February 1, 2015

Building Food Storage

Building Food Storage

In terms of cost and scope, food storage is probably the biggest branch of preparedness. The larger your family and the more food you want to store, the costlier and more complex planning how to build your food storage can get. Having been at this a while, I thought I would give some advice that some of you might find useful. I’m also hoping some of you who have been at this a while as well, will chime in with your $.02.

Food storage might not be the most exciting topic but it is an important one. The stuff hit the fan for us when I lost my job a couple years back. Because of our food storage, we were able to get by on $50 some weeks at the grocery store.
 
 
How Much Food Should I Store?

Because of family size, budget, space and other concerns, this is completely subjective. Please forgive this lame answer but; as much as you can! I used to set goals; 90 days, 6 months, a year and so on, but have changed my thinking since then. I still think those goals are great and, if possible, we should strive for them, but why stop when you reach one goal?

If you’re following the “golden rule of food storage”; eat what you store, store what you eat, the majority of food you store will be consumed on rotation, so it is not money wasted.

You will also have the added comfort of knowing you can provide for one of your family’s five basic human needs for an extended period of time. If you choose to share, it will give you that much more to assist those you choose to bless.
 
 
Expiration Dates

Most expiration dates you see on packaging is a marketing ploy. Pay heed if it is perishable food, but my research has shown that the dates listed for canned goods, most dry goods and bulk staples are, as I said, marketing ploy. I wrote two articles touching more on this. Feel free to read Expiration Dates; Fact or Fiction? and Shelf Life of Comfort Foods for more information.
 
 
Getting Started

Getting started with food storage can seem overwhelming, but if you keep the “golden rule of food storage” in mind, it becomes much more manageable a task. What I recommend is that you start a food log. Any time any shelf stable food is used in the kitchen, you enter it in the log. A shelf stable food is one that can last for months without refrigeration. After a couple weeks, you will have a good idea of the storable foods that your family eats on a regular basis.

I recommend setting a low, very achievable goal to start with. Go for two weeks of shelf stable food on top of what you’re consuming regularly. For example, if you eat green beans for meals twice a week, you would want four cans total; the two for normal use, and two for storage. You’ll lump them all together and rotate through them.

Once you have two weeks of food stored, aim for a month, then two and so on. A great tip for building food storage is called “copy canning”. When you take one can of green beans for a meal, buy two instead of one when you go to the store next. Remember to put it at the back of the row in the pantry!
 
 
Adding Bulk Staples

Once you’ve got two to three months of the foods you normally eat stored, you can really increase your food storage by adding bulk staples. Things like the various kinds of rice, beans, wheat and so on. Rice and beans are a prepper staple, but if the stuff hits the fan and your food storage is primarily rice and beans, well let’s just say I hope you stocked up on the Pepto and the BeanO! However, if you have three months of foods that you normally eat, and add in beans and rice or other meals made from bulk foods once or twice a week, you’ve now greatly extended that food.

One other thing you can do is see if there are long term substitutes for meals you regularly eat. For example, a favorite here is Trudee’s chicken stir fry. She used to buy fresh chicken breast, but once decided to try it with canned chicken and we actually liked it better. That is a meal we enjoy, and is primarily from our LTS (long term storage) foods.

I think continuing to add to your stockpile of foods you normally eat is a good idea, but adding in bulk staples can help you reach up to six months or more of food stored easily.
 
 
Long Term Food Storage

By this I mean freeze dried or commercially dehydrated food. These types of foods replace the oxygen in the food with nitrogen, thus giving the food a very long shelf life. Many manufacturers claim 20+ years.

Because this food isn’t consumed on a regular basis, it can seem quite expensive. However, it isn’t that much more than if you were to prepare the dish fresh.

I don’t recommend buying a #10 can of something you haven’t tried. Many manufacturers offer pouches that are 1-3 servings and are far cheaper.

Depending on the entrée, many #10 cans have 10 or so servings in them. Once opened, the can must be consumed relatively quickly. This isn’t something you would eat every day, but would add once or twice a week, again extending the “eat what you store” foods.

I know various manufacturers have sales throughout the year. Mountain House, for example, allows vendors to have a 25% off sale once a year. If you plan to buy cases, I would recommend saving up and taking advantage of a sale of this kind.
 
 
Storage Examples

Finding room to store everything can be a challenge. A very common way to store bulk foods is in Mylar, and then in food grade buckets. However, Mylar is food grade, so you can store it in other containers. I have some in buckets, but I wrote a post about storing food in 31 Gallon Garbage Cans. I can fit roughly the same amount of food in them, but they are a heck of a lot easier to find and are far more rodent resistant.

If you have any other tips or ideas please post a comment.

 
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Challenging Commonly Held Firearms Beliefs

Challenging Commonly Held Firearms Beliefs

I was looking over some of my older posts and noticed I haven’t written an article on using a firearm to CCW or for self-defense in quite some time. So I want to take the opportunity to give you information that I believe is important, and doesn’t necessarily fit into its own article.

I’ll start off by saying that when it comes to the use of firearms for self-defense, there are some people who are so married to their belief, that they’re almost offended when presented with opposing information. If you have a belief that I say something against, please let me know why you think I am wrong. Some of what I will say today is my opinion, but much of it is backed up by science.
 
 
The History of Firearms Training

Until recently, most of the information trainers passed on about the use of handguns for self-defense was gleaned second hand, or information they read from a book, which at the time was cutting edge. In the last fifteen years though there has been a wealth of data coming in from the video cameras that are everywhere. From police dash cams, CCTV, cell phone cameras and even from the wars overseas. There have also been several studies done by neuroscientists that have made it so we have a better understanding of how the brain works in training and in critical incidents.

Many people have learned from a friend who was a cop or in the military back in the day. I’ll go back to saying that their training was probably top notch when they got it, but it very well could be outdated.
 
 
You’ll Default to Your Highest Level of Training

Uh no you won’t. Let’s say you take an expensive 2-day handgun course and learn all kinds of great information. If you never practice those things, you will not do them when in a critical incident. You may have heard the term “muscle memory”, which is a little misleading. Your muscles don’t have a memory, your brain just learns to do things by repetition.

For example, do you need to look at your hands or the shoestrings when you tie your shoes? If you’re just learning how you might, but if you have done it for years it is now second nature. Now let’s say you buy a new pair of shoes and the salesperson shows you a new knot that performs better than the standard knot, and you only practiced it at the store. Now if we added some form of critical stress, such as a burning house, a home invasion or zombie attack and you had to put on your shoes and tie them, your brain is trained to tie them the standard way, so that is how it will respond under critical incident, your body defaults to what the brain has done most often. You can retrain it over time, but that requires repetition to build that “muscle memory”.
 
 
Training For the Worst of the Worst

Needing to defend yourself with a firearm is a worse case self-defense scenario. Criminals don’t let you know they’re going to attack or how they’ll attack. Because of this, you can’t know how things will unfold, so practicing for the worst of a worst case scenario is a good idea. If you only ever train to shoot one round at one attacker, what will you do when faced with multiple attackers and your first shot misses? With this in mind, here are my thoughts on a few related topics.
 
 
Revolvers for Self-Defense

I can’t even tell you how many times I have heard people recommend revolvers for self-defense, usually recommended because they don’t fail as semi-autos do. While this is true, it doesn’t take into consideration the entire picture. Police switched from revolvers to semi-autos many years ago for several reasons. Magazine capacity and ease of reloading are just two.

Since we’re talking about the worst of the worst, you don’t know how many attackers or how many rounds you’ll need to fire. A revolver holds six rounds, and it is very easy to fire six rounds in under 2 seconds. You might think that is overkill, but we’re talking about worst case, and there have been several police shootings where the officer emptied their magazine before the attacker went down. I’ll wager that this is often due to missed shots caused by physiological changes in the body.

If you only have those six rounds and are in need of more, while you can reload with a speed loader, unless you have practiced using it heavily, you might not to be able to do it quickly or at all under stress, due to the physiological changes in the body. Under critical stress, blood is taken from the extremities and pooled into the body’s core. This means fine motor function is highly reduced in the hands, limiting dexterity.

Yes, semi-autos fail, but one can quickly learn how to clear the three types of failures in seconds, and get back in the fight. These are much easier to manipulate with loss of fine motor skills and can be learned quickly. The vast majority of the three types of failures can be cleared with “tap and rack”; hitting the bottom of the magazine and racking a new round into the chamber, which can be done in 1-2 seconds.

If you use a revolver for strength issue, by all means use it. But get proficient at changing speed loaders just in case.
 
 
Double Tap

Double Tapping has been a standard in self-defense for decades. Often, practice is to draw from the holster, fire two rounds into center mass and holster. Since we’re talking about the worst of the worst case scenarios and we know that people fall back to their most frequent level of practice, what do you think will happen when rounds miss or don’t bring the attacker down? There have been reported cases where an officer fired his two shots and holstered his firearm, only to have the attacker continue the attack.

Studies have also been done on the accuracy under critical incidents, which show that as many as 70% of rounds fired are misses. Now, I graduated before common core math, but I am still pretty sure 70% of 2 means either one or both rounds missed.

Instead, I recommend that you practice firing varied rounds each time when training, sometimes firing twice and other times three, five or six rounds. If you are ever involved in a critical incident and must shoot, continue to fire until forward movement of the attacker has stopped.
 
 
Does Size Matter?

This is one of the oldest arguments in the realm of firearms for self-defense; does the caliber of the round matter (I can feel the heated comments already lol)? I think that before modern self-defense ammunition, designed to expand upon contact, the size of the round may have been important. However, with the advances of modern ammo, I am of the belief that 9mm is a better choice than .45 for a few reasons.

One shot stop (or two shot) is often recited, but the stopping power of one round does not take into account the physiological changes involved in a critical incident and is irrelevant if it is missed or does not hit a vital organ.

Modern day self defense ammo expands upon contact dumping its kinetic energy into the flesh. As it expands it leave a much bigger hole then the ammo of the past.

The recoil with 9mm is significantly less than .45, making recoil management much easier so you can get back on target faster to fire again and again. It is also less expensive, and if your training budget is an area of concern, you will be able to practice more.

I don’t recommend anything smaller than a .32 or .380 for self-defense, but the bottom line is: carry what you have and are proficient with. If you like a .45, practice and carry one. I personally carry and practice with a 9mm.
 
 
Distance of Attack

Tom Givens is a self-defense trainer out of Memphis Tennessee. He collected information from over 60 self-defense shootings and found that 86.2% of these shootings occurred at the ranges of 9 to 15 feet. If you are practicing for self-defense, it is great if you can hit a bulls-eye at 50 feet, but being able to hit it multiple times in rapid succession at 9 to 15 feet is better.
 
 
I Won’t Hesitate to Pull the Trigger

It is a common belief for people to think that if they are in a life and death critical incident, they will not hesitate to stop the threat with lethal force. However, statistics show that throughout history, people who have been trained to kill often hesitate.

The book “On Killing” by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman helped firm up my understanding of humans and their capacity and willingness to use violence. In short, the vast majority of human beings are not wired to use violence on one another.

Lt. Col. Grossman goes into great detail to explain how, through the earliest of American wars; the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and the World Wars, the majority of the men fighting would purposely miss what they were shooting at. He explained how the aversion to killing another human was so strong that a trained soldier often times would not shoot another, even if it meant losing his own life.

I have also heard that there is a large percentage of police killed that either never fire their weapon, or made no attempt to. I did a little digging and found this according to the FBI in the 2013 Law Officers Killed and Assaulted Report.

Leading up to the Vietnam War, great effort went into figuring out how to train men, not only to kill but to do so without hesitation. Today’s military are some of the most efficient warriors in the world’s history. In 2013 there were 27 officers killed in the line of duty which, on a side note, was a far lower number than previous years. Of those 27, 18 either did not use or attempt to use their sidearm. You may think that they must have been jumped, but the report shows that only 5 were ambushed.

I am not criticizing these officers or the veterans that chose not to fire either. I am simply asking if these people, who’s job it was to step into danger every day, knowing there was a chance they may need to use deadly force in the course of their career, failed to respond with deadly force, how can you be so sure you will?

Setting my machismo aside, I hope I respond without hesitation. I have done everything I can reasonably do to make sure I act, but I haven’t been tested, so I don’t know. I hope I never have to find out, I do not relish the idea of taking another’s life, not because I don’t want to hurt someone, no, I believe if someone threatens deadly force, they have written you an invitation to use it against them. There is still a lot of legal, personal, spiritual, mental and emotional baggage that goes with it.

If you’re interested, I list a few ways to raise the odds you’ll be able to pull the trigger in Are You Prepared To Use Violence to Stop Violence?

 
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Review of the SmartCharge™ LED Bulbs

Review of the SmartCharge™ LED Bulbs

I was recently asked if I wanted to review a LINK SmartCharge™ light bulb. It is an LED light bulb that contains a 4 hour battery backup. I said “yes,” as I think this could fill a role in power loss preparations for many of us. A flashlight is great, but unless you have them scattered around the house, you need to go looking for one. Flashlights are great for providing direct light, but not great for lighting up a room. Preparedness Club members, make sure to see the bottom for special pricing!

The LINK SmartCharge™ turns on as soon as a loss of power is detected. The following are some features provided by the manufacturer.

SmartCharge™ Features:
• Works with a Standard Light Fixture
• 4 hours of Light During a Power Outage
• Built in Rechargeable Battery / Charges during normal use
• Turns On/Off from the Switch During Power Outages
• Energy Efficient, ROHS Compliant
• Instant On
• Rated to last for 40,000 hours, 25 years

– Brightness – Minimum 350 lumen
-Annual Energy cost – .72¢ USD
-Color Temperature – 5000K
-Wattage – 5.5 Watt
-40 Watts equivalent
-Bulb Voltage – 110-240V
-UL, CE, FCC, & ROHS certified certifications

It fits in a standard light socket, and acts as a normal light bulb until the internal circuitry detects a loss of power, then it switches to the battery backup power. As you can see from the pictures, there is less light in “grid down,” running on batteries mode.

I see this as a good fit in a few situations.

If you have a battery backup UPS on your computer, you know that if power is lost, your system and any peripherals attached to it stay on. Though some units have a long charge, the purpose of a UPS isn’t to keep you up and running until power is restored. The purpose is to let you finish your work, save it and shutdown, thus making sure you finish your task. I see the LINK SmartCharge™ as a product that can let you finish what you were doing. That is, unless it was something that required electricity of course. It then provides a light source for you to get your Lights Out Kit and get ready, just in case the outage is a bit longer than 4 hours. It will also provide that 4 hours of constant light, more if used sparingly.

While our grid is fragile, in that it takes little to bring it down, it is pretty reliable in the amount of time it is up. The founder of the LINK SmartCharge™ is from India, where there are a lot of power outages. If you live in a place where the grid isn’t reliable, the LINK SmartCharge™ could be a very effective tool to provide light in between outages, as well as during.
 
 
My Take

Normal Bulb

Normal Bulb

Please forgive the quality of the images. They were taken with my iPhone, and I am just pretty happy my thumb isn’t in them. I’ll start by saying that I prefer a softer light bulb. The 40 Watt is what I normally use in the office. So, for me, the LINK SmartCharge™is a great fit. If you prefer a very well lit room, this might not be the best option, unless there are other lights on as well.
 
 
SmartCharge on grid power.

SmartCharge on grid power.

The LINK SmartCharge™ gave off a whiter, cleaner light than the yellowish tint the regular 40Watt put out. Now, if you watch any of the videos, I really think they do themselves a disservice. To simulate a blackout you need to do more than just unplug the lamp. Simply unplugging it from the wall does not simulate a power outage. In a power outage, there are still things connected to the circuit in your house, such as the stove, etc., that are plugged into the outlets. The bulb needs to detect something else to complete the circuit to stay on.
 
SmartCharge on battery power.

SmartCharge on battery power.

To get by this, they seem to use another light as the other electronic device drawing power. This makes the room look very bright while power is on, and very dark; darker than it really is, when power is “out”. I used a fan as the other device, and the difference in the light provided between modes is very minimal. I was surprised how much darker the picture was in the after picture, because I thought it was almost the same level of brightness while I had it on in battery power mode.

Size comparison

As you can see, the LINK SmartCharge™ is bigger than a standard bulb. It doesn’t bother me, but if you have an enclosed fixture, it might be very tight, or not fit at all.

The price is $34.95, which isn’t too bad when the average LED bulb goes for around $20.00. Pay an extra $15 and you get one that will sense when the grid is down, and run off of the battery for another four hours.

I’m going to give this item 4 stars. I think it is a very clever idea, and designed well. If they would have changed the design so that power just needed to be lost from the source, and the bulb would stay on, I would give it 5 stars. That would allow for one to charge it with a small solar panel, and have 4 hours of off grid light at night.

The folks at LINK SmartCharge™ have agreed to give Preparedness Club members a 25% discount until January 5th 2015! Log into your account to find the coupon code.

 
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Introducing Homespun Environmental

Homespun Environmental
To Order from Homespun Environmental just click the above image.

I was recently approached by Homespun Environmental, a company specializing in Prepper DIY water filtration. They sell a line of ceramic filters at a fraction of the cost of say Berkey or the others in the marketplace. They also provide you with the instructions on how to make your DIY filtration unit.

I have seen designs people have made with 5 gallon buckets and Berkey filters, which also uses ceramic filters. This would be cheaper than buying a Berkey, but the filters are still expensive.

The filters by Homespun Environmental are very affordable. The Emergency Water Kit is only $25 and includes one ceramic filter. If you do not have a water purifier, this is a very solid option, as they are offering premium filtration at a fraction of the cost of their competitors. You can find a full product line here.

To tell you more about Homespun Environmental, here is an article written by owner Russ Michaud.
 
 
Top of the List

Russ Michaud – www.homespunenvironmental.com

There is a feeling in the country that things are changing for the worse; the government is deep in debt, politicians are just looking out for themselves, and society as a whole is beginning to fray. For a variety of reasons it appears that the good old days are winding down and harder times are coming. A lot of folks look at our high-tech lifestyles and realize that if critical functions were removed they would be utterly helpless to fend for themselves. Living without the internet seems unimaginable to many; just think if they lost electricity, or grocery stores, or running water…

As the bad news continues to come in there are a lot of folks preparing for a life without some or all of our modern conveniences. There’s a variety of books, blogs, and TV shows discussing how this might be possible. Of course there are many unknowns when planning for disaster, such as what happens, how long it lasts, your living situation, location, and financial circumstances. One thing that you will always need, no matter what happens, is access to clean water. Even a disaster that only lasts for a few days could become deadly if it leaves you without water.

This paper introduces ceramic water filter cartridges, which provide a low-cost, low-tech, well proven solution that enables clean water to be produced from just about any fresh water source.

homespun 1What is a ceramic water filter? The filter consists of a ceramic shell which usually contains activated carbon. The ceramic shell has sub-micron sized pores which filter out small contaminants such as bacteria and particulates while the carbon inside treats the water by removing a wide spectrum of chemicals. Specialized filters that remove particular chemicals such as fluoride or arsenic can also be manufactured by using other media in place of the carbon.

These filters are fairly low cost but are often bundled with fancy containers and big brand names that can add hundreds of dollars to the price. In reality though, you can make your own water filter systems at a much lower cost. This has been proven by missionary groups and NGOs in disaster situations all around the world.

Two pictures are presented below (in lieu of a few more pages of text) to explain how these systems can be made and used. The picture on the left is made from a couple of 5 gallon buckets with the filter in the middle. Though you can use any type of containers when building your system, the basic design is almost always the same: A top container holding the unfiltered water and the filter, and a bottom container to catch the clean water that drips from the filter spout. The picture on the right shows the parts that make up an ‘emergency kit’ which is used to create the system at left. (Currently this kit sells for only $25.)

homespun 2homespun 3

These systems are portable, require no power, are very simple to create and maintain, and are low cost. They can be used with just about any freshwater source as has been proven throughout the world for the last couple of decades by a multitude of refugees.

How much water and how fast? One of the first questions most people have is “How much water are these filters good for?” There are two answers for this question. The filter will remove bacteria and particulates for as long as the ceramic shell is intact. The pores in the ceramic can get clogged over time, but it is easy to unclog them by using a slight abrasive to remove the outermost (clogged) layer of shell.

Chemicals are treated by the activated carbon inside which is used up after 6 to 8 months of ‘normal’ use. ‘Normal’ assumes 12 to 15 gallons per day from a natural water source. This implies the carbon will last for 3000 to 4000 gallons. The carbon’s lifespan will be shortened if the water contains a lot of chemicals, such as chlorine. The filters can be stored indefinitely and used intermittently provided they are dried out well inbetween uses.

The amount of clean water a system can produce in a day is another question most people have. The water flow of a filter dripping out of the spout depends on the water level in the upper container, so as the water level decreases the flow rate slows. For a standard 5 gallon bucket the flow rate is 12 to 15 gallons per day assuming the bucket is refilled a few times. This is plenty of water for drinking and basic needs for a family. However, one can easily increase the flow rates if larger groups or bartering applications are needed.

homespun 4 A very simple method to increase flow rates is to place filters in parallel. For example; if one filter is giving a flow of 1/2 gallon per hour, placing a second filter in the container will double the flow rate. (A standard 5 gallon bucket can fit up to three dome filters). Another advantage of parallel filters is there is more activated carbon so you can remove more chemicals. The downside to this method is that it costs more to implement.

A second method for increasing water flow is to increase the pressure on the filter. This can be accomplished by using deep upper containers to provide more water pressure, or by increasing the air pressure in the container using an air tight seal and a hand pump. The downside of air pressure is that it increases system costs and also requires manual labor.

homespun 5 A third method that is low cost is to add a siphon tube to the output of the filter. This provides a pulling force instead of a pushing one. The force is proportional to the length of the siphon and the vertical distance it is from one end to the other; the longer the tube the faster the water flows. For a stacked bucket system (where one bucket sits directly on top of the other one, and the vertical distance is only a foot or so) the siphon can double the flow compared to a filter just dripping. A ‘separated bucket’ system (shown to the right) uses a long siphon; this can increase flow rates a lot more depending on the siphon height. Please note that if you separate the buckets like this, the bottom one should stay covered to prevent other contaminants from getting into the filtered water. This method is probably the best due to its low cost and low effort required.

There is a caveat to increasing flow rates and that is that it decreases the ‘contact time’ that the water has with the activated carbon and thus reduces the ability of the carbon to adsorb some chemicals. The time needed varies with the type of chemical being adsorbed so unfortunately there is no straightforward answer as to how fast you should go. The best advice is to filter the water however quickly you have a demand for it.

These filters are adaptable to many applications and configurations. They are used in rain water systems, well water remediation, and back country living as well as disaster situations. Besides tens of thousands of refugees, farmers in Uganda, apartment dwellers in NYC, and water vendors in Central America have all used these filters successfully.

One additional benefit of these filters is their potential value as barter items if times do get really bad. Something fairly inexpensive now could be worth a whole lot more later on, especially if they’re useful.

Conclusion Ceramic and carbon water filters are excellent devices for family and small group sized systems. They are low cost, do not require electricity to operate, and are simple to assemble and maintain. They work on both biological and chemical contaminants in water sources where many other filter types only work on one or the other. In Do It Yourself applications they provide an outstanding value and allow for a wide degree of customization. They can also provide a form of investment as they would enable bartering for other valuable goods and services in ‘grid down’ scenarios.

Homespun Environmental is a small business catering to the DIY ‘prepper’ market for ceramic water filters. DIY (Doing it yourself) allows for much lower prices and systems that can be customized to particular circumstances and needs. They offer individual components, affordable, emergency water filter kits, and systems for the outdoor sportsman.

Homespun Environmental
To Order from Homespun Environmental just click the above image.

 
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Review of the MPOWERD Luci Inflatable Solar Lantern

Review of the MPOWERD Luci Inflatable Solar Lantern

Every once in a while I get to review an item that, because of features, potential and its price, is an item that I am happy to tell you about! LUCI is one of these! Created by MPOWERED, LUCI is an inflatable solar lantern with a diameter of 5”. It’s about 4” tall when inflated and 1” tall when collapsed.

LUCI is waterproof and shatterproof. It is very lightweight and affordable; the Luci Solar Lantern I was sent retails for only $15! Other models can run up to $25.
 
 
Features

LUCI Dimensions

LUCI is made up of 10 LED lights, a solar panel and a rechargeable battery.

It is rated for 500-2000 cycles, meaning full battery cycles from full to empty. If you use it every day for twelve hours, it is expected that it’ll work for about two years! If you use LUCI occasionally you can expect many years of use.

The LED bulbs have a lifespan of 25,000 hours, and the manufacturer states that they will not burn out during the life of LUCI.

LUCI solar panel

LUCI will hold a full charge for about three months. After that it will retain half a charge for up to two years!

There are three power settings; low, high and a slow flashing.

LUCI produces enough light to illuminate up to an 8-10’ square foot room.

LUCI is rated to run in temperatures from 15-122 degrees.

There is a plastic strap on the top and bottom. A carbineer would be needed to hang it from something to cast light or hang upside down to charge.

LUCI can be charged from with sunlight or incandescent light and takes 8 hours for a full charge.
 
 
Potential

LUCI is being marketed as offering “solar justice” to the 3 billion people in the world who either live without electricity or can’t afford it. They even have a program where you can MPOWERED for a LUCI to be given to someone in need!

LUCI will effectively lengthen the ability to get things done after the sun goes down. That is the case for those living without electricity now, and for anyone who owns one if the power goes out!

LUCI in colorLuci doesn’t act like a flashlight. To be fair, flashlights don’t serve the same purpose as LUCI in my book either. A flashlight is a great tool for casting light at length or lighting a specific area for a short time. LUCI is geared toward lighting a general area for a length of time.
 
 
LUCI roadside
Just some of the uses I can see are: In the BOB, lights out/blackout kit, glove box or trunk for use during roadside emergencies, lighting an outdoor area for night gatherings, floating in the pool for evening swims (did I mention it’s waterproof?!?!?). I think LUCI will give a scared child much more comfort in a blackout than a flashlight, as it lights up a bigger area.
 
 
Price

As stated above, the Luci Solar Lantern that was sent to me costs $15. You can visit the MPOWERED site to find all four versions, including the ones in various colors! They range in price from $15 – $25.

At these prices, I think they make a great addition to anyone’s preparations! They would also make great gifts for those who may not be preparedness minded!

 
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Emergency Heat

Emergency Heat

This is a topic I haven’t covered in a while, and I’ve gotten some questions related to it recently, so I thought it would be a good time to revisit emergency heat. Going without heat is something that hundreds, if not thousands of people face every year. Many of those affected have electric heat and above ground power lines, which can be brought down by storm damage from falling trees or from ice storms and blizzards.

Energy is one of the Five Basic Human Needs, and the rule of three’s tells us that we can only live 3 hours in poor weather without it. Depending on how low the temperature is, that number could be less. Be aware that hypothermia can set in at temperatures less than 50 degrees, so this isn’t just a topic for northern states!
 
 
Back Up Electricity

One might think the solution to being without heat due to a power outage would be to provide backup electricity with a generator and that might be the case for short term outages. The catch is making sure you have enough fuel to run the generator. I heard stories after Hurricane Sandy about whole home generators that used an entire 500lb propane tank. If the outage is large enough and long enough, nearby gas stations will, most likely, be without power to operate the pumps.

A small generator would sufficiently run space heaters, but the fuel usage is still prohibitive. I own a generator, but my plan for it is to run the freezer and fridge for an hour in the morning and evening to keep the food inside cold.

I’m not going to go more in depth on generators, but if you’re interested, here is an article I wrote called Portable Generators and an article on storing gasoline and diesel long term.
 
 
Scope of the Problem

Before we can really come up with a solution, we need to know the scope of the potential problem. Because of the type of events that are most likely to cause us to need emergency heat, it is safe to say there will be a large portion of the people in our area affected.

A side note; we had a large storm here in Minnesota last year, leaving thousands without power in the summer. It was unbelievable the number of people on the news and social media accusing the power companies of not doing anything. The electric grid is a very complex, interconnected and in many instances outdated beast. In a large scale power outage, it is far more complicated to correct say a fallen tree, than just removing the fallen tree and flipping a switch.

Yes, the tree needs to be removed and lines repaired, but there is also a very good chance that the tree falling caused damage to other components down the line. The line must remain off for utility workers to repair all of it and replace said components.

I digress; in a large scale power outage, it is safe to say that it could take a number of days but will probably not take weeks for power to be restored. Hurricane Sandy saw many people without power for several weeks and some saw months. However, that was an aberration caused by wind damage, water damage, flooding of the underground grid and several other factors. I know of several large scale storms across the country where utility companies have brought in crews from other states to get power back to their customers.

What this means is that we need to be prepared to provide emergency heat for our families for up to a week. If the damage is so significant that it will require you to be without power for longer than one week, you might be best served finding another location to reside in until power is restored.
 
 
My Emergency Heat Plan

For me personally, a whole home generator with 500lb+ of fuel stored isn’t feasible. If we lose heat in cooler temperatures, my plan is to have everyone cohabitate in one room. It is far easier to heat and maintain warmth in one room versus the entire house. I own Mr. Heater F232000 Indoor-Safe Heater, and have multiple 20lb propane tanks. To use 20lb or larger tanks, you also need to purchase a propane hose assembly.

Caution does need to be taken to make sure fresh air is allowed to circulate while using the heaters, but modern day indoor rated heaters are a safe and viable option.

I plan on placing blankets over windows to add a layer of insulation to cause heat loss through them to be minimal. Since water lines freezing is a real danger, water would be shut off going to most of the house, and a small trickle of water would be maintained to the rest of the rooms where running water was needed.

If you’re looking for an emergency heat/off grid heat option that is a bit bigger and could heat the entire house, there are several options. It is out of the scope of this article, but you could research wood stoves, pellet/corn stoves and Rocket Mass Heaters from Permies.com for just three examples.
 
 
Candles

Candles can provide some heat, and light but we will only use them as a last resort. As I explain in Candle Safety:

“We had a couple different scented candles burning for a few days when Trudee noticed her asthma was acting up. Then she noticed a thin layer of soot on the surface of things here and there. (Note: We don’t have a fireplace.)”

We still have several candles for emergencies and barter if needed, but don’t burn them anymore.
 
 
Cooking

While this article is about heat, there is a good chance that if you don’t have heat, you might not have a means to cook. I personally decided to use propane as my fuel for cooking as well. I have camp stoves and the BBQ that can be used to prepare meals. We also have a fire pit and a small amount of wood that would last us a couple weeks or so for cooking with.
 
 
Other Information

I’ve written two other articles that might be of interest. One is called Off Grid Fuels,. In it, I explain the pluses and minuses of various storable fuels. I explore propane in depth in Propane for Fuel Storage.

 
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Awareness and Security in Crowds

Awareness and Security in Crowds
I did something recently that I have not done in many years! I went to the mall; not just any mall, mind you, but the Mall of America, the nation’s biggest mall! I went for a work event, and since I hadn’t been there in almost a decade, I thought I would walk around and see what I could see.

I came up with several observations and suggestions that could help one stay alert and safe in a crowded situation. This could be a mall, a state fair, or, in an emergency, it could be an evacuation route or center.
 
 
Awareness

Practicing situational awareness in any public setting can be difficult at times. It can be nearly impossible when you add hundreds or thousands of people. I’m a big believer in the Cooper Color Code. For those unaware, this is a system of mental readiness that uses four colors to differentiate the levels.
Read the link above for a deeper explanation. Below is a brief overview.

White: This is a state of being unaware; the state you’re in when at home.

Yellow: Relaxed but aware of your surroundings; the state you should be in any time you’re away from home. This is where you scan for potential threats.

Orange: Alerted on a single threat; must make decision on when and how you will react if the threat escalates.

Red: You are ready to fight.

Using the Cooper color code is an effective way to gauge potential threats in low to moderately busy situations. However, if you are in a situation where you have, not only to scan for threats, but also need/want to take in the sites or look for someone you’re meeting, it is quite difficult to assess every passerby for more than a second or two.

In large groups of people, I change my scanning method somewhat. For example, a young teenage girl who is giggling with a friend is usually not going to be a threat. This being the case, I then dismissed groups of teenage girls as potential threats. The same could be said for a group of elderly gentleman, or any group of similar people. Now, of course, they would get a second look if they did something that got my attention, such as following me.

Because I was in a setting where people were there with purpose, I expected them to act in certain ways; looking at merchandise, walking to or from a store, looking for the next store to shop at, you get the idea. Anyone who did anything outside of these expected behaviors got more of my attention.

For example, there was a group of people sitting on benches. Some of them were talking, others were people watching and one of them was watching me. Because I thought it odd that a man in his late thirties or early forties was watching me, I made a point to look behind me as I passed. I then noticed that he got up and followed me. This could have been a total coincidence, but knowing my biggest threat in the mall is pickpockets, I decided to act instead of waiting to see what happened. I moved off to the side of the walkway and stopped, watching him as he passed. When he got a bit ahead of me, I went on my way again, making sure I knew where he was.

Maintaining awareness also makes you much more polite than the average person. At 6’0 tall and 220 pounds, I’m a fairly big guy. I lost count of how many people I had to dodge to keep from knocking them over or, in one case, getting run over by a motorized scooter. Playing this kind of leapfrog and trying to keep people at as much distance as I could also made me a harder target to pickpocket.
 
 
Sliding Into Condition White

I don’t care who you are, it is impossible to maintain perfect situational awareness at all times, especially when you’re in an environment where you need to split your attention between looking for someone in particular, finding a gift, maintaining a conversation, eating a meal and so on.

One sure fire way to slide back into condition white is using your phone. Below are some tips I used both on the occasions when had to use the phone, or when I was looking at an item.

I only used the phone in a non-busy area, and made sure my back was to the wall. I made sure to continue to scan every five to ten seconds. I also kept the phone close to my body and kept a solid grasp on it. I’ve watched footage of people getting their phones stolen right from their hands. They almost always have it as far from them as possible, yet not quite a full arm’s length away. I had my wrists touching my frame and checked my peripherals frequently.
 
 
Limiting Mr. Murphy

Because I dislike Mr. Murphy and his law and want to limit the amount of things that do go wrong, special precautions should be taken in large groups of people. Below are some random security related ideas when in a large group of people.

  •  Don’t put your wallet in your back pocket. The front is much harder to pickpocket from.
  • Women, if you carry a purse, carrying it cross body won’t keep it from being stolen but can limit pickpocketing.
  • At the mall there were some parents using those kid “leashes”. I used to think those were a bad idea until I watched a young couple with two kids. The wife was pushing the stroller, the husband was carrying bags and had the kid that could walk tethered to him with one of these. He frequently checked on him but the tether gave them a little more freedom than they would have had otherwise.
  •  Men – When using public restrooms, either do like the ladies and use the buddy system, or if going solo, use the stall. There was a crime wave here a few years back where a man was targeting men who were alone standing at the urinal. He would walk behind them and give them an elbow strike to the back of the head, then while they lay there unconscious he would empty their pockets.
  • Women – When using a public restroom, the safest stall is the one with a solid wall to one side. You can place your purse on the floor in the corner. There is then no risk of someone taking it off the door hook or reaching under and grabbing it.
    Always know the quickest way out of the area as well as an alternative route.
  • Pay attention to anyone paying more attention to you than they are anything else. A nod and a smile can let them know you are aware of them. They might just think that you remind them of someone or they may have sinister intentions.
  • If there is an emergency and everyone is heading for the exits; depending on the emergency, it might be best to let the crowd pass by and then leave. If you did as suggested above, you know where an alternate route is.
  • One would think that evil couldn’t hide in large groups of people. However, some very evil things were done at the Superdome during hurricane Katrina. The point here is that even in large crowds of people, those who want to do you harm can find pockets where foot traffic is light. This is one of the reasons to use the buddy system.
  • Make your valuables hard to get to. I usually wear cargo pants and button the pockets. If you carry a bag or purse, make sure it is zipped. If you have one that doesn’t close, while it might be handy, it is not secure from someone willing and with nimble fingers.

Staying alert and secure in crowds of people has different challenges and might need a different approach than around a low population setting. Please add any other thoughts or security ideas to the comments section.

 
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How to Grow Red Mustard in your Home Garden

How to Grow Red Mustard in your Home Garden

Mustard is a delicious leafy vegetable that is easy to grow. Mustard is also an excellent nutritional choice as it is a great source of vitamins and minerals your body needs. Mustard is cold tolerant, a prolific producer and when you grow one of the red varieties; it is aesthetically pleasing as well. That makes red mustard perfect for all you front yard gardeners.

The taste of mustard leaves, in my opinion, has a mild to slightly spicy flavor that is just as enjoyable raw as it is cooked or steamed. My personal favorite is to eat it raw mixed with other greens such as spinach, chard or lettuce. Here is a really good step by step red mustard recipe.
 
 
WHEN AND WHERE TO PLANT

You will want to select a sunny location and sow your seeds as soon as the ground can be worked when you are starting them in the spring. If red mustard is going to be part of your fall garden, you will want to plant your seeds 30 days out from your first frost. If you are closer to your frost than 30 days, be sure to start your mustard in a cold frame. Mustard is perfect for cold frame gardening.

For the best results for germination and plant growth, loosen your soil to help with aeration. This also makes it easier for your red mustard’s roots to grow and spread.
 
 
CARING FOR YOUR RED MUSTARD

Red mustard likes the soil to be moist at all times. A moderate watering every other day should suffice. You want to make sure you are not overwatering though. You do not want to saturate your soil. Be sure to keep the garden bed weed free and feed your mustard plants with a good organic fertilizer every couple of weeks.
 
 
HARVESTING

Red mustard (and other varieties of mustard) is a great vegetable to harvest. You can harvest mature leaves, leaving the rest of the plant alone to continue to produce. You can keep doing this so as long as the weather stays cool.

On a final note, as noted before, if your red mustard is going to be a part of your fall garden, be sure to use a cold frame once temperatures drop below freezing. This will help you extend your red mustard season through a good part of the winter.

Enjoy!
 
 
About the Author

mike_bio_picMike Podlesny is the author of the book Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person as well as the creator of the Seeds of the Month Club where members receive non gmo, heirloom variety seeds every month. You can listen to Mike each week on the Vegetable Gardening Podcast where he interviews gardening industry experts.

 
 
 
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Review of Body Armor by Infidel Body Armor

Review of Body Armor by Infidel Body Armor

Today I’m doing a review on Infidel Body Armor; Viper Modular Operator Plate Carrier with level III plates. I also want to talk about why you might want to consider owning it as well as why you might want to do so sooner rather than later.

First the review:

Viper plate carrier and plates

I went with the Viper Modular Operator Plate Carrier with level III plates.

The Viper carrier will fit M-XL. I’m 6’ and weigh around 215. I had a bit of wiggle room but it can be adjusted with the many Velcro straps to fit more snuggly for those of smaller stature. It has a “Kangaroo pouch” on the front and webbing for MOLLE attachments. The shoulder straps are padded and adjustable for comfort.

The vest is sewn in China and is comfortable, well sewn and of good quality.

Infidel Body Armor has this to say about the level III plates:

Level III Stops: 5.56 (M855, M193); 7.62×39 (Ball), 7.62x54R (LPS), 7.62×51 (Ball); 30-06 (JHP, FMJ); .357 mag; .45 cal; 50 cal Beowulf; 9mm; 12 Gauge Shotgun slugs, and more. All of these rounds were fired from semi-auto AR-15s, AK-47s, MAK-90s, bolt action Rifles, Glocks, Revolvers, and pump shotguns.

Weight for 10×12 single curve with 1/4″ polyurea anti-frag coating is 9lbs per plate.

You can see videos of these plates being tested as well as some promotional videos here.
 
 
Why Infidel Body Armor?

I like companies that are fearless in their faith! I don’t mean pushy, trying to convert every customer, but companies that are not afraid of their faith costing them revenue. Infidel Body Armor happily advertises the below quoted area on their FAQ Page. They are an advertiser on the PreparedChristian site, and have an Ichthys (Jesus fish) on the banner.

I looked at a few companies, but when I found Infidel, I was sold.

What does “Infidel” mean anyways?

• Over in the Middle East, our soldiers are called Infidels every day. The Koran says that Christians are infidels: Koran 5:17, “Infidels are those who declare God is the Christ, son of Mary.” Our company is Christian-owned and we wear that definition of “Infidel” with pride. We claim the privilege of worshiping God according to our conscience and allow others to believe as they would- just don’t try taking away our right to worship how we want to.

 
 
Why Would You Want to Own Body Armor?

The “escalation for use of force rules” that police departments use don’t translate step-for-step to a civilian. But to stay out of jail, one doesn’t use deadly force to chase off an eager door-to-door salesman.

If you can envision a scenario in which you might need to use deadly force to protect your family, it should be easy to understand that the person trying to hurt you/them is using deadly force. Often times this threat will come in the way of a firearm.

Now granted, we’re not going to be wearing the body armor throughout our day, but there are several situations where it would be prudent to have it and wear it. When times are normal, if you’re awoken in the middle of the night and you know someone is trying to kick in the door. It is probably prudent to call police, arm yourself and stay in your bedroom. But what if police are so taxed that they’re either not coming, or you live so remotely that they couldn’t possibly get there in time? Or what if civil unrest was rampant like it is currently in Ferguson, MO, where business owners took up arms to protect their companies? If the sole responsibility of protecting your business, your home or your family falls on you, and there is a real possibility of gunfire, wearing body armor just makes sense.

It is important to me to have something that will stop more than just handgun rounds. I won’t be wearing body armor every day. If I have it on, it’s because things have really gone sideways. Bad guys hide handguns in the back of their pants now, but if things really fall apart, can you be sure they won’t be emblazoned to carry their AK-47, or shotgun out with them to do their dirt?

I would have actually liked to get Level IV plates, which will stop the same as the level III, but can take multiple rounds.
 
 
Why Should You Consider it Soon Than Later?

If you haven’t already heard of HR5344, this is worth being informed on. Congressman Mike Honda (D) from California has delivered a bill in an attempt to outlaw “military grade” body armor. Claiming that only the police and military need it.
I actually think this bill could have more legs than any of the bills put forth to limit the ownership of firearms. Body armor is not protected by the Second Amendment of the Constitution or any other. I do believe it is ridiculous and that this congressman should be voted out!

This is just my opinion, but I think if you can foresee the potential for a home invasion, especially in a rural setting, if you can foresee civil unrest in your area, such as what is happening in Ferguson, MO and you can foresee needing to fill the void to protect you and yours, then body armor should be on your list.

If congress gets their way, body armor sales will be limited! If you plan to buy, buying sooner rather than later might be prudent.

 
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The Art of Silence and a Look to Go With It

The Art of Silence and a Look to Go With It

Today I am going to share two tips with you that I have used many, many times. I have used them to stop arguments, to win arguments, to stop pushy sales people, to shut down “alpha male” loudmouths, to frustrate frustrating people, to stop myself from saying things I would regret and to keep from embarrassing myself. The list of ways that silence and “the look” have worked goes on and on.

I don’t say a word.

This sounds much easier than it really is. A good salesperson knows that after they make their pitch and ask you to buy, to shut their mouths. Often times, the first person to speak loses. Here is a tip on dealing with salespeople; if you’re not interested, don’t give any reasons or excuses, just say “no”. If you don’t shut them down with a “no”, you’ve given them more time to try and convince you.

This isn’t just true in sales; I have won arguments with people in different areas of my life by saying my piece and shutting my mouth. My goal here is to give my perception and not enter into the “tit-for-tat” type of argument that often occurs.

“A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” ~ Proverbs 29:11

I try to live by this verse. I don’t always succeed, but thank God for His grace. Here is my theory on arguing; if your stance is correct and your argument is logical, make your point and be quiet. If two people are in an argument, odds are that emotions are heightened. You will, most often, not sway someone in an emotionally irritated state by a logical argument, even if it is the correct and right stance. Continuing to argue often leads to even higher emotional volatility, which can lead one to sin against the person they’re arguing with.

Trudee and I are blessed with having fewer heated arguments than I can count on one hand in the almost ten years we’ve been married. When one has happened, I say my piece and try to keep my mouth shut. Sometimes that has led to each of us feeling like we got to say what we felt needed to be said. Sometimes it has led to me vacating the same space so I can keep my mouth shut.

“It is better to be thought a fool, then to open ones mouth and remove all doubt.”

I have Asperger’s Syndrome. For those of you who don’t know, Asperger’s is a high functioning form of Autism. My social skills are pretty good for someone with Asperger’s, but I learned early in life that I don’t know how to respond in many social situations. If I don’t know how to respond and do anyway, many times it comes out awkward and forced. If I keep my yap shut, I might come off as quiet, stand-offish, or in some cases rude. I’ll take any of those instead of looking and feeling like a fool.

Where not saying a word works extremely well is with pushy people who aren’t taking “no” for an answer. Don’t keep saying “no”. Just say it and then stare at them in the manner I’ll describe below.

Women, please learn this! If you have a man who is making you uncomfortable, you do not need to explain yourself or worry about hurting his feelings or his opinion of you! He might call you the big bad “B” word! So what!? Your safety, self-respect and general well-being are far more important than him expressing his opinion of you!
 
 
The Look of Looks

Part of my Asperger’s Syndrome is a difficulty picking up on social queues; especially matching facial expressions with emotions. Because of this, I have spent hundreds of hours throughout my life studying and analyzing facial expressions. There is one look I have seen that is particularly effective that I have used countless times to great effect.

This expression is really a total lack of any expression. Your face is totally void of any emotion. Relax all of the muscles in your face; no clenched jaw, no grimace, no flared nostrils; just nothing.

To me, this expression conveys a sense of meaning business. I have seen it used by women to shut down pushy men, parents to stop a nagging child, men use it instead of posturing to let another man know they’ll not be taking any more crap and it’s time for them to back down.

I have actually used it in all of those situations (except I shut down a pushy woman) very effectively. Probably the funniest use of it was recently; I have an account rep at work who thinks his problems are the most important thing going on. He is a “hoverer” on top of it. He frequently shows up at people’s cubes and expects them to stop what they are working on to address his issue. I let him know I didn’t have time at that moment but would be able to help him in 30 minutes and then gave him the look. He didn’t know what to do! He just walked away! He hasn’t been back to my cube since.

To use silence and this look effectively, you have to be comfortable with the awkward silence that will follow. If you smile when you’re nervous, if you clench your jaw when angered, if you feel the need to power up to intimidate, or countless other things, you’ll need to train it out of you!
 
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