6 reasons to drink water

We’ve all heard that we’re supposed to drink eight glasses of water each day. Few of us do it, and probably even fewer of us count the glasses we do drink. But perhaps if we knew the reasons we’re supposed to drink that much, we would make it a higher priority in our lives.

Following are six important reasons for drinking plenty of water each day:

  • The water inside you, which makes up about 60 percent of your body, serves a variety of purposes. It helps your circulation, creates saliva, helps digest your food, helps maintain body temperature and moves nutrients around to where they should be. Drinking plenty of water maintains the proper balance of fluids that your body needs to function the way it is supposed to.
  • Drinking water can lower your calorie intake and reduce your weight. This occurs when you’re thirsty (drinking water instead of beverages with calories) and when you’re hungry (drinking more water than usual and eating less food than usual, or eating food with high water content).
  • Drinking water can energize your muscles. Your cells need a good balance of fluids and electrolytes. When they don’t get it, you experience muscle fatigue. It’s especially important to drink plenty of water before and during exercise because that’s when you lose fluids and electrolytes through sweating.
  • Drinking water helps your skin look better. When people start to get dehydrated, you can see it in their skin, which appears dry and wrinkled. Your skin absorbs the water you drink and can act as a barrier to fluid loss. Moisturizer on your skin can also help.
  • Drinking water helps your kidneys function properly. Your kidneys do a great job of getting rid of toxins in your body, but only if enough water is flowing through them. Help your kidneys do their important job by drinking plenty of fluids.
  • Drinking water helps your bowels function normally. Without enough fluids, constipation will occur. The combination of fiber in your diet and plenty of fluids should keep your bowels functioning properly.

I don’t know about you, but those six reasons are enough to make me want to drink more water every day.

–Frank Bates

Be prepared for an earthquake or tornado

The horrific earthquake that struck Nepal recently and killed thousands of people was a wake-up call for all of us. Unlike a hurricane, which usually provides advance warning, an earthquake or a tornado can occur suddenly and have devastating results.

An average of 500,000 earthquakes occur around the world each year, approximately one-fifth of which can be felt by humans. Measured on the Richter scale, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 to 7.9 is considered “major,” while an 8.0 quake or higher is considered “great.” The U.S. Geological Society estimates that since 1900 there has been an average of 18 major earthquakes and one great earthquake per year. The most recent great quake occurred in Japan in 2011, measuring 9.0 on the scale.

The result of a sudden release of energy in the Earth’s crust that creates seismic waves, an earthquake is usually caused by the rupture of a geological fault, but can also be caused by volcanic activity, landslides, mine blasts and nuclear tests. The point of initial rupture is called the “focus” or “hypocenter,” while the point at ground level directly above is known as the “epicenter.”

In 2012, a total of 68 people lost their lives in the U.S. due to 1,072 reported tornadoes. These vicious storms – violently rotating columns of air that are in contact with the earth’s surface – are more than a match for pretty much everything that gets in their way, including homes and other structures, trees and power lines. While most tornadoes are approximately 250 feet across and feature wind speeds of less than 110 miles per hour, some particularly intense tornadoes stretch out across two miles and pack 300 mph or greater wind speeds.

You might be able to defend yourself from a home invader or an attacker on the street, but it’s absolutely impossible to defend yourself against an earthquake or tornado. There’s no way to stand up to nature’s most furious foes, but there are a variety of actions you can take now to protect yourself and your family before, during and after an earthquake or tornado.

First and foremost – and this applies to any potential weather-related disaster – you should make sure to have an emergency response plan in place. Assemble your 72-hour survival kit, have bug-out bags ready for you and your family, and organize important documents in advance to be as prepared as possible.

Whether you are at home or at the office, everyone should be aware of exactly what to do and where to take shelter when a weather disaster strikes. And as soon as possible, tune into emergency radio communicated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Their reports will always be slightly ahead of mainstream media reports.

Here are four things you can do in advance to make yourself ready for an earthquake:

  • Practice your disaster plan with your family members. Don’t just talk about it – although that’s a good first step – but occasionally play it out so that it will seem like second nature if you have to deal with an earthquake.
  • If you live in an area where earthquakes are common or even occasional, make sure that your shelves are fastened securely to walls, breakables are in cabinets that latch shut, heavier objects are on lower shelves, rollers are off your heavy furniture, and walls and foundations are structurally sound.
  • Know where your utility shut-off switches are in the house and keep bug-out bags near an exit.
  • Don’t buy into earthquake myths. Doorframes are not safe to stand under, earthquakes do not always occur in the morning and sheltering next to sturdy furniture is not better than sheltering under it.

Most earthquake-related injuries occur due to flying debris and falling objects. Following are four steps you can take during an earthquake:

  • Shield yourself immediately, whether indoors or out. Get under sturdy furniture. If in bed, cover your head with a pillow and hang on.
  • If you’re indoors, stay away from windows, shelves and hanging fixtures. Get under a desk if you’re near one.
  • If you’re outdoors, stay clear of buildings, trees, utility poles, streetlights and construction equipment.
  • If you’re in a vehicle, stop as soon as you’re away from tall objects. Stay in the car and try to avoid bridges and ramps.

As a result of the damage that has been done by an earthquake and any aftershocks, you need to be very cautious about what you do following a quake. Below are four actions you can take to avoid injury after a quake has already struck:

  • Continue listening to emergency radio and pay attention to mainstream media reports about the damage in your area.
  • Don’t assume that you are now safe. Structures that were loosened or uprooted during the quake may still be standing but could fall at any moment.
  • Meet family members and/or co-workers in a safe place to make sure everyone is OK and to make any necessary plans to deal with the aftermath.
  • Watch out for hanging wires, fires, gas leaks, falling glass, uneven ground and any other problems that may have been caused by the earthquake and its aftershocks.

Offering five steps to take during a tornado is www.Ready.gov. They are:

  • If you’re indoors, get to a basement, storm cellar or the lowest level of a building. Stay away from windows, doors, corners of buildings and outside walls.
  • If you’re indoors but can’t get to a lower level, find the smallest interior room or hallway as far from the exterior of the building as possible.
  • If you’re driving, try to head to the closest structure where you can take shelter.
  • If you’re driving but can’t get to a shelter, get out of the car and lie face down with your hands over your head in a ditch or other lower level near the roadway but away from vehicles.
  • If you’re driving and you see a tornado, don’t try to outrun it. Pull over immediately and seek shelter. Avoid overpasses, bridges, tall buildings and flying debris.

Once a tornado passes, you may not be out of the woods yet. Most people who suffer post-tornado injuries get hurt while trying to clean up debris, including glass and nails. Also keep an eye out for downed power lines, ruptured gas lines and damaged structures.

We’ll never be able to defeat these powerful forces of nature, but being prepared will increase the likelihood of staying alive when they strike.

– Frank Bates

Purifying water after a disaster

When the inevitable crisis occurs, there is a chance your local water supply will be negatively affected. If you can ride out a short emergency in your home, simply dip into your water reserves.

But if you don’t have a stockpile of drinking water in your home or if you’re forced to bug out and can’t take much of it with you, you may need to purify water of contaminants. Be prepared for several options because you never know which resources may be available once a disaster strikes.

Personal water filter

The easiest way to deal with this problem is by having a personal water filter, although you should also have a good stock of water purification tablets on hand. One option is the LifeStraw, which removes 99.999 percent of waterborne bacteria and parasites.

Weighing only 2 ounces, the LifeStraw contains no moving parts and requires no electricity or batteries. Pores within tubes inside the straw allow water to pass but prevent contaminants larger than 0.2 microns from flowing through. The LifeStraw, which has met EPA standards for water filtration, filters up to 1,000 liters of contaminated water without iodine, chlorine or other chemicals.

Here comes the sun

If you bug out, the sun is going to make you thirsty, but it’s also something that can help make your water safe enough to drink through a simple process. Here’s how:

  • Use clear, clean polyethylene terephthalate (PET) soda pop bottles no bigger than 2-liter size. PET bottles are usually marked with the recycling symbol and a numeral “1.” Remove all wrapping and packaging.
  • Fill them with whatever water you can obtain and close the cap tightly.
  • Lay them out for maximum sun exposure. A rack tilted at the sun is best, but another option is a flat surface that won’t allow the bottles to roll away.
  • Expose the bottles for at least six sunny hours, preferably more, or two full cloudy days.
  • Do not overuse bottles; you will be ingesting the plastic material over time, so keep your bottles fresh.
  • Do not treat too much water at once. The depth of the water is key, as the UV rays from the sun kill bacteria. Do not use buckets. Keep the water depth a maximum of four inches.

This method has been shown to kill bacteria effectively and reduce diarrhea by up to 80 percent. The longer you “cook” the water in sunlight, the less bacteria there will be. Refill bottles as soon as they’re empty and let them bake in the sun as long as possible.

Purifying rainwater

The solutions to most of our problems don’t often fall from the sky, but this one does. Here are three steps to purify rainwater:

  • Install a downspout filter on your home’s roof drainage system. You could purchase one or build one yourself at a fraction of that cost. This will divert grime, insects and bird waste out of your water supply.
  • Install a rain barrel below the downspout filter. Make sure you have a spigot and smaller water vessels so you transfer your water inside. There are rain barrels sold everywhere, but you can fashion one for yourself very easily.
  • Set up a simple gravity filtration system to clean the water.

–Frank Bates

Don’t forget the small stuff in your bug-out bag

Many of us have given a great deal of thought to the major items we need in our bug-out bags, including emergency food, water, fire-starters, a knife and cordage. And hopefully, most of us have those bags located in a place near the front door so we can grab them and bolt out the door quickly if necessary.

But what about the numerous small items that can make a big difference? There are many of these seemingly minor items that could help you avoid a major headache if you remember to pack them. And the great thing about these smaller items is that you can fit many of them in a bug-out bag with no problem, as most are lightweight. But if you ever have to decide between two or more small items, select the ones that have multiple purposes.

Let’s take a look at a number of these smaller items and why you might need them. Not everyone’s list of compact items is going to be the same. But if you can acquire the small items that make the most sense for you and include them with the major items in your bug-out bag, you’ll rest easier now and be in better shape when the day comes that you need them.

  • LED flashlight. Your best choice here is a hand-crank dynamo generator light because their bulbs rarely burn out and their batteries rarely corrode. Every once in a while, crank it up to test it. Other options are a pocket LED flashlight and a tactical compact light.
  • Compass. Don’t scrimp with this crucial item. Your first choice should be a military-style Lensatic compass, which is reliable and durable. In addition to pointing you in the right direction, it could help in creating a map to find your way back to a campsite.
  • First-aid kit. Buy a pre-made kit or put one together yourself, but make sure to include this in your bag because it could save a life. In addition, get some first-aid training from a beginner or intermediate Red Cross class. A few of the items that should be included in this kit are iodine, antibacterial ointment, Band-Aids and Ace bandages, gauze, medical tape, burn salve, ibuprofen or other pain medicine, disposable scalpels, and suture packs.
  • Emergency whistle. A survival whistle sold in a sporting goods store will be louder than most, but you can probably get by with a coach’s whistle or police whistle. Because you may have to access it quickly, keep it on a lanyard that you can wear around your neck.
  • Topographic maps. Find regional topographic maps of your general area and learn how to read and use them before you have to bug out. They can be a huge help in finding your way around, especially if you live in a woodsy area.
  • Heavy trash bags. These multipurpose bags can be used as a shelter frame to keep out the rain, a floatation device when filled with air or a small sink for capturing rainwater or washing dishes when placed in a hole in the ground.
  • Small folding shovel. Even the smallest folding shovel will take up a significant amount of space in your bug-out bag, so this is something you might want to lash to the outside. It will help for clearing a snow or dirt drift or for digging a hole to dispose of waste.
  • Signal mirror. Even a small mirror, such as what might come in a makeup compact, can reflect strong sunlight a long way. For even greater effect, get yourself a military-style signal mirror, which is very durable and includes a sighting system.
  • Sunglasses. We tend to grab our sunglasses instinctively during the summer, which is a good idea. But they are even more important to have in the winter if there is snow cover on a bright, sunny day. Choose UVA or UVB glasses.
  • Insect repellant. Make sure the one you choose has a high DEET content and that it comes in a tube, not a can, which could explode. Check the expiration date periodically and replace if necessary.
  • Mosquito head net. Your insect repellant should keep those nasty critters off most of your body, but it’s still a good idea to have a head net if you’re going to be outside for any length of time. It can also have other uses, including as a minnow net, a carry bag for vegetables or a dirty clothes tote bag. They’re very light and they pack easily.
  • Spiral notepad. You probably won’t be writing a novel while bugging out, but you may want to leave a note on an abandoned car or at an abandoned campsite. You can also use the paper as tinder for fire starting.
  • Orange safety vest. Buy an inexpensive blaze orange hunting vest that’s a couple sizes too large so it can fit over other clothing, including a coat. It will make you more visible to rescue crews, if necessary, and could also be used as an emergency flag.
  • Super Glue. The makers of this substance probably had no idea how many uses it would provide. You can use it to fix a broken knife grip, plug holes in a canteen and even repair your skin after suffering a small open wound or abrasion. It can actually seal wounds from infection.
  • Miscellaneous items. These would include nails for building with wood, edible plant handbook, first-aid manual, toilet paper, small sewing kit, mini binoculars, small scissors, latex gloves and game or bird calls.
  • Comfort items. This will be different for everyone. Some folks may want a New Testament or playing cards, others cigarettes and still others a harmonica. The important thing is that these items should be able to comfort you during a stressful time.

The small items you include in your bug-out bag can make or break your bug-out experience. Make sure you have a vast majority of the items listed above, as well as any others you think you might need.

–Frank Bates

Why do we need 8 glasses of water a day?

How much water should we drink each day? For as long as I can remember, the answer has been eight glasses per day. But is it really necessary to drink that much? On the other hand, are eight glasses a day enough?

The definitive answer from the world-famous Mayo Clinic is…it all depends. How much water you need each day to stay healthy depends on a variety of factors including your current health condition, how active you are and where you live.

We all lose water every day through urine, bowel movements, perspiration and even our breath. Drinking water is the primary way to replace what we’ve lost, although we can also accomplish the task by eating foods containing water. An average of 20 percent of the fluids we take in each day come from food. When we don’t replace the water we’ve lost, our bodies don’t function as well as they should.

Most of us probably don’t drink eight glasses of water per day, and even fewer of us count the glasses we drink. Generally speaking, most of us drink water when we’re thirsty. Many beverages contain water, including milk, juice and coffee, so we might get more water than we think. But as we age, we have a diminished sense of thirst, so maybe we don’t always get what we need.

Understanding the science behind why it’s important to drink plenty of water each day might influence us to drink more. Here are some things to consider:

  • The water inside you, making up about 60 percent of your body, helps your circulation, creates saliva, helps digest your food, helps maintain body temperature and moves nutrients to where they should be. Drinking plenty of water maintains the proper balance of fluids your body needs.
  • Drinking water can lower your calorie intake and reduce your weight. This occurs when you’re thirsty (drinking water instead of beverages with calories) and when you’re hungry (drinking more water than usual and eating less food, or eating food with high water content).
  • Drinking water can energize your muscles. Your cells need a good balance of fluids and electrolytes. When they don’t get it, you experience muscle fatigue. It’s especially important to drink plenty of water before and during exercise.
  • Drinking water helps your skin look better. When people start to get dehydrated, you can see it in their skin, which appears dry and wrinkled. Your skin absorbs the water you drink and acts as a barrier to fluid loss.
  • Drinking water helps your kidneys function properly. Your kidneys do a great job of getting rid of toxins in your body if enough water is flowing through them. Help your kidneys do their job by drinking plenty of fluids.
  • Drinking water helps your bowels function normally. Without enough fluids, constipation will occur. The combination of fiber in your diet and plenty of fluids should keep your bowels functioning properly.

So, the bottom line is: drink more water. Your muscles, skin, kidneys and bowels will thank you.

– Frank Bates

Grow your own food to achieve food independence forever

The single best thing about growing your own food — and freezing much of it for the colder half of the year — is that it protects you from outside influences you can’t control. Even if the price of vegetables were to spike by 30 percent, you’d have your fresh vegetables handy that you grew. With a garden, you are in control of at least a portion of your family’s food supply.

The National Gardening Association estimates that a 600-square-foot garden will yield approximately $600 worth of produce in a year. Many gardeners will tell you that’s a very conservative estimate, and that they get a lot more out of their gardens. The average American consumes close to 2,000 pounds of food per year, so you can see how valuable a home garden can be.

It might seem somewhat “novel” today to grow your own food; but not that long ago, almost all food production for a family was done in their yard or on their farm. It’s really only been in the past 200 years or so that that has changed. Recently, gardening has become more of a hobby than a way to support a family’s food needs, but the time seems to be rapidly approaching when that might all change.

Two more reasons to grow your own food are because it will taste better than what you buy in the store and it will contain more nutrients. The vitamin, mineral and protein content of today’s supermarket food is less than what our parents ate, in some cases by as much as 40 percent.

Donald Davis, former researcher with the Biochemical Institute at the University of Texas-Austin, analyzed the nutritional content of 43 fruits and vegetables from 1950 to just before the turn of the century and found that broccoli, for example, contained 130 mg of calcium in 1950 but only 48 mg 50 years later. Here are some other statistics comparing recent food with that from 1950:

  • Potatoes have lost all of their vitamin A content, 57 percent of their vitamin C and iron, and 28 percent of their calcium.
  • Spinach has lost 45 percent of its vitamin C content and 17 percent of its vitamin A content.

In order to protect their crops from insects, many food growers have used pesticides and herbicides on their apples, celery, strawberries, peaches and many other crops. They’ve apparently believed that merely washing off those food items after harvesting them will keep them fit for human consumption. But it’s been discovered that those harmful chemicals can be absorbed by fruits and vegetables.

The Food and Drug Administration tells us that genetically engineered foods are safe for us to eat. Many scientists disagree. Whom do you trust? GMO fruits and vegetables have higher yields and longer shelf lives, but at what cost? At the very least, you would think that manufacturers would be required to label their food as genetically modified so that people who want to avoid them can do so easily. But, no, our government doesn’t think that’s necessary.

Those who fight against GMO foods contend that not enough testing has been done yet to warrant making these foods widely available for Americans. Others who take a stand against GMO foods will say that the testing that has been done is conclusively pointing out that GMO foods are dangerous, including results that show they interfere with the immune systems of animals. GMO corn has been shown to cause damage to the kidneys, livers and hearts of test animals, while impairing fertility in mice. GMO cotton kills sheep that graze on it.

It’s time for us to grow our own healthy food using open-pollinated, non-hybrid, heirloom seeds with strong germination rates. These authentic seeds produce offspring that stay true to their parentage and produce good-tasting and nutritious vegetables. If planted in healthy soil, exposed to enough sunlight and bathed in water, they should produce to their full potential.

It’s best to choose the vegetables and fruits you’ll grow based on what kind of space you have. Some vegetables do very well in small spaces, while others need much more room, especially for their roots. If you don’t have a yard in which to plant a garden, perhaps you can do window gardening or rent a patch of nearby land.

The amount of sunlight that plants need should also be a consideration in what you plant. If your garden gets a lot of sunlight, plants that should thrive include rosemary, tomatoes, onions, beans and squash. But if it receives much more shade than sun, you might want to choose lettuces, spinach and parsley.

Yet another factor is soil. Dirt is not just dirt, regardless of how it looks. Different types of soil include clay, sandy, loamy and various combinations. Dirt is made up of organic materials, minerals, water and air, all of which contribute in one way or another to plant growth. It may be a bit smelly, but composting is a great way to keep your soil rich with nutrients. Reportedly, 30 percent of what we toss in the garbage could be used for composting.

And, of course, there’s always the weed problem to deal with. Weeds are not merely ugly, they also can rob your plants of water, nutrients and light — not to mention giving harmful insects a place to hang out — so watch out for them and pull them up as soon as you can, before they cause damage.

Depending on where you live, the growing season may not be a long one. If you want your crops to feed yourself and your family year round, despite the weather, you need to do a good job of preserving your harvests. You can accomplish this by freezing, canning, drying and dehydrating your bounty. There are plenty of books and online resources to learn about these processes.

Ultimately, the key is to take control of your food source to avoid being negatively affected by soaring food prices and so that you’re not dependent on a government agency to feed you and your family when things get bad.

–Frank Bates

What makes water unhealthy to drink?

Most of us can recognize bad water when we see it. It’s usually darker than normal or murky, and it might even have visible algae forming in it. And even if the water appears to be clear, we can certainly recognize bad water when we taste it. The sour and disgusting taste makes us spit it out immediately.

But what is it that actually makes water unhealthy? In the U.S., we’re fortunate enough not to encounter bad water too often. We can almost always confidently drink all of the water that comes from our taps, as well as the bottled water we purchase in stores. Such is not the case in many parts of the world, however. According to the World Health Organization, more than 3.4 million people die annually worldwide because of water supply, sanitation and hygiene issues that lead to diseases, infections and malnutrition.

And even here in the U.S., all it takes is for a chemical spill in West Virginia or a hurricane in the Northeast or any other natural or man-made disaster, and suddenly there’s no clean drinking water to be had. In events such as these — which can happen anywhere and anytime — drinking water will disappear from store shelves in a matter of hours.

Following are six issues about which we should be concerned regarding the water we drink. In most cases, they are not life-threatening, but they can pose serious problems.

  • Bisphenol A: This chemical, which is also known as PBA, is found in some plastic water bottles. It can seep into food and drinks and has the potential to cause health risks, especially among infants and children.
  • Not washing your bottle: Using reusable bottles can save money, but it’s important to keep those bottles clean with hot, soapy water every day. Otherwise, bacteria that enjoy warm, wet places can form.
  • Drinking from the shower head: It doesn’t get much warmer and wetter than a showerhead, so this also can be a place where bacteria form. Even if you’re thirsty when you take a shower, wait until you can get a drink from a better source.
  • Powdered drink mix: This flavoring used in some bottled water contains plenty of ingredients you may not want wandering around inside your body. You don’t need artificial sweeteners and other additives. Try a slice of lemon instead.
  • Drinking too much: Too much of anything is bad, even water. Excessive amounts of water in your system can lower sodium levels so much that your cells will begin to swell. That can cause hyponatremia, which can result in seizures and coma.
  • Caffeine: Some bottled water contains caffeine, which, depending on your body chemistry, can cause problems when you drink too much of it.

If you’re ever in a position where you need to look for clean drinking water, here are some tips:

  • Avoid water near roadways or pavement, as it likely has oil and pollutants in it.
  • Stay upstream of industrial facilities, mines and construction.
  • Avoid water from farmland, as it might have dangerous amounts of fertilizer and pesticides in it.

–Frank Bates

10 medicinal herbs to grow in your garden

Long before there were doctors and nurses, herbs were used for medicinal purposes. In fact, herbal medicine is the oldest system for healing in the world. There is archaeological evidence of humans using plants for medicinal purposes approximately 60,000 years ago during the Paleolithic era.

In the many centuries that have followed, people have practiced herbal medicine while continuing to find medicinal traits in more herbs than we ever knew existed. Even many doctors who used to scoff at herbal remedies now see tremendous value in them.

Herbal medicine can’t replace conventional medicine — especially in life-threatening situations. But it has proven to be highly effective and affordable for dealing with the prevention and treatment of day-to-day, non-emergency health issues, including headaches, colds, coughs, aches and bruises.

How do we know which herbs to use for certain conditions? And what is the best way to use those herbs? There have been plenty of great books written on this subject, including ones that show how to plant and harvest these herbs in your garden. You’ll probably find some of these books at your local health food store or library. In the meantime, here are 10 of my favorites.

  1. Anise: It has been suggested to use anise as a diuretic and/or a laxative. It has been used to treat menstrual cramps and to prevent the formation of gas in the gastrointestinal tract. It’s said to make one’s breath fresher and to reduce pain. The oil from the anise plant has been used as an insecticide against head lice and mites.
  2. Chamomile: This herb is said to be effective in controlling nervousness, insomnia, nausea, earache, asthma, headaches, fevers, arthritis and hay fever. It also works on indigestion, heartburn, gas, diarrhea, upper respiratory irritation and teething pain in babies. Chamomile can also be used as a salve for burns and skin irritation.
  3. Lemon balm: Effective against stress, depression and anxiety, it also serves as a decongestant to aid with colds, flu and sore throats, and as a muscle relaxer to help with menstrual cramps. Lemon balm is used by allergy sufferers and by those who suffer from shingles. When the leaf is rubbed into the skin, it is a natural insect repellant.
  4. Borage: This herb is credited with treating ailments such as respiratory viruses, colds, flu, dry cough, sore throat, bronchitis, asthma, stress and menopause symptoms. It is reported to help with arthritis, rheumatism, joint pain and bowel diseases. Borage is also good for skin problems and aids with depression, while reducing blood pressure and cholesterol.
  5. Catnip: Used in capsules, teas and tinctures, this herb has been found to be a remedy for diarrhea, upset stomach, gas, nausea, hiccups, stomach cramps and indigestion. Catnip leaves contain antioxidant vitamins, making it helpful for treating colds. It can be used in a compress for tonsillitis and toothache, and topically for skin sores and hemorrhoids.
  6. Cayenne pepper: This herb is a circulatory stimulant to strengthen heart and blood vessels while lowering cholesterol. It is said to aid in weight loss; regulate blood sugar; reduce colds, fevers, flus and sore throats; dull pain; and serve as a laxative. As a topical cream, cayenne pepper can help with arthritis, bursitis, muscle and joint pain, and shingles.
  7. Echinacea: Studies suggest this herb sparks the immune system; relieves pain; reduces inflammation; and has hormonal, antiviral and antioxidant effects. It’s recommended to treat urinary tract infections, vaginal yeast infections, athlete’s foot, hay fever, boils, burns and ulcers. Echinacea has been called an important immune-enhancing herb.
  8. Hyssop: This herb is used for upper respiratory ailments and infections. It’s brewed into a tea to help fight colds, sinusitis, bronchitis, asthma, influenza, laryngitis, tonsillitis and coughs. Users report that it helps with shortness of breath and wheezing. Hyssop has a regulating effect on blood pressure.
  9. Nettle: Containing antihistamines and anti-inflammatories, nettle opens bronchial and nasal passages. It’s been used to deal with asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia. It’s also been effective in reducing blood pressure; aiding swollen prostate glands; helping maintain kidney and liver function; and topically treating wounds, stings, bites and rashes.
  10. Yarrow: This herb is reported to stop bleeding when you chew the leaves or when you crush the leaves and flowers and press them against the wound. It’s said to be helpful for poor circulation, congestion, asthma and depression. Topically, yarrow can be used for wounds, scrapes, rashes, nosebleeds, hemorrhoids, poison ivy, varicose veins and toothaches.

–Frank Bates

Be prepared for a house fire

There is almost nothing scarier than a house fire, regardless of whether you live in a single-family home, townhouse, duplex, high-rise apartment building or garden apartment. Forty-seven percent of home structure fires begin with the use of appliances, including stoves, toasters, microwave ovens, radiators and other heating systems. Open flames from candles and fireplaces cause 32 percent of home fires.

As always, you will increase the chances of survival for you and your family members if you have an emergency response plan in place. You should also keep a 72-hour survival kit and bug-out bag ready to grab, and important documents should be organized.

There’s more to a house fire than scorching flames, although those are intimidating enough on their own. There are also smoke, toxic gases, the lack of oxygen and a lack of light. Following are a few things you can do now to prepare for a potential fire in your home:

  • Practice an evacuation plan with your family, both by sight and feel. It’s possible the smoke will be too thick for you to see your way around. Have pre-arranged meeting places for your family members.
  • Make sure all doors, windows, screens and security bars can be easily opened by everyone in your home.
  • Install smoke alarms and change their batteries regularly. The most reliable types of alarms are dual-sensor smoke detectors. Also, use a carbon monoxide detector.
  • Have a couple of fire extinguishers handy (one for the kitchen and one in the bedroom) in order to keep small fires from spreading.

If you find yourself in a house fire that’s beyond the scope of your fire extinguisher, the best thing you can do is get yourself and other family members out of the residence. Here are four actions steps to take:

  • Move to the nearest exit quickly. You may have to get down low if there is smoke in the air.
  • If you need to open an interior door, do it slowly. The fire on the other side of the door could be worse than on your side.
  • As soon as you’re out of the house, call 911. Don’t try to do this until you’re sure you and other family members are safe.
  • Do not go back into a burning building. (I know this is the rule. But the fact is if a family member is still in the house, I’m going back in.)

Below are four things to do following a house fire:

  • Even after a house fire has been extinguished, charred beams and other items can fall. Don’t go back in until you’ve been given the OK by the fire department.
  • Contact your insurance agent and the landlord or mortgage company to report the fire.
  • Assess the damage to your valuables and make a comprehensive list.
  • If you’re planning to leave your residence for one or more days to stay at a hotel or at a friend’s residence, notify the police. Your house could become a target of thieves while you’re gone.

–Frank Bates

Treating injuries on the run requires preparation

Being prepared for an emergency is the single most important thing you can do to ensure the safety of your family when the inevitable crisis strikes. Stockpiling food and water, securing your home against intruders, defending yourself against attackers, preparing a bug-out bag and becoming adept at making fire and constructing temporary shelters are all things you can do, in advance, to give you and your family the best chance of survival in what is sure to be a very different world following a disaster.

There is another important component to survival most of us have probably not spent as much time thinking about as we should have, and that’s medical care. Sure, you have a first-aid kit in your survival stockpile. But do you know the best way to treat injuries to a variety of body parts?

Even if the emergency itself that you are forced to deal with does not result in any physical injuries to you or your family members, the likelihood of sustaining injuries increases dramatically as you attempt to escape the problem and possibly find yourself on rough terrain.

Chances are, professional medical care will not be as available during a crisis as it normally is, especially during the first few days when doctors’ offices and hospitals are overloaded with patients. You need to know at least the basics of treating injuries in order to keep your family moving. How swiftly you and your family members rebound from injuries could go a long way toward putting yourselves in the best possible position to successfully deal with a crisis.

Let’s look at some injuries you may sustain and how to treat them:

Ankle

The ankle is the body part that is most likely to sustain an injury if you’re on the run in rough terrain. If you’ve ever sprained or fractured your ankle, you know how painful and debilitating it can be. Swelling and tenderness will occur almost immediately, and weight bearing will be a problem. When ligaments holding the bones of the ankle joint stretch, tear or rupture, you will not be a happy camper.

The first thing you’ll want to do is remove your shoe and sock. Then use an elastic wrap to cover the ankle and apply a pack of crushed ice to the area for 20 to 30 minutes every two to three hours over a couple of days to help reduce the swelling. This will at least keep you going until you are able to get professional medical attention.

Foot

The result of doing a lot of running and jumping to escape a crisis situation could very possibly result in a series of micro-fractures in various bones of the foot. This stress fracture can result in a bump over a bone. Apply an ice pack for 20 to 30 minutes every few hours.

If the pain is coming from the bottom of your heel, you may have a heel spur. This injury is caused by inflammation of the plantar fascia, the thick fibrous tissue running the length of the long arch on the sole of the foot and attaching to the heel bone. Ice the area three or four times a day and massage it as well.

Knee

Often caused by the twisting of the knee while running on uneven terrain, a knee cartilage injury can cause a significant amount of pain. Chances are the medial meniscus has been injured, which will cause pain on the inside of the knee. If you’re also feeling a “locking” in the joint, it could be that a portion of the meniscus has been torn.

Use an elastic bandage or wet towel for a knee injury, and apply an ice pack as soon as you can. The ice will not only help reduce swelling by constricting the blood vessels, but will also dull the pain and relieve muscle spasms. If the weather is cold, remove the ice temporarily once the area becomes numb because you don’t want to add frostbite to the problem.

Hamstring

If you feel a pull in the area behind your thigh, usually when accelerating while running, you may have sustained a hamstring injury. You will probably experience tenderness, swelling, stiffness or pain, and perhaps all four. That’s because you have probably stretched or torn one or more of your three hamstring muscles.

Wrap a compression pad under an elastic bandage around the hamstring area. Ice the area as well. During the first night following your injury, periodically stretch the injured muscle gently.

Groin

If you experience a sharp pain in the groin, followed by tenderness, swelling and bruising, you may have suffered a groin muscle strain. The pain is particularly intense when you draw your leg inward. This injury is a stretch or a tear of the muscle that runs from the pubic bone to the inside of the thigh. As with the hamstring injury, use a compression pad with an elastic bandage over it. Ice it and occasionally stretch the injured muscle slowly and carefully.

Lower back

Unless you’ve been consistently doing lower back muscle stretches, there’s a very good chance that increased physical activity will result in lower back strain and soreness. The discomfort you’ll experience — from low-grade to sharp — will limit your activities, especially when it comes to bending down. You’re probably experiencing inflammation of one or more of the back muscles or ligaments, so ice the area off and on for a couple of days and then gently stretch those muscles.

Wrist

A common injury on uneven terrain occurs when someone falls backward and tries to lessen the impact by putting his hand down behind him. A sprain or fracture to the wrist, with a stretch or tear to a ligament around the wrist, will result in swelling and bruising. Your grip strength and the flexibility of your wrist will be affected. As with most injuries, apply compression and ice. If pain persists, get medical attention if you can.

Elbow

If you fall on your elbow, there’s a good chance you could inflame the bursa sac. This sac is normally filled with a lubricating fluid for the elbow joint, but if it becomes swollen, it will hang from the bottom of the elbow and may feel warm and tender. It can also affect the elbow’s range of motion. Apply ice three to four times a day.

Shoulder

A direct hit to the shoulder can cause ligament damage severe enough to result in the bones of the joint separating from each other. This combination of a contusion and a sprain is called a shoulder separation, which is extremely painful. Keep your arm in a sling and ice it carefully until you can get professional medical attention.

–Frank Bates

Follow these 10 water storage techniques

Nobody wants to try to survive on little or no food for any length of time, but the fact is you can probably go several weeks without food if you absolutely have to. What you won’t be able to survive too long without — especially if you are out in the sun — is water. It doesn’t take long for dehydration to kick in. And when it does, the end can come quickly.

At any time, we could be propelled into survival mode, caused by severe weather or other natural events, including wildfires, earthquakes, droughts, tornadoes and floods. When the power gets knocked out and supermarket and convenient store shelves empty quickly, people will be willing to do just about anything for clean drinking water.

Stockpiling at least one month’s worth of drinking water might seem like an obvious way to keep yourself and your family from dying of thirst, but it’s amazing how many people never take the time to do it.

Others have spent time storing drinking water for an emergency. But when a crisis rolls around, they discover that their supply has been sitting around too long or was left in a place where severe temperatures and/or exposure to light compromised the water’s quality.

Starting today, refuse to be one of those people who starts thinking about an emergency supply of properly stored water after a disaster strikes. By following the 10 water storage tips below, you’ll be able to provide your family and yourself with life-giving water when a disaster strikes:

  1. Store various sizes of water containers. Water is very heavy. If all you have is large containers, not everyone in your family may be able to comfortably handle them. This is especially important if you and your family are forced to go mobile in a crisis.
  2. Select food-grade barrels. Blue, polyethylene plastic storage barrels for large quantities of water are popular. They’ll also help differentiate your water from your fuel and won’t taint your water with toxins.
  3. Clean the containers. Before filling them with water, dilute 1 teaspoon of bleach in a gallon of water and wash the containers thoroughly, including insides, lips and lids. Never store water in a container that’s been used to store something else.
  4. Place labels on your containers. Clearly mark the date you filled the container on each label, as well as the source (filtered water, tap water, groundwater, etc.).
  5. Keep it in a proper place. Make sure your water containers do not have access to sunlight, which can result in bacteria and algae growth. A cool, dark place away from chemicals is best. And only use containers with airtight lids.
  6. Secure the containers. Think in advance about which areas in your home would most likely be affected by a disaster and keep the containers out of there. Avoid high places and keep your water locked away if you think looting could be a possibility.
  7. Don’t let your water freeze. Frozen water could break its containers. Plus, you might not have time to wait until it thaws before you need to drink it.
  8. Filter your water. If necessary, filter your water before you store it. If not, it’s still a good idea to have a water-filtering plan in place in case your water becomes contaminated.
  9. Replace your supply regularly. Yes, it could last for a long time if stored properly, but replacing it at least once a year is a good idea.
  10. Keep additional water containers in a separate location. If your home is destroyed in a disaster, your home water supply is likely to be ruined as well.

If you’re going to go to the trouble of stockpiling water for a crisis, make sure to do it right so that it’s ready and waiting for you when you need it.

–Frank Bates

Pick a practical present for the prepper in your life

Just about everyone knows that a survival knife is an absolute necessity for a bug-out bag. Unless you’re planning to check into a luxury hotel when the SHTF, this is an item you might not be able to live without following a disaster that forces you out of your home. It could literally save your life — over and over again.

But if a survival knife is the only cutting tool in your bug-out bag, you’re going to encounter a number of problems you could have avoided by adding more. Other cutting tools can go a long way toward making your outdoor experience more manageable until you’re able to return to a normal lifestyle. This is especially true if an emergency situation lasts longer than expected.

First, let’s take a look at the types of survival knives that are best for bugging out. Then, we’ll go over the reasons for including other cutting tools with multiple uses. You don’t need every one that I’ll mention, but this variety will give you a few choices. As we go along, you can determine which ones you’re most likely to require.

Survival knife

As mentioned, a quality survival knife is essential for everybody. Some people call it the most important item in a bug-out bag that you can’t eat. Expect to pay at least $40 to $100, and don’t skimp. Your survival knife should be a single-edge, fixed blade, 6 to 8 inches long and made of quality steel. The heel of the knife should be flat.

Make sure the handle is comfortable in your hand. Comfort and ease of use are much more important than fancy designs, creative ridges and other ornamentation. This knife is for survival, not for show. The hilt — the protruding guard between the blade and the grip — needs to be solid because it’s what will prevent your hand from sliding down the blade when you’re applying pressure while cutting. Finally, you should keep your knife in a leather, web or composite sheath to that you can wear it on a belt for easy access.

The types of survival knives that you don’t need are overly large knives that look impressive but are difficult to maneuver, and ones with double-edged blades that have no heel that you might need for splitting wood. Whatever knife you have, don’t use it as a pry bar. Once the blade breaks, it will be useless.

Now for some other cutting tools that will come in very handy when you’re in a bug-out situation.

Lock blade folding knife

Make sure you have a medium-size lock blade folding knife with a blade of 2½ to 4 inches with a leather holster, web belt pouch or external belt clip. This knife will be more convenient for smaller jobs, and you might be able to get a good one for $20 or so.

Multi-tool

Another item that should be in your bug-out bag is a multi-tool. You’re better off spending $40 to $80 for this tool than $20 because the quality of steel will be better. A model with all of its blades and tools locked will prevent them from folding back on your knuckles while you’re using it.

Some of the features to look for with this item are a folding set of needle-nose pliers with wire cutters, screwdriver blades, a can opener, course-tooth file, a small saw or fish-scaling blade, ruler markings, a boring awl and a fold-out lithium LED flashlight. All models should have at least one pocket knife-sized blade, some of which are straight and others serrated or partially serrated. Multi-tools are great devices, but don’t make the mistake of thinking they can replace your main survival knife.

Small knife

If you have both a quality survival knife and a multi-tool, a pocket knife or pen knife is not essential, but it doesn’t hurt to include one. For about $10 to $15 you can get a small or medium Swiss Army knife to handle finer tasks, including removing splinters.

Scalpel

A couple of sterile-packed disposal scalpels should be part of your first-aid kit in case you need to perform very minor surgery on yourself or someone else.

Ax or hatchet

Not everyone is going to choose to include an ax or hatchet in a bug-out bag, but if you think there is any chance you might have to construct a wilderness shelter and/or cut firewood for more than a couple of days, it could come in handy and will be worth the extra weight. This one-piece item with a steel blade should be at least 12 inches long, and you can probably acquire a good one for $25 to $30.

There are a couple of other options for axes, but they have their drawbacks. A lightweight, compact camp ax with a synthetic material handle and titanium blade that won’t break or corrode is easy to handle, but requires considerably more effort to get the job done properly. A modern tactical ax looks like a tomahawk with a pickax on the rear of the cutting head. This item tends to be expensive and can’t be used as a hammer.

Regardless of your ax choice, make sure it comes with a complete head scabbard or reliable blade guard. Otherwise, it will shift around in your bag and could cut other gear or the bag itself. An option if you prefer not to carry an ax is a folding camp saw. Some of them look like giant lock blade knifes (12-18 inches when closed). They run about $20.

Sharpener

Finally, keeping your cutting tools sharp is imperative both for their usefulness and your safety, as dull blades will require you to work harder and increase your injury risk. A pocket sharpening stone or sharpening steel device can be found at sporting goods or cutlery stores.

Nobody knows how long a bug-out experience might last, so it’s best to error on the side of caution and include a nice variety of cutting devices in your bag. You’ll be glad you did.

–Frank Bates

10 ways to protect the essential items you’ve stockpiled

We talk a lot in the survival space about stockpiling items such as food, water and other essentials for an emergency and about having a fully stocked bug-out bag ready to grab at a moment’s notice. We also encourage people to have a generator handy for when the grid goes down, as well as weapons to protect yourself and your belongings.

But you can’t be home all the time. Maybe we don’t talk enough about ways to protect what we’ve spent a significant amount of time and money to gather for an emergency. Below are a few reminders about how to do that.

  1. Install secure doors. A door is the most likely entry point that an intruder will use, so keep your doors locked whether you’re home or away. Solid wood doors or metal-clad doors are effective.
  2. Upgrade your locks. Grade 1 or Grade 2 deadbolts, accompanied by heavy-duty brass strike plates, should keep doors from being kicked in.
  3. Install secure windows. You don’t want windows that can be manipulated from the outside. Keep your windows from opening more than 6 inches. Consider installing mounting brackets now so that you could quickly install window bars later if necessary.
  4. Secure the perimeter of your home. Install motion sensor lights all around your home. Fences can be climbed, but having one might be enough to make an intruder choose a different home. Keep shrubbery trimmed to reduce the number of hiding places on your lawn.
  5. Install an alarm. The louder the better with an alarm. Even if you don’t have a full-fledged security system in place, the noise itself could scare away an intruder. Post a sign regarding your alarm near the entrances. Make sure your children know how important it is to keep alarm codes confidential.
  6. Secure breach points. Take a walk around your home — inside and out — and look for areas where someone could enter without much trouble. If there is a seldom-used door to the outside, install a 2-by-4 barricade on the inside.
  7. Join a neighborhood watch group. If one is not already in place, you may have to take the lead here. Neighbors watching out for neighbors can be an effective deterrent against burglaries.
  8. Have a dog. Being a dog lover, I think this is a good idea anyway. But if your dog can also make your home safer, that’s all the better. Dogs can be trained in defense — or at least to bark when they hear a noise outside. If you can’t have a dog, you can still post a “Beware of Dog” sign in your yard.
  9. Don’t make it obvious you’re away. When you’re out of town, lights on automatic timers are very effective. Make sure newspapers aren’t delivered while you’re gone, and try to keep a car in your driveway. A trusted neighbor is important to have while you’re away.
  10. Have a family emergency plan. If people are home when an intruder enters, every family member should know exactly what to do, in advance. Getting out of the house quickly is best. But if that’s not possible, a previously designated “safe room” is where any family member should head if they’re not trained to use a gun. Always keep a pair of tennis shoes, a flashlight and a cellphone by your bed.

Protecting your emergency stockpiles now is very important. Protecting them after the SHTF will be even more crucial. As someone who has prepared, you will be in the minority and you could become a target. So start now to make sure your home defenses will keep the looters outside your house during a crisis situation.

–Frank Bates

How to build a child’s bug-out bag

Assuming that you have your adult-sized bug-out bag packed and ready to go, it’s time to start putting together a bag for each child or grandchild in your life.

Children come in many different shapes and sizes, but a general rule of thumb for a kid’s bug-out bag is that its weight should not exceed one-quarter of the child’s weight. Depending on whether you decide to use an existing kid’s backpack or purchase a new one, the two main keys are wide and cushioned shoulder straps and a reinforced bottom. Right behind in importance are a strong waist belt, outside gear straps and buckles.

Just because this bug-out bag will be customized for a kid 6 years old or older, that doesn’t mean it should be filled with “kid” stuff, such as video games, toys and candy bars. This isn’t a picnic or vacation you’re preparing for here. It’s all about survival. Once you have all of the essential survival items packed in your child’s bug-out bag and the weight isn’t too much, you can squeeze in a few comfort items.

And now for what should go inside a child’s bug-out bag. I’ve purposely included more items than you will have room for in order to give you some choices.

  • Emergency whistle. This is a crucial item for anyone, but especially for a kid because it’s a safety net for him. If the child is mature enough to not blow the whistle for fun, he can wear it on a lanyard around his neck. If children or grandchildren get separated from you while gathering wood or another activity, they can use the whistle to alert you to their position.
  • LED pocket flashlight. Kids will feel much more secure having their own flashlight, although again it’s important to make sure they understand that it’s not a toy. A hand-generator light is your first choice here, but a younger child may be better off with a smaller, palm-sized LED. Make sure to pack extra batteries as well.
  • Water bottle or canteen. Like adults, children need to stay hydrated if they’re going to be able to maintain their strength in a survival situation. Younger kids can get by with a water bottle, while older children will appreciate a canteen.
  • Water purification tablets. Hopefully, you won’t run out of the water you take with you when you bug out. But if so, water purification tablets will come in very handy. A lightweight LifeStraw, which removes 99.999 percent of waterborne bacteria and parasites, would also be a great addition to a kid’s backpack.
  • Mess kit. Each child should have a complete mess kit in his bag, including a plate, cup, bowl and utensils.
  • Emergency space blanket. Because they take up so little room when folded compactly, put two emergency space blankets in your child’s bug-out bag. It could get very cold if you have to sleep outdoors or in a car overnight.
  • Poncho or raincoat. Keeping the kids’ regular clothing as dry as possible is very important. A poncho or raincoat should accomplish that task. This is another lightweight item that will take up very little space in a backpack.
  • Bandanas. Several brightly colored bandanas will fold up nicely in a bag and will serve a wide variety of purposes, including as a signal, pot holder, sling, sunblock, sweatband and washcloth, as well as for cleaning glasses and other lenses.
  • Extra socks and gloves. Pack at least two pairs of warm socks for each change of clothing you’re including in the bag, as well as at least two pairs of gloves or mittens. Your child’s extremities will get cold, especially if they become wet.
  • Hat and wool knit cap. Kids can wear a baseball hat during the day to keep the sun off their heads and a wool knit cap at night to stay warm.
  • Winter coat and windbreaker. Even in warmer climates, it can get pretty chilly at night. Make sure the jacket has a warm hood. A warm sweatshirt could also do the trick.
  • Footwear. In addition to the sneakers they’ll probably have on when you leave the house quickly, pack a pair of hiking boots or waterproof boots in a tote within the bag.
  • Mosquito net. There may be areas where you have to walk where mosquitos or other bugs will be plentiful, and this item will keep the annoying flying creatures off of the kids’ faces.
  • Towel and washcloth. Your child can use these items to wash their faces and/or wipe sweat off their brows.
  • Toilet paper. Rolls of toilet paper are nice and light; but unfortunately, they’re bulky. Still, you don’t want your child to be without this essential item, so include at least one roll per child. Wrap rolls in a plastic bag to keep moisture out.
  • Pocketknife. This is an item that you’ll only want to include if your child is old enough and mature enough to handle a knife.
  • Food. As a general rule, kids should eat the same survival food that you and your party are eating after bugging out. Below are some other items they might enjoy:
    • Hot chocolate mix. A soothing, warm beverage may be just what they need after a time of walking. It will also provide them with the energy they need to go on.
    • Energy food. This could include granola bars, trail mix and hard candies. This is not the time to worry about your kids’ sugar intake. They’ll need the calories. You can return to healthy eating patterns later.
    • Dry breakfast cereal. Single-serve cereal boxes are a handy way to get a meal into your kids. The boxes serve as “bowls” and then can be used as tinder if necessary.
    • Powdered milk. This is something they can use with their dry cereal or just as a drink during meals. They’re a little on the bulky side, but necessary for your kid’s contentment.
    • Single-serve packets of power drink mixes. Kids love them and they last for years.

If your children or grandchildren are old enough to carry a backpack, they will be happy to do it. It will make them feel like a vital part of the team during a survival situation.

–Frank Bates

Cordage types and their uses in the wild

Almost every time I see a list of items that should be part of a survival kit, cordage is included. Most people assume that means rope. While that is accurate, and while I agree 100 percent that cordage should be included in your bug-out bag, I want to make sure everyone understands exactly what it means and the various uses you can get out of it.

First of all, in terms of survival items, cordage is an umbrella term that includes everything from nylon string to metal wire to various thicknesses of rope to super strong parachute cord. I’m even going to throw duct tape into this conversation because even though it is not technically cordage, it can sometimes serve the same purpose in a pinch. In fact, duct tape can save your life in a variety of ways, but that’s a subject for another day.

Let’s take a brief look at each of these items and why they should be in your bug-out bag. Even if you are not an expert in the use of these items, somebody else who you encounter in the wild just might be, and the fact that you have these items could help you form a much-needed partnership.

Nylon string or thread

You should have at least one and maybe two spools of nylon string in your bug-out bag. It’s inexpensive and there’s a lot you can do with it, such as binding shelter rafters together, making snares and fishing lines, and even bundling firewood or brush to make carrying it easier.

If you ever had to, you could actually make a length of “rope” by braiding several lengths of nylon together. And in an emergency, you could use string, duct tape and a portion of a brightly colored poncho to make a kite that could be seen for miles by rescuers. Of course, you could also use thread for its more common purpose of sewing tears in pants, shirts, jackets, etc., but don’t forget to pack a couple of sewing needles.
Metal wire

There may be times when you need thin cordage that is stronger than nylon string, so carry a 20-foot coil of metal wire. Choose fine raw steel wire rather than copper or electrical plastic insulated wiring. It will wrap your food better and keep it from falling off the spit and into the campfire ashes when you’re cooking it. In fact, anything that you expose to fire will be better wrapped in metal wire than in thread.

Rope

The single most important usage for rope in the wilderness is dragging heavy items back to your campsite, including any game that you may have killed. You could easily fit a 50-foot piece of nylon rope at the bottom of your bag and/or lash an even longer piece to the outside of your pack.

Rope will really come in handy if you have to cross a body of water that is over your head. Place all your gear in doubled or tripled trash bags, tie the rope to it, swim across while holding the rope and then pull your gear across.

Parachute cord

Also called paracord or P-cord, this lightweight but very strong cord will pull heavier objects than rope will. A 50-foot spool with a 550-pound test strength is only about 10 inches long and 3 inches in diameter, and will run you only a few dollars.

It can also be used for binding logs, reeds or bamboo, as well as for constructing load-bearing items, including snowshoes. When braided together, paracord has been known to be used to pull a car out of a snow bank.

Cordage could be key to your survival someday, so make sure to pack a variety of it in your bug-out bag.

–Frank Bates

Cheap solar system? DIY

This is the last in a three-part series on ways to save money while going solar.

In “My solar discount secrets” and in “Go solar without breaking the bank,” I provided tips for homeowners who have decided to go solar but who want to do it at discounted prices. The focus in the first article was on purchasing a manufactured solar panel system from a solar dealer. The second article was about buying your components wholesale and having a contractor install them. This article focuses on buying your system wholesale and installing it yourself.

This third option is similar to the second in that you need to shop for the best prices in solar components. But there is more work involved in learning how to install the solar system yourself.

The easiest way to accomplish this option is to purchase a turnkey solar system, acquiring all of the components necessary to successfully install a fully functional solar system from one vendor. There are several places you can find turnkey systems that already have inverters and other components that match the power produced from the solar panels, but it is your responsibility to ensure that your system meets local building codes.

Dangers

For adventurous and handy homeowners, the complete do-it-yourself option is very appealing. Keep in mind that wiring solar panels on a roof requires heavy lifting of panels up a tall ladder, working in an environment that can be hot and working for sustained periods in elevated spaces.

There is always risk when doing work on a roof, but with a solar PV system you add the extra element of dealing with high voltages. You must be aware of the potential risks when choosing to install your solar system.

That said, there are some substantial savings that you can realize by installing a system yourself, assuming you do it correctly. While you may not be able to save much on the rail and the various hardware pieces needed to fasten panels to the roof’s substrate, you will save on labor costs.

Due to the inherent dangers of installing a solar system, the insurance is quite high for a solar dealer. Couple this with the fact that solar system installation is demanding work. For a full day’s work with three installers, you can expect to be billed at least $500 a day for labor alone. Assuming that the solar installation will take a crew of three installers three days, you are looking at $1,500 in labor costs that you may be able to avoid by installing the system yourself.

When attempting to do the installation yourself, you should adhere to these four steps: Get educated, check your local rebates, check your local codes and examine your roof.

Get educated

There are several sources you can tap into to receive proper training to install your solar system. Sources such as Power4Patriots that offer detailed, step-by-step instructions are key. In addition, more and more community colleges and universities are offering courses designed around renewable energy systems. By enrolling, you can gain valuable insight into your solar system and save time during the self-installation.

Check your local rebates

Some of the various rebate programs nationwide require you to select a solar dealer from their list of approved dealers. The savings seen by installing a system yourself in some cases are wiped away by the loss of rebates.

Also, a federal tax credit of 30 percent is currently available for U.S. filers who have recently installed a solar system. This is referred to as the federal investment tax credit, or ITC. The 30 percent credit is applied to the total cost of the system, installation included. That means that whatever you are quoted by your solar dealer for the installation, you will get 30 percent of that back when you do your taxes (in addition to 30 percent of everything else). For example, if you are charged $10,000 for the installation, your net cost is only $7,000 after the federal ITC.

Check your local codes

One of the more popular options for the complete do-it-yourselfer is to buy a full turnkey solar system, which can be bought with all of the various components needed, right down to the nuts and bolts. All you need to do is determine what size system you desire based upon your electrical usage. They will bundle everything together for you, including the panels, inverters, rail, wire, etc. This is typically a little more expensive than buying all of the components separately, but it can save you time by simplifying the process.

One thing these turnkey kits can’t account for, however, is the local codes that must be addressed. Some jurisdictions are stricter than others and may require more disconnect switches, thicker gauged wire, etc. Checking with your local inspectors is a great way to ensure that you will have everything up to code when they are called. If you are planning to tie into the local power grid, even if you are very knowledgeable regarding electricity, most jurisdictions require you to retain the service of a master electrician when dealing with the AC distribution panel.

Examine roof

If you plan on doing the installation yourself, you shouldn’t have any problems climbing onto your roof to check the shape of the shingles and roof. A visual inspection from the inside of the attic is a good idea, if possible. Check for the structural integrity of the rafters or trusses, as these will be your support for dead weight and uplift from the panels.

Conclusion

When deciding which of the three options to pursue when going solar, the first thing you should do is check local rebates. If they require that you work with an approved dealer, you may want to avoid climbing on your roof. If no strings are attached to rebates, invite solar dealers to your home to begin the bidding process. Even if you choose to do everything yourself, their expertise could help save you time and money.

The great news is, regardless how you go about doing it, going solar will save you money. How much money you save will be determined by how much you personally want to get involved in the project.

Make Sure Your Bug-Out Bag Is Up To The Task

There have been many articles written about which items to keep in a bug-out bag. Everyone seems to agree that a water bottle, nonperishable food, a flashlight and batteries, a crank-operated radio, cordage, a fixed-blade knife and fire starters should be included; but the lists vary considerably after that.

What seems to receive less attention than the specific contents of a bug-out bag, despite being nearly as important, is the bag itself. In fact, a sturdy, reliable backpack is the first thing you should acquire before you start figuring out what you want to include in it.

Here’s what to look for when you make your backpack decision. It should be made of high-grade materials — if it feels flimsy when you hold it in the store, don’t buy it — and must include strong, wide and well-padded shoulder straps. There’s nothing worse than a full backpack with narrow straps digging into your shoulders as you’re walking. The straps also need to be adjustable because you may or may not be wearing a coat when you carry it. Make sure the bottom is reinforced and that it features an attached load-bearing waist belt.

The outside of the bag, which should be at least water-resistant if not completely waterproof, needs to include pouches, straps, zippers or buckles so that you can keep a variety of different items secure and easily accessible. Some people like a bright color for their backpack because it’s easier to spot if they’re lost. Others prefer drab or camouflage bags, which tend to be of higher quality.

One option for a bug-out bag, especially if you’re a serious hiker or camper, is a war surplus military assault pack. These packs can be found in war surplus stores or at online sites including Sportsman’s Guide and Cheaper Than Dirt. You can probably acquire a new one for about $100 and a used one for about $40.

Once you’ve selected your bug-out bag, proper maintenance is important if you want it to last for years. Among the things you can do to increase its life span is to soap the zippers if they get sticky and mend the seams when they fray. Clean it every time you’re finished using it, then restock it so it’s ready to go for next time. If your bag is not waterproof, spray on a quality water-repellent product annually.

How you pack your bug-out bag is also important. You don’t want it to be top-heavy or bottom-heavy. You want the weight concentrated on your center back, between your belt and shoulder blades. Place light and flat items, such as your poncho, trash bags, aluminum foil, rope, etc., at the bottom of the bag, and stack larger items on top of them. Then, start stuffing softer gear such as clothing and supplies in and around everything else.

Small items that you need to access frequently and possibly in a hurry should be kept in your bug-out bag pockets, in a fanny pack or on a utility belt. Items that you lash to your gear need to be secure so that they don’t swing or dangle, which can slow you down, not to mention annoy you and others.

Regarding fanny packs, buy one that is durable and husky with a strong, wide, load-worthy belt that will disperse weight better and is more comfortable on your hips. It’s a good place to keep your compass, lighters, cordage, bandana, sunglasses and insect repellent; and you can also sling on your hunting knife, canteen and other survival tools. An alternative to the fanny pack is a military utility belt with matching components and detachable storage pouches.

Reliable bags in which to keep your survival items are essential, so don’t scrimp on the quality of a bug-out bag. You may end up regretting it.

–Frank Bates

Go Solar Without Breaking The Bank

This is the second article in a three-part series on ways to save money while going solar.

In “My Solar Discount Secrets,” I provided tips for homeowners who have decided to go solar but who want to do it at discounted prices. The focus was on purchasing a manufactured solar panel system from a solar dealer. This article is about buying your components wholesale and having a contractor install them, while a future article will focus on buying your system wholesale and installing it yourself.

As discussed previously, the simplest way to execute a solar panel project is to hire a solar panel dealer to handle the entire job. Of course, that’s also the most expensive way to do it. One of the ways you can save money is by purchasing the components online or from a local dealer, then hiring a local contractor or a solar dealer to install them for you.

If you decide to go this route, following are four steps you’ll need to take to source your wholesale solar components for the best price.

Overview Of Options

One challenge that you may run into as you’re looking for the best prices on solar panels is that some solar dealers who have been around for a while have good relationships with distributors and possibly even with manufacturers. Because they buy in bulk, they can get better prices than the public can.

Compounding this issue for people who want to buy their own panels and hire someone to install them is the fact that some solar panel manufacturers will sell products to solar dealers but not to distributors. On the plus side, the prices for solar panels have dropped dramatically over the past decade, so your price might be comparable to what a solar dealer would charge you, due to his mark-up.

Still, it doesn’t make sense to buy panels yourself for roughly the same price that you would pay your solar installer for them. The keys are to make sure a solar dealer tells you exactly how their charges break down between materials and installation and, if possible, to find a distributor who will sell solar panels to you directly at a better price than you can get from a solar dealer.

What To Look For

The good news is that there are always online distributors slashing their prices on their overstocked inventory. Because solar panels are becoming more and more efficient, distributors will frequently scramble to clear out their “old” panels to make room for new, highly anticipated lines of more efficient solar panels coming from the manufacturers.

Here’s a list of a few online dealers who can offer discounted solar panels:

  • Solar-sphere.com
  • Wholesalesolar.com
  • Solarelectricsupply.com
  • Affordable-solar.com
  • Mrsolar.com

Negotiation Tips With Solar Dealers

Before you inform your solar dealer that you are considering supplying the panels and inverters yourself, wait for him to give you a full bid. That way, he will be pretty much locked into the installation costs that he’s quoted you. If you tell him about your plans up front, he may load up the installation side of his charges and lower the materials cost so that he can make a better profit off of you.

Once you’ve told a solar dealer that you may be supplying panels and inverters yourself for him to install, he will probably tell you that he can obtain those items for less money. He may be correct; but if you’ve found a deal for panels that are less expensive than the ones he is offering, tell him that if he won’t install them for you, you’ll find someone else who will.

Another way that a dealer might try to persuade you to buy panels and inverters from him is through a guarantee scare. He’ll guarantee the wiring and installation of the panels, but he might tell you that his warranty won’t cover any problems with the panels themselves. If you’ve acquired reliable panels, that shouldn’t be a problem for you.

Find Components Online

If you are fortunate enough to have a solar retailer within driving distance, go there in person and talk to one of the floor sales reps. They should be knowledgeable about the pros and cons of the various panels they sell, and they should be able to point you in the right direction to find a solar dealer to install the system for you.

Otherwise, you will probably have to do some Internet searching if you’re choosing to buy the balance of system (BOS) components yourself. There are numerous online solar BOS retailers available, but check them out thoroughly through the Better Business Bureau and through customer reviews to find the most reputable ones. If you’re paying for new panels, make sure you’re not getting used ones.

Warranties and power tolerances are also very important. A common guarantee is 90 percent of the rated power for 10 years and 80 percent of the power for 25 years. A 200-watt solar panel with a power tolerance of plus or minus 10 percent means that the panel may produce 10 percent less than its nameplate rating of 200 watts.

An inverter is another component where you may be able to realize big savings. Larger inverters are more readily available now than previously, so most residential systems will require only one central string inverter. Most grid-tied inverters fail between years 10 and 15, so try to find the longest warranty possible. Don’t forget to keep shipping charges in mind.

If you’re confused about anything in a manufacturer’s offering, call. The manufacturer wants your business and should be willing to do whatever it takes to get it, including answering all of your questions.

A few top-selling solar PV panel manufacturers are:

  • Sharp Solar
  • Sanyo
  • Kyocera
  • SunPower
  • Canadian Solar
  • Suntech

A few top-selling solar PV inverter manufacturers are:

  • SMA America
  • Fronius International
  • PV Powered
  • Xantrex
  • Enphase Energy
  • Solectria

Assuming you’re willing to put in the time to find deals on solar panels and inverters, the “Buy Components Wholesale/Contractor Install” strategy might be the best way for you to save money on your solar project.

–Frank Bates

Would You Eat Insects If You Had To?

There could come a time in your life when you are stranded in the wilderness. It’s cold. You’re thirsty. You’re hungry. Really, really hungry.

You might be faced with a choice:

  • Eating insects to provide you with a little protein until either you find your way out or help comes.
  • Or feeling very weak and very hungry.

While insects are a staple of some folks’ protein around the world, the thought of eating bugs is disgusting to most Americans.

But you might be surprised how much less revolting eating insects would be if you felt like you were starving to death. (Then again, it might still seem pretty gross, even in that situation.)

So if you decide you’re going to fill part of that empty space in your stomach with creepy, crawling bugs, there are a few things you should know. First of all, bugs are generally high in protein and some minerals, but they are so small that you’re going to need more than just a few to satiate yourself.

Secondly, it’s important to know which bugs to avoid. For example, if you notice a foul odor from a bug after you’ve grabbed it, don’t eat it. If a bug doesn’t even bother trying to avoid you, such as a beetle, let it keep marching on its way.

If the bug you have your eye on is brightly colored, like a caterpillar, leave it be because it’s probably toxic. Some beetles, spiders and ants can be eaten, but others shouldn’t be. If you don’t know which is which, it’s best to just say no.

So what’s left? Well, if you can capture larvae, grubs, termites or worms, bon appetit. Depending on where you are stranded, earthworms could be the easiest food source to find. If you can hold them down, feel free to eat as many as you want.

Probably the least nauseating bugs to eat, if you can catch them, are grasshoppers, crickets and locusts. They’re high in protein, minerals and nutrients. But avoid them if they are brightly colored. And if you see plenty of cockroaches around, have at them.

The best way to prepare these grasshoppers and roaches is to first rip their heads off and clip off their ankles and feet. Then, skewer what’s left on a wire or thin stick and toast them over your campfire coals. If you use enough seasoning, you might be able to convince yourself that you’re eating something else.

If you’re feeling adventurous, scorpions are definitely edible and high in protein. But you have to make sure you cut off the first two end sections containing the poison and tail-tip stinger. Scorpions can be eaten raw and alive, or you can roast them over a campfire like a kabob.

Eating bugs in the wilderness or desert will not be like eating them in fancy Asian and French restaurants, where you’ll pay an arm and a leg for the bugs’ arms and legs. But if you’re hungry enough, you might find some of them to be a crunchy treat that will hold you over until you find your way home. At that point, even if you’ve been on a healthy diet lately, the golden arches will look pretty inviting.

–Frank Bates

My Solar Discount Secrets

This is the first in a three-part series on ways to save money while going solar.

Most of us would agree that solar is the way to go when it comes to powering our homes, even if we haven’t yet taken the steps to do that. The savings are significant, with a recent article in the Boston Globe revealing that a Massachusetts family saw its winter power bill drop from about $500 to $110 per month due to the addition of solar panels.

But some of us shy away from going solar because of the start-up costs. Even if you know how to do the installation, pre-made solar panels, wind turbines, solar air heaters and solar water heaters can be expensive.

Following are some tips for those who have decided to go solar but who want to do it at discounted prices. Today, I’ll focus on purchasing a manufactured solar panel system from a solar dealer. In future articles, we’ll get into buying your components wholesale and having a contractor install them, as well as buying your system wholesale and installing it yourself.

Buying A Manufactured System

When you hire a reputable solar dealer, the main advantage is that the dealer will do all the work. Of course, this will cost you more than the do-it-yourself route; but it may end up providing you with the most professionally installed system with some good guarantees.

First of all, it’s very important to interview several solar dealers in your area. The first one you speak with may seem great; but by interviewing four or five, you might find one you like better. The more dealers you speak with, the more you’ll learn about the solar industry, which will help in your eventual decision making.

Resources for finding a solar dealer include:

  • findsolar.com
  • seia.org/cs/membership/member_directory
  • solar-estimate.org
  • nabcep.org/installer-locator

Make sure that your solar dealer has earned an Installer Certification from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. This challenging exam requires both considerable knowledge and field experience to pass.

On-site consultations usually last an hour or less, and some dealers with larger firms may say they’d prefer to handle it over the phone. Don’t get turned off by a dealer who wants to do a phone-only interview the first time, as the dealer will probably be looking at Google images of your house while talking with you and may be able to provide a lower price due to the volume of business.

You may learn something valuable during these interviews, most importantly whether your house is even suitable for solar installation. Most houses are; but if your house is shaded much of the year, it might not be right for solar panels.

Among the things you should look for when communicating with a solar dealer and his staff are their professionalism and what kind of experience they have in your city or county.

The best dealers usually have the most knowledgeable sales staffs. If they seem like they either can’t or don’t want to answer your questions, move on to the next one. Experienced dealers will know, for example, that certain inverters match up better with certain PV panels, which may match better with your roof layout. They’ll know which solar panes perform better with low light than others do, or in hotter temperatures.

Because each city and county has its own unique set of codes and permit requirements, a solar dealer who has already done work in your area will be able to get through the process faster than one who hasn’t. You don’t want to be part of their learning curve.

You can also check out a solar dealer with your local Better Business Bureau, and ask him for references from previous clients.

It’s OK if a dealer has a couple of “resolved complaints,” as nobody is perfect. But if there are numerous negative reports or “unresolved complaints” about a dealer, you should probably look elsewhere.

The recommendation here is to call at least two of the references you’re given by each dealer. Ask them detailed questions, including:

  • Was the installation on time?
  • Were there any unexpected delays in the process?
  • Did you have any complaints and were they dealt with properly?

Because you will probably only be given the names of satisfied customers, spend a few hours driving around town looking for the company’s signs in yards and then ring a few doorbells to learn what their experience was with that company.

Follow up your dealer interviews by asking two or three of them to prepare a bid for you. Don’t just automatically take the lowest bid. You might not always be comparing apples to apples, and a careful examination of the bids might reveal some inconsistencies in pricing, installation and warranties. Request a “not to exceed” proposal that will protect you from extra costs should there be installation problems.

When you’re closing in on your final decision, use these negotiating tips to maximize your discounts:

  • If your roof is easily accessible from a second story window, you may be able to save on installation time and costs.
  • If you can get a neighbor to work with the same dealer, there may be some savings due to reduced travel time for the dealer.
  • If you are flexible with your installation time, a dealer may reduce the price to do it a few weeks down the line if he’s busy, rather than right away.
  • If you like a particular dealer but want him to come down a little on price, show him a lower bid from a competitor.
  • Ask the dealer if he offers referral fees. If so, let friends, family and neighbors know about your system and the savings you’re anticipating.

Regarding warranties, try for 10 years and settle for five if necessary. And make sure you run your contract by a lawyer.

Going solar is the way to go, but be a smart shopper along the way.

–Frank Bates

How To Survive When Lost In The Wilderness

As a middle school kid, I spent one of the scariest hours of my life lost in the woods. I wandered away from our family’s campsite and didn’t see another human being for the next 60 minutes. The only people more terrified than me were my parents, who split up and went in different directions calling my name until I heard them.

As my friend, Orrin M. Knutson, points out in his book, Survival 101: How to Bug Out and Survive the First 72 Hours, 150,000 people on average get lost in the woods and wilds overnight or longer annually in America. Even more are stranded or caught in natural disasters. Few are prepared and some of them don’t make it out alive.

Outdoor specialists have developed an acronym to help us remember how to react when lost. It’s “STOP,” and it stands for “sit, think, observe and plan.” The idea is that as soon as you feel that you may be lost, you probably are. You just don’t know yet how lost you might be. When that happens, stop in your tracks and do the following:

  • Sit: Take a break, cool down or warm up. Relax your body and your mind. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, gather your wits and control your emotions before fear and panic set in.
  • Think: Those who live in urban areas think with their watches. They have schedules to keep. But once you’re lost in the wilds, none of that stuff matters. Never chase the clock or try to beat sundown, because you’ll lose every time. After calming down, think about where you are now compared to where you started. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to get your bearings and determine the general direction back to safety. However, if the sun is going down, think about how you are going to get through a long, cold, dark night and “defend in place” (DIP). With no survival tools, you must immediately begin to improvise an adequate shelter, find safe drinking water and possibly start a fire.
  • Observe: Carefully observe by taking a serious look around. Even with no map or compass, you should have some recollection of landmarks in the distance in relationship to where you began your journey. Observe details as far out as you can. If that doesn’t help, refocus and observe your nearby surroundings. You are looking for a good place to hunker down and wait for help to come to you. Look for a ready-made shelter or shelter and fire building materials not far from a water source.
  • Plan: After sitting, thinking and observing, try to find your own tracks so you can plan to retrace your steps tomorrow. Once you’re certain of your return direction, make some kind of marker (a stone or log arrow) pointing back the way you came. Plan to DIP for the night and backtrack on yourself come morning, hoping that the weather doesn’t obliterate your tracks. Immediately plan for a fire and a shelter, and plan to find water. Plan to let experienced searchers find you. If you plan to bug out, be sure to leave obvious signs and markers for rescue trackers to follow.

Defend In Place

If you have to DIP, stay where you are, hunker down and wait for help to come to you. Whenever you’re lost, stranded or forced into survival mode, it is wisest to DIP whenever possible. Although this isn’t always practical due to mandatory evacuation orders, changing environments or other conditions beyond your control, it is generally your best and easiest defense for most common survival events.

The need to DIP becomes almost mandatory if someone is incapacitated with broken bones or internal injuries. The best advice here is to stay within a safe line of sight of the crash. Render first aid the best you can to yourself or others. Even if you are alone and injured, “bite the bullet” and do whatever it takes to make shelter and fire and to find water. Then, wait for help to come to you. Here is where your “will to live” and savvy are imperative.

The DIP rule also applies to weather catastrophes when you are at home, as long as your living quarters remain structurally safe. If a companion, neighbor or family member is injured, avoid the temptation to take off and go get help, leaving the injured party behind all alone, unless you determine it is absolutely necessary.

Finally, if you know in advance that you’re going to be in a situation in which getting lost in the wilderness is a possibility, take steps to protect yourself from hardship by being proactive, learning a few primitive skills and carrying basic survival gear at all times on every outdoor adventure.

–Frank Bates

Here’s How To Prepare For The On-Your-Own Experience Most Of Us Will Have

Ever since I started working my first full-time job, there’s something I’ve been looking forward to: retirement.

It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed some of my jobs through the years, because I have. And it’s not that I haven’t enjoyed many of the people I’ve worked with, because I have. It’s just that my ultimate goal in working has always been to earn enough money so that I could retire comfortably and spend my retirement years doing things that I never had time to do before.

But for many American adults, the concept of retirement is scary. Some of us don’t know when or if we’ll ever be able to retire, thanks to a struggling economy, an iffy Social Security situation and a new healthcare system that is being called an accident waiting to happen by many people. Those of us who are nearing retirement age or who have already retired are facing some serious challenges.

We’re certainly not alone. According to a study conducted in 2013 by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 57 percent of Americans say they have total household savings and investments of less than $25,000 (excluding their homes and benefit plans), 28 percent say they do not believe they will have enough money to retire comfortably when the time comes, 54 percent say they have not yet tried to calculate how much money they will need for retirement, and 39 percent of retirees (and more than 50 percent of workers) say they have a problem with their level of debt.

Fortunately, there are some steps that you can take — right now — to help weather the storm and live as comfortably as possible during your retirement years. It’s a very basic, three-step plan:

  1. Earn as much money now as you can.
  2. Secure what you’ve saved.
  3. Cut your expenses.

If you can successfully accomplish those three tasks, you’ll be in better retirement shape than most Americans.

Earning Money

The more money you have heading into retirement, the more likely that you will have enough to live on through your retirement years. Some suggestions for generating cash now are below.

  • Sell stuff: Hold a garage sale or put items up for sale on eBay or Craigslist that you no longer need, including books, clothes, furniture, records, glassware, china, etc.
  • Market your skills: Depending on what talents you have, you may be able to earn cash by making clothes or quilts, restoring furniture, fixing broken appliances, pet sitting, etc.
  • Turn hobbies into cash: Your favorite hobby may be creating things that other people are willing to purchase.
  • Rent your space: If you have room in a basement or garage, you might be able to rent that space to someone looking to store some of their items. Or perhaps you could rent out a room in your home to someone looking for a place to live.
  • Maximize Social Security: By waiting as long as possible to receive Social Security checks, you can increase the amount you will receive.
  • Tutor: Many parents have children who are struggling in one or more subjects in school. If you have expertise in a subject such as math, you could be a tutor to some of those children.
  • Baby-sit: Many parents would rather have a middle-aged or older person they trust babysit their kids than a teenager.
  • Pet-sit: People who love their pets are willing to pay to have them cared for in their homes while they are at work or on vacation.

Securing Money

It can be argued that the U.S. economy is improving, although very slowly. But some economists say that this “improvement” is an illusion and that the real evidence points to a coming recession far worse than what we experienced starting in 2008. Regardless of who is right, it’s important to secure your money for retirement.

One Forbes magazine economist strongly recommends short-term Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) if you’re concerned about a financial meltdown in the U.S. It’s a safety net you should be ready to use if necessary.

Otherwise, one formula for diversifying your portfolio now is 50 percent stocks and 50 percent bonds. A safe portfolio is 20 percent stocks and 80 percent bonds, while a risky portfolio is 80 percent stocks and 20 percent bonds. A more detailed recommendation is 30 percent U.S. stocks, 30 percent foreign stocks, 10 percent high-grade bonds, 10 percent high-yield bonds, 10 percent Inflation Adjusted Treasuries, 5 percent Precious Metals and 5 percent Real Estate Investment Trusts.

It’s important to have a plan that factors in how much you’ve saved so far, how much more you’ll need, your spending habits, inflation, expenses that will go away with retirement and others that will arise, the cost of your health insurance, and all of your income sources, including Social Security.

Cutting Expenses

Limiting what you spend is just as important as earning money. Following are a few things you can do now to cut back on spending:

  • Downsize your home: If it’s just you and your spouse living in the house, a smaller house or condo might save you money each month.
  • Sell a car: If you have two cars and don’t drive as much anymore, selling one of them would give you cash now and save on maintenance, repairs, insurance and registration fees.
  • Travel smarter: Check into savings you can gain by traveling on certain days of the week. Look for deals.
  • Get senior discounts: Many restaurants, hotels and other businesses offer discounts for seniors, so take advantage of them.
  • Avoid impulse buys: These break budgets more effectively than just about anything else.

–Frank Bates

Bartering In A Post-Collapse Society

One of the reasons that some people don’t bother thinking about or preparing for a disaster is because they believe they have enough money to get through it, no matter how bad it becomes. They’re used to drawing upon their wealth to take care of problems, so they assume that their finances will come to the rescue again if necessary.

But if we ever experience a total financial collapse — and some people believe the signs are pointing in that direction — no amount of money in the world will help. Any number of events could thrust North America into that horrific situation, including an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack that could keep funds locked inside banks for weeks, months or, possibly, years.

Regardless of your financial status, it’s important to remember that we may find ourselves in a scenario wherein money is meaningless. In a post-collapse society, it’s entirely possible that the only things of value will be the goods we have stockpiled and the skills we possess, both of which we’ll probably use for bartering.

Backtracking for a moment, the most essential items that you can store now are food and water for yourself and your family. Start with a 72-hour supply and then, as you’re able, graduate to supplies representing one month, three months, six months, a year and longer. In addition, stockpile as many non-food items as you can, including flashlights, batteries, blankets, clothing, etc. (See my 22 Non-Food Items To Hoard For A Crisis article for a starter list.)

Once you have those emergency items stockpiled in at least two locations, it’s time to start thinking about which items you can hoard and which skills you can acquire that will be useful in a society that has reverted to the bartering system for everyday personal commerce.

There are a countless number of items you could decide to hoard for bartering, but you’ll never be able to stockpile everything. The key is to choose items that will give you the biggest return on your investment. In other words, the items for which there is the largest difference between what they cost you now and what they will bring in trade later. Another important consideration is shelf life.

Food and water will probably be the two most sought after items in a post-collapse society. But trading your “extra” vital sustenance could be a little risky, as we probably won’t know how long it will be before things return to normal and we’ll be able to obtain those items in stores again.

For your bartering supply, you may be better off choosing items that many others don’t think to stockpile, but which will be in high demand, including alcohol, cigarettes, coffee and candy. Other items include (in no particular order):

  • Water filters and water purification tablets.
  • Fire-starting devices.
  • Flashlights.
  • Batteries.
  • Paracord.
  • Non-genetically modified (non-GMO) seeds.
  • Gasoline and oil.
  • Precious metals.
  • Clothing.
  • Medicines.
  • Bug repellent.
  • Soap.
  • Candles.
  • Toilet paper and other paper products.
  • Tools, nails, screws, work gloves, etc.
  • Manual can opener.
  • Reading glasses.
  • Baby products.
  • Hygiene products.

Now, think about the types of skills you may wish to learn or hone that will have at least as much value and maybe more in a post-collapse society than they do today. Among them could be:

  • Small-engine repair.
  • Gun repair/cleaning.
  • Appliance repair.
  • Medical services.
  • Construction/building.
  • Welding.
  • Farming.
  • Hunting.
  • Blacksmithing.
  • Sewing/mending.
  • Protection/defense.
  • Psychology/counseling.

Two final things to consider. Don’t let those with whom you barter know the extent of your supplies. If they learn that you possess many more supplies in which they’re interested, they may just use that ammo they acquired from you to come back and try to relieve you of them. And because there will probably be a significant amount of lawlessness in a post-collapse society, don’t forget to store the weapons you’ll need to protect what you’ve stockpiled.

–Frank Bates