There is No Excuse for Being Unprepared for the Weather

Winter is here, but you already know that

We have touched on this topic several times, but we thought that it was worth mentioning again. Natural and man-made emergencies happen. It is difficult to prepare for everything, this is true. But certain events come with alarming regularity, and you have no excuse to be caught off guard.

Winter is one of those events.

Like clockwork in the northern half of the world, it gets cold right around November.  By December it’s pretty darn cold. Come January and February it’s outrageously cold. During these months, it also often stormy, wet, and generally unpleasant.

This happens every year with few exceptions.

For that reason alone, we find ourselves completely flabbergasted when people freak out when snow or rain starts falling.

It shouldn’t be a surprise, we’ve been through this before, and yet every winter people in our area behave as though life on earth is ending and they’ve never seen snow – running to the shops to stock up on the essentials they should have already had on hand.

Recently in my area, we got a few inches of snow. Not a lot, but enough to make driving a little sketchy and to delay schools.

Areas surrounding us got considerably more and found themselves up to their eyeballs in the white stuff, some even languishing without power for days.

Of course, people panicked.

snowzilla-1192790_1920My son and I stopped by the local grocery store to pick up some tortillas since he was craving burritos, and you can imagine my shock and dismay when I turned to the milk cooler and saw it completely empty (why aren’t there any lactose intolerant people during an emergency?).

We didn’t need any milk, but it did make me wonder how little preparation most people were doing if they didn’t even have the basics to fall back on when a little snow hit the ground.

Hopefully, if you’re reading this, you are not one of those tragically unprepared people who must go out and fight somebody’s grandma for milk when the weather turns cold.

Instead, you’re someone who has read our e-book and amassed all or most of the necessary supplies you’ll need to stay warm, hydrated, and well-fed if the power goes out.

If you’re somewhere in between, let us remind you with this brief list of essentials:

Water: You should have enough water for each person in your household to have a gallon to themselves every day. Your minimum supply should last you at least three days. That means for a family of four you’re going to need at least 12 gallons of water. You can buy these in large one-gallon or five-gallon containers, or you can purchase something called a water bob that will allow you to drain the water out of your hot water heater in a pinch. We have a large hot water heater that holds 80 gallons, so that’s enough for our family of 4 to last 20 days should something happen to the grid. We’ve also got gallon jugs full of water to be on the safe side.

Food: You should also have enough food to last you a minimum of 3 days – preferably food that is easily prepared with little or no electricity. That way, if the power goes out, you’ll still be able to feed yourselves. Keep in mind that caloric needs vary from person to person and age to age so if you’re going to buy a meal kit take that into consideration. And make sure that you’re getting plenty for everyone.

Flashlights and Candles:  Not only will having a ready candle keep things nice and brightly lit, which can be a tremendous comfort as well as a considerable convenience, but candles can be used to heat small spaces as well.

Communication Devices: Walkie talkies are incredibly handy, and we recommend everyone have a set for short-range communications, but your modern smartphone can also be outfitted with apps that allow you to use your equipment just like an old fashion handheld radio. Taking this precaution can keep you in contact with people near you without having to pack up extra gear and can, of course, provide access to the network when it comes back online.

Batteries, Cables, and Charters. Any electronic device you have is going to use battery power, so it’s in your best interest to make sure that not only do you have spare batteries for gear, but also charging cables and external power sources for your smart devices as well. This extra step will make sure you remain connected even if somebody gets bored and decides to play Angry Birds instead of conserving energy.

Books and Games. Speaking of bored people, contrary to what the popular media would have you believe, life in an emergency is only exciting for the first hour or so – then things get dull. We are so accustomed to being distracted by electronics that it can be difficult to know what to do with ourselves when it isn’t available. If the power goes out, you won’t have the luxury of streaming your favorite Netflix program or tuning out the rest of the family to play video games. You’ll have to interact. Make sure you have plenty of books and games for everyone in your crew, and you’ll stave off the inevitable arguments that come when your crowd gets bored.

There’s plenty more that we could say about getting ready for a power outage, but we’ll direct you again to our short e-book on packing up for an emergency go bag instead. It’s free, and you can print it out and keep it somewhere safe to ensure you have everything you need, and you won’t have to run to the store and buy out all the milk. The information can be used as-is or adapt it for a shelter-in-place scenario, but however you use it, just please use it.

Until next time stay warm, stay dry, and don’t panic spring is on the way.

Eventually.

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A Free, Printable E-Book to Get You Started

emergency go-bag essentials (1)

One of our most popular posts was about what you should pack in your emergency go-bag. It was so popular, in fact, that we decided to turn it into an e-book you could download and refer back to when you needed a refresher.

To get yours (no purchase necessary) just click on our link for  75+ things your emergency bag must have and grab your free .pdf – but only while supplies last!  (just kidding, it’s a file, take as many as you want)

How to Make a Washing Machine from a Bucket

So, it finally happened, the power went out, and you need to find a way to clean your family’s clothes without electricity, or you’re living/camping off-grid and want to do some laundry without heading into town.

Or, like us, your washer started making a chainsaw grinding noise while you were washing a load of jeans and died a loud, painful, inglorious death.

If any of these scenarios describe you, you might think that the only way to properly clean your clothing is to spend a fortune on a compact, flimsy washer or whip out the washboard and get to scrubbin’ much to the dismay of your hands.

Hand Washing Sucks

Fortunately, there is a simple, inexpensive way to take care of the basics on the cheap and with items you (should) already have lying around.

Behold – the bucket washer!

Quick and Convenient Portable Washing Machine

Now, if you’ve been reading this blog, you already know of my infatuation with buckets. We use them for chores, storage, hygiene, hauling, water filtration, you name it, so we have several handy for this task. If you don’t, I recommend you run out and buy at least two now.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Oh, and you’ll need a plunger too. Get a clean one. Trust me on this.

Ready? Good, now gather the rest of your supplies and let’s get started. You’ll need:

  • 2-5 gallon buckets with lids
  • 2-cinder blocks or large bricks
  • 1-VERY clean toilet plunger
  • Drill with Keyhole or hole saw bits, large drill bit and smaller standard bit
  • Bucket lid remover tool
  • Scrub brush/sandpaper
  • Hot water
  • Detergent
  • Dirty Clothes
  • Plastic sheeting

Once you’ve gathered everything you need, the rest is just a matter of assembly. It’s a bit time-consuming, but don’t rush. Do it right, and you’ll only need to do it once.

Bucket Washer Supplies

Putting It Together

When you’re ready, find a place where you can work without worrying too much about the mess and follow these steps:

  1. Start the project by drilling a hole in one of the lids just large enough to allow the plunger handle to pass through smoothly. This will be your agitator – much like an old-fashioned butter churn.
  2. Use the same bit to drill a larger hole in the bottom of your inner bucket; this will help with drainage.
  3. Next, use the large standard drill bit to drill holes in the inner bucket. You’ll end up with something that looks like the tub in a modern washer, but with the holes larger and farther apart. Be careful not to make them too close together, or you’ll end up with handy perforations that will come apart the first time you put any stress on the bucket. Refer to the photo for an example.
  4. Next, take the smaller drill bit and drill holes in the plunger, as in the picture. This will allow the water to move more freely while you wash, reducing the amount of effort you’ll use.
  5. Once you’ve drilled the holes, use a scrub brush or sandpaper to remove the plastic bits left over from the construction process, so they don’t end up on your clothes.

There you have it! One fully-functioning manual washing machine, made by you!

Inner BucketInner Bucket, Second View

Using your Machine

Making use of your machine is just as easy as building it:

  1. Drop the holey bucket into the outer bucket (the one without holes). Add hot water and detergent (it won’t take much soap) to the bottom until you can see it poking through the bottom of the bucket you drilled.
  2. Add clothes until the bucket is about 1/2 full. This machine works best with tops and lighter fabrics. If you’re planning on washing jeans or heavy towels, consider very small loads.
  3. Add water to the bucket, filling it about 3/4 full.
  4. Add the plunger.
  5. Place the lid you drilled a hole in on top, making sure the handle of the plunger pokes out of the hole.
  6. Press the lid in place.
  7. Put the bucket outside on clean plastic or in the bathtub to keep the mess to a minimum.
  8. Using the plunger, agitate the clothes, just as if you were making butter the old-fashioned way.
  9. Plunge for 10-15 minutes, depending on how soiled your clothes are.
  10. Pour out the dirty water and add clean rinse water. Agitate for 5 minutes.
  11. Repeat as needed to remove dirt and soap.
  12. Remove holey inner bucket and place on bricks outside or in the tub (outside is safer for your fixtures).
  13. Using the outer pail press the water from the clothes in the holey inner bucket to remove as much water as possible.
  14. Hang your clothes to dry.

This is a quick, easy, cheap way to get your clothes clean with minimal water and little effort – especially if you have energetic kiddos around to help.

Machine Loaded

The Care and Feeding of Your Bucket

Caring for your new washer is easy. Simply rinse both buckets out to remove any leftover soap film and allow to dry thoroughly. This will prevent any milder growth or odd smells. Then, reassemble the unit and put it out of the way until you’re ready to use it again.

That’s all there is to it!

Note: We have heard of some folks using drills to agitate their clothing and, while we applaud their enterprising nature unless you can turn the power down low enough to keep from shredding your unmentionables, and have a reliable way to recharge your batteries, we suggest you stay with the manual version.

Check out the video below for more information and see how easy it is to put one of these handy manual washers together for your next camping trip.

 

 

 

Need to Heat Water Without Electricity? Try Our Candle Trick!

There are plenty of ways to keep yourself fed if the power goes out. But if you really want something warm, and you don’t have the luxury of a fireplace or gas stove to do it, try using our tea candle method.

In this video, we show you how simple it is with supplies you probably already have laying around. It’s time-consuming, but if you’re already using the candles for light, it’s a good two-fer that can illuminate your space and put something warm in your belly too.

DIY Firestarters You Can Make Today

Cozy FireFor most of us, heating, cooking, and purifying water will involve flames of one sort or another. For those using a gas connection, getting things going is as simple as striking a match or using a lighter to ignite the burner.

If you’re cooking with wood, however, having a way to get your fire started without wasting valuable tinder will save you time, energy, and most importantly, supplies you’ll need later.

Now, we do offer fire starters in our shop, but if you run out, or you’re on a budget and need something you can use now, you can make your own with just a few, cheap, readily available supplies you might already have laying around the house.

Below we’ll tell you how to make a long-burning favorite out of recycled dryer lint, and give you examples of a few others you might find useful as well.

Making Your Fire Starters

Gather your supplies, and we’ll walk you through it:

  • Egg Cartons
  • Dryer Lint
  • Paraffin Wax
  • Newspaper
  • Burner
  • Pot

Layout your supplies in the kitchen, or somewhere you’ll be able to spread out and have room to work, then follow these simple steps:

  • Spread out the newspapers on your work surface (away from the burner)
  • Line up the egg cartons on the newspaper
  • Fill the egg cartons with the dryer lint
  • Heat the paraffin wax in your pot on medium heat until liquefied
  • Carefully pour liquefied wax into egg cartons, evenly covering all the lint
  • Allow fire starters to cool completely
  • Cut each section of the egg carton apart to create individual fire starters

Completed fire starterYou can substitute the lint for sawdust, shredded paper, or other fine, flammable substance if dryer lint is not available.

For longest life, we suggest putting these in a plastic bag and keeping them in a cool, dry space with the rest of your supplies. They have staying power and should be good for years if stored properly.

Using your Fire Starters

Using your new gear is as easy as making it:

  • Place your fire starter in your fire pit
  • Place dry tinder around the fire starter
  • Build your kindling up around the tinder, giving it plenty of space to breathe, but making sure the area is tight enough to catch
  • Using a match or long lighter, light the wax fire starter
  • Watch the fire carefully, feeding it as it grows

Properly made, your fire starters should burn for upwards of 5 minutes, allowing you to add tinder and kindling until you have a properly burning fire. If you struggle to get a fire going normally, this is a tremendous help.

Pine cones can be substituted for the egg cartons if you have an overabundance of those lying around. They can be used as tinder as well if they’re thoroughly dried at first, making them a truly green solution to fire starting.

Alternative Cheap Fire Starters

Fire starter alternativesRecycled lint fire starters are easy to make, cheap, and can be prepared and stored well in advance, so you’re ready when the power goes out, or if you just want an easy way to light a fire this winter.

 

 

Of course, recycling your dryer lint is just one way to create useful fire starters, other options include:

  • Vaseline coated cotton balls
  • Cotton balls soaked in rubbing alcohol
  • Wax-coated cotton balls, pads, or cardboard
  • Twisted newspaper (old homework is good too)
  • Lint-filled toilet paper rolls
  • Cupcake wrapper filled with paraffin wax and sawdust
  • Candles

With any of the wax-based fire starters, you can add scented oils to create a more pleasing smell, which could help a scary situation seem a little more like a relaxing evening at home.

What do you think? Do these tips help you prepare for the possibility that the lights will go out? Let us know in the comments section below and, if you have other suggestions for cheap, DIY fire starters, we would love to hear them!

Preparing to Survive a Hurricane

Cyclone

Hurricane season is in full swing and, if you’re one of the millions who live in an area prone to storms, then you need to know how to protect yourself and your property to minimize the damage and ensure you come out of it in one piece.

 

Prepare in Advance

No matter where you live, you should have an emergency evacuation plan in place in case you need to bug-out in a hurry. This plan should cover yourself, your partner or spouse, children, and pets, and must include:

  • go-bag packed with essential tools, clothing, food, and medication.
  • A list of local shelters with contact information
  • A communication plan.
  • A designated meeting place in case you become separated.
  • An evacuation plan in case one is not provided for you.
  • Secure, water-proof storage for valuable papers, photos, and other items you cannot live without.
  • A full gas tank for each of your vehicles.

Even if you don’t live in the path of one of these storms, having an emergency plan in place is essential because you never know when wild weather, fire, or another natural disaster could strike and send you running for safety.

Hurricane Route

Bugging Out

If you’re called to evacuate, the above plan will help you to get to a designated safe place with minimal trauma. It’s important that you grab your gear and go.

Do it.

It’s hard, we know, to leave your things behind not knowing what you’ll find when you come back. It’s worse to stay and lose more than your stuff because the storm was worse bigger or more violent than you were expecting.

Get to high ground in a public shelter or one you scouted in advance. Whatever method you choose, if the storm is coming and you can’t stay home, get to someplace safe and worry about your possessions later.

Shelter in Place

Bugging in

If you are fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to weather the storm at home, there are precautions you should take to minimize the damage to your property while keeping yourself and your family safe and comfortable.

Prepare to bug-in by doing the following before the storm hits:

  • Check your food and water supply. You should have enough to last at least 3 days, preferably 7 or more.
  • Make sure your radio works and you have plenty of batteries for it and your flashlights. Turn the radio to a channel that carries the latest storm information and keep it there.
  • Board up all windows and doors (at least those on the first floor) and cover skylights with a well-secured tarp.
  • Place generators outside away from people, vents, and windows. If you plan to run it, make sure it is in a well-ventilated area.
  • Move people, pets, and valuables to upper floors with windows or doors that can be used to evacuate if needed. If there are neighboring trees that could pose a problem in high winds, avoid the portion of the home at risk. Avoid the attic or upper rooms without an exit point.
  • Replace the batteries in the fire and C02 detectors in your home.
  • Check your fire extinguisher and put it someplace you can reach it easily.
  • Keep refrigerators and freezers closed – if the power goes out, this will help keep food from spoiling.

Once the storm hits, stay put. It might be tempting to venture outside and see how things are going, but this could be dangerous. You could be hit by flying debris or even swept away, forcing family members and first responders to risk themselves to rescue you.

Hurricane Aftermath

Cleaning Up

The aftermath of the storm can be almost as traumatic as the event itself. Power outages, damaged infrastructure, food shortages, and damage to your own property can take weeks – or longer – to fix.

There are things you can do, however, to help move things along and get your life back to normal:

  • Survey the damage to your property and adjacent homes. If you notice downed power lines, report them and stay clear. If you smell gas, evacuate and call in the leak when you get to a safe place.
  • Make an inventory and take photos of any damages that could be hazardous as well as those covered by your insurance. This will help you prepare for the cleanup and will expedite your insurance claim.
  • Stay out of standing water. Not only could there be some pretty gross stuff floating in that water (hello broken sewer lines) that could make you sick, but hazards beneath the murky surface and the fast-moving water itself could injure you if you aren’t careful. It only takes 6 inches of water to sweep you away.
  • Check on your neighbors. If your neighbors stayed put too, they might need a helping hand from you. Go over and say hello and see what you can do together to get life in your neighborhood back to normal.
  • Save phone calls for emergencies. During a disaster, phone systems can become overwhelmed, making it hard for emergency personnel to communicate. If you don’t have to be on the phone, don’t.

Being prepared for a hurricane emergency isn’t paranoia, it’s good sense. Use this list to get ready and know that if the storm hits, you and your loved ones, have the best chance to make it out in one piece.

Hurricane Damage

 

 

10 Survival Skills Every Kid Should Know Now

Survival Skills

For some parents, the idea of teaching our children survival skills is a daunting one. We’re concerned we might scare them. Distressed we could turn them into apprehensive teens, afraid of the world around them.

The reality is that teaching your kids these skills is empowering. By providing children with the tools they need to take care of themselves in an emergency, they’ll be better able to handle those stressful situations if disaster does strike and the confidence to take care of themselves and others as well.

Plus, teaching survival is a great opportunity for family togetherness.

Below we’ve gathered up the top 10 survival skills we believe are essential to your child’s health and safety, whether they must deal with a man-made or natural disaster or you’re just spending the day together in the woods.

The Three Keys

Popular movies would have us believe that children are stupid fragile creatures who will stand out the rain gazing up until they drown much like the old grey goose.

Either that or they are unstoppable warriors capable of taking on insurmountable odds to save the world.

The truth is kids aren’t stupid, but they aren’t superheroes either. They’re resourceful, provided we give them the tools and information they need, but they could use a little help from us as well.

Begin by teaching them the basics.

In a disaster or in a situation where your child has become separated from you, they’ll need to know the three fundamental human needs:

  • Shelter
  • Water
  • Food

On Shelter. In an emergency, our frail human bodies will not last more than a few hours without shelter. Children should know the basics of keeping themselves warm and dry until help arrives. Depending on your location and the situation that could mean finding shelter under a fallen tree, in an abandoned house, or with equipment that you’ve provided in a go-bag.

Water. The human body will last no more than three days without water. Less in hot, stressful conditions. Your child should know where in your location they’re most likely to find clean, fresh water that is safe to drink. They should also have a way to filter water, in case a reliable source cannot be found. Whether that means water tabs, a filter straw, or you’ve taught them how to create a quick, portable water filter will depend on the supplies and expertise you have and where you call home. We recommend all the above, as well as portable water, so they have something to drink immediately.

Food. If you’re in a suburban environment, your children should know where to locate food and how to tell if it is safe to eat. If you’re in a more rural environment or in the wilderness, they should have a good understanding of what potential wild fruits and vegetables are edible and especially which ones could cause them harm and should be avoided. Again, it depends on where you’re located and what they are most likely to have access to.

Keeping Warm

Keeping Warm

Whether you’re hiking or sheltering at home, your child should have a basic survival kit that includes a change of clothing and a lightweight mylar blanket. Now these blankets are wonderful for helping them to hold in body heat, but it won’t necessarily protect them from the elements, and it won’t help them if they get wet, so an extra, insulated blanket is good too if you have space for it.

Depending on the age of your child, they should also have a good understanding of how to start a fire safely to keep themselves warm without accidentally setting their surroundings alight, and they should have access to the tools to do so.

Trail Marking

Trail Marking

Every year in the Pacific Northwest we hear about children who’ve wandered away from their families when hiking or even in shopping centers. Some sadly never to be seen again. It is essential that your child learn how to take note of their surroundings and how to physically or mark their trail. This will keep them from becoming a statistic and make it easier for them to find their way home.

First Aid

Basic First Aid

Even young children should have a basic understanding of how to treat wounds effectively. Children as young as eight or nine can learn how to clean and dress wounds, recognize shock, deal with splinters, sprains, and breaks, and recognize signs of concussion. Giving them these tools will not only help keep them healthy but providing them with information can help reduce panic in a frightening situation.

Cougar

Avoiding Predators

Unfortunately, this applies to people as well as animals. Children need to know when it’s safe to approach strangers and went to practice avoidance. They need to understand when, where, and how to hide and when it’s safe to approach someone to ask for help. The Centers for Missing and Exploited Children have excellent resources on their website to help you have this kind of conversation with your child.

Of course, in the woods, those predators could be large furry and hungry. Again, teaching your children when and where to hide, how to climb trees, and how to defend themselves or frighten off certain predators could be an extremely useful tool.

Pocket Knife

Using Simple Tools and Weapons

In America, we’ve gotten a little bit touchy about the idea of giving kids knives. We’re afraid they’ll hurt themselves, and we’ll be held responsible. Odds are, they probably will injure themselves at some point – you can’t help it. But by teaching them from a young age how to properly use and care for their knife, as well as how to create simple tools they can use in an emergency, you will give them essential skills of the vehicle to use their entire lives. And if you’re the one doing the teaching, you can make sure that it’s done correctly and safely.

Good Hygiene

Good Hygiene

Good hygiene not only keeps you looking and smelling your best, keeping yourself clean helps to provide a sense of normalcy in a scary situation. The reduced stress that comes from completing simple, familiar acts, and the cleanliness itself, will keep your body healthier longer. Helping your children to understand and appreciate this will prevent them from making themselves sick it a survival situation.

Self-Defense, Kids

Self-Defense

No one likes the idea that a child might have to defend themselves from something big and scary, but it is far preferable to give them the tools that they need and never have to use them than it is to realize you have avoided an uncomfortable conversation only to put your child in danger. It’s essential your child know how to defend themselves effectively. They’ll be safer, more confident, and better prepared to handle stressful, potentially life-threatening situations if they encounter them.

This List is Just the Beginning

There are, naturally, 1,000 other things you should work on teaching your child to help them feel prepared for an emergency. It doesn’t have to be scary, and you don’t have to be an expert. You can have a lot of fun with your child by learning these things together if necessary, so you’re both prepared if things go sideways and you need to provide for yourselves.

What do you think? Did we hit the mark or are there other things that you would add to this list? Let us know in the comment section below we look forward to hearing from you.