Fire, the making of it.


Fire is one of those things that it’s important to know about in emergency situations. You want to know how to get it started, how to keep it going, how to bank it overnight, and how to use it to do various things. You also need to know more than one way to do each of those things.

Making fire is probably the one that stumps most people. There’s this tendency to fall back on “oh, I’ll use a lighter”. I’m guilty of it myself, to a certain extent, and I almost always have a lighter on me somewhere. But lighters run out of fuel, and they get wet, and they can get lost. So what happens then?

Knowing how to make and use char cloth is one path to fire. Having or knowing how to find dry tinder, even in went conditions is another. There’s also flint and steel. But what do you do once you have those ingredients?

This is a picture of the cheap striker I got through an online cheap-ass place called Temu. I think I paid $1.98 for it. It has a ferro rod, a striker, and a blow tube, all in a neat little kit with a neck strap.

Did you know that when most ferro rods arrive, they have a coating on them that you need to work through before you can get a decent spark? Something to know. Something I did NOT know until this afternoon. I learned.

Do you know how to get a spark from flint and steel, or ferro rod and striker? Do you know how to get the spark to be where you want it? It’s not nearly so easy as one might think, and it requires a bit of practice in optimal circumstances before you get into an emergency.

Luckily, it’s not expensive to practice. You can make char cloth out of any old cotton (denim jeans, old tee shirts, kids’ spit up cloths, you name it) or linen. Here’s a good video on making it, with some wonderful side info. And another website with good pics.

Okay, so now you have char cloth. What about tinder? Technically you don’t need both (char cloth IS tinder after all), but knowing how to find or make tinder is as important as knowing how to make char cloth. After all, if you have the means to make char cloth, but no fire, then what do you do? 🙂

Tinder can be anything that’s very small and very flammable. Tinder is smaller than the tiny sticks you use to get a fire built up. It’s fine and light and fluffy. As an example, even in wet climates, if you can find a cedar tree, you can scrape the underside of the bark for a feathery soft stuff that makes great tinder.

Tinder’s job is to catch your spark. That’s it. Now you have a spark, and it’s glowing, and you need to add more fuel to it. Larger pieces of tinder, such as very fine branches from pine trees, can be added. You can make feather sticks (thin, dry sticks that you ‘feather out’ with a sharp knife or axe) to help you make the spark into more. You blow on the ember in the fluff of tinder, and hopefully, the ember becomes smoke, and the smoke becomes fire. Take your tiny fire and add it to the previously laid base of your fire.

There are many ways to build that base, such as log cabin and tipi style. Practice, so you know what works best for you, in which conditions. I tend to use a log cabin style when building fires in dry weather, but I find tipi works better when it’s wet. Awa taught me how to use a military poncho as a cover while building a fire in the rain.

Being able to get your spark to the right spot differs depending on what method you’re using to make a spark. If you’re using a ferro rod, most people’s instinct is to hold the rod over the tinder, then push the scraper down it. Unfortunately, this can cause your spark to go wild. A better way is to hold the scraper in place, and pull the rod up along it. Give both a try, and see what happens. Practice!

When you’re using flint and steel, you want your tinder in your hand, and you spark toward that. And that takes a LOT of practice, and you’ll probably skin your knuckles a number of times in the process of learning. I’ve been doing flint and steel work for about five years, and I’m still terrible at it. I’m passably good with a ferro rod, but I can’t possibly know that I’ll have one on hand, so… I practice with flint and steel.

So, what if you don’t have a ferro rod, or flint and steel, or a lighter? It’s time to use friction. But friction is the least easy method for making fire, even though it can be effective. This is another one that really requires you to go and do it, practice it, and use it on a regular basis in order to perfect it. And all that practice must be done before the emergency, because when you’re in the midst of it, you won’t have time to be putzing around with learning new things.

This site discusses several methods of making fire using friction: bow drill, pump drill, hand drill, and fire plough. And then there’s this great article on Instructables, which adds more to the list: the two man friction drill, and a fire piston, in addition to instructions on the ones at the first site.

So… go add to your skill set! 🙂 Have fun in the process, and impress your friends. Stay warm, stay dry, and learn.

Prepping for Power Outages

As some of you know, the area of the world where Awa, J.kb, and I live in got slammed by heavy snow recently. The official total snowfall for my spot was 40 inches. We got 40 inches of snow in less than 48 hours.

As a friend of mine said, there’s just no time when 40 inches of anything is enjoyable.

It was heavy, wet snow. Normally I’m out doing a lot of the work at moving snow, but I have a knee injury at the moment, and it was deemed unsafe for me to do so. Instead, I ran the house, which was kind of fun.

We lost power early on in the morning. That was good, because it gave me all day with natural light to get prepared for things. I brought out my lovely antique oil lamps, and brought down my solar camping lantern and my rechargeable bike lights (I don’t use them on a bike, but do have them for walking at night or for when I’m camping). My stove is a gas stove, so I can cook just fine without power (the oven shuts off for safety’s sake). I actually planned out a more complex dinner than usual, since I had the time, and the stove aided in heating the house.

The house will keep from freezing just fine with the wood stove alone. I admit, I prefer having at least some oil heat, because the heat from the wood stove is centered in an area of the house that the water pipes go under, to keep them from freezing. That means that the areas we sleep in tend to be REALLY cold. Still, we made do.

We moved snow. We cooked, and ate. Eventually, we moved all the stuff out of the fridge and into boxes in the snow. My deep freeze will keep fine in this kind of weather pretty much indefinitely, and for a week or two even in warmer weather, so I wasn’t worried there. I started a sewing project that I’d been putting off for months, to the joy of one of my kids (Viking hood trimmed with rabbit fur, great for storms like this).

So what’s so special about my house?

We prepare for power outages. We’ve always lived in areas that were prone to them, because we don’t like living in big cities. We live in suburban or rural areas, with one main line feeding dozens of farms or well spaced houses, and that line inevitably goes down because of accident, freezing rain, trees, snow, or what-have-you at least a couple of times a year.

What I don’t really talk so much to the kids about is that I also prepare for emergency outages of the longer variety. If power went down for several months, life would be more difficult, but not tremendously so. Having it happen right at this point and time is actually ideal, because I’d have plenty of time to grow my garden and raise a few clutches of chickens before the stored food ran out.

Electricity isn’t necessary to me. It’s a convenience, and I do love it, but it isn’t necessary. The only reason my phone went on at all during the whole snowpocalypse was because my boyfriend was checking in on me occasionally (he lives 30 minutes away) and because I have friends who might have needed help which I wanted to be able to render. I didn’t play games (though I did take some photos).

Our neighbors had their genset going about 5 minutes into the storm. It must have gobbled down a couple hundred dollars worth of fuel in the 36 hours it was running, and the noise announced to the entire neighborhood that they obviously had (literal) money to burn.

I have a genset. I could have dug it out and hooked it up. It would have kept the fridge and hot water heater going, allowing us to have hot showers more easily. That’s it’s main purpose, really, because everything else we can do just fine without electricity. I didn’t see a reason to dig through all that snow, though. Even if the power outage had lasted as long as Eversource suggested (’til that Friday 6pm), I wouldn’t have bothered. Only the threat of the deep freeze defrosting would have gotten me to turn it on. And maybe not even then. Still, when the kids whined about not being able to charge their devices, I suggested that if they wanted it that bad, THEY should dig out the genset. They decided reading by candlelight was the better option. I concur.

GFZ talks about “grey man” quite a bit. Don’t be noticed. Don’t stand out. Blend in with everyone in your surroundings. That’s why I don’t want to run my genset. It’s loud. It lets everyone know you have power, fuel, money, and probably tons of food. I don’t want that kind of thing advertised.

I don’t know if y’all have seen The Last Of Us yet, but there’s a scene in there with a prepper dude, waiting for the gov’t to clear out. He waits for FEMA to mark his door as empty, evacuated his town, and drove off. He waited a bit, came out cautious, cleared the area quite well, then quickly went about the business of getting everything he needed from locations that had obviously been previously selected and planned around. Then he went home and sat down to a lovely dinner of steak and potatoes, with nothing more on his mind than taking it easy.

That’s my goal. I don’t yet have a sub-basement set up, where we can hide from FEMA. It’s on the list.  But I’ve no problem quietly slipping off into the woods while our area is cleared out. We’ll come back when they’re done clearing, and settle back into comfort. I’m not interested in living out in the woods, dealing with cold, wet, bugs, and dirt. I plan on staying in my nice, comfortable home that works just fine without any electricity at all. I’ll sleep in my warm bed (which was ridiculously warm and comfy despite there being no heat at all upstairs during the storm, I might add), and sleep well.

Being prepared for the power to go out is the difference. If your preparations are “turn on the genset”, then you really aren’t prepared. Eventually, fuel runs out. It only works if the problem in question is very short-lived. It’s useless as a long-term survival strategy. Heck, it’s useless in any survival situation that lasts longer than the gas currently in the tank at your gas station. So learn how to do without.

If you’re in a house where you can run a wood stove, you’re basically set. It provides heat, a cooking surface, and a central place to congregate. If your home isn’t really set up for a wood stove, but you have a portable one on hand, you can always rig a board in a window, to allow you to run the chimney outside. It’s not a perfect answer, but it will do in an emergency.

If you’re in an apartment or rented dwelling, though, you may have no ability to do that at all. You have to get creative. A tent in your living room for sleeping in will help hold in heat at night, especially if you pile yourself and all your family, including pets, within. Dogs make great space heaters. Setting up one room as the “warm place” will also help. Use military poncho liners or quilts to block off all other rooms, keeping all the body heat in one place. It’s possible to get an indoor safe propane heater, but if you do, I highly recommend also picking up a carbon monoxide alarm that runs on batteries. It’s not likely you’d run into problems, but safety is important.

How do you cook, if you have no electricity and no gas stove? With the wood stove, it’s easy. It’s already hot; just use the heat to cook with. In that apartment, however, you probably don’t have that ability. A single burner butane camp stove is a wonderful answer, and the fuel keeps well from year to year (remember to use up older ones first). They’re safe to use indoors, and you can crack a window if you’re concerned. Propane camp stoves can also be used, but be aware that they are much more prone to leaking, and should not really be used indoors.

You can also cook outside. If you have a balcony, you can use charcoal to cook in cast iron safely enough, or even use a very small rocket stove for cooking. Of course, you can do that out on the lawn of your apartment, too, but I don’t suggest it. Advertising you have food, fuel, and knowledge is not a good thing.

Water is the other big issue for all of us. City water will usually continue to flow for quite a while, even in a power outage, so you can usually fill up containers from the tap if you feel like it’s going to drag on for a while. There are bags that you can put into your bathtub and fill, for instance, or you can pick up water cubes that stack (a better idea, as you can move them easily). If you’re on a well, it may stop providing water when the power goes out, but you should be able to get water manually. Be aware in advance, though, if it’s a modern well it may not take a bucket. You may need a special “skinny” container to pull water up from within.

What about light? Solar lights have come a long way. They’re small, efficient, and easy to charge. I have a compact solar lantern that I can use wastefully each day, because I know it will charge even when it’s only partially sunny. I have other lights that can be charged with electric, and I can use my solar array that I charge my phone from. Oh yes, I have a solar array that can charge my phone, my small emergency lights, a fan I use in my tent, and a handful of other things.

There are dozens of other things to talk about, when it comes to preparing for emergencies, long or short. I know I am always learning new things, adding to my knowledge base. I am not an expert. I’m just a curious and keen person who likes to learn stuff, especially when it’s useful. And there’s the rub: knowledge.

Knowledge is the one thing you may not have time to gain if something Really Bad [tm] happens. You can be unpracticed at something, and figure it out as you go along. But if you don’t know it at all? You’re screwed. So learn what you can. Test yourself. Turn the power off at the main junction to the house and go without for 48 hours. Find out where your holes are. Patch them as best you can, at the fastest speed you can safely and securely do. I recently decided that I don’t know enough about trapping, snaring, and foraging. I’m taking classes this summer from a master forager who lives in my area, in order to help fill that gap. I borrowed books from Awa about trapping and snaring, and I’m about to go practice.

This is what you can do, right now. Fill gaps. You won’t know where your gaps are until you actually put these skills to the test, however. So go camping with a light load. Turn off the power to your house. Go for a hike with only what you can carry, and see if you can forage enough food for a meal. PRACTICE.

From the Bureau of ATF: #GunSense, Gays, and the Intolerant Right

In the aftermath of the Orlando terrorist attack, there has been — predictably — renewed mainstream attention on the completely nonexistent “gun problem” in America. Fortunately, the narrative doesn’t stick so well when the perpetrator was a known radical Islamist on record as giving his acquaintances hell (or whatever it’s called in Muslim doctrine) over their pulled pork platters touching his burger at a barbecue. It’s even less compelling when the guy was allegedly on one (or more) of the federal government’s completely unlawful “watch lists,” demonstrating once and for all again the abject folly of these affronts to due process. The death knell for #GunSense* in this attack, however, is the fact that it was targeted at a group already marginalized for centuries — one that has made tremendous (if mostly superficial) gains in the last several decades.

And for all that time, Democrats have taken the LGBT vote for granted, making assumption after assumption that “alternative” denotes “liberal,” that one’s sexual orientation or gender identity should and would net the party a “D” in every column come every election day. Unfortunately, due most recently to court rulings on gay marriage and the whole bizarre bathroom distraction, it seems to be working. But under the surface, these initiatives are unimaginably insulting: The LGBT community is being exploited like a circus sideshow of freaks by the government it believes serves their best interests. Gay marriage a big win? No, folks, this is mere capitulation to government’s assertion that it is the sole licensor of love between individuals, that it has any conceivable say in who and how you love yourself and others. And as much of a sham** as all marriage licenses are***, the bathroom brouhaha is even more of a joke. The state thinks that where you piss in public matters more to you than the basic civil rights it regularly withholds from you and everyone else. The bathroom stink is a literal shit show, as if baking brownies (or baking cakes) is what the silly, childish LGBT community is really all about.

Because, LGBTers, that’s what #GunSense — and the politicians who promote it — think you are: children. In Orlando, there are no kids’ graves to dance on, so you’re filling in. Just like it’s unthinkable to arm youngsters in the face of violence, so too is it unthinkable to arm LGBTs. After all, you cannot be trusted to make mature, responsible, traditionally “moral” decisions, can you? Just like kids, you need a parent or guardian to take care of you, to salve your skinned knee and hurt feelings, to tell you you’re great. You aren’t a real adult. You aren’t a real individual. You are a ward. You are property.

It is dehumanizing, it is marginalizing, and it is — in so many awful ways — the epitome of pandering.

Which gets me to my main point:

Pandering is an important concept post-Orlando, and the LGBT community would do well to pay close attention to where it’s coming from and how it’s framed.

The government, naturally, will continue to use the Orlando victims’ lifestyle associations to foment a false “minority issue,” making the push to further limit firearms rights based on the terroristic threats that “gun nuts” present to the so-called “othered” others. It is in the controlling agency’s interest to tell you that you are a target and must kowtow to authority in order to maintain your ever-more-tenuous, hard-fought freedoms. This is textbook pandering, and it is textbook unacceptable. Even to straight guys like me.

But it is “straight guys like me” who represent the other side of the pandering problem. And that needs to be addressed.

See, to those in the LGBT community, it may feel that, all of a sudden, the erstwhile anti-gay good old boys aren’t so bad. It may feel as if a bunch of formerly homophobic hillbillies are coming out of the woodwork from every end of the Internet to tell you to arm up and fight back, that they’ve got your back 100 percent when all they ever did before was look at your butt and laugh theirs off. It may feel like an uncomfortable case of “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” It may feel less than genuine. It may feel like pandering.

It isn’t.

At least, it mostly isn’t. The majority of pro-gunners I personally (or passingly) know do not now and have never given a single moment’s thought or concern to the non-aggressing lifestyle choices of others. Yes, there are some Second Amendment activists out there who only “support” LGBT rights as a simple means to the otherwise noble end of expanding pro-gun influence. That sort of manipulation cannot be avoided, but it also cannot be allowed to push the many new (and understandably tentative) pro-gun fence-sitters back over to the Straight Ticket For #GunSense side. Defense rights are too important an issue — too natural a necessity — to scare anyone off through such misgivings.

The reality is this: The “intolerant Right” really isn’t as intolerant as the Left and its media outlets have been telling you. Of course, as in all collectives, pockets of ugliness do exist. And those who claim to support Liberty while simultaneously denying the humanity of the LGBT (or any other) community are struggling with a cognitive dissonance not unlike that faced by targeted minorities who trust the very masters who openly seek to disarm them.

Of course, if you are at all unsettled by the potential pandering coming from the the Second Amendment side, it is important to realize that even if you’re just receiving lip service in the advancement of gun rights for all, the operative concept is “for all.” At the very least, you are getting valuable information that can help you develop the necessary attitude to see to your own safety and the active defense of those you hold most dear.

There is also this happy fact to consider: Many pro-gun, anti-LGBT bigots have also had their eyes opened and minds broadened by the events in Orlando. What once seemed like a sociopolitical impasse has been climbed over and conquered. For many “traditional conservatives,” it no longer matters who you love or what you do behind closed doors, because they’ve been awakened — like so many in the LGBT community — to the fact that the freedom to be is more important than the freedom to be gay or straight or otherwise. The latter freedoms are redundant, shielded under the umbrella of defense of the former. It should never take a tragedy to make intelligent people see the fragile nature of their freedom, nor should it take death and destruction to make folks put aside unimportant differences in deference to the only thing that truly matters. But the tragedy’s happened, and tragedies always will. We of all colors and creeds and genders and beliefs that comprise Gun Culture 2.0 merely hope everyone can learn from it.

You dont need permission (especially not mine!) to be who you are. Love wins. You just might need to defend it one day.

So go to the range, rent some guns, and become familiar with the tool that defines Liberty’s state of the art. If you dont have a rental facility in your area or can’t currently afford the expense (firearms training isn’t exactly the cheapest best thing ever), check out Operation Blazing Sword. There, you can get in touch with many good people around the country who are stepping up to offer free (or nearly free) shooting lessons for LGBT folks new to the scene.****

If you happen to be in the Florida panhandle, I hope to see you and yours at the range.

Remember, the best relationships are the ones that survive.



*Linguistically speaking, #GunSense is a blending of the term “gun control” and the word “nonsense.” Logically speaking, it’s a redundant, pathetic portmanteau, more French in spirit than even the word that describes it.

**You do get tax breaks on taxes that shouldn’t exist in the first place, so I guess that’s something.

***An interesting parallel between marriage licenses and gun control is that both concepts were constructed around governmental limitation of black integration. Freedmen were not allowed arms to fend off the rampant abuses they faced once unshackled, just as intermarriage between blacks and whites was to be stymied via the issuance of relationship permission slips. The gun license, like the marriage license, has its deepest roots in blatant legislated bigotry.

****Note to volunteer instructors: Dont screw up. The rest of us expect you to do a good job, to be patient, and to be familiar with the requisite dos and donts. So dont offer your range, time, money, or advice if you’re not going to follow the Four Rules and make the experience a welcoming one for all involved.

Equipment check please.

I check my sidearm every time I am not in direct control of it. 99.9% of the time I am not “in control” it means it is in a secured location such a safe or lock box. Even then, every time I take possession back, I perform a press check to see if the gun is loaded and a round is chambered. We all have heard the standard comment after negligent discharges “I thought it was unloaded!” but sometimes the opposite happens and can be as dangerous as the first one. We get this story from

Lopez, who has a concealed weapons permit, pulled out his pistol to use in self-defense, but there were no bullets in it. After Reyes allegedly shot at Lopez several times, Lopez loaded his gun and fired back, hitting Reyes twice.

The intended victim was lucky that the bad guy did not connect and he was able to do so. But why ride on luck when preparedness is so much nicer? Make sure your firearm is loaded, otherwise is just a very heavy belt accessory.

“That competition stuff will get you killed on the streets.” NOT! (Part 1)

This is part 1 of a great article by Mike Seeklander about compettitive shooting and the skills that you can fine tune for self defense situations. Here is an excerpt:

During my time in law enforcement, I keenly remember hearing this statement: “That competition stuff will get you killed on the streets.” This was sometimes followed by a polite refusal of my invitation to attend a match (I invited those around me every month). More than once I heard, “I’ve always wanted to do that, but I’d better get some practice time in before I go, thanks anyway.”

Wow!  Get some practice time first?  What happens if the stuff goes down tonight? Will you tell the bad guy to wait until after you practice to start the fight? I think not.

Please, spare me of your fake concern.

Few things can incite a revolution in South Florida like trying to cut alcohol consumption during a hurricane. Even though there are laws in place to ban the sell of booze during one, politicians know better than apply it since the only thing it will do would be to distract police resources and piss people off for no reason. If there is a place where chugging a beer while listening to the wind blow the roofs go hand in hand is Key West where hurricane parties are not only a tradition but a Conch Republic right.

And yes, shit happens to drunk people before, during and after hurricanes, but that is their problem. We had our very insignificant share of idiots who have decided to take a drunk drive while the winds are over 75 mph and disappear, only to be found a couple of years later in one of the many canals still wearing their vehicles. That is Darwin applied plain and simple. The majority of the partiers do so in secured locations be it be a home or the storm-reinforced bars that populate Monroe County so basically there is no problem.

Enter Craig Marston, division chief of emergency management and training at the Key West Fire Department. According to him, Key West People are too dumb to know what to do or to drink responsibly and wants to ban alcohol if a hurricane is headed that way because:

“We have to protect ourselves from ourselves,”

I am sorry Chief, who the blazes are you to issue such a condescending statement like that? Do me a favor and shut the hell up. We will call you only if and we need you. And you better be ready to answer to the calls and not engaged in creating social engineering plans for the better future of Eurasia.

Killing the Drama Llama: Conceal + Carry = Survive

If Top Shots is too “Reality TV looks at Big Brother significant Other Survivor married to Real Housewife of East LA who thinks She Can Dance”, you have an alternative on Spike TV. It is called Conceal + Carry = Survive.

According to what I read, it takes several people with little or no experience in firearms and trains them in their defensive use. Some are just people who want to avoid trouble and some were victimized and want to be ready if crap ever happens again.

The show is to air on July 17 on Spike TV. Set your DVRs.

And now back to my self imposed rest… I know, I keep breaking it but I think this is worth watching.