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Prepper – a free light take movie on YouTube

I actually thoroughly enjoyed this light hearted PRO prepping, it portrays preppers and community cohesion in a very positive manner.

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The Stockpile of Food in My Garage – Another interesting article in the Atlantic

The Stockpile of Food in My GarageAs I hunker down at home with my family amid a global pandemic, I have a new appreciation for a strange religious tradition.  By McKay CoppinsMarch 19, 2020 

On a metal storage shelf in the corner of my garage, dozens of multi-liter cans sit stacked on top of one another. They are filled with dehydrated carrots and pinto beans; wheat, oats, and powdered milk—enough food, at least in theory, to keep me, my wife, and our three kids fed for several weeks in the event of an emergency.

I am not a doomsday prepper, nor did I acquire this stockpile in a recent spasm of pandemic panic-shopping. I am, instead, keeping up an odd religious tradition that stretches back more than a century—one that I’ve always found slightly embarrassing and anachronistic, but that’s felt a lot more vital lately.

Like most lifelong Mormons, I grew up hearing about the importance of “food storage.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has long encouraged its members to keep enough food, water, and emergency supplies in their home to last at least three months—counsel that has spawned a quirky subculture within the faith, complete with home-pickling seminars, dedicated Pinterest pages, and custom-made furniture for cleverly storing canned goods. While the most extreme practitioners tend toward apocalyptics, the Church offers a more practical reason for food storage: to ensure that “should adversity come, we may care for ourselves and our neighbors, and support bishops as they care for others.”

This ethos of preparedness permeates Mormonism. Among the faithful, stories abound of Latter-day Saints leaning on food storage after losing their jobs, or doling out canned fruit to neighbors after a natural disaster. We take turns volunteering at the Church’s many “storehouses,” where stockpiled food is distributed to people in need. We read about our ancestral pioneers, who on their westward trek established crops to be harvested by the companies that followed. “If ye are prepared,” an oft-quoted scripture goes, “ye shall not fear.”

Here’s what that looked like in practice for a ’90s Mormon kid in suburban Massachusetts: A section of the basement in my childhood home was transformed into a kind of makeshift grocery-store aisle—wooden racks covered in nonperishable food items. Like many families, we would rotate our supply so that it didn’t go bad, drawing on it for daily meals and then replacing what we’d consumed during trips to Costco.

 I didn’t think much of this practice at the time. My Mormon friends saw it as normal, my non-Mormon friends got a kick out of it, and, hey, we never ran out of canned corn. But the pioneer spirit of the enterprise was lost on me—and the older I got, the less it resonated. Spending most of my life in comfortable cities and suburbs, I never had to think much about the source of my next meal. This relative privilege fueled a lack of imagination: The idea of confronting a systemic food shortage was as far-fetched to me as a zombie apocalypse was.

This sentiment was only hardened once prepper culture started gaining mainstream notoriety a few years ago. The bunker builders and ammo stockpilers on reality TV seemed like distant caricatures compared with the people I knew practicing commonsense emergency preparedness. (PSA: The Department of Homeland Security suggests that Americans keep enough food and water in their home to last two weeks.) But the growing prepper cottage industry, promoted by hucksters such as Alex Jones, made food storage look paranoid and extreme, even toxic. There was never a moment when I consciously ruled out the idea of keeping around some extra water and rice; I just didn’t want to be associated with the cultural trappings of that world.

Around the time my first daughter was born, my in-laws—apparently concluding that I was a dud in the preparedness department—began taking steps to ensure that our new family would not die of starvation in the event of a famine. Each Christmas for several years, they gifted us (foisted on us, really) several large cans of storable food. I tried to protest that the stockpile didn’t make sense in our small Brooklyn apartment, but my objections were overruled. I was, I’ll admit, less than grateful for their generosity. “We don’t have room for this,” I would grumble to my wife, as we shoved cans of freeze-dried bell peppers under our bed.

Eventually, we moved to a suburb of Washington, D.C., where space was less of a concern, and we largely forgot about the cans in our garage—that is, until recently.

Ten days ago, I joked on Twitter that my coreligionists would do well to keep quiet about their food storage “in case things go full ‘Contagion.’” A few days later, as the seriousness of the coronavirus came into view, I joked—a bit more nervously—to my wife that the told-you-sos from her parents would be unbearable if we actually ended up needing the supplies they’d given us. In the days that followed, as the virus ravaged Europe, and major U.S. cities shut down; as social distancing became an American obsession, and restaurants came to resemble petri dishes; as the threat of a global recession grew imminent, and stories about potential supply-chain disruptions started appearing in the press—well, I wasn’t making jokes anymore.

A few nights ago, after an unnerving trip to a local grocery store that had been picked over by panic-shoppers, I came home and sheepishly suggested to my wife that we go out to the garage and take inventory of our food storage.

I had never actually looked closely at the cans, and as it turned out, the collection was less grim than I’d imagined. Yes, there was plenty of dehydrated broccoli. But there was also brownie mix and granola and something called “chocolate-milk alternative”—foods that actually seemed edible (or at least servable to our young children).

I knew that the sense of relief I felt as we examined the cans was irrational. Our fridge and cupboards were full. The grocery store would get new deliveries the next day. The likelihood of a serious food shortage in America remained, according to experts, extremely small. But the ritual of counting and stacking and sorting the cans—like so many rituals of faith—offered something more abstract than physical sustenance: peace of mind, a sense of hope, something to grip while the world is unraveling.

I don’t think I’m alone. Early yesterday morning, Utah was hit with a 5.7-magnitude earthquake. Debris rained from the top of a Salt Lake City building. Tens of thousands of people lost power. A recently established coronavirus hotline was temporarily knocked out. When I called a friend in the state to see how he was doing, he said the experience had made him realize how unprepared he was for an earthquake. After spending the morning brushing up on safety guidelines, he was on his way out to pick up supplies: His food storage needed replenishing.

McKay Coppins is a staff writer at The Atlantic and the author of The Wilderness, a book about the battle over the future of the Republican Party.

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A good suggested pantry list to get started

I read the Guide to Food Storage linked on another thread from JennyWren, as well as all the other terrific suggestions on the thread. It resulted in me spending the afternoon looking at my pantry and realising I have quite a few dinner options on my storm shelf, but my pantry is lacking in long term breakfast, lunch, snack and drink options. (We’re in the middle of the official storm season here in Qld, with cyclone season due to start in January.)

I went surfing because braining today was far too difficult, and found this pantry list from my state government, outlining suggested food and amounts to store that should feed two people for seven days.

I’m pretty sure the experienced among us here know what and how much they need, but for a newbie prep person like myself looking at a longer term pantry than the official three days, it seems to be a good place to start.

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Looking for opinions on OTF Knives

Howdy all. I’ve been reading posts on here for awhile, but this is my first post.

What are y’all’s opinions on OTF (Out-The-Front) knives? I’m thinking about purchasing one but wanted to get some possible input from people who know more about OTF knives.

Thanks in advance!

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Only 3 nights without power and many cannot cope (Storm Arwen)

Another unwelcome example of just how so many people in modern times (EVEN IN REMOTE AREAS)  are  ill equipped both mentally and practically to deal with a major weather event. And this includes the Local authorities and the utilities.

No land lines, no cell service, roads blocked across the UK by faling trees, downed power lines, landslips, floodwater  and drifting snow.  No open shops,  No heating or hot water, indeed no water at all in some places.  Many former urbanites who have relocated to rural areas have simply made no provision incase things go bad.

In many areas the only hot food available has come from charitable groups.

I must have said this a thousand times in my 40 years of prepping, but I’ll say it again.  You simply cannot rely on the state to come to your assistance in a large scale event. They simply do not have the resources.

Storm Arwen: ‘We can’t go another night without power’

After three nights without electricity, residents in the parts of Scotland worst affected by Storm Arwen are growing weary. 
In Torphins, Aberdeenshire, people are struggling to keep warm in sub-zero temperatures and are grateful for the hot food handed out by local good Samaritans.
Among them are Paul and Rebecca Murray, a father and his daughter, who are relying on the heat provided by a single gas heater.
“It’s been pretty horrific,” Rebecca told BBC Scotland. “The power went off on Friday. I live in a little council house and I’m a single mum of a three-year-old. In our house you can see our breath.
“Thankfully I could go round to my mum and dad’s house and they’ve got a gas heater, but aside from that we just had nothing.”

Paul and Rebecca have no phone signal to contact anyone and on Sunday there was no water. “It’s absolutely terrifying,” Rebecca said.
They’ve not been told by their energy provider when the power will be restored.
“I don’t think they know themselves,” said Paul. “They’re just trying their best to get it put back on.”

Fiona Fyfe said she was initially told the power would be restored on Friday night, but it has been repeatedly postponed.
Energy firm SSEN has now told her they hope to get her power back by 22:00 on Monday.
“I don’t think we can go another night without power,” she said.
“It’s been really, really cold. We’re lucky, we’ve got a stove and lots of logs but obviously with more snow, it’s just maddening, absolutely maddening.”
She said that food in her freezer is starting to defrost and she has to walk to the main road to get signal on her phone.

Andrew Hutcheon is among those dishing out hot food and drinks in Torphins. He runs Cafe 83 in Kemnay.
“Yesterday back in Kemnay, we didn’t have any power, the signal was down so we decided to throw the barbeque on, find some hot water, get some heat into people and get a feed into them,” he said
“It’s a bit of dire situation but everyone who’s coming to us is more upbeat because obviously they’re getting some hot food and hot drinks.”
He said the crews working to restore power have an “unbelievable” task ahead of them.
“Over the years we’ve obviously had a bit of wind but it’s never been anything like this – the amount of trees that are down in the forest, I’ve never seen anything like that,” he said
“Coupled with the freezing weather and the snow, it’s not ideal.”

Meanwhile in Aberfeldy, in Perth and Kinross, Debbie Martin has bought a second-hand generator after recently switching to fully-electric heating.
She has been told she could be without power until 11:00 on Tuesday because it is still too dangerous to remove trees which have fallen on to power lines.
She told the BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “You can’t do the things you would normally do.
“You can’t brush your teeth because your toothbrush is flat. You have to drive round in the car to charge your phone.
“To boil the kettle, I’ve been putting it on the log burner stove and it’s been taking an hour and a half.”

When you get a power cut, you just assume that it’s going to come back on in an hour or two, but obviously it hasn’t,” Debbie said.
She said it’s been “really difficult to get information” from her energy provider SSE.
“Everything in our house is electric. We’ve got an electric heating system, an electric cooker,” she added.
“We bought a second-hand generator in Dundee yesterday, so we’ve gone round a couple of neighbours’ houses to get their phones and iPads charged because people can’t contact relatives.”
‘Worst in decades’
Kenny Anderson, from Castle Fraser in Aberdeenshire, is used to power cuts having lived in rural north-east Scotland all his life.
But he says the damage wreaked by Storm Arwen is the worst he has known in more than two decades.
He told the BBC: “Our power went off at four o’clock on Friday afternoon. We’re a bit lucky in that we’ve got a gas hob because we get two or three power cuts a year.
“They only usually last a few hours, or maybe a day. So this is the longest one we have had in 23 years.”
“I was brought up in Glenlivet in the 60s and 70s and I don’t remember power cuts ever lasting more than a day or two.”

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Diet of meat needed for hunter-gather societies

Good morning,

This link proved interesting, at least to me.

It says hunter gatherer societies were smaller than the others.

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What medieval life taught me

A few days ago, I offered to come up with a list of what I could write about from my time as a medieval recreationist and ask folks to vote on what they want to read about. 

I have been thinking about it and am now lamenting the sorry state of my memory! It’s been years since I was in that world and I’ve forgotten a fair bit. So, rather than write ad nauseum about a particular branch of medieval living that I can’t really remember anyway, I thought I’d hit you all with a list of neat factoids that may be useful for preps. YMMV.

 In no particular order:

1.       Pies can be your best bet for preserving meat in the event of a prolonged blackout, as long as you can bake them (usually over a fire). Some medieval pastry was made SUPER salty and not meant for eating, therefore preserving the filling on the inside which was great in the days before refrigeration or while on campaign fighting. A fellow recreationist made some pies with the pastry made from an actual medieval recipe and paid to have the bacterial load tested at day 1 and then again weeks later. There was no difference in the readings after keeping the pie in a larder. Also, the pastry was so unpalatable, anyone who tried it immediately spat it out!

2.       I’ve mentioned previously in a comment, a good way of keeping pests from your food is vinegar-soaked bags if you can’t refrigerate them for whatever reason. You want a natural cloth with a fairly close weave (really small gaps between the threads of the fabric. We used linen). Soak the bags in vinegar, let them dry naturally, then pop whatever you want into them. We had pepperoni and choritzo in these bags hanging from the kitchen pavilion over a camping weekend and flies ignored them completely. 

3.       Beeswax soaked linen was used as a kind of medieval cling (or saran) wrap. These days you get beeswax wraps with resin so it sticks to itself, but back in the day, they used twine to wrap up what was covered in the wrap, or to hold it down over a jar. (Ever notice how all old jars have that little lip at the top? It’s the perfect spot for the twine.) 

4.       Sewing – I have a few of these, since it was my focus – 

a.       Linen is your friend. Worn mostly as an undergarment closest to the skin during the middle ages and renaissance, linen wears extremely well and holds up to the rigours of washing, getting softer over time. If you can afford it, linen is a vastly superior fabric to cotton. It wicks away sweat and cools you down in summer, while allowing your skin to breathe under layers in winter. 

b.       Thinking thread, plant with plant, animal with animal. A friend made a dress out of linen with polyester fabric and wore it for years. As I mentioned, linen gets softer over time but polyester thread doesn’t, so her threads were literally wearing away the fabric around the seams. The lesson I learned from that is I use cotton thread with linen fabric (linen thread is too costly and sometimes hard to come by) and silk thread with wool fabric. They should wear together and hopefully result in less mending later on.

c.        Not all seams need to be backstitched when sewing by hand if you ever need to make your own without a sewing machine. I am a lazy-ish costumer – I will use a sewing machine on any seam or for any stitching you won’t see and hand stitch what you can see. However, the jacket I am wearing in the below pic was entirely sewn by hand for an experiment in period construction techniques. Each piece of this jacket puzzle had the seams folded in and tacked down, then each piece was sewn together using a whip stitch. This jacket saw me through a few winters and has been handed to someone else to use. For those interested, I used a wool/poly blend for the outer fabric and linen for the lining.


5.       Poles and laundry are a match made in heaven. If you ever need to hand wring your washing, a sturdy pole is just the thing. Say you’ve just washed a towel, take one end around the pole so that you have one end in each hand. Twist for as much as your hands can stand, or as much as the fabric can stand. You’d be surprised how much liquid comes out and a good choice if you can’t get your hands on a mangle. I use the clothes line pole for this. After you’ve twisted out as much of the water as you can, give the piece a flick, with a good snap of the wrists, and you can work out a goodly proportion of the wrinkles before hanging it up. (Another tip, to avoid wrinkles, is to fold the washing as you bring it on off the line, while it’s still warm from the sun. Saves ironing!)

6.       Soap – I left the group before my friend and I could experiment with it, but apparently, if you run water over wood ash, you get lye, which you need to make soap. I imagine that different types of wood would give you lye with different sodium hydroxide (NaOH) concentrations and would be a great art to master. As in, “I burned birch/oak/pine/etc and the ash would make the best laundry/body/etc soap”. (FYI, I have been making my own soap for about 8 years now, but using store-bought NaOH.) 

7.       A linen cap, or head covering of some description, is a great way of keeping dirt out of your hair, therefore you don’t have to wash it as often. Not a real issue if you’ve got short hair, but a pain in the proverbial if you don’t have access to a shower. My bestie can’t go for more than two days before she has to wash her hair. When we had four-day long camping events (plus set up and take down days), she usually only had to wash her hair once over that period. (I am lucky that my hair is trainable – these days I can go for at least 2 weeks before I need to wash my hair.) 

8.       A wash and some clean underthings are almost as good as a real shower, as I’m sure any hiker or camper will tell you. Over the aforementioned 6-day camping event, I would only use a small basin of soapy water and a face cloth for washing and change my chemise (the linen layer that was against my skin). Nothing quite beats that first shower when you get home though… 😊

 I think that’s it. Phew, what a long post! 

Does anyone else have handy hints from history that may be useful in preps?

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GB 16th Cent Dress

What to do if you are lost while hiking?

You all probably have seen the recent news headline about a lost hiker that didn’t answer calls from Search and Rescue because he didn’t recognize the phone number. I take it he wasn’t desperately lost otherwise he would call for help if he has service and is receiving calls from unknown numbers right? Anyways, it got me thinking about what we should do if we are lost while hiking.

The number one thing you should always do when hiking is give an itinerary to loved ones at home and if you don’t keep by it let them know, otherwise you will have Search and Rescue out looking for you. Also, bring a small survival kit with you, even if it’s just a day hike. 

What are some actual things you should do though if you are out in the middle of the woods and have no idea where you are because you got distracted by the beautiful scenery?

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What juicer should I buy?

I’d like your opinion on which juicer to purchase.

I bought a manual HealthyJuicer, which is fantastic for leafy greens and wheatgrass but not practical for everyday use or big amounts of juice. Hand pumping enough for 1 nice-sized glass takes an eternity.

I’m debating between acquiring a centrifugal juicer (Breville) to motivate me to juice every day or a single gear juicer (Champion, Omega, or anything else) for quality.

What are your thoughts?

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Insulin for type 1 diabetics that does not need refridgeration created in India

I honestly cannot remember if I posted this piece before so mods please delete if i have.

Scientists have developed an Insulin for type 1 diabetics that does NOT need refridgeration. Great news for Type 1 Preppers.

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A clothing puzzle – Looking for advice for sensitive skin

I am new to prepping and am trying to work out what clothing I would want for a good go bag. I have an unusual constraint: I have sensitive skin and can’t wear wool (even merino) or most synthetics against my skin. They aggravate my serious eczema. I rely heavily on cotton clothing in daily life but linen, hemp, silk, and (I think) rayon/bamboo are also okay against my skin.

Obviously cotton is not recommended as a base layer for emergency scenarios. Given my constraints, is silk my best option? Is there a meaningful difference between cotton and linen or hemp here? I normally think of them as similar since they’re all cellulose-based fibres.

A bit of context: I live in an urban area in the Pacific Northwest.

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An interesting take on offgridding at its most harsh and basic

For almost 40 years Ken Smith has shunned conventional life and lived without electricity or running water in a hand-made log cabin on the banks of a remote loch in the Scottish Highlands. 

“It’s a nice life,” says Ken. “Everybody wishes they could do it but nobody ever does.”

Not everyone would agree that Ken’s isolated, reclusive lifestyle of foraging and fishing as well as collecting firewood and washing his clothes in an old bath outdoors is the ideal. And even less so at the age of 74.

His log cabin is a two-hour walk from the nearest road on the edge of Rannoch Moor, by Loch Treig.

“It’s known as the lonely loch,” he says. “There’s no road here but they used to live here before they built the dam.”

Looking down on the loch from hillside, he says: “All their ruins are down there. The score now is one and that’s me.”

Filmmaker Lizzie McKenzie first made contact with Ken nine years ago and over the past two years she has filmed him for the BBC Scotland documentary The Hermit of Treig.

Ken, who is originally from Derbyshire, tells the programme how he began work at the age of 15, building fire stations.

But his life changed at the age of 26 when he was beaten up by a gang of thugs after a night out.

He suffered a brain haemorrhage and lost consciousness for 23 days. 

“They said I would never recover. They said I would never speak again,” he says.

“They said I would never walk again but I did.

“That’s when I decided I would never live on anyone’s terms but my own,” he says.

Ken began to travel and became interested in the idea of the wilderness.

In the Yukon, the Canadian territory that borders Alaska, he wondered what would happen if he just walked off the highway and “went into nowhere”.

So that’s what he did, saying he finally walked about 22,000 miles before returning home.

While he was away his parents died and he didn’t find out until he came home.

“It took a long while to hit me,” he says. “I felt nothing.” 

Ken walked the length of Britain and was at Rannoch in the Scottish Highlands when he suddenly thought of his parents and started to cry.

“I cried all the way while walking,” he says.

“I thought where is the most isolated place in Britain?” Ken tells the documentary.”I went around and followed every bay and every Ben where there wasn’t a house built.

“Hundreds and hundreds of miles of nothingness. I looked across the loch and saw this woodland.”

He knew he had found the place he wanted to stay.

Ken says that was the point when he stopped crying and ended his constant wandering.

He set about building a log cabin, having first experimented on the design by using small sticks.

Four decades on, the cabin has a roaring log fire but no electricity, gas or running water – and definitely no mobile phone signal.

The firewood has to be chopped in the forest and carried back to the remote shelter.

He grows vegetables and forages for berries but his main source of food comes from the loch.

“If you want to learn how to live an independent life what you have to do is learn how to fish,” he says.

Ten days after film director Lizzie left the cabin, in February 2019, the perils of Ken’s isolated existence were brought home when he suffered a stroke while outside in the snow.

He used a GPS personal locator beacon, which he had been given days before, to trigger an SOS, which was automatically sent to a response centre in Houston, Texas.

It notified the coastguard in the UK and Ken was airlifted to hospital in Fort William where he spent seven weeks recovering.

Staff did what they could to make sure he could return to living independently and doctors tried to get him to move back to civilisation where he would have a flat and carers. But Ken just wanted to get back to his cabin.

However, the “double vision” he suffered after his stroke and his memory loss mean Ken has had to accept more help than he’d had previously.

The head stalker of the estate, who looks after the forest where Ken lives, has been bringing him food every couple of weeks, which he pays for from his pension.

“People these days have been very good to me,” Ken says.

A year after his first rescue, Ken had to be airlifted again after he was injured when a log pile collapsed on him.

But he says he is not worried about his future.

“We weren’t put on earth forever,” Ken says.

“I’ll stop here until my final days come, definitely.”

“I have had lots of incidents but I seem to have survived them all.

“I am bound to go ill again sometime. Something will happen to me that will take me away one day as it does for everybody else.

“But I’m hoping I’ll get to 102.”

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Food Price Warning. UK

Shoppers have been warned by experts that the price of bread will continue to rise at UK major supermarkets including Tesco, Aldi and Sainsbury’s.

The price of essential foods could also increase after wheat prices reached a nine-year high.

The cost of fuel and gas have already risen and it is likely the price of other amenities will be affected.

Why is the cost of bread rising?There is a high global demand for the staple wheat grain which is causing the price of bread to surge.

Bread prices have increased 26.7% over the past year.

Allied Bakeries, which owns Kingsmill, said the industry was “exposed to inflationary pressure in relation to the cost of flour, as well as the gas we use in our ovens and fuel for our delivery fleet.”

These factors are causing the cost of bread to increase.

Will other foods increase in price?Pasta prices have risen in recent weeks as food prices are globally at a 10 year high.

Wheat used for animal feeds has also increased in price, though not by as much as it is currently running at around 16.2% more than a year ago, trade journal The Grocer reported.

The soaring price of foods is due to rising fuel costs, the lorry driver shortage and higher wages to battle the recruitment crisis.

What’s been said?Gordon Polson, CEO of Britain’s Federation of Bakers, told The Grocer: “Energy pricing is also on the rise, while HGV driver shortages and recruitment are resulting in increased wage rates” causing food prices to rise.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation reported a “recent surge in agricultural input prices” in a review of the global food market.

“Higher prices of these inputs will inevitably translate into higher production costs, and eventually into higher food prices,” The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said.

Alice Jones, analyst with agricultural body AHDB, said: “Global wheat prices keep climbing each week on the back of supply concerns, and UK prices are following global trends.

“As long as global prices keep rising there is scope for domestic prices to keep rising.”

A version of this article originally appeared on

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Learning to bake without an oven – some suggestions

One of the standard items in food storage is lots of flour or wheat for grinding.  I was thinking the other day, “Great, I have all this flour, the power goes out, I have no oven, it’s howling and sleeting outdoors.  What am I supposed to do with all this flour?”

So I’ve been keeping extremely amused, learning how to circumvent the need for an electric oven to bake – INSIDE – not outside where the usual utensils; Dutch oven, barbecue, grill, campfire, propane cooktop can pick up the slack in a power outage that occurs in fine weather.

So far, I have learned how to steam muffins, pressure cook yeast bread, fry corn pone and “bake” biscuits in the skillet. I suppose a pan of cornbread is next on the list. My chief taste tester says I must continue to hone my skills as he’s more than willing to keep his job!

It will be awhile before wood stove weather arrives and I can test my new skills on a less steady source of heat than my electric stove top.  However, I’m finding that I don’t need nearly as much heat to bake these goodies as I would have thought.  Top picture, pressure cooker yeast bread, bottom picture skillet biscuits.

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US / Canada logistics problems just got worse

On top of the queues of ships lining many US and Canadian ports the floods along the US / Canadian border (around the SUMAS BC area). We now have massive disruption to the rail freight system.

Flooding has caused enough damage in the form of washed away tracks, overturned trains etc that this major line is going to be closed for weeks, thus compounding the already crippled supply chain.

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Vehicle choice for a winter trip

I thought this might be a fun argument… not really “greatest bug out vehicle” more like “Which to Grab.” But it could be extrapolated to a  emergency bug out.

We’re traveling round trip from the Ozarks to the Dakotas next week (mid-America to Northern plains), about 12 hrs each way. We usually just rent something like a 4Runner or Cherokee but that’s out of the question nowadays, over $1k for 4 days.

Weather is potentially light to medium snow, blizzard unlikely but cool, low teens to single digits. Just a couple of suitcases and the dog and normal winter stuff, shovel, tow chains, etc. We’re fairly hardy mid-60s.

Question is, which vehicle?

1999 HD diesel pickup, 4×4, pretty good mud/snow tires + chains, very heavy; 7k dry, fair mileage, big fuel tank, rides like a truck. Manual everything makes it fairly rugged and it’s been reliable to now. Though it has been maintained OK, it is somewhat long in the tooth at  20+ years and 175k miles

Or a 2018 sedan, low miles, electronic traction etc, good mileage. Only 3-4″ ground clearance but new all weather tires and one set cable chains. Not high line but more comfortable and likely more reliable, if more fragile.

Which do you take?

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Scenario – Stranded, how do you use your vehicle to survive?

Here’s a hypothetical disaster scenario that we can think about and bounce ideas off of each other on what to do and not to do.

While driving on a road trip with your spouse and dog, your car gets stranded. Lets say you wreck and damage the car badly that it no longer runs. Battery is still charged and the electrical system of your car still works but the engine just won’t start from too much damage.

You have no cell service, are on a back road, and are not expecting anyone to drive by for the next few days. You are at least 30 miles away from where you can reliably find another driver.

Luckily you told your family at home your route and estimated time of arrival so they will be sending out a search party to find you soon, but who knows how long that can take?

You have two granola bars and a small Dasani bottle of water. You smack yourself on the head for not being better prepared, but too late now. 

What do you do to maximize the amount of time you can survive? How do you use the various components of your vehicle to aid in your survival, and rescue? Do you eat the dog? (just kidding, that’s not allowed)

Best of luck! I hope you survive this situation and are rescued. 

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Video, communities can go 100% off grid even in the far north.

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Jericho TV series 1 is on Prime

Not Netflix, its on PRIME, my bad.

One of the best PA dramas ever, JERICHO set in KS after a nuclear attack is streaming on Prime, I never ever understood the American habit of scrapping a TV series before the story is completed. Jericho is a modern masterpiece.

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Cooking Thanksgiving dinner over a fire

Sounds goofy, but talks about cooking with a fire.  Some good tips:

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Going Off-Road, money does not equate to common sense

A good example of ” All The Gear, But No Idea”   Big expensive truck based overland 4×4 expedition vehicle, and they chose to go cross country in the rainy season.

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Book Review: “The Black Swan”, by Nassim Taleb

(image credit: “Black swan”  by Emiliana Borruto is licensed under Creative Commons – CC BY 2.0 )

In “The Black Swan”, Nassim Taleb discusses probability and the impact of unlikely but extreme events. He argues that we have a hard time understanding impacts and probabilities that are very large or very small. That what we do not know can be much more meaningful than anything we do know. Taleb argues that most of the course of human history has been dominated by extreme, unexpected, improbable events. And that human society will become more so in the future.

Taleb argues that we would benefit from improving how we think about unlikely, impactful events, and offers several tips for doing this. In this review I will outline the book itself, and then collect and present a summary of tips.

### What is a Black Swan?

A Black Swan event has three properties:

Unexpected. Nobody saw it coming. Impactful. Causes a big change. Explained after the fact. We look back and invent an explanation for it, even though we didn’t know it would happen.

Taleb lists the Internet, the laser, and the start of World War One as examples of Black Swan events. Black Swans can be either negative (like a sudden war) or positive (like discovering a new drug or invention – like penicillin).

Throughout his book, Taleb argues that history moves in large leaps and bounds, not small steps. Most of the big changes in human history come from Black Swans.

Taleb believes we should work to make our lives and society more robust to Black Swans. Understand them better. Become less surprised by them. And be more ready, so we aren’t as impacted. “The surprising part is not our bad errors, or even how bad they are, but that we are not aware of them”.

### Mediocristan and Extremistan

Taleb distinguishes between two types of random probability and events – “mild” randomness with slight variations vs “wild” randomness with extremely impactful events. He calls these “Mediocristan” and “Extremistan”.

In Mediocristan – all of the events and data are about average. No single event or person greatly changes the total.

Imagine gathering 1,000 people into a stadium, and comparing their weight. Even if you have one person with a very small weight (perhaps a baby) or a very large weight (the heaviest possible human) – they will not make up much of the total weight in the entire stadium. Examples of data or events in Mediocristan: height, weight, calorie consumption, income for a baker; gambling profits in a casino; car accidents, mortality rates.

In Extremistan you have a collection of “dwarfs” and “giants”. Some data points or events can be very small, and others hugely, massively out of scale, taking up most of the data.

Imagine gathering 1,000 people into a stadium, and comparing their net worth. The numbers could vary much more than weight. If you happen to get Bill Gates in the stadium, he becomes worth 99.99% of the total data. None of the rest really matters. You would never see a human who weighed several thousand tons. Examples of data or events in Extremistan: wealth; income; book sales per author; name recognition as a “celebrity”; number of hits in Google; populations of cities; numbers of speakers per language; damage caused by earthquakes; deaths in a war; sizes of planets; sizes of companies; stock ownership; commodity prices; inflation rates; economic data.

One of Taleb’s central points is: mathematical models based on the Bell Curve can help a lot when explaining events or data in Mediocristan. But they do not work at all when dealing with complicated events or data in Extremistan.

Mediocristan usually involves ‘biological’ data – physical measurements, or things present in the real world, where physical limits prevent them from getting out of hand. In Extremistan, we can never be sure of the data. Because one single person, point, or observation could suddenly dwarf the rest (imagine: measuring the net worth of everyone else, and then suddenly discovering Bill Gates). One measurement could suddenly invalidate all of our previous conclusions. So we need to proceed much more cautiously.

When measuring events or taking action in Extremistan, it is often the cumulative impact that is important. It doesn’t only matter if you were right or wrong; it matters *how* correct or incorrect you are. Being “right” about a danger causing one death, vs being “wrong” about a danger that causes 10 million deaths are quite different. We tend to “focus on the grass and miss the trees”.

The goal is to “be less surprised”, or “avoid being a sucker” about crazy, wild events that impact us.

### Part 1: Where and Why Brains Fail

Human brains are just not great at understanding some parts of the world. Especially risk and probability with very large or very small numbers.

Internal brain problems:

1) Narrative bias: Human brains love to invent and create stories, even and especially when no story or pattern exists. We do this unconsciously all of the time It takes mental effort to *not* create a story, or to *not* form an opinion Thus, humans can look at any set of totally unrelated data and *invent* a story about them. We think this helps us to understand the world better, but we are often wrong.

See “Thinking Fast and Slow”, by Daniel Kahneman.We have a “System 1” part of our brain – fast, intuitive, emotional, “gut feeling”.We have a “System 2” part of our brain – slower, more logical, critical thinking.It takes active effort and energy to do System 2 thinking. So it is harder.

2) Confirmation bias: We cherry-pick examples and data that support our story, and ignore evidence that goes against it. We also do this when predicting the future – we ignore times when we were wrong and only count the times we were right. It may only take one counter-example to prove an assumption is incorrect, so it may be faster and easier to disprove an idea.

Other thinking problems:

3) Silent evidence, a.k.a. Survivorship bias. It’s hard to keep in mind all of the data that we *don’t* see. For any problem or group of people, there may be a much larger group that we don’t know about, and don’t have evidence for. For example: There was an ancient civilization called the Phoenecians. They wrote on papyrus, which does not last long. Their papyrus writings rotted and decayed. So we didn’t have a record of much of their writing. It was easy to assume they did not write at all. Until we discovered their writing on other materials. For every person that “prayed to be saved” and survived, there are many that prayed but died. Only the people who made it are able to tell their stories. In World War II, the US military was trying to figure out how to protect more planes from getting shot down. They initially wanted to add armor to the locations with the most bullet holes. But Abraham Wald figured out: every place with a bullet hole was a location where the plane could sustain a hit, *and still survive*. He advocated the opposite – adding armor to the locations with *no* bullet holes. Because no planes that were shot in those locations made it back.

[ Image: Bullet hole damage in WWII airplanes. Add armor to where there are *no* bullet holes, to increase survivability. Image By Martin Grandjean (vector), McGeddon (picture), Cameron Moll (concept) – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0 ]

Ignoring “silent evidence” causes us to massively underestimate or mis-understand the real situation and real risk or probability, because we don’t know the whole story.We have to continually be careful to not assume we really understand how the world works, and make dangerous assumptions.

4) The Ludic Fallacy: We may think we understand the world, but often we don’t. Real life is messier, stranger, and more complicated than we learn in the classroom or in constrained environments. You have to be open to crazy wild events that are “against the rules”. e.g. someone pulling a gun in a martial arts tournament. This is high-level “thinking outside the box” Taleb calls it “a-Platonic” thinking – not trying to stuff reality into tidy-but-incorrect categories Thinking we understand reality when we do not is what causes many Black Swan events, and is dangerous.

An example of the world being more complex than we think: A casino has a reputation for being a place of gambling and chance. But casinos actually have very strict controls on the size of bets you can place, the possible payouts, watching for people cheating, etc. It is a controlled environment. The casino will never pay out 100 billion times your bet, or change the rules of the game mid-game. But real life might do something similar.

By contrast – One casino’s biggest risks and losses came from sources entirely outside of the expected:

A tiger attacked their star performer (Roy Horn of Seigfried & Roy). They were not insured for such an event, as they did not consider it a possibility. This ended their profitable best act. A disgruntled worker tried to dynamite the building. An employee had not been submitting the correct IRS tax forms, for multiple years. They simply put them into a drawer under their desk. The casino had to pay large amounts of penalties and back fees for not filing its taxes. It risked losing its license entirely and going out of business. A kidnapping attempt against the business owner’s daughter.

None of these risks or events were inside the casino’s business model or model of risk. They were entirely “outside the box”, and unexpected. Their cost was far greater than any on-model or expected risks or costs.

### Part 2: We Can’t Predict

Taleb spends several chapters showing how humans are bad at predicting. We can’t know the future and everybody gets it wrong.

We fall victim to tunnel vision – ignoring possibilities outside of what we think will happen. We overestimate what we know, and underestimate uncertainty. The more information you give someone, the more they try to interpret, and the more hypotheses they will form along the way. We see random noise and mistake it for information. Our ideas are “sticky” – once we form a theory, we are not likely to change our minds. So delaying developing your theories makes you better off Developing an opinion based on weak evidence makes it more difficult to change “Reading a summary magazine once a week is better for you than listening to the news every hour”. The longer interval lets you filter the info a bit. Small errors in measurement or a model can lead to drastically different outcomes It doesn’t matter how often you are right; what’s important is your cumulative error number E.g. one big event can throw you way off Or missing one prediction

[ Image: Stock Market total returns over 50 years. Including and excluding the Best 10 days. Note that excluding these 10 days (the lower, darker line) cuts the total value of the stock market as a whole in half. Traditional economic models treat these types of jumps as too extreme to ever happen. Yet here they have obviously happened several times. Image copyright Taleb; used only for review purposes. ]

One example – for the entire stock market, over a period of 50 years – fully half of the total value of all stocks was created during only ten days. Out of a period of 50 years. Using current economics models and claims, these types of events should be nearly impossible. Yet here they are. Taleb uses this as an example disproving the claim of Bell Curve economic models and disproving economists’ ability to predict.

Taleb discusses “Retrospective Distortion”: History seems more clear and organized when we look back than it actually was for people going through it at the time.

### Part 3 and 4 – Technical Details

Parts 3 and 4 delve into technical details on how exactly many so-called “experts” are wrong, and advice on how to minimize damage from Black Swans.

Taleb argues that the world is moving more into Extremistan over time. As technology and society become more complex, it is even more difficult to predict. The world is more complicated than many so-called “experts” and economists believe or tell you. The Bell Curve doesn’t actually work for most models; it can only be used to predict normal, boring events and data in Mediocristan. For any events in Extremistan – that includes most societal, cultural, and world events or data – the Bell Curve is a lie and *does not work at all*. This is a central point that Taleb emphasizes repeatedly.

By assuming the world is more complex than we realize by default, we can improve some events – “Turn Black Swans into Grey”. We are less surprised if we remain open to wild, impactful, unexpected events.

### What To Do About It

There are many interesting perspectives and advice that can be taken from the book. The most relevant areas are Chapter 13, “What to do if you cannot predict”; and Appendix 6 and 7 on The Fourth Quadrant – how to think about different types of risk, and mitigate them.

1. Look for counter-examples to check if you’re wrong

Because of confirmation bias, and because events in Extremistan can appear to be stable and normal for long periods, it is easy to find examples that reinforce any claim. That doesn’t mean we are right. If you have lunch with someone for an hour, and they don’t murder anyone for the entire hour, that doesn’t guarantee they are not a murderer.

It is faster and more effective to look for counter-examples that prove we are *wrong*. Ask “if this were not true, what would that look like?”.

2. Ask “Where did I get lucky?”

Examine past events. When you prepare a retrospective or After Action Report, ask “where did I get lucky?”. What events just happened to go well? From that list, what could you improve for next time, to improve your odds?

You see this in post mortems from organizations like the Google Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) team. They ask: “What went well? What needs to be improved? And where did we get lucky?”.

By considering events where we got lucky but it could have been worse, we can improve our robustness and preparations for next time.

3. Consider the consequences, or outcomes, and prepare for those

> “I don’t know the odds of an earthquake, but I can imagine how San Francisco (or any other place) might be affected by one”

The odds of some event may be unknowable, and no amount of modeling could figure it out. But I can guess pretty well how an earthquake or other event might *affect* me and my surroundings. And I can take steps to prepare for *that*.

If you lose power or water to your home, you don’t care as much about what caused it. You care more about how you can deal with it, and prevent it or make it easier.

Taleb’s advice is to focus on the *consequences* of some outcomes, and take steps to be ready for them. If we prepare for e.g. an earthquake, epidemic, financial crash, or other event, then it doesn’t matter so much about the odds of it happening; we can be ready regardless. “Rank beliefs by the harm they might cause”. “Invest in preparedness, not prediction”.

This matches advice from security expert Bruce Schneier, who advocates investing in intelligence gathering and emergency response:

> “Large-scale terrorist attacks and natural disasters differ in cause, but they’re very similar in aftermath.”

> The problem is that we can’t guess correctly. “Fund security that doesn’t rely on guessing”.

This leads to advice like:

Keep an emergency fund, to help you deal with outcomes, whatever they are. Buy insurance to cover and mitigate your losses for bad outcomes.

4. Cover your basics; keep an open mind

We can’t know what the future holds. But if you allow for the possibility of unexpected, impactful events, you won’t be as surprised if or when they happen. By keeping an open mind about the possibility, you’re already better prepared. By covering our basics; accepting that we might be wrong; and having flexible preparations; we can adapt to events as needed.

5. Beware people selling you a solution

>“Avoid taking advice from someone unless they have a penalty for bad advice”.

Human brains have a harder time with ‘negative’ advice about what *not* to do. It is easier for us to look for or invent a solution. This is exploited by many frauds and scams – trying to sell you a solution that won’t actually work. Choosing to do nothing is itself a valid action and choice. “Don’t just do something – sit there!”.

Other Tips

Consume less media and news. Lowers anxiety Avoids anchoring our thoughts to random data, which may cause worse decisions Do not listen to economic forecasters or predictors in social science. Don’t go deeply into debt. Don’t overspecialize. Learn some skills and/or have a job that can be transferrable or used for more than one type of work. Avoid optimization. Learn to love redundancy. The knowledge we get from tinkering and experimenting is better than just thinking and reasoning.

The Barbell Strategy: Be both hyper-conservative and hyper-aggressive, with different things, at the same time.

Taleb discusses his days as a financial stock trader. Since we can’t know whether anything is “risky” or not, it is impossible to build a portfolio that is “medium risk”. He suggests: Put 80-90% of your investments into ‘likely safe’ vehicles, such as bonds or Treasury Bills; put the rest into extremely speculative bets – such as Venture Capital investments in research & development, or startups. This limits your maximum losses while gaining you exposure to potentially lucky, positive outcomes.

Note: This is *not* financial advice. Please don’t make large adjustments to your personal finances based on a book summary you read on the internet.

### Positive Black Swans

Black Swan events are unexpected, and impactful. But they can be both positive and negative. Positive Black Swan events include discovering a new, beneficial medicine, or inventions such as the laser and the Internet.

Taleb’s Tips For Finding + Benefiting From Positive Black Swans

Live in a city or hub of activity with an intermingling of people and ideas Go to parties Strike up random conversations with people at parties Invest in as many things as you can Keep an open mind. Good fortune could come from anywhere. Seize any opportunity, or anything that looks like an opportunity. Maximize your exposure to as many potential opportunities as you can. Put yourself into situations where favourable consequences are much larger than unfavourable ones.

You can decide how many of those you want to apply in your own life.

### Tips for a More Black Swan-Robust Community

Avoid externalities. People who make decisions should have some stake in the outcome, or some consequences from the results of those decisions. No gambling with other people’s money. Build in some slack and redundancy. This is how complex systems survive. Start with small experiments. Test out small ideas first to see if they work or fail. Build and improve on the ones that work. If something will fail, finding out sooner is better than finding out later. Don’t take on large amounts of debt.

I have heavily adapted and synthesized this list from Taleb’s essay Ten Principles for a Black Swan-Robust Society. This essay is included at the end of the book.

In his essay, Taleb uses the term “society”. I am reframing a few of his ideas as: how could they apply to your local group or community?

Not many of us are world leaders. But some of us may have positions of leadership in our own community, or could step up to lead.

I believe the world is better if everyone is more prepared. If people all over the planet take one step or keep this in mind to work toward a more resilient planet, we all benefit.

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Navigating and estimating time using the sun

Two little tricks I learned in Boy Scouts have stuck with me and I use quite often to help me gain my bearings and know how much sunlight is left in the day.

For navigation, if you live in the northern hemisphere, point the hour hand of your watch at the sun. Then figure out the halfway point between the hour hand and 12:00, that is South. The opposite then is North.

If you are in the southern hemisphere, you point the 12:00 at the sun and half way between that and the hour hand is North.

If you have  digital watch or just your cell phone with the time, note what time it is and imagine you are wearing an analog watch and then do the above calculations. 

This won’t be very accurate for orienteering, but it can help you at least know which direction you need to go in. For example if your friend says to meet them on the west side of the building and you don’t know where west is, this will help you.

Picture taken from this website.

The next little trick is how to tell how much sunlight is left in the day. This will help if you are needing to know how much time you have left to build a shelter, find food, or gather firewood by before it gets dark. Or even in our every day lives of when it will get dark and you should start heading home.

You stretch your hand out in front of you and place the sun at the top of your index finger. Every width of finger is going to be 15 minutes of sunlight. So if the sun is only two fingers away from the horizon, you have 30 minutes before it goes below that. Chubby or skinny fingers may add or minus a few minutes 😉

Picture taken from this site.

I hope these two little tricks will help you in your everyday life and also as you are camping, bugging out, or surviving. 

What other sun tricks do you know about?

Did you know about either of these?

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Navigate using the sun and a watch

Site Censoring

Either this is a free & open site to post opinions or it’s not – the Americans here value their 1st Amendment Right – the rest take your lumps without the protection …

Refuse the posting – delete it ENTIRELY – but I for one don’t allow someone to self editorialize THEIR opinion using my name ….

Bill Mason posts elsewhere on other prepper forums – doesn’t expect to be censored – don’t appreciate that double-standard ….

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These pants aren’t chainsaw proof but pretty close

Found this video of Husqvarna’s chainsaw pants and thought it was pretty impressive.

I went to the website and there are two kinds, Technical or Classic. They both have the same rating (ASTM F1897) but a pretty big price difference.

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