Buying Gold and Silver

Posted: January 14, 2016 in Finance
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Should I buy gold and silver?  This is a common question preppers have.  Readers have been asking me for some insight on this topic.  Here are a few of my thoughts on the matter.

Preppers and gold seem to go hand in hand.  People often add it to the Three Military Bs – Beans, Bullets, Bandaids… Buillion.  Is having gold and silver as important as the other three?  Probably not, but it is something you may want to consider adding to your preparations.

My short answer to the question is… maybe.  When and why should you stockpile precious metals?  Precious metals are fairly stable and tend to hold their value well.  They really shine (nice pun) during rapid inflation or economic collapse.  When paper money becomes useless your gold and silver still have intrinsic value.  Throughout history there has always been demand for gold and silver for these reasons.

Precious metals are portable and dense.  Throw a silver dollar in a bugout bag and you have something that is worth roughly $15 at today prices.  Throw a 1 ounce gold coin in your BOB and it is worth about $1000.  As you can see gold is much more valuable than silver.  This is good and bad.  That 1 ounce gold coin can be very hard to spend.  If you need a $2 loaf of bread how are you going to split that $1000 coin?  Having some of both in different weights is a good idea.  Just like you would carry around paper money in different amounts -$5, $10, $20, $100 bills.

Rules of Thumb

  1. Food storage comes first – if you don’t have 6 months of food and water stored up don’t even think about acquiring gold or silver.  You can’t eat gold.  You will just find yourself trying to barter your metals for the food you don’t have.  Get the food first.
  2. Make sure you have the other basics covered as well before you buy buillion.  Guns, ammo, first aid, energy.  Otherwise you’ll just need to barter your buillion for the things you need.
  3. Buy and hold physical precious metals.IMG_4565  You can buys stocks, ETFs, certificates of precious metals.  This might be okay for investment sake but not terribly useful in an emergency.  I recommend having your own metals on hand.
    1. This requires some way to store and keep these precious metals safe.  You will want to invest in a safe.  The more money you have to protect the more money you have to spend to protect it.  Diversion safes are designed to hide things in plain site.  A coke can with a screw off bottom hiding in your fridge would work pretty well for a few hundred dollars of silver.  Maybe a fake book on your bookshelf.  There are lots of options.
  4. Start with silver because it is just cheaper and easier.  Junk silver coins are a great place to start. IMG_4561 They are called “junk” because they have no collecting value.  They are actually quite valuable for their silver content though.  Quarters, half dollars, and dimes before 1965 are 90% silver.  This tends to be one of the cheapest ways to buy silver.  You can also consider American Silver Eagles, silver rounds, and silver bars. IMG_4563 American Silver Eagles (and similar) will always cost a bit more because they are official currency from a government mint.  You pay a premium for this.  The nice thing about this is that they are easily recognizable and universally trusted for their silver content.  This may make them a bit easier to trade.  In addition actual currency may be safer from a government confiscation of gold or silver.  Our government has done this in the past.
  5. Buy from a reputable source.  There are many online retailers of precious metals.  Some are super shady and dishonest.  There is a whole industry just trying to scare you into buying precious metals.  Be wary.  I have used a few different companies and can recommend them.  You can buy local, but again be careful.  Find someone you trust.  I have never found the prices to be competitive with the online retailers.  Below are two I use.  Over many orders I have never had any problems.
    1. Provident Metals
    2. JM Buillion
  6. Look at gold and silver as a hedge against inflation and economic collapse not as an investment.  Investing in precious metals is an entirely different ballgame.  We are not talking about that here.  I simply look at it as putting some value away now in case of emergency later.  I don’t really care what it costs now or what it is worth in 10 years.  I feel good any time I can trade my worthless paper fiat money for silver or gold that has real value.
  7. Avoid numismatic coins.  These are rare coins that are collectible.  Their value is often many times higher than the worth of the precious metal they contain.  You aren’t interested in this for prepping.  This is collecting or investing in collectables.  You need skill and experience for this.  The unitiated will most likely get taken advantage of and end up losing money.  You just want the metal in the coins so don’t overpay for collectability.
  8. Do your due diligence.  This is a very superficial summary.  I would recommend reading some other sources and viewpoints on this.  There are a lot of good articles out there on this very topic.  Here are a couple other articles worth reviewing.  These are both very good blogs in general.
    1. The Great Northern Prepper – Precious Metals Investing
    2. Graywolf Survival – Will gold and silver be… when SHTF?

Summary

I do believe that gold and silver have a place in your preparations.  They can be very useful items to have stockpiled.  If you are just getting started put this on the back burner.  This is not a top priority.  Food and water are top priorities.  If you are a more experienced prepper looking to diversify then this may be a good direction to go.

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Learn Something Dumby!

Posted: January 5, 2016 in Education
Tags: , , ,

You should always be learning.  Try and learn at least one new thing everyday.  It is very easy to get into a routine and become complacent.  Below are just a few free resources to stimulate your brain and expand your mind.  There is a lot of knowledge out there in the world that is free for the taking.  Take advantage of this glorious information age!

Khan Academy – started by Sal Khan as a series of instructional youtube videos that he created to tutor some of his family members.  Now a huge free collection of courses on anything from art history to multivariable calculus to computer programming.  All free and very user friendly.  Get badges for completing courses and tasks.  I took a class on Intro to Art History and I am currently taking a course on Macroeconomics.

edX – Collaboration of Harvard and MIT to “increase access to high-quality education for everyone, everywhere”.  These are actual Harvard/MIT courses by actual professors.  Most classes are free.  You can pay a small fee and get an official certificate of completion.

Duolingo – great little website and app for learning languages- completely free.  Spanish, German, French, Italian and many more.  I am currently at Spanish level 4 which apparently equates to 8% fluency.  You can test out of portions of languages that you already know and jump to a higher difficulty.  Also great for brushing off the rust of a language you already know.

Netflix

  • Documentaries
    • Lots of great stuff that changes from time to time.  Find something interesting to you.  Then watch something that doesn’t sound very interesting to you.  Better yet let your spouse pick – guaranteed to sound awful at first but may surprise you!

TV Shows – Avoid the TV in general but if you must sit in front of it you might as well at least try to learn something.

  • Survivorman – probably the most legit of the survivor shows.  Les is a genuine survivalist.  He does his own filming and has no support.  This adds to the authenticity but makes the cinematography a bit rougher.
  • Fat Guys in the Woods – Creek Stewart is well known in the survival world.  He makes a good host for a show that drags overweight guys into the woods to survive for a week.  Entertaining and educational.
  • Man vs Wild – Bear Grylls is probably the most dynamic survivalist in front of a camera.  He has received a lot of flak for the authenticity of the show, but I enjoy it.
  • Doomsday Preppers – people like to make fun of this show and it isn’t seriously received among most preppers.  I have to admit that I have learned some pretty cool stuff on this show.  I am not ashamed to say that it does have some value.

YouTube – really the options are just endless.  Here are a few proven winners to get you started.

What are your favorites?  I am always looking for great resources, please share!

DSC00175You have less than two weeks until Christmas… Of course you haven’t managed to get all (or any? it is called preparedness after all..) of your shopping done yet.  You need some ideas? The Preppermanniacs have been clamoring for more gift ideas.   Not to worry, Preppermann has got ya covered!  With 2 day shipping from Amazon Prime you’ve got all the time in the world.  Check out last years gift ideas for even more suggestions.

Training – Grab your loved one the ultimate gift of knowledge and skill!

  • Self defense course – maybe Krav Maga
  • Gun Training  –  Nothing beats hands on 1 on 1 instruction, but if you don’t have access to any local courses check out the DVD series by Magpul
  • CPR or First Aid
  • Wilderness Survival Course
  • Cooking Classes – don’t know how to cook, bake, boil water?  Maybe a class would help get you started.
  • Gardening – hook up with your local County Agricultural Extension, they usually have free classes.  Join a local community garden and get practical experience growing your own food.  Start a square food garden.

Knives – nothing says I love you like something sharp and shiney.  A guaranteed hit with any guy.

Leatherman Wingman Multi Tool – I really like, nay LOVE the Leatherman Wave, but the price you can get almost 3 Wingmans.  The Wingman is really a great multi tool for under $30 at the time of writing.

Spyderco Byrd Cara Cara2 – One of my all around favorite knives is the Spyderco Endura or slightly smaller Delica.  They both run around $60.  The Byrd Cara Cara2 is basically a Chinese made budget version of the Endura.  Still produced by Spyderco under the Byrd line but under $20.  It isn’t as nice (steel, material, fit, finish, etc) but for a 1/3rd the cost it shouldn’t be.  Don’t get me wrong this is a remarkably good knife for the money.  If $60 is a ludicrous amount of money for you to spend on a knife (don’t read the next paragraph) then this knife is for you.  A great stocking stuffer.  This is the kind of knife I like for a beater knife.  If I happen to lose or misplace it I won’t shed a tear.

Spyderco Paramilitary 2  This knife is just plain ridiculous.  It is made at Spyderco’s flagship, American facility in Golden Colorado.  The quality of this thing is off the hook.  The steel (S30V) is top notch.  The weight and balance are great.  The G10 laminate scale handles have the perfect Goldilocks amount of grip.  If you need a nice knife for someone this will do it.  I got it in the sweet digital camo coloration and love it.

Knife Sharpener

Spyderco Sharpmaker – if you are buying knives for someone it would be nice if they had a way to keep them sharp.  This is great sharpener that won’t break the bank.  Pair the sharpener with a nice knife and you have a nice themed Christmas gift.  It comes with an instructional DVD and pamphlet to help you get the hang of it.

  • If you look at this gift guide it reads like a total homer advertisement for Spyderco, Leatherman, and Olight.  This really wasn’t intentional.  These companies just make great stuff for the money.  I actually came up with all of these ideas independently of each other, they just happen to feature some of the same great companies.

Lights – Olight is just killing it lately.  They are making fantastic lights at great prices.

Olight S1 Baton – this is your new EDC flashlight.  Very small and light weight.  It dissappears in a pocket.  It takes a CR123 battery (I usually like AA or AAA better for convenience) and puts out a mind blowing 500 lumens.  Great clip too.

Olight Valkyrie – This is a weapon light.  Throw it on your Glock 19 or any handgun with a rail.  If you have a handgun for home defense you must have a flashlight with it.  Better yet, put a flashlight on it!  You must be able to see and positively identify friend or foe.  No friendly fire accidents here.  Enter the Olight Valkyrie.  It takes a CR123 as well (you should stock up on these).  It puts out 400 lumens and has a throw of over 100 meters.  The quality, fit and finish are top notch.  I love the feel and placement of the buttons.  This thing just blends perfectly into my Glock 17, its current home.  I suspect they designed it specifically to fit perfectly with Glock pistols.

Olight M20SX Javelot – Need a bigger light?  This is it.  This is more of your typical handheld flashlight.  It is handsized but still quite small and portable.  It puts out a retina scorching 820 lumens (seriously don’t look at it).  It has a much more tactical feel to it with strobe and tactical bezel for self defense in a pinch.  It takes two CR123 batteries or 1 large rechargeable Li-ion 18650.  I bought this to use as a weapon light on my AR 15, but like it so much I haven’t mounted it yet!  It will make a great weapon light with the accessory mount.

Grain Mill – are you storing wheat in your food storage? (You should be…)  You need a way to grind that wheat.  Whole wheat berries are edible (with some work) but if you want bread you need to grind it.

Victorio Hand Grain Mill – this baby runs off good old fashioned muscle power.  You crank it by hand.  If the power grid goes down you will be glad you have this.  The amazing Wondermill below will function as a nice paperweight when electricity has gone the way of the dinosaur.  But you, in your infinite prepper wisdom will be cranking away making precious powder gold sans the juice.  And you will be cranking away, and cranking and cranking…  Better yet buy two of these.  And make sure you have 10 strapling children to run it.

Wondermill – grinding wheat by hand is A LOT of work.  It is labor intensive and time consuming.  It is almost comical how much you have to crank for a pitiful amount of of wheat flour.  If you have electricity you’ll want an electric mill.  Enter the Wondermill.  We have had one for years and it is amazing.  We use it all the time.  This is a universal prepper staple for a reason.  It is great quality and has a nice powerful 1250 watt motor.  This is a two-edged sword as 1250 watts is a pretty good amount of energy.  It is marketed as quiet which is quite funny because it sounds like a Harrier Jet in my opinion.

Bread Maker – If you are grinding wheat you will want some way to make bread.  The old fashion way (make dough, knead, let rise, put in pans, cook…) is great but labor intensive.  A bread maker is very quick, simple and most important… automated.  Takes a couple mins to add the ingredients and push start.  60 mins later… presto!  Hot bread.  You’ll need electricity of course.  Steven Harris has a nice podcast on using an inverter hooked to your car to run a bread machine.

Improve your families health now by grinding wheat and making home-made, nutritious whole wheat bread.  Much healthier than white bread (don’t eat this crap).  Far tastier than store bought wheat bread.

Oster 5838 Bread Machine – this is a relatively cheap little bread maker that works great.  I have it for emergencies.  We typically make bread the old-fashion way and bake it in the oven.  You can use a bread machine to make all kinds of other things like pizza dough.  You can even let it make the dough, let it rise and cook it in your own oven.

Zojirushi BB-CEC20 Home Bakery  – if you are going to get into bread making prior to the apocalypse (a good idea for practice and health reasons) you might want to invest in something a little nicer like the Zojirushi.  It makes horizontal 2 pound loaves of bread.  Just look at the name, this is no mere bread machine it is a home bakery!

Water Filtration – For portable and simple filtration get a Sawyer or Lifestraw.  These are great stocking stuffers.  For filtering a lot of water for a family get Berkey.  These are highly regarded filters and a prepper staple.  Fill the top canister and let the dirty water filter via gravity into the bottom chamber.  The clean water is then drawn out by a standard spigot.  It takes some time but this is the best way to filter the large amounts of water that you are going to need.  Remember to buy extra filters.  A lot of people use these to filter their tap water for regular consumption.  They come in a range of sizes, I would get the Big Berkey or Royal Berkey for an average sized family.

Well there are just a few Christmas gift ideas for preppers, survivalists, emergency preparednessers, etc.  Let me know if you have any other ideas or recommendations.  Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

Preppermann

In a previous post (The 2 Most Important Thins You Can Do) I talked about acquiring skill and getting in better physical shape.  I suggested these are the two most important things you can do in your life to improve your preparedness.  An able body and mind is much more likely to overcome difficult obstacles.  For the most part both of these things are free.  You can gain knowledge and skills with little to no cost.  You are doing it now!  You can also get into better physical shape for free.  Eat better, walk more, ride a bike to work, excercise.  Don’t fret if you don’t have any equipment or an expensive gym membership.  Body-weight exercises like pushups, lunges, planks, burpees, etc are great exercises.  There is one thing I would like to add to the above.  Get your financial affairs in order.

Money – we have a major debt crisis in our country.  Not just the country as a whole but as individuals.  We borrow way the hell too much money.  The median house hold income in the US is $53, 657.  The average indebted household has $15k in credit card debit.  Credit cards average about a 15% interest rate.  The average car loan is over $30,000.  Average student loan debt is $31,000.  Predictably, only 60% of people have at least $500 saved.  What if any little emergency hiccup happens.  Individual job loss?  Death or disability?  Global economic downturn?  This whole thing is a house of cards.  Get out of debt!  Stop borrowing money!  Cut your expenses.  Live within your means.  Start saving money.  Everyone should have a 1 month supply of food and water.  You should also have at least a months worth of money.  Ideally, you should have an emergency fund of 6 months worth of living expenses.  This way you are much more likely to be able to weather a short-term emergency like a job loss.

I highly recommend a couple of websites that I regularly read

Mr Money Mustache – this guy is great, and funny to boot!  He is all about efficiency.  He recommends saving 65% of your income and retiring in 15 years.  Sounds crazy right?  He did it. Check it out!  Even if he doesn’t convince you to save that much, some of his ideas are going to rub off on you.  From his homepage click on “Start Here”.  Read that article and click on all the linked articles.  Then keep reading.  I guarantee this will make you better with money.  One of my favorite articles “The shockingly simple math behind early retirement” shows that drinking Starbucks everyday and having cable TV end up causing you to have to work an additional 8 years.  This compared to saving that little bit and investing it.  Is cable TV and Starbucks worth 8 years of your life slaving away in a cubicle?  Do yourself a favor and start investing some time into mastering money.

The White Coat Investor – I read this guy’s book during my residency.  It is directed at doctors because although we may be intelligent and educated; we suck with money.  His website is full of wonderful advice about investing.  This is what you need to do with the money you are setting aside.  Make your money make money for you.  It’s a beautiful thing.  He loves Vanguard funds.  For that matter so does Mr Money Mustache.  Topics range from financial advisors and student loans to how to execute a backdoor Roth IRA.

The better control you have over your finances the better prepared you will be for… anything!

  • Get out of debt
  • Stay out of debt
  • Save money
  • Invest
  • Diversify
  • Learn to lead a more efficient life so that you don’t NEED so much STUFF

All of these things lead to independence.  Independence is truly a beautiful word that very few of us truly try to apply to our personal lives.  Financial independence is a huge piece of the pie.  Work on it!

As a reminder… (After all repitition is the mother of learning – as our Russian comrades like to say)

Move!  Get out there and move.  Go for a walk.  Walk to the store.  Leave the car behind.  Ride your bike.  Just do something other than sit at a desk or in front of the TV.  Find something heavy and pick it up, lift it over your head, repeat.  Do something difficult everyday.  Do something physically difficult.

Read!  Read a book.  Read for pleasure.  Read for education.  Read the above websites.  Turn the TV off.  The average american watches 5 hours of TV a day.  How is that even possible?  It boggles the mind.  Read a book instead.  Do something mentally difficult everyday.  Add to your mental library.

Save! Put some money away for that inevitable rainy day.

Preppermann on Twitter!

Posted: November 1, 2015 in Uncategorized

twitter screenshot

It’s official!  Preppermann is now on Twitter!  This is great platform to keep you up to date on all things prepping.  As I scour the interweb I can send you all kinds of useful links to tips, gear reviews, articles, and other useful sites.

You can hit me up with questions, comments, tips and links of your own.  There is a very robust prepper and survivalist community on Twitter already, so jump in!  There will usually be a couple tweets a day so if I don’t post enough new blog posts for your liking (as many of you so often remind me!) This is the answer!  Blog posts take hours to write and sometimes I get a little busy with my medical practice and family… Luckily, it only takes me a few minutes to get some useful tweets out there.  Make sure to check out the people who I follow on Twitter as they are great resources.  You’ll be amazed how much you learn.

Best of luck out there, keep it preppy! Preppy Story

Preppermann

In my prior two posts about food storage I addressed the basics (Food Storage Getting Started, Food Storage Beyond the Basics).  I’d recommend reading them if you haven’t already.

As a refresher…  The easiest way to get started with your food storage is to just buy a little extra of what you already eat every time you go grocery shopping.  Start with getting a weeks worth of food, then a month.  Next I would recommend getting bulk food stuffs like rice, beans, flour, and sugar.  Once you have a nice stock pile you’ll want to do a few things to make sure it lasts as long as possible.  It would be pretty sad to break into your food storage during an emergency to find it inedible or even dangerous to eat.

Lets dig a little deeper.  First, let’s discuss the threats to your food storage.

The Elements of Food Storage Destruction

Air – Oxygen is one of the main culprits here.  Oxygen causes oxidation which degrades food, causes it to go bad, and alters taste.  Oxygen also allows for the growth of microorganisms which can spoil food as well as make it dangerous to eat. Oxygen absorbers and nitrogen flushing are ways to combat this.  A vacuum sealer is specifically designed for this problem.  It removes most of the air in the bag.  I reiterate the word most because it does not remove all air.  It is therefore not quite as good as some other methods.

  • Botulinum toxin is the exception to this rule.  Anyone who has food storage should be aware of this.  This is a bacteria that grows in environments that lack oxygen, like canned foods.  The tell-tale sign is a bulging can.  Don’t even taste the food, even this miniscule amount can be lethal.

Water – Most of the time this is going to be moisture in the air (humidity) which is omnipresent.  Removing moisture and then storing food in air-tight containers helps avoid this.  Frank water intrusion is a reality as well.  If you store your flour, sugar, salt, etc in the original paper packaging it can quickly be ruined by a basement flood, fire sprinkler, or even a broken water container.  Store your food in water-proof, air-tight containers.  Dry goods like flour, salt, sugar all like to absorb water out of the air so you have to limit air exposure.

Light – Degrades food, nutrients, and vitamins.  Think about what the sun does to anything you leave outside.  It bleaches and fades everything overtime.  Your food storage is the same.  Dark is good.  Opaque storage materials like metal cans and mylar bags are good for this.

Temperature – in general cooler is going to be better.  Heat speeds up the degradation of nutrients.  Stability is important too, you want to avoid a lot of change in temperature.  Storage sheds, attics and garages are going to vary more than inside your house.  Basements are usually good choices as they are stable and cool.  A good example of this is MREs which have been extensively studied regarding temperature degradation.

MRE Shelf Life Chart

Pests – anything else that wants to eat your food!  Rats, mice, raccoons, insects, hungry teenagers… Part of this depends on where you live.  One example is weevils.  Their eggs are almost universally found in flour.  Don’t believe me.  Put some flour in a container and leave it for… a while.  At some point you will either see bugs in the flour or little trails and tracks all over the flour.  Rodents are a particular problem as they can chew through most containers.  Metal cans are effective at keeping them out.  Teenagers are very crafty, good luck keeping them out of your food.

Time – even if you manage to avoid all of the factors above time will degrade your food storage.  Under ideal conditions some things will last 30 years.  Commercially available freeze-dried foods often advertise 25-30 years.  There are a few things that can last almost indefinitely honey, sugar, and salt.  The take home here is that even under ideal circumstances your food has a “shelf-life.”  Part of this is due to the fact that you cannot completely remove or isolate your food from the above elements.  Nature abhors a vacuum for you science nerds.

Protection from the Elements of Food Storage Destruction

There are a lot of methods to protect your food.  Ziplock bags and Tupperware style containers are a couple widely available options.  These are better than nothing but will likely only add a couple of months.  Below are a few ways you can really kick things up a notch.  One thing to note is that as time goes by and food degrades it doesn’t necessarily expire or “go bad”.  Things are often still edible and nutritious but the taste and quality may not be as good.
DSC00114

Vacuum sealing – this uses a heavy-duty plastic bag and small countertop device that uses a vacuum to remove most of the air.  I have this vacuum sealer, I got it at Sam’s for cheaper with some accessories and bags.  It works fine.  I bought an accessory that allows you to seal cans.  The bag of macaroni noodles below is sealed by this method.  You can see how tight the plastic conforms to the individual noodles.  There is very little air in the bag = longer storage life.  The bag is actually quite thick and durable as well.  One draw back is that the bag is clear so this does not help much with stopping degradation from light.  Luckily this is stored in a room that is almost always dark.  I used the can accessory to vacuum seal some M&Ms in a jar.  The noodles to the right came in a box that really did very little to stop or even limit DSC00115any of the above destroyers.  The noodles would have likely lasted six months.  Vacuum sealed they will last much longer.  Food saver says two years.
You could add an oxygen absorber to either of these and help remove even more oxygen and extend the shelf-life further.

Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers –   this is a tried and true prepper food storage staple.  Mylar bags are thick, durable

DSC00113and metalized so they block light.  Think of it as an improved version of the above bag.  Oxygen absorbers are little packets that… you guessed it, absorb oxygen!  Well not exactly from a pure chemistry standpoint, but I won’t bore you with the details.  Take the mylar bag, add food, add the appropriate amount of oxygen absorbers, remove as much air as possible, seal bag (the bag melts to itself with heat, like an iron).  You’ll notice later that the bag sucks in on itself after a period of time due to the oxygen absorber doing its job.

One limitation of bags over jars or cans is that they are easier for animals to get into, rodents can chew threw them.

DSC00117

Mylar in buckets –  you can take something like the above (beans in mylar bag) and then put it in a bucket.  This should protect it even further.  I am not aware of rodents eating through plastic buckets (I am sure they can with enough time and motivation).  Many companies like Emergency Essentials will do this process for you.  To the right is a 5 gallon bucket filled with rice in a mylar bag that I did myself.  It is cheaper to do it yourself, but obviously requires the time, materials and know-how.  This picture also features the Gamma-Lid.  This product is an absolute must have!  This may be the best tip I have ever given you… seriously…  As you can see it turns your bucket into a screw top and is 1000 times easier to use that the traditional bucket lid.  Seriously, 1000x easier, scientifically tested…  Just do yourself a favor and buy some.  They also come in a variety of colors which you can use to color code your food.  Like here, white is for rice.  Red is for wheat, etc.

Canning – your grandmother’s (and yours DSC00112if you’re smart!) classic method of preservation.  It uses heat and an air-tight container to create a vacuum (incompatible for little baddies to live in).  Canning usually involves boiling the food in a jar which kills bacteria as well.  This process is pasteurization.  The discoverers of this process noticed that if you boiled beer or wine it would last a lot longer.  They were killing off the bacteria that would eventually cause spoilage.  All commercially available milk is required to go through this process.  This principle is useful for preppers to know and understand!  To the right are spiced apples that my wife canned.  Foods can last 4-5 years (and more) via this method.  The jars also keep out rodents.  They are heavier, bulkier, and more fragile compared to bags.  They are also quite a bit more expensive.  This process takes a bit of experience and equipment.  I would recommend finding a friend to mentor you.

Canning with cans – Well, there is canning and then there is… canning.  I know, confusing…  Metal cans are a great DSC00116storage option.  It requires a canning machine if you are going to do it yourself.  Or there are the really nice companies that will gladly do it for you… for a nominal fee of course.  #10 cans are very popular in the food storage world.  This is basically a mylar bag on steroids.  These are very durable and with the aid of something to remove oxygen can make your food last decades.  The picture at the left shows a #10 can of hot chocolate mix (which fyi does not store very long even under perfect conditions (couple years). This brings up the point that even under ideal conditions some things just do not store well (usually due to oil and fat content, as in the hot chocolate).  Freeze dried foods (process removes water, one of the major destroyers) are often stored in cans with an oxygen absorber.  Some companies use a process called nitrogen flushing to remove oxygen.  As you can see a can like this really hits all of the major destroyers.  This is how you hit the 30 year mark.  Some great companies are Wise, Mountain House, Thrive, Augason Farms, and Nitropak.  I have tried most of them.  I usually buy Mountain House because it is good quality and usually the best prices.  Companies like Thrive are great for odder items like blackberries, mangoes, and monterrey jack cheese.  The other companies will likely have one cheese option, cheddar.

Pickling – as we have learned bacteria don’t like heat or vacuums.  They also dislike acid and high concentrations of salt.  Pickling takes advantage of both of these concepts.  Take a cucumber, add a lot of salt and acid… and presto chango you have pickles.  Pickles will last MUCH longer than a cucumber.  You can pickle lots of things, eggs, beets, okra, and so forth.  Hey, I said you COULD pickle it; I didn’t say you would want to or for that matter that you would want to eat it.

Refrigeration and Freezing – this alone revolutionized the world.  The ability to keep things cool drastically decreased food poisoning and increased the life of foods.  We take this for granted, but it is a modern miracle.  It requires a fair amount of energy.  If you have access to it, use it!  You may not have electricity or very much of it in a disaster situation.  You can freeze things like oil (oil is really hard to store as it goes rancid via… oxidation!).  You can also freeze your heirloom seeds to drastically lengthen their lifespan.  Aside… don’t make the mistake of thinking you can just take the seeds of the apple you bought at the store, plant them and grow an apple tree.  You can’t. The vast majority of things we buy and eat nowadays are genetically modified.  This adds useful things like bug resistance but it almost always has a nasty side effect of making the plant sterile.  You must get heirloom seeds, plants with seeds that begat (getting Biblical here) like plants.  You may find this terribly bizarre and earth shattering but trust me its true.  Try it if you don’t believe me.  A lot of you already know this, but I thought I would throw it in.

Conclusion – You are now armed with the knowledge of the elements of food storage destruction.  Go forth and make your food impervious to these elements of destruction.  In future posts I may get more into the specifics of the actual step-by-step process if there is a demand for it.  Luckily, there is no shortage if information and some really nice videos via a quick Google search.  Keep working on getting your food storage.  Then do everything you can to maximize its shelf life.

The bicycle has been around for about 200 years.  There is no denying its impact and importance the world over.  Just ask anyone who has ever been to Amsterdam or China.  Bikes are everywhere!  We are so car dependent in America that we often overlook the usefulness of our two wheeled friends.  I want to draw your attention back to these amazing machines.

It probably wasn’t long after the wheel was invented that someone got the idea to attach two together.  The earliest patented device was the Draisine.  It was invented in 1817 and patented a year later.  It was propelled by using your feet.  The English got a hold of it and called it a velocipede. Eventually someone decided to try make it mechanically propelled.  The details are a lot murkier.  Suffice it to say it was probably around 1839 and possibly (how is that for hedging?) invented by Kirkpatrick MacMillan, a Scotsman (my ancestors! Scots, not bicycle inventors…) And thats enough history… Now you feel smarter don’t you?  Regardless, they were invented a long time ago.  They were and are a major mode of transportation.

  • You should own a bicycle.
  • You should know how to ride a bicycle.
  • A bicycle should be part of your preps!

Why you ask?  A bicycle is a wonderful marvel of engineering.  I uses mechanical advantage (gears, wheels, chains, etc) to move you quickly and efficiently.  You can ride much faster than you can walk.  Secondly, (here is a little secret) it doesn’t use gasoline!  In a disaster, apocalypse, emergency, nuclear holocaust, etc… good luck getting gasoline.  You should make storing gasoline part of your preps.  I would recommened having four 5-gallon gas cans on hand with with an additive like Sta-Bil to help it store longer.  The stuff really doesn’t last long otherwise (it goes bad!  Who’d of thunk?)  Rotate your stores every 6-12 months.  The big but (nice pun) here is that you will eventually run out of gas.  That nice shiney Lexus is pretty worthless without gas.  That pimped out bug out vehicle isn’t going far on an empty tank.  How are you going to get around now?  On a bike!

Prepping aside, I love cycling.  I have been avidly involved for about 6 years, but have had a bike almost my entire life.  I ride for fun and exercise.  I even compete on occasion.  I have ridden 3 centuries (100 mile bike race).  This is another great perk of a bike.  You will get in shape!  Great shape!  I ride between 50 and 75 miles a week currently and this is minimal compared to real cycling enthusiasts.  Being in good shape is a huge part of prepping.  See this prior post.  This is another overlooked area that you should likely be spending more time on. Cycling is also great for the environment if you use it instead of driving your car.  Fitness, fun, prepping, environmental stewardship… I could go on, but what more do you want?!  Get a bike!

What kind of bike should you get?  At this point whatever is the most exciting and interesting to you.  I currently own three, all different for different tasks.  As usual you get what you pay for.  There are a lot of different types of bikes: road, mountain, hybrid, cyclocross, commuter, cruiser, etc.  You could roughly break them up into road and off-road aka mountain bikes.  This is a big generalization so don’t get too hung up here.  For simplicity I am going to focus on mountain and road bikes.

I think a mountain bike makes the most sense as a prepper bike as it is the most rugged and can be ridden over the most variable terrain.  It doesn’t excel on roads but it will work fine on them.  They have fat tires.  Airborne (www.airbornebicycles.com) makes some great mountain bikes.  I believe they are the most bike you can get for the money.  They are direct to consumer so some assembly is required (they are 90% built out of the box).  You can always take it to a bike shop and have them put it together for a fee.  My biggest concern here is fit.  I would always recommend going to a bike shop and getting professionally fitted.  This will yield the best results, but may not be the cheapest option.  Good mountain bike companies are Trek, Cannondale, GT, Niner, Giant, Specialized, Kona, and many more.  For the money this is a pretty good bike from amazon, shipped to your door for under $500 Diamondback Overdrive.  I bought my wife the female version and have been impressed with it.  Diamondback women’s hardtail.  I would be careful of anything less than $500 new.  There is a robust used market out there so that is a great resource if you need to get the price down.  If you can afford $600 I would get the Airborne Guardian – this thing is a ton of bike for the money.

Road bikes are meant to go fast!  On roads!  They have skinny tires.  The rougher the road or terrain the more these tend to suffer (discomfort, flats, breakage, etc.)  I have had many different brands of bikes over the years.  Lately, I think Giant is the best value.  This is likely because they are the biggest bike maker in the world and make almost all of their own stuff (frames, parts, tires, wheels, etc) which keeps cost down.  After extensive shopping and comparison I bought a Giant Defy for my latest road bike.  This is what I would recommend for a first road bike.  It is a slightly more relaxed geometry (you sit more upright) than a true racing road bike and is therefore more comfortable.  Sometimes they call these endurance or sportive bikes.  It is a Bicycling Magazine editor’s choice (has been for 6 years in a row) so you don’t just have to take my word for it.  Giant Defy 3 – entry level, aluminum frame, great value.  You can drop down a level (Defy 5) and save a couple hundred dollars but I would try not to.  The Giant TCR is their pure road/racing bike for those who are only concerned about going fast, like Ricky Bobby.  If Ricky Bobby had road a bike it would be a TCR .

Giant has a kind of hybrid bike called the AnyRoad.  It has a sort of road frame with larger tires.  This would be better for rough roads, dirt, etc.  Most bike makers have many different models to various applications.  I am just using Giant as an example; and I think they are good bikes for a good price.  Trek, Cannondale, Specialized are also great and make all the same kinds of bikes.  Fuji is another lesser known brand that is a high value.

Quick aside… Most higher end bikes don’t come with pedals as.  Most cyclists have special pedals (clipless) that lock into special shoes.  This way your foot and shoe are attached to the pedal making it much more efficient.  You don’t have to do this but will likely want to if you get more into the sport.  You can get regular “platform” pedals that you can use with any shoes.

Accessories

  • Pedals – see above.  I have Look Keo Easy clipless pedals on my roadbikes, Shimano combo clip/platform on my mountain bike.  I don’t usually clip in on my mountain bike.
  • Shoes – Shimano shoes – if you buy clipless pedals you need special shoes for them
  • Helmet – don’t even think about riding a bike without a helmet, doctor’s orders!
    • Giro Revel – this is my mountain bike helmet, great value
    • Giro Savant – this is what I would buy if I needed a new road bike helmet
  • Fenders – keep rain and mud off you in bad weather
  • Rack – Ibera PakRack – attach this and now you can haul things!  This would be very useful, practically essential for a prepper bike
  • Saddle bags – Panniers – once you have the above rack you can now add bags.  This really increases the versatility of your bike.  Groceries on the way home, school books?  No problem!  (I dont’ own the rack or bags, so I can’t vouch for their quality, just examples)
  • Water bottles and cages
  • Cycling shorts – padded shorts with a chamois (internal crotch pad thing, takes a bit of getting used to), these are pretty essential.  I like bibs over shorts. Too many to link.
  • Pump
  • Spare tubes and tires (remember 1 is none and 2 is one) – gotta have spares!
  • Saddle/seat bag – BV Seat Bag – attached this behind/under your seat and put the below in it for emergency breakdowns
  • Lights – you want to see what is in front of you and you want to be see from all sides.  I personally try not to ride at night, at all, ever
    • Headlight – Cateye Nano 
    • Tail light – Topeak Mega Red – it blinks, it flashes, its red, its bright, makes all sorts of visual racket, exactly what you want!

Recommendations

  • Get a bike, any bike!
    • Any bike is exponentially better than no bike.  Some variants and builds might be better for prepper applications than others.
  • Road Bike
    • Giant Defy
    • Giant TCR – Ricky Bobby approved
  • Mountain Bike
    • Airborne Guardian
    • Diamondback Overdrive
  • Check your local classifieds for used bikes
  • Get measured and fitted for a bike
  • Wear a helmet
  • Try clipless pedals to take your cycling to the next level
  • Carry a seat bag with a minor repair kit, and a hand pump
  • Add a rack and panniers to increase you ability to carry gear
  • Carry some ID and an emergency contact in case you are hurt
  • Carry your cell phone (charged)
  • Let someone know where you are going
  • Be visible – the more the better!
  • Get out there, spin those pedals, get in shape, have fun, be prepared!

Here are a couple of my sturdy steeds!

IMG_20150605_143847_787 IMG_20150725_094923_023

Gear Review: Al Mar Eagle HD

Posted: July 20, 2015 in Gear
Tags: ,

I confess… I have been feeling really guilty about neglecting this blog.  I haven’t written in forever and that inertia is so easy to maintain.  An object in motion tends to stay in motion; a lazy object at rest REALLY hates to move again, like ever…  Sorry for the laziness.  Here is a quick post just to get things moving again!

al mar eagle

I received (more like purchased for myself, and my wife gifted it to me) an Al Mar Eagle HD for Christmas.  This is the nicest, most expensive knife I have ever purchased.  Some of you will think I am crazy for spending almost $150 on a knife.  Others will think I am a complete knife rookie because I don’t own a $500 knife.  You can’t please everyone!  I would consider this a moderately expensive knife.  A cheap knife for me is $20.  And for a $20 recommendation I love the Kershaw OSO Sweet.  If you have to spend $500 on a knife to feel adequate then go buy a Chris Reeves Sebenza.  (Very nice knife, I just can’t bring myself to spend that kind of money on a knife… yet…)  So if you tuned out at the mention of a $150 knife go grab the Kershaw.  It’s a great overall knife and you can’t beat the value.  But I digress…

I got the Al Mar Eagle HD for Christmas and have been carrying it ever since (6 months now).  I love this knife.  It is fantastic.  In my mind this is a tactical knife and has defensive implications.  It has a longer 4 inch blade.  Total length is 9 inches.  A lot of folding knives are in the 2.75-3.75 inch range.  A true 4 inch blade is rather rare.  Longer is better for reach and penetration.  This knife is very thin (blade is 0.10 inches) and therefore great for carrying.  It is also light (just over 3 ounces!).

The handle is black G10 (fiberglass impregnated resin) and has a nice Goldilocks texture (not too hard or soft).  It is your standard lock back design.  It has a nice pocket clip and is reversible, it comes tip up (I like it this way).  It has stainless steel liners (increased rigidity) that are skeletonized (decreases weight).  This is a nice touch that a lot of people may miss.  It takes a little extra effort by the knife manufacturer to remove some of the liner to drop weight.  This is a sign of quality to me.  You’ll see this or NOT see this in other knives, so look for it.

This is AUS-8 steel, which is a good medium grade Japanese steel.  For $150 dollars I really wish they had gone with a nicer grade steel, even VG-10 would have been great.  AUS 8 steel is good, but not great steel.  This is really my only gripe about the knife.  By no means a deal breaker, but I’d knock off a half point for it.

Overall I would give the Al Mar Eagle HD a 9.5/10.  I love it.  I carry it all the time.  If it was a higher grade steel I would have to give it a perfect score.  That or they could drop the price down a bit (closer to $100?).  It is HD (heavy-duty not Hi-Def) because it is beefier than its sibling the Al Mar Eagle which lacks the steel liner, and has thinner full flat ground blade.  The HD is a little heavier for more durability.

One other note… To me this is not a beater knife, it’s too expensive.  I always carry another smaller blade for opening boxes or other routine tasks.  Sog Flash 1 or Swiss Army Cadet are my usual companions.  Due to its blade length this knife is bigger and more intimidating, you may not want to whip this out at book club or your next tea party.

Gear Review: 5.11 Stryke Pants

Posted: May 12, 2015 in Gear
Tags: ,

74369_092_01As you know from previous posts I am a huge fan of the 5.11 TacLite Pro Pant.  If I am not at work I am wearing them.  I have about a half a dozen pairs of them.  They are great overall pants and I have been wearing them for years.  Recently 5.11 introduced a new variant called the 5.11 Stryke Pants.  I have been wearing these for a few months and have completely fallen in love with them.  I wanted to introduce them to you guys as a slightly better (hard for me to even say because I love the Taclite Pros so much) pair of pants for most uses.  I don’t have the long term experience with them yet that I have with the Taclite Pros, but I am assuming they will hold up well.

There are a few, rather subtle, changes that really make these pants shine.  The first is that the pants have a slightly softer feel (hand if it was a suit).  They are a little bit stretchy.  This combination makes them extremely comfortable to wear.  Like gloriously comfortable!  That little bit of stretch makes a world of difference.  The Taclite Pros were comfortable, these are like wearing soft little fluffy cloud pants.

One other change they’ve made that I really like is the side cargo pockets.  They have raised them up a little bit compared to the Taclite Pros.  The cargo pocket now rests higher on the thigh and less on the knee.  They are easier to get into (less reach) and a more natural placement.  This also makes any gear carried in them easier to deal with (higher and tighter).  The pockers also have a bit of a slant to them that aids access.

One change I am undecided on is the left front mag pocket that used to be on the Taclite Pros.  They have replaced this with the same knife pocket that is found on the right.  I kind of liked the mag pocket but overall this is a wash to me.

One change that I don’t like is that they removed the small brass D-ring on the right front belt loop.  I used to clip my keys with a carabiner to this.  I occasionally go groping for this and it isn’t there on the Stryker pants.  Not a deal breaker and most people won’t miss it at all.

As usual for 5.11 they are soil, stain, and fade resistant.  They come out of the wash in perfect shape and are ready to wear with no fuss or ironing (I refuse to iron my tactical pants!).

My totally unfounded guess is that the fabric would be slightly less durable on the Stryke pant compared to the Taclite pro but I have nothing to back this up.  Only time will tell.  I have been wearing them constantly for months with no signs of wear at all.

These are great pants!  They are running somewhere around $50-60 at this time.  Lately, I have been getting my Taclite Pros for about $45.  For the last several months I reach for these pants every time I can.  If they are dirty and I “have” to wear my Taclite Pros I have a brief moment of dissappointment.  The Stryke pants are just so darn comfortable!  Do yourself a favor and get a pair!  5.11 continues to set the standard for tactical/all-purpose pants.

Don’t forget a good belt to pair with them.  5.11 TDU Belt is a great option.  I have the both the 1.5 inch and 1.75 inch and prefer the fatter one.  I also have a TRU-Spec Belt that I really like.  They are both nice for airport security as you don’t need to take them off.

creature from jekyllAbout a month ago I did a Google search on the Federal Reserve.  I had always wondered what exactly it was and wanted to find out more.  It has been a very interesting journey ever since!  I recently finished reading the book “The Creature from Jekyll Island” by G. Edward Griffin.  It is a fairly large book, 608 pages to be exact, but I highly recommend it.  I became aware of it after watching a Glenn Beck episode about “The Fed.”  He interviews the author and discusses the book in the episode.  The show is about 40 mins, so if you have no interest in a 600 page book, it makes a decent substitute.  Glenn Beck episode on the Federal Reserve: aired Aug. 25, 2011.  I had never watched, listened to or read anything by Glenn Beck until this.  Interestingly, he was fired 3 weeks after this show aired.  The whole thing is a little conspiratorial so take it with a grain of salt.  Do your own research.  If I had to choose to believe the book versus the Fed, I would lean toward the book.

So back to the book… The Creature it alludes to is The Federal Reserve.  Jekyll Island is an island off of Georgia where a clandestine meeting took place in 1910 that culminated in the birth of The Creature.  It was held under great secrecy because the members of the group knew that if the public found out about the meeting they (the public) would never go along with the proposal.  And here is why… the group consisted of:

  • Benjamin Strong
  • Abram P. Andrew
  • Paul Warburg
  • Senator Nelson Aldrich
  • Frank Vanderlip
  • Henry Davison

Now none of these names may jump out at you.  But what about Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, Rothschild?  You’ve probably heard of them.  These are some of the richest men in history.  Lets look at these 5 men more closely.

Senator Nelson Aldrich – Republican Whip in Senate, Chair of National Monetary Commission, authored the original Federal Reserve Bill.  He is a business associate of J.P. Morgan and father-in-law of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

Abram P. Andrew – Assistant Secretary of Treasury

Frank Vanderlip – representative of William Rockefeller

Henry Davison – representative of J.P. Morgan

Benjamin Strong – representative of J.P. Morgan

Paul Warburg – credited as the mastermind of the plan.  Partner at Kuhn, Loeb and Co.  Representative of the Rothschilds.  Interestingly, the character Daddy Warbucks from Little Orphan Annie is based off of him.

These men represent 1/4 of the wealth of the entire world.  25% of the wealth of the entire world!!!  That is just completely insane!  Other estimates say it is likely closer to half of the wealth of the world!!!  Holy crap batman, that is A LOT of money!  These men are all fierce competitors and they got together to hatch a plan, together?  Their motives must have been totally pure… right?

In short they designed the Federal Reserve, a cartel, in partnership with the government.  A cartel is an agreement between competing firms to control prices or exclude entry of a new competitor in a market. Sounds healthy for everyone.  As a side rant this sounds exactly like how the college football system works… hmmm.  They picked the name Federal to sound authoritative and governmenty.  It has nothing to do with the government, it isn’t Federal at all.  They picked the word Reserve to sound calming and stable and imply that they have reserves… they don’t.  On their website the explicitly say they don’t have any gold and that they aren’t employed by the governement.  It is a private central bank.  No one knows exactly who owns or runs it.  All of its books and dealings are completely private.  We are not allowed to know.  Its officials are not elected.  The president can appoint the chairman from an approved list provided to him by the Federal Reserve (sounds communisty).

These men had 5 stated goals of the cartel, *cough, *cough, Federal Reserve.

1.  Stop the growing competition – they hated the new banks cutting in on them.  Sounds cartel-ish…

2.  Obtain franchise to create money.  They wanted to be able to create money out of nothing and then lend it out and charge interest.  So, let me get this straight.  They create money out of nothing??? Lend it… and charge people interest??? Yep!  I agree this is a great business model, I would like in on this.  Oh I can’t, see #1.  All along I thought they actually printed money.  They don’t even have to do that!  They just make it up out of thin air.

3.  Get control of ALL banks’ reserve funds.  To protect them from runs and currency drains.  Sounds slightly more reasonable than the first two at least.

4.  Shift bank losses to taxpayers.  They didn’t want to be on the hook if they lost money.  They wanted the government to guarantee everything.  Basically, they can never lose becuase they will always get bailed out by taxpayer money.  So to compare to my personal finances I could take the wildest risks in the stock market and if I lost it all, I would get it all back from the government?  Risk free investing?  Yes, please!  Oh, wait… see #1.

5.  Convince Congress and the population that this is all for our good and to protect us.  How sweet, the Fed is trying to protect us.

In short, the Fed partnered with the government to create money out of nothing and make money by charging interest on it.  We the taxpayers are answerable to it for its losses.  The government allowed this monopoly to create and control the money supply.

Question: Why would the government want this?  Answer: It gives the government the ability to get any amount of money it wants without having to raise taxes.  People get mad and ask questions when you raise taxes, or elect new officials.  The government either has to cut expenses or raise taxes to have more money.  This way they get more money and we pay for it via inflation.  This is the secret tax of the whole system.  Our money loses value everytime the Fed gives the government money.  So in the end we lose, and lose, and lose.  Compounded yearly, forever.  Over your entire career the government will basically take back all of your wealth via this mechancism.  5% compounded interest, removed from your buying power, forever.

The really interesting thing is that this mechanism means that the government really doesn’t have to collect taxes.  They can have money anytime and tax us via inflation.  So why do they?  Basically, to keep up appearances.  We would start asking questions if the taxes went away.

Again, this is a 600 page book, so this is a very brief summary of some of the more interesting points.  Watch the video by Glenn Beck and pick up a copy of the book.  You will learn a lot about money, banking, finance, government, central banks, bail-outs, inflation, and more.  Knowledge is power!  Be skeptical of people looking out for your good.  Be skeptical of wealthy men meeting together in secret.  Look out for your own financial and physical well being.  Have a diversified financial strategy and be prepared!  Consider adding things like food, supplies, guns, ammo, gold, silver and hard assests into your financial plan.  Be prepared for impending financial difficulties.  Fear the Creature from Jekyll Island!!!  (I just had to end with a conspiratorial tone… I’m really not a conspiracy nut)