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The best faraday cages and sleeves

Hello, 

There are a number of Faraday cages and bags for sale at a wide variety of price points, but it isn’t clear to me which ones are good. Does anybody know what company makes a quality laptop bag at a fair price, for example?

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Get free weekly credit reports – prevent identity theft and fraud

One of the good things to happen from Covid is the ability to request a copy of your credit report for free weekly through April 2021. This used to be reserved to one free report a year from each of the three main credit bureaus. But you can now request a report from each of them weekly.

Is this an issue?

Yes. With social distancing and lock downs this past year, banks and other financial institutions have expanded the ability to apply for credit remotely. This is great to prevent the spread of the virus, but makes things easier for the bad guy to open a new line of credit under your name. The bad guy can pretend to be you over phone, email, or the internet and using readily available information about you, that can be bought online for as little as a dollar, they can open up a new bank account, credit card, or take out a loan.

Why you should check your credit report

If someone has opened up a line of credit under your name, or even your child’s name, the sooner you move and report it, the easier it is to fix. If you don’t catch this, it can harm your credit score and prevent you from getting a credit card, car loan, or even a mortgage when you need it.

How do I check my credit report?

ONLY go to https://www.annualcreditreport.com. This is the only authorized and official way to access your credit report. Other may charge a fee or give you a partial summary of your credit report. Once you pull up your credit report, print it off or save it as a PDF on your computer. Once you exit that window, you lose access to that report until next week, then you have to request it again. I like to save them so I can refer back to them in the future if I need to, or know when the last time I checked my report was.

What do I look for on my credit report?

Look through your entire report and see if it is accurate. Do you always pay your bills on time but see that there is a late payment in November on your credit card? You need to look into that and try and fix that as that is hurting your credit score.

Look for any names or addresses on the report that you don’t recognize.

You’ll see a section listed as soft/hard inquiries or soft/hard pulls. Soft pulls are done for marketing purposes and even though it feels like an invasion of your privacy, it isn’t harming your credit and probably isn’t fraud. This is done all the time by banks and other organizations that sell your data and send you credit card and loan offers. Your current bank will also do the occasional soft pull to then see if they should offer you a higher limit on your credit card in hopes that you will spend more.

Hard inquiries are when you open a new line of credit such as a new bank account, loan, or increase your credit card limit. These will affect your credit score for a time (so don’t do a bunch within a short amount of time if possible) and this is an additional place where you look for fraud. Do you see a hard pull from a bank in another state that you don’t recognize? Probably fraud.

What do I do if I see something on my credit report?

Check the credit reports with the other two credit bureaus and see if it shows up on there as well. Sometimes it won’t. Contact the institution that the line of credit was opened under. For example, if you see that a credit card was opened up at Discover two months ago, but you don’t have a Discover card and you certainly haven’t gotten a credit card in the past year, then contact the fraud department at Discover. Tell them that you were checking your credit report, you see that a card was opened up in your name, and it was not you. You will then have to prove you are who you are, and they will do an investigation. Before you hang up, write down as much information about the call as you can. Who did you talk to, what did they say they will do, when/will they get back to you, do you have a case number, and any other information you can think of that would be valuable for a smoother follow-up. Also, tell them to contact the credit bureau and have them remove the information from your credit report.

Go to the credit bureaus that you have noticed the fraud under and report it to them as well. Check your credit report again after you think it has all been resolved to make sure it was properly removed from your credit report.

What can I do to prepare or be proactive against this form of attack?

Go to the three credit bureaus, Transunion, Experian, and Equifax and request a credit freeze. This will lock down your account and not allow anyone to open a new line of credit unless you contact the bureaus and ask for a temporary unfreeze of your credit so you can then go apply for a line of credit.

How this relates to prepping

I feel that good security of your finances is critical to prepping. If you don’t have money because some scumbag stole it all or ruined your credit, then you can’t buy your preps right? Just how we secure our homes against home invaders, we need to have good operational security (OPSEC) of our finances too and make sure we fix any break-ins there as well.

Have you ever found fraud on your credit report? Do you check your credit report regularly? What other steps or tricks do you use to protect your finances?

Any other questions you have? Hopefully I can answer them.

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I took a deep dive down the flashlight rabbit hole

Several weeks ago I posted a query asking for flashlight suggestions, and shortly after went down a deep rabbit hole researching and testing out several models. If it’s been a few years since you’ve shopped for a flashlight, you’ll find that the days of conventional battery powered flashlights have been augmented with an overwhelming selection of new, specialized rechargeable LED flashlights that offer an array of bells and whistles. It’s clear that the boom in battery technology that’s been fueled by smartphones and electric cars has also benefited the flashlight industry.

While I make no claim of being an expert, below are some guidelines that might help you navigate the overwhelming world of modern-day flashlights, plus some thoughts on a few models I purchased and tested myself. I will note that I’m coming at this from the perspective of a prepper, and not simply trying to identify the brightest or fanciest flashlight out there.

[Image caption: From top to bottom; Olight Barton S1R Baton II, Thrunite TT20, Streamlight PrtTac HL, Thrunite Archer 2AV3, Olight I1R 2 Eos]

One of the first choices you’ll need to make is whether you want a basic flashlight powered by “old fashioned” standard batteries, or a fancy new USB rechargeable flashlight that comes with a specialized proprietary battery. Speaking purely of measurable metrics, the new USB flashlights are superior in just about every way, but lack the convenience and assurance that comes with being able to stockpile and swap out cheap, easy-to-find standard disposable (or rechargeable) batteries. Before choosing one over the other, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each, as well as having a good idea as to how you intend to use, and power, the flashlight.

USB Rechargeable Flashlights with Specialized Proprietary Batteries

Pros:

Significantly brighter, lighter, and smaller than comparable “traditional” flashlights. Can be recharged by plugging the flashlight into a USB charger, allowing for on-the-go charging. Represent the future of battery powered devices.

Cons:

Extra batteries and stand-alone chargers are expensive and can be difficult to find. If you are separated from your USB charger, or don’t have a powersource to charge with, you’ll literally be left in the dark. Are more expensive.

Traditional Flashlights (anything using standard 1.5 volt AA, AAA, C or D type batteries)

Pros:

Uses cheap and easy to find disposable or rechargeable batteries. Are less expensive. Have stood the test of time.

Cons:

Are often bigger, heavier, and not as bright.

When making a selection, it is important to envision how you will power, and potentially recharge, your flashlight. One advantage of the USB rechargeable flashlights is that, in a power-down situation, they can be charged with a USB power-brick, portable solar or hand-crank charger, or with a car charger. It is important to note that some flashlights come with their own proprietary chargers, which often offer faster charging but will leave you in the dark if you are separated from the charger. Other flashlights come with more common micro-USB or USB-C chargers, which are easy to find but may not charge as quickly. Before investing in a USB rechargeable flashlight, it’s worth tallying all of your USB-chargeable devices and inventorying the types of chargers you’re already using to see how this new device might fit in. But, if all this talk of USB charging sounds overly complicated, or you are already invested in some standard rechargeable batteries, then sticking with traditional flashlights may be the way to go. (For a deep dive into rechargeable batteries, I highly recommend this article: https://theprepared.com/gear/guides/battery-basics/).

[Image caption: The Thrunite TT20 and Olight Barton SRII “window charging” with a Big Blue 28 W Solar Charger.]

How you intend on using the flashlight will also dictate how bright your flashlight will need to be. “Lumens” is a technical term used to describe the brightness of a light. A lumen is a unit of measurement wherein the higher the number, the brighter the light. High-power flashlights (1500 lumens and up) are ideal for outdoor use, and can be used to blind an attacker in a self-defensive situation. But you’d never want that kind of brightness for reading, digging through a BOB, or illuminating your fusebox in a dark basement. For situations in which you need to simply illuminate what’s immediately in front of you, a lumens rating of 50 to 100 will likely suffice. Many flashlights also offer a “firefly” setting (usually less than 3 lumens) which can often be enough light to get you through an emergency while allowing your battery to last for days.

Adding to the complexity is the flashlight’s “beam pattern,” which indicates how the light is directed and dispersed by the shape of the flashlight’s reflector (the mirror-like surface directly behind the bulb). Most flashlights have a beam pattern that combines a focused center with an ambient flood, and are useful across a number of situations. Specialized high-intensity flashlights have a focused beam pattern like a spotlight and are best suited for hunting and search-and-rescue type situations. Both lumens and beam pattern play a role in the overall distance the light will travel, so if you’re comparing flashlights and you find one that has lower lumens but a further throw than another, it’s likely due to its beam pattern. Don’t jump to the conclusion that the higher the lumens, or further the beam distance, the better the flashlight. For most preppers, an adjustable flashlight with low/medium/high settings (with a range of 3 lumens to 1000 lumens) will be a solid choice.

So that all said, here are some thoughts on several flashlights I’ve tested. I’ve broken things down into three categories: hand-sized USB rechargeable flashlights, hand-sized traditional flashlights, and pocket-sized every-day-carry flashlights

Good choices for a hand-sized USB rechargeable flashlight for your home, car, or BOB:

Thrunite TT20: I like this flashlight because of its versatility and wide range of brightness settings. With what’s essentially a built-in dimmer switch, you can adjust anywhere between 31 and 1468 lumens, plus it has an additional .5 lumen “firefly” setting and a staggering 2526 lumen “turbo” mode for emergencies and self-defense situations. It uses the newish and common USB-C charging cable (the same USB cable currently used for most Android smartphones) and charged faster than other USB models I tested. It is waterproof, impact resistant, and feels good in the hand. While it’s too big for pocket carry, it will easily fit in a bag or pack. The dual switch system takes a minute to figure out, but overall this is a great hand-sized, versatile flashlight.

Thrunite also offers a “tactical” version of this model, the BSS V4, which offers very similar lumens settings, but also has a pointed ‘strike bezel’ which would literally allow you to use this flashlight as a weapon, as well as an attachable red filter for light concealability. The downside, at least for now, is that the BSS V4 appears to be a generation behind the TT20. It’s still using a micro-USB charger (as opposed to the TT20’s USB-C) and it neither charges as fast or holds a charge for as long. Comparing these two lights made it clear that flashlights are now like smartphones, with improving upgraded models released faster than you can keep up with.

[Image caption: the Thrunite TT20 and BSSV4]

Another USB flashlight I tested and liked was the Streamlight ProTac HL, a real workhorse. It has high, medium, and low settings of 1000, 380, and 65 lumens, as well as a strobe setting for emergency signalling. It’s a bit bigger and heavier than the Thrunite, but it’s simpler to use and rugged as they come. It uses a micro-USB charger, which is extremely common but also a bit dated. My favorite thing about this light is that it puts itself into low mode as the battery nears empty, so you have some warning before the battery dies.

Excellent hand-sized “traditional” flashlights for home, car, or BOB

If the complexity of USB rechargeable flashlights seems a bit too much, or if you’re already invested in standard rechargeable batteries, here are a couple choices you can’t go wrong with:

MagLite Mini Pro LED Flashlight: Simple and dependable, MagLite has been in the flashlight game for a long time. Powered by 2 AA batteries, the MagLite Mini Pro pumps out 332 lumens, a fraction of what the above mentioned flashlights offer but still plenty of light. MagLites are also one of the few flashlights that you can easily adjust the beam pattern, allowing you to shape the light to fit your exact needs. I’ve had one of these for years and it’s rock solid.

ThruNite Archer 2A V3 Flashlight: Similar to the rechargeable USB Thrunite listed above, the Archer 2A V3 has high, medium, and low settings of 500, 70, and 17 lumens, as well as a .2 lumen “firefly” mode and 400 lumen strobe. This popular flashlight is lightweight and powered by 2 AA batteries.

Good pocket-sized Every-Day-Carry flashlights

It’s important to note that pocket-sized flashlights are not going to offer particularly long battery life, so they’re not great as primary flashlights, but their portability makes them perfect for EDC and get-home bags.

Olight S1R Baton II: There is no denying the popularity of Olight, who make a wide array of excellent flashlights. Not much bigger than a tube of Chapstick, their S1R Baton II offers a staggering 1000-lumens max setting, as well as four additional settings ranging between 600 and .5 lumens, which is truly impressive for its size. It’s two-way clip also allows it to easily ride in your pocket, or be clipped to the brim of a hat for hands-free use, potentially replacing a headlamp. My only gripe is the proprietary magnetic charger – it charges quickly, which is great, but if you are separated from the charger you’ll be hard-pressed to find a replacement.

ThruNite T1: The only reason this is a runner up to the S1R Barton is because it is slightly bigger and heavier, which is significant when you are talking pocket-sized EDC. But otherwise this little flashlight packs an impressive 1500 lumen “turbo” max setting, as well as dimmable high-low settings ranging from 685-15 lumens, as well as a strobe and .5 lumen “firefly” mode. Another big difference is that it uses a micro-USB charger, which isn’t nearly as fast as the Olight’s magnetic charger but would be infinitely easier to replace if need be.

A good option for a Keychain Flashlight

OLIGHT I1R 2 Eos: If for whatever reason you can’t EDC a pocket-sized flashlight, OLight’s I1R 2 Eos keychain light packs an impressive 150 lumen brightness in a flashlight no bigger than a pen cap. Charged via a micro-USB cable, this little beamer is a no brainer for anyone wanting to be prepared when the lights go out.

Conclusion

The brightness and features of the newer USB flashlights are truly impressive, and the varying options allowing one to easily recharge while on the move are an obvious plus. It’s also clear that this new battery technology is the wave of the future, and we will continue to see improvements and new innovations at a blistering pace.  However, there is no denying the value of ubiquity, and the simple fact that standard batteries can be found in every convenience store, or or cheaply stockpiled, makes it clear that traditional flashlights still hold much value.  Ultimately, the best choice from a preparedness point of view may be “all of the above,” or at least some level of diversification that considers both the immediate and long-term challenges that we hope our flashlights will resolve.

I look forward to hearing everyone’s own flashlight insights and recommendations, and while I’m no expert, I’ll try to answer any questions that anyone might have.

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Results after I tested four wireless outdoor security cameras

I wanted to chip in to the best security cameras review, so for this post I selected and bought four cameras that advertised useful features for a basic or introductory outdoor home security camera. These are my notes from personally testing the Wyze Outdoor Kit, Reolink RLC-410W, Ring Stick Up Cam Battery, and LaView Outdoor.

The main distinguishing features were a combination of battery vs wall power and devices that claimed internet-free functionality for use in emergencies or off-grid applications. By comparing devices from different vendors I learned a lot about what to look for and what to avoid when picking out a camera that I’ll share at the end. Head to head comparisons between the cameras also reveal a number of interesting features and unexpected considerations.

Features Comparison

All cameras tested had the advertised the following features:

Remote live monitoring Optional notifications for motion detection Laview notifications didn’t seem to work Automatic IR Night vision mode Wireless data transmission Mounting hardware Optional extra features, such as paid cloud storage

I put together this table:

“Personal Favorite” – Wyze

Wyze Outdoor Kit – $60

The Wyze Outdoor Camera is an easy choice for a balanced range of features and is a good option for a first-time security camera user. While there are some limitations, the combination of price, features, and ease of use make this a “sane prepping” choice for many introductory applications.

Pros:

The small, battery powered wireless device is easy to place and largely unobtrusive. The camera offers all the basic features you’d expect such as motion alerts, live view, night vision, and audio options. (Motion alert push notifications require an internet connection) Additional cameras are fairly inexpensive and the base station is advertised as supporting up to four cameras each. Extra features add some resilience An optional micro SD card slot allows for time lapse and scheduled recordings. Micro SD cards can be put in both camera and base station. Once set up the system is at least partially usable when the internet goes out. The device advertises a travel mode that is designed to be internet free and connect directly to your phone/tablet/laptop when it acts as a wifi access point or with the base station (if you can power it). The camera can be recharged during active use via a usb interface (should be compatible with mobile solar chargers or battery backups)

Cons:

The app can take some getting used to with some less intuitive user interface options. The app isn’t poorly designed, just not as intuitive as other options. The app occasionally glitches, in particular manual video recording sometimes fails. Resteating micro SD card helped with this issue The camera uses a magnet to attach to its base stand. This magnet is strong enough to support the camera however a stranger could easily steal the camera body. The camera is best suited to near-in applications like covering entryways or close by points of interest. The “motion zone” is not customizable and limited to the bottom two thirds of the image frame. Raindrops that fall directly on the lens may distort the image. Some advertised features are less useful, such as two way talk (this seems less applicable to most prepping scenarios though), users of indoor/wall powered Wyze products might be disappointed by comparison, but for the price/power constraints this is not a bad value product. “No Internet” options are limited to travel mode and live view, can’t access stored motion event recordings without internet.

Wyze Off Grid Mobile Use

Wyze advertises a mode of use where you can operate free from the internet using your phone or another mobile device. Such a use case could appeal to some prepping scenarios while on the move though the features available are somewhat limited compared to the internet-enabled option. This feature is called “travel mode” and can work with either a single camera (without base station) and presumably could work with a base station and multiple cameras, though power for the base station must be provided.

Pairing to a single camera is straightforward and allows basic functionality such as live view, and (with the addition of a micro SD card) scheduled recording events or interactive still and video recording. Push notifications do not appear to work in travel mode. While not exclusively tested, I suspect travel mode may have battery implications (either increased demand due to acting as wifi connection, decreased demand due to motion based recording being inactive, or some combination of both). While not considered during the initial purchase, this seems to be a useful and relevant ‘added value’ feature.

Off Grid and Technology Enthusiasts – Reolink

Reolink RLC-410W – $60

The Reolink camera requires wall power but uses wifi to transmit data offering a combination of flexibility and constraints on where it is placed. Enabled by the wall power this camera has superior image quality and additional features not provided by most battery powered options. The main appeal of this Reolink is that it allows for continuous 24/7 internet-free recording, integration with third party software/hardware, and a very durable camera body and mounting base.

This camera wouldn’t be my first suggestion for many but if you’re comfortable with modest hardware/software configuration and have long distance views on your property with available power outlets (or have limited internet connectivity) this camera has a number of features you may value.

Pros:

The camera offers all the basic features you’d expect such as motion alerts, live view, night vision, and audio options.(Motion alert push notifications require an internet connection) The Internet is not required for basic usage, data can be transmitted through a wifi network that is disconnected from the internet. This camera makes use the Real Time Steaming Protocol (RTSP) allowing for third party software and hardware integration and expanded local storage options. Unlike battery powered options, this allows for continuous 24/7 recording. Micro SD slot allows easy local event recording through the app.

Cons:

While the app and camera are largely plug and play an ethernet connection to input wifi network credentials is needed for initial setup. Internet access is advised for updates, software downloads, and possible app limitations (initial setup was conducted with internet access, though it might be possible through a disconnected wifi network, push notifications for motion alerts seem to require the internet) A small hex wrench was not provided for adjusting a set screw and the provided mounting philips head screws stripped but are easily replaced with higher quality wood screws The included power supply does not look rugged or weather proof and should be sheltered from rain. A power extension cord and the cord connected to the camera body are higher quality, though some extra weatherproofing with electrical/duct tape is suggested for some of the connections. Third party software and local storage may require a degree of computer/network skills and internet research but is not too difficult. Motion detection is very sensitive by default and may require some tuning/experimentation to avoid false positive alerts without missing more meaningful events. For example IR illuminated rain drops activated motion alerts even with adjustments to default settings. Custom detection zones and sensitivity can be changed. Higher end cameras from Reolink advertise more nuanced motion detection (person/car), though I’m unclear if these are local or cloud services. It might be possible to fix night-rain detection issues by choosing an overhang or other covered area to mount this camera (to avoid having illuminate rain drops directly in front of the camera lens)

“DIY Security System” – Ring

Ring Stick Up Cam Battery – $100

The Ring Stickup Cam Outdoors is an upgrade pick most appropriate for those looking to slowly build up a full security system, are willing to pay for a monthly plan, and aren’t worried about losing internet connectivity. This device unequivocally requires an active internet connection to function. Local storage options are limited to manually downloading clips from a cloud account (though it seems like a limited amount of cloud storage is provided for free, this is limited to a free 30 day trial period as it is advertised as requiring a monthly plan for download to local storage).

While not advertised it seems possible to use your phone as a mobile hotspot which would make this a mobile option so long as you have cellular internet coverage and a data allowance to spare. Due to the combination of a monthly plan (that is not well advertised and initially hidden by a free trial period) it’s hard to recommend this camera unless you plan to build a full security system around the Ring ecosystem. That being said, the quality of the features provided are fairly high. Image quality, and especially audio, are handled well. The alerts are accurate, relevant, and don’t require much change from the default settings.

Pros:

Default motion alert settings are most accurate for relevant motion events Easy to mount Clear audio filters out background noise (wind and distant road noise) Community alerts are useful for situational awareness if other Ring users are nearby

Cons:

Monthly service fee required for upgrade and storage options No free local long term storage options Mounting hardware is not rugged Internet is required for all functional usage 30 “free trial” masks limitations of app usage without a subscription

Not Worth the Time/Money

LaView Security Camera Outdoor – $50

There is a lot not to like about this Laview camera. Initial setup is not intuitive, online documentation is very poor, the app is very limited and designed exclusively for use on a phone. The app requests access to more privacy features than is reasonably required (bluetooth, location, microphone). The camera requires an internet connection for basic usage without providing any compelling cloud features that add value. The camera frame is made of cheap-feeling plastic and poorly designed, requiring a phillips-head driver-bit in a socket wrench or flexible driver to install properly. The pan/tilt functionality is nice, but not unique to this product family. The sound quality is no better, and often worse, than battery powered options. Image quality is not bad when exporting images however the phone-app size limits the utility of the camera in most use cases. Wall-power is provided through a USB cord which makes no sense.

Pros:

Pan/Tilt remote control Automatic object tracking option for pan/tilt

Cons:

Internet required for all relevant feature usage Poor app design and quality Counter-intuitive setup process Features are unreliable, difficult to enable, or non-existent

Image Quality Comparison

Wyze Image quality is not the highest in terms of resolution or contrast.  The ‘washed out’ effect on some types of features in the night vision is not ideal.  Regardless, the overall features and ease of use still make this a worthy pick for many use cases.

Reolink has the best image quality and lowest lense distortion of all cameras tested.  The lack of ‘fish eye’ type lens distortions improves image quality but does restrict view.  As a result this camera option is better suited to long views such as a long driveway.  Note the superior image contrast and detail for both day and night images.

The Ring camera suffers from a lack of native app support for export.  As a result the images above were captured as “screen captures” from an iPad in a landscape layout.   Resolution and detail artifacts may be partially a result of this capture method however they are representative of the detail visible in the app window. Lens distortion is highest for this camera which improves peripheral view at the expense of image accuracy.

While the Laview day image has crisper detail and contrast, the night vision image is very washed out by comparison.  While the app supports saving images at higher detail than other options the app is also forced into a phone-format window making active monitoring more difficult.  

Notes on Wifi Data Range

Three of the four cameras tested relied exclusively on 2.4 Ghz wifi, while Wyze uses an ethernet cord to connect a base station with its own radio for data.  Effective range of radio/wifi signals for data is limited by a number of factors including the design/type of antenna on the camera/base station and router as well as obstacles and their material (metal blocks radio frequencies more effectively than wood or brick).

Data range was not tested for the wall powered cameras as my exterior power options are limited so instead I used the battery powered cameras and a cell phone with cellular data turned off to estimate the effective range for my setup.  Router placement also matters, as line of sight improves signal strength.

All cameras were able to transmit data from the second floor to the basement without issue (the main obstacles being wood and drywall).  Similarly all cameras functioned without issue in the common testing placement approximately 20 feet from the wifi router with a single brick wall as an obstruction.  With a single brick wall as obstruction, the Wyze camera functioned without noticeable dropped frames up to approximately 60 feet with performance rapidly falling off within ten additional feet.  Ring performed somewhat better with acceptable performance through a single brick wall up to about 80 feet.

I tested the range on the other side of my house, which introduced additional interior walls and a single brick wall as obstructions.  Of note, both battery powered cameras suffered in the immediate vicinity of my front (metal) door.  Further out on this side of the house the range for both cameras suffered noticeable and were completely unusable at a distance of about 40-50 feet from the router.  The additional obstructions, including partial blockage from a metal door likely contributed to poor performance on this side of the house.

Theoretically, range could be improved by using wifi repeaters or moving the wifi router closer to the desired coverage area.  As a point of reference, my iPhone 8, with cellular data turned off relying solely on wifi, achieved similar performance which leads me to assume this has more to do with limits on wifi data transmission than hardware differences of the devices.

Battery Life

Battery life will depend on usage/activity, and the sensitivity of motion detection areas.  The Ring camera has a physically larger battery and lost a smaller percentage of its total battery life over the course of testing.  Both battery powered devices experienced nearly identical motion exposure, though their activation thresholds were slightly different with Ring also being more likely to register a relevant motion event.  Both cameras were used in a low activity area for several weeks of testing which likely improved their battery endurance.  Testing occurred for approximately 7 weeks starting with full charges.  Wyze battery life went down to 55% compared to 88% for Ring.  Both performed largely as expected in terms of battery life.

A Word of Caution:

When selecting a modern security camera you are picking not only the hardware but also its related software and services, both paid and unpaid (if an internet connection is required then the odds are high that a remote server is also being used/maintained, even if you aren’t paying for it directly).  

Like any other programmable device, software and standards can change.  Ideally these will change for the better but updates can also result in reduced functionality.  This is in part why devices that do not depend on the internet have an intrinsic appeal for some, if you isolate a device it will remain static and should work short of a hardware failure or existing software defect.  If a program defect is found you can weigh the options of updating the software on your own terms.  

The same can not be said of service/internet dependent devices. Internet/service dependent devices often require you to periodically perform an update to continue using the device. There is also a phenomenon with “smart” appliances where once support by the parent company is withdrawn the devices are either useless or severely degraded, regardless relying on a company to keep its servers running adds yet another layer that can cause a failure.  

What to look for in a Security Camera Company/Product

When researching a security camera for purchase I learned some information that might help you in researching alternatives that suit your needs better.

Look for reliable companies:

Read the worst reviews first.  Every product will suffer some amount of negative feedback from a customer who doesn’t like something, but well written negative reviews can point you towards pitfalls quickly.  Unfortunately sometimes the reviews come in late, one informative negative review for the Laview camera was written after the purchase was initiated.  Keep in mind, some negative reviews might be from user error or a low frequency defect. Can you download user manuals and software from the company website? Try to read the fine print first.  Don’t settle for vague or ambiguous documentation, you should see matching model numbers and ideally either publishing or copyright dates somewhere.  For example, I found a Laview user manual for a “wifi camera” that seemed to have the features I was after but this was a generic manual that did not apply to the model I selected.  Worse still, I couldn’t actually find a user manual online for the model I selected, I had to see the paper copy to realize it wasn’t available online.  Had I known to look closer this would have been a huge red flag. Look for active user forums with responses from the company.  During my research I encountered informative threads from both Wyze and Reolink forums that addressed features I was curious about.  The forum activity and the company responses helped me set expectations.  Even if the responses aren’t satisfactory, an active forum with even vague responses can give you insight into how transparent the company is.

Look for key features:

Learn the keywords to search for.  Before I made any selection I kept using search terms like “no internet” or “internet free” or “offline use.”  This did turn up a few promising leads but for network cameras “RTSP” or Real Time Streaming Protocol is a lot more specific as a search term. Once I learned about this term it helped me find new candidates that escaped my first round of research.  Unfortunately I had to acquire a camera with this particular standard before I learned of its existence so there is a “chicken and the egg” problem with this method of research. Download the apps and see how far you can get before buying the hardware.  Privacy notices and feature limitations might sway your opinion. Look for third party or add-on features.  Third party interoperability will require some degree of openness that will hint at how flexible the product is. Read More
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Red Glow is feature, not bug 2

Community rules, moderation policies, and FAQ

This forum is a place for anyone to talk about prepping — not for preppers to talk about anything.

This forum is heavily moderated. We wish that wasn’t necessary and we’ve fought to protect free speech. But the internet can be an unkind place, especially when dealing with topics that touch survival, politics, firearms, and so on.

To create the best space for the most people, we actively enforce these policies and ask for your help in creating a place you’re proud to be a part of — because everyone benefits from stronger, more prepared communities.

Community rules:

Be civil and kind. Follow the Golden Rule or think about “would this get me fired from my job?” Content must be directly related to preparedness. Everyone is welcome here regardless of color, orientation, nationality, and so on. That means no bigotry or other slang used to divide people. Avoid topics like politics and religion that just tend to cause worthless bickering and flame wars. No unfounded conspiracy theories or fake news. Debate is encouraged, but do it constructively, cite your facts, and debate ideas, not people. No sales or links to sales of legally-controlled items (eg. firearms). Do not advocate violence. Discussing self defense is fine. Do not out other people, post other’s private information, doxx, etc. No copyright violations, blog spam, no-value self promotion, etc.

Please don’t make these kinds of repetitive posts:

“I’m new here, what do I do?” “Thanks for the add!” “Are there any preppers in [state]?” “What are you prepping for?” Personal introductions without value to the community / teaching

No politics

Most people understand the goal: There’s plenty of other places to argue about stuff like politics, and it just distracts from why we’re all here, so let’s avoid it.

But the details get tricky. Many of the risks in our world are in some way related to politics, so it’s hard to talk about preparedness without in some way referencing government and laws.

For example, some local laws don’t allow people to collect rain water on their property. That’s directly related to prepping and worth talking about in the right way.

Let’s look at some examples:

“The US federal government didn’t handle COVID as well as other developed countries.”

That’s fine because it’s factually correct and isn’t worded in a way to attack someone or their supporters. And it ties to preparedness because knowing what our government can or can’t do in an emergency is relevant.

“tRrump made COVID worse.”

That’s not okay. It’s a worthy debate to have in the public arena — in the way holding all of our leaders is appropriate — but it’s too subjective, likely to cause bickering, and will just distract from the prepping conversation. And leave the silly names like “Nobama” and “tRump” at the door.

“I think California made a lot of bad decisions over the last decades when it comes to mitigating wildfires.”

That’s fine. Even though it’s an opinion, it would ideally have some supporting evidence for the claim, and it’s worded in a way that can allow a civil debate.

“Those Commiefornian libtards need to go rake some more forests if they want to have fewer wildfires.” 

Not okay, and would likely result in a ban.

Avoiding fake news, conspiracies, and other disinformation

There’s plenty of actual problems in the world — we don’t need to make it worse by adding unfounded or fake problems on top. And we certainly don’t want to aid our enemies who try to pour fuel on these fires to create even more problems within our society.

We’re just as distrustful of institutions like the media and government as you are. But that doesn’t mean the tin-foil-hat person yelling in a Youtube video is correct.

Sandy Hook was real. 9/11 was not an inside job. Fluoride in water is not used for mind control. FEMA is not tapping your computer to find out what supplies you have. And the Illuminati have your best interests in mind — they promise! 😉

The more outlandish a claim, the more we’ll judge if there is any dependable evidence for it. For example:

“The Chinese engineered COVID-19 in a lab with strains of HIV so they could attack the West.”

Maybe that’s true. We don’t know and neither do you. But we do know there is a lot of evidence against that being true, and vice versa, no real evidence supporting it is true. So until there is credible evidence — at which point we would stand alongside you and say “we should talk about this” — that’s not okay to say here.

Remember folks: “Science” is not an opinion or point of view that somehow conflicts with your world-view. Science is just the search for verifiable truth.

We won’t always get it right — but we will always try

Feel free to ask questions or give feedback below about these policies and how we can make them better over time.

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KN95 mask recommendations?

Hello all, if you are like me you are both overwhelmed and a bit suspicious of all the KN95 masks on the market.  And every time one seems to be proven legit, it sells out quickly and is never found again.  Is there any consensus on which KN95 masks are good?  And where are you finding your information?

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So the UK coronavirus variant is more deadly…now what?

I am now just starting to see articles claiming the UK variant of the coronavirus is more deadly – gulp.  

I haven’t been able to find anything yet that gives actual DATA and NUMBERS to support that claim.  Nor have I seen any information on exactly how much deadlier it is.

1.  Has anybody actually seen data, numbers or percentages?  Is the different more on the side negligible or are we talking something more serious than that?

2.  IF this variant is actually more deadly – what are everybody’s thoughts on what we should all do to better prepare, above and beyond what we are already doing now and have been doing for the “wild” version of the novel coronavirus?

For me, thus far:

-I just stocked up on KN95 masks and ordered about $100 worth of N95 masks.  I will order more once they arrive and I confirm the seem to fit ok.

-I went to my prepper pantry, took inventory and placed an online order to top everything off (it was getting close to that time anyways).  

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What does prepping look like in your area of the world?

I’m sure we have forum users here from every state of the US, from many different countries, and probably every continent. I’d love to see what prepping looks like all over the world.

So please introduce yourself and where you live. (can be a specific US state,  just general area such as the South East USA, or country)

How do you prep in your area that may be different than how someone else may prep? (in Alaska your car has to have a snow shovel and gun at all times, or in Argentina you have to carry extra water and mosquito repellant)

What disasters, natural or manmade, have you dealt with or are prepping for in your area? (earthquake, tornado, flood, civil unrest)

Areas represented so far below: South East Australia, Colorado USA, Virginia USA, Southern California USA, Pacific Northwest USA, Wisconsin USA, Northern New England, French countryside, South Eastern USA, South Carolina USA, an island in southern South America, London UK, 

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Fun ways to teach kids outdoor/survival skills

I have three kids ages 7(female), 10(male), and 12(female). I grew up in boy scouts and loved learning different skills such as tying knots, camping, starting fires, cooking, etc…

What are some fun activities that I can do to get these kids off the couch and teach them a skill that can maybe save their life someday, create memories, and get their little brains working?

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ChargeTab emergency phone charger

I’m wondering if anyone has an opinion on the ChargeTab Emergency Phone Charger packs?  They are small, weatherproof, have a 2 year shelf life, and are made from recycled batteries. https://chargetab.com/

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What is the most hassle free way to get your ham radio license remotely during covid?

I’m getting ready to take the test for my technician ham radio license. Since, obviously, every test is currently online, I’ve checked out three recommended sites for online testing. They all have really intense and intricate requirements as far as the physical setup of the test environment, etc. to make sure people don’t cheat while taking the test remotely. Each site has different requirements for calculators, for example and of course I have the wrong type of calculator. Some of the sites require two cameras, which isn’t easy to set up in my case.

I know I can jump through the necessary hoops if I need to, but I’m just wondering if folks have any recommendations for places to take the online test that aren’t so high maintenance.

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Bad air (plus heat) preps

I’ve started a couple of threads on related topics in the last year, but I thought I’d bring it all together in a larger discussion. I live in Northern California where our primary disaster scenario has been with wildfires, which are getting quite extreme now. For the past several years every summer and/or fall large areas of the state have had to deal with terrible air when we are told to keep our windows and doors closed and avoid going outside if possible. Usually, during this time it’s also hot and sometime, in some neighborhoods, our power company turns off the electricity to prevent further fires from igniting because of downed power lines.

I’ve haven’t had my electricity turned off yet, but I still dread these days or weeks of lockdown with closed windows and heat. I don’t tolerate heat well and I always have to have a draft. Last summer I just couldn’t stand it and started opening doors and windows anyway, even though the air was in the red zone. Now I’m trying to prepare for next summer. Wondering what folks in similar circumstances are doing to prep. Here’s what I’ve done.

– I’ve gotten three air purifiers for my house. I have to admit sometimes I run them when the window or door is open, which is counterproductive, but better than nothing, I guess.

-I have two OPOLAR little fans I bought on Amazon. I love these fans. They are handheld and very versatile. About $13 each. They’re good for travel and all sorts of other activities and they don’t draw a lot of power. I don’t know if they’ll really be enough to keep me cool though in a heatwave scenario with closed windows, especially.

-I bought a MERV 13 filter, which I plan to put in one of my windows and combine with a fan, to suck in filtered air even when the air is bad. It’s a little bit of a DIY project because I need to figure out how to cover the rest of the open window with carbord and tape so unfiltered air doesn’t leak. The amount of air that enters that way is very low though. Probably enough to replace the oxygen but not enough to feel a breeze. I also don’t know if I should have another window where the air is being pumped out to keep it circulating.

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What are some valuable tools to have on hand?

I’m talking about things like shovel, rake, hammer, drill, air compressor….

I am wanting to build up the tools that I have on hand for day-to-day repairs and living, but also for an emergency if high winds comes through and knocks some shingles off my roof, or a window breaks. I don’t want to have to run to the hardware store as my roof is leaking and buy a hammer and nails, I want to be prepared and ready.

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Scenario: Crime and break-ins are increasing in your neighborhood. What do you do to really lock down your assets and preps?

Through multiple sources of friends, social media, and new reports you realize that household break-ins have just exploded in your area. They are happening at all times of the day, happen when people are there or not, and there isn’t any pattern to things that are taken. Even your neighbors with the top of the line home security system, cameras, and beefed up door lock has had their homes broken into. This band of thieves just really doesn’t care, and it looks like there is no stopping them. And the worst thing about this all is that since there has been so many break-ins in your area, all insurance companies have stopped covering burglary claims to your area! So you really are on your own to keep your stuff safe.

You talk it over with your family and they are extremely concerned about it as well and want you to go full out and go Fort Knox on your house. (for those unfamiliar, this is known as one of the most secure US Army forts)

Really place yourself in this situation. What are the steps you would take to deter people from even entering your property, prevent them from getting into your house, and how to hide items from people if they do manage to get in? 

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Lightweight/small water containers

I’m a beginner and researching water containers for my home. I have a compromised back and can not lift more than 20 lbs, which seems to be approx 2.5 gallons of water. Most like the Rhino seem to start at 5 gallons. 

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New gun owners with questions?

Seeing as how the demand for firearms is at an all time high, and the number of new gun owners is exponentially increasing, I figured it would be good to open a thread for anyone new or inexperienced with firearms to throw out any questions they might have. So fire away (see what I did there?) I’m here to answer any questions and I’m sure Thomas can drop in as well

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Dealing with a spouse / significant other who thinks prepping is nuts

Hello!  I wanted to reach out to this community to:

a) see if anybody else has a spouse or significant other who thinks you’re crazy because you’re a prepper?  (I can’t imagine I’m the only one *eye roll*).

b) hear how you all handle this dynamic in your relationships.

My husband thinks I’m nuts.  He calls me a hoarder, he calls me crazy / insane, he things the entire thing is absolutely bonkers.

He also thinks COVID-19 is completely overblown and it is a constant struggle between us because he wants his family to come up and visit constantly from out of state without quarantine or testing.  His family does very little to protect themselves from being infected – I’m shocked none of them have gotten sick yet. 

I feel the complete opposite from my husband and want to do everything I can to keep my kids, my husband, myself and my family and friends safe and healthy.  I don’t want to get this thing, even though our age doesn’t put us at high risk.  There is so little known about this virus – it is unpredictable in how individuals react to infection and many people are “long haulers”.  To me it comes down to self control (which my husband and his family completely lack) – this isn’t the end of the world, there is light at the end of the tunnel.  I want all of us to emerge from that tunnel healthy and whole.  And if that means giving up some things for a bit longer, I think that is totally worth it.  

So to be fair, I guess I think my husband’s crazy as well? HAHA  At least the feeling is mutual?

I guess this post turned into a bit of a vent, but mostly very interested to hear how others deal with this in their own personal lives.  Curious if there’s any wisdom I can adopt to better deal with the friction between my husband and I related to COVID and prepping in general.

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Raising fish – Great recreation & a great survival resource.

In another discussion I mentioned I feed catfish, and I was asked to provide more info.

My farmstead did not have a pond when I bought it, so in the spring of 2013 I decided to put one in. I love fishing… even in small farm ponds. But as a prepper, I realized even a small, one acre pond could contain thousands of pounds of fresh meat that could be sustained indefinitely due to natural reproduction, as long as I fed the fish. Feeding them accomplishes two things. First it allows for a much larger population of fish than a normal pond could sustain naturally. Second, grain fed catfish are far superior to natural fish. The flesh is pure white, firm & has no fishy flavor.

My problem was, I didn’t have a ravine or gully that would allow me to simply, and cheaply, put across a dam. My only choice was to dig out the whole pond in a corner of my bottom pasture, where rain runoff naturally flowed. Then that created a new issue… what to do with all that dirt. Being an avid shooter, I had them build a large berm next to the pond, where I could set up targets. Then the rest of the dirt was spread out across the pasture in a way where any rain runoff funneled to the middle of the pasture & then would flow into the pond. Here are some pics & a rather poor video showing the construction.

In the following pic, notice the trees that were knocked down & stacked in the pond. Also note where the trackhoe dug a bunch of holes and mounded that dirt. That is all structure to provide different habitats underwater & to provide safe areas for fish to hide. Also the pond is dug with different elevations where in spots it is pretty deep & then tapers to a water depth of 2 feet.


https://videos.files.wordpress.com/cQHi2mvV/img_0606_mpeg1video_std.mp4

Below is the shooting berm.

Added a small dock a bit later.

At our local farm supply, you can order fish from a company that comes a few times each summer. They put the fish in clear bags and then you rush them to your pond. The next spring, 2014, I brought in channel catfish, hybrid bream & fathead minnows.

I then added an aeration system using Vertex bubblers to improve water quality.  I put in two of the dual units pictured below.  They sit on the bottom of the pond & put out millions of micro bubbles.  This adds oxygen directly to the bottom of the pond & keeps the water circulating throughout the whole pond.  I put a small compressor in the tack room of the horse brn & ran the pvc piper out to the edge of the pond.

This pic was taken in July 2016.  These fish are two years old.

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Missile Silo fixer-upper for sale

8.7 acres at the northern tip of the Adirondacks

https://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/1039-W-Hill-Rd_Ellenburg-Center_NY_12934_M38574-94204

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Is the Blog being retired?

Does anyone know if the Blog portion of this site is being retired?  There were 2-3 entries per week before, but nothing has been posted there for almost 2 weeks now.  Hopefully it’s just the staff taking vacation time over the holidays, because the Blog was the main way I connected with and used the site.  Hope everyone is staying healthy and safe.

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A bug out bag that is constantly in use…organization tips

Hello, I am new here.  Hopefully I can organize my thoughts well.  I live in California and have a bag that reflects that, but I also carry it when we travel.  We are divers and travel to, shall we say, many destinations that are not exactly developed, usually in Asia and the South Pacific.  So I have a bag that is very overbuilt with regard to specialized first aid (I carry liquid prednisone and tons of things for respiratory illness because my son is a severe asthmatic and tons of things for emergencies when diving), as well as water filtration (we’ve visited a few islands where the water isn’t safe to drink). We take about three fairly long overseas trips per year.  

I also carry a fairly robust hygiene kit and my own 2p big Agnes tent and a bivy for when that tool shed of an airport in Fiji cancels our flight and we are stuck overnight (We have slept in a tent in a terminal in the Bangkok airport) I’m also taking the bag on 5-15 flights per trip where I have to remove all of the tools and some liquids and place them in my checked bag.

 I’m thinking about just taking all of the disparate items I can’t take in a carry on, like my knife, multi tool, handsaw and liquids and placing them in their own ziploc I can just place in my checked luggage (which means they’d be in their own ziplock in the emergency bag I guess?).  I also don’t necessarily need all of the first aid items I’d carry on a dive trip in my bag at home when we go in our RV.  

does anyone have a good system for rotating items in and out as needed?  I’m afraid an emergency will occur at home and I’ll be stuck without my knife or my gravity bag. 

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Map of Doom – video of various prepper scenarios

https://youtu.be/Htf0XR6W9WQ

A 20 minute video on YouTube discussing the types of things Preppers try to be ready for with an emphasis on putting disasters on a scale of severity vs. likelihood… released about a week ago.

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What three firearms would you have for prepping?

If you could only have three firearms and cared about preparedness, what would you have? Don’t want to start a “the one true caliber” debate (let’s not open that can of worms just yet!), so this is more about platforms/types that work together well if things really get bad in the world.

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Beginning the journey

I live and work in the SW corner of AZ. My work area can range from the Colorado river west and the Gila River north about 50 miles each way. It’s a 30-ish mile drive one way from home to work. The area is low-elevation desert, with huge tracts of agriculture in between chunks of barrenness. The ag means the areas closer to town and the rivers are criss-crossed with canals. Farther away, though, there’s just the dirt, sagebrush, and cholla.

I’m just starting my “preparedness” journey, where I’m actually thinking about how vulnerable I am if my comfort zones collapsed. I bought my first gun a year ago (M&P full-size 9mm), and recently a second one (Ruger PC Charger), and had security screens installed on my house. Anticipating a possible grocery shortage, I also bought two 3-day boxes of Mountain House from Amazon. I almost feel foolish thinking like this – but I have seat belts, fire extinguishers, and AAA towing for the same reason: just in case! (AAA has saved my bacon a few times!)

Now I’m starting to think about scenarios where I can’t drive down the highway to get home for more than 24 hours. It’s the only main road between the city and any point north. It would probably be one of three scenarios:

— One of the ag chemical plants had a blowout, contaminating the region – including the road – for an extended period of time

— A military exercise (we have two bases in the area, and both utilize live explosives and various weapon systems) went awry and has rendered the highway unsafe to travel

— The most likely is a weather event – probably a heavier-than-anticipated storm with high winds and heavy rain. Flash floods are uncommon, but we do have some washes that will fill quickly and run for more than 12 hours, leaving the roads either washed out or covered in dirt and debris. There are alternate routes home from some points, but they would become unpassable before the highway did.

In any case, I’m banking on being able to at least shelter in my vehicle overnight – perhaps two nights if I get caught farther up north. If I’m working (which is the only reason I’d be up there), I’ll have my lunch box and water cooler. But those are only good for that work day. So what I’m thinking of is a shelter-in-place bag with essentials that anticipate a maximum 48-hour ordeal. So far, my list includes:

— Fire-making

— Food rations

— Water purification

— Keeping warm

— Emergency first aid

— Comms other than cell phone

— Maps of the vicinity (area and topographical)

— Defense (Firearms not allowed: work policies will not let me have one in my personal vehicle on company property, and 30 years long into the job and 3 years short of retirement, it’s not worth it to sneak around it.)

Anything else y’all might recommend?

Ed

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Are five-gallon water dispensers good for water storage?

Hi everyone- I am so happy I stumbled upon this page. I am new to all of this and just starting my prepping journey. COVID was a major eye opener. When the shut downs started, there was nothing at our local grocery stores and I felt like I could not provide what was needed for my family and I NEVER want to feel like that again. 

My current question is in regards to water storage. I read the blog post on the emergency water containers but are those what is best to store water at home or are the 5 gallon water dispensers a good option too? 

Thanks in advance for the input! 

CC. 

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Fall gardening – great food + great practice for survival gardens

I love to garden & especially love growing food in the fall.  Seems like all the fall crops are just super nutritious and so easy to grow, such as kale, collards, turnip greens, broccoli, peas, etc.  I find them easy due to the fall weather.  You plant them early in the fall, when it is still a bit warm out.  The seeds quickly germinate in the warm soil.  Then as it cools, the cool loving plants thrive as the warm loving weeds, disease & insects go away.  You can grow the same crops in the spring, but I find them harder to grow because the timing is opposite.  In the spring, the seeds might struggle germinating in the cool soil and as the plant matures, it warms up and the weeds, disease & insects attack.

As a prepper, I think it vital to practice growing what might be essential during a severe crisis.  In such a crisis, growing food during the ENTIRE growing season will be necessary… thus the need to produce nutritious food in the cool weather.

Curious what others here are currently growing?  Right now I’m growing Tuscan (Lacinato) kale and collards.  In the past have grown turnip greens, mustard greens, broccoli & snow peas.  The most mature kale leaves are about a foot long & ready to be picked.  Tonight will cook them like an Italian creamed spinach with parmesan cheese.

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