Odds ‘n Sods:

On this inaugural day, a parting gift for Obama: Video – Time To Say Goodbye (parody) – D.S.

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Following up on the Veritas videos posted a couple of days ago: After Exposé, Anarchist Group Scales Back Plans to Blockade Roads, Disrupt Inauguration – BMM

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Thinking that building your retreat is beyond your grasp? – Single mom builds 3,500-square-foot home by watching YouTube tutorials – H.L.

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For those that live in places like Kalifornia or other anti-gun locations: How to Turn 12 Everyday Items Into Improvised Weapons – H.L.

(HJL’s Comment: Good suggestions, except for the hornet spray. Don’t bother with that one. Pepper spray performs better and won’t get you in as much legal trouble. In an emergency, you utilize what you have, but don’t plan for that one.)

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Lasers are nice, but identifying your target in the dark when it’s your own home is paramount. This video sent in by Reader T.J. covers some flashlight techniques that are useful to know.

Notes for Thursday – January 19, 2017

January 19th is the birthday of the late Carla Emery (born 1939, died October 11, 2005). She is well known in self-sufficency circles as the author of The Encyclopedia of Country Living. (This book re-released in a 40th Anniversary edition.)

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Seed for Security is having a sale with 20% off of their Super Survival Pack. This Pack includes 4 lbs. of survival seeds and 2 pints of healthful grains. All of their seed is heirloom, non GMO, and none is hybrid. Their 4 page detailed Seed Saving Guide is included. They are also including 6 metallized Polybags with each Pack ordered, enabling you to try your hand at seed saving. This offer is for a limited time.

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Today, we present another entry for Round 68 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $15,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
  2. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate that is good for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,195 value),
  3. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  4. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 Nato QD Billet upper with a hammer forged, chrome-lined barrel and a hard case to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel, which can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools and a compact carry capability in a hard case or 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  5. Gun Mag Warehouse is providing 20 Magpul PMAG 30-rd Magazines (a value of $300) and a Gun Mag Warehouse T-Shirt; (an equivalent prize will be awarded for residents in states with magazine restrictions),
  6. Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  7. The Ark Institute is donating a non-GMO, non-hybrid vegetable seed package (enough for two families of four) plus seed storage materials, a CD-ROM of Geri Guidetti’s book “Build Your Ark! How to Prepare for Self Reliance in Uncertain Times”, and two bottles of Potassium Iodate (a $325 retail value),
  8. A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
  9. Two cases of meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Second Prize:

  1. A Tactical Self-Contained 2-Series Solar Power Generator system from Always Empowered. This compact starter power system is packaged in a wheeled O.D. green EMP-shielded Pelican hard case (a $2,400 value),
  2. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  3. A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
  4. A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
  5. A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
  6. A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
  7. A pre-selected assortment of military surplus gear from CJL Enterprize (a $300 value),
  8. An infrared sensor/imaging camouflage shelter from Snakebite Tactical in Eureka, Montana (A $350+ value),
  9. RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site, and
  10. American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.

Third Prize:

  1. A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
  2. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  3. A custom made Sage Grouse model utility/field knife from custom knife-maker Jon Kelly Designs, of Eureka, Montana,
  4. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  5. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  6. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
  7. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances,
  8. Montie Gear is donating a Y-Shot Slingshot and a $125 Montie gear Gift certificate.,
  9. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value), and
  10. Fifteen LifeStraws from SafeCastle (a $300 value).
  11. A $250 gift certificate to Tober’s Traditions, makers of all natural (organic if possible) personal care products, such as soap, tooth powder, deodorant, sunscreen, lotion, and more.

Round 68 ends on January 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Hurricane Preparedness Experience- Part 2, by N.K.

I had drinking water because my subdivision was on the county water system which never went down, nor was there any boil water alert for our area. Part of the reason for this was the emergency planning done by county government to ensure water got delivered at full volume and pressure to fire hydrants during weather emergencies, and there’s backup power for pumps to accomplish this. Since hydrants and houses are on the same system, we coasted on local government’s emergency preps. Life and planning really is different in hurricane country.

If water ran short, I had some options. Half the houses in my neighborhood had swimming pools, so a supply of buckets could provide toilet flushing water. Drinking and cooking water was another story. (Pool water plus filtration by something like a Berkey system could produce drinking water, especially if aeration was performed to reduce chlorine content.) I always kept several cases of bottled water on hand, usually 6-8 cases each with 15 one-liter bottles; however, that would go quickly in the heat, especially when also used for cooking and dish washing. I quickly added disposable plates, cups, and utensils to my preps.

Because Florida is flat, gravity flow for sewage is a problem, making underground sanitary pumping stations, called lift stations, common. My 460-home subdivision is served by a pair of 4,000 gallon underground tanks, which pump along with others to a county sewage treatment station about five miles away. The pumps are electric, which don’t operate without power, so the county emergency plan called for a septic tank service company to pump out those underground tanks until electrical power was restored. I spoke with the driver who said their trucks had 2,000 gallon tanks and they were figuring on two or three trips a day to keep our underground tanks from overflowing. His outfit was also contracted to service other subdivisions, so he was planning on 18-hour days. The county did not issue any requests to limit water use, although with no power for TV or radios, it would not have been heard everywhere, so it appears the septic pumping truck strategy is a successful one.

Of the six houses immediately adjacent to mine, only one had a generator when Charlie struck; when Jean hit seven weeks later, only one did not have a generator. I actually had two– a 3000 watt Honda EU3000i and a 6500 watt Honda ES6500. The 6500 was a leftover from living in a more rural area where it was needed to run the well pump during occasional power outages. I loaned the 6500 to a neighbor, and it wound up powering refrigerators and a few fans in hers and two adjacent houses.

The lesson here is how valuable long, large gauge extension cords can be. I have a pair of custom made 125-foot long cords made with 8-4 SO cord (rated at 40 amps) equipped with the correct 4-pin locking plug (NEMA L14-30P) for the ES6500, and custom adapters to convert the 230 volts from the generator to a pair of 115 volt circuits using NEMA 5-20R standard household receptacles. (Amazon has commercially manufactured adapters to do the same thing, about $42.) The ES6500 also has two 20 amp NEMA 5-20R receptacles that will take standard household plugs of 15 amp (NEMA 5-15P) or 20 amp (NEMA 5-20P) capacity. I also have commercially available 100-foot extension cords– one in 12 gauge and one in 10 gauge, and multi-outlet adapters for each, allowing up to eight connections. In NEMA specs, the “R” means female receptacle, the “P” means male plug. 20 amp rated plugs are different from 15 amp rated ones; the 20 amp plugs have the oversized neutral prong rotated 90 degrees to prevent overloading a 15 amp circuit by connecting a device requiring 20 amps to a 15 amp rated outlet; 15 amp plugs will fit into a 20 amp outlet but not the reverse. Standard 3-prong 15 amp male plugs (NEMA 5-15P) are also polarized by having oversized neutral prongs to prevent connecting a device in a manner that puts the hot current on the neutral side; this assumes the outlet is also wired correctly.

I built the custom multi-outlet adapters using 4-gang steel receptacle boxes to hold four duplex (double outlet) receptacles and connect with 25 feet of 10-3 SO cord (30 amp rating); the input cord has a standard 15 amp male plug (NEMA 5-15P) so it can be used anywhere there are standard 15 amp-rated outlets, and the receptacle box has three standard duplex 20 amp receptacles and one 20 amp GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) receptacle in the box. I oversized the cord and outlet capacity for extra safety, but I did not put a 20-amp circuit breaker into the receptacle box because if it started causing problems I didn’t want to deal with rewiring the box when I really needed to keep it in use. The GFCI supplies power to itself and one duplex receptacle, and two receptacles are wired to not have GFCI protection. If you assemble multi-outlet boxes this way, make sure the non-GFCI-protected receptacles are very clearly identified. I used white receptacles for the GFCI and GFCI-protected ones, and red for the non-protected, plus ¾-inch wide orange stick-on labels from my label maker. I put the 4-gang box on a piece of ¾ plywood about 6” longer and wider than the steel box to make it more stable and less likely to be turned over and added an LED pilot light so you can tell with a glance if the box is powered; several manufacturers now make a two-outlet GFCI receptacle with an LED night light, which would replace the pilot light and also provide some dim but useful area lighting. A 7/16” hole in each corner of the plywood allows using one or two 3/8” landscape spikes to anchor it, and a 1” hole in the center of the end opposite the input cable allows hanging it. Commercial heavy-duty multi-outlet units are available, but I haven’t seen any that are split between GFCI and non-GFCI receptacles. The key here is to plan how you’ll safely distribute power from your generator, especially if it’s being used outdoors.

My 3000 watt Honda (an ultra quiet EU3000i) met all my power needs: refrigerator, chest freezer, whole house fan and night time window air conditioner. I had already tested the refrigerator and chest freezer to see how long they could go without power. I adjusted the refrigerator/freezer control to maximum and adjusted daily the refrigerator section control to see how cold you can get it without freezing food and gave the fridge 12-24 hours between adjustments without opening the door(s) to get good measurements. A handy tool is a $24 Accurite wireless refrigerator/freezer thermometer from Amazon. I learned I could leave my refrigerator unplugged for 6 ½ hours before internal temperatures rose enough to jeopardize food storage; the freezer section, which settled in at -15F, never rose above +12F, and the fridge, which settled in at +33F reached +49F. When plugged back in it will take 30-45 minutes to start cooling down again, and temperatures will continue to rise a couple degrees until then, so keep the “fragile foods” in the coldest part of the fridge. Move the temperature sensor around during testing to see where the coldest and warmest spots are. Opening the fridge door once will cost almost two hours of unpowered cold time, so keep the door closed. When re-powering them, the fridge ran for about 2 ½ hours before reaching its minimum set temperature; the chest freezer ran a little over an hour. I’ve thought about getting some 1”-2” thick foam insulation panels and cutting them to fit against the outside of the fridge and freezer to add another hour or two to the “off” time; foil-faced R-Max brand, which is polyisocyanurate with an R value of about 6.4 per inch, is easily available locally, as is polystyrene which has about half the R value. If you do this, make sure you don’t block air flow to the compressor area when the fridge is powered on; temporary use is probably okay, but foam insulation is highly flammable and permanent installs require covering with fire resistant wallboard.

There are a few makers of ultra high efficiency freezers and refrigerators. SunDanzer is one that I’ve seen at a preparedness Expo. They are hyper-insulated and designed to run from photovoltaic solar systems. They’re small, about 8 cubic feet, and expensive, around $1100 plus shipping, but they never need connection to the power grid. RVs use propane-powered refrigerators, and a couple companies are still making propane fridges for residential use, more common decades ago before the U.S. rural electrification got underway in the 1930s. I’m in the “thinking” stages for a major remodel, and solar panels and batteries will be part of that, as will replacing my 115 volt freezer with a 12-volt ultra efficient one, like a SunDanzer, to be run entirely from solar. A propane fridge is also an option but would require permanent certified gas plumbing in the walls.

A tip: a Kill-A-Watt is a measurement tool that will allow you to determine actual wattage draw of your appliances. It costs about $20 at Amazon, or check with your public library. Mine offers them on a free two week loan, just like a book. You’ll find that the very brief (1-3 seconds) starting current draw on appliances with motors, called “locked rotor current”, will be about 4-5 times running current. This may require a slightly larger generator, or at least disconnecting some loads to allow an appliance to start more easily. Belkin makes a similar unit that is in two parts. The plug and the display are separated by a 3-foot cable, making it easier to use in tight spaces where the Kill-A-Watt might not fit or the display might not be visible. (One trick is to plug the Kill-A-Watt between two extension cords.) They present the same data but in slightly different format. I own both and other than not having to use an extension cord in tight spaces with the Belkin, I haven’t seen a significant difference between them.

My EU3000 could run the fridge, the freezer, and a 550 watt whole house fan easily, along with a couple oscillating fans to help dry the carpeting. At night I closed the house up for security, set a 5,000 BTU air conditioner in the window of a back bedroom, plugged in a dehumidifier to help dry the carpets, and the “night watch duty schedule” included alternating power distribution between the fridge and freezer, with the oscillating fans left running. I ran the 3000 for about 15 hours a day on three gallons of gasoline. That consumption was low because it’s a small generator and wasn’t loaded over half load except for the brief seconds when the compressor in the fridge, freezer, or window AC kicked on. I kept a Kill-A-Watt plugged into the connection to the generator to monitor current draw and make sure I wasn’t overloading the generator.

People tend to buy larger generators than they really need, which means they need more fuel. Three gallons per day still meant carrying two 5-gallon cans to a working gas station every third day. For 5½ days without power it wasn’t a big deal, but for a prolonged powerless period it would have been. Check the maintenance schedule for your generator. Most specify oil changes every 24 operating hours. I changed the oil in the EU3000 every third, about 30 operating hours, using Amsoil synthetic oil. For generator size planning, total up the wattage of those electrical devices you need to operate. Remember, need is not want.

The whole house fan was a used 30-inch industrial exhaust fan bought from a dry cleaner going out of business. I equipped it with a 25 foot cord, safety screening, and some adjustable brackets to secure it to one of the bedroom windows. It moved about 7500 CFM (cubic feet per minute) so when it was on there was always plenty of air moving through the house.

About that air conditioner, do not underestimate the value of having one cool room in which to get 6-8 hours of restful sleep. Yes, there will be grumbling when the whole family has to sleep in one room, but a few folding cots and sleeping bag pads will help with that. Nighttime August temps in Central and South Florida are often still 80F as late as 11PM, with humidity to match. One room with a temperature of 70-72F and low humidity is worth its weight in gold.

It’s a good idea to establish a nighttime watch schedule; everyone in one closed room with an air conditioner running won’t hear break in attempts; two hours on watch is about right, shared among responsible family members, and a watch schedule allows managing power distribution from the generator. With power out, it’s really dark, alarm systems don’t work, and there are some people who seek to take advantage of those conditions. Secure your generator with heavy chains or cables and locks. Quite a few got stolen because with widespread power outages generators became very valuable. Thieves often substituted a cheap lawnmower, so the residents still heard a running gas engine. I put a failed circuit alarm, which cost about $35 at Amazon, in the extension cord to the air conditioner; cutting the power would produce a smoke detector-like screech to alert and wake whomever wasn’t on watch. One advantage to an ultra quiet generator was the EU3000 couldn’t be heard over any of our neighbor’s generators, so it was less likely to attract thieves’ attention, and the AC was in a window not visible or audible from the street.

Why didn’t I keep the AC running during the day? We had the whole house fan to move air when the generator was running to cool the fridge and freezer, and controlling which windows were open created good breezes through the house. With no electricity, life shifted to up-at-dawn, bed-at-dark mode. During daylight hours everyone was working on cleanup and repair, either at home or helping a neighbor.

For after dark lighting there were flashlights, a couple old style wick kerosene lanterns, a couple of headlamps, candles that didn’t get used, and two Aladdin mantle lamps, which are terrific lamps. I’ve since bought two more Aladdin mantle lamps plus spare mantles, wicks, and chimneys. They’re expensive, but Aladdins are worth it. I’ve since also added extra headlamps, equipped each vehicle with them, and placed a few in strategic locations around the house.

When you’re dealing with the prospect of several days of involuntary darkness, move some furniture out of the way so people moving around in the dark won’t bump into it. Make sure you don’t block or hinder access to windows or doors.

Letter Re: Seeking Silver Half Dollars

Hugh,

Yes, this is true. Most banks do not have any halves on hand. It’s been a few years since they have even been minted for circulation. Ordering a box of $500 is the minimum, and they will expect you to take the box. Some banks even have $1000 min to order. Some banks do not want to be bothered at all. Most likely a bank that you [regularly] bank with will order them, and then you have to dispose [of them]! The bank you order them from will not want them back. Maybe the first time, but not thereafter. So spending them [back into circulation] is a way to use them. That’s just my experience‎. – DSV

Economics and Investing:

Conference Video: The Gold/Silver Ratio – Mike Maloney & David Morgan

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It is noteworthy that President DJT has gone on record as stating that the U.S. Dollar is “too strong” and therefore “hurting exports”. So it is safe to assume that he will pursue weaker Dollar policies. The prospect of these policies is already showing influence in the FOREX market. Be ready for an interest rate crisis and then a Dollar crisis, folks! Hedge into silver, and perhaps a bit into Swiss Francs. The easiest way to do that is to convert most of any lingering positive PayPal balance that you might have into Swiss Francs. That can be done with just a couple of mouse clicks. – JWR

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Davos Elites Call For a Ban on Physical Cash… in the US. – B.B.

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This data proves US stocks aren’t as healthy as we’ve been told

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SurvivalBlog and its editors are not paid investment counselors or advisers. Please see our Provisos page for details.

Odds ‘n Sods:

An observation: As of January 3rd of last year, The Oregonian newspaper estimated that there were “20 to 25” Bundy-led occupiers spending nights at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. Also in early January, 2016, I heard the figure of 22 individuals, provided by a vlogger who had visited the encampment to conduct interviews. In recent months Gary Hunt’s website has publicized the fact that at least SEVEN of those individuals were contemporaneously active Federal informants. He has named all seven of them, quoting court discovery documents. The ratio of 7 to 22 does not bode well for the Patriot movement. Clearly, the only safety is in forming very small cellular Leaderless Resistance groups that are comprised ONLY of close, long-time friends and relatives. – JWR

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Incredible plans unveiled for world’s first ‘floating city’ in the middle of the Pacific Ocean

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Over at Mises Wire, a fascinating piece: No Country Should Be Bigger Than This

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Breaking the Censorship: How to Obtain an IP Address (for Windows users)

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Here is a useful piece over at Commander Zero’s blog: Vacuum packaging clothes

Notes for Wednesday – January 18, 2017

Kevin Costner, who starred in Open Range, was born on this day in 1955.

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Today, we present another entry for Round 68 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $15,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
  2. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate that is good for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,195 value),
  3. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  4. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 Nato QD Billet upper with a hammer forged, chrome-lined barrel and a hard case to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel, which can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools and a compact carry capability in a hard case or 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  5. Gun Mag Warehouse is providing 20 Magpul PMAG 30-rd Magazines (a value of $300) and a Gun Mag Warehouse T-Shirt; (an equivalent prize will be awarded for residents in states with magazine restrictions),
  6. Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  7. The Ark Institute is donating a non-GMO, non-hybrid vegetable seed package (enough for two families of four) plus seed storage materials, a CD-ROM of Geri Guidetti’s book “Build Your Ark! How to Prepare for Self Reliance in Uncertain Times”, and two bottles of Potassium Iodate (a $325 retail value),
  8. A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
  9. Two cases of meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Second Prize:

  1. A Tactical Self-Contained 2-Series Solar Power Generator system from Always Empowered. This compact starter power system is packaged in a wheeled O.D. green EMP-shielded Pelican hard case (a $2,400 value),
  2. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  3. A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
  4. A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
  5. A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
  6. A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
  7. A pre-selected assortment of military surplus gear from CJL Enterprize (a $300 value),
  8. An infrared sensor/imaging camouflage shelter from Snakebite Tactical in Eureka, Montana (A $350+ value),
  9. RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site, and
  10. American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.

Third Prize:

  1. A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
  2. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  3. A custom made Sage Grouse model utility/field knife from custom knife-maker Jon Kelly Designs, of Eureka, Montana,
  4. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  5. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  6. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
  7. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances,
  8. Montie Gear is donating a Y-Shot Slingshot and a $125 Montie gear Gift certificate.,
  9. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value), and
  10. Fifteen LifeStraws from SafeCastle (a $300 value).
  11. A $250 gift certificate to Tober’s Traditions, makers of all natural (organic if possible) personal care products, such as soap, tooth powder, deodorant, sunscreen, lotion, and more.

Round 68 ends on January 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Hurricane Preparedness Experience- Part 1, by N.K.

S.G.’s recent observations about living through hurricane Matthew is well presented information. If I may, I’d like to contribute my experiences with hurricanes Charlie, Frances, and Jean in Central Florida during 2004.

Charlie made landfall in southwest Florida the afternoon of Friday August 13, 2004, coming ashore at Punta Gorda in Charlotte Bay as a strong category 4 with 145 mph winds. After devastating that area, it rapidly traveled diagonally across the state eventually impacting Kissimmee and Orlando in Central Florida before heading up the Atlantic coast. Orlando International Airport recorded winds of 105-110 mph, just below the 111 mph of a category 3 storm, and Sanford International Airport logged  winds of 96 mph. Amateur weather buffs in Osceola County (Kissimmee and St. Cloud)  recorded wind speeds 10-20 miles higher. Fortunately, Charlie was a fast mover so the high winds did not slowly chew up houses by lingering over any particular spot.

My neighborhood lost power at 9:15 PM Friday, and it was restored around midday on Thursday the 19th. Some areas did not have electricity restored for another two weeks; it depended on how many trees had come down and impacted power lines. Central Florida had not seen a strong hurricane since Donna in 1960, and in 44 years a lot more houses were built and trees grew. Florida has quite a few laurel and pin oaks, which are shallowly rooted, and sandy soil doesn’t provide much support. In Central and South Florida, oaks maintain full leaf display year round; as a result, in high winds they don’t lose branches but topple over intact, especially if they have not been pruned for hurricanes. When a 50-80 foot tree that weighs several tons falls intact the damage it can cause is extensive, and all of the tree must be cut up and removed to allow re-stringing of power lines.

We experienced three hurricanes striking Central Florida in 2004: Charlie on August 13, Frances on September 5 (105 mph, strong category 2), and Jean on September 26 (100 mph, a weaker category 2). Between Frances and Jean, the remnants of hurricane Ivan, which struck the Florida panhandle September 16, made a loop through Georgia into the Atlantic and crossed southern Central Florida on September 21 as a tropical storm. It was a very interesting summer in Central Florida, and many of us earned a PhD in Hurricane Prep.

Due to work requirements and Charlie’s sudden path change, as it was forecast to remain in the Gulf tracking parallel to Florida’s west coast, I was unable to put up storm panels on windows and doors, so my house had to face Charlie’s wrath “naked”. Friday evening water was being sprayed around the edges of windows, wetting everything within 8-10 feet. Unless it’s a casement or an awning window with a rubber gasket, throwing water at a house at 110 miles per hour will force some around the edges. Fortunately, that was the only water that got into the house; no hard objects struck the unprotected glass, and the garage doors held. The eye tracked within three miles, so three sides of the house got the full high wind and water treatment.

Florida used to have two building codes: coastal and inland. That changed to a single more stringent statewide code in 1995 after lessons from hurricane Andrew in 1992. Houses built to the old inland code, like mine, are still built stronger than houses in other areas that don’t face hurricanes. Post-1995 houses are stronger still. If I’m ever fortunate enough to have a house built where I’m living now, I’m going to supply the builder with a copy of the post-1995 Florida code to use as a starting point, and then I’ll add some strengthening requirements of my own.

Wind speed fell off quickly, thanks to Charlie’s rapid movement, and by midnight neighbors were outside with flashlights surveying damage. Sunrise brought a debris-filled scene, especially shingle scraps. Standard 3-tab shingles did not fare well; about 25% of my east-facing roof had the tabs ripped off the shingles, leaving only the nailed upper portion and exposing the tar paper below. About 10% more shingle tabs were removed by hurricane Frances, and another 5-10% were removed by Jean. The quick fix was a 5-gallon bucket of roof patching from a home center applied with a plastic putty knife over exposed tar paper and under the remnant of whatever shingle was left above it. We all got pretty good at doing this, because roofing companies were scheduling several months out, due to the huge demand for new roofs and shortage of hurricane-grade shingles. I didn’t get my roof replaced until the end of January 2005, five months later.

A bit about shingles, they are coated with a protective layer of sacrificial aggregate, which helps in giving shingles a particular color. As the shingle ages it loses some of that aggregate each year; when the the shingle carcass becomes fully exposed to the elements it accelerates the aging process. Florida is a tough environment for houses, especially roofs with high temperatures 10 months each year, lots of ultraviolet, torrential downpours from very heavy thunderstorms, producing high humidity, which promotes mold. There are also the hurricanes.. However long shingles last “up north”, it’s about half of that in Central and South Florida.

As the shingles shed the sacrificial aggregate they become treacherous to walk on. My first post-hurricane purchase was 140 feet of 7/16″ diameter dynamic mountain climbing rope, a strap-style mountain climbing seat, and a climber’s rope brake from an outfit that offered indoor rock wall climbing. The seat straps wrap snugly around each thigh and connect to the waist belt, which needs to be tight, plus a crotch strap; skydivers, military pilots, and former members of the 82nd and 101st Airborne would feel right at home. An option would have been an OSHA-Certified roof security harness, but the seat was $40, an OSHA harness about $150, certified straps, anchors, and rope on top of that. Two big differences between the rigs were the OSHA fall restraint fastens to the top center of the back while the seat had the attachment ring at the front waist where it’s easy to manage slack control with a rope brake. The OSHA rig is intended to allow quite a bit of free movement and prevent fatal impact with the ground. Some having automatic payout and retract reels like car seat belts; I was just as interested in limiting the amount of “shingle surfing” my hips, butt, and legs would do if I lost my footing. The rope runs through the brake in a loop; squeezing the spring-loaded handle allows rope to move through it, and releasing the handle instantly locks the rope in the brake. I secured the backyard end of the rope to the base of a 6X6 fence post concreted three feet into the ground and the other to a D-ring on the trailer hitch on my pickup truck in the driveway, leaving  enough slack to move around the roof. I never slipped or fell, but I would not have traveled more than three or four feet down the roof had I done so. I was wearing heavy denim jeans, full shoes, gloves, and the heaviest flannel shirt I owned, fully buttoned including sleeves. Temperatures were in the 90s, so shorts and a t-shirt would have been much more comfortable, but bare skin sliding even three feet on a shingle roof would not have been pleasant. Sweat washes off and requires no healing time.

Crossing the roof peak meant straddling it while reversing rope direction through the brake. A word about rope: dynamic climbing rope has about a 10% stretch factor to cushion the sudden stop should a climber fall. Regular rope doesn’t stretch that much, probably no more than 1-2%. The difference in the jerk at the end of even a 10-12 foot fall is significant, and that sudden hard jerk can easily break rope that’s worn or undersized for the task, or sometimes it can break bones.

The lesson here is be prepared for emergency roof repairs and have protective equipment to prevent injury while doing the repairs. The seat, rope, and brake was $160 well spent, and it quickly became well used among my neighbors.

Whomever installed my roof did an excellent job, standard 3-tab shingles aside. When Charlie hit, the roof was 14 years old, facing full replacement in two to four years. The underlayment was 30 pound tar paper and overlapped a full 50%. Tar paper comes in 36-inch wide rolls, in two basic weights– 15 pounds and 30 pounds per square, which is roofer’s lingo for 100 square feet. There are marked lines on tar paper to guide overlap; some installers will overlap less than 50% to save on tar paper. When my roof was replaced I specified both 30 pound paper and a 2/3 overlap, costing more, but guaranteeing every spot on the roof was covered by two layers of 30 pound paper under the shingles. I also specified very heavy architectural shingles with a 130 mph wind rating. Architectural shingles have double thickness portions to give a patterned look, making the shingle heavier and more solid. These options added about $1400 to my out-of-pocket cost, but I considered both worthwhile investments. Florida building code requires six nails per shingle; many places require only four. Regardless of where you live, it would pay to go with 30 lb tar paper and heavy architectural shingles and specify six nails per shingle. The additional cost is worth it. Incidentally, check your homeowner’s policy. Florida allows insurers to levy a wind storm deductible of up to 5% of insured value, so on a house insured for $200,000 the regular $500 or $1,000 deductible could jump as high as $10,000 the moment a storm becomes a hurricane. As a reminder, homeowner’s policies do not include flood damage; damage from wind-driven water will be covered, but insuring against damage caused by rising water from heavy rain requires a separate flood insurance policy.

Checking with roof experts, I learned that roof sheathing– usually 1/2” thick, but 5/8” is the new minimum code requirement in Florida– will hold up for about four re-roofings before needing replacement. A few thousand shingles with six nails each puts a lot of holes in the sheathing, eventually compromising its strength. If building, I would use 3/4” exterior glue roof plywood sheathing and not OSB (oriented strand board), if there was enough money in the budget. OSB is made by bonding wood chips and fragments together with a strong adhesive; it works well, size for size is comparable in strength to plywood, and is less expensive, but OSB is more susceptible to swelling at the edges and staying swollen after drying, if it gets wet, so there’s a greater possibility with storm-damaged roofs than other sheathing applications. One advantage OSB has over plywood is easier availability in larger than 4X8 ft sheets. One disadvantage is plywood has slightly better nail holding ability than OSB.

Letter Re: Seeking Silver Half Dollars

JWR,

I have now asked for rolls of $0.50 pieces at two branches of my own bank (in the greater KC area) and one branch of a bank I do not use. All three of them could not produce a single roll. The second branch of my own bank whined about how “they would have to buy a box of 1,000 to get a roll, and they just can’t do this”. So much for culling silver halves. – DAB

HJL’s Comment: This is not an unusual occurrence, especially in smaller banks. You may have to actually visit a large bank branch and even then it’s not a sure thing. Interestingly enough, you might also try Walmart or other large retailers that deal with large amounts of cash. While the trend is moving more and more to a credit card type of transaction, these stores generally handle much more cash on a daily basis than most banks.

JWR’s Comment: In my experience, finding silver half dollars can be quite hit or miss. I’ve had the best luck in coin roll hunting silver by searching at small town banks. Most of what I found were 40% silver coins, but there were a few 90%ers. The trick seems to be getting to know the tellers and treating them with the utmost courtesy. Try to arrive at times when they aren’t busy with a queue of other customers. Always return coins to OTHER banks. (Commonly called a “dump” bank.) Some banks now have “no fee” Coinstar type coin counters, and that makes returns quick and easy. Simply by asking, I had one teller let me know whenever the local school district made large deposits of coinage, during the school year. It is “lunch money” that seems to be the biggest source of silver coins re-entering circulation.

Economics and Investing:

Silver Will Be Too Valuable To Waste As Money – Interview with Bix Weir

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BIG MOVEMENT AHEAD IN THE SILVER MARKET… Serious Trouble In Paper Markets

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Social Security has a looming $11 trillion shortfall – B.B.

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Video: The Dollar is Headed Down. Everybody is going to be caught on the wrong side of this market ad sentiment is excessively bullish. The dollar is going to be due for a three year cycle low sometime in 2017.

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