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Looking for evacuation advice and resources (especially during COVID-19)

I’m in Northern California, which is more or less in flames right now and is about to have more dry thunderstorms. Wondering what my safest options are if I have to evacuate and if I can’t find a friend or family member to stay with.

I’m also wondering the same for my mom. Her situation is more complicated. She’s closer to the fire zone, and at the same time is 77 and with mobility issues following a stroke.  She might come to me but that’s a barely workable setup for her situations and/or I might have to leave myself.

I’m looking for ideas and resources about where I and/or she can go that’s not a COVID infested mess.

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Building raised garden beds

(Another short guide, for those getting started in gardening)

When people talk about ‘raised beds,’ they usually mean soil that has been raised about 6” above the surrounding ground by a frame of wood, stone, or cement blocks.  If you have read the forum about getting started in gardening, you will know that you don’t actually need a frame to make a raised bed.  However, having a frame makes it easier to maintain your bed (the sides don’t erode), helps keep your mulch in place (especially if you are topping your beds with dried leaves in the winter), and can let you make a higher bed.  There are also plenty of aesthetic benefits.  You can paint your beds to match your house, use stonework to add visual interest to your yard, or just keep things looking neat.  If you have the time and energy, it can be worth doing.

Here is some guidance to get you started.  These are based on my own experiences and reading.  I’ve framed beds with untreated lumber, scrap cedar, and stone, and I’ve used logs and cement block in other landscaping projects.  I claim no professional expertise.  Your experiences may vary.

Before we start, I want to make one thing clear.  Sometimes people see raised beds (i.e., beds with frames) and assume that you build the frame and then fill it with soil.  You can do that – it is actually at the heart of the Square Foot Gardening method – but it’s expensive and usually unnecessary.  What you want to do is prepare an unframed raised bed by fluffing up the soil with a good double-dig and maybe adding some compost, and then put the frame around your bed.

With that in mind, the key steps to building a raised bed are:

1)     Dig the bed

2)     Choose your materials (wood or stone/cement block)

3)     Obtain your materials

4)     If using wood: prebuild your frames

5)     Install your frame

Skill level needed is minimal and it decreases if you don’t care about the aesthetics.

1) Dig your Bed.  See the instructions in the Getting Started with Gardening forum or borrow a copy of How to Grow More Vegetables from your local library.  Double dig your bed.

2) Choose your Materials

Your two main options are wood or some form of stone or cement block.  I’ll discuss each in turn.


The main benefits of wood are that it is cheap, easy to work with, and can be painted (if you choose).  The main drawback is that most wood rots when in contact with the ground.  You have three main options (as I see it) to deal with this:

a)      Use regular, untreated wood to build your beds.  If you use 2×10 pine from your local big box store, your bed will probably last several years before needing to be replaced.  I have gotten 4+ years out of untreated wood.

b)     Use cedar or another variety of wood that is naturally resistant to rot and bugs.  You probably won’t be able to find large enough sections of wood at a big box store (at least I haven’t), but if you go to a local lumber yard and explain to someone what you are doing, they can probably point you to locally available, rot-resistant varieties.  The drawback is that it is expensive.  As an aside, I live in an area where many houses have cedar siding, and I have obtained scrap siding from siding repair jobs.  It works okay for garden beds.  It is a little weak and needs more support and it still breaks down over time.  But it works and it’s free.

c)      Use treated lumber.  Pressure treated wood is impregnated with chemicals to prevent rot.  The current varieties made in the US are no longer treated with arsenic (technically chromated copper arsenate) and at least one manufacturer claims that their product is safe for vegetable gardens.  Nonetheless, I personally choose to avoid it for growing food.

All of the above assumes that wood = cut lumber.  You can also use tree trunks (laid horizontally) if they are thick enough or logs (set vertically) if you have enough of them.  In my area, a large log may last 3 years before rotting to uselessness.

Stone or cement block:

If you have free access to large stones (at least the size of Tom Clancy novel or kids’ soccer ball), they make a great border.  They are easy to install (even easier than wood, albeit heavier), look cool, and even retain heat to help your plants grow.  I would advise against using smaller stones, especially if you need to stack them to get the height you need.  They will fall over, look messy, and not do the job.  (For the same reason, I wouldn’t use regular sized, un-mortared bricks.)  In general, the bigger the stones you use the better (within reason of course).  Just be careful moving them.

Cement blocks are essentially like big, regular stones.  I haven’t tried them for garden beds, but I have used them for retaining walls and they are easy enough to work with.  For a 4×8 garden frame, I wouldn’t recommend you go through all the steps you need for a proper retaining wall, but I would dig a trench 1” or 2” below the soil level, level the trench, and tamp the bottom.  This will help things look neater and make your blocks less likely to move.  More on that below.  I would suggest 6” high blocks, although you could try 2 courses of 4” high blocks.  You may have some problems with the 4” blocks moving, but probably not as much as you would with small rocks if you get blocks that are fairly wide (front to back).  Many are made with some sort of interlocking shape (usually a lip at the back) or a pin system, which should help even more.

A final note:

I have recently seen a block-and-wood combo where you buy large cement corner posts that have slots molded into them to accept wooden boards (  I haven’t tried it yet, but I may do so when my current wooden beds rot out.  It looks like a good option, especially if you can replace rotted boards without moving the corner posts.  It would really reduce the labor cost of using untreated wood.  If you try it, maybe post below on the experience.

3) Obtain your materials.

Free is best, but you also want materials to be clean so that nothing toxic enters your garden.  You may be able to source scrap wood from building projects in your neighborhood or get tree trunks or stone from your own land or friends’ yards.  Cement block can be purchased (including ordered for delivery) from landscape centers and big box stores.

If you are buying lumber, I would suggest buying 2×10 (which is actually 1.5”x9.5”).  The edges may be a bit higher than your soil, but the extra lip will help keep your mulch in place.  For each bed, I would buy three 8-foot lengths and then have the store cut one of them in half.  They’ll usually do it for free.  Depending on how you assemble your bed, it will be either 3” shorter or 3” narrower than 4×8 feet, but it doesn’t matter.  Just make sure you do all of your beds the same way.  Buy some cheap 2×4 (e.g., stud lumber) to reinforce the corners.  You can ask the store to cut it into 9” lengths (four 9”pieces for each bed), but they may charge you a few dollars because it’s more cuts.  If you have the tools, you can do it at home.  You’ll also want a box of 2.5” construction screws.

4) For wood only: Prebuild your frames.

Build a 4×8 wooden rectangle, reinforcing the corners.  I could write detailed instructions on how to do this, but if you have basic woodworking skills you don’t need me to and if you don’t have basic woodworking skills, you probably need pictures (which I don’t have, since my beds are already done).

That being said, if you want to learn basic carpentry, this is a great project to start with.  If you have the wood pre-cut at the store, all you need is a tape measure, a pencil, a drill, a small bit for piloting holes, and a driver bit for putting in screws.  (A square for marking things and a clamp to hold the reinforcing blocks would help too, but aren’t totally necessary.)  The driver bit may even come free with your box of construction screws.  The process is straightforward, and you’ll feel pride every time you see your beds.

Build your beds out on your driveway or in your garage.  It will be much easier to get the corners flush and square.  A 4×8 frame made from 2×10 pine will be a bit heavy, but should be easily moveable with the help of a friend.  Especially if the corners are reinforced, you can carry it without it breaking.

Maybe someone building their own beds can post a step-by-step photo guide below to the carpentry.  Yes, I checked Instructables for a good link, but most of what was there had either bad dimensions, was too deep (you’d need to fill with soil), or was actually an elevated bed (picture a garden bed built on top of a table; these can be good for gardeners with mobility challenges).

5) Install your beds

For wood (i.e., frame you’ve pre-built):

a)      Use a hard rake to pull the soil in from the edges of your raised bed.

b)     Use a shovel to scrape the ground flat all the way around the bed.  If your yard is not level, I recommend digging downward on the uphill side(s) so that your bed will lay flat.

c)      Position your frame

d)     Check that the frame is level front to back and side to side by putting a bubble level on the boards.  (If you don’t have a bubble level, you can buy a cheap 9” torpedo level for less than $10.)  If it’s not level, move the frame and dig downward on the high side(s) or prop up the low sides with rocks.  If you prop up the low sides, make sure that the bottom of the board is still at or below the level of the surrounding soil.  You’ll also need to back fill and tamp down the dirt in that area to that the frame doesn’t shift and settle later.

e)     Backfill as necessary against the outside of the frame (i.e., if you cut a wider trench in the soil, fill it in around the frame) and rake the interior level.  You’re done!

If you are using tree trunks, I would just dig a trench deep enough that when you lay the trunk in, there are no large gaps where dirt from the garden bed can leak out underneath.  If you are using logs, lay like stone or block, below.

For stone and block:

a)      Use a hard rake to pull the soil in from the edges of your raised bed.

b)     Use a shovel to dig a narrow, straight trench, as wide as your stone/block, 1-3” deep.  1” is probably enough, but if you have wide, flat stones you may want to ‘plant’ them vertically, in which case a deeper trench will make them more stable.

c)      Whether you level your trench is up to you.  I don’t think it matters much with natural stone, but you may feel that block looks better when it is properly level.  To level your trench, lay a piece of straight lumber (any straight, long piece of 2×4 will do) and put a bubble level on it.  Dig or fill as necessary.  For a level block wall, make sure to tamp down the bottom of the trench after digging.

d)     Lay your stone or block.

·        For laying stone, it will become a bit of a jigsaw puzzle as you try to get the pieces to interlock.  To make things easier, lay all of your stones out near you in the yard, so that you can easily test fit pieces until you find the right one.

·        If you are laying block, you may wish to stretch a string between two stakes on each side to show where the front of your blocks should line up.  Most blocks come with angled sides.  To avoid needing to cut any blocks, I would dig out a little bit of your bed at the corners, and use the angled sides of the block to angle the wall around.  It should only take one angled block to turn the corner, so you shouldn’t lose much bed space.

e)     Backfill.  If you are laying stones, backfill with dirt on the outside and inside with a hand trowel as you go.  Tamp the dirt down with the handle of your trowel or a fist sized stone to prevent the rocks from shifting.  If you are laying block, I would lay everything first and then use a string or piece of scrap wood to make sure that all of the stones are in a straight line (if you haven’t done so already) and at an even depth.  Adjust as necessary.  Backfill the outside and the rake the interior level.  You’re done!

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Changelog/recent updates section

Hi folks,

Quick question: is there anything along the lines of a “most recently updated” list on this wonderful site? I’d really love a way to quickly check which new articles have been posted and which old articles have been updated, especially as it’s unlikely I’ll dive into deeper rereads of gear reviews for stuff I’ve already purchased/practiced using. I’m not sure if this is a very technically challenging thing to accomplish (or if it already exists and I just can’t find it!) but I’d really love to see it. If an example is helpful, I’ll see if I can link one from a site that already has something like that. It’d just be very helpful in terms of keeping up-to-date! I do already receive the newsletter, though that isn’t quite what I’m looking for.


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Going solar with my home (maybe): a diary

I’ve been wanting to do solar since we first moved into our house in 2015. We’re on 17 acres, and we’re 100% electric — everything from the range to heating and cooling to the well pump is on the grid. So we’re actually more “on-grid” than were in Austin, because if the power’s out then we can’t heat the house and the taps don’t work.

Because I’m a prepper, and because we do have substantial blackouts here periodically due to electrical storms, I’d like to back up the some or part of the property with solar + battery backup.

So as I think through this process and my options, I figured I’d make a thread in there to get insight from others, and to share my experiences. I want to learn as much as I can, so that I not only do this right for myself and my family, but so that I can work on a guide on this topic for The Prepared. In fact, my main goal is to come out the other end of this process with — at a minimum — enough info to do some kind of guide, even if I don’t end up actually pulling the trigger on the actual solar install right now.

I do want to acknowledge up-front that my living and financial situation is not very typical (I’ve successfully sold a company, and live on a ranchette with some horses and a pond and so on). I say this because I’m just going to be kinda honest about numbers and specifics in this thread, and I know that so many people are struggling… I don’t want to come off like I think all my particular parameters are generally applicable; they definitely are not. But there is a lot of cost/benefit calculation involved in sizing a solar install, and thinking through all that in any kind of worthwhile way requires putting some actual numbers down.

Here are a few parameters and considerations I’m working with:

Location: I’m in Central TX right north of Austin (Georgetown area), so lots of sun.

Property: We have a large house with a metal roof that has terrible, ancient insulation. It would cost us $30-$40K to get the roof redone with modern closed-cell insulation. That would significantly cut our bill, from what I’m told (though I don’t know how much), so that is something I’m seriously considering.

We have a well on a separate meter that runs about $40/month, and are adding a 1200sqft guest house that may be occupied much of the year.

We can easily do a ground-mounted setup, since we’re on 17 acres. We can also do it next to the meter and keep the trenching at under 50 ft.

Current electrical usage: We’re paying $0.09 kwh, which is pretty cheap. But given the state of the roof and size of the house, we’re doing over 5,100 kwh per month on average, which is nuts. Our bill is around $425/mo average, though it’s way way worse than that in the summers (gets close to $600). When we add the guest house in we’re looking at around 5,600 kwh per month roughly.

Timing: Sunpower and other companies are going to be launching Powerwall competitors in early 2021, so theoretically (barring battery supply chain problems, war with China, and a billion other things that could go wrong between now and then), batteries should be a lot cheaper in about Q3 of next year. So if I did the solar now and the batteries later, I could get a lot more bang per buck. But of course then I’d have no backup, and if I lose grid power my solar won’t help. So solar-only is not that appealing to me.

Financial stuff: I’ve started talking to Freedom Solar — they’re a SunPower dealer. They’ll finance up to $100K at 2.9%, no money down, 25-year terms. If you go over $100K, you have to pay the delta up-front to get below that threshold.

They quoted me like $140K for an 88-panel Sunpower system to replace 79% of my usage, backed up with two Powerwall batteries. This kinda feels like a lot! Especially since I’d need to pay them $40K up-front to get the financing down to $100K.

This is a 25-year loan, so the monthly note works out to over $420/month. If I factor in another $90/month in ongoing electric utility payments (remember I’d only be at 79% replacement) then that’s ~$500/month for about 25 years for electricity.

I could tell the salesperson was used to talking to people who just wanted to do solar for reasons of replacing their existing electrical bill with a payment on a solar system that will give them some inflation protection and increase their home value. But as a prepper I’m more interested in the backup aspect than I am in the inflation protection and home value aspects.

Options: I do have the capability to put the $40K down to do this. But obviously that’s a big chunk, and I could do a lot of other things with $40K, including buy gold or bitcoin or stocks, or fix my roof (more on that in a minute, tho).

As pessimistic as I am about the upcoming fall and winter, if I’m thinking about allocating $40K of my portfolio as a hedge against economic catastrophe risk, then $40K in a personal off-grid setup looks better than $40K in many other asset classes.

Anyway, here are some options I’m thinking about:

I could put $40K down for the full $140K package of 88 panels + two Powerwalls. I don’t know that I love this, because if I do end up with a new roof in a few years, and kwh usage drops by like 30%, then I’m way over-provisioned and am still paying ~$450/month for electricity and not seeing real savings from the roof. I could spend $40K to redo my roof, and then buy a smaller solar system. Not sure how much money I’ll be saving via the new roof until I actually do it, though. I could start with just $100K worth of solar and wait for batteries to get cheaper next year, and put $40K somewhere else. But as I said, doing this without the batteries doesn’t scratch the prepper itch. I could get a sub-$100K solar-only install, and then try to do my own batteries using lead-acid. I have no idea how feasible that is. I could bring in another area solar company to give a competing bid, and see if that gets me anything.

So that’s where I’m at with this as of this morning, and will update as I know more and learn more. Would love to hear other people’s experiences with solar — especially off-grid setups — and how you’ve thought about or are thinking about it.

Edit: Just typing all this out has made me realize that I can’t competently do the math on this without knowing exactly how much a new roof will cost and what the impact of that new roof will be on my electric bill. Without those inputs, it’s too hard to size correctly.

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Virtual Preparedness Conference – Now Online

Along with Karl Rehn of KR Training, we’ve created a virtual preparedness conference with a series of videos you can watch, on demand, on a variety of topics.  We are regularly adding new videos to the set list.

There is a small charge associated with these videos – most can be rented for 90 days for as little as $2.  This allows us to maintain the Vimeo account and to compensate other presenters who share their knowledge with us.

It’s our goal to not only jumpstart people’s preparedness efforts, but help them troubleshoot areas of their plan where they are struggling.

Check out the set list by clicking here.

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Cooking setup while bugged out?

So a problem I identified but haven’t solved is: It’s time to get out of Dodge, throw the go-bags and boxes in the car or hoof it out with packs etc., away we go, kids…

…and when we stop at some point, meal prep has to happen. Cleverly, I have food, camp stove, water and/or filters prepared. 

But I don’t have a good plan for cookware/dishes for meal prep. How are the rest of you planning for this? 

I’ve considered just shelling out for camping gear, which is lightweight enough, but seems undersized or not robust enough. Hauling heavy Dutch ovens or large iron skillets seems like a lot of weight.

Is it just a gnarly problem to feed a family on the go and I need to set aside resources for it? 🤔


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NYCer looking to buy Protective Vest

I’ll keep this short and sweet.

Crime is up. The crazies are running the asylum. Batman is nowhere to be found.

We can’t strap up. (Obv.)

So i need a vest.


Is this good? Just need something discrete in an obviously urban setting. To be able to get away and be able to escape the situation without getting critically injured , as well as get away from surprise stabbing attacks and stray bullets of low calibers with minimal to no damage.

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Women’s professional dresswear that is preparedness appropriate

After I graduate in December I’ll be moving away from my parent’s farm and beginning a position where I’ll be expected to dress professionally. I’ve always felt pretty comfortable in the casual clothes I am able to wear to my classes and the work clothes I wear on the farm because in the event of an emergency I feel set and have never felt like my clothes would inhibit me in movement/coverage and it’s easy to dress in clothes that seem fit for preparedness when going casual. I’m interested in advice anyone may have on women’s dresswear that is also still appropriate for moving about uninhibited in an emergency scenario. Essentially I am looking for women’s dresswear that is prepping appropriate: easy-movement, durable fabric and functional pieces (I’m excluding skirts and dresses based on this last requirement as they don’t have great coverage for the most part and often don’t have pockets). Lots of womens dresswear is super impractical, made of fragile fabric and has special restrictions on how to care for it and I’d feel unprepared wearing most of it. My searches so far have been refined to clothes that are machine-washable, have pockets and that also look professional (I do not want to look like I went shopping at a tactical shop for clothes). So far, I’ve found two brands that hit my requirements and a few pieces I like:

1. Betabrand Women’s Dress Yoga Pants, Straight Leg with 7 Pockets:

2. Betabrand Women’s Blazer with Functional Pockets:

3. Eddie Bauer waterproof trenchcoat that I wear all the time that has many pockets but seems to have been discontinued.

Finding professional blouses, a tote/purse and shoes (I won’t consider anything but flats) is proving to be a bit more difficult. I welcome any input!

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Best online places to buy backup glasses?

I wear glasses and so does my wife. We’re not interested in getting laser surgery, so that means an extra pair of glasses are part of our preps at home. I think most people do that. But now I’m wondering if I should have an extra pair specifically for our BOB and maybe our EDC. My prescription hasn’t changed so my guess is I can just use that to order a few pairs online for us?

Where would you recommend?

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What do you keep in your BOB for menstruation?

This came up in a different thread about prepping resources for single women,

Wanted to start a separate thread to dig deeper into period prepping! 🙂 Everyone was so generous with suggestions on the other thread, thought we could continue and consolidate here.

These were the main ideas that came up so far

Menstrual cups are a good idea because they’re washable and reusable, though the learning curve can be steep and there might be hygiene issues Diva Cup seems popular but not all brands work for all people Period underwear such as Thinx may be better for bags since they can be worn regularly and won’t add more weight Disposable paper products are cheap and can be used as a fire starter too, but you are limited to what you already carry

One person mentioned getting a UTI from her cup, so obviously everyone’s experience will be different. Whatever you choose, you should be sure to practice with it in real life. Don’t switch to a new method the same time you’re dealing with an emergency.

So… what do you keep in your bag? How do you think about prepping for periods when you’re not at home in an emergency? Has anyone gone through this, like at a shelter?

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What did covid-19 expose as a weakness in your preps?

No prep is ever done or perfect. So whenever something bad happens I try to learn from it as a real-world stress test.

What did the last few months with covid make you realize was a weakness in your preps?

My husband and I already had the important supplies on hand like respirators and food. But the biggest “d’oh!” moment for us was that we didn’t have some of our food supplies labeled with purchase dates to know which food should be eaten first. It probably won’t matter, but if we needed to survive on what we have for a long time, it would be nice to know what will spoil first. We solved this by putting a Sharpie marker on a string by our food shelf and will write the year on everything we buy.

We also did not have enough gloves. We had a box of 100, but two people can run through those pretty quickly when using a pair or two every day over months.

If you could go back in time before COVID, what would you change about your preps?

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Prepping for Hurricane Season

NPR’s Life Kit has an article and accompanying podcast episode entitled, “It’s Peak Hurricane Season. You Should Have These Plans Ready” by Debbit Elliott. I’m not in a hurricane prone area, but some of you may be. I’m wondering what other preps you might have.

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Recommendations for solar camping lanterns?

Does anyone have recommendations for solar lights?  I thought it might be nice to have some lanterns in case of no power. Thanks!

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Preserving eggs with calcium hydroxide

Has anyone tried using calcium hydroxide to preserve eggs? It has a bunch of other names like slaked lime, but you basically combine it with water and then jar it. And the eggs can last a couple years with no funky taste.

But based on what I’ve been reading, it won’t work on eggs you get from the store. It has to be eggs that haven’t been washed yet… something about the natural coating still needs to be there? So if you have chickens or know someone with some, it could be an easy way to store them long term.

I haven’t done it yet but just wanted to throw it out there in case someone else has. Or maybe it doesn’t work at all?

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Could anyone give advice about preparing for a tornado? We live in central Missouri, tornado country. I just told a friend in Oregon yesterday who is thirty miles from a wildfire that we weren’t in danger from wildfires or hurricanes here, but we certainly are from tornados. We have a closet under the basement steps: how should we prepare it? Thanks!

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Looking for advice: galvanized stock tanks for raised garden beds?

My partner and I just bought our first house and we’re looking for some advice from this expert prepping community! 🙂 We live in Minneapolis and like true Northerners, we spend all year planning for and dreaming of our brief window of spring and summer weather. 

We both love to garden and have done lots of gardening in community gardens and on our rental balconies and in rental yards, but this is the first time we’ll actually be able to invest in a long-term garden of our own! We’re so excited. 

I’m planning on getting some galvanized stock tanks for raised beds (with holes drilled in the bottom for drainage, of course). Does anyone have experience with this? Any tips for growing vegetables or setting up the stock tanks? 

We move in to our new house late next month. Is it smartest to wait until spring to dig up the grass and plop the tanks down? Or should I do that this fall while the ground is still soft and before the winter freeze descends? 

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Newbie prepper

and probably looking for a little input or advice.  Prior to Covid really hitting (around February) my partner came home from work and suggested we stock up on food.  I always keep a pretty stocked pantry and freezer but I immediately went out and got extra–rice, beans etc.  We were one of the first areas to shut down and I have to say it was incredibly comforting knowing I could feed my family for weeks before needing to go out.

I have some generalized anxiety and I think I was able to feel calmer going into the pandemic having that little stockpile.  So that led me here.  Now I’m trying to get started having more preps in place BUT I feel really overwhelmed with all the things I could do and the number of decisions to make.

Example–I would like to create bug out bags for the family, but even just contemplating a backpacks for each of us stymies me.  I’m relatively tall but pretty small-boned—so what size do I get? (an example of how my brain spins out).  Anyone have some good advice on getting started and not overwhelmed?

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Is there a Window Security Film that does double (or triple) duty?

I’ll post a comment directly to the article but thought I should separately as well – I apologize if that’s not appropriate and admins, please delete if so.

I read the “hardening your home” article (  We’ve been looking at adding window film for a while, but mainly for purposes privacy (shaded, NOT blackout or mirror-finish, preferably) and to help with heat/cooling efficiency.  It’s a single-story home in a suburb neighborhood of the Capitol here in CA w/ 2 sliding glass doors.  I’m wondering if there is a product, or if someone has experience/suggestions with a film that does both/all three (security + privacy + thermal), and well?  This is the product referenced in the article

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What media sources do you consult?

Besides this website, what media sources do you consult for preparedness? Looking to cast a wide net.

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How Soap Works / Soap > Sanitizer

I listen to a lot of podcasts. I find it frees my hands and eyes, especially when I’m busy with my prepping projects and I can actually learn a thing or two other than the latest deathtoll numbers.

One area of interest (especially given the importance of hygeine amidst the current pandemic) is how I’ve seemed anxious about the shortage of sanitizer and disinfectant (and their skyrocketing prices).

Turns out, according to a July 30th episode of How Stuff Works, soap is better. And it has everything to do with soap’s structure. Spoiler! Soap physically tears apart the cells of germs, viruses and microorganisms!

This episode covers (in 54 minutes), the origins of soap, how to make soap, how soap works, and how using soap compares to sanitizers and disinfectents.

How Stuff Works: How Soap Works:

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Prepping strategies for larger families

Alot of prepping advice is based on the number of people you are prepping for…”save X amount of rice/water/supplies for each person in the family.” This is pretty manageable if you have a small household, but what do you do when you have a bigger family, with constantly shifting nutritional needs and preferences?

Right now I have 3 kids under 5, which means they don’t eat all that much now, but they will in a few years. Their preferences also bounce around like crazy – one week they LOVE a certain food or snack, and the next week they won’t touch it. We are also considering adding a 4th child at some point, so it is possible we will end up with a family of 6 to prep for. Right now I don’t have the space, mental bandwidth, or finances to stock up on a full supply of food for 5-6 people that will last a year, especially when half my family is guaranteed to refuse a bunch of it at some point.

To date, my strategy is to simply stock up on the items I know I’ll definitely use, and to prioritize items that have longer shelf lives: rice, pasta, sauces, canned tomatoes, baking supplies, specific snack items, peanut butter and jelly. I’m less about aiming for a certain amount on hand per person, and more about making sure I have enough to get us through the next 3-6 months if these items disappeared from the stores tomorrow. Any other tips on how to approach prepping for bigger families?

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What can I plant now in a 36 x 24 x 10″ wooden box?

I recently moved into a new house and the previous owners left a 36 x 24 x 10″ wooden raised box in the backyard. So I want to know if it’s worth it for me to keep it and plant something edible in it, or not. 

I don’t care much about what I plant. That is, I’m thinking about stuff I can eat – not flowers. I’m fine even if it’s just herbs.

FYI the box faces South. The soil in it was already there so I have no clue if I need to do something with it or not. I’m a total newbie, in case that wasn’t clear! Thanks!

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Where is the hurricane/fire coverage?

I’ve been kind of surprised to not see even mentions of recent natural disasters on the blog or the forum. There are millions without power due to Tropical Storm Isaias right now and  thousands were evacuated from the Apple Fire this weekend, and both of those seasons are just starting. Would love to see some new content geared towards preparing for hurricanes & wildfires, particularly with COVID potentially complicating evacuation plans. Thoughts?

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