The Editors’ Preps for the Week

To be prepared for a crisis, every Prepper must establish goals and make long-term and short-term plans. Steadily, we work on meeting our prepping goals. In this column, the SurvivalBlog editors review their week’s prep activities. They also often share their planned prep activities for the coming week. These range from healthcare and gear purchases to gardening, property improvements, and food storage. This is something akin to our Retreat Owner Profiles, but written incrementally and in detail, throughout the year. We always welcome you to share your own successes and wisdom in the Comments. Let’s keep busy and be ready!


Dear SurvivalBlog Readers:
It was another fairly quiet week here at the Rawles Ranch. With some cold weather in the forecast, it was time to drain the pipes in our Bunk House. When I constructed the building, I planned ahead and installed a Tap and Drain valve near the back door.  Because we live in a northern climate, all of our pipes are buried at a depth of 4 to 5 feet. This particular valve is 5 feet underground and surrounded by a large pocket of gravel. To access this valve, I use a 6 foot tall “valve key” pipe with a T-Handle, through a vertical 2″ diameter PVC pipe.  The procedure is quick and simple:  Unscrew the PVC pipe access cap; gently slide the key down the access pipe; find the top of the brass valve “by Braille”;  and then give it a 90-degree twist. Then I go inside the Bunk House, power down the tankless hot water heater,  and crack open all of the sink and shower valves, for a few hours.  Done!

I took advantage of some good weather, and finished splitting all of the kindling that we’ll need for the rest of the winter. This used up the last of the framing construction lumber scraps that I had on hand.  So for next winter I might end up buying (the horror!) a pickup truckload of scrap wood from either the local cedar mill, or from a local pallet-making company.  But there is one good thing about living in the timbered portions of the Redoubt:  Wood is very inexpensive here, in almost all forms–especially scrap wood and rough sawn lumber.

I also set up two more stock tank heaters, for the tanks at the edge of our our winter pasture. Parenthetically, I should mention that e use a mix of traditional galvanized steel tanks and Rubbermaid black plastic tanks. I’ve begun transitioning to exclusively using submerged heaters. Not only are the safe to use in both types of tanks, but the livestock seems to leave them alone more than they do the floating-type heaters. Bored cows and horses can be very destructive, whether it is “cribbing” (chewing) behavior, or just playfulness.

We had some relatives visiting, this past week, so we didn’t do too many projects around the ranch.  With the seasonally limited daylight and chilly temperatures, growth in our “greenhouse within a greenhouse” experiment has slowed down.  But at least the seedlings haven’t frozen.

We are looking forward to reading comments from readers about your preps this winter.

May you all have a blessed week, – James Wesley, Rawles


The Latimer Homestead has been busy with the winter weather finally settling in, though we still haven’t seen accumulations of snow. We are continuing to look after our chickens, and they seem to be doing well.

Sarah and the family are content with the vast collection of garden seeds we’ve captured from our heirloom vegetable and herb gardens. As of this week, the seeds have all been properly stored and set aside for spring planting, though we may gather more winter squash seeds to share with others as we consume the squash through the winter. But aside from this, our seed collecting, cleaning, preparation, and storage activites for the year are complete. We’ll begin drawing our 2018 garden plans in about eight weeks. But until next year’s garden, we will enjoy the bounty that has been stored.

We have begun to do some organizing and rotations of our food stores, but there is much more to do. With some sale opportunities, we took advantage of these and ordered a variety of grains in bulk and have begun putting these in storage in our usual method of using mason jars with a vacuum seal. Grains are generally stored in half gallon jars while vegetables, whether canned, dehydrated, or freeze-dried, are stored in quart jars. Herbs, teas, and spices are stored in quart or pint jars.

We are clearing some storage areas in preparation for rearranging our food storage area and this will continue for the next few weeks. So, this is a first priority before food gets moved further. We’ve recognized that there are temperature variations in our current food storage area, and we should rearrange where we have certain items. For example, the vacuum-sealed whole grains would better handle the temperature fluctuation (warmer and colder) on an outer wall than our freeze-dried dairy, meat, and egg products.

This week brings an opportunity for some family celebrations, so we have a lot of baking and some memories to make. We have begun sprouting grains, grinding them into flours, and creating tasty treats. It requires planning ahead but is quite easy and a wholesome new bread-making concept for our family. We have enjoyed the guidance of Peter Reinhart’s book, Bread Revolution: World-Class Baking With Sprouted and Whole Grains and will be making Cranberry Sprouted Muffins and more new creations this week. But we also plan to have a family funnel bread fry and some other traditional family favorites. It’s a busy social time of the year.

As we prepare for some of this social time, we are in the midst of reexamining some of our closet contents. It’s a great time of the year to donate! We know of several needy families in our community. You may too.

Hugh has been busy whipping the new shop into shape. It’s amazing how empty spaces fill up and flat spaces get piled on here. With the cold weather here now, it’s time to sort through all those “I’ll do it later” jobs. Last week, the shop was cleaned, sorted and organized. This week, it was time to set up the Grizzly Lathe that has been sitting in the garage for two years waiting on the shop. The original plan had been to use the small John Deere tractor to lift and move it into place. While the tractor would fit through the four foot door, it couldn’t be turned around with the forklift attachment. There just wasn’t enough room with the long forks. This necessitated a trip to Harbor Freight to pick up a two-ton engine hoist. Two one-ton lifting slings were needed as well, but this posed a problem. Three large big-box stores and 12 auto parts stores later, we were resolved to the idea that no one in this area even knew what those were. In the end, we used one 10,000lb tie down strap to hold the weight and two smaller tie downs to balance and level the load. Working with open hooks on the tie downs was a bit nerve racking and we made sure not to get sloppy while lifting and moving. It would have been much better to have lifting slings!

Having watched a number of YouTube videos like this one where the operator struggled to line up bolt holes, it was apparent that lifting the lathe bed while keeping it level was critical. As you can see from the picture, it wasn’t all that hard once we planned it out. The lift was able to keep it level and floating only 1/4” above the pedestals while we lined up the holes. We then placed the pan (pre-caulked under the lathe bed mounts) and inserted the bolts while the lathe bed still floated above the pedestals. Once everything was lined up, it was a matter of gently lowering the lathe and tightening the bolts. Easy-peasy! Perhaps the original YouTuber can take solace in the fact that we learned from his mistakes.

o o o

As always, please share your own successes and hard-earned wisdom in the Comments.


  1. Trimming the apple tree’s and pruning back the landscaping around our homestead.
    Burn-ban in effect until Springtime (can get a permit with a simple phone call), so it’s mostly just stacking and piling up until an appropriate time comes along. As most of the tree’s and shrubs are dormant, it’s the best time for this kind of work. We are letting the horses graze in the yard as there’s very little grass available for them. They are old and very docile. We put the halter and lead-ropes on them and let them wander the yard while trimming and cleaning up. They seldom wander very far, and seem just glad to have something to munch on that isn’t stored hay!

  2. Last fall we had our new shop built to house our horse trailer and tow truck, equipment and SUV trailers, small JD tractor and Bobcat, Yamaha Rhino and all of my tools, supplies and materials. What a dream come true.

    During the winter I observed the roofline develop a hump and after pulling a string line I discovered that frost heave had lifted and cracked the slab and one of the posts as much as 3-4 inches. I was devastated they my new shop was already damaged.

    After the spring thaw and dry out it settled back to very close to original, but of course the cracked slab remained damaged. Apparently the frost heave was the worst in 25 years as mentioned by my contractor and I am hopeful it will not have a relapse this year or in coming winter seasons.

    This summer after the slab leveled back out I was able to build my 24′ work bench and tool storage drawers and shelf, some heavy duty shelving was placed right behind the bench and material storage behind those on the back wall. We now have the protected storage for equipment and a wonderful work area for my ‘shop’.

    The real bonus is that we now have the use of our garage to actually park our vehicles in after moving all of my tools, hardware, ,materials, lawn mower and everything else out of the garage and organized into the shop where I can actually access and use everything.

    Just one more step towards being more self sustainable after our move a couple of years ago to the Redoubt. We voted with our feet and are as pleased with our move to such a wonderful new neighborhood.

  3. Hugh:
    I’ve worked with machine tools most of my life. I understand the problem you had with lifting your lathe. A good rigger can do this with just slings and chains, but the easy way is to buy a load leveler. If you own one, you’ll be surprised how often you find uses for it (construction projects spring to mind). Search Amazon for “Load Leveler”. They are not expensive. Also, I work for a manufacturer of cutting tools. I can probably help get you set up with some cutters for your lathe if you email me privately.

    1. Wow. That would have been useful. It took us about an hour to try and find the center of balance using trial and error and eventually I just left it slightly heavy on the tailstock side and used the light tie down to balance it. That caused the main lifting strap to lean to the right necessitating the left tie down to stabilize it. it worked out OK, but I had concerns that the lathe bed would rotate front or back, rolling in the makeshift sling. I think the two stabilizing straps kept it pretty stable so we didn’t have to worry about that, but I removed the milling attachment to make sure it wasn’t too top heavy. The load leveler would have made it easy to balance and stabilize it. It’s almost like someone else has thought that problem through many times 🙂 . I’m definitely getting one of those to move the rest of the machinery around.
      With that setup I could have probably done the entire job myself. As it was, the roughness of the floor made it so the hoist would not roll smoothly and I had to have help. One person steadying the load while the other manhandled the hoist.

      1. Hugh:
        Go to AW for top of th line lifting straps in different lengths and weight capacities. The sell tow truck gear but they got great stuff, have fun going through their on long ne catalog. And like +P+ mentioned you will find other uses for a lot of gear they like construction on your ranch. You can never have to many tools. Have fun with your tools and projects.

  4. Well, cold weather was finally approaching SE Tx so time to harvest the ginger and turmeric. The bed that contained both was 6’ by 3’, so 9 square feet each. Out of half a pound of root fingers I go 15 pounds of ginger and 18 pounds of turmeric! Well pleased as that’s a years worth of turmeric for DW and I. Going to experiment with ginger beer now! I will be growing a lot of both as a cash crop at the new farm land i bought recently, way away from the city.

  5. I finally got rid of my crummy old reloading kitchen table and started building my new and improved “deluxe” reloading bench. I should have this project finished in a week or two depending on my spare time and then it will be time to test out my new 9mm dies with all that 9mm brass that I have been collecting for the last 3 years.

    1. Bilge…yer giving me WINTER TIME INCENTIVE to ree-load all those 9mm casings I’ve collected over the years! Thanky!

      …plus all the .45ACPs, .30/06s, 5.56mms…the beat goes on….

  6. I’m curious about your ‘bunk house’?

    Without giving anything away, how many bunks [stacked 2, 3, 4, 5?], sinks, toilets, showers, heating, cooling, chairs, kitchen, male/female/children accommodations, porch, FA & gear storage?

    If you had to do it again, what would you differently?

    If someone were building a rural homestead, what would you recommend?

  7. We have been trying tyhis year to re-establich an orchard. Had 50 trees 15 years ago, scions form good local apple trees we found grafted on wild apple seedlings. Surrounded them with two or more layers of fiel-fence on posts in a 4 ft square, so the pasture around them would not be wasted. Goats, persistent buggers, mashed the fences and pushed through, meanwhile voles ate the roots. This Spring we started over, made upo 17 trees, this time fences with two 16′ by 4′ cattle-panels, each bent ot a right nagle, to make 8ft square enclosures. Even if a browser gets head through an opening, will not reach the tree. Last few trees made an improvement to htis plan, bent the two panels to a circle instead of a square stiluised four posts, but hte curve makes ther fence much stiffer and the radius is now a uniform 5 ft. So far there has been no damage from the livestock, desite cows scratching htemsleves on the cages. We just last week completed the experimental vole defense. The vole is a small, mouse-like vegetarian who lives in the sod, nibbling slightly above and slightly below the soil line. So, after mowing the caged spaces with weed-eater, I built a mound of clean 3/4″ gravel around each litle tree, The theory is that the gravel will be too hard and heavy to burrow through to the tree roots, and the mound will expose a brave vole who attempts to climb it to the owls and foxes. The cattle panels cost us about $18 each in bundles of 50, the gravel not much for 100 lb or so per tree, the trees e graft ourselves from a twig that costs us nothing but a polite rquest to the tree owner plus a wild seedling.

    1. Here in the mid south voles are a nuisance also. A little old lady told me to put a stick of chewing gum down each hole twice a week until the problem was solved. I bought a big box of cheap gum, unwrapped each stick and dutifully put a stick down each hole. In two weeks I had 9 dead voles above ground and probably 9 more under ground. Problem solved at that house!

      1. That’s like putting out sofa pop for rats and mice. We had problem with those two types of rodents some ten years ago and nothing was working very wel or fast. Then my little brother read about soda pop as weapon against the critters online. 3 days later I had dead rodents all over the place, messy cleanup, but worth it. We have been rodent free ever since. I am thirsty!

  8. After paying $65 for a Christmas tree (ughh) ordered some Noble Fir seeds. Will be a fun experiment to see if I can get them to germinate and have Christmas trees growing along some fence lines.

  9. When you are using lifting equipment be sure all the shackles are “American Made”. Do not use Chinese made shackles as they are not to be trusted.They may look great and they may be bigger than you think you need “Do Not Use Them.”
    When I worked in the oil fields in Alaska we dropped a turbine using Chinese shackles. As luck would have it was only 6 or 8 inches off the turbine deck when one of them broke. The company scrapped all Chinese shackles. As the old saying goes “Save nickles and cost Dollars.”
    Do not trust Chinese lifting equipment, make your own or at least have someone who knows equipment check it out.
    The Gman

    1. I concur, don’t use any shackles that have China stamped on them also don’t use any that don’t have a manufacturer stamp on them…We source most all our shackles from Lift-It and they are superb…

  10. Always turn off power to any type of water heater before you open drain valves. If something causes you to delay/forget to do so you can end up buying a new heater. And it only takes a few seconds for the heating element to die if not immersed completely in water.

Comments are closed.