Editors’ Prepping Progress

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!

JWR Reports

In addition to my usual winter ranch chores this past week, I did some plumbing in our guest cabin. The bathroom was completed a year ago, but for expediency, the kitchen plumbing had been left just “stubbed out” Hooking up the new kitchen sink water line and drain pipe should have meant just one trip to the hardware store. But since Mr. Murphy was in charge of the project, it took a frustrating three trips all the way into town to get all of the right bits and pieces of the correct dimensions. When the nearest hardware store with a modest stock is a 35 minute drive away, and a fully-stocked store is more than an hour away, these drives were not trivial. I really should have looked more closely and did more measurements before my first trip into town. As a ostensibly handy American Guy who is in his late 50s, I should have known better. Lesson learned!

As I’ve noted before in this column, for many months I’ve been gradually accumulating AR uppers and lowers–both stripped and complete lowers.  Most of these are intended for distribution as an early inheritance for my kids and grandkids. Given the “verging-on-a-legislative-calamity” times in which we live, I believe that this early purchasing and distribution of these ARs (and 10 full-capacity magazines per rifle) is truly prudent.

Mating the uppers and lowers was quick and easy. Ditto for popping a magazine into each new build, and attaching foregrips. A few of the uppers were sans bolt carrier groups and charging handles. But I’d already stocked up an appropriate number of each. What I did overlook was buying a few sets of Back Up Iron Sights (BUIS), and either Picatinny or M-LOK front sling swivels, and slings. Those are now on order. (Plus a couple of spares, naturlich.) That Poor Prior Planning on my part was a mere inconvenience today, but sometime in the future it might have had much more severe consequences. A rifle without a rear sight is almost useless. Lesson learned!

Avalanche Lily Reports

Dear Readers,
The early part of the week has been beautifully sunny and fairly warmish in the 50s.  We still have a lot of snow in the open meadows, about 15 inches, so I have been able to continue skiing a few times this week.  I have continued working the horses, every day, having them take walks with me around the barnyard and driveway, and lunging them. I have been brushing them out each day, also.  They are shedding like crazy.  One of our horses grows an incredible amount of hair every winter and we literally brush out a full 2 ft by 3 ft box of her hair by the end of the shedding season.

We are waiting for more of the snow to come off before we get on them, mostly because the area where we saddle them still has banks of snow, and we want to break them into riding on the grass. We all actually have very good seats when riding horses, having had lessons five years in a row from May until November. But it has been two years, since we’ve had lessons or gotten on them, and we all have a very healthy respect for them.  Therefore I want them very used to our attentions and intentions for them before getting up on them.  We will be riding them the first time with someone holding them on a lead line and leading the rider around for awhile and then on a lunge line, and then free riding.  This will probably be a week to two week process.

I washed the saddles with Bee Natural Leather Care Saddle Soap and treated them with the the same company’s saddle oil.  Forget the Murphy’s oil soap, that I mentioned last week.  I believe the Bee Natural Saddle Soap is probably better for the saddles than Murphy’s.  I suppose should research it more.

We are looking into purchasing saddle packs to hike with the horses using them as our pack horses.   More on that later.

We have just four more weeks of homeschooling with the girls’ on-line classes.  Let me tell you, we are all looking forward to the end of the school year. However, we will continue with our family Bible studies, Foreign Language studies, and studying current events, throughout the summer on down days.  Also, Miss Violet will be continuing on in her grammar, some literature, and science for a little while longer.

The dehydrating of Biltong experiment didn’t turn out as well as we would have liked.  It was far too salty and the meat dried out too much.  I think the meat strips needed to be a little bit thicker.  I will be doing more research on the making of biltong and will be trying another batch sometime in the future and will be trying to lessen the salt load on it.

This week, I decided to extend our main garden beside the greenhouse. In order to do this, I needed to take down a group of pine trees that were blocking the sunlight to the new plot.  These trees are not huge full grown trees, just between 3 inches and 10 inches in diameter.  As was mentioned some time in the past, here on the blog, I have not ever really used a chain saw before, having left that job up to Jim.  Jim’s two Stihl gasoline saws are too big, heavy, and powerful for my liking/comfort level. However, this past fall, Jim had our auxilliary 16-inch bar electric chainsaw repaired. I had never used that before, either.

Therefore, I went out in the remaining settled 15 inches of snow, and took down three trees with the buck saw and ax.  I tired out quite quickly. I then remembered that little Makita electric chainsaw and wondered if I could use it? So I ran back to the garage, I put on Jim’s kevlar chaps and helmet with face shield, picked up the extension cord and the electric chainsaw, went to the living room and plugged it in. I read all of the little instructions taped on it, and then, tried to turn it on, by pressing the black trigger button. Nothing happened.  I had to study the saw for a while longer before I saw the red button. So then, I pressed and held the red button first, and then I pressed the trigger button at the same time. It roared to life!  Whoa, okay, I got it!  It’s running! I hastily released the red button and trigger.  It takes a few moments for the chain to stop turning once you stop pressing the buttons.  Okay then, I turned it on again, to make sure I had the technique down and understood what it was all about.

I then unplugged it, went outside, plugged a 100 foot extension cord it into an RV hookup station near the greenhouse, and took down about 12 trees, chick chock. I remembered to punch the chain oiler button after a couple of cuts as the little taped note on it instructed. It was just a little bit intimidating, but also quite fun. I’ve watched Jim take down so many trees, that I knew exactly what to do, and just did it. No problem!  I was quite proud of myself afterwards. Now I can add Timber Jilling to my list of job experiences.  Now I have to limb the trees and decide what we’re going to do with them.  I’m thinking of a wood project with the pine, since the wood seems so beautiful. I don’t want to burn it.  More on that later.

As soon as the snow is off, I will be picking up an’ hauling out tons’ o’ rocks in the area near the greenhouse where we are extending the garden.  We formerly used that area to throw ALL of the rocks that we find in the garden after rototilling.

I shoveled snow off of two strawberry beds, one that is planted, and the other will be planted in a few weeks.  A third strawberry bed is still under a lot of snow.  I fertilized them with some some calcium, gypsum mix, some magnesium/Epsom Salts, and some garden plant food pellets. Also, I worked the beds in the greenhouse and fertilized them with the same fertilizers.

I have retrieved my seed tote and have been sorting through all of the seeds on the living room floor with my notebook, deciding and jotting down what I want to plant, when and where.  It seems very overwhelming to me in the beginning.  I have so many areas (Greenhouse, Annex garden, Main garden) to plan, prepare and plant and want to add many more crops (wheat, barley, oats, spaghetti squash, Luffa squash, blackberries, and more, and a separate herb garden) this year and grow more of each crop than last year’s.  We’ll be doing a lot of expanding this year.  Decisions, decisions, decisions.

We hope many of you are seriously considering beginning to grow your own food.  I believe we’re looking at tough times food wise and it’s availability in the very near future.  The floods in Nebraska last week devastated our storage of corn and wheat. At least 30% was lost.  Authorities are predicting that “unprecedented” flooding will continue into May, all along the Mississippi River, which will continue to decimate other grain storage facilities in the path of the flooding, and will delay the planting time for new crops. Also, with the sun entering into the heart of the Grand Solar Minimum, we’re looking at late and earlier than usual frosts and snows on both sides of the growing seasons.  Therefore, please grow some of your own crops and stock up on the foods you like to eat while you still can.

May you all have a blessed and safe week, – Jim and Avalanche Lily Rawles

o o o

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


  1. Madam,
    As I understand the word ‘decimate’, it refers to a reduction by ten-percent.

    Would a thirty-percent reduction be ‘a triple-decimation’? Irregardless, we anticipate less available at higher prices. Our goal:
    * Garden, stock, can.
    * Fill the propane tanks.
    * Reload.
    * Accomplish the veterinary visits.
    Then, take the rest of the day off… a nap is always on the schedule.

    * * * * *

    We prefer electric chain-saws because they are quiet; everybody in six counties knows anytime somebody uses petroleum-based chain-saws. A tiny genset or a battery in a nearby vehicle provides the juice through the over-size extension cords we fabricated. And yes, chaps and helmets and goggles and accomplices are mandatory with a capital ‘M’. Use a chain-saw in teams of at least two… always. LifeFlight on speed-dial?

    1. Yes, the original word decimate involved 10%. A Roman legion that mutinied, but was then subjugated, was punished by having one out of ever ten men executed. The legionnaires drew lots to determine who was executed.

      More commonly today when the word is used, it connotes a much higher rate of damage. From Oxford Dictionaries, https://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2012/09/10/does-decimate-mean-destroy-one-tenth/:

      “So given that these two meanings of decimate appeared almost simultaneously, why are we so obsessed with assigning the punitive meaning to the word? A likely answer is that people are falling prey to what is known as the Etymological Fallacy, a tendency to believe that a word’s current meaning should be dictated by its roots.”

    2. A thirty percent reduction of 100 items would yield a result of 70.

      A ‘a triple-decimation’ would be the result of decimation three successive times. The first decimation of 100 items would yield 90. The second decimation would reduce the 90 by 9 yielding 81. The third decimation would reduce the 81 by 8.1 yielding 72.9 (or 73 in cases of discrete elements such as with people where you can’t reduce by a tenth of a person).

  2. Finally got all the fruit trees trimmed up. Looks like our only loss was 1/2 a peach tree. I expected more loss as we had temps as low as -33. Ice out on the farm ponds was about a week and a half ago, got out last Sunday for a couple hours and caught some bass and crappies. Great fun! Found a local saw mill that’s willing to sell me planks of hard maple, cherry and walnut thick enough for gunstocks, haven’t negotiated a price yet but it’s less than 10 miles away. Other than that just standing in front of the bench stocking guns…….
    Been experimenting with dried ancho (poblano) chili peppers. Made some great Adobo sauce. Great for marinade. Marinated some salmon and planked it on cedar and cooked it on the charcoal grill. best salmon I ever had.

  3. Our garden area(s) this year are three times the area they were previous years. I planted 2/3 of the first area yesterday. It is time, since the pecan trees are budding out. Here, the pecan trees never get bit, so if they are budding out, it is safe to plant the garden. I am thankful to have finally figured out how to help my body handle the heat to be able to work these gardens. I am growing many more types of squash, partly because I had lots of squash seeds stashed. Some of my seeds are too old, so when I sowed them, I planted a LOT more per area than was supposed to be there, hoping some of them will come up.

    We have also been taking down trees. Since my husband is off work right now, basically for the foreseeable future, we are frantically trying to get fences in good repair and/or built. One area, we had been working on for about 8 years, off and on as we had time. We have time now! So it is rapidly nearing completion. It was a really big project. He took down high hills and covered culverts and built retaining walls with the logs.

    The larger pasture will enable my milk cows to have ample space to graze in the event that they have to survive on just grass. It is really better to have them on too much pasture, especially when you don’t have money to buy minerals. If they are overgrazing the land, the minerals will get depleted too fast. We still have to spend money on fertilizers to build up the soil. And minerals for them to consume. Minerals are top priority with animals. Without minerals, the vet bill will be way higher. We also beef cows across the road that are raised only on grass.

  4. I too have been watching the demise of so much of our food supply as a result of nationwide flooding. There is good reason to believe that food scarcity could result and working toward individual food security seems prudent. That said, I’ve ordered some more open pollinated seeds to just store. Might be the best 20.00 I’ve spent in a long time. Pray for the best; prepare for the worst.

    I am also working diligently this week to fully secure the food stores we already have here at the cabin. The second order of mylar bags and oxygen absorbers arrived yesterday. I seriously underestimated the number of bags and absorbers I would be needing. This time, I’m packaging them in smaller quantities so that they could be shared easier or are a more manageable amount.

    I continue to gather kindling, cardboard and newspaper for firestarting storage. I did make a batch of wax and dryer lint Firestarters using items on hand and 35 cents worth of thrift shop candles. I tried one with some nice damp wood. They made a big difference. Thanks everyone for the ideas! Keeping it going without breaking the bank!

    There is still some snow, but it is disappearing quickly with the rain. We have mud, more mud, and lots of mud. Always a predicament without enough water pressure (yet) to run the washer. I’ve covered everything in old towels. I’m grateful to have saved and stored the old towels.

    Continuing to prepare my dear city-living daughter for, well, just about anything, I bought her a single sterno can holder (sized for a small pot) for less than a dollar at the thrift store. With some sterno cans, it will at least give her a warm food options should that be necessary. I also shared a news article on what the Venezuelan people are experiencing right now. A thought on that…at least our cabin here in the East is in a part of the country that has absolutely nothing of value – oil, minerals or the such. Except for being in a populated state with a right to farm law, it is a rough, rural, and depressed area. There is something to be said for flying under the radar.

    I’m wondering about getting some gunsmithing instruction (beyond reading) when I return to the Redoubt this summer (for good!!!). Should I ask at a store? Are there classes? I grew up in a hunting family and my father reloaded (I helped but that was so many, many years ago). Any thoughts on how or where to ask?

  5. Also never do a plumbing project on Friday afternoon. Bitter experience has taught me. I have been checking my trees that the base for peach tree borer. Had the severe infestation last year. This year I’m pruning very light. Also going to plant another strawberry patch and golden raspberry patch. I have enough rice sugar and wheat stored away to feed an army. Now I will be working on freeze dried entrees and meat. There is just the wife and I so I don’t stock a lot of canned goods. She does like to go out to eat. It is a bad habit to get into, especially when you are a empty nester. Oh well.

  6. Took on a bearcat stew of a project. Rented an excavator and trenched four 100 foot rows two feet wide and 18-24 inches deep. Then dug 20 tree holes and two garden beds fifty feet long each by 18-24 inches deep. Then scratched out a 100 foot long bed adjacent to our county road and planted 60 of the conservation district plants to start growing a 6-8 foot high screen.

    Yesterday we took delivery of a truckload of 50 yards of alder sawdust.

    I am laying in layers of cardboard packing boxes in the trenches, shoveling in the now mixed topsoil and subsoil with layers of sawdust, and will be topping the beds with several inches of super duper vegetable gardening soil purchased on sale last fall and stored in our little barn.

    One huge shortage component is nitrogen and that will be a challenge since I don’t have ready access to animal waste….yet. All the carbon material added needs serious nitrogen addition to balance it out. In the PNW, the other deficiency is magnesium/calcium.

    The long trenches will be rows of trellised tall spindle apples, pears, nectarines, apricots, peaches, and trellises of grapes and kiwis, and a big row of marionberries and raspberries.

    I’ve been propagating trees and plants for 5 years in pots, shopping fall sales and overwintering plants, trading with friends in the fruit clubs, and now the massive food is finally coming to ‘fruition’. …….Well, it’s started anyway. I

    The root-bound plants are aching for room to grow!

    In reality, there are months of work ahead to get all this done, to include the 10 foot high fence and bird-proof netting on all sides and top. The three feet of snow in February was a great learning event to make sure the netting is supported by a strong cabling and support beam system. Ditto for our future greenhouse design.

    While working I’m alternate Christian songs in my head with moans of ‘my aching back ‘.

    God bless you all.

  7. Picked up three used 235 Watt solar panels, BP cuff and a combination thermometer, barometer and humidity gauge.

    Put together our new table saw. Took another load of “stuff” out to the BOL. Working on emptying the garage I anticipation of our move late spring or early summer. Opened one of wood shed I got from Northern Tool and started to layout the parts getting ready to put it together.

    No snow left on the ground (right now anyway) but everything is very muddy. Snow in the forecast for tomorrow.

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