• Rattlesnakes at Your Door?

    Rattlesnakes at Your Door?

    Just in case you thought we’d exhausted the topic of bizarrely unpleasant side effects of the drought plaguing the Western US, here’s one more to chuck on the pile: rattlesnakes. According to CBS News, scarcity of ground water is driving rodents closer to homes and neighborhoods to quench their thirst. And where the vermin go, the snakes follow, with the result that “Rattlesnakes are Slithering Closer to Homes in Northern California.”

    The snake removal specialist quoted in the article reports a record year for his business, netting over 70 snakes in a single week. Incidentally, he keeps them alive in a room and releases them back into the wild—which, if you live in Sacramento, may not be the most comforting part of the article.

    I mean, not to creep anybody out, but RATTLESNAKES!

    I’m knocking on all kinds of wood as I tell you that I happen to live in a part of the country where rattlesnakes aren’t found, but I did have a glancing encounter with one as a kid at camp. As I remember it, one of my grown-up relatives took a shovel to the creature and lopped off its head—a technique frowned upon by the reliable sources below, I’m sure.

    So, what does one do if one comes across one of these nasty pieces of work, whether on the trail or in your garage? First of all, do your homework!

    • The US Forest Service offers a Snake Safety handout, with precautions, first aid, and some really enlightening snake facts. My favorite is the DOs and DON’Ts section—turns out Hollywood’s old cut-and-suck method is a no-no.
    • Washington State’s Trail Association has a page dedicated specifically to “How to Hike in Rattlesnake Country.” Tips include how to identify signs that a rattler is near, how to safely photograph snakes, and what special considerations to make when hiking with dogs.

     

    With all the other drama of this particular crisis, I really hope an infestation isn’t part of your experience this year. But if it is, learn what you need to do to keep your household safe. And for more info on other biters, stingers, and suckers, see our “First Aid for Insect Bites and Stings.”

     

    -Stacey

    Posted In: Uncategorized

  • Sleep Like the Bees in a B-and-Bee Shelter

    Every once in a while I come across something so clever, I really wish I’d invented it. Like these ninja bread man cookie cutters. Seriously.

    My current discovery is this: portable, hexagonal, stacking shelters modeled on the architecture of a beehive for strength and efficiency of space. Called B-and-Bees, this Belgian brainwave comes equipped with convertible sleeping/seating space, luggage storage, and even power. They can be stacked at least three high (as near as I can figure out from their Dutch language blog), with metal stairs for access and a zippable canvas flap enclosure.

    The B-and-Bee is currently being marketed as a solution to the problem of muddy fields created by an abundance of tents setup for music festivals. This is a fine idea, though the author of the Gizmag article, “B-And-Bee shelter looks to comfort festival goers,” puts my feelings on that narrow scope into words when he writes, “One can't help but think that the company is missing a trick marketing B-And-Bee solely toward festival organizers, as it could perhaps be useful in other areas too, such as in natural disaster situations, for example.”

    Indeed, it looks like someone is already on top of that. Ecofriend.com reported on these hexagonal emergency shelters (with solar power, no less!) all the way back in 2010. We don’t know if they ever took off, or if B-and-Bee will tap into this market, but we sure love the idea!

     

    -Stacey

     

    Photo Courtesy of B-and-Bee image gallery/Press Kit

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: shelter

  •  The Aquafarm: What is it and How does it Work?

    If you want to grow fresh veggies at home, but don’t have the space, we’ve got a cool way to do it. All you need is an Aquafarm™.

    Using the Aquafarm™ (and a Betta fish), you can create your very own countertop aquaponics garden for fresh herbs, veggies, and leafy greens. It’s especially great if you don’t have the space, time, or energy to create a traditional garden or aquaponics system of your own.

    How does the Aquafarm™ work?

    The Aquafarm™ is a small aquaponics system that essentially creates a small ecosystem in your home. Aquaponics is a method of growing fish and vegetables together where each organism helps the other to survive and thrive. It’s symbiosis at its best.

    In essence, as you raise fish in a tank, their waste is used to fertilize the plants you will eat, and in turn, the plants help to clean the water the fish live in, helping the fish stay healthy.

    Here’s how the Aquafarm™ works:

    1. The water from the fish tank is pumped up to the plants into a grow tray at the top of the tank. The plant roots become a “biofilter” that breaks down harmful ammonia in the fish waste and turns it into nitrates that the plants then absorb as food.
    1. After this conversion process, clean water is circulated back into the fish tank—ridding the tank of all the accumulated fish waste.
    1. Your plants grow in the grow trays at the top of the tank, giving you fresh veggies like leafy greens, wheatgrass, mixed greens, and a variety of herbs.
    1. You get fresh greens and herbs with minimal effort.

     

    What are the benefits of having an Aquafarm™?

    Besides the obvious benefit of the Aquafarm™ (fresh veggies), there are some other great reasons to have one if you’re a fish owner, gardener, or interested in emergency preparedness.

    • First if you’ve ever owned a fish, you know they’re tricky to keep alive. Toxicity, swim bladder, and algae growth are all common problems in a fish tank that affect the overall health of the fish (like I've learned all too well). The Aquafarm™ helps to reduce these problems as the plants help clean the tank.
    • Second because I’m an (unintentional) plant killer, the fact that I don’t have to constantly water the plants or give them plant food works in my favor. All I have to do is remember to feed the fish and nature will take care of the rest.
    • Third the Aquafarm™ will help me get one step closer to self-sufficiency. Use the food you grow to supplement your food storage supplies if you run out or just want fresh veggies.

    So if you’re like me and want your fish to clean up its own tank and earn its keep in your home by giving you fresh veggies, consider getting an Aquafarm™!

    And if you’re interested in building your own medium-to-full-sized Aquaponics system, check out our Aquaponic Gardening series written by our guest blogger and customer, Kevin White. He tells you how to get started and what supplies and materials you’ll need.

     

    -Angela

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: gardening, aquaponics, aquaponic garden

  • Predators on Primetime: Shark Week

    It’s Shark Week! Also known in my house as “The Week Mom Won’t Go Near the Ocean or a Pool and Becomes Leery of Bathtubs.”

    I hate sharks. I hate them with a phobic intensity that makes me shudder when I walk by the trout aquarium at Cabela’s. I didn’t see Jaws until I was an adult, and even then I spent most of the movie looking down into my lap until the scary music stopped. So you can imagine how much I love headlines like this one:

    “Shark photo prompts closure of access to ocean off San Clemente.”

    While fishermen regularly report shark sightings (the predators are attracted by large amounts of fish), the photographic evidence spurred officials to action in this case. Though the beach was completely off limits for a couple of hours after the incident, caution signs remained posted—signs, one official noted, that did little to divert beachgoers.

    It’s true that shark attacks are relatively rare (check out this hilarious but accurate comparison chart of shark attacks to other potential catastrophes from the Florida Museum of Natural History). However, they’re a real enough threat that the governments of Cape Town, South Africa; Western Australia; and Hawaii all publish their own shark safety pages.

    Whether Shark Week has you glued to the TV or locked in your second-story bedroom, if you’re planning on spending any time in the ocean, it’s smart to know your “enemy.” National Geographic has a thorough article on “Shark Attack Tips,” that includes strategies for avoidance, what to do in case of an attack, and tips for helping a victim.

    It also de-bunks some shark myths (for example, if you see a group of dolphins it doesn’t mean there are no sharks in the area. Dolphins and sharks not only eat the same types of food, but some sharks even eat dolphins!), and helps us understand things from the big fish’s perspective (sharks see contrast well and interpret thrashing around as injured and easy prey).

    Of course, the best course of action is always to stay aware, stay educated, and stay within the boundaries set by those responsible for your safety (like local authorities and lifeguards). But it never hurts to practice a hard punch to the gills once in a while.

     

    Any shark stories out there? Come on, scare me!

    -Stacey

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: Survival, shark, shark week

  • People always joke that duct tape fixes everything, but did you know that it could potentially save your life? In a survival situation, duct tape can have many uses, and here are just twelve ways to use this adhesive wonder in a number of emergency situations you may encounter.

    8 Ways Duct Tape Could Save You in a Bind

    1. Patching holes/Sealing – Rip your tent while assembling? Hole in your siding? Missing a shingle? Duct tape is the perfect way to patch holes, seal items, or make emergency repairs on just about anything (like, for example, a tent whose zipper breaks in the middle of a rainstorm… not that I’ve ever had that happen to me).

    2. Medical Uses – Duct tape is a great resource for first aid. You can use it to make bandages (it might hurt a little pulling hairs, but that beats bleeding to death), provide padding on a blister, or even splint an ankle in an emergency. You can also make an emergency duct tape field stretcher!

    3. Make Cord/Rope – You can easily twist long pieces of duct tape together to form a rope or cord. This can be used to hang clothes to dry, hang up a bag out of reach of pests, or any other number of uses (including a belt, if you’re desperate).

    4. Waterproof/Insulate – While this could apply to just about anything, it’s specifically helpful with shoes, especially in the winter. Just wrap duct tape around the shoe to form a barrier from water and provide extra insulation.

    5. Cup/Bucket – Duct tape can be used to fashion a watertight cup, bucket, or even a bowl/plate if you need one. Check out the Norwegian Bushcraft video below to learn how to make a small bucket from duct tape that can hold water, but can also be used to gather food or other necessary items. (The tutorial begins about 27 seconds in to the video).

    6. Weapons and Hunting – Even if you have more ammo than you think you’ll ever need, eventually it’ll run out and you’ll have to resort to something besides a firearm. You can easily create a spear by using duct tape to fasten your knife or broken piece of glass to a piece of wood. You can also improvise an arrow as shown in the video below.





    7. Transportation – Duct tape can be used to repair the exterior and interior furnishings of vehicles, but you could also create a kayak out of PVC pipe and duct tape (and a few other household items)! Duct tape can even help repair leaks in a regular kayak or canoe.

    8. A Place to Sleep – Here’s an example of a hammock made out of duct tape (although I would suggest using something stronger to support if you plan on using it long-term or for more than 120-150 lbs.). Or fashion yourself a tent if you’re desperate!

     

    There are a lot of other uses for duct tape; what are your favorites?

     

    -Michelle

     

    Other Sources:

    http://www.happypreppers.com/duct-tape.html

    http://www.backdoorsurvival.com/duct-tape-for-survival/

    http://offgridsurvival.com/duct-tape/

    http://survival.outdoorlife.com/blogs/survivalist/2012/06/25-practical-survival-uses-duct-tape

     

     

     

     

     

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: skills, Survival, Survival Tip, duct tape

  • Entomophagy: Please Pass the Crickets

    A few months ago, I was introduced to a company called Chapul on a popular television show. They were trying to get financial backing for a new type of  energy bar that they claim offers more iron than spinach, more protein than beef, and as much B12 as salmon through  entomophagy...

    Which means eating bugs. For real.

    The pitchmen for the company touted the health benefits of the cricket flour they use for their bars, along with the sustainability of insect harvesting, and the fact that North America and Europe are basically the only places on the globe where eating bugs is not routine. I was unconvinced. And then I saw this headline, from the NY Daily News:

    “California hiker survives on bugs and snow for 6 days after breaking leg on mountain”

    Apparently Gregg Hein was solo hiking (moral of the story: never hike alone, unless bugs are your cup of tea) when a falling boulder broke his leg and stranded him on the side of a mountain. Miles from anyone, with no way to call for help, and two days away from his scheduled return, Hein waited it out the only way he knew how.

    Survival nuts like Bear Grylls have been telling us for ages that it can be done (watch here as he eats an enormous wood grub!), but how many of us would voluntarily choke down a creepy-crawly, in or out of a survival situation?

    Lots of us, it turns out.

    Over the last couple of years, such credible outlets as The New Yorker, The National Journal, and slate.com have all published articles on the benefits of entomophagy. Slate even offers this handy nutritional chart, comparing chicken, beef, and fish to worms, flies, and cockroaches.

     

     Entomophagy: Please Pass the Crickets

    A bizarrely compelling How Stuff Works article, titled “How Entomophagy Works,” cautions us against scrounging for snacks in our backyard (pesticides are a problem in residential areas), but does offer some helpful guidelines for bug eating in survival situations.

     

    What do you think? Are you up for adding dehydrated worms or cricket meal to your food storage? Could you eat something with lots of legs if your life depended on it?

     

    -Stacey

     

    Posted In: Uncategorized

  • lightning in Los Angeles

    In a rare display of wild summer weather, Southern California saw one death and a dozen injuries from lightning at the end of July. While summer is prime time for thunder and lightning storms (read why here) in some parts of the country, it’s a less common phenomenon on the West Coast.

    Which just goes to show the urgency of preparedness. If disasters were completely predictable, they wouldn’t be disasters, I suppose.

    Fox News describes the “monsoon moisture,” warm and humid, which led to countless reports of lightning and thunder around the Los Angeles region, as well as flooding on Catalina Island. The fatality took place on the popular Venice Beach, where people surfed, swam, and played volleyball as thunderclouds gathered overhead.

    The Red Cross reminds us that we should head inside at the first sound of thunder and that water is particularly dangerous in a thunderstorm. In fact, the list of tips they posted for this year’s Lightning Safety Awareness Week advises we stay safely indoors for at least 30 minutes after the last audible thunder clap. The Red Cross, NOAA, and AccuWeather.com all have great articles and tip lists for lightning safety. And if you want a little more reading, here are some of our recent articles on the deadly beauty.

    I know it’s summer, and we all want to be outside, just remember to keep  an eye on the skies. Better a ruined picnic than a trip to the ER!

     

    -Stacey

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: storm, lightning, thunder

  • 140806093251-01-china-quake-0806-horizontal-gallery

    Earthquake damage in Southwest China, August 2014, Photo Courtesy of CNN.com

     

    On Sunday, August 3rd, China’s Yunnan province saw the most devastating earthquake since 1970. According to the US Geological Survey, a 6.1 (China’s own equipment is calling it a 6.5) earthquake was recorded at 4:30pm in the agricultural region known as Ludian. On August 7th, AP reported about 615 known fatalities and 3,143 injured, though those numbers may continue to  increase as first responders progress through the rubble.

    Particularly disastrous in this case is the age and instability of the brick structures prevalent in the region. One volunteer quoted by the Huffington Post estimates that about half the buildings in the area have collapsed completely, with countless more damaged and uninhabitable, resulting in an evacuee count of almost 30,000. To make matters worse, power and communications have been wiped out, and rainstorms are hampering rescue efforts and the distribution of relief supplies.

    We’re keeping an eye on this and will report in the future on possible ways to help. In the meantime, the hard lesson for the rest of us has to do with broad spectrum preparation. Knowing what to do in the event of an earthquake is an important first step, but just as important is having a protected stock of supplies, an alternate means of communication, and the know-how to survive when the grid is down.

    Our article, “How to Prepare for an Earthquake,” contains several links to other useful lists, posts, and resources that teach everything from what to put in an earthquake emergency kit to what to do before, during, and after a quake. And as a supplement to those, “Earthquakes and Your Mental Health” emphasizes the role of preparation in the management of stress and trauma.

     

    Keep China in your thoughts and prayers, and make sure your home and family are prepared for the big one!

     

    -Stacey

     

    Sources

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/04/china-earthquake_n_5646867.html

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20140807/as--china-earthquake/?utm_hp_ref=world&ir=world

    http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/06/world/asia/china-earthquake-deaths/

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: natural disaster, Earthquake, Earthquakes

  • Tornadoes in Tennesse

    Tornadoes in Tennessee

    In the West we’re no strangers to summer storms. But we prefer the kind that pelt us with cool rain on a hot afternoon, and then peter out when it’s time to light the barbecue. Not the kind that knock houses down. That’s what Tennessee had to deal with recently. Fortunately, no one was injured, but emerging from your basement to find a pile of debris where your home once stood is not exactly a pleasant way to pass a summer evening.

    While this particular storm affected several states in the region, one county in Tennessee bore the brunt of the devastation, as high winds ripped up trees and structures. Fox News reports that ten homes and one grocery store were completely destroyed in the community of Speedwell, including the town sheriff’s home.

    NBC News speculated that one of the numerous reported tornadoes associated with a storm system raging across areas of New England and into the South could have been responsible for the destruction in Tennessee. Elsewhere, flights were canceled, cities lost power, and New York saw some flooding. Between the heavy rain, whipping winds, tornadoes, and lightning, this storm was a force to be reckoned with.

    As a reminder, we posted this little article (“Staying Safe as Severe Storms Head for the Midwest”) in June, which serves as a helpful reminder regarding preparation for storms of all kinds and also contains some great links to other articles and resources. We’ve also found some useful tips for road safety during summer storms at weather.com; and our friendly northern neighbors at Environment Canada have a fantastically comprehensive list of safety instructions, categorized by the threat (e.g., lightning, tornadoes, hail, etc.).

    If the weather in your area is cooperating nicely, however, enjoy your summer and use the downtime to educate yourself.

     

    -Stacey

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: Tornado, tornadoes

  • Washington Wildfire Burned more than 300 Homes

    The largest recorded wildfire in Washington state history that began on July 14th, 2014 has now scorched about 400 square miles of land. And as of August 4th, 2014 the file was only 90% contained.

    On July 28th, USA today reported, “the fire has destroyed at least 312 homes…and is blamed for the death of a man trying to protect his home. At its peak, it sent a huge plume of smoke drifting east across the United States.”

    In an assessment of the damage released by Yahoo News, Washington Governor Jay Inslee extended the pre-existing burn ban in the eastern part of the state for another week to avoid further damage.

    Governor Inslee acknowledges that even though fire crews have made great progress in containing the fire, “weather conditions are still a concern” that may extend the fire’s life. So the Washington wildfire could continue to blaze on.

    On Tuesday, July 29th fire managers released a map showing the fire’s growth since July 14th. The map shows that four separate lightning strikes created four burns that merged to create a massive wildfire. Check out the map at USA Today.com.

    1406580494000-Carletonmap

     

    According to fire-fighting officials, massive wildfires like this (and the one currently blazing in eastern Oregon) are becoming the norm. Wildfires are now burning hotter and longer than they were more than a decade ago.

    Since wildfires have been popping up all over the western US this summer, it’s important to learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones during wildfire season. Check out these Ready.gov tips  to help you prepare.

     

    For more info on the Washington Wildfire, check out these articles:

    New Map Shows How Record Washington Wildfire Grew

    Sheriff: 300 Homes Burned in Washington Wildfire

    Longer, Hotter Northwest Fire Seasons are New ‘Normal’

    Bear Cub Burned in Washington Wildfire Flown to California Wildlife Care Center

     

    If you’ve ever lived through a wildfire, what tips would you suggest for protecting your home and staying safe during a wildfire? If you haven’t, what steps are you taking to prepare, just in case?

     

    -Angela

     

    Sources

    http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2014/aug/05/wildfire-burns-homes-near-ellensburg/

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: wildfire, wildfire season

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