SurvivalBlog Readers’ & Editors’ Snippets

This weekly column is a collection of short snippets: practical self-sufficiency items, how-tos, lessons learned, tips and tricks, and news items — both from readers and from SurvivalBlog’s editors. We may select some long e-mails for posting as separate letters.

Reader S.B. sent this: Forget cicadas. Drought-stricken West is getting plagued by voracious grasshoppers.

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St. Funogas had this reply to a query from another reader:

“Monica sent this query:

“I’d like to ask St. Funogas this question:

I have more than 500 new in box canning lids that were bought about 20 to 30 years ago…….stored in a Pennsylvania garage……..ball and other brand name lids……

Are these toast?
I never knew that new unused canning jar lids had a shelf life……..
Also, do you have to have your pressure cooker recalibrated/checked at the extension service every year?      there is none close to me.  Thanks!”

St. Funogas replied:Hey Monica, funny you should ask.  I was at an auction last weekend and saw some boxes of very old lids.  I was hoping to bid on them to run a test.  When I opened the box to inspect them, every single lid had a crack across the sealant, making it impossible to seal.  Back when I talked to the gal at the company that makes Ball/Kerr jars, she said the recipe for the sealant had changed but didn’t say exactly when.  I’m assuming the cracked sealant lids I saw were the old recipe.  The only way to find out for sure if your lids are good is to do a test by boiling some water, putting it in jars, put an old lid on immediately, and see if it seals when the water cools down.  Please let us know how it goes!

My pressure cookers don’t have gauges on them so I can’t speak from personal experience but I do make sure I clean out the small hole below the weight and check the small rubber safety plug every time I use a pressure cooker.

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Reader Tunnel Rabbit suggested this piece: Retired Green Beret Jeremy Brown: The Republic Has Fallen, Here’s What You Can Do.

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Our Editor-At-Large Michael Z. Williamson sent this:

“July 5th, we decided to do a daytime launch of some fireworks that were really lacking in flash. We set up and launched two dozen little bottle rockets that were all whistle and no pop–the shortest launch was 2 feet. The longest, however, made it all the way up, across the road, and down into a bean field that had untilled cornstalks from last year.

It isn’t dry around here. It rained several times last week. But it was dry enough. In a few minutes there was a small undercrop fire. I ran over to start stomping it as my wife went for the cars’ fire extinguishers.

My understanding (and I welcome expert input), is the safest and best way to approach is to get into the burned area and attack the fire from upwind and behind. The upwind section is fighting against wind and will advance slower. The burned area (keeping in mind these are waste cornstalks under ankle-high soybeans, not trees) is not really a threat.

I was doing okay on piles of stalks, kicking some aside to create mini fire breaks, as she came up with the extinguishers. The first is a standard Kidde brand, sized for cars and kitchens, made in 2014, but not sold until 2019. THERE IS A RECALL ON THIS MODEL. Please check yours, for safety. The plastic plunger isn’t strong enough. She squeezed it down, got one 1-second burst, then nothing. The plunger will bend rather than force the valve open. After it was over, I was able to force the valve stem down with adult male strength and get the rest of the discharge, but that’s not something one does or can think about in the midst of a response.

My car extinguisher, which doubles as a shop extinguisher when traveling, is bigger, and had plenty of pressure when I checked it last year, but was below operating pressure now that I needed it.

Finally, I got enough containment to call my neighbor, who came over to assist, just as my wife returned with a yard sprayer of water.

Fortunately, it wasn’t serious. It didn’t even damage my athletic shoes, though they did get quite warm inside. But a 10-yard circle of the farmer’s beans is probably dead.

Check your extinguishers. Keep them handy. Have reliable neighbors. And remember even green growth can burn.”

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Captain Nemo sent this note:

“This week I spent way more than I should have on a PSA M4 upper.  $600 for the low end parts!  But, having all the weapons active is the most important thing right now.  That lower does no good if you don’t have the parts to finish it.  And with all the crap the BATFE (Bureau of Arson, Threats, Fraud, and Extortion) is trying to pull, uppers may get redefined, and have to be serialized.  That will mean more troubles in trying to complete things.

Starting to see mags and other parts in stock again, and a trickle of way overpriced ammo, limited to one box. Wisconsin just had a groundbreaking for a new ammo plant!  Ammo Inc is building a new 160,000 sq/ft plant in Manitowoc, WI.  I expect production to possibly start about a year from now.

Here’s a thought, The pre-1982 copper penny has the same composition as bullet jacket material and weighs 50 grains.  If dies could be made, those pennies could be swaged into bullets/jackets once annealed.  Current value is $0.03 for pennies and $0.06 for nickels.  Miners, save your black sands as iron ore went up from $100 to $230 a ton.  Might as well profit from our waste when we can!”

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Reader Simon in England liked this: “Guerrilla Warfare” New song — Buddy Brown.

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Doc sent this note:

“Raising a garden is fun for younger folks, but a lot of work for older folks. (Been there, done that.) I never really enjoyed operating a hoe in the hot sun.  It is almost as much fun as shoveling snow in zero weather.  Several years ago my wife and I were on vacation in the diesel RV in Quartzsite, AZ at the big RV show in January.  (That is in AZ a few miles from CA on I-10 if you are looking for it on a map)  The RV has been in every state except Hawaii because it won’t float!  We talked about a spring garden.  (Talking is the easy part)  We had a garden and raised healthy deer, squirrels, rabbits, wild dogs, bob cats, crows, vultures, and even a black bear one year. (They like blackberries, too)  With hundreds of booths selling things at the RV show, many had a metal frame built with ¾” EMT and covered with a tarp to keep out the sun and thel rain.  They used metal fixtures welded together to hold the EMT at the proper angle for the roof.  They had fixtures for a door frame and door hinges. The fixtures were for sale there and I checked out what was available.  When we got back to the RV I designed a fence for the garden and made a list of what I would need and bought enough metal brackets to build a fence and a roof over the top to keep the birds out.  I used the heavy black plastic that is 16 feet wide in 100-foot packages to cover the ground and keep the weeds out.  I would cut it in half and have a garden 32’ x 50’.  (I felt better already with plans to retire the hoe!)  I bought steel T posts 7’ long and drilled a ¼” hole on the drill press before I drove them in the ground with the flat side out so the EMT will be inside. I bought some treated wood poles 8’ long to put between the posts and measured the area for the garden, finally getting the diagonals equal.  I drove a stake at each corner and ran a string to get the posts even and drove them in the ground. That is the hard part. (I’m sure the post driver is putting on weight faster than I am because it feels heavier every time I drive another post.)  I’m a 1939 model, so I’m still a young man!  Next, I clamped a 2’ piece of ¾” EMT to the post and drilled a hole through it.  (EMT is electrical metallic tubing or thin-wall conduit, in case you want to know!)  Go to your nearest electrical distributor with cash and you can buy it cheaper than at Lowes or Home Depot.  Don’t want it to cut into the Miller Lite Fund!! You can buy ¼  20  SS bolts cheaper at Fastenal Inc.  (I’ve used a lot on solar panels.) Next, I put the fixtures on the posts.  Went to the band saw and cut the EMT and installed it.  Had a couple of poles in the center to hold op the ridge after it was finished, but left them out now.  Installed chicken wire on the walls and roof.  Used some hog rings to hold it together on the roof.  The door was built 10’ wide and that width was used all the way across that end.  Next, I used my John DeereX749 ultra and Tractor Supply Roto Tiller and went over it about four times.  Plants grow better in fine soil as I learned later.  Then I had a neighbor help me with the plastic.  We unrolled it and folded it double and cut it in half and spread it out.  I took the wife to an Amish Greenhouse and bought a load of plants.  I let her pick them out because women are supposed to know more about what plants to buy!!  Then they had to be planted.  Kneeling on hot black plastic required several Miller Lites before that job was done.  I started at daylight and quit when it got hot.  First I snapped a chalk line for each row and cut all the 3” holes with a sharpened bulb planter. I had already installed a row of ¾ PVC shut-off valves and water lines by the end fence and had a pile of ¾ PVC glued together in 50’ lengths.  We laid out the pipe next to the plant holes and drilled a small hole for each plant and then turned the pipe with the holes facing down toward the hole and glued it.  I had pre-cut most of the pipe on the band saw and it went together pretty fast, but my fingers were well coated with glue. Then I planted the plants starting at daybreak.  After letting the glue dry I turned on the water to give the drooping plants a drink.  I used a 50-gallon plastic barrel that originally had olives in it and a plastic electric hydroponic pump and hooked it up to mix Miracle Grow fertilizer in the barrel. Then I could fertilize the plants when needed.  I planted some beans and peal by the fence so they could climb on it.  The first year we had a fantastic crop and canned tomatoes and beans and some things were frozen.  We gave some to neighbors.  The next year I bought  PVC unions so I could cut the pipes and remove them and roll back the plastic and get the John Deere in with the rototiller.  I marked the pipes with a permanent marker getting ready to cut them and then decided to just pull out the old roots and plant new plants in the same holes.  The plants grew fine and some things looked good, but it was a little slower getting started.  Next time the plastic comes off and the rototiller will loosen the soil.  The main problem the second year was bottom rot on the tomatoes because the soil was low on calcium. I’m a farm boy as a kid, but was never taught about planting a garden and getting the fertilizer right. We always had a large dairy heard and Dad bought a hundred head of feeders out west so we had plenty of manure.  The next year I had an intestinal blockage and two surgeries so no garden.  Then my wife died with a heart attack.  She had COPD and wouldn’t quit smoking.  When I lost the cook, I had a lot less incentive to grow a garden.  It is easier to drive to a restaurant and I don’t have to cook or wash dishes.  Maybe I should look for another wife, but most of the available ladies are overweight or high maintenance.  It is easier to just date someone and avoid the problems and expense of a sick wife.  Although, I’ve got a good garden that just needs some plants and someone to cook!!

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Tunnel Rabbit sent this confirmation of one supply chain breakdown:

“Recently, I’ve been doing some last-minute shopping, and found it difficult to source polypropylene pipe, and deep cycle batteries.  We have heard reports from other beginning a month or so ago.   I am confirming what appears to be an ongoing nationwide shortage of certain parts and supplies. In an attempt to gauge the severity, I dug deeper into the lead-acid battery supply.  A large number of suppliers of automotive and deep cycle batteries are unable to fill backorders at this time. Shelves are bare at busier stores.  Reports from others on the internet, and on the phone confirmed my suspicions, about short supplies of many other items. The shortages appear to be chronic, or temporary, should the supplier’s promises of future production hold true.  Cost Co hopes their supplier will begin to fill their backorders of batteries in about 6 weeks.  Another, and a large battery specialty outlet, advised that should I find a deep cycle battery for sale anywhere, to buy it.  They see a nationwide shortage.
  If there is any key and critical piece of equipment, or parts needed for your long-term self-sufficiency plan, if at all possible, do not wait. Get it now.  I may have purchased the last few deep cycle batteries in the ”Inter-Mountain West”, found in a backwater automotive part supplier near me. I needed a larger bank of fresh batteries to reduce the depth of discharge to only 10 percent of capacity. It is a proven method that can extend the serviceable life span of a lead-acid deep cycle battery bank to upwards of 7 years.  As security will be job one, we’ll need batteries to keep our radios, and other devices running for as many years as possible, as likely, there will be no resupply.”

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Reader A.K. recommended a song by country singer Aaron Tippin: Am I The Only One?   This video was recorded at a recent concert in Big Timber, Montana.  (Warning: Includes foul language and gestures.)

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And finally, 3AD Scout had this report on what he accomplished in June:

We finally planted the garden.  Just like last year, we had a very cold May including snow mid-month.  Introduced 7 new chickens into the flock.  That ruffled some feathers!!  Got the sickle bar mower out and cut hay, it did a great job.  We ended up with 186 square bales which should be enough for one steer.  With the barn rehab project not being done I didn’t want to put the hay in the loft so some of it is being stored in the new pole barn and some under the loafing shed which I tarped too.  Did some reorganizing in the workshop, took down the hacksaw blades, reciprocating saw blades and jigsaw blades off the peg boards and put each type of blade into their own storage cabinet.  The peppers we planted are doing well, tomatoes look like a bust.  Corn is popping out of the ground.  The sunflowers my wife insisted on planting are coming up as well.  God has Blessed me with some apples this year, thought for sure the surprise frost/freezes doomed them this year, we have 2 out of 8 trees with small apples on them.  With haying and vacation I didn’t have a lot of time to work on the pizza/bread oven.  The wife reminded me that, in her opinion, it was a low priority project. Blasphemy in my opinion!!!  I had some rough cut boards that I was going to use to enclose the space under the oven but was waiting until the brick was all laid, but I needed the space in the pole barn for storing hay so I cut those up and nailed them up.

I talked to our Amish builders about a start time for the barn rehab and he said mid-July.  I put in a change order to include a lean-to (loafing shed) on the North side to store tractor implements and asked if he could build the stalls/pens.  I started to go through all my sockets, wrenches, channel locks, and pliers.  I have been given so many tools that I decided to get rid of the cheap ones, put some away for my son, and any duplicates after that are going to be store separately and not in my toolboxes.

Went on vacation down to Tennessee.  Spent some time shopping at the Smokey Mountain Knife Works, Lodge Factory Outlet, and a flea market and had fun with the family.

Purchases this month included:

From the Smokey Mountain Knife Works, a Kephart style type fixed blade knife,  a MOLLE style knife pouch, a 16 oz can of Ballistol, and a “rust eraser” for knife blades which I used on my hook blade knife.  I also had my Schrade ECD knife blade sharpened at Smoky Mountain Knife Works- it would have taken me a few hours to get all the nicks out of the blade.

From the Lodge Factory Outlet we bought 2, 10.25” Baker’s skillets (seconds for $11.48 each), a loaf pan (second for $11.48), a 15” pizza pan (second for $21.48), a silicon handle and a set of hook and carry handles.  These will be useful for the pizza/bread oven.  We went to a flea market and I picked up 6 replacement hammer handles and 2 handles for hatchets and a handle for my broadhead axe.  There was a gentleman there selling knives he made himself.  Very nice knives and very good prices.  He was also selling pen knives (knife blade hidden in a working pen) and the wife wanted one, in the end we walked away with 2 of his handmade knives and a dozen of the penknives.   In anticipation of the barn getting a new roof and sides, etc, I bought a pig feeder and a 40 gallon water trough. I also bought a 12 foot gate for the pasture.  I got an almost new Coleman 2 burner propane stove at the Salvation Army store.

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