What did you do to prep this week?

My general class amateur radio license test is in 2 weeks, so I spent most of my free time studying. I use the ARRL Study Guide and free practice exams from hamexam.org.

The soil in our backyard sucks, so we have about 9 raised beds that we use for some of our vegetables. It costs a lot of money to fill them with good bagged dirt though, so we’re getting into composting. We bought a composting bin from one of the online gardening supply companies. It came this week so I put it together and we’ve started our first batch on compost.

The biggest prep I made this week was ordering a Berkey water purification system. This was difficult because I had to talk my wife into it. Also kind of expensive (a little over $300) Actually, my kid helped with this one. His school starts next week and he’s been bugging us to buy bottled water for him to take to school. We keep forgetting, so in exasperation he asked if we could at least get a water filter since our tap water doesn’t taste that great. It was a light bulb moment for me. I said “That’s a great idea”. I told my wife I had a friend who owns a Berkey system and he raves about how good the water tastes after he filters it.

My plan was to just buy filters and a couple of 5 gallon buckets and put together my own system. My wife didn’t like that idea. She’s afraid I’ll screw something up, and she doesn’t think 5 gallon plastic buckets will look good in the kitchen. I tried to talk her into the 6 gallon system. She wanted the 3 gallon system, and we ended up compromising with the 3 gallon system (they also make a 4.5 gallon system). She also let me spend extra money to get the optional chlorine/arsenic filters. OK. So I don’t get to say I made it myself, but at least we have a water purification system coming. I can’t wait to get it set up and see if improves the taste of our tap water.

What did YOU do to prep this week?

Peace out,

The Pond

the pondI grew up in a small town on the eastern side of the Sierra Mountains. Even though it was high desert, there was lots of water. We even had a creek in our backyard. Fishing and the sound of running water are two of the best things I remember about my childhood. Hence, the need for “The Pond.” I wish the pond could look like this, but reality always hits you in the face, so I had to start out small with a half barrel pond. When I get the pond I want built, it will probably look something like this but without the fancy landscaping and woodwork.

A Backwoods Pond

If the pond is going to help bring the back woods to my backyard, it needs a few things. First, I need the sound of running water. It needs to be big enough to see from anywhere in the yard. I want it to attract wildlife. I need cattails growing in it. Finally, the pond needs to be big enough to keep some fish in. I’m not talking goldfish either – I want fish big enough to catch and eat. My half barrel pond isn’t going to cut it. We are talking about a back woods experience after all…

Designing the Pond

Based on what I want need in a backyard pond, the design is easy. I’ll need a high volume pump to circulate the water and give me that running water sound. It will have a shallow shelf around the rim for growing cattails and other wild water plants that I like. The size will be about 8 by 13 feet. That’s large enough to be noticed from anywhere in my backyard and (barely) small enough to not overwhelm the yard. Finally, the pond will need to be about 3 to 4 feet deep If I want fish. I spoke to a local water garden company and they said it’s definitely doable. To save money, I’ll dig the pond myself. After it’s dug, they will install a liner, filter, and pump, then I’ll finish it off with landscaping, plants, and fish.

A Surprise Bonus

Besides all the awesome things I talked about above, the pond will give me something else – an emergency water store. I like to be prepared for unexpected things (like city water stops working) but my wife doesn’t see the need to “waste money on stuff like that.” She about had a conniption fit when I wanted to get 30 one gallon water jugs to have in case of, you know, whatever. After all, if municipal water fails, we can always run to the store and get some then, right? Yep, us and 350,000 other people who also didn’t plan ahead. But… she’s really excited about the idea of a pond in our backyard.

Just some quick math. The pond will be sort of an oval, about 8 by 13 feet with an average depth of 2-1/2 feet. That works out to about 225 cubic feet of water. There are about 7.5 gallons in a cubic foot, so my pond will hold about 1600 gallons of emergency water. It will also support at least supplemental food sources – cattails and fish. If it is successful at attracting wildlife, that’s another food source. All of that and my wife doesn’t even realize I’m prepping. All she knows is we have a nice relaxing pond in our backyard. I call that a win-win.

Related Link(s)

How to Build a Backyard Pond

Peace out,

Do you know when to STFU?

edc know when to stfuI spend a lot of time thinking about what to carry with me when I go out. You know, Every Day Carry (EDC). I want to make sure I have things I’m most likely to need, but at the same time I don’t want to carry too much crap around all the time. I like looking at what others carry because I figure I can learn from that. With that in mind, I signed up for a couple EDC groups on Facebook. I learned a few things quick. For one thing, lots of people EDC too much stuff. For another, lots of people love to show off. (Those 2 facts could be a whole series of posts…) I also learned that lots people don’t know when to STFU.

OK, so there’s nothing wrong with bragging about your gear or showing off pictures of it. I’m a gear junky myself, so I get it. The problem is the way some of these idiots are doing it. I’m not all “tactical” and I’m not a big fan of the acronym de jure, but there is this little thing called OpSec (Operational Security) and guess what? Even if you’re just an average Joe, you need to be practicing it. I’ll give you an example…

John Doe joins the FB group “mall ninja edc.” It’s a “private” group, so he feels safe. What he doesn’t realize is that any FB member can search for “mall ninja edc” and find the group and request membership (which is almost always granted). Next, John posts a picture of his “super tactical guy” edc setup, along with a description of all the other tacticool junk he has that isn’t in the picture. No problem, right? Just having a little fun doing a little showing off. There’s one small problem. John never made his profile private, and it proudly shows where he lives, where he works, etc. Doesn’t matter though because no one cares about that kind of stuff, right?

In my opinion it DOES matter. John has just exposed his information to millions of people, at least a few of whom might be criminals looking for easy scores. If they happen to live in the same city as John, they just found one. It doesn’t take a genius to go to the County Recorder’s page for John’s county and find his home address. If he doesn’t own his home, he can still be found easily. Just go to his work around quitting time and look for the guy who matches John’s photo on his FB profile and follow him home. You already know he’s got a lot of cool stuff you want to steal, and he might have even given away his self defense strategy. EASY MARK!!! All because John was ignorant of OpSec and didn’t know when to STFU.

Don’t be that guy. Don’t brag about all the cool stuff you have and post it online along with information that makes it easy for just about anyone with half a brain to find out where you work and where you live. In other words, KNOW WHEN TO STFU.

Peace out,

Waterbob Emergency Water Storage

waterbob emergency water storage systemIf you’re looking for emergency water storage, the WaterBOB emergency water storage system gives you up to 100 gallons of emergency water storage. It’s made from FDA compliant food-safe plastic and fits right in your bathtub. It’s also inexpensive – less than $25. It’s the perfect emergency water storage solution. Except it isn’t, and I’ll tell you why…

I’ve been reading a lot lately about emergency water sources, and the WaterBOB is just the latest genius idea. Others are getting water from your water heater, toilet tanks, etc. They’re all great ideas – for people who don’t plan ahead. Think about it. If you have an emergency situation and suddenly realize you don’t have enough water, you’ve waited to long to think about water. In other words, you did a crappy job of prepping for your water needs. What kind of prepper are you anyway?

The truth is you need to think about emergency water needs before there is an emergency. Not during and not after. Here is a simple plan. First, buy 5 cases of 1 gallon jugs of water. That gives 30 gallons, about a weeks worth for a family of four. Next, buy a couple of Berkey black filters, a couple of food safe 5 gallon buckets, and make a water purification system. Next, get a food-safe 55 gallon drum and fill that. Your total water on hand is now 85 gallons and you have the ability to purify collected water when your storage runs dry.

Some times I just wonder where the common sense is. Why wait to store water until there’s an actual emergency? That’s kind of like saying I know I’ll need ammo if SHTF, so when it does I’m going to run to the store and get some. HUH? Lack of water will kill you in 3 days or less. Personally, if SHTF I have enough other things to worry about without worrying about collecting water. How about you?

What did you do to prep this week?

bean towerOur garden is about half done for the year and we’re already seeing what we need to do better for next year. Our back yard soil sucks, so we ordered a composter and started putting our veggie scraps in it. We also started some more bean plants and put in a couple bean towers. Might be too late in the year but my wife wanted to try, so it’s worth a try…

I started reading through a couple of Cody Lundin books – both are very good, and I hope to start working on my survival (i.e. stay found or get found) kit very soon – just depends on how the budget goes over the next few weeks.

I also did a lot of reading on backpacks and ended up ordering a Kelty Trekker 65. This will be my bugout bag some day, in the mean time it will be my camping and backpacking bag. I started out wanting a Kifaru Mountain Warrior or something similar, but I can’t afford it right now. Besides, I’ve been reading a lot about keeping a low profile, and the Trekker is definitely lower profile than the Kifaru. John Mosby also likes Kelty packs, and that’s good enough for me.

What did YOU do to prep this week?

peace out,

Best Survival Rifle

What is the best survival rifle?

best survival rifleThat’s kind of a loaded question (no pun intended).┬áThe best survival gun depends on where you live, what kind of game is available, the threats you’re likely to face, personal skill level, and any other factors that are unique to your personal situation. That’s why articles claiming to tell you what “the best survival rifle” is are usually full of crap. I’ve made a list of long guns (I’ll talk about handguns next time) that have been claimed by various people, “experts,” keyboard commandos, armchair mountain men, and others to be the best survival gun. Let’s gore some sacred cows…

Black powder rifles

Some people think a black powder rifle is the best survival rifle. They like to point out that cartridge ammunition might not be available post-SHTF. Somehow though, black powder (or the components to make it) will miraculously be easy to get. Maybe. Personally, I don’t see how. Black powder is already harder to get than cartridge ammunition. How will it be EASIER to find post-SHTF? As for black powder ingredients, potassium nitrate, pure sulfur, and pure charcoal are also hard to find. I’m guessing they’ll be even harder to find in a post-apocalyptic world (PAW).

Add to that the complications of keeping your powder dry and the fact that if you’re really good you can maybe get off 2 shots per minute… I hope you can see where I’m going with this. Being able to run a black powder rifle is a good, useful skill. Does that mean a black powder rifle is the best survival gun? Not by a long shot.

Single shot rifle

Some think a single shot rifle makes the best survival rifle. The reasoning is unclear to me; maybe it’s because a single shot rifle is cheaper than other options, or maybe they think it’s simpler to operate. There is no doubt that some single shot rifles are cheap, and no doubt that some people can run them very well indeed. There is also a reason that military, law enforcement, and those who hunt dangerous game don’t usually pick a single shot rifle as their primary weapon.

22 Long Rifle

People who claim the 22 LR is the best survival rifle like to site meaningless statistics “More people are killed every year by 22 LR than any other caliber” (which I find questionable). “James Brady was felled by a single round of 22 LR.” So what? Their mantra is “shot placement is everything.” Left unexplained is how well they can place a shot into a charging mountain lion, wild pig, or determined human predator.


Those who claim a shotgun is the best survival gun actually have some pretty good points. A shotgun works great on everything from the smallest bird to the largest North American game animal to the most determined human predator as long as you’re using the right ammunition. There are still some issues with the shotgun though. First, ammunition is bulky and heavy. Second, the kick of a 12 gauge (the most recommended shotgun for “survival” use) is too much for many people to handle well, at least without training and lots of practice. Finally, there are the stupid myths that are perpetuated by many fans of the shotgun as survival gun.

Traditional hunting rifles

Many people (mainly hunters) seem to feel that not only is a traditional bolt action hunting rifle is the best survival rifle you can have, it is also the only survival gun you need. They may have a point. IF you’re careful with cartridge selection and IF you’re never going to be in a situation where you need to get off a lot of shots in a hurry, a bolt action rifle might be a good survival gun. I’ll concede that some bolt action rifles can sustain a respectable rate of fire if the operator is highly trained. If you’re planning on using one as your only survival gun, don’t forget to plan on lots of training if you’ll be operating in an area with large numbers of human predators.

Semiautomatic Rifles

Modern Sporting Rifles – AK-47’s, AR-15’s, AR-10’s and other semiautomatic rifles are very popular as survival guns. I could probably do a whole post on each model, but here I’ll just touch on the highlights. I think they can make for an awesome survival gun. The key word is “can.” Once a mall ninja or tactard gets a hold of one, all bets are off. The biggest problems I see with these guns are:

  • People try to go too cheap. Sometimes cheap is good, but spending money on something that your life might depend on is not one of those times.
  • People spend too much money on bling. It’s a tool, not a cheezy piece of “art.”
  • People hang to much crap on them. Trust me, you don’t need an optic, 2 sets of backup sights, bayonet, light, dildo grip, muzzle brake, extra “tactical” accessory crap, etc.

They’re all pretty similar. The AK-47 is purported to be the most reliable, but its accuracy isn’t all that great and it’s hard to put a scope on one. It shoots 7.62×39, which is about as powerful as a 30-30 Winchester. The problem is most ammo is FMJ, which is NOT suited for hunting.

The AR-15 is the most versatile. It’s also the most popular since it’s a semiautomatic version of the US military’s M-4/M-16. That means parts are cheap and readily available. They used to have a rep of being unreliable, but that is no longer true. If you can’t keep an AR-15 running good, it’s because you went cheap and bought a POS, you aren’t paying attention, or you’re a moron. The 5.56 round isn’t exactly a power house, but with the right bullet it’s OK for game up to deer. If that’s not enough, there are lots more cartridges you can buy or build for. The design of the AR-15 makes it inherently accurate unless the person putting it together was incompetent or just not paying attention.

The AR-10 is basically an AR-15 on steroids. It shoots 308-class cartridges. It’s bigger and heavier than the AR-15, but a good choice if you like the AR platform but need something with a lot more punch than the 5.56 has. I’ve never shot an AR-10, so that’s about all I can say about them. Hopefully that will change by next year.

Best Survival Gun?

What is the best survival gun? There is no definitive answer to the question because it depends on your situation. The best survival gun for me might not be the best survival gun for you. Anyone telling you there is a “best survival gun” for all situations is at best full of crap, and depending on what they’re telling you they might be spouting crap that can get you killed. Just the other day I ran across a blog post claiming to answer the question “What is The Best Rifle for a Backwoods Survival Scenario?”. I enjoy reading others’ opinions on guns, but the crap this guy was spouting was just that – crap. Some examples:

“The .22LR caliber rifle is also good at protecting survivors defending themselves while lost at deep jungles and forests with wild animals. With its lightweight casing, it could be brought by the survivor on whatever terrain he/she is threading. And because of its lightweight and inexpensive ammunition, the survivor can carry enough amounts of it to be used for self-defense against wild animals such as cougars, lions, tigers, and other wild carnivorous predators. But the .22LR caliber rifle only works at its best when the target is far away.”

I don’t know about you, but if I were facing a carnivorous predator, I’d want something a little more powerful than a 22LR. Yes, it can kill, but by the time it does that predator might just have torn you apart. As for “works best when the target is far away”, I guess that depends on your definition of “far away.” To me, a 22 LR is a 50 yard round at best, and then only on small game. I wouldn’t shoot a deer or even a coyote with a 22 LR, my hunting ethics wouldn’t allow it. Next he moves on to defense guns…

“In situations where the survivor confronts a close wild animal or ‘unwelcoming’ human settlers, the survivor must prepare a bigger firearm. The best survival rifle for these close encounters is a bigger rifle.”

OK, so far so good, but his recommendation is… the Harrington and Richardson NEF Handi Rifle. That’s right, if you’re going to be facing dangerous game or human predators, he recommends you arm yourself with a single shot rifle. Lunacy or idiocy? You decide… I mean I get that some people don’t like semiautomatic weapons, or live in places where they’re illegal to own, but even a bolt action rifle would be better for hunting or self defense than a single shot rifle.

If you want to get the low down on what the best survival gun for you is, it’s worth your money and time to buy and read Survival Guns by Mel Tappan. Some of the information is dated (it was written before Glocks, the easy availability of reliable AR-10s and AR-15s, etc) and some of his scenarios seem a little melodramatic, but he does a really good job of teaching you the thought process you’ll need to go through in order to choose the survival gun(s) best suited to you and your individual needs. Don’t let some self-proclaimed expert tell to what survival gun is best for you. Read the book, visit some gun shops, go to a range and rent some guns so you can try them before you buy. If you haven’t done so, take a Hunter’s Safety course. Consider getting a concealed carry permit (CCW). After you’ve done these things, you’ll be much better prepared to choose the best survival gun for you personally.

Until next time,

My New Pet

my new pet backswimmerI’m kind of limited to what I can do with my back yard, because my wife (mainly) and mom think of it as “their” back yard. Most of my suggestions get shot down by one or both of them almost immediately, while I’m expected to automatically LOVE every idea they have. So I was kind of surprised when they had an idea that I actually liked – a water feature. Instead of talking about it with them though, I quickly changed the subject. Even though I liked loved the idea of a water feature (i.e. fish pond/water storage), I knew if I let them keep talking about it they would soon tell me exactly how it would be built, where in the yard it would go, etc, but I had my own ideas…

First steps – a barrel pond

The next day (Monday) on my way to work, I stopped at Home Depot to look at pond liners. They didn’t have any, but they did have some really nice half wine barrels made from oak. All the staves were nice and tight, so I bought one and put it in the back of my truck. When I got home, I didn’t say anything to my wife about it, knowing that the next 2 days she’d be working. When I got home Tuesday afternoon, I put it in my back yard and filled it with water. There was major leaking between the staves, but I didn’t care because I was planning on either sealing it with epoxy or getting a liner. After letting the water run into it for 3 hours, it would only fill to about 4 inches below the rim. My wife would be home soon, so I watered the garden and went inside.

The next morning, enough water had leaked out that the barrel was only about half full. OK, that’s what I expected. I didn’t try to fill it because I didn’t want to wake up my wife and have her come outside to see what I was doing. When I came home for lunch (after she’d left for work), I filled the barrel again. When I got home from work that evening, some water had drained out so I filled it again and watched. This time I could get it to within 3 inches of the rim. I watered the garden and went inside to get the kitchen cleaned before my wife got home from work.

Thursday morning, the bucket was still about 3/4 full. That’s like a 50 percent improvement in just 2 days. I was pretty stoked. Thankfully, the wife was busy all day even though she was off, so she didn’t go into the back yard and notice my “pond” while I was at work (nothing like one one of those “WHAT THE F*** IS THIS???” phone calls to ruin a day at work…). She did notice it when we went outside that evening to water the garden… “What is that???” OK, I played it cool. Even though it was new, “I got it awhile ago. You know, you and mom were talking about a water feature and I saw this at Home Depot and I thought it looked cool. Besides, it’s in really good condition and it only cost $40. Walmart had some for $50 that were total pieces of crap – rusty bands and falling apart. I really like this one.” She was skeptical, but didn’t argue. In fact she agreed it was nice…

My new pet…

When I checked our pond Friday morning, the water was within 6 inches of the rim. I filled it and it went a little higher than the first time but I was in a hurry so din’t have time to measure. I also thought I saw some movement under the water but I didn’t have time to check it out. When I got home Friday evening I filled it again, and it went all the way to an inch from the rim. After it settled down, I decided to look for movement under the water and sure enough it was there – a tiny bird with wide wings flying around under water – kind of reminded me of a killdeer. Of course what it really is, is a backswimmer. The thing I don’t understand is how did he get into my pond? He didn’t come with the barrel (it was dry), and I doubt he came through the hose – no way he would have fit through the sprayer I use. So where did he come from and what is he eating?

After a week, my little pet is still in my pond. He’s not very active during the day but in the evening he likes to swim around. Lots of fun to watch and I’m grateful to have him. I just wish I could figure out how he got here.

Related links:

Fish in a barrel
How to make a mini wildlife pond

What is wrong with you???

Last week I had a simple problem – a flat tire – and a simple solution – use my cell phone to call my wife and ask her to look up the phone number of a towing company, tell them where I am, and have them come get me. Easy, right??? Well, except when the cell phone connection isn’t so great…

So I call… Her reaction was “I don’t know the phone number.” (Well, DEAR, look it up in the f*****g phone book. I mean, how difficult is that???) Then she asked why don’t I call my Mom and see if she has AAA coverage. REALLY??? (OK, I get the desire to save money, but I’m stuck in the middle of the f*****g desert with a flat tire…) Then the call dropped and I couldn’t get a signal to call back. Not that it would have mattered, I’d already learned more about how she reacts to a quasi situation than I cared to know…

After several tries, I was able to get a cell signal and call my Mom. Yes, she had AAA coverage, yes it would work on the truck, yes I had pen and paper to write down the phone and policy numbers, yes she had them to give to me (which she did), yes… and then I lost the signal again so the call dropped. Tried a bunch of times to call AAA, Mom, my wife, etc. with no luck. BUT… I have a 2 meter HT with all the local repeaters programmed in, and the 3rd one I tried resulted in a contact – “John” who took all my info and offered to call a tow truck (TT) for me. After about 10 minutes, he called back and let me know a tow truck was on the way, but the company told him it would be at least an hour before they got to me. Also told me he’d keep monitoring so if the situation deteriorated or the TT never showed up I could let him know and he’d take further steps to get me help. Fortunately that wasn’t necessary because the TT showed up just a couple minutes passed the 1 hour mark, used a proper jack to get me back on the road, so I headed home.

While waiting for the TT I was able to get a cell signal and call home to let them know I was OK, TT was coming, etc. Then I called my Mom to let her know, and since our first call had dropped and I couldn’t call her and she couldn’t call me do to lack of a cell signal, OF COURSE she assumed the worst and called the sheriff to launch a search for me. Good thing I called her while the truck was on the way so she could call the sheriff’s office back and have them cancel the search…

SO… later that night I was talking to my Mom and we were laughing about it, and she mentioned that the dispatcher she’d talked to mentioned that several cell phone towers were down due to local wild fires – which is probably why I couldn’t get a good signal. We talked about how “lucky” it was that I had my HT with me to use to call for assistance. Both my wife and mom were kind of irritated at me for “going off in the desert” without “being prepared.” Well, except for not having a proper jack I was – I had food, water, a good hat to protect me from the sun, and multiple ways of calling for help.

My proposed solution was for both of them to get their amateur radio licenses and a cheap Baofeng. THAT WAY, they can monitor the local linked repeater system and WHEN I’m out and about and IF I need assistance, they can talk directly to me without worrying about crappy cell phone reception. NEITHER ONE is willing to go there – “too much bother.” OK, so f*****g fine… just don’t expect me to sit there and listen to you bitch because you couldn’t get a hold of me when there is an obvious, easy, and CHEAP solution available. What is wrong with you???

The Backyardsman

BackyardsmanWelcome to The Backyardsman. You might be wondering just what a Backyardsman is. Simply, it’s a play on the word Backwoodsman and I’ll admit to blatantly borrowing the term from an excellent article by Scott Siegfried that appeared in the July/August 2017 issue of the Backwoodsman. To quote Scott, “a backyardsman is basically a backwoodsman who sticks closer to home.” Simple, right?

I wish I could spend all my time hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, and practicing outdoor survival skills, but I can’t. Mundane things like a family to support, an elderly parent to take care of, a job… just seem to get in the way. On the other hand, I’m not content to just sit in my arm chair and read about how others are living the kind of life that I sometimes envy. I’ll never be a Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, Creek Stewart, E J Snyder, or “John Mosby,” but that doesn’t mean I can’t learn new things – even survival skills – in my own back yard. I hope you find something interesting here and enjoy the ride…

Peace out,