Canning, The New (Old) Way to Preserve a Bounty

It all started with a peach tree. We moved into our lovely new home and little did I know that the cute dwarf tree in the yard would produce a bounty. Late that summer we were inundated with hundred of peaches. Now you can only make so many peach smoothies, peach pies and of course peach margaritas, so what to do with all the extras?

This led me down the road to canning. A great way to preserve your fresh produce for a later time, or put a cute piece of fabric on top of the lid  and give away for a gift (I’m all about cute and crafty).

Canning does require spending a lot of time over a very hot stove, but there is something incredibly rewarding about opening a jar of bright red tomato sauce or a pint of sweet golden peach jam in the dead of winter. The tastes of summer brighten the short, dark days of winter (even here in sunny San Diego).

In order to avoid poisoning your family and friends, you will need to follow a recipe closely. If this is something you are interested in, I’d strongly suggest buying or borrowing a canning and preserving cookbook. A good beginner book is Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving at Amazon.com.

As I have traveled through the maze of water-bath canning, pressure canning, hot pack vs. cold pack, I have run across some very informative websites and even a “National Can it Forward” day. It’s too bad I missed it last August. Also, take a look at the Canning Across America site:  http://www.canningacrossamerica.com/

I’m continuing my exploration of what I can grow and can. Hope you will too. Join the Canvolution!

-Laura

This Wednesday (Dec 7th) at the Ready 5 facility, Laura will be teaching a beginning class on canning.  The class begins at 6pm and will include plenty of hands-on.  For directions, please visit the Ready 5 website.  At Ready 5, the very first class in a complementary as we are confident that you will want to become a member!

Using Triathlons, Mud Runs, and Other Races to Prepare for Crisis

This last weekend I participated in my first triathlon.  As a 40-something with 2 kids and several businesses to run, it was a challenge to find time to train. On top of that, I’m a prepper. But alas, I thought, why not mix it all together and take care of all the concerns?

As it happened, I got the flu and then pneumonia, which abated a full 24 hrs before the race.  After 4 weeks of coughing and not training, my wonderful wife said, “Why don’t you just go watch?”  She had this fear I might end up on the trail in coughing fits.  I have to admit, I did too.   I followed through with the race, however, for very philosophical reasons.   As a prepper, you see, I believe that when crisis occurs, it won’t happen when I am ready.

As I got ready and learned about the race and process, I couldn’t help but see the benefits and parallels to preparing for crisis.  Let’s explore them and start with the parallels:

1. Consequences:  An event will happen and it will affect you.  Your preparation in the past will determine how it will turn out for you.  If you forget your socks for the bike and run, you will get blisters.  If you forget to store canning lids, you won’t be able to can your vegetables.  I’m sure you can imagine much worse consequences of not properly preparing for crisis.

2. Reality hits:  The race is on a certain day.  The earthquake knocked out power for 4 days.  It doesn’t matter if you are “ready” or not.  You are now in the mix.   It’s time for action.  There is no option to say no or “postpone” it.

3. Pain and discomfort will be standard fare:  OK, complain for 1 minute and suck it up the rest of the time.

4. Food and water make the body go:  The more that is available, the better!  Just make sure it’s good for the body and that you actually have it.

5. You really have to think about the future:  What will it be like to come out of the water and transition to a bike ride?  How can I lay gear down in order to move faster?  What will I do when my neighbors come to my house asking for food after disaster?  The list really goes on and on here, mostly for crisis preparation, since we don’t know EXACTLY what will happen.  Thinking through skills and equipment are the keys here.

6. Recovery is very important and better if done quickly:  In crisis, the faster you accept the shock of what happened and what needs to happen, the faster you can prepare a plan and accomplish it.  For the race, I kept thinking how would I do if I had to fight some zombies once I finished the race.

Those are the major parallels that jumped out at me.  Now let’s explore the benefits of these types of races:

1.  Committing to running a race forces you to confront the fact that you must prepare in order to lessen the pain and suffering of the race.  It focuses your mind to see into the future, speculating on what is needed to succeed, and designing a program to build your capacity to finish the race without killing yourself. If forces you to action!

*If you think about it, most humans don’t move to action unless they are forced to.  We are lazy by nature.  By paying a little money and promising yourself that you will finish a race, you use the power of force, or more specifically, consequences, to get your butt up of the couch.  What a cool tool!

2.   You are getting into shape so you are able to act better when crisis, disaster or chaos ensues.   This is a no-brainer.  That’s why this is one of the fundamental domains of preparation in the Ready 5 program.   If any of the 11 fundamental domains is not taken care of, you will feel pain and possibly die.  Yes, it sounds melodramatic, but those are the logical consequences and you/we cannot deny them.

3.  It helps build the skill of preparing.  This is a skill and practice is necessary to build competency (see my previous blog) in any skill.  How you think ahead, buy gear, test it out, practice with it, take care of it, and build a program of building race-specific skills (running, biking, swimming, etc) will help to build your capability to prepare.

4.  You can choose to go-it-alone or get help with a team, coaches, friends and the like.  I can tell you that in the prepper’s world, you want a team- and a good one!  Take that principle and apply it to a race- for example a mud run- and enter, train and complete the race as a team.  You will learn a lot about teamwork and the pros and cons of it.  Better yet, you will be building experience in teamwork, which we all need…

5. By varying the type of races (i.e. mud runs, triathlons, 5ks, swims, bikes, etc) you are building your endurance, strength, and power in all of your different muscle systems.   This is very important in preparing, as we never really know what crisis will affect our lives and how we need to react to it.  It also keeps us from over-working specific muscle systems as well as keeps boredom at bay.

In conclusion, races are a powerful, effective, and low-cost way to trigger our lazy butts to get up and prepare in multiple domains.  It’s consistent with and supportive of a prepper’s objectives and may indeed save your life one day.  Take away all the seriousness of this post and heck; these races are just plain fun!   Now, what race are you going to do next?

Randy

The Five Elements of Capability

(Warning Deep Thinking Ahead!)

What does it really take to be able to accomplish something?   What if you want to be competitive at the same thing?

What skills are needed for the next challenge?

First a word about what would allow me to write on a subject like this.  Just a few short years ago, I was a Navy SEAL sniper spending my days in Iraq hunting people.  Sounds harsh, huh?  I would like you to think about it from a competitive standpoint though.  My team and I had to build skills and capability to be able to “compete” on the battlefield.  We had to do it before deploying and we had to build those skills BETTER than anyone we thought we might fight against.

Since that time, I’ve built several businesses helping people build skills and capability in different domains and my philosophical bent has allowed me to explore, test, and confirm what I’ve observed to be what I now call the “Five Elements of Capability”.  As in any theory of observable fact, I put forth the theory to be tested, confirmed, disproved, and/or used if it will make your life better.  For me, I use it in all my competitive learning events and practices.

Let’s first define capability: The simplest definition in Webster’s is power or ability.  I’ll take it a bit further and say the power and ability must exist at the time needed to take care of a situation or concern.  (Hint:  Not after the situation is gone.)  For an example, let’s say I got a flat tire along the highway and need to get to work (situation).  If I have a good spare, knowledge to change the tire, skill to manipulate the equipment, and commitment to get it done, I will say I have the capability to take care of the situation.  Getting a good spare 3 days later didn’t help me in this situation.  It had to all exist for me when I need it.

Simple so far, right?  Let’s say now that I’m in a pit crew at NASCAR and every second counts for my driver to win the race.  This is a competitive situation and different from the one above (even though I’m changing tires in both).  Now, I still need all the elements stated, but since I have to be better than others, I also need coaches and teachers to help me learn, and serious practice to become more competitive. So lets hold onto the two distinctions of capability and competitive capability while we look at the five elements in detail.

Commitment

A commitment to take care of the situation or concern must exist first.   Most of the time, pain or displeasure is the trigger for this type of commitment.  In that way, pain can be a good thing.   Either way, the commitment must exist before the situation presents itself and you must be clear about all the other elements needed to take care of it.  There is a level of seriousness when commitments are made since there are costs associated with them. If I commit to learn how to change a tire, that means there is another 30 minutes that I’m not resting my bones (or whatever).  Many people do not know how to make commitments because we see broken promises all the time.  They are everywhere.  To build a strong commitment, it takes practice.  Try one today.  Commit to do something by the end of the day and do it.  See what happens in your head and what it takes to get there.  I will say it is not easy.

Knowledge

This is the trickiest element by far.  All of the other elements flow into this one and knowledge supports all of the other elements.  Sounds weird, huh?  Let’s go through it.  Knowledge is the mental capacity to know what the problem is, the commitment needed to take care of it, the equipment needed, how do use it, and if it’s a competitive situation, it all needs to be better than anyone else trying to do it.  That means you need to know what others are doing and what their standards are. That’s a lot, huh?  Let’s go back to my sniper days.  As a sniper, I had to know how to shoot my rifle well.  That means I had to know in what situations I would find myself to use my gear and knowledge.  I had to learn from very, very good teachers how to do it.  (This is a key point!)  I had to learn about the equipment and how to manipulate it (see practice below).  I also had to know my competition and how we would compete.  This, by the way, had life and death consequences.  Then I had to put it all together to build my knowledge.  Somehow, that knowledge kept leaking out of my head (ears maybe) and my body (why couldn’t I pull the trigger the same every time?).   I dunno, I suppose that happens to us all.   The point is acquiring this knowledge is a never-ending process if you want to maintain competitiveness!  Hmm, sounds like a big commitment, huh?

Equipment

You must have the right equipment at the right time to be able to use it.  This takes knowledge of what the right gear is and the situation you might find yourself in.  Then you have to buy it, maintain it, and prepare the gear to be used.  This part isn’t really rocket science, but how many of you have a multi-tool on your body, backpack, or car everyday?  Do you have a jack in your car?  Are you sure?  If you have a gun in your home, do you have ammo?  A safe to keep the gun in and the kids out?  Cleaning materials?  Accessories for it?  The big issue with equipment is that people don’t put enough thought into it or don’t have enough knowledge to buy the right gear and accessories.

Coaches

Really, why would I  need a coach or a teacher?  Can’t I learn from a book or the internet?  In a way, those things are “teachers” but then the question becomes, how competitive do you want to be?  Are you in business?  You better know that business is competitive as hell! What other areas are you competing?  Coaches provide feedback on your commitments, knowledge, equipment and practice so you can keep getting better at a skill.  They keep you from making deadly or costly mistakes.  Coaches and teacher need to be accomplished though.   I wouldn’t want a person who has never built a successful business coaching me on building a successful business. It’s amazing when you look around how many of us are “sold” on non-qualified coaches and teachers.  Seek out the best!

Practice

Like I said earlier, knowledge and skill “leaks” out of us every day.  We are not robots and when we acquire skill it has a shelf life, usually measured in day and weeks.  When we make our commitment to building a skill, we decide if that skill will be competitive or not, which leads to how we will practice. How often do you need to practice changing a tire? Maybe once every couple of years. How about Fire Drills?  Twice a year?  How about a sales presentation?  Every week?  What about shooting your handgun? This is a tricky one.  In what situation would you find yourself needing to pull a trigger?  I would say it would be life and death and the consequences very serious. No matter who you are, I would say that you should practice COMPETITIVELY for situations like this. Coaches and all.

How do you practice?  With the purpose of building skill every single time.  In order to get faster, more efficient, and better than any competitor.  One skill at a time and then put them all together.  Get feedback and compare yourself against your past work and other’s doing the same thing.  Coaches can really help with practice.

That’s it. The Five Elements of Capability (in brief).  This is meant an an executive summary and a template.  Obviously much more detail and grounding lie below my assertions above, but this is enough to help you think though any skill-building exercise.  If it’s training for a triathlon, business or warfare, these elements must exist for building any kind of capability.  Try it on for size, skill-building is a skill, after all.

The Great San Diego Blackout (Wake Up Call)

Do you want to hear a story of successfully being prepared?  After all, there are many, many stories of NOT being prepared when the blackout hit San Diego County last night.  They are everywhere- no water, no candles, nothing to cook dinner with, no generators, no gas, no maps, no communications, no walking clothes, and the list goes on.  Luck was on many people’s side last night and they need to be honest about that…

So, I make it my business to be prepared.  I teach others to be prepared.  I was on my way to a local gun range to teach handgun skills as a program of being prepared (see www.ready-five.com).   You’d think I should be uber-prepared, right?  Well, let’s see…

Once I got to the range and found out they were closed, I met a student there and we decided to convoy to my house.  I pulled out my charged, 36-mile (so they say) 2-way radios to converse with.   We kept our handguns, well, handy (but legal).  Then we did a map study on our smart phones.  Amazingly the traffic links were still working and we narrowed down the 15-mile trip to one that eventually only took us 30 minutes. If the smartphone wouldn’t have worked, the maps in my truck- oh wait, I left those at the office….

Good thing I always kept the truck at no less than half full.  There were cars all over with no gas, AAA wasn’t responding, nor were tow trucks. No gas stations were working either… I did feel comfortable knowing I had a stash of gas at the house too…

Once we got home, we started preparing for darkness, with candles, lights and such. My favorite gadget of the night was a motion detection LED light that used rechargable batteries.  Whenever we went inside to get something they lit up the room perfectly. Neat…   What we didn’t like was the heat.  When the kids went to bed, they were sweating and there was nothing to do about it.  One sleep outside.

Now, having a crank radio was awesome.  Kind of.  I got a little tired of cranking it every 30 minutes, but we had great info on what was going on. AM 600 is definitely the “go to” station in an emergency.  Listening to people report on what was going on in different areas was good.  It was funny to hear a slur in a few folks speech…

The reports on the radio said we’d probably have power by mid-Friday. Not one to trust the spoken word, I still filled up my trash cans and tub with water (for drinking).  Always do things while you can (my daddy used to say).  Good thing too, some areas lost all their water.

When I looked around the neighborhood, I could see a few people with generators and a couple of houses really lit up.  Hmmm, if I was a crook, that might be a juicy target.  Other people were less visible, and some just buttoned up.  Very interesting, indeed.  I think I’d rather stay un-observed.

Well, power came on around 1am and life began to return to normal.  Almost. While I’m at the office today, my wife it making another trip to Costco for some more of the motion lights and I’m ordering her a phone charger. I’m also putting my maps back in my truck!  My big lesson is that being prepared means your preps must be near you for you to use them.

What’s your lessons learned?

www.ready-five.com

Great Sources of Preparedness Info

Are you getting ready for a possible crisis?   If you read the headlines these days, you might ask “Possible, don’t you mean probable?”.  I agree. Hurricanes, economic disruption, unemployment, increasing crime, heck, you name it….

People are turning to books, magazines, blogs, podcasts, and more in an effort to get their families prepared for coming crisis. No rational human wants these crisis to occur, but we want to be prepared, really prepared, just in case.   So in that effort some of the following sites are getting mucho exposure:

www.survivalblog.com

www.thesurvivalpodcast.com

www.survivalring.org

www.emergencyessentials.com

www.cheaperthandirt.com

and more!

These and all the related books, gadgets and gear are flying off the shelves just as gold continues to go ballistic.  Most of your who know the mechanics of the phenomenon know that this is just rational humans looking to take care of thier future-no matter what happens.

I want to draw a distinction though, that there is a major difference between reading about something and actually PRACTICING that skill.  Most of these sources help us understand what needs to be done, but they don’t help us to actually embody this knowledge.  To embody any skill requires 1. Knowledge, 2. Actions, 3. Coaches, 4. Feedback and 5. Recurrence in order to actually turn it into a skill (and keep it!).

The Ready 5 program is designed to help people prudently do all of those things, but no matter where you are, you need to practice the skills in order to actually make them yours. Otherwise, it’s a great scholastic exercise that won’t do crap to save your life in the coming crisis.

Randy

www.ready-five.com

What exactly is an “Economic Collapse”?

According to Wikipedia, it is:  “a devastating breakdown of a national, regional, or territorial economy. It is essentially a severe economic depression characterised by a sharp increase in bankruptcy and unemployment. A full or near-full economic collapse is often quickly followed by months, years, or even decades of economic depression, social chaos, and civil unrest.”

I was fortunate to have majored in Economics in college, primarily because I simply thought it was interesting.   I still do, as a matter of fact.  I learned back then that an economy is built upon people buying and selling, or transactions they make in order to survive and live a good life (as they see it).

As I read through the headlines, blogs, and books hitting the stores, the term “Economic Collapse” is being thrown around like everyone really knows what it is.  Can an economy really collapse?  In my understanding that would mean people would no longer be making transactions.  Maybe that could happen, especially if there is chaos and civil unrest like the definition above states.

I’m not so sure though. Even in the most war-torn places people still transact, either as barter or simple currency transactions.  Now, in my reading of the future, I do think the world is in for some really nasty economic tribulations.  Unemployment, defaults, bankruptcies, high taxes, currency devaluations, riots, crime, and maybe even touch of over-reaching governments are just some of the things I see coming up to the plate.

Ever since that first caveman decided to trade with another caveman, though, transactions, buying and selling, and economic activity has been in the best interest of those wishing to survive and continue their species.

So why would anyone continue to use a term like “Economic Collapse” when it’s more accurate to speak about what will really happen, chaos included?  (hint-it might have something to do with agendas)  The real question and issue is what would these future uncertainties mean to me and my family.  That’s why we started Ready 5!

Randy

Situation Awareness and the OODA loop (in action)

I read this story this morning and I found it interesting from a few different viewpoints, but wanted to write about it from the Situation Awareness (SA) viewpoint, since I’m teaching a class on that this weekend. Those of your who know what the OODA loop is may not need to read this link (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OODA_loop), but that is what jumped out for me in this story.  Read it, and notice what Maria does and how quickly, with the resultant outcome….

Teens in a mob assault and rob Center City patrons

By Mike Newall

Inquirer Staff Writer

The two young women were sitting at a window table inside the Max Brenner restaurant on 15th Street, near Walnut, sharing chocolate fondue after some shopping.The streets were vibrant. The weather was nice.”The city had a good vibe,” remembered one of the women, Maria, who requested her full name not be printed.But their night on the town was about to become frightening.Heading their way was a pack of teens roving through Center City after leaving a North Philadelphia music festival.They were part of about 100 or more young people who had left Saturday night’s event, police said, committing a series of violent assaults and robberies, including one against Maria, 25, of North Philadelphia, and her cousin Cecilia, 29, of Havertown….

…..Maria and Cecilia were enjoying their dessert at Max Brenner, with its large, open bay doors. Afterward, Maria, an interior and industrial designer, had planned to visit a Northern Liberties art exhibit. Cecilia was heading home.The women had spent the afternoon dress shopping. Maria is getting married soon.About 10 p.m., Maria said, she saw a shirtless teenager run past the restaurant.”He was running in the middle of the street and looked like he was running away from someone,” she said.Maria tucked away her phone and wallet, which had been sitting on the table.She grew up in Brazil, she said, and was more street-smart than her cousin.Before she could tell Cecilia to put her cell phone away, another teen reached through the window and snatched it.Maria ran out after him.She was on the sidewalk, starting to scream “thief,” she said, when someone from behind punched her in the jaw.She said she turned, jaw throbbing, to see the girl who had hit her standing with five other teens. “What are you going to do?” she said the girl who had punched her yelled.The teens were laughing, she said. “They were fearless. It seemed like they weren’t taking anything serious.”…

Did you catch it?

Did you see how Maria’s OODA loop worked for her? (initially anyway)

Her cousin, well, not so much.

The point that jumped out at me is how quickly Maria observed the situation, oriented towards it, decided, and then acted to put her phone and wallet away.  I’m impressed. It’s uncommon in the US and it allowed her to keep her things.

What are the ways that you use the OODA loop?  How is it embodied for you?  How should it be embodied?

Great job Maria!

–Randy