There are still many lessons to learn on being prepared.

Last week we had a little emergency that highlighted some issues with our preps.  I received a call at work early in the morning from Kitty.  Apparently my eldest son had stomach pains and the doctor believed it was my son’s appendix.  The doctor recommended that my son attend the hospital immediately.  To be honest, when Kitty told me this, I queried how urgent it could be if there was no ambulance… yet I told Kitty to come meet me on the way in and I would drive them to the Emergency department (which was where he was advised to attend).  When I hung up the phone I wondered whether Kitty would remember to take an overnight bag for my son… yet I realised that it was a silly question… of course she would.

A little over an hour later Kitty called from the bottom of my building.  Her mobile phone was unable to make calls (yet it could received them), and she needed to use my building phone to contact me.  I rushed downstairs and, once in the car, I drove them to the hospital.  Kitty revealed that she had forgotten the overnight bags in her haste to depart, and I also missed the turn off to the Emergency department (So I had to drop them off a block from the hospital while I found a long term parking spot).

An older image of the hospital.

After I parked (which took around 20 minutes to find… parking is terrible in Hobart) I rushed over to the hospital and found the Emergency department pretty crowded.  Being at the hospital reminded me how much I hate it.  Hobart’s hospital is so dated… their Private wing looks worse than the public wing in a Canberra hospital.  Don’t get me started on their public wing… It is almost like an triage from a war zone.  After I ensured Kitty had registered him with reception, I handed her my mobile so she had a means to call me if she needed to stay overnight.  Then I almost had to run back to work to grab my gear then rush to my car to drive home.  I needed to arrive home before school finished as my children would freak out if they couldn’t get into the house.

The drive home was extremely frustrating, with several road work sections slowing me down, as well as drivers who feel that 70kph an hour is the best speed to drive in while in a 100kph zone (they usually speed up when you try to overtake them). I arrived home minutes before the school bell and I was able to explain to my children the situation.

It doesn’t look like this… yet it isn’t much of an improvement.

Later in the evening, Kitty called to say they were intending to operate on my son to remove his appendix… yet they were also unsure of what had caused his pain.  I expressed my concern… how could they remove an organ (albeit, one which is not really required) if they didn’t know they needed to do it?  Kitty didn’t know the answer, yet she was going to sit with my son and sleep in the chair next to his bed.  The next morning they considered operating again, yet by lunch time they decided it wasn’t his appendix (they didn’t know what it was) and they send him home after lunch.

 

What did I learn from this?

Firstly, don’t trust medical opinions.  These doctors were, apparently, willing to operate on my son to remove his appendix whilst they had no idea if it was the cause of the problems.  I suspect they would have done it, expect our medical system is so appalling they couldn’t get him booked in for the operation until after his symptoms abated.

Secondly… don’t expect Kitty to remember to pack the overnight bag.  I should have reminded her, yet I thought it was silly as I (wrongly) assumed she would know better.  When you are in an urgent or unexpected situation it is hard to remember things.  Normally she would have known to take the bag, yet with the doctor advising her to urgently take my son to Emergency… well, it would have un-nerved anyone.  As someone who wasn’t feeling that stress I should have reminded her to take a bag incase he had to stay the night.

Thirdly… I need to introduce my two younger children to procedures incase Kitty or I are not home when they finish school.  It never happens, yet it would be smart to prepare for such an event.

Finally, I really don’t like hospitals!  I admit that my opinions of Hobart hospital are very biased.  I just do not like being near them.

Livestock can teach us valuable lessons

I have had some nice afternoons and mornings lately, watching the newly born lambs cavort on my neighbouring paddock.  My neighbour breeds sheep for meat and I often get to watch them as they explore their home.  They certainly are curious and a little adventurous, although like most sheep they are also quick to run away at the slightest threat.

I made a video a few weeks ago, showing the laborious efforts, I had to go to in order to free a sheep who had stuck its head through the wire fence at my house.

 

It is strange to see these animals, which are a great source of meat and other products, act in a way which shows their personality.  I don’t know if I am alone in my thoughts on this (I would be interested to learn if anyone else does this), yet sometimes when I look at an animal which is a food animal (chickens, rabbits, sheep, etc.), I think about them as a food source.  I visualise which parts come from where and what they would look like cooked.  I don’t think of this as a freaky behaviour… I think it is important to know where your food originates and it makes me respect the animals in a different way.  Yet, seeing lambs with distinct and different personalities can be very confronting to a meat eater.  When you see two lambs fighting, and their mother come over to separate them… it can be pretty confronting.

This is part of the dilemma of being a homesteader.  On one hand, you want to produce food which is healthy, ethically produced, and is economically achievable.  On the other hand, you can easily become attached to the animals and once that happens it can be hard to go through with the slaughter/butchering/eating.  I should say that if you name an animal you may find it much harder to go through with the process, purely for psychological reasons.

 

I have had many experiences where having a connection to the animal makes the processing of it much more difficult.  A very strong example of this was with my pigs.  Whilst I could do all the processing on them, when it came to eating them the meat tasted like dirt.  Other people who tried the meat said it was delicious and the best pork they had ever had, it only smelt and tasted like mud.  It took me years to get over that phycological barrier.

Another example is with my rabbits.  I have named the breeding bunnies, yet the ones which we eat are never named!  It is something I have kept to since the pigs.  Unfortunately, one of my older batch was not sold, and when I made a decision to eat it, it turned out my children had named him Snow.  The name rubbed off on me and now it is impossible for me to eat him.

This is a problem as I can’t breed from him (he is related to the female) so he is not really doing his part for the homestead.

What I am getting at the it is important to keep a distance between yourself and your food source.  This is easy to do with vegetables, not so easy with a living, breathing animal.  I want to make sure that if you are new to processing your own meat, don’t make the same mistakes I made… keep yourself distant from the animals.  Care for them, take joy in having them, yet make sure that when it is time to kill them that you don’t feel so connected that you can’t complete the process.

You don’t know how you will react till something happens.

I woke this morning to hear the news of the terrible shooting in Las Vegas last night.  Among the many stories of horror and confusion, one really stood out to me.  It was the story of Instagram star, Dan Bilzerian.  I have seen him on Instagram and not been impressed with him.  He is not someone to who I have looked up or aspired to emulate.  GQ wrote a very illuminating article on the man.

As I said, I don’t follow him or his antics (in fact, I don’t really like anything about him), yet I am familiar with his story of rigorous military training and his practise of using firearms.  In spite of all his bravado, I was shocked when I saw the video footage he filmed as he ran from the shooting, describing a girl being killed.

Thankfully, this is something I have never experienced, and hopefully never will.  That said, I am confused as to my feelings towards Dan Bilzerian after his actions.  On one hand, I think it shows him as having little fortitude or courage… on the other I totally understand his running.

I say little fortitude, as there were people all around him that I am sure needed help.  With approximately 59 people killed and nearly 600 injured, there were plenty of people needing assistance.  I saw footage of him after he ran, where he talked about his intention was to run to get guns and then return.  I feel this is not very believable… it is most likely he regretted his actions and tried to make an effort after the fact.  How can I know this?

I have been in situations where people have been killed, or possibly injured.  I recall one instance where I was near (several metres) where a person landed after jumping to commit suicide.  This happened around 15 years ago, yet I remember it very vividly.  At the time, my brain failed to understand the situation and I convinced myself it was a stupid stunt for a local radio station.  I had been walking when the person jumped and I heard a scream (I don’t know who screamed, it was either the jumper or someone who saw it) and when they landed I just kept walking.  It wasn’t until I had walked away and several minutes had passed when I realised what had happened.  I turned around and when I returned the area, it was secured and medical personal were in attendance (although the person died).  I felt disgusted with myself afterwards and it took some time to work out my feelings of guilt for not acting.  I suspect that is what Dan is going through now.

Las Vegas from the air
Las Vegas from the air

I don’t think you can truly prepare for such situations.  I know that you may think you can handle a terrible situation, and you may be sure that whatever happens you can keep it together and be the hero, yet I know it doesn’t always play out like you would like it.  I think that you can try to be prepared, yet when it happens you have to be ready for your reaction and try to make a difference if you can.

Maybe that is what being prepared is all about… giving yourself the room to manoeuvre and get yourself together when something bad happens.  Sometimes normalcy bias makes it hard to work out what is going on, and being prepared could be what makes all the difference.

Is it time to revisit my get home bag?

On the weekend, I had to do some work with my car, so I removed my get home bag (GHB) from my car boot.  I was a little shocked at the weight, which felt much heavier than I remembered.  A lot heavier… so heavy I decided not to even weigh it incase I broke the scales.  I considered this and I think that I need to shed some items to make it easier to walk home.

This, in turn, has pushed me to consider something that Dave Canterbury has talked about in his videos.  If you don’t know, Dave Canterbury is an amazingly experienced and knowledgeable teacher.  I have been following him for several years and he teaches a system called the 10 Cs of Survival.  Check out his videos if you would like to learn more.

 

Self Reliance outfitters, Dave’s school, sells a great looking bag called the Basic Survival Pack by The Pathfinder School.

This pack includes the following items.

Includes:

  1. Tan Pathfinder Self Reliance Pack
  2. ½” x 6” Ferro Rod
  3. Mini Inferno (actual tin container may vary)
  4. Mora Bushcraft Black
  5. Pathfinder 32oz Bottle & Cup Set GEN3
  6. Stainless Steel Bottle Stove
  7. 1lb. Roll of #36 Bankline
  8. (3) Orange Cotton Bandannas
  9. Princeton Tec Black EOS Headlamp
  10. #14 Sail Needle
  11. Suunto MC-2 Compass
  12. 35 yard of Gorilla Tape
  13. Orange All Weather Blanket
  14. (3) 55 Gallon Drum Liners
  15. 30L Dry bag
  16. 4 pk Tent Stakes
  17. Pathfinder All-Weather Notebook

From following Dave over the last year or two, I believe the pack is missing a few items, such as a hatchet or small axe, a folding saw, and I think for my uses it is also missing a good sleeping system, such as the inclusion of a sleeping bag and tarp or hammock.

The kit that Dave sells is expensive (currently at $295 USD, on special from $424) and I am sure you could put it together for much less money.  Yet it only weighs 11lbs. so it is very light compared to my current pack.

Also missing (in my opinion… for my purposes)) is source of rations or food.  I am not sure how much mine currently weighs (I would guess around 4kgs) yet I could easily reduce that with the substitution of some dehydrated meals.

While I think that David’s bag is amazing, I don’t have the experience (yet) to use it.  The idea of the bag is that you can make everything you need to survive with this kit.  You can produce food, water, shelter and warmth.  While the kit would be great for some people, it won’t do for me.  I have to move quickly and get home.  Spending time setting traps and building a shelter every day would add days to my travel time.

Still, it is an attractive kit and I like his ideas.  I will consider whether I can implement any of the concepts into my GHB.  So check back in the future to see if I have come up with any solutions.

Is situational awareness useful to a Prepper?

I have been considering the snow drop we experienced last week, which in my last post I discussed the value of being situationally aware can help you avoid problems.  I thought there might be a little more to gain from discussing the skill of situational awareness.

One of my friends (with whom I work) also encountered the snow on the mountain, although it was a little after I turned around and returned home.  He mentioned that he decided to risk it in his little car, and he ended up in a convoy behind several large trucks.  He told me that the roads were slippery, scary, and he lost traction several times.  When he finally made it on to the icy sections he told me he noticed in his rear view mirror that the cops went to the traffic coordinator (who was behind him) and appeared to shut down the road.  This was backed up by my children’s school teacher, who couldn’t get through till after lunch when the roads re-opened.

This reminds me of the time when the rivers flooded in the Huonville area, causing the town of Huonville to be inundated with water.  At the time the bridge was partially under water, and I was driving towards it (in the dark) and I had to make a decision.  My intuition told me that it wasn’t safe, and my situational awareness gave me little information to assist me to make a decision.  I decided to take the chance and drive.  While I made it through, I realized part way over that the water was much deeper than I expected and I only just made it over without flooding my engine.  So obviously there are times when all situational awareness and intuition in the world won’t save you when you have your mind set on a course of action.

So what is situational awareness?  ITS Tactical posted a great article which breaks down the concept and provides advice on how to develop your situational awareness.  I think it has some great ideas on  how to develop the skill.  Perhaps I might, some time in the future, go into some details on how I developed my situational awareness.

 

Situational awareness is a valuable skill.

According to the calendar here in Australia, spring started on 1 September.  While we had a few days of great, spring like, weather, that was only a false start.  We immediately sprang back into the depths of winter with a huge snow drop on last Friday.  I had left the house to go to work early in the morning, and as soon as I left my coastal town I noticed the huge amount of snow everywhere.  Obviously, before I left the house I had checked the weather site, which had said that while there would be ice it should be clear.

I drove for half an hour, with little of interest occurring (apart from bad drivers) and started to make my way up the mountain towards Hobart.  It was here that the roads became very slick and I was thankful for my recent purchase of new tires.  As I reached one of the lower crests of the mountain, I had to stop behind a short line of traffic.  I could just see over the crest and while the road wasn’t deep in snow, I could see that it was deep enough.

I actually forgot to take a photo from the crest. I turned around and started back home when I remembered I would need one for this post. So you can't see the accident from where this one was taken.
I actually forgot to take a photo from the crest. I turned around and started back home when I remembered I would need one for this post. So you can’t see the accident from where this one was taken.

I noticed around a dozen cars to the left side of the road. Either they parked very closely together in a chaotic fashion, or they all slide together and crashed.  I could see that only 4×4 vehicles were being allowed (or daring) to continue on the road, and other vehicles that were not offroad capable were turning around and returning back town the mountain.  I sat there for a minute, considering my options.  I didn’t want to chance the road, seeing the possible accidents on the side helped me to make that decision.  I considered driving back to the last major town and going to a café to wait for the snow to melt.

I decided it would be best to return home and, should the roads clear before lunch, I would head in to work.  In the end, the roads were not clear till after lunch, so I spent the day at home.

Any lessons learned?  I would say that being observant of the goings on around you is important.  I noticed the accident ahead, and that only certain vehicles were proceeding.  Keeping your eyes open and being aware of the situation is a vital survival skill and one the should be maintained.

Is intuition useful for a Prepper?

I wrote in my last post about the value of intuition, and how ignoring it can sometimes lead to problems.  In the example I gave, ignoring my intuition led to me injuring my hand and ruining the weekend plans I had made.  This is only the most recent of situation where my intuition has provided advice, as it usually happens several times a day.  I am sure that you too have heard that little voice in your head (often near the back of your mind) providing helpful guidance which should be acknowledged (yet is often ignored).

I have been a long believer in intuition, allowing it to assist me in making some of my daily decisions.  I haven’t always listened to my intuition, which usually results in an unwanted outcome.  I could go through dozens of examples where intuition has allowed me to avoid dangerous situations, or through disregarding the warning I ended up in a position which I really regretted.

Intuition is not often mentioned by Preppers, they talk about Situational awareness, and other similar skills.  This is a big gap in knowledge and should be corrected.

 

I believe intuition isn’t a mystical force, or a decision based on divine inspiration.  In my experience, intuition is guidance based on known information.  In my example from the beach, it was obvious that stepping on a wet, slippery, stone is not a smart idea.  The advice to avoid it wasn’t supernaturally wise, it was logical and my decision to ignore it was a mistake.

Apparently, not everyone hears that little voice of warning.  I believe my strong connection to my intuition came through many years of martial arts and training.  I thought it might be a good idea to look further into intuition and how it comes to exist.  In my research on the topic I found a great article in Psychology Today.

I am not sure I whether the author’s “three ways to listen to that internal voice”, yet it might be useful to someone who does not often listen to their intuition.

Intuition is a very valuable skill for Preppers, as it can help to identify risks in daily life.  It is not just for being aware of safety, it can also guide you to make sure you are working on your preparations by reminding you of any areas you may have forgotten.  It is a skill, which is very easy to obtain, that can serve you in all aspects of your life.

 

Intuition is a valuable ally

I was reminded of an obvious, and painful, lesson while out collecting seaweed on the weekend.   I started out the day by hitting the local jetty with my son.  We went out with the goal of trying to catch a couple of fish, or at least trying.  After an hour of fishing (where I achieved some excellent casts, placing the bait exactly where I wanted it) we ended up empty handed.  We did, however come within metres of a young dolphin who was swimming at the end of the jetty… so it wasn’t a complete waste of time.

After fishing we decided to hit the beach, intending on collecting some more seaweed… at least we would return home with some food.

As we walked towards the rocks that have the best seaweed I decided to take a short cut across some wet sections of ground.  As I was about to step on a rock, which was covered in seaweed, and slick with water.  In the back of my mind I heard my voice advising me that I should be careful stepping on the rock.  The smart thing to do would have been to step around it, or find another path.  I am sure you guess what I did… I stepped right on that wet, slimy rock.  Immediately my foot slipped out from under me and I landed on my left hand and back.  At first, I was worried I have seriously injured myself, so I laid on the cold ground trying to sort out the situation.  After I realised I wasn’t about to die from the pain, I decided it would be best if we went home.  On the drive, I told myself I needed to buy some of those chemical ice packs for the first aid kit.  They would have been very welcome on the short, but uncomfortable, drive home.

Once home we realised the injury was just a bruise, so I spent the rest of the day resting the hand… despite all my plans to work in the garden.  If I had listened to my intuition I wouldn’t have hurt myself…. I could have had a great day at the beach and done some much needed work in the garden.  I think this is a great lesson to me, and hopefully to you all, about the importance of listening to your inner voice.  I know my head is often filled with useless information… such as the lyrics to most of the songs from the 1980s, yet it is still useful to pay heed to that inner voice.

 

 

 

 

When your poncho lets you down

This morning the clouds unleashed a long lasting torrent of rain, that caused the drive to work to be a little slower than normal.  While the temperature was quite nice, the rain was unceasing.  When I parked my car in the city and reached for my trusty (and getting quite old now) snow jacket… only to be left grasping nothing.  I realised that the jacket wasn’t in the car where I normally leave it as I had used it on the weekend while taking my dog Errol for a walk.  I silently chided myself for my absentmindedness and gathered up my backpack and water before departing the car.  In the rain I walked to my boot where I keep my get home bag, and opened it up to remove the military style rain poncho I bought around 6 years ago.

I have only used this item a half dozen times as it is really just for when I really need it.  Well, I really needed it today, so I slipped it over my head, and noticed that there was a small tear in the front just down from the neck.  As I adjusted the poncho on the sides and back the tear rapidly increased in size, so that it was only a couple of inches from the bottom.  I realised that it was ruined, so I removed it and in doing so finished the tear so it completed it’s run.

I had to walk to work in the rain, so once I arrived I placed my wet items on chair in my office to dry.   So, I am now looking at other options.  One item I found on eBay is from Gensen Military Gear.

I am not 100% sure it will work out.  I like the look of the poncho, yet reviews for other items seem to be kinda bad.  Yet, as eBay has a great return policy (unlike AliExpress) I might take a chance on it.

Which leads to a question… why a poncho?  One reason is that I like Ponchos.  I actually wear one at home as I like the warmth it provides along with the freedom of movement.

me in a Poncho with Errol
me in a Poncho with Errol

 

I like the fact that a Poncho can be easily carried in a bag and if needed can provide a great deal of rain protection.  I could also use it for other purposes (such as assisting with a shelter in an emergency).  It allows me to wear a backpack and keep it dry too.

 

I really like the look of this one from Gloryfire

This one, while weighing a littme more, appears to be much more substantial.  I doubt I could rip this one by accident.  I think I will have to make a decision soon, and once I do, I will be sure to let you all know how it works out.

Advice on building a Get Home Bag

I was asked on Reddit to go through the contents of my Get Home Bag (GHB), so I thought it would be fun to go through the information here.  It might assist you in deciding on what you need.

Firstly, you should not immediately trust generic Get Home Bags.  They are usually overpriced, over packed and most likely will not support your requirements.  They can, however, supply you with a great foundation on which to make your own.  By this I mean that you could get a generic GHB and re-work the contents to suite your need or you might just find some inspiration from other peoples bag.

 

This bag looks great, and with some of the flexibility in the site you could come out with a great bag… yet at around $360 USD, it is way too expensive for me and could be made cheaper if you took the time to construct the bag yourself.

In my situation, I would need to take between 2-5 days to get home from the city by foot.  That would be two days if I could walk uninterrupted, or longer if I had to avoid populated areas.  My bag has to suit my situation and my budget.

Visit Site

The bag I had decided on is an 80litre hiking style backpack.  It has chest and waist straps and can be modified to convert to a suitcase.  It also has a removable day bag on the front which means I can carry the bare essentials if I have to ditch the bag.  It is huge bag (maybe a little too big) yet I bought it second hand for $40 and it is amazing condition.  The weight sits squarely on my shoulders and upper back, which allows me to walk with it for long distances.  I can also use it for my hiking and camping, carrying all the items I need for a week in the country.  This bag has many positive features that made it a perfect choice for me.

 

Currently it is winter here in Tassie and part of my route will be crossing a high (relative to local averages) mountain range.  Due to this I have to consider sub zero temperatures could occur during the nights.  I also have to think about the high rainfall , so I have to pack accordingly.  I have my old snowboarding jacket in the car, which can keep me warm in snow conditions, as well as a military style poncho.  I carry an Australian Army sleeping bag, which is very old (it was my fathers), yet it still works.  I also have an Australian Army woollen blanket that can help with the sleeping bag or I can use it to wrap around me to keep warm in the night (ala, Dave Canterbury style).  In the form of shelter, I have a cheap camping hammock which I bought and so far has proved to be fairly good.  I have paired that with a large tarpaulin to keep rain off the hammock.  I also have tent pegs, rope and a second tarpaulin in the form of an Australian Army Hoochie.  I can therefore sleep in a hammock between trees, or on the ground.  Finally a yoga style sleeping mat rounds out the shelter, in order to keep heat from radiating from my sleeping body.

 

Next I come to food.  I have read many articles on why you don’t need food in your GHB… that you shouldn’t eat until the second day, etc.  I don’t really prescribe to these thoughts.  For my journey I will have to walk quite a distance and I will need lots of energy to do that.  So I have put together a small set of rations which should serve for at least 3 days.  I have included muesli style bars for a breakfast, packet noodles for a meal, and various other small bits of food for lunch and snacks.  I also have one (soon to be more) dehydrated meals.  I am considering removing some of the items and replace them with the Mainstay Survival rations (or similar product) to reduce the load and increase the food.  I have thrown in an old Australian Army Hexamine stove and fuel to cook the food and boil water.  With this is a military canteen with steel cup and my aluminium drinking bottle.  Combined with a Army mess kit I can cook most meals.  The only item which I need to add is a water filtration system, such as the one I like from Sawyer.

Whilst I know the route I would need to travel, I have included maps of the area, a compass and a small pair of binoculars with which I can sight ahead should I need to see further.  I have a multitool, a small knife (with fire lighting magnesium stick) and string saws that I can turn into a hacksaw with the addition of a flexible stick.

 

I have placed a small headlamp in the bag, which would be a great item after dark.  I can use it to see around the campsite, or even walk through the night if I needed to.  It runs off the same batteries as my other items, so it has a long life.  It is also very light… so light that during the recent blackout we had I forgot I was wearing it when I went to bed.  I have a small camp light, which looks like a little lantern.  I originally wanted a tea light lantern, yet the store person convinced me that this was better.  It is lighter than a candle lantern, runs of batteries for over 48 hours continuous use, won’t cause a fire danger, and won’t go out in a storm.  As a last resort, I have a couple of chemical glow sticks that are better than nothing and they are pretty light.

In the form of incidentals I have included a small sewing kit, rubber gloves (incase I need to assist someone who is injured and bleeding) and I have a small first aid kit, which includes bandaids, some bandages, as well as some medication (Panadol, anti-inflammatory pills, as well as come caffine tabiets and water purification tabs).  I have also thrown in a small radio with which I can listen to any AM/FM broadcasts.  It runs on small batteries (of which I have many).  The Survival kit is also in here… while it is kinda lame, it could be useful as a last option.  Finally, I have a change of clothes, so that after a day of walking I can change into some camp clothes.  This will let my day clothes breath (and maybe dry a little) and allow me to sleep more comfortably.  Finally, I put some toiletries into the bag, such as a small bar of soap, tissues and wipes.

This is just the current iteration of the bag.  I intend to add to it as time passes and I can afford better items.

I would really love to know if any of you have made your get home bag.  Please make a comment in the section below.