Sunday, December 28, 2008

Survival Tins & Survival Bags.

This article was originally posted on December 15th at Timbuk2 & Tippy Canoe. I thought Merriwether's readers would enjoy the reprint. This is most likely my last entry as I expect Merriwether to come back on Monday after what I believe was this weekend a camping trip with a friend. For those of you who sung my praises, I appreciate it very much. Hopefully I've done some justice and well at Into the Borderlands and hopefully we can do it again sometime soon.

-Izzy G of Timbuk2 & Tippy Canoe Adventure Blog.

"For quite some time now I have posted pictures or spoken about the importance of essential gear and survival gear being with you. I myself carry a Doug Ritter Pocket Survival Pak and an Altoids Tin First Aid Kit wherever I go. When I spend prolonged periods of time outdoors I have a larger First Aid Kit and Survival Kit, both you have seen in detail on this website.

But I've never spoken about contents in any depth or detail. Many people who read my blog ask me "What should I put into my survival kit?"

So in response to this outpouring of correspondence I am turning to Peter Darman's "The Survival Handbook."


"The Survival Tin.

The Survival Tin can be one of your most useful pieces of equipment. If you have the items listed below always at hand, your chances of survival, REGARDLESS OF THE TERRAIN YOU FIND YOURSELF IN, will be greatly enhanced. These items of equipment are not expensive or difficult to operate, and they can be fitted into an ordinary tobacco tin.

Get used to carrying the tin around with you at all times (it can easily fit into most jacket pockets), and regularly check it's contents for deterioration, especially the matches and tablets. Pack the contents with cotton balls or cotton wool - it stops annoying rattling and can be used for making fires.

Your survival tin should include the following items.
  • Matches, but only use when improvised fire-making methods fail.
  • Candle, a light source as well as first starting. Tallow based candle wax can be eaten in emergencies.
  • Flint, ensure you have a processed or machined flint with a saw-like striker. This combination can make hundreds of fires and will keep working long after matches have gone.
  • Sewing Kit, useful for repairing clothing and other materials.
  • Water Purification Tablets, useful when water supplies are suspect and you do not have the means to boil water.
  • Compass, a small button liquid filled compass is the best, but check regularly for leaks.
  • Signaling Mirror, useful for signaling rescuers.
  • Safety Pins, capable of making repairs to just about anything as well as the manufacture of improvised fishing lines.
  • Fish Hooks & Line, the fishing kit should include split lead weights and have as much line as possible. The line can also be used to catch birds in snares.
  • Wire Saw, these can cut even large trees and cut bone. Be sure to coat it in silicone spray or cooking oil to protect it from rust.
  • A Large Plastic Bag, can be used to carry water and also for use in a solar still or vegetation bag.
  • Potassium Permanganate, has many uses when added to water to treat fungal infections.
  • Snare Wire, brass is the best for longevity.
Survival Bag.

It is also useful to make up another, larger survival kit, one that will fit into a small-sized bag and which can be carried in your car or with you on trips. As with the survival tin, get used to always having it with you, and make sure you regularly check it's contents for any signs of deterioration.

The items you should carry in the bag are.
  • Sewing Kit.
  • Pliers with wire cutter.
  • Dental Floss (Many uses).
  • Folding Knife.
  • Ring/Wire Saw.
  • Folding Shovel.
  • Signal Cloth (At least 3x3" and in a bright color).
  • Fishing Hooks, flies, weights and line.
  • Three Large Safety Pins.
  • 150 feet of braided nylon line (Paracord I recommend-Izzy).
  • Gaff Hook, can be used for spearfishing.
  • Multi-Vitamins.
  • Protein Tablets (Can be replaced with specialized High Calorie/Protein enriched Bars-Izzy).
  • Large Chocolate Bar (Snickers bars are the best because of the protein in the peanuts and sugars-Izzy).
  • Dried Eggs.
  • Dried Milk.
  • File (Include a wood rasp and a metal file-Izzy).
  • Cutlery Set.
  • Three Space Blankets.
  • Compass.
  • Signal Mirror.
  • Four Candles (I suggest the 24-36 hour emergency candles-Izzy).
  • Micro-Lite Flashlight.
  • Extra Batteries.
  • Extra Bulb (Exclude this since LED technology does not burn out-Izzy).
  • Fire Starter (Flint & Saw Striker-Izzy).
  • Wind Proof & Water Proof Matches.
  • Butane Lighter.
  • 12 Snares pre-rigged from brass wire.
  • Tin Opener.
  • Plastic Cup.
  • Water Purification Tablets.
  • Sling Shot & Ammunition.
  • Knife Sharpener.
  • Whistle.
  • Soap & Other Toiletries.
  • Two Orange Smoke Signals And/Or Flares.
  • 225 feet of Nylon Twine.
  • One pair of Work Gloves.
  • Mess Tin.
  • Mouse Trap (A simple and affective way to catch small game)."
The above is the basics that many military units suggest people carry. It's only a beginning. Remember never to skimp on quality when it comes to products that very well might save your life or other's lives someday. That being said if you are too busy or just don't have the ability to assemble a kit there are many places to purchase kits from. Many of them are very basic, but some are quite good.

First let's take a look at Personal Survival Kits. These are centered around Tin's, Pouches and Bags. Let's start at the bottom of the food chain.



This is your very basic military-style tin. Often found in various incarnations in butter tins, tobacco tins and altoids tins. Let's take a look at a military pouch centered more comprehensive kit.



This particular kit type runs around $20. It mixes essential survival equipment with essential fist aid equipment. You see the same essentials featured in Tin Based kits, but with additions such as a flashlight, glowsticks and a variety of things to strengthen your odds. Lastly when it comes to personal survival kits let's take a look at the premiere "PSK."



This is of course the famous Doug Ritter Pocket Survival Pak. It retails for between $25 and $35. It is perhaps the best of it's class.

Now onto cost effective pre-made kits....

These pre-made kits (Now a days called Disaster Kits) range from twenty dollars all the way up to hundreds. Let's start with an example of a bottom of the barrel kit.



This is a very basic kit that retails for $19.95 and will keep you alive for three days somewhat comfortably. Now let's try a middle of the road kit.



This particular kit retails for $169.99. It's got better quality equipment and food products. Like the previous kit it will keep one person comfortably alive for 3 days. Let's take a look at a multi-person kit.



This kit retails for around $200. It is designed to aid two people for surviving for three days. As you can tell 72 hours (3 days) is a staple in many of these kits. The reason for this is because the Red Cross and F.E.M.A. often cannot get to disaster areas for upwards of three days. Likewise for rescuers looking for crashed planes or lost hikers. Three days is usually all it takes, but if assembled properly with additional items can prolong your survival from three days to two weeks if necessary. All of the above kits with the exception of the Doug Ritter Pocket Survival Pak are sold by MajorSurplusAndSurvival.com.

Now all of the kits I have listed above are budget friendly. They're largely a good starting point. Much like the Doug Ritter Pocket Survival Pak is a good start for a homebrew survival kit. But they're not professional level. To get an accurate representation of what a professional survival kit is I direct you to go here. There you will find an assortment of Doug (A professional) Ritter designed professional grade survival kits and what they contain.

Hopefully all of this information will help you decide what you or your family needs and where to begin."

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Playing Knifey Spoony in the time of Terrorism: What and when to carry a knife.

"That's not a knife. This is a knife."-Crocodile Dundee.

This will be a bit of a short post. I'm doing a million things at once. Dealing with sponsors and lost gifts in the mail....

In recent years it has become something of a taboo to carry a pocket knife. Increasing concerns over terrorism and the seemingly increasing rate of violent crimes has left many people in authority to pass or revise concealed weapons laws. Laws that now include having a simple pocket knife in your pocket in many places constitutes as having a concealed weapon. It's caused groups such as KnifeRights.org to pop up to contest these changes in rules. So the question is begged when is it appropriate to carry a knife and what situations dictate what types of knives?

It's sort of a difficult question to answer. Laws in each state and even counties are different. I've heard and read a variety of things for a variety of the lower 48 states. Most of them very hard to understand and was recently a topic of discussion in regards to "assisted deployment" folding knives and their legality in Ohio over at the Equipped to Survive Forums. Regardless of what I have read, I do carry a knife on me in some form or another at all times. The life I lead often dictates that a nice sharp object be wielded to cut a rope to free myself or just for safety.

But enough about legality. I'm not much of a rule or law follower anyway. Let's talk about what everyday situations dictate carrying a knife. By situations I mean out for an evening on the town, in the middle of the woods or simply at work. Once again these are three categories. I find three to be good number for these sorts of things. They work for me and usually work for everyone else.

First let's start with a casual evening out on the town. Most likely you're in somewhat formal attire or work casual clothing. Not much space for many things. Dress pants tend to be of a thiner material and not quiet friendly for those of us who stuff their pockets full of all manner of equipment. Nor are the belts for this sort of attire meant for something along the lines of a belt pouch. Often knife companys target this specific "situation" with a line of specific products. Gentlemen's Folders they are often referred to. Well built and ornate, petite folding knives. Columbia River Knife & Tool make several families of knives that work well in this situation. The answer to the question is one knife. Something functional, though. I suggest the CRK&T line of M16 knives. Lightweight and pocket clip equipped, but still remaining "tactical" and functional.

Second would be when you are in the greater outdoors. Naturally you have free reign out in the middle of nowhere more so than you would in public to carry whatever bladeware you wish. Personally I go with a three (There it is again!) knife approach. Being that I am outdoors I am assuming I will be doing a variety of things and possibly putting myself into a variety of dangerous situations. For those very reasons I go with a solid folding blade (Griptilian, in this case) kept clipped to the inside of my pocket. Clipping it on the outside runs the risk of losing it very easily. Secondly I wear a Leatherman Multi-Tool (New Wave or Blast) in a leather pouch on my belt fixed to a belt loop via a paracord lanyard. Finally I go with a fixed blade kept on a drop-thigh system or on my hip. I alternate between a 7" Becker Knife & Tool Combat Bowie or a non-descript Gerber Profile 4" knife. The fixed blade depends on the location. Having a large knife over 6" in length is often a multi-faceted tool that can take the role of an axe, shovel and hammer.

Third and lastly is at work. Much like when deciphering what situations you might find yourself in resulting in an injury to find out what best to keep in your "work first aid kit", you must think about your daily routine. Let's take Merriwether for example. His job might involve a fair amount of cutting plastic tubing, tightening wing nuts around beakers and other wonderfully mad scientist like laboratory accessories. So what kind of knife should he carry? In this case a decent Swiss Army Knife. Something along the lines of a Victorinox Super Tinker or a Victorinox Champion. Effective cutting blade with several tools that are very common in every day use.

Getting back to the legality of it all now that you have some good idea of what I mean about what and when to carry. Several times I've encountered Park Rangers or other Law Enforcement Officers. Many times they have noticed I am carrying a simple folding knife. They don't normally make a big stink. They tap me on the shoulder and ask me to make sure the clip is inside the pocket and that the knife is visible. Generally keeping it visible as well as keeping it on a belt pouch avoids a lot of trouble.

Adventure....Excitement....For God's sake don't cut yourselves too much.

-Izzy G of Timbuk2 & Tippy Canoe Adventure Blog.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Izzy G Holy Trinity of First Aid Kits.

“I was a million miles away chasing my Holy Trinity; ‘Superman, save me!’”-Superman.


First Aid Kits can be generally broken down into three groups that fit well within the spectrum of most survival trained and adventuresome types vocabulary. E.D.C, Hike and Vehicle. Anyone who has visited the Equipped to Survive Forums or the Hoodlums Forums knows well what I mean. Breaking it down into three groups has made it easier for me and has helped others more than once in my travels. Not to mention helped me butt a dozen times. The system I’ve developed is very simple.

The first step is very basic. We’ll use the average E.D.C. , otherwise known as Every Day Carry.

1. Think about your daily routine. Do you go to an office? Do you travel between buildings often?
2. Think about what sort of injuries are most likely to occur during your day to day routine.
3. Assemble a first aid kit in an apropriate size so that you may carry it constantly as well as comprising it of items that you will most like use defined by what injures are most likely to happen.

For example we’ll use your average middle management office worker. He probably goes between his cubicle and other cubicles and maybe a few buildings. He’s rather limited to what types of injuries he is most likely to endure as well as are his co-workers. A cut finger or a scraped knee are the top two injuries I would imagine this person would endure. So you would want to assemble a first aid kit that would be comprised of an assortment of band-aids. You will also want to pack an assortment of medications. Personal as well as general. Imodium, Benadryl...etc.

Over at my website I recently ran an exercise centered around how useful Altoids Tins are to build a general and broad spectrum E.D.C. first aid kit.

IMG_0070
IMG_0071
IMG_0072

Four large band-aids.
Four small band-aids.
Four mini band-aids.
Four puncture wound band-aids.
Four fingertip band-aids.
Four knuckle band-aids.
Four butterfly closures.
Two wound wipes.
Two antibiotic ointment packets.
Two Imodium AD.
Two Benadryl.

What started out as an exercise to show the utilitarian use of a simple Altoids Tin turned into my own personal E.D.C. first aid kit. As you can see it is very light and pocket friendly. That’s the point of all E.D.C. items. You want them to be light and easily placed on your person no matter the attire. The contents above are about as much as you can fit into an Altoids Tin. If you’re the adventuring type you’ll surely have plenty of pocket space. If not then you’re still good. If you do choose to use an Altoids Tin be sure to use duct tape or electrical tape to seal the container against moisture. The tape doubles as another medical item in a crunch.

This naturally brings us to the second portion of the three groups I work with. Hike.

Once more ask yourself the three questions again. The answers should be fairly obvious for anyone who has gone on a nature hike or spent a day or two outdoors. You’re more likely to get wounds with a large surface area. A scraped up palm as you catch yourself on a rough peice of bark to prevent from falling. The wounds are a little more dangerous than they would be in civilization simply because you do not have the ability to wash them well enough. This is just one injury type that is most likely to occur when you are on a day hike or spending a weekend camping.

In my case I am a die hard dayhiker and tend not to spend more than two days overnight in the woods. Sierra Club magazine says that the average hiker only has the chance to go on the weekends and thus spends at the most two days and one night camping. For this reason and my own I’ve decided to stay with my Adventure Medical Kits “Ultraight & Watertight 5.” Their website rates it as being perfect for being a one person, 1-3 day kit. With added medications as well as gauze bandages you’re good for upwards of four days. Everything fits nicely into an Alosak brand waterproof envelope.

IMG_0103

The contents, including my additions include...

Four Band-Aids.
Two Knuckle/Finger Tip Band-Aids.
Six Butterfly Enclosures.
Eight Small Band-Aids.
2 2x2” Gauze Sponges.
2 3x3” Gauze Sponges.
1 3x4” Gauze Non-Adherent Pad.
3 Assorted Rolls of Gauze (Two short, one long.)
1 Moleskin.
2 After Bite Pads.
3 Wound Wipes.
2 Burn Cooling Gel Packets.
1 Cortaid Anti-Itch Packet.
2 Lip Ointment Packets (Basically vaseline. Good for waterproofing many wounds).
5 Hydrocortisone Packets (Anti-Itch, but also anti-inflamatory for other wounds).
5 Antibiotic Cream Packets.
2 Safety Pins.
1 Tweezers.
2 Motrin Tablets (Any OTC pain reliever will work. Aspirin should not be used).
2. Diphenhydramine Tablets (Benadryl. Good for allergic reactions as well as a sleeping aid.)
2 Imodium A.D.
1 Roll Bandage Tape.
1 Betadine Swab Vial.
1 Pair Nitrile Gloves.
1 Large & Strong Rubberband.
1 Bandanna.

Adventure Medical Kits makes two larger and one smaller version of this kit. It’s one of their more afforable and comprehensive kits. I recommend them and many outdoorsmen and adventurers have trusted A.M.K. for years.

The last category is vehicle. I don’t think I have to go into detail nor do you need to think much about what can occur in a vehicular accident. Chances are we will all be in at least two major vehicle accidents in one way or another during our driving career no matter how “defensive” we drive. Like the incident with the boy scouts I was witness to a very horrifying and nasty car crash many years ago. For that very reason I carry in my trunk and often in the vehicle’s cabin itself a very large first aid kit. It pretty much covers every base and will keep yourself or someone else alive for those four to seven minutes it takes for first responders to get to the scene.

IMG_0081

The contents are as follows...

1x First Aid Guide.
2x Set of Nitrile Gloves.
1x Green 24 Hour Lightstick.
1x Thermal Blanket.
1x Large Instant Cold Pack.
1x Roll of Waterproof Medical Tape (1/2” x 5 yards).
1x Stethoscope.
30x Antiseptic Wipes.
50x Alcohol Wipes.
30x Cotton Swabs.
3x Rolls Assorted Cloth Tape Rolls.
3x Lancets.
3x Splinter Removers.
1x Pea Whistle.
30x Butterfly Closures.
18x Puncture Wounds Band-Aids.
30x Small Band-Aids.
30x Mini Band-Aids.
30x Band-Aids.
12x Sterile Closure Strips.
10x Knuckle Band-Aids.
10x Fingertip Band-Aids.
4x Eye Pads.
2x Jumbo Square Band-Aids.
2x Jumbo Band-Aids.
15x 2x3” Telfa Pads.
10x 2x2” Telfa Pads.
7x Assorted Rolls of Gauze.
1x Triangle Bandage/Sling.
13x 4x4” Pads.
2x 5x9” ABD Pads.
5x 3x3” Pads.
28x 2x2” Pads.
12x Non-Stick 5x3” Pads.
11x Aspirin Packets (22 Pills. Only included for those who might suffer a heart attack).
10x Advil Packets (20 Pills).
11x Tylenol Packets (22 Pills).
3x Antacid Packets (9 Tablets).
6x Imodium AD.
6x Benadryl.
1x Poison Ivy Wipe.
7x Insect Repellent Cream Packets.
2x Sunscreen Lotion Packets.
7x Burn Cream Packets.
1x Tube Antibiotic Cream.
1x Tube Hydrocortisone.
1x Bottle Hand Sanitizer.
1x Bottle Insect Repellent Spray (Picardin, not DEET).
1x 20mL Bottle Eyewash.
15x Sting Relief Wipes.
35x Snap Antiseptic Swabs.
1x EMT Shears.
6x Assorted Safety Pins.
2x Burn Jel Dressings.
1x 2oz Bottle of Burn Jel.
8x Popsicle Sticks.
2x 27” Suture Kits.

As you can no doubt tell it’s a very near professional level kit. It’s stored well in a Plano brand tackle box. More could still be added to it. For those who are trained in CPR I recommend a CPR shield or even a respiratory bag. The design of a first aid kit this size is based not only around the most likely injuries one will endure, but also be capable of sustaining more than four people and if necessary for a somewhat long duration of time. Combined with a proper vehicle survival kit, this kit is a good compliment.

In closing I have a few thoughts. This is how I do things. It may not be how you want or do things. I come from a place where when something bad happens I like to be able to help. I’m a leader and not a follower and I have great faith in my abilities. Someone once said to the effect “those who did little because they thought they could do so little” often comes to mind in situations like this. We’re all going to the same place, so lets go there together and help each other out is one of my personal mottos.

Adventure....Excitement....Filling big shoes!

Friday, December 19, 2008

I'm a man of simple tastes, but refined insanity.

"I'm a man of simple tastes. I like dynamite, gunpowder and gasoline."-The Joker.

Hi, Everybody. I'm Izzy G and I like to have adventures. It's been nearly 48 hours since my last adventure and I'm already craving more. But both poetic justice and tragic irony demand that I be here with you nice folks for sometime while I compose this article. How should I begin? Maybe like Charles Dickens? "I was born...I grew up..." No? Me either. Too much like a rant and I'm too prone to rants.

I'll go with the basics. I'll be 23 years old at the end of this month and for the first time in about ten years I am enjoying my life. I will spare the details, but after a near decade long illness I am on the mend and at the top of the proverbial mountain of life, standing at the edge looking down getting ready to jump. Parachute or no parachute, deal with what happens and enjoy myself along the way. Interestingly enough I live in the Parachute Capitol of the Lower 48.


 I call the Sunshine State of Florida my home and love it here. Growing up in Florida is a real pleasure for anyone who loves the outdoors. We have pristine beaches, tons of rivers and lakes as well as tropical to pine forest ecosystems to find adventure in. And to find giant prehistoric creatures in. New Smyrna Beach, where I spent all my summers, is the shark attack capitol of the World and Florida is home to the most alligator attacks yearly.

Since I was knee high to an Altoid Tin I've been in search of great adventure in Florida. Some of you will get the Altoids Tin reference. I hope...

Like most young men and women my age I was raised with the internet as a daily part of my life for the past 12-14 years. I was born to a family of intellectuals and since the early eighties we have had computers. In this case Macintosh/Apple Computers. We like to "Think Different" as Apple slogan goes. So it was only natural that by the hand of fate I would find my way to blogging. I've always been a story teller and a thinker. Often writing short stories as a younger man. It was natural that my love of writing, journalism and adventures would find it's way onto the internet.

Starting in Feb. of this year I started Timbuk2 & Tippy Canoe after a series of failed and rarely attended to blogs. It was largely inspired by this blog as well as a handful of others. It's evolved from a simple place to post about my adventures and enjoyment of bushcraft and survival skills to a full fledged adventure blog. I have reviews, how-to's and insight as well as a few articles of a more journalistic nature and more recently videos. It's really a multi-faceted blog in the same vein of Merriwethers.

I've known Merriwether for about three years now through the Equipped to Survive Foundations wonderful forums. Through his blog and talking to him I've learned a lot about him. The more I learn about him the more I find he and I are a lot a like. He's a good father to two daughters. I pity the poor gentlemen callers who come to pick them up for dates in the years to come. About a week ago he contacted me and asked me to fill in for him while he was on vacation this Christmas season. I'm never one to back down from a challenge.

I've got a handful of pieces of wisdom I'll be writing about. First Aid Kits for three different scenarios. How to prepare for a Hurricane. And lastly when it comes to bladeware what is best to carry in public and best outdoors. I'm sure I'll come up with a few more ideas in the mean time.

And in keeping with Merriwether's outgoing message and thinking of the famous Stan Lee I say...

Adventure, Excitement.....and.....well, I've got nothin' original to say.

-Izzy G.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

You'll get by with a little help from my friends.

Good news! My friend and fellow adventurer Izzy G. has agreed to keep you entertained while I'm on vacation! His blog, Timbuck2 & Tippy Canoe is THE place to get first hand reviews on outdoors equipment, fishing advice, and other useful tips for those living lives of adventure. He knows knives, he knows hurricanes, he knows fishing lures, and best of all he knows first aid kits!

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Izzy G, man of the wild.

The line "If you have questions he has answers!" was written with Izzy in mind. I have no idea what he'll post about here in The Borderlands, but I know it'll be good.

Izzy, you have the wheel.

-Merriwether

Adventure! Excitement! Izzy!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Man versus Machine

These go to eleven.
-Nigel Tufnel

Sunday mornings I make the girls pancakes while Misseswether sleeps in before church. The girls love my pancakes because I load them up with chocolate chips...which now that I think about it could be the reason they are hyped up like crazed squirrels during mass. Hmmm, maybe I need to rethink this...

Anyway, I mix the pancakes up with a whisk in an old steel bowl. Misseswether always chides me about this because it seems like too much work. When she makes pancakes she uses her KitchnAid Stand Mixer to make the batter. This thing kind of intimidates me because a) it has enough horsepower to drive a large boat upstream against a heavy current (assuming you have a long extension cord or maybe a generator to keep it powered) and b) if I somehow broke this mixer Misseswether would feed my crushed and oozing remains to the crows. She really likes her mixer yet she keeps trying to get me to use it.

So after once again being teased by my wife for not using the mixer to make the pancakes I decided I should give this gleaming beast of chrome and white enamel a try. This afternoon I was making refried beans from scratch. Mmm, I love the way the house smells as I cook them up, the onion, the garlic, the beans and the bit of bacon grease... It's perfect for a cool, Texas winter day.

When it came time to smush the beans I was reaching for the masher when I saw Misseswether's mixer standing there. It always reminded me of some evil troll squating on the kitchen counter, all hump-backed and toothy. I decided then and there that I would master this beast and tame it to my needs. I loaded up it's bowl with the beans/onion/garlic mixture, snapped the mixing paddle into place and clicked it on to it's lowest setting.

Whiiirrr The paddled just pushed the beans around without mashing them. That wasn't any good. After few moments I clicked the speed up two more notches. A few beans were getting a bit squished now, but most continued to just roll out of the paddle's path.

Click-click*WHIIRRRR

Bumping the speed up some more helped a bit. Now seven or eight beans were smushed by the paddle. Obviously the answer was more speed.

Click-click-click-click-click-click-I'M BLIND!

So, turns out taking the mixer up to full power was NOT a good idea. Mushed pinto beans suddenly covered everything within a four foot radius of the mixer. My glasses were coated, turning my vision into a brown (though wonderfully-smelling) blur. The walls, the cabinets, the floor...everything was decked out in a layer of suprisingly difficult to clean up bean goo.

Luckily Mambowether is still young enough to be excited about helping when I ask her to lick food off the walls. I don't know what I'll do when she can no longer be tricked into cleaning up my messes. Oh well, I figure I have another year to eighteen months before she catches on, assuming Miniwether keeps her mouth shut and doesn't spill the...uh, beans (sorry about that) to clue her little sister in on my parental manipulations.



Unrelated, I'm going to take my yearly holiday break from blogging now. Poppawether and Mommawether just arrived from Minnesota and I have a bunch of vacation days I need to use or lose. So I'm going to put in some major amounts of family time over the next few weeks. There will be occasional mini-posts of stuff between now and Jan. 11th. I have a few big adventures planned so I'll have plenty to write about (says the guy who just turned thirty seconds with a stand mixer into nine paragraphs) upon my return.

For now I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a wonderfully happy New Year. I wish I could I've give y'all candy canes. Alas, you just have to settle for knowing I really treasure each and every one of you. The great feedback I get from you keeps me blogging. I can't believe my ramblings have touched so many people. Yet every week I get e-mails from strangers who tell me how my blog inspired them to explore the little creek behind their house and even though they ended up lost and unexpectedly spending a night in the woods they had a GREAT time. This brings me a lot of joy...no, not that I caused people to get lost in the woods but that I made people realize there are moments of adventure all around them. It's an exciting world, friends. Go out and explore it!

Adventure! Excitement! High-velocity bean goo!

-Merriwether

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Snowed!

About 3pm I'm walking from the machine shop at work back to my lab...in the snow! Big, puffy flakes are being whipped by the wind. Sadly, I didn't have a camera with me at the time. It had stopped snowing by 5pm and had begun sleeting. When I got home there was snow on all the plants so I was able to take some pictures.

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Tropics meets arctic #1.

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Tropics meets arctic #2.

I hope this keeps up, it'd make for a GREAT winter!

Adventure! Excitement! Cars careening out of control!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Getting Canned

I've been feeling guilty lately about my blog posts, they haven't been living up to the original premise of this blog, mainly going where most people don't. It seems somewhere along the line fatherhood had over-ridden adventuring and my blog went from me being chased by bulls to me cleaning up poop. Lots of poop.

Well, fear not dear reader(s?) for I have a new tale of adventure that covers all sorts of pre-poop issues. It involves food, it involves unknown areas, it involves financial planning, and it involves hairnets!

Okay true, I've never blogged about wearing a hairnet before. I was just checking to see if you were paying attention. Now, without further digression I present Getting Canned:

It was a cold night last Tuesday as I pulled in the parking lot of the low, dark warehouse. Most of the leaves are now gone and moonlight sintered through the bare branches. A few other trucks were scattered through the parking lot, but they sat empty. I slid out of Red Rider's warm cab and hopped up onto the edge of it's bed. By flashlight I reviewed a many-folded piece of paper covered in finely-typed lists. I was here in the dark trying to predict what the future may be bringing and to make choices based on what will happen in that undiscovered country.

You may not realize this, but things have been bad this last year in America's bread basket. It was a wet summer and corn crops have too much surface moisture to store without rotting. Normally in a situation like this the corn would be dried with giant propane heaters. Unfortunately, there isn't enough propane available this fall to dry everything. Farmers tried delaying the harvest so that the corn would dry in the fields, but winter hit hard and very early. A lot of the corn is stuck in the fields. This also means that planting soybeans will be delayed in the spring.

This is a big problem, but not the biggest. That would probably be the skyrocketing of fertilizer's price over the summer. Making fertilizer is a very energy-intensive process and when oil was over $140 per barrel the cost of making fertilizer made purchasing the finished product too expensive for most farmers. They cut way, way back resulting in grains much lower in protein and carbohydrates than normal. The cost of fertilizer has dropped in the last few months but the amounts needed to completely replenish the drained soil is far more than can be delivered in time for spring planting. Next year's grain will not be as productive as past years.

While actual food shortages are unlikely, the cost of the food will go up. How much they go up is anyone's guess. Being the thrifty type I decided it would be prudent to purchased bulk quantities of certain things now. Misseswether is an excellent cook who makes most stuff from scratch. Yes, her Monday night pizza start out as flour, yeast, water and time. We normally buy in bulk from Sam's Club, but to hedge against the increasingly severe inflation of food costs we decided it was time to take action.

So I went with a LDS friend to their Houston cannery and packaged up a bunch of food!

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Fun and hairnets, talk about a great evening!

In case you aren't familiar with the Mormon religion, one tenant is that they should not need the assistance of others. They are expected to keep a supply of food to get them through potential hard times, such as losing their job. They should have as much food as financially prudent on hand, ideally as much as one year's worth. Towards this end they have set up a number of canneries everywhere so as to minimize the cost of laying up these supplies for their flock. The neat thing is ANYONE (ie, non-members) can go there and use there services once. Now, if I'm stating this wrong I hope one of my LDS readers will correct me. I don't want to give false information.

I found out about this through the father of one of Miniwether's playmates. It turns out he is in charge of his wards emergency preparations, so he and I bonded instantly. When he mentioned a cannery was close by and I could go there with him some evening I jumped at the chance.

The process was simple. The cannery runs two 3-4 hour shifts Mon-Friday, one starting at 9am and the second starts at 7pm. When we arrived for the shift I handed the lady in charge the order form from here. Ten to twelve other people were also there. The total amount of food-stuffs of everyone's orders were added up then the bulk packages were brought over from the warehouse.

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Empty cans soon to be filled.

We split into teams to fill, label, and seal the cans. As they are sealed others sorted them into boxes according to each person's order form. Once a bulk bag has been opened its entire contents needed to be canned. This resulted in some overstock of stuff. Once all the shift's orders were filled we could pick extras from this overstock to add to your order. One does have to pay regular price for the left-over cans, but the prices are so low it's hard not to throw in a few extras (I grabbed three extra 4.8 lbs cans of flour for $2.90 each).

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The red are dehydrated refined beans, the white are oatmeal. The dehydrated refried beans are awesome!

The prices one the bulk foodstuffs was cheaper than anywhere else, including places like Sam's Club, though co-ops might be cheaper. However, the cost included sealing the stuff in cans which are a lot more durable than normal product containers. I ended up dropping $178 and left with 45 #10 cans of stuff like flour, grain, dried onion, macaroni, sugar, evaporated milk, pinto beans, and other stuff we use on a daily basis. Of course, most of these things have a 10-30 year storage life, so we aren't in a rush to crack them open and start chowing down (except for maybe the dehydrated refried bean!). I had the smallest order of the dozen people and even still it took us less than three hours to seal everything and clean up afterwards. Sidenote: they are not a store, you do have to actually help can the orders.

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My order, tucked away.

As I mentioned before, you don't have to be a member of the Mormon faith to use this service, but non-members are only allowed one visit. This came about after the Y2K scare due to a large number of people canning stuff and then selling it at a very high profit. This causes taxation headaches for the church and spoiled open access to the canneries for us honest folk.

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Every cannery has a particular item that they specialize in and send out to LDS foodbanks world-wide. The Houston cannery specializes in peanut butter. The machine pictured above does nothing but make and can peanut butter. It smells great in this room!

You don't even need to go with a church-member. You can just call up the nearest cannery and set up a time for you to go work a shift. Sidenote: the day shifts are usually all women and they really appreciate having a guy show up to do the heavy lifting! Also if you are worried about them trying to convert you, don't be! Everyone was having too much fun to worry about such things. I really enjoyed the whole experience, I got to go someplace most people don't (though they could) plus it'll save me money. It was definitely a win-win adventure.

Yeah, that's more like it.

Adventure! Excitement! Most excellent dehydrated refried beans!

-Merriwether