caught indoors for a extended time. There will be the added cost of appropriate “grow light” illumination. Also, you may be suspected of growing pot since this is a technique frequently deployed by marijuana growers.
AP systems use 80% less water than traditional dirt gardens.

Any water entering the system, like the water being used to top off the system must be analyzed to ensure that there is no chlorine, and the pH is is acceptable.

Fish and vegetables raised in this system are raised without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides.

A traditional dirt garden can produce a wider variety of vegetables. Not all vegetables thrive in an aquaponics system.

An epiphany that I have made since starting my aquaponics system two years ago is that it should not take the place of a standard garden if traditional gardening is an option. As hard as it is for me to say, and though there is a lot of flexibility in aquaponics, it does not easily lend itself to the growing of many commonly grown and desirable vegetables.

While I’m sure there is someone out there who will debate me on this I have found AP systems great for green leafy crops but are temperamental when it comes to fruiting plants and downright stubborn when it comes to root crops!

If you want success I recommend, Cucumber, and Cantaloupe, maybe Cherry tomatoes, if the temps won’t get too warm, or if you want to hold out to late Summer. Plants like Swiss Chard, leaf lettuce, Collards, cabbage, and Turnip greens do well in the cooler weather. Also, herbs… we grew so much Basil we didn’t have a way to get rid of it fast enough. I mean 32sqft of Basil, both Thai and Sweet Basil. And with a greenhouse you can adjust your planting cycle as needed. Also you may need to amend the water with some other nutrients to get the healthiest plants.

So while I do believe that with some experimentation and modifications, a system can be created to grow just about anything it would probably increase the cost and complexity of the system and is beyond the scope of this article.

Perhaps a different strategy is needed; Instead of thinking of an aquaponic system as an alternative to a pond or a garden, why not think of an AP system as a way to grow protein rich fish with the added serendipity of growing lettuces, cabbage, and other greens leave the other vegetables for the more traditional gardening.

So though an aquaponics system has its limitations and a preparedness minded person would still want to learn to grow a “dirt garden” to provide the bulk of fresh vegetables- as well as produce for canning -an aquaponics system can be a back-up method of providing fresh fish and vegetables, and after all aren’t having “back-ups” part of what being prepared is all about?

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