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,

We’ve had another quiet week, here at the Rawles Ranch.  Most of our energy has been directed at homeschooling and Bible study. Our #1 Daughter also got some more experience with baking. The incremental firewood and hay hauling is continuing, per our winter routine. Ditto for stock tank filling and stock tank heater rotation. It is a mundane routine,  but a welcome opportunity to get outdoors and check on our livestock. Avalanche Lily took advantage of one break in the weather to clean out our poultry shed. She also made a Costco run, to top off our supplies of pet food and fresh vegetables.

Our winter greenhouse crop has survived, but sprouting and growth has been slow.  We are hoping the produce from these beds will give a “jump start” on our garden, this year.

Some rain early in the week settled the local snow pack, condensing three feet of powdery snow into about 20 inches of quite dense wet snow. For a while, this transformed our barnyard into the consistency of an enormous unflavored Slurpee. So I rushed to do some more snow plowing, before it all froze again. I also helped an elderly neighbor with some plowing.

January and February are usually our most quiet and sedate months, each year.  We spend a lot of quiet time together in our living room, near our woodstove. The good thing about this bucolic time of year is that we find the time to be more consistent about daily gathering for our family devotional Bible studies. We are thankful that there are few outside distractions. Depending on the quality and depth of the snow, we often do some cross country skiiing and snoeshoeing.

The only down side to this time of year is that we spend so much time together indoors that we tend to develop Cabin Fever. By the end of February we feel that we’ve had too much “togetherness”! Thankfully, that is also the time when the snow usually melts. We can then get outside more, and do some hiking.  This is when we usually search for shed deer and elk antlers. For some in our region, “horn hunting” is both a competitive sport and a source of extra income.  In fact, there are some folks here that make their entire living from just huckleberry picking, morel gathering, horn hunting, gardening, and firewood cutting. Yes, here in the Redoubt there is still such a thing as “living off the land.”)

We are looking forward to reading comments from readers about your preps, this winter. – Jim Rawles


The Latimer Homestead is finally settling down from travel and numerous guests on our homestead, some which were fairly unexpected but welcomed. So, now that we think things will get back more to normal, we are planning to tackle the majority of our stores, which we need to rearrange and inventory. If weather permits, our chicken coup needs a good cleaning and some areas on the property needs to be dealt with, particularly out on the road where there is some litter that has blown our way.

Progress on the Shop

Progress on the shop ground to a halt this week as Hugh made several discoveries. Have you ever wondered how Chinese factories can produce hardware so cheaply even when they claim not to use slave labor? For those that have been watching, one of the pieces of equipment that is being brought online is a brand new Grizzly lathe/mill combo. This machinery is 1/4 of the price of what it should have been, yet Grizzly maintains that they have have strict control over the manufacturing of it.

Hugh was getting ready to make his first cut with it and noticed that the compound slide just didn’t feel right. Thinking that something might have gotten inside it during shipping, he decided to disassemble it and clean it. Upon disassembly, it was readily apparent how the Chinese save costs. Every moving part had bits of shaved metal from the manufacturing still in the inner workings making it feel like someone had thrown a fistful of sand at it. The manufacture had just machined it, then assembled and lubed it without anything more than a cursory brushing to remove most of the larger particles.

Every part that was opened up looked just like this. The machine will have to be totally stripped down and cleaned.

o o o

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


  1. I repair tools and the inexpensive Chinese machine tools can be excellent do it your self projects, but should not be considered usable for precision work as purchased. They need to be dis assembled, cleaned, often need to have shims placed in moving areas, may need bearings replaced, pre loads established on bearings to limit movement, burrs removed and threaded places cleaned up and adjustments made. Some areas in the designs may have flaws, lack of adjustable gibbs, etc that limit their accuracy. It is often better to buy a 50 year old USA made lathe, if it has not been abused, than an inexpensive brand new Chinese lathe. We quit carrying one of the import lines of machine tools as it was to difficult to warranty them and the just general disappointment in the quality of the tools. Much of it was cosmetic, bondo filling gaps in castings in non structural areas, casting pit in machined surfaces, etc, but when you pay several thousand dollars for a tool, you have to wonder about the internal quality if there is obvious cosmetic flaws on the exterior. Often a customer would complain of a problem with a new tool, we would order a replacement part to solve the problem, and the new part would have the same flaw. In many cases, binding of feed screws, play in feed screws, play in gear shafts, etc, the problem was one of design rather than a manufacturing fault. While shimming it, using Bellevue washers, lapping the threads with a polishing compound, replacing the feed screws with new and better made one may solve the problem and create an excellent machine, it should not be necessary. I have found that the use of the engine rebuilding plastic gauge to establish the size of the shims needed to be invaluable.

    1. “I have found that the use of the engine rebuilding plastic gauge to establish the size of the shims needed to be invaluable.”

      I’m not familiar with this gauge. Would you kindly provide more details?


      1. Name brand is Plastigauge. The width of the squashed product indicates the gland height, or the dimensions it had to exist in after assembly and torque squishes it.

      2. re:

        Plastigauge is the trade name for a plastic stripe used to determine clearance between machined parts such as engine rods and crankshaft.

        Before final assembly, the machinist places a suitable size stripe, then torques that assembly to specification.

        The plastic squishes, then the width can be measured to determine clearances.

        Plastigauge and similar are used dry, without lube, since oil and grease take space.

        Inside an engine, tight clearances increase oil pressure… and can be part of the balance-and-blueprint ideal used by hotrodders to achieve maximum performance and longevity.

        Real world, some slop decreases the ‘hanger queen’ syndrome of high-falutin’ competition firearms and hotrods.

        Plastigauge is a decent product. We used it in A&P school in the early 1970s.

  2. Getting back into running consistently after the busyness of the holidays. Back to 2 miles 3 times per week.

    Ordered a 11,000 lumen flashlight from ThurNite the TN36 limited edition. I can say this thing is absolutely insane. Turns night to day. Everyone needs at least one light like this for search and rescue and to illuminate your homestead at the click of a button.

    Have a firearms / medical training class coming up.

    Pushing team members to get back into the flow of things after the Holiday break.

  3. This winter we are spending making venison jerky. I was fortunate to harvest several deer this year in the early season and froze a few quarters so that I could make jerky when things slowed down. Thinking about buying a freeze dryer especially with the oil-less model from HarvestRight being released and getting decent reviews online. But might just stick to my dehydrator this year because freeze dryer is really expensive. thanks for sharing.

  4. Thursday January 11 Alaska woke up to all 3 Sam’s Club stores being closed. Then word came out that Sam’s was leaving Alaska and there was panic for many bush Alaskans and others who rely on these types of stores. Fortunately, we still have Costco stores in Alaska. Friday the Sam’s stores opened at 10 AM with 25% off of everything. It was Black Friday on steroids. Needles to say my pantry has burst and the overflow is in another apartment that we own that was empty. But not just food but flex fuel generators, TP, rolls of aluminum foil, Auguson Farm and Mt. House food items and kits Security cameras everything you need or think you will need around the house or homestead. We are set for over a year on stuff.

  5. As a senior prepper, I worry about my adult children and their family being prepared for emergencies. So for Christmas presents I gave each family a 90 day emergency food bucket. This is a good way to get them thinking about prepping. The buckets of food were bought from the Jim Baker Show so it helped the ministry also.

  6. Hugh,
    You should be thankful that it is only manufacturing chips. While it is apart, examine the castings VERY closely. I have seen and heard horror stories about the poor craftsmanship(?) of these Asian made machine tools. Home Shop Machinist magazine has had articles on how to right the wrongs of these units for more than 20 years. Imagine a lathe bed casting partially built up with auto body filler (ie. Bondo). I would recommend that individuals try hard to find older American made tools. They are still out there, and can often be had quite cheap at auction. The diligence spent looking will be worth it.

    1. I’ve seen instances where they do this sort of thing. If it is just for cosmetic reasons, I suppose that I am not totally against it. You get what you pay for. As far as I can tell, the quality of the machining is pretty good on this machine. The tolerances are quite good and I’m pretty sure it is manufactured on state-of-the-art equipment so there is no reason it can’t be a good machine. They just skipped some steps in the manufacturing to cut costs. If you used this machine for any length of time without realizing this, you would destroy its accuracy in short order. I’m thankful I found this before any use was put on it. The ways are ground, the slides have good gibs and the finish is acceptable on the mating parts. Where it stinks is on the finish of the non-critical areas and in the general lack of cleanup. Every part I check is within acceptable tolerances. I’ve actually had worse made American equipment (I have a Delta Unisaw that was brand new that had far more issues than this lathe.) I think our society has become fixated on cutting costs and is willing to accept these cut corners to lower prices. I mean, really, when was the last time that any software you purchased was anything better than just beta software?

    2. A friend of my parents had some hit and miss engines when I was a kid. I think I should get one to pump abundant rain water to high storage for the dry season. What a reliable water source water up above where I want it.

      Here’s a hobby-prepper thing from India where the owners disassemble, clean out the remaining greensand and reassemble hopefully better than new.

  7. Batteries, UGH…

    I made a future note to inspect batteries after reading,, back on 2017, Dec. 8th. They looked fine at the start of hurricane season, but after a closer inspection, I am throwing away all kinds of dead and leaking batteries. Plus, finding flashlights with leaking batteries…

    I just don’t use them fast enough… What a waste…

    I need to study HJL’s analysis and restock accordingly.

    1. I listened to some character on a podcast and ordered 10 eneloop rechargeables. The speaker wasn’t selling them, but he made compelling points to switch to them. I’ve had them less than a year so for first hand knowledge the jury is still out.

      From what I understand they aren’t going to leak. But with any rechargeable I think best practice is rotate them not deep storage.

      1. Bought my first Eneloop batterires in 2012. Got kids with toys. They work great. Reliable. Don’t leak. They are great in head lamps and flash lights. You cannot use them in a Yaesu [handi-talkie] back up battery pack. A little more voltage and diameter than Yaesu allowed for in their design. Occasionally, one will be so dead that a smart charger will not recognize it as a battery so you have to use a less sophisticated charger for an hour. I may have disposed of one out of 48 because it ceased to function.

    2. Anonymous:
      I to went though the whole waist of buying alkaline batteries in bulk. I got fed up with throwing money down the drain that I should have been spending on other preps. Now if it ain’t a rechargeable battery in the electronic gear it ain’t happening. I am looking forward to purchasing several hand generators possibly of the K-Tor brand both large and small models and backups and a couple extra for my younger brother for his up coming B-Day.

  8. We finally managed one more pickup truck load to the transfer station. Our last we expect as we have finally cleared out the 50 years of junk from the pole barn and garage. Not much was usable as most of the storage items were rusted, seized up or a family members “just-in-case” item. I doubt I’ll ever store a mattress or metal item in an unheated and unprotected garage after this experience. I really never thought about it before.

    I bought the final new metal trash can to store 50 lbs of rolled oats. I continue to keep an eye out for metal popcorn type containers to use as storage. The mice will quickly eat through anything plastic.

    This week we broke down and put out some mouse poison in the RV. We are keeping the dogs away from it and expect to have to gut it this spring to fix some leaking and wiring issues anyway. It isn’t for travel anymore, and I just cannot tolerate the mice. We will not need the RV when the camp is set and will either find another use for it or pass it on at that point. We are not RVers, but it has been a Godsend during this building process!

    Sent our daughter back to her final semester of college (10 hour drive away from camp and 24 hour drive from home in the redoubt) armed with a shortwave radio, hand and feet warmers for her car, a new 2018 road map, empty gas can for her trunk, extra large garbage bags, lots of food -including extra cans of beans, and I’m having some potassium iodide tablets sent her way. We had a heart-to-heart about the state of the country and what to do in an emergency. She’s raised well and a strong believer, so much was just a reminder to not panic if communication goes awry.

    3.5 years before our son finishes his college/AFROTC. We should have both places ready by than. Praying we all have that long!

  9. Finally figured out how to overfill a 1# propane tank. Never had a gross weight over 29 ozs and I was freezing the one pounder for a day and warming the source tank in the sun. Usually disconnect after it stops making noise. Started filling slowly and walking away to do some other chore. The result is a good 36 oxs when the max is a little over 32. That patience is the key ingredient explains the whole problem. Have to use that one before summer.

  10. I want to buy a good table saw. Every brand that I find it is made in Taiwan. Even sawstop I read has now moved toTaiwan. Sorry, delta, grizzly, and powermatic.p too. Other than buying something real old, is there a USA made table saw cabinet grade not the small contractor grade?

    1. I was gifted an old (1970’s) Delta table saw in terrible visual shape. Completely disassembled it and cleaned and painted it. Replaced a bad pulley and rewired it for 220 as it was originally. Machine is a dream to use now.Have done just about everything you can do with a table saw on it. I could use a better fence but that is it. As one comenter above said, Look for old USA made tools and fix them back to their original specs if you can. You will not be sorry. Oh, PS, I did also install a modern safety cut off switch.

  11. Several comments qbout batteries. EMP hits and we’ll all be scrounging about looking for batteries. A good idea would be to buy a cheap battery tester to help check them out.

    1. Morris:
      I agree. However I recommend buying 2 just in case, and take one and a spare battery charger and many spare rechargeable batteries and store them in a EMP proof container.

  12. Regarding slowed greenhouse growth: Are you providing supplementary light? If not, you will probably not see much growth until mid February. According to Eliot Coleman’s book _Four Season Harvest_, we are experiencing Persephone Days, with less than 10 hours of sunlight per day (mid November to mid February in zone 5). Once February comes, they will start to grow at a normal rate again! Next year, you might wait until February to start seeds. I hope this info helps!

  13. A note to all preppers. While shopping Costco, Amazon and the mass merchandisers to get that presumed always great deal. Don’t forget to check out your smaller local businesses and have a working relationship with them. Get to know what they carry and use them if you can because when the SHTF I can guarantee you they will serve and provide for those who patronized them in the past.

  14. We’ve been working on clearing more land. Borrowed a chopper from a neighboring farmer to try and get the gall berry roots under control. Next will need to go over with a set of harrows before using the root rake on the bulldozer to try and remove the excess roots and sticks before leveling and planting more oats. We already have one pasture planted with oats and had help from one of our retreat partners to begin fencing so we can bring our horses and cows out to the farm. Built a hog shelter to keep the worst of the cold at bay and they seem to love it. Moved a large rabbit pen to the farm, also. Should have the chicken house built and fortified against predators by the spring. Spoke to a local roofing company and managed to get all of their used tin to use on building shelters at the retreat. So thankful! It actually snowed in the South this year! It hasn’t snowed here for 28 years. I think the animals were as surprised as we humans were. It was pretty for a day, but then it was nasty. Glad we had the hog shelter built.

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