Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Watch this video

Watch the video at the top of this story.  WATCH IT.

This man and his family are on the run for their lives.  Obviously they made it, we have the video.  I'm happy for them, because it was a very close run thing.

We can Monday Morning Quarterback this to death, but I'm not going to do that.  The Gatlinburg wildfires blew up so fast that a lot of people got caught with their pants down.  This wasn't a hurricane that was forecasts days in advance, nor is it stupid people who ventured into a desert with inadequate gear.  This is people who were going about their normal lives and suddenly the maw of hell opened up around them.  The fires were many miles away and then suddenly, they weren't.  Sometimes, shit does happen.

What I want to say is that this is the best thing you can show people who don't understand why you prep.  Show them this and tell them "This is why you need to be situationally aware. This is why you have go bags.  This is why you have your plans already made and your evacuation routes already planned out.  You don't want to find yourself dodging wildfires, dodging downed trees, dodging downed power lines and dodging neighbors trying to get out at the last minute."

The 21st Century has given us wonderful tools.  We can do things that would appear to be magic to someone from 200 years ago.  But if you don't use them, one day you may find yourself dodging a wildfire--or a riot, or a flood, or caught in the aftermath of an earthquake or a fire in your house--dazed, confused, maybe panicked, not knowing what to do or where to go.  In an emergency, you will not step up to the needs of the emergency.  You will default to the level of your planning and training.

Tell your "don't get it" friends that you don't want to see them on FOXNews--or in the funeral home at a closed casket ceremony.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Bro, do you even Gab?

There's a new social media platform out there that is unlike anything so far.  Not so much technologically, although that is also true to some extent, but in terms of attitude.  Gab is a Twitter-like platform where one and all are invited to, as they put it in hashtag form, #SpeakFreely.

Dedicated to the concept of free speech, Gab is not like Twitter, Reddit, Facebook and the like.  You may say, rant or even spew what you wish, and trust me, I've seen all three.  What Gab does differently is that they don't act as supreme editor.  If you don't want to see something, you  have control of the tools to block a user or posts with certain words/phrases.  The onus is on you if you want censorship.  In this way, Gab actually harks back to the days of the old Usenet newgroups, where we all had our "twit files", into which went all the people we didn't want to hear from any more.

There is a lot of MSM crap about Gab being all "alt-right", whatever the hell that is.  I guess that means "Anyone who fails to agree with us," or perhaps "Anyone who voted for Trump."  I'm not seeing it.  So far, I haven't seen the KKK burning crosses or the Nazis goose stepping down the virtual Main Street.  I have, however, seen folks like Claire Wolfe and Borepatch, along with Milo Yiannopoulos and Vox Day.

I'm happy to say that I was among the first 100,000 to get in (Yeah, I'm not that special) and Daughter was close behind.  I'm not sure what the current user count is, but it is a lively place, and pretty addictive at this point.  The Gab team is adding features, and I hear a smartphone app is due in December.

They're letting in 25,000 or more folks per day, so if you're interested, go get your name on the waiting list.  I believe it took Daughter 3-4 days, so it's not a long wait.  I think you'll find it worth your time, if for nothing else finding out just how much news is being censored.  If you don't believe me, look up #pizzagate if you have a strong stomach.  Never heard of it prior to Gab, wish I hadn't heard of it, and I hope that it gets broken wide-ass open and all of 'em get brought to justice.  This kind of justice.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving


We here at The Freehold wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving.  We hope that when you count your blessings that they outnumber your setbacks this year.  While we have had a couple of hard knocks, we have pulled through.  We take great comfort in the results of the recent election and have great hopes for real change in our nation.  Overall, things seem to be looking up for now.

And for those of you who will be watching football later today...Go Redskins!



Sunday, November 20, 2016

The "Get Home Bag"

One of the frequent topics in prepping is the "bug out bag".  The bug out bag was originally conceived as the bag you had at hand if you needed to bail out of your home on extremely short notice.  It's a handy piece of kit that a lot of people still ignore.

Pretty soon, some people began putting a bag in their vehicles and calling that a bug out bag.  "Hey, I may need to leave work because of the Great Meteor and I might need this stuff to get home!"  Obviously true enough, but the naming offended those of us with a sense of orderliness (also known as "you OCD a-holes") and we decided to give it a name more descriptive of it actual use, the "Get Home Bag" or "Get Me Home Bag".

Your Plan A should always be "drive home", which means you probably won't need anything in this bag.  Plan A is a wonderful thing, but as the old saying goes, "All plans are out of date upon contact with the enemy."  If there is a sudden catastrophic event, say the Great Meteor, panic may well clog every road in sight, leaving you to resort to Plan B, which is grabbing your Get Home Bag and hoofing it home.  Aside:  While you don't resort to Plan B too quickly, but don't wait too long, either.  There's no rule of thumb to know when it's time to abandon your vehicle.  You'll have to trust your finely honed sense of survival to tell you.

The purpose of the Get Home Bag is simple--to get you home in one piece, safely and quickly, in the event you find yourself on foot and need to walk home.  It isn't going to allow you to get 10 people to their homes and it won't allow you to venture off into the woods and restart Western Civilization after a collapse.  It's the minimum stuff you need to get home from where you are when things get hairy, in an expeditious fashion, in good health and without getting hurt.

Note I said "minimum".  This is a key concept.  Some of the get home bag content lists I've seen posted make me think they aren't going home, since they've packed home in their ruck.  This is contrary to the driving idea of getting home in a hurry.  If the world has suddenly went pear-shaped, the longer you are outside the boundaries of your home, the greater the chances that you will be outside them permanently.  You aren't some spec-ops super soldier and you aren't going to hump an 80 pound ruck 25 miles a day.  Most of us will do good if we can carry 20 pounds 10 miles a day, and that's the ugly truth of it.

So, how do you build a get home bag that fits in that 20 pound limit but that still covers all the possibilities you might find yourself confronting?  Simple.  Take everything with you.

Yep, if your vehicle will allow it, take everything you think you might possibly need with you.  If it doesn't, obviously you'll need to reduce your list to what the vehicle will allow, but I'm serious--take it all.  Take summer clothes, winter clothes, rain gear, two weeks of food, whatever you think it will take to get you home.  Stuff it in some big cheap duffel bags, plastic totes or whatever fits your vehicle best.  And take a good ruck that will let you carry 20 pounds of gear.  Pack that on top.  Explanation in a bit.

Let's take a bit of an aside into "What constitutes 'everything'?"  While that could be an entire topic of its own, we'll keep it simple. Apply the 80/20 rule.   Consider the places you find yourself 80% of the time.  Plan your list based on those places.  For example, 90%+ of the time, I'm within a 35 mile radius of home.  Given my health, my physical abilities, the terrain I'd have to travel and the density of population, I allow for a 5 day trip.  That means I only have to cover 7 miles per day.  If I do better, great, but I only have to manage 7.  I know that, barring accident or injury, I can manage that while carrying 20 pounds on my back.

Knowing that I'm planning on a 5 day trip, that tells me how much I need in terms of consumables, such as food.  Knowing the terrain tells me what I will need in terms of shelter (this will also vary dependent on the season) as well as the availability of water.  Population density guides me in terms of knowing will I be able to walk the roads or stay concealed, moving at night and thus moving more slowly as well as how well I need to be armed.  My physical abilities dictate my load.

Time of year will figure into this as well.  If it's summer, you'll probably want to wait out the heat of the day, moving in the cooler mornings, evenings and nights, potentially slowing down your travel.  Cold weather will dictate warmer clothes and more shelter, including sleeping gear, plus more food.

I'm going to assume at this point you're starting to get the idea.  You know where you are most of the time, you've considered your routes home, you have paid attention to them and have some idea what it would be like to walk them, and you've considered what and how much gear you'd need to make it happen if you had to do it on foot.

So gather up all that gear--the spring, the summer, the fall and the winter.  It will probably be a pretty big pile.  Start sorting--do I absolutely have to have this item?  Is it something for comfort, something for safety or something that I will die without if I really need it?  Under what circumstances will I need it?  Only you can say if it stays in the pile, but you're going to have to be hard-nosed about it unless you drive a tractor-trailer to work.  Try to keep it down to food/water/water purification, shelter, rain gear, minimum clothing (but enough clothing for all possibilities), enough food, a very basic medical kit, sleeping gear and the following items that I do not believe are optional:
  • A small pair of binoculars
  • Two small LED flashlights that use the same battery type and spare batteries
  • The smallest AM or AM/FM radio you can find, preferably one that uses the same batteries as the flashlights
  • Maps that cover your area and a good compass, plus a backup compass (can be a button compass, but have a backup)
  • A small bag that will attach to your belt and hold one of your flashlights, some spare batteries, a couple of space blankets, 25' of paracord, and good knife or better a multitool, matches in a match safe, a lighter, a 55 gallon trash bag and your spare compass
  • A pistol, holster, spare magazines and spare ammo
We're getting ahead of ourselves, but time for a Pro Tip:  The pistol, spare mags and the small bag stay on your person at all times when you are on your way home.  Period.  If you get separated from your main bag, you still have a chance.  It won't be fun, but you have a chance.

Some people will also feel the urgent need to add a two-way radio of some sort.  I don't recommend it as I feel it's wasted weight, but if you feel it's worth it, you're the one humping the weight, not me.

So, you have all this stuff in your vehicle, taking up half the trunk.  You wag it around, you have to pull it out to vacuum the trunk and you have to pull it out to inspect it every so often.  You have to replace some items, such as food, periodically.  It's a pain.

And one day at work, the Giant Meteor shows up.



Intelligent you, rather than wait around for someone to say "Go!", you make the executive decision to bail.  Out to the parking lot, into your vehicle, out onto the road and in 15 minutes you find yourself in another parking lot because a trucker has jackknifed his big rig trying to miss some panicked fool who cut him off.  Great.  Now you and everyone who was behind Mr. Panicked Fool are stuck.  AAA is nowhere in sight, neither are the state troopers.

But you are prepared.  Time to saddle up and take a walk.  You already have your pistol on, right?  Be sure it's concealed, because there is no sense adding to the building panic.  Be calm, act calm if you can't be calm, get out and go to the trunk.  Pop it open and grab that empty ruck.  Next to it is that bag with the binoculars and so on.  Put it on your belt.  Try to keep an eye on what is going on around you, because you'll probably attract attention.  From all the gear you have, select the things you need based on where you are, the time of year and how far you're going to be walking.  Get it in the bag or attached to the bag and don't worry about neat for now.  Get the bag on, slam the trunk and leave.  You can find a quieter place to pack the bag properly in a little while.  For now, you just need to leave the milling herd behind.  You have miles to walk before you sleep.  In your shelter, in your sleeping gear, after you have eaten a reasonably decent meal.  You're way ahead of the herd, and you'll be home in a day or two.  Heck, your cell phone even worked for a while, and you were able to text the wife and kids, confirm they were OK, that they were at home or close and let them know what your situation was.

You, my friend were prepared.  Congratulations.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Musing on my father

I'm not sure you ever get over the deaths of your parents.  I'm not even sure you ever get fully past them.  At odd times, something pops up and takes you back to where the missing them isn't quite the knife twisting in your gut--it's just the moment the knife is stuck in.

I had another of those tonight.  My Dad has been gone nearly 6 years now.  There are still some boxes of stuff from his house that I haven't went through, and things of his that I have went through and decided to keep, but that still bear the indelible stamp of him.  I don't think they will ever be mine, really.  They'll be his, I'm just borrowing them.

My Dad was a land surveyor, licensed to practice in several states in the Southeast.  He was, if I may say so, damn good at his job.  In my younger days, I did some surveying, acting as a rodman for a couple of local surveyors as well as my Dad.  Without going into how you determine such things, my Dad's surveys were always of much higher quality than the other guys.  Theirs were good, more than good enough, but his were better--better researched, tighter, more professionally drawn.  On the few occasions he had to defend a survey in court, his surveys always stood up.

I have a number of his old field books.  Field books are small notebooks, about 8" x 5", that use 6 rings to hold the paper.  They're a specialty item, and getting hard to find, even in the stores that cater to surveyors and engineers.  They are the best notebook in the world.  Small enough to be handy, big enough to be useful.  There are new ones, bound like an over-size exam book, but they're not as good.  The loose leaf paper in the older ones can be removed, re-ordered, replaced--whatever you need to do.  Dad left me 6 of them and probably a thousand sheets of paper--likely a lifetime's supply.

All save two are simply filled with blank paper.  It's the two that aren't that really got to me.  The first, an over-size, very thick field book, is filled from cover to cover in notes and sample problems he used to pass the various state licensures.  All in his neat, practiced draftsman's hand, the slightly yellowed paper holds data and information as undecipherable to me as my IT jargon and knowledge was to him.

The other held the gas mileage records for his pickup truck.  From when he purchased it in 1996, with 13 miles on it, until 2008 when he inexplicably stopped keeping the records (perhaps it was too much trouble, considering by then he almost never drove), I could look at it and slowly watch my father age all over again.  The early entries were in that practiced draftsman's hand, so neat and precise.  As the years went by, the neatness started to deteriorate, the bold lines of the numbers wavering, until at the end they only barely resembled the 1996 entries.

I've removed those pages and they'll be consigned to the flames the next time we have a fire.  I can't forget the memory, but I won't have to see it again.

When my Dad died, I knew there was something more bothering me than the simple fact he was gone.  It was more than the reminder of my own mortality.  It took a while, but I finally figured it out.  It meant that, for good or ill, I was now the family patriarch.  Before, if I had a problem, if I needed help, I could always call my Dad.  He was my backstop.  Now, there was no one to call.  The duty is now mine--I'm the backstop.  If my kids need help, if I need help, I'm it.  If I can't figure it out, then I get to bear the consequences.  There is no help out there, no cavalry coming over the hill at the last minute.  If I want a happy ending, then I darn well better make it.

Even at 50 years old, that was a frightening realization.

Over the last few years, I've grown into it.  It's changed the way I look at things, the way I approach decisions.  My willingness to accept almost stupidly high levels of risk in certain decisions has pretty much evaporated.  I take more time reaching decisions.  I'm a little (Mrs. Freeholder would say very little) calmer now and not as quick to anger.

But tonight, none of that matters.  The family patriarch misses his Dad all over again.