8 Prepper Tips for Beginning Survivalists

by Kelly R. Smith

A prepper in a devastated landscape
A prepper in a devastated landscape
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From Dictionary.com, “A prepper is someone who actively prepares (preps) for worst-case scenarios, such as the end of the world, by practicing survivalist techniques, including hoarding food.”1 Some would say preppers are living on the fringe, but perhaps the idea isn’t so crazy. Witness the Anifa and BLB antics during the past year. Witness all the left-leaning municipalities de-funding police. But it gets even more mundane; remember when COVID-19 hit? Forget finding toilet paper on store shelves. I had a substantial stock in our walk-in pantry. And, plenty of Spam and tuna fish. Crazy like a fox.

So let’s look at 8 prepper tips for beginning survivalists. They don’t all have to be done right away or in any particular order. It really is a lifestyle shift and just like a fitness program, it’s practical to approach it incrementally.

  • Keep your physical fitness level up. When SHTF you’re going to have to be prepared to do everything yourself or with limited help. Many tasks will be strenuous. If you’ve got to bug out, your backpack may weigh up to 50lbs or more just stocked with the bare necessities.
  • Formulate a variety of plans. Plan for any of the major scenarios that are likely to occur: these include, but are not limited to natural disaster (hurricane, fire, earthquake), government collapse or martial law, and disease outbreak (think COVID-19). Each of these situations would require a slightly different plan of action, modified to reflect what will be lost/needed if that specific event comes to pass.
  • Involve your household. Don’t make the mistake of expecting that one family member can do the prep work of the entire family unit all by themselves. This would put a major strain on you, but it also leaves your family at a at a loss if something were to happen to you. Everyone in the household should be able to fend for themselves as well as playing their designated role as a team member. This means the burden of survival will be somewhat evenly distributed among everyone. A reasonable starting point is by making sure that everyone is familiar of the family plans in the case of an emergency.
  • Stay out of debt. OK, we live in the real world so some debt is unavoidable. Look how fast the federal government curtailed currency production when the pandemic started. Many would-be preppers jump in with both feet and try to stock up right from the get-go. Spread out your purchases on a prioritized basis. Avoid the temptation. Food? Throw a few long-shelf life items into your basket every time you grocery shop. Actively begin to get out of debt. Dave Ramsey has some good advice. For example, “Break up with your barista. If you don’t know where all your money’s going each month, we’re pretty sure your favorite coffee shop can find it for you. Brewing your own coffee at home is a simple way to save money fast.”2 I started doing this a long time ago. I picked up a coffee grinder and order my espresso coffee beans from Black Rifle Coffee. Head and shoulders above Starbucks in quality. Start putting back some physical cash somewhere in your home on a regular basis. Precious metals make good bartering mediums after a crisis.
  • Surround yourself with like-minded preppers and homesteaders. Cooperation will expand your group of resources, which can mean the difference between survival and failure if you’re all left to your own devices. Your own neighbors are your best bet for pooling resources and bartering. In fact, you can allocate responsibility for particular things to different people. One neighbor might be an avid vegetable gardener, another may be adept at ammo reloading. Which one has the MacGyver gene and a garage shop full of tools?
  • Arm yourself. This point is hard to over-state. When disaster strikes and local first-responders are overwhelmed, nobody cares about your 911 call. As a matter of fact, if you live in a place like Seattle, Minneapolis, or Austin, your elected officials are going to tell the police to stand down and green-light the radical mobs. The mobs will come for your stuff. The three most recommended items are a handgun, a rifle with a scope, and an assortment of knives. A stun gun or two never hurts. And ammo; plenty of ammo.
  • Keep things in perspective. Being prepared is important but don’t get overwhelmed. Start with the essentials and take it from there. Focus on defense, food, water, shelter, and medical supplies.
  • Get a dog if you don’t already have one. Rescue dogs are always a good choice. Shelters are always looking to unload them and chances are good that Fido will already be housebroken. If the bad guys have to choose between attacking a home with a big bark and one with no bark, it’s kind of a no-brainer which way they’ll go.


So, there it is. These 8 prepper tips for beginning survivalists are in no way an exhaustive list but they will certainly give you food for thought. Take your time, educate yourself, and be safe out there.


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References

  1. Dictionary.com, https://www.dictionary.com/e/slang/prepper/?itm_source=parsely-api
  2. Dave Ramsey, Ramsey, 25 Ways to Get Out of Debt in 2020, https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/ways-to-get-out-of-debt

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

September is National Preparedness Month

by Kelly R. Smith

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Street flooding leads to disaster
Street flooding leads to disaster

Ready.gov (owned by the Department of Homeland Security) says, “Disasters Don’t Wait. Make Your Plan Today.” Good point. We never thought our neighborhood would flood, but it did. While we had flood insurance, others did not and had to rely on FEMA. The city has been ignoring drainage issues for years, all the while issuing building permits willy-nilly. Concrete surfaces don’t absorb rain water. At some point, we will all experience fire, earthquake, or a hurricane. This is how Ready.gov suggests that we prepare.

Week 1: Make a Plan

Make your plan now. You and your family may not be together if a disaster happens, so it is key to understand which types of disasters could affect your area. You should all know how you’ll contact each other and reconnect if you become separated. Establish a family meeting place that’s familiar and easy to find.

Week 2: Build a Kit

Following an emergency, you might need to survive on your own for days. Being prepared means having your own stock of food, water and other supplies to last for several days. A disaster supplies kit is a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency.

Walk-in food survival pantry
Walk-in food survival pantry

In my own home, I built a pantry off the kitchen. We keep it stocked with food, water, prescription medicine, and a camp stove. Basically, the room is our kit. And we even keep a stock of toilet paper. We all remember the empty shelves when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out!

Week 3: Prepare for Disaster

Hurricanes are dangerous and can cause major damage because of storm surge, wind damage, and flooding. Don’t wait to do things like removing old dead tree limbs and securing things that have the potential to become projectiles. It’s a good idea to have a firearm and a stock of ammo. Just look at what Antifa and BLM are doing in our streets and society hasn’t broken down yet! No one is going to respond to your 911 call after a certain point.

Know what disasters and/or hazards might affect your area, how to get emergency alerts (an emergency crank-operated radio), and where you would go if you and your family need to evacuate.  Make sure your family has a plan and practices it often.

Don’t wait until the day before to try to find plywood, batteries, and other items.

Week 4: Teach Your Kids About Disasters

Talk to your children about being prepared for emergencies. They need to understand what to do in case you are separated. Make them feel at ease by providing information about how they can get involved. Work out scenarios and the proper responses.

National Preparedness Month is easy when it is broken down like this. The process of divide and conquer works well and gives you time to consider things you have not anticipated.

References



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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Biscuit Joiner; Why You Need One for Woodworking

by Kelly R. Smith

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A Ryobi biscuit joiner on a router table
A Ryobi biscuit joiner on a router table

Granted that the biscuit joiner is not a power tool that you use everyday on your woodworking projects. It falls into the category of go-to tools when nothing else will do the job so well. On projects that require mating planks, this tool is invaluable. On some projects, just gluing them up and clamping them is sufficient but on others a stronger bond is required. And why not err on the side of caution? The right tool is just as important as adequate shop lighting.

For years I relied on dowels to do the job. That worked, but getting that precision can be difficult. Drilling the holes at the exact angle and in the exact location can be dicey, especially when using a hand-held drill rather than your drill press. This is where the biscuit joiner comes into its own.

Using Your Biscuit Joiner

For the sake of argument, let us assume that we are joining several boards to make up a table top.

  • Biscuits can “telegraph.” This means that as the glue dries, it can warp the surface plank wood down towards the biscuit. To avoid this minor imperfection in the end product (you’re the only one who will notice, but still), don’t cut your biscuit slot in the exact center of the planks, rather, a bit lower towards the bottom of the finished product.
  • Biscuits don’t add a lot of strength. So the argument goes. Some carpenters use biscuits simply to assure themselves that the planks will stay aligned as the glue dries. I’m from the other camp that believes that they do add a lot of strength, especially when the end product comes under stress because the length of the biscuit distributes the load better than a cylindrical dowel..
  • You can add biscuits for additional strength after the glue-up on 45 degree corners. Use your joiner as a plunge tool after the glue has dried. For example, you might do this on the underside of a picture frame after you remove your 45 degree clamps or spring clamps. Plunge the slot, glue-up and add the biscuit, and use your belt sander to level it up later.
  • Bring the motor up to full-speed before engaging the joiner. Easy, cowboy.

So, do you really need a biscuit joiner for your woodworking projects? The short answer is “no,” but the long answer is, “yes, because it will make your life so much better and your range of carpentry skills broader.”

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Teriyaki Beef Jerky Recipe

by Kelly R. Smith

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Beef jerky, ready to eat
Beef jerky, ready to eat

I love beef jerky and I suspect that I am not alone in that respect. But, there are three issues that I have with the commercial variety:

  • It’s too expensive.
  • The texture tends to be to hard.
  • God only knows what kind of chemicals and preservatives are used.

And that is one reason why I invested in a food dehydrator. Now I can make my own marinades and control the texture. I made a batch yesterday so my new appliance is paying for itself already. Next, I’m going to run a batch of apples. But here is the simple jerky recipe.

Beef Jerky Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 pounds of thin round sirloin tip. Any lean cut will do. Organic grass-fed is preferable. If you’ve got deep pockets, substitute bison. I know my sister will. That woman knows her food.
  • 1 12 oz. bottle of Lawry’s Teriyaki with Pineapple juice.
  • Spices to taste. I did not add salt due to my high blood pressure.

Jerky Preparation

Marinating beef for jerky
Marinating beef for jerky
  • Slice the meat thin. I prefer about 1/4″. Remember that the meat will shrink as it cooks. As for length, about 6″ is what I like but take into account the geometry and size of your food dehydrator. You will likely end up with some irregular pieces, but that’s OK; it’s jerky after all.
  • Put the slices in a container. The Pyrex dish you see above worked well.
  • Pour the marinade over the beef and mix it up well to ensure a thorough coating.
  • Put in in the refrigerator overnight. Some recipes only call for a few hours but the way I see it, I’m already in it this far. Do it up good. I know Perry’s smokes their famous pork chops for several days. If you’ve had one you know that patience is a good habit.
  • Stir it all up every few hours. I get up sporadically during the night for a bodacious swallow of ice water so no problemo, friend.
  • Pat the slices on paper towels to remove excess marinade.
  • Arrange slices on your dehydrator trays. Allow space for air circulation.
  • Set the temperature for 160 degrees F.
  • Set the timer for 4 hours.
  • Check it every so often for your desired degree of done-ness. Mine was perfection at 3 1/2 hours. Turn off the unit.
  • Leave it in the dehydrator until it cools.
  • Enjoy!
Beef jerky properly spaced on the dehydrator tray
Beef jerky properly spaced on the dehydrator tray

That’s all there is making your own teriyaki beef jerky. Of course, any other marinade works just as well. Buy your favorite or make your own.

Other Recipes You will Enjoy (I Did)



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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Ivation 6-Tray Food Dehydrator: a Product Review

by Kelly R. Smith

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Ivation 6-tray stainless steel food dehydrator
Ivation 6-tray stainless steel food dehydrator

There are many ways to cook and preserve food. In recent years the increasing number of homesteaders and preppers have made canning and dehydrating popular again. Processing food with a food dehydrator is great for storing food in the home and keeping the nutritional value while reducing weight for campers, hikers, or just going on a road trip with family and friends.

I was motivated to buy the Ivation 6-tray dehydrator pictured above, I won’t lie, because I love beef jerky. Well, to be honest, my daughter is crazy for the jerky from Buc-ee’s. So I called her and asked, “What flavor?” She said, “Teriyaki beef jerky.” So I shopped. There are many out there but led me to choose this one was size, materials, and the fact that it’s commercial-grade. In for a dime, in for a dollar, I always say.

By the way, if you were wondering when looking at the picture above, the dehydrator is set up on one of the work benches in my wood shop. No sense in heating up the kitchen during the Texas summer.

Features of the Ivation Dehydrator

  • Six trays. These trays measure 13” X 12”. Plenty of room for processing an assortment of food.
  • Rear-mounted automatic fan. The fan circulates warm air with 600W of heating power. This ensures that the food is evenly dried from all angles.
  • Easy to clean. The 6 stainless steel trays as well as the drip tray are all removable. Just slide them out and wash as you would anything else in your kitchen.
  • Stainless steel body and trays. All parts are BPA-free, this means they are safe and durable.
  • Digital temperature and timer. The temperature range is 95ºF to 167ºF. You can set the timer to automatically shut off your unit at the time you specify. Set it in 30-minute increments for up to 24 hours.

Conclusion

Despite the fact that this Ivation 6-tray food dehydrator is a commercial-grade appliance, it is very easy to use; the controls are simple, it is easy to clean, and the heavy-duty fan is properly placed to do its job evenly. I recommend it.



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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Indoor Gardening: Basic Hydroponic Tools and Equipment

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Indoor hydroponic gardening
Indoor hydroponic gardening

It is no secret that commercial growers have been using hydroponic tools and equipment for indoor gardening for years. Like other businesses, these farmers need to generate revenue and provide a product to customers year-round. What if you want to become more self-sufficient during the COVID-19 lock-down? What about the average person that wants to do it on a smaller scale? The good news is that you can. Let’s look at what you need to get started.

Light for Photosynthesis

Dictionary.com defines photosynthesis thus, “the complex process by which carbon dioxide, water, and certain inorganic salts are converted into carbohydrates by green plants, algae, and certain bacteria, using energy from the sun and chlorophyll.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah; what you really need to know is that your plants need light to grow. Of course, sunlight is optimal; it provides the full spectrum of visible and non-visible light. It’s offered to us for free and is the best way to provide light for hydroponics. Many vegetable plants and herbs like mint and basil do best on at least six hours of direct light each day. Southern-facing windows and greenhouses have the potential to provide this amount of sunlight.

But what if that’s not in the cards? You’ll be best investing in grow lights. Look for ones from 4,000 to 6,000 kelvin to insure that they deliver both cool (blue) and warm (red) light.

Substitute Substrate for Soil

This is where the hydro part comes in. The water and nutrients circulate through the substrate which is a material such as pea gravel, sand, coconut fiber, peat moss, expanded clay pellets, etc.

Water

Clean water is critical. The water of choice is treated by reverse osmosis (RO). This purification process results in water that is 98% to 99% pure and your plants will thank you for it. You will also have to keep an eye on the water pH (a measure of alkalinity or acidity. For example, if you are growing tomatoes, they prefer a pH of 6.0 to 6.8 on a scale where 7.0 is considered neutral. Mint plants prefer 6.5 to 7.5. Growing beets? Shoot for 6.0 to 6.8. Knowing these numbers is important as you consider companion plants for your garden.

As far as fertilizer goes, you’ll want to buy a hydroponic premix because it will contain all the nutrients needed. I suppose you could cobble together your own but the expense/work ratio doesn’t make sense to me. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to add foliar feeding every couple of weeks.

Types of Hydroponic Systems

As you might suspect, there is a range of systems to choose from.

  • Water culture. Uses a non-submersible air pump, air hose, floating platform, rope wicks, and grow tray.
  • Nutrient film. Uses non-submersible air pump, air hose, submersible pump, air stone, overflow tube, and grow tray.
  • Wick system. Uses non-submersible pump, air stone, air hose, rope wicks, and grow tray.
  • Ebb and flow. Submersible air pump, air hose, timer, overflow tube, and grow tray.
  • Aeroponic. Subersible pump, mist nozzles, air hose, and short-cycle timer.
  • Drip system. Non-submersible air pump, submersible pump, air hose, timer, drip lines, overflow tube, drip manifold, grow tray.

There are your basic hydroponic tools and equipment for indoor gardening. Whether you approach it as a hobby, as a serious farmer who is going off the grid, there are numerous benefits. The produce will be fresh, as organic as you make it, and available year-round.



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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Checklist of Must-Have Tools for Living Off the Grid

by Kelly R. Smith

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An urban homestead with vegetable garden.
An urban homestead with vegetable garden

Ads we feature have been independently selected and reviewed. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission, which helps support the site.

This article was updated on 10/06/20.

Homesteading has become a buzzword du juor and an increasingly-popular lifestyle. But what is it exactly? Dictionary.com gives this somewhat legal definition, “a dwelling with its land and buildings, occupied by the owner as a home and exempted by a homestead law from seizure or sale for debt.”

More popular usage means living in a self-sufficient manner as much as possible. This means growing your own food, keeping livestock and fowl, and living off-the-grid in as many ways as you can. This includes generating your own electricity with wind turbines or solar panels, etc. This also means acquiring some must-have tools and supplies for living off the grid. Here are some essentials.

General Repair Tools

  • Duct tape. You already know — a million different uses. My Grandpappy swore by Scotch tape but I prefer to go industrial-grade.
  • Heavy-duty scissor car jack. Not just for changing flats anymore. This all-around tool will be a willing helper that won’t talk back or complain.
  • Belt sander. When building or repairing/refinishing furniture this is an invaluable tool.
  • An assortment of rope and tie-down straps. These will find a use on a day-to-day basis on your homestead.
  • Cordless drill, sawzall, circular saw, etc. Cordless is the way to go because you won’t always be working where an outlet is available. Just be sure to buy all your cordless tools from the same family (manufacturer) of tools so the batteries are interchangeable and you only have to keep up with one charger. I use and recommend Ryobi but Milwaukee and Makita are good as well. I literally use my Ryobi cordless drill at least 3 times a week.
  • Chainsaw. Useful for clearing brush, cutting up firewood, and heck, your artistic endeavors, if you are into that kind of thing.

Gardening/Farming Tools

  • A set of gardening tools. This comprehensive set should ideally be kept in a container that can be transported to to the garden/field as one unit so you won’t be making multiple trips. It should contain at least a kneeling mat if you use one, a shovel, gloves, limb trimmer, a basket to carry your daily harvest, and pruning shears.
  • Rotary tiller. If you have a good sized plot of land to work, this tool is essential for good root growth. You can rent one but it will be more cost-effective to buy your own in the long run.
  • A bucket or two. This is a multiple use tool, as simple as it is. I usually use one for mixing soil and amendments when planting.
  • Rain barrels. While a rain harvesting system might not technically thought of as a “tool,” it is essential for irrigating your crops close to the house. In general, plants prefer the pH (a figure expressing the acidity or alkalinity) of rainwater to tap water. And what would happen if your public water supply is cut off or contaminated? Get a rain harvesting barrel, or better still, two. The can daisy chain.

Health-Related Tools and Supplies

  • Tweezers. Handy for close work and removing splinters. Keep one in your medicine cabinet and another in the glove box of your truck.
  • Antiseptics. You will need to apply this lickety-split, quick, and in a hurry when you get any cut or abrasion.
  • Bandaids. Keep an assortment of sizes and shapes on hand.
  • Moleskin. Take care of those inevitable blisters on your feet.
  • Safety glasses. This is one that many people ignore but do yourself a favor. The good Lord only gave you two eyes; replacements not currently available.
  • Soap. Yes, we’ve all got some but do we use it often enough? It should be a habit with the onset of COVID-19 pandemic or the Coronavirus as it is also called, but you can also pick up undesirable things in your soil and mulch in your vegetable garden.
  • Hearing protection. Save your hearing! The ones I use are headphones with a built-in AM/FM radio.
  • Fire extinguishers. Keep one in the kitchen, one in your pantry, one in your wood shop (next to your wood shop dust collector is a good spot), and one in your truck. They are cheap; there’s no excuse.

Self-defense and protecting your homestead, family, and possessions is a critical issue. I won’t go into the thorny issue of supporting the 2nd amendment or not; that is a topic for another article. But grasp reality, my friend. When things go sideways and you are well-prepared and others are not, you WILL be targeted. Be armed. I recommend at least a shotgun and at least one handgun. I have the Glock .40 caliber because of the stopping power. A shotgun is also great for small game. A 410 is great.

This is not an exhaustive list of must-have tools for living off the grid in the homesteading mode but it’s a good start. When the SHTF you will be glad that you prepared in advance. And you don’t have to live out in the country; we have a modest 1,200 square foot home but over the years I’ve surrounded us with fruit trees and my vegetable garden and my herbs for cooking and medicinal purposes. My latest addition is a Don Juan Avocado tree.

References:

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Covid-19 Lock-down Homemade Whole Wheat Bread Recipe

by Kelly R. Smith

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Loaf of bread with an oval Banneton proofing basket
Loaf of bread with an oval Banneton proofing basket

It may seem strange that I called this particular recipe the Covid-19 Lock-down recipe but there’s a reason for it. Since we all began this pandemic adventure America has become a nation of bakers. Yeast is a rare commodity; I searched high and low for two weeks until I struck gold. Good whole wheat was almost as hard to come by.

Anyway, I like to experiment and this is what I came up with yesterday. It may seem an odd assortment of ingredients but it really worked. I used the oval Banneton proofing basket and a cookie sheet rather than a loaf pan.

Use organic ingredients whenever possible. You can also use this dough ingredient list when you are making homemade pizza.

Ingredient List for Covid-9 Bread

  • 1 c Quick-cooking steel-cut oatmeal
  • 1/2 c quinoa
  • Dash of Himalayan salt; I like because they don’t remove all the minerals like regular salt.
  • 3 T honey, or to taste
  • 1 Packet yeast
  • 1/2 c Wheat bran
  • 1/4 c Milled flaxseed
  • 2 T Gluten; it’s optional but gluten is the “glue” that holds the loaf together.
  • 1 T Cinnamon
  • 3 c Very warm water
  • 3-4 c Whole wheat flour; as much as you need to make the dough and knead it.
  • 1/2 c Rice flour if you are using a proofing basket.
  • Just a thought: next time I’m going to try putting in some finely-sliced basil leaves; it’s going gang-busters in my garden right now.

Preparation Steps

  • Put the oatmeal and quinoa in your mixing bowl and just cover the mixture with water. Since the mixture will absorb water, check it periodically and add water as needed. About an hour will do the trick.
  • Add the 3 c warm water.
  • Mix in the yeast well.
  • Mix in the rest of the dry ingredients; the flour is last.
  • Stir in the flour well bit by bit until it is hard to turn over.
  • Turn the dough out on a floured surface. Sprinkle some flour on top of it so sticking to your hands is minimal.
  • Commence kneading, adding flour as needed (see what I did there?). I usually fold it over 20-30 times.
  • Proofing time! If you use a proofing basket, prepare it by spraying the inside lightly with water and sprinkle rice flour. Wheat flour will NOT work. Fit the dough in and cover with a damp dish towel. If you are using a mixing bowl, lightly coat it with olive oil or cooking spray so it won’t stick. Plop the dough in and cover with a damp dish towel.
  • Let it rise for 2-3 hours or whatever your brand of yeast recommends.
  • Put a pan of water on the oven rack; the steam will keep you loaf from drying out.
  • Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
  • Turn your dough out onto either cooking-sprayed cookie sheet if you used a proofing basket or into a buttered loaf pan. Cut 3 thin slits across the top of the loaf; I used an X-acto knife.
  • Bake it! 25 minutes was perfect for me. Use the toothpick test to be sure.
  • Turn the loaf out onto cooling racks and let it rest for at least 10 minutes.
  • Enjoy!
Hot, fresh homemade bread
Hot, fresh homemade bread

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Hurricane Preparedness Checklist

Residential hurricane devastation
Residential devastation in the aftermath of a hurricane

It’s that time of year once again. Hurricane season runs from May 15 to November 30. Hurricanes can happen along any U.S. coast or in any territory in the Atlantic or Pacific oceans. Although meteorologists make an impressive list of names and do their best to make predictions, it’s really just a crap shoot as to when and where one will hit.

The bottom line here is that if you live in an area that has even the slightest possibility of being hit by one of these God-awful monstrosities you owe it to yourself, your family, and your pets to follow this hurricane preparedness checklist.

Hurricane preparedness is something most homeowners don’t think about until the last minute. Does this sound like you? Do you have an emergency kit? Got the hurricane evacuation route plotted out? Let’s look at a few things you should do to get prepared now.

Shutter Your Windows

You don’t want glass blasting into your home. Do you remember the trip to Home Depot the last time a hurricane threatened to visit? Plywood, batteries, and generators – all gone. So why not buy your plywood to cover your windows now while you can make it easy on yourself?

It’s not so bad. Just measure all your windows to figure out how many sheets of half-inch plywood to buy. While you’re there, pick up some PLYLOX hurricane window clips. These make securing the plywood a snap.

Some storm shutters are designed specifically with hurricanes in mind. Some of them are even motorized which is a great benefit since hiring someone to help with a storm at hand can be problematic.

Call for Tree Trimming Services Now

How often do you hire a tree trimming company. If you reply “never,” you’re in good company! Truth be told though, one of the main reasons trees fall down in high winds is branch density; you need to open up the canopy. The price you pay for annual tree pruning is a bargain compared to the price of a new roof.

For example, I just had a tree service take out three Queen Palms in my front yard and one Maple tree in the back yard. The Palms just never recovered from the hard freeze last winter and the Maple was just old, big, and as brittle as an old woman with osteoporosis. High winds would probably have resulted in mad roof damage.

Put Together Disaster Kits

Hurricane emergency kits are easy to assemble. And mandatory. You’ll need to put back enough non-perishable food and bottled water to last your family and pets a week. This is like the plywood; do it now!

Every time you go to the grocery store, just pick up a can of Spam and a can of vegetables. Start putting them in a storage container in the garage or in the back of your pantry. There’s a lot of high quality emergency preparedness kits on the market.

You’ve seen them; they’re chock full of emergency medical supplies? Buy one. Or two. Or three; you might want to take care of neighbors.

Buy a NOAA Weather Alert Radio

Public notification of weather conditions is the key to knowing what’s coming. Get a weather alert radio to stay in the know. The best models not only work under battery power, but have a crank handle.

While you are at it, get ahold of a small solar charger for things like your cell phone

Arm Yourself

It really doesn’t matter which side of the 2nd amendment rights you fall on. The reality of a post-disaster situation is that there are bad guys wanting to take what you have and possibly even cause bodily harm. At that point the gun rights thing becomes a stupid argument. It doesn’t matter if you have to bug out or choose to hunker down and shelter in place.

Glock pistol and Savage shotgun for home defense
Glock pistol and Savage shotgun for home defense

You can’t go wrong with a tactical shotgun. Even a complete novice can nail a target. Besides, it looks badass.

My go-to sidearms are a .40 cal Glock and a Beretta U22 Neos. The Glock is almost impossible to jam and has incredible stopping power. The Beretta is also adequate for self-defense and small game if that ever became necessary.

The bottom line is this: don’t wait for the weather to be on top of you. Prepare now. You’ll thank me later. You’re welcome.


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Choosing and Maintaining Residential Fences

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A partially-completed privacy picket fence.
A partially-completed privacy picket fence.

This article was updated on 07/29/20.

Almost all homes will benefit from a backyard fence. They offer privacy, they let your children and pets romp without running off, and they serve as a deterrent to would-be thieves and vagrants (the fence is security for the back, the Ring Doorbell works for the front). If the home contractor did not install a fence during construction, it is up to you as the homeowner to take care of it.

Even if you already have a fence, it may be old and in extreme disrepair. Or perhaps you just don’t like the look of it and want a different style. Either way a new fence is a great home improvement project.

Types of Fences

But that is not a bad thing. There are many types to choose from. In fact, there are at least 10 types of popular residential fences. Just choose the one that fits your style and budget. Consider these:

  • Chain link. Not the most attractive but affordable, durable, and porous in those high wind areas.
  • Vinyl-coated chain link. This is a bit of an upgrade that allows for a wide range of durable colors.
  • Fence slat. A modification of chain link where plastic slats are inserted through the openings in the fence, offering privacy, security, and protection from the wind.
  • Aluminum fencing. Its benefits include low-maintenance and weather-resistance.
  • Wooden pickets. Very popular because they are easy to install and are attractive.
  • Post and rail. This will give your property a more country look, similar to the split rail type fence.
  • Decorative lattice. If you are going for an attractive style that you can train climbing roses on this might be the one for you.

Maintaining Your Fence

Seeing as how your fence lives outdoors in the elements, it will require some maintenance from time to time. Some types require painting, some require pressure washing and some require picket replacement periodically. Picket life can be extended by spraying a water-repellent or sealing coat on them.

If you have to repair or replace a section that intersects at a corner, you might wonder how to do it right. Not to worry; here is a detailed explanation on how to construct the section and tie a picket fence in at a 90° angle.

Fence gates can also be an issue. Not only are they subjected to the elements but they also get a lot or wear and tear from opening and closing. I found an easy solution to replacing my own gate recently using an Adjust-A-Gate Steel Frame No Sag Gate Building Kit.

In short, when it comes to residential fence choice and maintenance, you have decisions to make!


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.