Sunday, August 31, 2008
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
As the season progresses, I'll be in better shape, and when there's enough snow, ready to take on the winter in more exciting ways.
Two of those are skis and snowshoes- each with distinct advantages and disadvantages for people interested in traveling over snow with the utmost ease. (We won't discuss snowmobiles here- tho my interest in them is pretty limited. I've owned several but always manage to end up on skis and 'shoes.)
Pictured are my snowshoes- nearly five feet long,and my all maple skis- the kind our esteemed Uncle used to issue his troops in Alaska and such places. (They're solid wood and need spacers to maintain the 'camber' over a hot, steamy summer, hence the blocks between them.) These skis are solid bottom, need tarring and waxing to get the most benefit from. I've used them for years- my first real introduction to cross country skiing came through these, but they are heavy and not very forgiving on moguls (bumps in the trail), but they are tough-tough.
Pictured here are my son's 'waxless' skis. Note the scale-y base. Made to not need waxes to perform properly, they're quick, light and agile. However, better performance can be had by putting an appropriate wax on them. (Left of the blue bases are a ski pole and the base of my maple ski- the black is caused by the tar application. Tape is wrapped around the bamboo pole to aid in preventing splits/cracks, several coats of varnish help as well.)
A word about waxes (for those uninitiated to skiing): wax is formulated for differing snow/air temperatures and conditions. (The purpose of wax is to give a somewhat better 'grip' on the snow- and it is very noticeable the first time the wrong wax is used.) Blue, a soft wax, is used for damp, soft snow conditions such as early winter/fall and spring conditions. For 'warm' cold snow/air temps- e.g. 10 degrees above to zero, a green or purple, sometimes red, can be used. For extremely cold- ten below and colder, I and many others, like to apply paraffin wax: it's really hard, grips those sharp cold crystals extremely well and is lots cheaper than 'ski' waxes.
Bindings on your skis is going to make a difference in your footwear. Pictured are the 75mm 'Nordic Norm' bindings that were once de-rigguer for cross country skis. Today, bindings can be found as narrow as 25mm for racing kick-skiing- what you'll see on the Olympic skiers and other racers. However, for our purposes- SHTF scenarios, we want to do away with those fragile little bindings, and, if possible, the ski boots as well.
What we're going to want for SHTF is a boot and binding that will serve multiple purposes and that excludes the sporty, colorful, narrow, low-topped ski boot racers and casual tourers use. In my estimation, the least acceptable is the 75mm Nordic Norm, anything less is a waste of our time, talent, money and possibly our lives. Ideally we would have the oldest bindings available: cable bindings. These are 'production versions of the oldest made- leather strings. A cable binding is just that: a cable with an adjustable clamp that will bond foot to ski yet 'break away' easily in emergencies- such as falls or tumbles and you want the ski to get off the foot fast to prevent broken bones, twisted ankles and ruined knees. (A fast word or two about technique: don't worry about yours. The more you do it, the better it gets. Think 'long loping stride' as you ski, pause on each foot as it goes forward before 'kicking' the back foot forward. Swing arms alternately as in walking, and really dig those poles in to get a burst of forward thrust as you kick. Ideally, you'll learn to ski without poles, then add them for increased power/speed/control as your ability increases. And don't be afraid to fall- even Olympians fall, nothing new there- we people have been falling for thousands of years. Usually on our noses, too.)
Back to bindings...I think the wine makes me digress...brb, getting another glass... oh, yes- bindings. Ummm...boots, rather. I can't find my cable bindings (put ugly crying face here) so I've got to tear the shop apart to get pix. Nor did I get shots of my (smelly) boots (more ugly crying face) so words will have to suffice. The boots we're looking at will be similar to six or eight-inch topped hiking boots. The next time you're shopping, look at the hiking boots you see: if they're 'genuine' mountain type of boots (read: real honest hiking boots) they'll have a groove cut around the heel about 1/4 inch wide and deep. Also the toe area will have slight slots or notches along both outside/inside edges. These are a throwback to the age when men and women actually did such things as adventures and used skis in winter. They're put there for cable bindings. And they work exceedingly well. More direct and use-specific are the real ski boots with both cable and pin (clamp) binding marks. I opt for these in my 'normal' skiing: boots about six inches high and a 'gaiter' on over them. (A 'gaiter' is a sleeve that fits over your calf area, is waterproof material, aids in keeping leg cramps away as well as snow off the leg and out of the boot, keeping the lower leg and feet dry. Therefore, gaiters are valuable life-saving devices.)
Ski poles make great walking sticks! It used to be the length of a person's pole was measured from the armpit to the ground. Times change, however- now the fad is to get as long as you can handle. My preference is armpit cuz I'm used to it. 'Nuff said. I also prefer bamboo- I've been using the same pair of poles thirty or more years and have yet to break one. My son uses aluminum and has broken several pair. Of course, it can be said he is a more 'enthusiastic' skier than I. Still, I've tumbled down hills, straddled trees (honestly- just like the cartoons) and used them in summer as walking sticks and they are still serviceable. However- I do have a back-up pair. Soon as I bought them, I wrapped five loops of electrical tape between each joint- very tightly- and put three coats of varnish on them. Note the poles across my 'shoes. They are great for balance and pushing brush aside or banging snow off branches before ducking under them.
Onward and ahead to snowshoes now. Notice in the first picture how long the 'shoes are. My skis are 6'11". Those are long snowshoes and thus for a reason: better travel on deep snow.
All things being equal, a ski will sink deeper into the same snow than a good 'shoe and thereby make travel more difficult. Unless you're wearing those small 'bear paw' or 'Sherpa' type 'shoes. Those are made most for hard-packed snow, emergencies and 'gentle recreational' snowshoeing. Oh, they have their purpose in extremely thick brush as well- but that's not much of an advantage over a larger, longer 'shoe. The biggest, and worst, disadvantage of snowshoes is the snow temperature. Early fall and late spring snows are a curse to snowshoeing because it is 'wet' or 'damp' snow. That kind of snow clings and builds under the 'shoe, adding tons and more tons of weight and will burn anyone out fast. (In this kind of snow, nothing beats a ski. Nothing.)
Between the Sherpa and my style is a mid-range known locally as a 'Michigan' or 'trapper' snowshoe. These are more wide than bear paw or my 'Alaskan' type and a bit more difficult to walk in due to needing a wider stance. Their weight holding ability is close to the Alaskan type and far above the bear paw.
The bindings on my 'shoes are nylon webbing, which replaced the green leather bindings after some mice discovered how wonderful that un-tanned leather tastes. I'm not really 'fond' of these bindings, but they do work. I've long been considering finding a truck inner tube and cutting my own bindings but haven't got the ambition yet. Friends of mine have such (rubber-tube) bindings on their 'shoes and swear by them when I'm usually swearing at mine. (I'll post pics in a future episode.)
In my experience, a snowshoe wearer can carry a heavier load than a skier- but not as quickly. Too, snowshoes take a bit of practice and muscle strengthening that will only come from using them, ditto with skis. As to pulling toboggans with loads and using skis or snowshoes- the choice is yours, though I'd opt for the 'shoes if the snow conditions were perfect for them.
In conclusion: let's think now, while we still have opportunity, about what/how we're going to use as traveling techniques in a grid-down, full SHTF situation. Most likely, 'shoes and skis can be had now at summer prices. After the first snow-fall? Sky's the limit, is my guess. Good snowshoes have always been expensive due to the labor intensive construction- and rightly so, IMO. Shy away from those nylon-webbed critters, or worse yet, those pseudo-leather stitched shoes: they'll fall apart first time out. Always go for a genuine leather stitched 'shoe. Bindings are a different matter: a 'shoe generally comes with a green colored un-tanned leather binding, and they work. They're traditional and time-tested, but sometimes there are better eggs in the basket. That decision I'll leave to the user.
One final word: yes, I know it's still August and first snow is hopefully a long way off. But we have to consider these things before we need them or we're very likely SOL.
Keep your powder dry, your compass in hand, and an MRE in your pants.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Okay- chuckling a bit here...not really talking about survival in "our" sense of the word. Just that I've kind'a changed the format of the blog a bit and have to go back a bit to the 'old' format and show a slice "of America as I see it" today.
Our annual "Back to the Sixties" nite was this weekend and I had to get out of the house with the camera, play a little and visit some old friends. Above, notice the emblem from the 1946 Lincoln. They don't make ;em like that any more. So some things sure don't survive. Also, the Indian is gone, though I've heard they're making a come-back.
And of course, what's a sweet ride without a sweet seat cover? Can't make her out too well- I was trying to be creative and only mildly succeeded- but the ride sez it all.
If anyone out here in reader land wants to help a sweet young lady please her 'old man'...
...you can send her a few bucks to aide her in purchasing the newest toy she promised me for my birthday. Seat cover won't be included but wouldn't hurt since once she sees how expensive I am to board and feed, she's gonna divorce me for someone younger...much younger.
So there it is, folks- just a brief excursion into the world around us. The evening and day were fun, for sure, and I do get a lot of enjoyment getting into the thick of things to get the shot I want. Actually, I think it's kind of funny when I see all the cameras on the side lines, snapping away and coming back with the same shots they had from the last parade they attended, not thinking that in this kind of situation, they need to be bold, unafraid to get into the thick of things, get their feet wet- or run over- to get the shot they really want. (I was laying on the street to get this shot of "my" car. (Doggone sun was still too bright, though, and washed out my flash, even. Shucks.)
Enjoy, Everyone- keep the Faith.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
There are basically two kinds of axes- single and double bit. Both have handles near the same length and weights that are comparable. So, intrinsically, there is little difference between them but one having a sharp blade in case of nicks/dulling. Quite often, especially in movies, we see people using an axe to split wood. If they do, that axe more than likely is not one used for chopping because the blade is purposely flattened. In splitting wood, the object is to follow the grain to split, not make a fresh cut. There are splitting mauls on the market that vary in weight from six to 18 pounds weight. These have rounded 'blades' that split rather than cut, and the weight is extremely useful in driving force necessary to split many kinds of wood. The biggest drawback to these 'monster mauls' is the manpower requirement. Boys and children need not apply cuz they just don't have the beef required, so the best bet is something between six and eight pounds. IMNASHO (InMyNotAlwaysSoHumbleOpinion) the six pound maul is the best bet for anyone under 16 years since their muscle development can handle that weight fairly easily and even better as muscle is gained. My son, now 17, likes the maul, but recently visited a friend who was using a double bit axe to split his wood, and now he has to use a double bit. (It's in the first picture. Oh- about the pictures: notice the tape wrapping: beneath that is wound three layers of tie-wire, sometimes called 'form wire', to act as a cushion for the handle. Unless you want to replace handles often. It works, but only so long before needing replacing. Too, on the single bit pictured, you can see where the head is splayed/flattened: it's been used as a wedge on large, stubborn pieces of wood and had a sledge hammer applied as encouragement.)
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Of course, everyone has about a six foot long by three or four foot wide piece of 1/4 inch meshed galvanized steel sheeting laying around the house, so we'll begin to build our trap. (A picture will be provided eventually for everything discussed, just be patient.)
Reminder also: these are illegal tactics in MN, where I live. What your state laws read may be different: just be sure to check them. Any time you break a law, you are liable to prosecution. In MN, sentences for game violations are more harsh than for drug dealers, so be sure to let your conscience be your guide.
God bless, good luck and happy fishing.
Up next: what happens when the water's what you're walking on?
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Food, good or bad, is going to be uppermost in many minds in the coming months- not that it isn't now with the high gas prices. The biggest difference between now and then will be hiking or biking to get our food instead of driving. That and getting it home. We may even find ourselves eating more than normally because we'll be working harder at staying alive, probably doing more manual labor than we're used to. Nothing wrong with a hearty appetite when you're working, so dig in. But don't forget to share.
My pantry's about 12 feet by 12 feet- plus or minus inches- and walled with shelves 18 inches deep. Just wide enough to hold the plastic containers I store my grub in. 30 gallon plastic with lockable tops work fine and are cheap at mall big boys. One row of shelving is beans- I love bean soup and 15 bean soups with ham- just delish. Another shelf is for peas. Same reason: I love split pea soup. (Love any soup, really.) Also, one shelf has boxes of lentils, barleys and lots of grits. (Don't ask why I like grits, I just do- it's an Army thing.)
Each bag is individually wrapped in another ziploc baggie as well, dated, the boxes sealed when full- which takes about three trips to the store when buying on the 'sly' to not arouse suspicions. I also use differing stores/supermarkets on the same days since they seem to have much the same specials going on everywhere. With today's costs, specials are a deal at yesterday's prices.
Across the room are shelves of spaghetti's/macaroni type foods, again kept in the original boxes/wrappings and sealed in zipper bags. A trick I use to get the air out is a straw poked in the top, zip the pack closed til it hits the straw, then suck like mad until the bag is air-free as possible, then zip closed and pull the straw out the same time. Someone suggested using a vacuum cleaner to replace the mouth, but I like doing things myself, soooo- no vac. Also, a survival friend convinced me I needed a bunch of Ramen noodles. Damn, those things taste worse than some cardboard boxes I've munched on. Still, there are several plastic wrapped case boxes of those dang things. (He may be intending to visit and have those for his lunch, I dunno. Anyway, they're here.) There are bags and boxes of elbow macaroni, one-pound size, and boxes of spaghetti, mostly two-pound boxes, lots of my favorite "oyster shell" macaroni in one and two pound bags, a few boxes, and those little skinny angel hair pasta, and five pound bags of rotini, another favorite. With the macaroni products are all the dry/powder sauce mixes I think I'll need for each pound of noodles- which usually comes to be four packets per pound with my sauce making. Kept in separate bags from the macaroni sauces are lots of chili, sloppy joe, dehydrated soup mixes and sundry spice items.
Canned goods get two walls of shelving: beans- french cut,cut and whole; peas; corn- whole kernel and creamed; spinach; mixed veggies; asparagus; pork and beans; cauliflower; Chinese veggies (actually ChunKing two-packs); tomatoes-whole, diced, sliced, pureed, chopped and sauced; beets- whole, sliced, chunked; sauerkraut (MMMM, mouth watering!); chili beans; peaches in cling syrup(tongue smackin'); and a whole lot of Irish Maid hot chocolate mixes, iced tea and other berry drink mixes- dry and individually wrapped and zipped packs.
The thing about storing foods long term is you gotta worry about moisture with anything that is supposed to have none. So wrap and wrap again if you're the worrying kind. Also, especially with canned goods, be certain to rotate stock, resupplying as you go. All foods are dated for expiration these days but for my personal opinion, I take these with a grain of salt for dried foods, especially such as beans and peas. Still, use and rotate. The family and I did show some concern for Y2K and began our preps about none months before - like March or April- and managed to easily get enough food stored for a season: one winter and summer while waiting for crops to grow on our three acres of independence. Some of those foods still haven't been used, though the rotation method is used.
Some foods, such as sugar, will be 'barter' foods for me- I use very little and make maple syrup on my own, anyway- not to mention berry wines (tongue dripping now...mmm...) Brown sugar, dregs from the cane, are probably more stable than white sugars- Mom and Grammy used to store them forever and use without fear, sometimes even having to hammer out the lumps with a rolling pin. Flours are bought in 20/25 pound bags and kept in 'pickle' containers with rubber sealed lids. (I have yet to go through 25 pounds of flour, however. Pancakes and biscuits are about the only use I have for flour until TSHTF, then I'll be baking breads, I imagine. Hopefully my flour products will still be usable. Also, I've yet to find a bad batch with meal bugs in it or their hulls, which attests to the efficiency of our modern milling methods.)
I know I'm forgetting something here- spices...there is one 30 gallon container with spices: crushed red, garlic powder, pepper, lemon pepper, basil, turmeric, etc: I use lots of spice in cooking so they'll be gone thru.
Storing foods is labor intensive, to say the least. The best thing would be a walk-in room with sliding shelves of individual containers so stock is easily rotated but we can't always have the best of all worlds. Make do with what you have.
So far as meats are concerned: living in the bush as I do, hunting is a common pastime in its season, as is fishing year round. Having a venison steak is more to my liking than a beef steak so I won't be awfully concerned about having to buy meat. (Until I married, I never bought any meat but bacon. The wife got tired of making venison, rabbit, duck, squirrel, partridge- a game bird, fish and turtle. Too bad- wild game is low in the wrong kind of cholesterol and high in the good stuff.) Also, I love my banty hens: great brown egg layers (but you gotta hunt for them sometimes, or take them from the setting hens!). Tough to chew fried but good enough for soups when cooked long enough. Great bait for foxes, wolves, cats, hawks and neighborhood dogs, so you gotta watch them close, insure they're cooping up at night. Then make sure weasels can't get in or they'll kill the entire coop just for fun. Had a horde of rabbits once, too. Not worth the bother, IMO, since they're more labor intensive than chickens, eat your garden with gleeful abandon, dig holes to make a gopher jealous and not worth much so far as food value is concerned: you'll starve to death eating rabbits due to low fat content. Stick to meats that have energy-producing fats cuz in the situations we're talking, you'll need it. Probably the best thing about rabbits is how fast they reproduce and may be good for barter. So, again, make up your own mind, do some research and make a decision.
You'll notice I haven't mentioned any MRE's yet. That's because to me an MRE is what I come home to and either make myself or that made by someone else. I think MRE's have their place in emergency supplies especially long-term storage type. But how long do you want to eat freeze dried food? Do you intend making it your sole source of energy? Don't you even intend planting a garden? doing any hunting or fishing? Any food stuffs you store will be used within two or three years if you plant a garden. Unless you have a continual resupply. So, in my thinking, a two year supply of foods I normally eat will be more than sufficient, taste better and be more readily consumed by mine and me.
Oh- yes, forgot to mention the dog. I have only one now since the Kid has grown and decided to fend for himself and took his two hounds along. (Whew! but I miss those girls, pain in butt tho they were.) My hound will go through a 17.2 pound bag of Kibbles in two weeks. In summer they last even longer since he's not producing heat. The Kibbles have their own shelf along with treats and some cases of canned foods he likes. (Think meaty.) In a pinch- such as him going to that great pound in the sky- the food will serve other mutts in need of a home cooked meal. Also, there have been news articles about 'poorer people' eating cat and dog food for its protein content. (Ever smell a can of human consumption beef stew? Smells just like Alpo Beef chunks. Plus, I'm told animal food is more stringently controlled than even human food- good old USDA!) And you will want a dog or two, but not the noisy kind that bark at every falling leaf. You want one that will let you know when someone is nearby- like two city blocks away- and won't try eating that person's ankles. (Point of interest: my Golden mutt can hear deer walking in the woods from more than a hundred feet, so don't underestimate their hearing. Also, I've watched him run full-tilt and smell a peanut butter sandwich on the ground from fifty feet with the wind blowing from him to the sandwich, and bee-line for that delight. But he's a bird dog and used to using his snoze.)
I know I'm forgetting something here- there's a lot to cover in foods alone when it comes to long-term surviving. In the pre-family days I'd always considered bush-whacking to the hunting shack and living the hermit life as much as possible. With family members, that's near impossible, so my thinking has had to be revised. Of course, with family members- and friends nearby as well- many aspects of surviving are greatly enhanced, the individual lives made easier by 'community'. So, in closing for now, enhance your life by developing your food stores and community of like-minded individuals.
God bless in your preps- keep the Faith and know Who actually holds the future, regardless who gets elected this fall. (Thank you, Lord, for that gentle reminder that I need not worry about this election cuz we'll get who You want us to have, who we deserve.)