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Preparation resources for Asian Americans?

Has anyone in this wonderful community come across and recommend any preparation resources that address preparation challenges for Asian Americans (and other People of Color)?

Being based in Portland (Oregon) in midst of the wildfire smoke crisis–and reading confirmed reports of armed vigilantes setting up illegal checkpoints in nearby rural towns–has made me acutely realize that being a person of color can be dangerous when traveling through the countryside during emergency evacuations. I’m beginning to realize that my evacuation strategies may have unique challenges, and that I’ll need to adjust accordingly.

I haven’t been able to find much on the topic–searching for “Asian preppers” returned links to articles about working in an Asian restaurant kitchen, or SAT preparation strategies, but nothing related to emergency preparedness.

By the way, I do appreciate The Prepared’s site and forums for being very inclusive and welcoming. And the site contents have motivated me to start assembling a BOB.

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More than one cell phone?

I recently replaced a cell phone without ending service yet on the clunky predecessor. Then I wondered if maybe I should have two working cell phones (different phone numbers) in case I lose one or in case the cell phone service providers’ equipment is on different towers. If one tower (or equipment) failed, there would be a back up. (I also have basic radios as a back up.) If money were not a limitation, would you have more than one working cell phone? Thanks!

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Testing HF Ham Radio Propagation with WSPR

When you first set up an HF transceiver, your biggest concern is if anyone can hear you. There is a neat digital mode called WSPR, created by Joe Taylor, who holds a Nobel Prize in physics. To use this, you need a way to connect your radio to a computer so you can use the WSJT-X client, which can do several digital modes including WSPR.

Once you’ve set it up, it pretty much runs on its own. WSPR sends out a small digital signal. Other WSPR clients can receive that signal and report it on the Internet.

Now here’s what’s cool: you can visit an online map like the one at WSPRnet and see WSPR signal propagation around the world. Each station is pinned with its callsign, so you can see just how far your signal reaches. I learned that my little 20-watt Xiegu G90 can reach all the way to Antarctica and New Zealand from my home in Middle Tennessee.

You can filter the map by the band, time sent, and callsign, so you can test out different things and compare.

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Made in the US vacuum sealer?

We are looking for a vaccum sealer, but are dead set on not buying from China.  This is challenging right now, but we will not compromise.  Can anyone point us toward a vacuum sealer that will likely see moderate use that is Made in the US?

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iFixit makes world’s largest medical repair database for free

I’m not super familiar with iFixit but thought this was cool. They organized 200 volunteers and gathered 13,000 different repair manuals for equipment that hospitals use, then made it available for free online:

Although these aren’t the most important documents you’d want to have saved for a knowledge library, if you’ve already got the basics covered this could be interesting to add to your collection. Super unlikely, but how cool would it be to be able to fix a ventilator or something in a SHTF environment!

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12 volt charging from Jackery 240 or other ones


Have a new dc/dc 20 amp battery charger. Would like to connect it to my starter motor battery at the input of the charger then have the output go to a cigarette lighter socket, which will charge a jackery 240 portable power station. Will also use a 12 volt wire at D+ to sense ign on.

Is this a feasible use of this Renogy 20 amp charger?

Thank you , Rudy

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Which microorganisms does hand sanitizer work on?

I’ve gotten so used to using sanitizer at this point that I was kinda surprised to learn that it’s effective on a bunch of stuff.

The image below is from Popular Science and lists very clearly which bugs hand sanitizer kills and which it doesn’t. Thought it was kinda cool.

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Sleeping bag

Hi all,

I looked for a review on this topic and didn’t see it. Does anyone have any suggestions for a compact and lightweight sleeping bag (emphasis on the former)? I’d like it to be rated to 15 or 20 degrees Fahrenheit. 45 degrees wouldn’t be warm enough, but I understand that there’s going to be a tradeoff for a compact bag

Thanks in advance.

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Possible food/supply shortages…

What types of food/supply shortages/interruptions are you seeing in your area?

I live in New England. We had a few good weeks where everything seemed close to normal around here in terms of supplies and food availability at the stores. Delivery and curbside slots are now easily available too.

But today I went to pick up my grocery order and half of what I ordered wasn’t there. For example, I ordered 2 jars of pasta sauce and got only 1, I was only able to get one apple (who wants to buy a single apple?), and a bunch of items had strangely low restrictions on things like baby food jars (2 max) and yogurt pouches (2 max). It was like shopping in mid April all over again. Last week my grocery store had no strawberries whatsoever, which is bizarre for midsummer.

We are doing well in our region in terms of controlling covid transmission and re-opening businesses, so the low inventory is unlikely due to panic shopping…

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School Ventilation

I don’t really know if this is totally appropriate for this forum, but I’ve been getting a ton of questions about school ventilation and filtration systems. So I made a video that outlines these systems Hopefully this helps parents and school staff work to verify the function of these systems in their school districts. Feel free to post any questions specific to this issue. If there’s even slight interest I’d like to do some stuff shortly on measured flow and filtration with simple devices you can readily install in your kid’s classroom. 

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Helmets anyone?

Hi, all. I hope you’re all doing well.

I’m just starting the process of researching helmets, but want to know if anyone else is already ahead of the game in this department. Specifically, I’m looking into NIJ-level helmets (see body armor). I am, of course, thinking in terms of a SHTF scenario, not so much paintballs and protests.

What manufacturers, distributors, or other information have you found in the way of civilian-accessible helmets?

Thanks in advance.

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Sealing mylar

OK, help a n00b out. I have an iron, of the “hey I have an interview tomorrow let’s make the suit look nice” variety. I want to do some mylar bag/bucket sealing using this tool and some O2 absorbers. I’ve asked some mylar bag sources and they say my iron won’t work for their bags; some other sources just aren’t responsive (understandable – it is 2020 after all).

Any ideas what mylar bag sources I’ll be able to seal with my existing iron, those of you who may have done this before? Bonus if they actually have bags to sell me right now. 😬

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Confused about half mask sizing, filters and cartridges

I am bout to venture into the world of non-disposable respirator masks. I’ve been reading this TP page and decided that I want to get the recommended 3m half mask. That’s as far as I was able to get before getting confused.

First of all, I’m unclear about how to figure out the mask sizing. It says that most people should use a medium size, but there’s no sizing guide anywhere that I can find. (I think of myself as having a large head).

More confusingly, I got hopelessly lost in trying to figure out the cartridges and filters thing. First of all, I don’t have a clear understanding of how these things even fit on the mask, so I don’t know exactly even what shape I’m looking for. Some filters come as simply soft disks. Can I fit those on the half-face mask? Other things come as cartridges and I am having a hard time figuring out all the variants or what would actually work. I did try to find the filter and cartrdige types that the mask description recommends, but I wasn’t able to track them down.

I will say that what I want right now is just an N95 filter, or whatever the equivalent of that is. My most immediate problem is the incredible amount of smoke pollution in California. The air is very, very bad. I’ve never been able to wear a conventional, disposable N95 masks. I get massively uncomfortable in them right away, so I’m hoping that these half-face respirators will be better. Right now my priority is to have something I can use for the smoke when I go out that will also maximize my ability to breathe easily. For that reason I don’t want to go up to N100. As for preparing for other kinds of chemical or whatever emergencies, I will need to deal with that later. So, given that, what filters would I be looking for?

I would LOVE it if some kind soul who understands these maks and filters better than I do would explain to me what to look for.

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New to Prepping & specific questions re CA/fire strategy

I just joined, but the general idea has been “top of mind” since Feb/March, here in CA specifically COVID related, but also civil unrest/race relations/political instability, and now, it’s “fire season” and we are in Elk Grove (15 mi. south of state Capitol, Sacramento).

We are approx. 30 miles (as the crow flies) from the southeasternmost edge of what is known as the LNU Fires Complex, started 4 days ago and already at 220k+ acres.  []  and [;d:2020-08-19..2020-08-20;l:countries,street;@-121.8,38.3,10z .]  Links provided for reference and because if you just “googlemap” it, doesn’t show the actual fire AREA covered, just a flame icon inside the area.  Edited map attached below (showing locations/landmarks/distance) for clarity.

The whole state received (yesterday or the day before) a general “EVERYone should be ready to grab & go” from OES, because of how wide-spread all the (then 367 separate) fires are, rapidly changing-conditions and already-strained resources.  Sidenote/perspective:  a close friend of mine was a Paradise resident, she and her family very narrowly escaped with their lives but lost their home, pets, all but the clothes on their back.

We have had food/supplies well-stocked since early March (still do).  I know I’m “skipping” steps (in that I’m NOT generally, financially/legally etc prepared), but the potential to have to USE the preparedness as it relates specifically to fire, now, within the next (hours? week(s)?) has kicked me into high gear, taking steps last night/throughout TODAY to work on the OTHER, more “immediate” stuff [list/organization TO create BOB & car bag, etc., + home & self defense I delayed before on (window film & fortified door jams/sliding door & window locks to supplement alarm & dog, shotgun + pistol)]… and I apologize, because I know this is both HIGHLY specific and a little all over the place… but this forum seems like possibly the best resource to get (smart/rational/helpful) feedback.

There are not currently any Evac Orders OR Warnings, for us right here, right now.  It’s hot (been 100+ all week), 35% humidity, not too windy (3-4 mph currently), but possibly more lightening forecast for Sun-Tues.  I have subscribed to and have all the push notifications (email, text & phone from CalFire, CAOES, SacOES, SacPD, EGPD) set up so I can hear if warnings/order happen/are issued.

But I’m not relying on JUST the notifications/warnings/orders, I’m not “waiting” for that.  I’m checking (regularly, but not obsessively) to see if the fire moves significantly or quickly this way.  If we need to evacuate, all of Yolo County + at least City of Sacramento (so, potentially 700k+ residents…) will have needed to do so first/as well… and they’d be headed this way (and/or onto same routes I’d be).  Does it seem reasonable to have as a “go now” trigger, the following:

If fire continues to spread east, and gets as far as the “Deep Water Channel”, GO soon (as in, within the hour?); If it gets to/approaches the west banks of the Sacramento River, GO IMMEDIATELY; If it gets as far as I-5, it’s too late to get out mainly because of the mass exodus traffic that (potential evacuation would cause) and options limited to soak what I can outside and surface streets to whatever “localized” Evac Center.

So… what do the experienced preppers say?  Am I over-thinking it/should I wait until/if there is an official warning/order?  Are there vital things I’m not taking into consideration?  Am I not planning to GO soon enough?

THANK YOU for any input/direction/suggestion/feedback.

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Suburban and Rural Preppers, Your Thoughts on SHTF & City People?

I currently live in a modest sized city of ≈500K. One of my plans involves BO-ing beyond my metropolitan area (≈1M, total). I have some questions for the suburban and rural preppers here:

It goes without saying that I don’t expect any answers here to be definitive or even representative of subjective thoughts. I’m merely attempting to gain a baseline understanding of what might be encountered and how successful those encounters might be.

What are some thoughts/tips/advice you might have for preppers that are bugging out who simply want to pass through your town or village?

Knowing that an event just took place, how might you handle someone travelling by foot through your back property (perhaps at the far edge) who appears to just be passing through and is showing no signs of threat or interest?

If you and I met in your small community, what might be the best way to communicate to you that I have no interest in your, your supplies, or gear?

What might be the best way for me to maintain my ability to defend myself while not being threatening to you?

What is the best way, as a traveler passing through, to approach you and initiate a conversation about bartering?

Thanks in advance for all your input and advice. I look forward to it.

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Expiration Date for Water Stored in Hot Climate?

Is there a table or guide to indicate how long tap water can be stored in hot conditions?  I checked the CDC site for guidelines and read very good instructions for preparing/sterilizing a water container and the amount of bleach to add to tap water.  The instructions said to replace stored water every six months and to keep it in a dark area at a temperature between 50 and 70 degrees F.  That’s not realistic for people living in hot climates where the air conditioning would not be functioning in an emergency, nor is it realistic for those of us who would like to store water in the garage where summer temperature reach 100 degrees during the day and cool off to 80 for much of the night.

Is there a table or guide to show the storage limits based on temperatures at which the water is maintained?  

Also, how can you tell if the water is still good?  Those large blue 55-gallon water drums have a very small opening which would make it hard to see if mold or algae is growing inside the container.

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Prepping & Protesting

No matter where you lie on the political spectrum, you or someone you love, or care about, or know may consider attending a protest. Make sure that you (or that certain special someone) is prepared in every respect; know how to do so safely, what your rights are (and aren’t), and how to protect yourself.

Digital Self-Defense

EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), a California non-profit focused on digital privacy and free speech, has an excellent guide entitled Attending a Protest that may be of interest to many here -whether or not they may be actively engaging in protest.

The guide, which was been updated this past June, covers things to do before, during, and after attending a protest.  However, the guide also serves as a rudementary how-to for bolstering your individual digital security if you happen to be in an area of protest, regardless of participation.

Protesters’ Rights

The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) has a great guide called Know Your Rights, which is informative whether you are organizing, attending, documenting, or are stopped by the police.

Protest Safety

Amnesty International also has some great tips on How To Protest Safely, what to bring, what to wear, etc.

Alternate Comms

[Placeholder for walkie talkies, ham radios, mesh networks]

Be safe out there.

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Eco Gloves – Compostable disposable gloves

I’ve recently backed up this project on Kickstarter and I thought some of you might be interested.

This is their website

Labor Day promotion: 25% off with code LABORDAY until 9/9 11:59 p.m. (PDT) (I’m not affiliated with them – this is a normal promotion they sent via email newsletter).

Key features:

Both the gloves, and the individual packets and pouches, are all compostable!  Individual packets are about 3 x 3″ and very slim. They take less space than keeping loose latex gloves in a ziplog bag, and so they’d be perfect to keep in a purse or laptop bag, in your back pocket, in the car, to throw in a lunch bag, etc. The individually-packed gloves are one size, but they should fit comfortably a wider range of hand sizes. See the pic below of my husband’s (left) and mine (right) hand for comparison.

Also available in bulk boxes of 100 gloves, with different sizes available Shelf life 12 months. The price for the 100 glove bulk box seem to be en par, or slighly cheaper, than a box of 100 latex gloves (at least in my area). The price for the individually-packed gloves are more expensive than similar plastic disposable gloves.

I’ve only received them yesterday, but this what I think:

Compostable! Compostable everything!  A part from being compostable, the pouch the indvidual packets come in can be reused. It has a nice zip lock, and a wide bottom. I also imagine that the packets would be ok to be burned too, if you wanted or needed to. Love the slim packets. I have put some in my day bag/purse, in the car center console, and will keep a couple in my pants pockets all the time. The gloves seem to be of a very good quality. I tried to tear the seam down, but instead the glove stretched without ripping. See pic below:


12 months shelf life vs about 4 years for latex gloves. They are not a good substitute for medical latex gloves to keep in your medical kit (they are not snug enough around your fingers so if I needed to do some fine needleworking around a wound, they’d be in the way. For the same reason, they also seem to be less sensitive than latex gloves). For the reasons above + the limited shelf life I wouldn’t keep them in my BOB either.  Although the bulk box’s price seems to be ok, the individually wrapped gloves are more expensive than similar, but not recyclable, gloves.  Not all cities have street-level compost bins, or maybe your work place desn’t have them either, so if wanted to compost them after use, you’d need to take them back home with you. If that’s the case, I’d suggest you take your gloves off inside out first (if you don’t know what I mean, we’ve written a blog post about it:, and if you have the little packets with you put them back in them. Doing this correctly could be more challenging for kids or people with impaired mobility.

Overall, I am glad I’ve got them, even if I don’t use disposable gloves all that often. But my preperadeness mottos is: You can never be too prepared, and a variety of preps is an advantage!

I also loved to have backed an eco-friendly alternative to disposable gloves, and although they don’t seem like a suitable subtitute to latex gloves in a medical kit or BOB, they seem perfect for people who uses disposable gloves more often, or to throw some of them in a purse, laptop bag, back pocket, or even gifts, care packages, etc!

I hope this was helpful! Stay safe!

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What are the best women’s everyday winter boots?

I’m starting to prepare for the winter and something I really need is a pair of winter boots.

I’m not really looking for hiking boots, just an everyday boot. Something to keep city snow away, my feet warm, hopefully steadier on ice, but that I could also drive somewhat comfortably in them. Note that I live in Colorado so “city snow” can easily mean up to a couple of feet high, but also generally cleared away to few inches + ice. Basically, I’m not going to hike long distances in fresh snow up to my knee. 

These are the boots I was looking at:

Women’s Heavenly™ Omni-Heat™ Lace Up Boot

Bogs Arcata Knit Boot – Women’s (but I’m wondering if the sole is too thick to be driving in them)

Women’s L.L.Bean Boots, 10″ Shearling-Lined

Women’s Caribou® Boot

UGG ADIRONDACK III BOOT (these seem to be the warmest)

What do you folks think?

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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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