What if the Mistake is With Preparation?

mistakeThis post is me being my own devil’s advocate. You see, not long ago I posted an article on The Probability Spectrum of Disasters which basically stated that you should focus your preparations on the scenarios that are most likely to happen to YOU rather than what you’re most afraid of or some guru says you should be preparing for. Examples would include job loss, chronic illness, house fire, etc. Once you’re as ready as you can be for those scenarios then move on to things like earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and eventually EMP, pandemics, and so on.

I then got to wondering that if it’s all about the numbers (the statistics) then I would imagine that being affected by a disaster is actually statistically less likely than NOT being affected by one. In other words, I’m willing to bet the math says that in my lifetime I’m less likely to NEED the vast majority of my preparations than not, small power outages and such not withstanding.

So, why am I doing it? Why am I planning for a less likely scenario? Taking it a bit further, consider the fact that I’m even less likely to be drastically affected (i.e., end up dead or maybe displaced) by any single disaster, then the statistics certainly don’t bear out my desire to prep. I’m better off preparing for normalcy… kids’ college, 401K, retirement, etc.

Granted, I would need to find some numbers to verify my assumptions but let me ask you, how many people do you know that have been severely affected by a disaster in their lifetime? (I’m talking about earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.) I know I’ve lived through nearby earthquakes, seen tornadoes from afar, and even remember my parent’s house flooding due to a lot of rainwater and poor city sewer drainage but I would be the first to say that I’ve never been drastically affected by any of these. In fact, I can’t think of anyone I personally know that has been severely affected or even displaced by any serious emergency situation.

This isn’t to say that it can’t happen. Obviously disasters happen, people become displaced, lose everything, and even die. We know that. But I put a LOT of time, effort, money, and thoughts into my preps and it never seems to end. I sometimes stare at my assorted “for emergency only” gear and wonder if it would have been money better spent on a 401K, my kids’ college funds (hah!) or just dining out.

I don’t truly know that I will ever need any of my stuff. Most of my friends and family would never spend a dime on “for emergency only” gear and I’m sure that many think I’m a bit crazy (or at least I’m their first and only stop if disaster ever strikes them). I know I’m venting to the converted here but are we (the real 1%) wasting our time? Are my preparations the real mistake?

I Must Be Boring You to Tears Lately!… and a 1000 Post Milestone

I can see by a general lack of comments that I really must be boring you folks to tears lately, so I apologize for that. You know, the blogosphere continues to amaze me. Posts and concepts that I think would be quite interesting often aren’t while posts that are much more mundane can be winners. I simply don’t get it. So long as you’re learning something and choose to stick around then I guess it doesn’t matter.

On a happier note, I noticed that today we went over 1000 total blog posts since this blog was started a little less than a year ago, which I consider a healthy accomplishment. Hopefully the next 1000 will continue to be useful, interesting, and inspiring to you.

Last, I hope you have a wonderful weekend, enjoy the Superbowl if you’re watching it (my $$ on San Francisco), and I look forward to a better next week.

There’s More to Proper Food Storage Than You Think

leftoversLast week I got into a short, yet friendly, comments discussion with HealthyPrepper (one of my recent favorite YouTube channels by the way) on one of her videos regarding the storage of crackers for the long term. Suffice it to say, that I suggested there’s more to consider when storing crackers (she was storing regular Ritz in the video) than just placing the crackers in a foodsaver bag with oxygen absorber and calling it done.

Granted, it’s always wise to do your best to minimize the impact of the biggest food storage detrimental factors, including oxygen, moisture, heat, light, and infestation. What she was most concerned about was to reduce oxygen exposure, and for good reason: it’s a huge contributing factor that directly affects shelf-life. Anyway, I had mentioned than she should be careful with storing these particular crackers because they had a significant fat content in them, which could cause them to spoil even when sealed in the package; I suggested she should stock low-fat crackers (e.g., low-fat Ritz, Saltines, etc) but I never fully explained myself… mostly because I wasn’t really sure why.

Now, I beleive that it’s quite likely the crackers she wanted to store–regardless of fat content–will do quite fine without any packaging for a good year or so assuming they’re not subject to problems like temperature extremes. And, I certainly concede that attempting to minimize oxygen exposure first with a foodsaver bag and second with a oxygen absorber will better allow the crackers to store for much longer, maybe years on end without worry. To be honest, I’ve never tried to store snacks foods like this because they simply don’t last long enough around our house and I would prefer to save my foodsaver bags and other long term storage equipment for what I consider better uses.

While I’m thinking about it, let’s define racidification (according to Wikipedia) before going any further:

“Rancidification, the product of which can be described as rancidity, is the chemical decomposition of fats, oils and other lipids (this degradation also occurs in mechanical cutting fluids). When these processes occur in food, undesirable odors and flavors can result. In some cases, however, the flavors can be desirable (as in aged cheeses). In processed meats, these flavors are collectively known as warmed over flavor. Rancidification can also detract from the nutritional value of the food. Some vitamins are highly sensitive to degradation.”

The Wikipedia definition goes on to state that there are three types of rancidification: hydrolytic (caused by moisture exposure), oxidative (caused by oxygen exposure and is usually the most common), and microbial (caused by bacteria).

So, the question is this: why is it important to consider fat content in stored foods?

More specifically, if oxidative rancidity is the most likely cause, and if by using an oxygen absorber I greatly reduce that likelihood (and also reduce moisture content due to the oxygen absorber’s need to consume moisture to work properly), and assuming there are no microbiological agents present inside the cracker package that may also cause rancidity, what in the world could I have to worry about?

While I couldn’t put my finger on it, my gut kept saying that something was wrong with these assumptions! I might also point out that, per numerous experiences from around the Net, it seems foodsaver bags aren’t nearly as reliable as mylar bags to stay sealed. It’s also poignant to mention that Foodsaver bags are not a 100% impermeable oxygen barrier (like mylar bags are) and over time will allow oxygen (and odors) to to penetrate the bag contents.

Now, I never could find a great resource as to how oxygen impermeable foodsaver bags are, but I did find this resource that lists oxygen permeability of common plastics. Since foodsaver bags are made of polyethylene (PET) material then I will use that coefficient as the permeability factor which, as it turns out, is very low compared to the other listed plastic materials (at 0.035… followed by a bunch of nerdy stuff). How much does that equate to over years to exposure to oxygen? I haven’t a clue! Add in a common 100-300 cc oxygen absorber that should continue to absorb oxygen until it can no longer do so and I haven’t any idea how long the typical foodsaver bag will “keep out” oxygen. I would assume that it’s quite some time, however.

Fast forward a day or two from the comments I had with HealthyPrepper and I read this SurvialistBoards thread about canning crackers, which seems to vindicate (sort of) my stance on the issue but without the hard evidence that I’m looking for.

Anyway, in doing some research I ran into this Wikipedia definition on oxygen absorbers: “An oxygen absorber is a small packet of material used to prolong the shelf life of food. They are used in food packaging to prevent food colour change, to stop oils in foods from becoming rancid, and also prevent the growth of oxygen-using aerobic microorganisms such as fungi.”

Uhm… uh oh! Maybe I’m completely wrong? Maybe I own HealthyPrepper a big ol’ apology?

The answer is yes and no.

While the underlying belief is that reducing the oxygen in the package is a good thing to reduce the problems that cause rancidity, it’s also possible that it could promote additional problems that would otherwise not occur because your nose has already detected that the food has spoiled.

This (long) excerpt from the National Center for Home Food Preservation website on “Should I Vacuum Package Food at Home?” article states why doing so may end up being a bad idea (I won’t highlight the important parts, just read the whole thing):

“[…] Producing a vacuum means removing air from the contents of a package. Oxygen in environmental air does promote certain reactions in foods which cause deterioration of quality. For example, oxidative rancidity of fats in food and certain color changes are promoted by the presence of oxygen. Therefore, removal of oxygen from the environment will preserve certain quality characteristics and extend the food’s shelf life based on quality.

However, removal of oxygen from the surrounding environment does not eliminate the possibility for all bacterial growth; it just changes the nature of what is likely to occur. In fact, what is most likely to be eliminated is growth of spoilage bacteria. The bacteria that normally spoil the quality of food in noticeable ways (odor, color, sliminess, etc.) like to have oxygen in the environment. If able to multiply on foods, these spoilage bacteria can let you know if a food is going bad before it reaches the point it makes someone sick. In an almost oxygen-free environment like vacuum packaging produces, the spoilage bacteria do not multiply very fast so the loss of food quality is slowed down.

Some pathogenic (illness-causing) bacteria, however, like low-oxygen environments and reproduce well in vacuum-packaged foods. In fact, without competition from spoilage bacteria, some pathogens reproduce even more rapidly than in their presence. These bacteria often do not produce noticeable changes in the food, either. In the vacuum-packaged environment, food may become unsafe from pathogenic bacterial growth with no indicators to warn the consumer; the bacteria that would also normally be multiplying and spoil food in ways to make it unappealing (odor, sliminess, etc.) are not able to function without enough oxygen.

For example, C. botulinum (a very dangerous pathogen that causes the deadly botulism poisoning under certain conditions) grows at room temperature in low-acid moist foods if the package presents anaerobic (lacking in oxygen) conditions – if the bacteria are present, of course. Without the competition from spoilage bacteria, reproduction is even easier. Refrigeration at 38-40 degrees F becomes a critical step for storage of low-acid vacuum-packaged foods that aren’t otherwise stable (don’t keep) at room temperature (e.g., canned properly). The actual temperature of the refrigerator and the temperature at which it keeps the food are essential to maintain safety of this product. If the food were not packaged under vacuum, the oxygen in the environment would offer some protection against C. botulinum growth and toxin development in the package. […]”

The take-away should be that by doing something that we would have otherwise expected to be a good thing could turn out to be a very bad thing for our health! I should mention that I rarely use my foodsaver to store foods and never do so with an oxygen absorber; not because I knew better but just because it seemed to be an economical choice and because if I was going to store foods for long term I was going to do so as best as I could and that meant using tins cans, glass, or mylar bags… all of which are known to be impermeable to oxygen.

To sum up, be extremely careful with your assumptions as to what can be stored for long term as well as how it should be stored. Your health and safety is nothing to be fooled around with. If you’re going to store your own foods then do so as close to how the commerical food manufactureres would to better protect you against potential “accidents waiting to happen” like this.

Win a FREE Sun Oven by Sharing Your 2013 Food Storage Goals (FoodStorageMadeEasy.net Giveaway)

I just noticed that Jodi and Julie at FoodStorageMadeEasy.net are offering a free sun oven giveaway contest! All it seems that you have to do to be entered into the contest is to post a comment about your 2013 goals on their Facebook page by Sunday, February 3 (winner announced on Monday). I would have jumped at the opportunity but I already have a sun oven. Click here to learn the details. Good luck!!

Review of Energizer 7 LED Trailfinder Headlight

I recently purchased the Energizer 7 LED Trailfinder Headlight off a recommendation of Steven Harris of Solar1234.com because I was in the market for a new headlamp.

After removing it from the package there was some basic assembly required, including attaching the headband and installing the batteries. One thing I noticed was that the battery compartment door was initially a bit difficult to remove but after first removal was no problem. I should point out that the battery door is secured in place with nice and secure clips but, once removed, is very precariously attached to the unit with a flimsy pieces of plastic (I guess it’s plastic) and seems to me to be something that could easily break. This is not a huge deal to me because the flimsly plastic serves no purpose other than to keep you from losing the battery compartment door but I would have preferred something a bit better.

I would also like to mention one more slight detraction, and that is the fact that the on/off (and change light mode) button is somewhat difficult to push. As a result, if you’re just trying to cycle through the light setting to turn if off then that could be an annoyance. I think I would have preferred a single on/off button and other button (or method) to switch between light settings.

I immediately started using the headlamp and found that it has four lighting modes: night vision (uses red color to keep from ruining your vision in the dark), spot light (uses three white lights), flood light (uses two different lights), and full power (uses all five lights). I’m not sure why they felt the need to include so many lighting options but I guess it lets me tailor my lighting needs a bit better and to conserve battery power. Personally, I would have preferred maybe three settings at most, but I’m really just nit-picking here.

On to more positive things…

As for function, the until can certainly light up a small room quite well and I was easily able to see what I was doing wherever I wandered while testing it. The package says the unit outputs 58 lumens but I only care if I can see what in the world I’m doing and that I was able to do.

Another good feature that I liked is the pivoting capability of the light; you can get two distinct angles when using the pivot (not including straight ahead, or no pivot at all). In fact, I found myself using the pivot feature most of the time.

I ended up wearing it for about an hour as I unpacked a few other things and eventually forget that I was even wearing it. However, once I realized I was still wearing it and later removed the headlamp I was glad to have it off my head as it is a bit bigger than other headlamps that I have used. Of course, it does include a nice foam pad that keeps the headlamp from pressing hard against my forehead, which was nice.

Another big plus is that this particular headlamp utilizes 3 AAA batteries, which means that so long as you have the capability to recharge AAA batteries then you can use it for a LONG time. The batteries used is something to pay close attention to. I have purchased headlamps in the past that utilize watch-sized batteries which makes them lighter-weight but also means you cannot recharge them. The package says it can run on a set of batteries for up to 14 hours on maximum setting. So, if you use a lower setting then that means a longer run time. In my opinion, 14 hours on max from a single set of batteries is a good deal for a headlamp.

Despite a few minor annoyances, all-in-all I would say that for the price (less than $17 shipped at the time of this post) this Energizer 7 LED Trailfinder Headlight is a good deal given light output, battery capacity, and overall capability. In fact, I should have ordered two. 🙂

HOW TO KILL WITH YOUR HANDS DVD…to survive a violent attack

I have no idea how long the link below will continue to be active, but Coach David has just told me that he is making Disc 1 of his B.E.T. system FREELY available for a limited time on YouTube. I had an opportunity to review it a few weeks ago and was getting excited about (hopefully) offering it to you for a good price in the near future, but free wasn’t exactly what I was thinking about. 😉

Anyway, I thought the content was very useful and maybe, as Coach David says, it will save a life. Here’s what he sent…

Watch now before YouTube bans it!

I believe in the non-aggression principle until someone breaks it…

Watch for a limited time.  Send to your friends before I take it down or YouTube bans it!

(HD) HOW TO KILL WITH YOUR HANDS DVD…to survive a violent attack (Disc 1 of 2)

General George S. Patton’s Guide to Prepping

george-pattonI’ve been a fan of the late General since I was a kid. For a variety of reasons he seems to exemplify the American “can do” attitude that makes me just love this country, regardless of what the elites are doing to it.

Anyway, I thought it would be a fun thought experiment to consider how and what General Patton would do if he were a prepper in this day and age. Of course, he’s a polarizing person and likely would never be a “normal” person like you and I. Rather, I like to believe he would have been a big voice in the community and probably somebody to rally behind.

Several facts about General Patton:

  • Died at age 60 in a car crash (some believe he was murdered)
  • Led troops to many battles in WWII (Rommel considered Patton to be the Nazi’s biggest threat)
  • Participated in 1912 Olympics where he placed sixth in modern pentathlon (he argued with judges that one of his shots went straight through another hole but he was rejected and ultimately denied a medal as a result)
  • Pioneered the use of tanks in battle
  • Suffered from dyslexia
  • He was an amateur poet and had more than a dozen papers published
  • Nicknamed “old blood and guts” by his troops because he was so passionate during speeches
  • Believed in reincarnation (believed he fought aside Napoleon and was a Roman Legionnaire)

Whatever you think of General Patton, he was certainly a character. I could only imagine knowing him, let alone fighting for him. And I do believe his troops choose to fight FOR him as he appeared to be such a charismatic leader.

To the heart of the post (remember it’s just for fun)… what would General George S. Patton do if he were a prepper in today’s society? Let’s assume that he wasn’t a general but perhaps did serve in the Armed Forces in some capacity. Ok?

  1. Well, first, he would have none of this OPSEC business. He would probably be the kind of guy that happily showed you his stuff and then dared you to take it!
  2. That said, he’s not stupid either. He would most likely have quite a few well stocked and hidden caches.
  3. Survival retreats? No way! He would have his “castle” and choose to defend it to the death.
  4. Of course he would have weapons… and lots of ’em. Assault weapons ban? Hah! He would likely have enough firearms to arm his own militia and be happy to do it.
  5. He would have extensive knowledge of military tactics as well and would quickly rally like-minded people to better defend themselves and probably even take it upon himself to eradicate troublemakers.
  6. Given his “take the bull by the horns” attitude he would naturally gravitate to any leadership role, be it a neighborhood watch or local militia.
  7. Patton is the kind of guy that understands the usefulness of new/modern technology. He would have made full use of not only military gear but everything else that would prove useful from a sweet solar power system to hydroponics and more.
  8. He also would have understood that since an army marches on their stomachs, people do as well. His food storage would have been massive.
  9. I’m sure he also knew how to prioritize needs and would have ensured water procurement was well taken care of too.
  10. Though he believed in reincarnation, I would image he choose to use body armor. After all, it would have enhanced his effectiveness in battle and allowed him to continue the fight.

Ultimately, I would think that General George S. Patton was the kind of guy that was either going to succeed big or die quick. Just the way he would have liked it. 😉

What do you think? Spot on or not? What did I miss?

Body Armor for Dummies

Source
Source

Here’s a nice article on Body Armor for Dummies that really explains what you ought to know if you’re new them, like me:

“No doubt, the vast majority of you are aware of the fact that our federal government seems intent on violating our inalienable right to self-defense, among others. It is entirely possible that we will cross the line where “from my cold, dead hands” ceases to be a metaphor. Body armor is a necessity for those who wish to initiate or survive being a party to a two-way range. The discussion following is intended to be a simple primer on body armor for those less familiar with the actual product and guide you in selecting proper armor for yourself. Generally, body armor is made from three materials: Kevlar, ceramic, and steel. The various levels of commonly available protection range from level IIA-IVA and are rated by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). The NIJ standard rates armor by its ability to stop certain rounds (generally of a standard grain and ft/s) from penetrating the armor…”

Read the full article here

Egg Storage Experiment – Week 2 Results

My second week of egg storage with mineral oil is here already. Can’t say I’ll keep up with the posting of pictures but here’s where it stands:

This is the mineral oil egg, no floating (which is good) and no off smell:

egg1-wk2

And here’s the control egg, also no floating and no off smell:

egg2-wk2

Last, I choose to cook and eat the mineral oil egg:

eggs-wk2

Fortunately, it tasted good and I didn’t die (my two criteria for a good day) and even though the control egg appeared to be fine I wasn’t going to risk it. We’ll see how brave I’ll continue to be as the weeks press on. Like I mentioned in previous posts on the subject, it just seems so foreign to me to eat eggs that haven’t been refrigerated. Anyway, happy egg storing!