How do you know if an “expert” is full of shit?

math - when the expert is full of shitMaybe you’re new to this thing called prepping. So am I. There is so much information that it can be overwhelming. I spend a lot of time researching and trying to learn, and lots of “information” sources contradict each other. As a new prepper, how do you sort the wheat from the chaff? How do you know who is feeding you a line of crap and who isn’t? What if what you’re reading is on a respected prepper site but doesn’t seem to make sense? I’m new to this game too, and I’m not claiming to be an expert. However, I have a pretty good BS detector between my ears. So how do you know if an expert is full of shit? It’s easy and I can tell you how…

Do the math

It’s really easy to tell if someone is selling a load of crap or speaking something that actually makes some sense – just look at the numbers. For example, I read a post today where the author said something that involved some basic math…

“If your retreat is a three hour drive away by motor vehicle, this will amounts to 42 hours of walking. Be prepared that you may have to walk at least partly or the entire distance to your retreat. You may be fit enough to accomplish this task in four to ten days, depending on terrain.”

Ignore the grammar error and look at the math, comparing the numbers to your own experience. My preferred bugout location is 200 miles away. On a good day with light traffic and no speed traps, I can make it in 3 hours. That’s a pretty good clip. To walk that distance in 42 hours, I’d have to average almost 5 mph. IF I’m in good shape and IF I’m not carrying a heavy load and IF there are no delays, I MIGHT be able to manage it. To do it in four days though, I’d have to walk 10.5 hours a day. Add in food breaks, poop breaks, hydration breaks, time to set up shelter for the night, etc. and it could easily be 13 or 14 hours of hard work every day. Could you maintain a 5 mph pace for that long? Maybe, but the math gets worse…

Conditions probably won’t be ideal…

If your bugout happens in the summer or fall, you “just might” have high temperatures to deal with. That “might” slow you down or force you to travel at night. If you’re bugging out in the winter, daylight hours will be limited. You “might” have to deal with rain or snow. Your path “might” be slippery or icy. In spring time, you might have to deal with flooded creeks or high winds. There might be people to avoid which could also slow you down. On top of all that there’s the stuff you need to be carrying, according to the expert…

More math – simple addition…

So we know “how long” it’s going to take us to walk under ideal conditions. What else? Oh, we need to carry some stuff. The same post recommends that we have – in a bug out bag, the following:

  • 12 gallons of water (100 lbs)
  • 5 jars of peanut butter + energy bars (6 lbs or so)
  • Extra clothes for the whole family (at least 5 lbs per family member)
  • Ultima Thule sleeping bag (4 lbs and $240 per family member)
  • Military surplus Arctic Squad Tent (50 lbs, $500-600)
  • Guns and ammo (about 20 lbs based on recommended items)
  • Misc stuff (about 10 lbs)
  • Total weight – 222 lbs for a family of four

So, question -if we divide the weight equally, can every member carry their share of the load? If not, can the adults in the group handle the extra load? How about at a steady pace of almost 5 mph through difficult terrain for almost 11 hours? Doing the math, I’m starting to think that maybe this expert is full of shit…

Other things to look for…

There are other ways to tell if the expert is full of shit, or at least full of themselves. What actual experience do they have? If they have no real world experience, it doesn’t matter how many people follow their blog or like them on Facebook. Are they willing to discuss other opinions, or at least make a good case as to why their opinion is the correct one (other than “I’m an expert and 500K people follow me on Twitter”)? A BIG RED FLAG is if they claim that all the “other experts are wrong and listening to them will get you killed.” That’s not instruction, that’s fear-mongering.

How do you know if an expert is full of shit?

If you still can’t tell, re-read the above. Learn how to apply critical thinking. Don’t accept things without questioning whether or not they make sense. Believe it or not, even prepping concepts make sense. At the same time, don’t assume that someone is full of crap just because they post something that you don’t agree with. For example, I don’t think an EMP event is the most likely threat facing our country, but some people do. That doesn’t mean they’re wrong, it just means they see potential threats differently than I do. I’m not an expert, but I can spot a fake one. You need to learn how to spot the fake experts too…

Peace out,

Experimenting With a Pigeon Trap

pigeon-trapIt’s kind of funny. I live in the burbs, but I see more wild game animals on any given day than I did during an entire hunting season in the small town where I grew up. Where? In my own back yard. Every day I have dove, quail, and cottontail rabbits in my yard. At night I can hear coyotes yelping. Canadian geese fly over my neighborhood a couple times a week. Less than a mile from my house there is a creek where ducks swim daily. I’ve even seen raccoons a few times. AND I CAN’T HUNT ANY OF THEM BECAUSE I’M IN THE BURBS. It’s really frustrating. So much game and no way to legally harvest any of it. Well… I can’t shoot in town and my back neighbors attract a lot of pigeons with their bird feeder. So I decided to try experimenting with a pigeon trap.


What I’m describing may be illegal according to your local game laws, city and county ordinances, etc. Please know your local laws. This information is provided only for entertainment and educational purposes. No birds were harmed in the making of this blog post.

So much wasted game…

Did I mention how frustrating it is to be surrounded by wild game and not being able to hunt it? Well, I thought I found an ‘out.’ The neighbors behind me attract a lot of pigeons to their back yard. Pigeons aren’t a protected species where I live. If I harvest them, I’m not breaking any game laws. I can’t shoot them (even air rifles and bows are illegal to shoot within city limits where I live). Maybe I could trap them? It turned out that my boss already owned a pigeon trap and he let me borrow it.

The Pigeon Trap

I was really excited. He brought the trap to work on a Monday and I took it home. On the way I stopped at Walmart and got a big bag of wild bird seed. The next morning, I noticed some pigeons sitting on my neighbor’s roof. I thought… this is going to be a good day. I set out the pigeon trap and dropped in a few handfuls of seed. Now all I have to do is come home in the afternoon to a trap full of tasty pigeons. I could almost taste them…

The Empty Trap

When I got home the trap was empty. Not just empty of pigeons, but all the seed was gone too. WTF??? How did they get out of the trap if they went inside to eat the seeds? I found out the next morning. I filled the trap earlier so I’d have time to watch it a little while before I went to work. After about 10 minutes, some blue jays showed up. In and out no problem. Not trapped by the trap at all. And eating my seed. OK, that explains it – effing BLUE JAYS. Maybe time to break out the pellet gun…

What Really Happened

I decided to wait for a day when I could stay and watch what was going on. The next Saturday I put out some more seed and watche. Sure enough, the blue jays showed up first. They didn’t stay long though – just ate their fill and left. Next the sparrows showed up. I think they are the ones who eat most of the seed. After that, some dove and quail came in. The dove would go into the trap, but they’re small enough to get out without help and most did. I also had some quail checking it out, but they wouldn’t go into the trap. The, finally, some pigeons showed up. I was really hoping they would, but they didn’t..
For the entire day, I only “caught” a few dove that were too panicked to let themselves out of the trap. Since it isn’t dove season (and it might be illegal to trap dove) I let them go. My next step will be trying a different bait that’s more attractive to pigeons. Maybe a corn cob, or some bread crumbs. I’m not ready to give up yet…

Peace out,

Permaculture for the Backyardsman?

Permaculture for the BackyardsmanWhat is Permaculture? The simple answer is “the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.” To tell the truth, I probably never would have heard the term ¬†except for this article by John Mosby. I don’t agree with all of his ideas, but if he writes about something it’s definitely worth checking out. So I decided to see if I could find an answer to this: Does Permaculture Have Anything to Offer the Backyardsman? It turned out to be easier than I thought. There is a Permaculture Meetup group right here in my town that meets twice a month. So I joined the group and went to my first Meetup with them last night.

So what is Permaculture?

The definition above is just a little oversimplified, so here is something a little more descriptive from Bill Mollison (one of the founders of the movement):

“The aim is to create systems that are ecologically-sound and economically viable, which provide for their own needs, do not exploit or pollute, and are therefore sustainable in the long term.”
“Permaculture uses the inherent qualities of plants and animals combined with the natural characteristics of landscapes and structures to produce a life-supporting system for city and country, using the smallest practical area.”

OK, that sounds simple enough but how do you practice Permaculture? By following and practicing the Three Ethics and Twelve Principles of Permaculture as defined by David Holmgren (the other founder of the movement).

Permaculture – First Impressions

The people at the Meetup were friendly and helpful. The problem I have is that they all advocate applying Permaculture principles to all areas of life and society. To them, gardening is just one aspect of Permaculture, and not even the most important one. Definitely far left leaning, in the 60’s hippy sort of way. I’ve found this to be a common thread in the online works on Permaculture too. Politics aside, does Permaculture have anything to offer the Backyardsman? Yes and no…

The 12 Principles of Permaculture

  1. Observe and Interact
  2. Catch and Store Energy
  3. Obtain a Yield
  4. Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback
  5. Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services
  6. Produce No Waste
  7. Design From Patterns to Details
  8. Integrate Rather Than Segregate
  9. Use Small and Slow Solutions
  10. Use and Value Diversity
  11. Use Edges and Value the Marginal
  12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change

Principles 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 12 have obvious application to the Backyardsman. Observing and interacting is what we do. Catching and storing energy is how we cook and avoid freezing to death. Obtain a Yield? Thank you Capt Obvious… Same for applying self regulation (self discipline) and using renewable resources when possible. And of course responding to change is something that should be second nature to a Backyardsman…

Principle 6 is something worth working towards but is impossible in the real world. Principles 7, 9, and 11 are useful too, but I need more time to think about how to apply them.

That leaves Principles 8 and 10, the only two I have a problem with. They are also the two which make it easy for the left to want to apply Permaculture to society as a whole instead of just to gardening.

Permaculture for the Backyardsman

I think Permaculture does have some valuable things to offer the Backyardsman. Learning how to observe and operate in your environment are valuable life skills. Creativity and being able to respond to change are valuable too. I’m not so sure about diversity just for the sake of diversity. Well, I am sure but I don’t want to rant… Also keep in mind that many of the people you’ll be dealing with in the Permaculture community have a leftist world view. A lot of them don’t like guns. A lot of them probably think Trump voters are knuckle dragging reprobates.

Stealth Prepping

stealth preppingAsk any competent prepper and they’ll tell you that the first rule of prepping is to keep your mouth shut about your prepping. In other words, you need to be practicing stealth prepping. The reason is simple – when SHTF, you don’t want everyone and their brother showing up at your house looking for stuff. You don’t want random strangers (potential looters) knowing about your preps and where you live. It’s a HUGE safety and security list to let random people know about your prepping activities.

Stealth Prepping in the Public Domain

It’s really easy to practice stealth prepping – just know when to STFU.¬†Don’t show off all your “cool stuff.” Don’t brag about all your “prepping expertise.” In fact, if you’re bragging about it, you don’t really have anything to brag about. Resist the urge to post pics of all your stuff on Facebook or Instagram. Don’t post vids of you and all your stuff on YouTube. Really simple, right?

OTOH, I don’t think you need to be paranoid about paying for stuff with a credit card. I seriously doubt that some government employee somewhere is scouring my purchase receipts every month looking for “suspicious” purchases.

Stealth Prepping in the Family

What I want to talk about mostly though is stealth prepping in the context of a family budget when your wife isn’t a prepper. I still remember the time I was shopping with my wife and tried to buy five cases of purified drinking water. No matter how urgent you personally feel the need for prepping is, if you’re spending from a family budget you need to keep your spouse’s budget concerns in mind. In other words, practice stealth prepping in the family.

But Honey, It’s Not Prepping…

So how do you get your wife to spend money prepping when she’s not a prepper? Maybe she’s even hostile to the idea of prepping? Easy. Just don’t call it prepping. My wife didn’t want me to buy a small emergency water store, so we bought a Berkey water purification system instead. Five cases of water would have cost less than $25 and the Berkey system cost almost $350. Why did she agree to spend so much on the Berkey system? Because in her mind, storing water is prepping but having a water purification system isn’t.

Stealth Prepping in Practice

I decided to apply this “not prepping” concept to all my preps. For example, the Berkey is a nice system, but it just filters water – it doesn’t create water. In other words, I still need to store water, but that’s prepping. So instead of “storing water,” I’m going to put in a backyard pond that will hold over 1000 gallons – far more than the paltry 30 gallons my wife didn’t want me to get at Walmart. And guess what? She’s ecstatic about the idea of having a pond in our backyard. She’s also excited about the rainwater catchment system we’re planning. That’s not prepping either – it’s free water for our garden. Are you starting to see how this works?

Food is even easier – my wife is frugal, so all I have to do is watch the ads for things I like to eat that have good shelf life. It’s OK with her to stock up then because we’re not storing extra food, we’re saving money. Our garden produced more food this year than we can use, so soon that will be a reason for canning jars and a dehydrator. I’m still working on an excuse to get a smoker though…

Gear is more difficult. It doesn’t save money and she can’t picture any circumstance that might force us from our home. Besides if something happened we could just stay in a motel, right? What I’ve found out helps with gear is hobbies – you just have to pick the right hobbies. For example, some of my hobbies are hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, and target shooting. You shouldn’t be surprised that the gear I use for those things just happens to be useful for prepping as well.

Final Thoughts…

Finally, when buying your preps, either go big or go small. When we bought our Berkey system, we went all out. Besides the basic system, I threw in chlorine/arsenic filters, a stand, and a few stainless steel water bottles. Since it was already a big purchase, she didn’t balk at the extra items. At the same time, I’ve found out I can build up by adding one or two small items whenever we go shopping and she doesn’t say anything. The thing that usually trips her up are the medium size purchases.

I hope I’ve given you some useful hints about prepping (and especially spending money on it) when your spouse isn’t also a prepper. I’ve been using these to prep without causing any family conflict and they work well. I hope I never have to put my preps to use in a real life SHTF situation, but I’m confident that if I do, my wife will be happy that we’re prepared for the worst – even if in the mean time she doesn’t realize that we are. If you’re in the same situation, I hope these methods can also work for you…

Peace out,

What did you do to prep this week?

I had a busy week. First, work was really going crazy. Second, one of our tenants drove her car through the front of our rental house. In other words I didn’t have time to do much prepping and no time to write about anything here. I did get some things done though…

Our Berkey water purification system showed up, so I got that assembled and working. Took longer than I thought, mainly because I spent a lot of time flushing the chloride filters. One mistake we made was not ordering the stand. Without that, the spigot is about 1/2 inch from the counter top. Solution is to put the Berkey right at the edge of the counter OR order the stand. My wife wanted the stand, so that’s what we’re getting.

I also realized that, you know what? I’m a gear junky – I have a problem with buying stuff I think is cool but with no plan to use it. So I have some packs with nothing in them… I spent a lot of time reading through my copy of 98.6 – The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive and started working on my survival kit. Got the Ziplock freezer bags, 2 (actually 3) really heavy contractor grade 55 gallon bags, and 3 ways to start fire. Mag bar, water proof match container/matches, and a 3-pack of road flares. The flares aren’t recommended in the book, but they burn hot and bright for 15 minutes and I have room in the pack, so why not. I also wasted a lot of time looking for strike anywhere matches. I’m going to have to look some more.

Our garden is going good. Still lots of squash and finally some ripe tomatoes. My wife found a guy about 30 miles away giving away free red worms so we might get some today. I also found a local Meetup group that discusses Permaculture so I signed up for that. They’re having a meeting this Wed, so I’m looking forward for that. The prepper Meetup group is Thur and it is almost always good so I’m looking forward to that too.

Last but not least, I’m testing for my general class amateur radio license next Saturday, so I spent more time studying. This week I’ll be spending most of my free time cramming for that and getting our rental house repaired. If I have any extra time I’ll research tents and knives. We’ll also order worms online if the free ones don’t work out.

What did YOU do to prep this week?

Peace out,