30 May

One Step at a Time: Gander Mountain’s Contribution to My 72 Hours

shoes-69682_1280Monday was Memorial Day and I was lucky to the have the day off of work. As is typical on the widely acknowledged first day of summer we did some yard work, attended a cook-out with some of our good friends, and enjoyed being together as a family.

My wife and I did our best to teach our sons about Memorial Day and how it is a holiday that is much more than just fun. It is an additional opportunity to honor the brave men and women who have fought and died to make and protect this great nation.

Because the oldest is only six  (and the other three are four, two, and nine months) we are not sure how much of what we taught them actually sunk in but we tried. And we will keep trying every year. We feel it is extremely important to remember those that went before us and gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we can enjoy the liberties we do today.

In addition to the normal Memorial Day traditions and goings on we took a trip to a really cool store. I had not been there before but had wanted to go for some time: Gander Mountain.

Cute little hat! We almost bought it for him.

Cute little hat! We almost bought it for him.

The kids and I loved it! And my wife did a good job enjoying us enjoy it. So many awesome manly things. The boys wanted to buy everything. Tents, sleeping bags, kayaks, guns, knives, you name it. It was pretty cool.

Our visit to Gander Mountain wasn’t just for fun though. We went with a purpose. We needed to buy a few things for our mini-72 hour kits (one for the car and one for my office).

We weren’t able to pick up everything we needed (for example, we ran over to Sam’s Club to buy some granola bars and candy bars) but we picked up quite a bit. We purchased compasses, tarps, some ponchos, a couple of neat emergency blankets, and a flashlight.

We are planning on going to Walmart to pick up the last few things we need for the two kits. We’ll get a couple of cheap backpacks, water purification tablets, a couple of whistles, and a few other little odds and ends to complete our kits. We plan to do that this coming week (I’ve been out of town at a conference for my work this week so the kits were put on hold).

I’m excited because when these kits are done we’ll get to move on to the next thing and we will be one step closer to being prepared.

Speaking of being prepared, since our trip to Gander Mountain my boys keep asking when we are going to get some kayaks. I’ll have to figure out which preparedness step kayaks fit into…

24 May

72 Hour Kits for Your Car and Work

family in the mountains by car

Last post I shared how my family ended up with our 72 hour kit and a list of what is in it. If you missed that post check it out.

When my wife and I finished putting together our family’s 72 hour kit I asked her where we would keep it. She decided that the best place would be our son’s closet and I did not object. It is probably the best place in our home. So that is where it went.

A few weeks ago I heard about someone who was driving this last winter and whose car broke down. This last winter was unusually cold, so cold that a few times they cancelled the public schools here because the heating systems could not keep the buildings warm.

I imagined what I would do if my car broke down, especially during bad weather in the middle of nowhere. I realized that my 72 hour kit safely tucked away in the boys’ closet would not do my family any good in that situation. And what if for some reason I were stranded at work and could not get home? What then?

To solve the car concern we put together a “lite” version of our 72 hour kit that contained the essentials but not nearly as many of the amenities that our full 72 hour kit has. The “lite” 72 hour kit we keep in the car (we only have one so we keep it there but if we had two or more cars we would have one in each car).

To put it together we started with our full 72 hour kit contents list and took off the things that we thought we could get along without if pressed and stranded in our car. Things like markers, crayons, coloring books, and games came off. Matches and blankets stayed on though.

Because I work about three minutes walking from our home we do not feel like it is really necessary to have a 72 hour kit there for me, however, I am also responsible for the well-being of my team at work and so my wife and I put together a little kit that I keep at the office anyway just in case one of them need it.

Like with the car kit we pared down our full kit to include only the things that I would need if I were stranded at my office. Pens, paper, garbage bags, and a first aid kit were dropped because those are available in abundance at the office. Blankets, food, and some personal hygiene items made the cut.

If you would like to see what is in our “lite” 72 hour kits you can view the list for our car kit here or for our office kit here. I welcome any questions you have so please send them to me. If you have advice and suggestions please leave a comment so that everyone can benefit from your wisdom and not just me.

By the way, all of the things in all three versions of our 72 hour kits can be purchased at Amazon.com. If you found this or other information on this site helpful please consider purchasing through this link. If you do, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. And you will receive my gratitude.

20 May

How many hours? 72, of course

Last March we went and visited my parents. Even though they live in San Antonio, Texas we chose to drive there. It is simply too expensive to fly our entire family these days (there are six of us). We had a lovely visit with them and really enjoyed getting to know San Antonio better. It is a truly beautiful city with a rich history (the Alamo is neat but the Missions of San Antonio are way better).

As we were packing up our minivan for the trip home my dad asked me to bring back the Christmas present he had put together for us and for my sister and her husband (they live near our home). When he brought out two large, black duffel bags I remembered what our Christmas presents were (and had to completely rethink my packing strategy): 72 hour kits.

I am sorry to say that it took me forever to open up the 72 hour kit that he gave us and go through it but when I did I was pleasantly surprised at the great job that he did. The kit had almost everything.

It had a basic first aid kit.

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And some miscellaneous survival gear like a whistle, rope, matches, and bug repellent.
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Toilet paper is always handy not only for when nature calls but you can use it to start fires too. Duct tape, a poncho, hand warmers, and solar blankets were some other great things to have that I would not have thought of.
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Baby wipes are a necessity for my family because we have two children in diapers. Also, they are great for cleaning and would help us keep the little ones from getting too dirty. More solar blankets, some glow sticks (which would not only give us light but keep the kids entertained!), and a couple more whistles. Why more than one whistle? There are six people in my family and each group should have one (myself and the kids I am with, my wife and the kids she’s with, and our older sons) in case we get split up or need to split up.2014-05-08 21.42.21

The gloves made sense to me to protect my hands. The tarp too because we could use it as shelter. The duffle bag was a stretch but after some thought I can see why it would be helpful to be able to split the kit up and make it easier to carry. The safety vest, however, I’m still not sure about. Maybe because it is bright and would be easy for rescuers to see?
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Meals-ready-to-eat (MRE’s) are good too. There weren’t enough for the whole family to have each have three square meals but there was enough to get us through a 72 hour ordeal. We may add some later but for now it would tide us over.2014-05-08 21.45.44

There is more in the kit but these are pictures of some of the highlights. I have put together a list of everything (Google Doc) that we have in our main 72 hour kit. It is specific to our family but gives you a starting point. Download a copy and delete the things that you do not need and add things that you do. Because our family is not on any medications at present you will notice that there are not any listed. You may need to add them in your case.

I have to say thank you to my Dad (and Mom) for giving us this great gift. If you are looking for a gift to give someone you love consider giving them a good 72 hour kit. It is a gift that may save their life.

By the way, all of the things in the 72 hour kit that my parents gave us can be purchased at Amazon.com. If you found this or other information on this site helpful please consider purchasing through this link. If you do, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. And you will receive my gratitude.

14 May

Preparedness Step 2: Survive Today

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My family has a family communication plan. Preparedness step 1: locate your loved ones…CHECK!

So we’ve found each other. Great. And it really is great. But now what? Now we need to start surviving. How long do we need to survive? Well, at least today. And probably tomorrow. And, well, preferably every day after tomorrow too. But preparedness step two, survive today, will get us through today so that is the one we will focus on next. Once today is taken care of we can worry about tomorrow.

In the next series of posts I will discuss the basic elements required to survive today. We will talk about 72 hour kits, meeting short term food and water needs, shelter, and equipment and tools that are like gold in a natural disaster/weather type emergency.

I will have a couple of videos for you, a planning tool/checklist, several other resources where you can go into additional detail and learn more, and my personal examples of what I have done and am doing to prepare to survive today.

Today, however, we will start the discussion with water.

We should have on hand at least a gallon of water a day for drinking and hygiene, according to FEMA. We also, however, should make sure that this is a sufficient amount for our situation. In especially hot and humid climates, like Arizona or Florida, you may need to plan on more than a gallon of water a day. But for most people most of the time a gallon a day per person is a good rule of thumb.

If you suffered an emergency right now (well, as soon as you finish reading this), what would you do for water? Let’s say that you immediately hop in the car and head to the store, assuming it is open, and buy a couple of cases of bottled water because everyone else had the same idea and that is all that is left. Now you have about six gallons of water. There are four people living in your home so you have a day and a half of water.

Next, you get all of the water in your house together that you can. Melt the ice cubes in your freezer (I bet you didn’t think of that!). Drain the water from the pipes in your home. To do this, shut off the main water line into your home (in disaster situations often the public water system becomes contaminated and by shutting off the water to your home you prevent the contamination from entering, which is why one day I hope to own a home with its own well).

Then open the faucet that is the highest in your home. Go to the lowest and turn it on and all of the water in the pipes will flow out. Make sure you have a couple of buckets or some container to hold the water. The last thing you want is for the good water in your pipes to be lost to the sewer.

Another place to look is the water heater. Water heaters typically hold anywhere from 40 to 60 gallons. That will take care of your drinking needs for quite a while.

There you go, even if you were not prepared you can now survive today and a couple more days…at least as far as water is concerned.

Ideally, however, you would not need to run to the store as soon as the power went out and fight for the last case of water. Go and buy a couple of cases of water now.  Three or four will last most families a few days.

You can also store water in your own bottles ahead of time. If you would like to do this, Ready.gov provides some guidelines for storing water. I also found valuable this review on Ready.gov’s guidelines. I think you will too.

09 May

The First Thing You Need to Know About Your First Garden

rear tine rototillerI will be frank. Your garden will probably fail…at least to meet your expectations. The first year anyway.

The first year I had a garden I expected a humble crop: a few dozen cucumbers, a few ears of corn, a couple of watermelons, a few bowls of string peas, and two or three dozen good sized carrots.

What did I get? A few ears of corn that ended up being unpalatable because I waited too long to pick them. About a hundred carrots, none of which were longer than one inch or had a greater than a 1/4 inch circumference. Three cucumbers. Zero watermelons (the plants did not even grow). And maybe twenty string peas.

I was pretty disappointed, especially after all of the effort I put into rototilling the ground, planting the seeds, carefully watering and weeding, chasing away the deer and rabbits, and fighting to keep my kids from running through it.

But I’m not one to give up too easily. I promise, each year will get better until you become a food growing master (I still can’t get my strawberries to grow though).

Let me share with you the first thing that I learned that first year. Make sure to till the ground. The ground is naturally just too hard for food bearing plants to thrive in so you need to break it up and make it soft. With soft soil plants will not spoil. That was a bad rhyme, sorry.

I tried to do it by hand that first year. I grabbed a spade shovel and a hoe and went to town. In about twenty minutes I was exhausted and had completed the first pass over a square foot of my garden area. I would have to do it four or five more times to begin to get the soil soft enough and broken up enough to give my plants a fighting chance.

So I rented a rototiller. I figured the ground was not very hard so I would rent the cheapest rototiller the rental place had. When I went to pick it up the guy working there asked me if I knew how to use the tiller. I confessed that I did not and requested a demonstration. Next he began to pepper me with questions about my garden plot. I distinctly remember him asking if it had been tilled before because of his reaction when I told him that it had not.

He looked me in the eye and said “You’re renting the wrong tiller. You’re going to kill yourself if you try to use this one. Here, this is the one that you need.” It was a MONSTER!

This other tiller had it’s own trailer it was so big. My garden spot was only like twelve feet by fifteen feet, there was no way I needed a tiller THAT big!

After a lengthy discussion he finally convinced me, I paid twice what I had originally planned to, and hauled it home for the weekend.

I never did thank that man in the rental store that day but I should. He saved my back and my weekend. When I turned the beast on (that’s what I call the big tillers; their official name is “rear tine tillers”) it dug into the dirt like there was no tomorrow. Dirt went flying. After six or seven passes, a little less than an hour, the dirt was looking like it does in the movies: black and rich. The perfect place for my little plants.

So, this is my advice to you. Rent a rear tine tiller the first time you plant a garden to prepare the soil. Typically you can rent them for less than $100 a day and it will make quick work (at least quicker than a shovel and hoe) of preparing the ground. After that first year you can rent the smaller front tine tillers and they’ll do fine. But that first year, that first time, go with the beast. I promise, you will be glad you did.

05 May

My Three Biggest Challenges with Storing Food: You’ll Relate to #3

corn-60106_1920For years my wife and I have been planning to acquire some food storage. We have a 72 hour kit and probably enough food in the house for a week, maybe a little bit longer, but any longer and we would be eating the dandelions in the front yard. And I am not a big fan of dandelion salads.

When we were first married we obtained a list from a friend that was supposed to be a guide map to putting together our food storage. We are shooting for a year’s supply of food and this little plan told us exactly how to do that. The coolest thing to us, being newlyweds and poor, was that it could be done on $5 a week.

After a few weeks we had several pounds of honey, about thirty cans of tomato soup, twenty pounds of sugar, and a bunch of uncooked pasta. There were a few other little things too but this was the bulk of it.

We paused one evening as we surveyed our budding supply of food and I asked Cami, “do you like tomato soup?” “Nope. Do you?” “No, I don’t” I said.

Then we started laughing. Here we had a couple dozen cans of tomato soup and neither of us even liked it. We reviewed the list and saw that in the coming week we were to purchase 50 pounds of wheat. Wheat? What do you do with wheat? Where do you even buy it? We couldn’t recall ever seeing it as Walmart.

It was then that we stopped putting together our food storage. Of all things we were foiled by wheat.

Shortly thereafter I realized that I had three problems with the way everyone else seemed to be telling me how to put together a long term supply of food.

  1. Money. I don’t want to spend a gazillion dollars on food I may never eat.
  2. Too complex It shouldn’t be so complicated. I don’t know what kinds of wheat are out there, where to buy good wheat, or what to do with it.
  3. Can I eat it. Again, what do I do with wheat? Or why buy tomato soup? How do I make food with ingredients I don’t normally use and what do I make?

Putting together a long term supply of food is pretty simple. Just buy a bunch of Twinkies, they last forever. But the problem that I keep running into is what to do with it. The lists that I get from friends and find online are designed for other people and other families, not for mine. And I don’t have the time to spend on figuring out what foods to store and which foods we eat and how to cook things we’ll eat with the food we store. It’s too complicated.

This is why I recommend that you start small. First, prepare to survive today. Put together your 72 hour kit and several additional days of food and water. It can be almost anything really. Any food is better than no food. However, high energy foods are especially good in an emergency because we often are required to burn a lot of energy to stay alive.

After you have your week’s supply put together start working on a month. Look at the menus you have put together for your family for the last few weeks and their accompanying shopping lists. Identify which foods you eat regularly (in the Cooper family it is spaghetti) and buy enough to make that meal six or eight times. You know everyone will eat it and usually those are the simple and cheap meals as well.

With three or four of those meals picked out go to the store and buy what you need to make each meal seven or eight times. Bring that food home then use it when you would have made the meal anyway. When you use something put it on the list to purchase more. This is a natural way to rotate your stored food.

Putting together a short term food supply is literally that easy. For a few dollars and the time it takes to go on one shopping trip you have a month’s supply of food and a built in rotation system. Not too shabby.

Building a longer term supply does get a little bit more complicated but let’s not worry about that until your one month supply is put together.

As always, please ask me your questions by leaving a comment, finding me on Facebook, or sending me a tweet. I want to help.