Friday, November 23, 2012

Tactical Tailor Stock Shotgun Shell Holder

My biggest gripe about a shotgun - any shotgun - is the limited ammo capacity it has.  Inherent to its design, your average 12 gauge pump shotgun is limited to 6 or 7 shots in the magazine tube, as well as one in the chamber.  Those rounds go fast in training, and especially fast when your life depends upon it.  Now, I haven't had to defend my life with my shotguns, but I've trained as if my life depended on it, and if it's one thing I've learned with shotgunning, it's that you need to "feed the puppy" so to speak.  That is, you need to constantly keep the gun "topped off" lest you run out of shells, and running out of shells sucks!  Not only is a shotgun slower to reload than a magazine-fed rifle, but the shells are big, heavy, and require special gear to stow them well.  You must practice reloading a shotgun as much, if not more so, than actually shooting it.  Becoming proficient with a shotgun means learning to cope with the obvious lack of ammunition capacity and the slower reload times.

One thing I've learned about shotgunning is that when you are not shooting, you are reloading.  That is, if there is a lull in the fight, or a few seconds where you are scanning, you need to be reloading and constantly "feeding the puppy" because once you allow your gun to run dry, it may take some time to get your gun back into the fight - that's assuming you aren't dead.

Winchester 1300 Defender with generic Slip-on buttstock shell holder
Again, we come around to the subject of where to stow your extra ammunition.  There have been a lot of ideas and different schools of thought on how best to accomplish this task.  One method is to store the extra shells in a receiver-mounted side saddle, such as the Mesa Tactical Sure Shell holder or the Tac Star shot side saddle shell holder (which I have on my Winchester 1300 Defender).  Having extra rounds on the receiver is a good idea for anybody who owns a shotgun for self defense, or offense.  When you train yourself to reload, either an emergency reload, or tactical reloads, you are able to lay down some really devastating firepower that few guns can compare to.  I'm not going to discuss the various methods of mounting shells to the receiver, as some guys mount them brass up, brass down, slugs to the front, buckshot to the rears, etc.  That's really up to you and your preference.  What I want to discuss today is a really inexpensive way to get extra shells on your shotgun in a way that is not permanent.

The idea of the buttstock shell holder is not new. For over a hundred years, people have been coming up with ways to get extra shells onto their guns, and the buttstock seems as good a place as any to hang some more ammunition.  Back in the day, when I bought my first-ever gun, a Winchester 1300 Defender, I immediately bought one of those elastic slip on buttstock shell holders to go with it.  It was an okay solution at first.  At least I got to have an extra 5 shells that I didn't have before.  After buying the Tac Star 6-shot side saddle shell holder, the slip-on buttstock sleeve seemed to get relegated to sitting in the box full of spare parts and extra crap.

Wincchester 1300 Defender with Tactical Tailor Shell Holder
The problem I had with the slip-on sleeve was that it moved too much.  Rarely ever did it stay in one place.  As soon as I fired the gun, the sleeve would shift forward, moving my shells to a spot different than I expected them to be.  Additionally, when I'd try to yank a shell from the elastic loop that retained it, the entire sleeve would rotate, making extraction a bit of a chore under stress.

In late 2006, I discovered the Tactical Tailor "Stock Shotgun Shell Holder."  This holder not only holds 7 shot shells, vs the 5 on my old slip-on holder, but has a loop around the back of the holder, which retains it against the rear of the stock, keeping it from moving forward when firing.  In addition, two elastic Velcro straps attach it to the stock itself, and keep it very secure, yet easily removable.  I have had it on my Winchester for six years now, and it has not loosened up, nor has the Velcro weakened over time.  I do store it with the shell loops empty because I don't care to overly stretch them while the gun sits in the closet.  Remember, just because a piece of gear is quality doesn't mean you should abuse it needlessly - wait until your life depends on it.  Just don't let shelf wear get you down before it's go time.

Here's one attached to the Magpul SGA stock on my Remington 870 Tactical.  As you can see, I orientate my shells with the brass upwards because when I reload from this position, my way is to push the shell up with my index finger, and pull the brass up and insert into the magazine.  Plus, and this is just my mileage, when you are walking around the woods, banging the gun on trees, and running with it, the shells tend to slip a little.  I like the rim of the shot shell on top so that if gravity does have an affect on the shell, the rim holds it fast in the loop so it does not fall out.  Your mileage may vary, but that just reiterates my argument that there is not a right way and a wrong way - just a way.  I prefer this way.  Getting back to the shell holder, you can see that it holds seven shot shells in a predictable manner, and this facilitates easy access to more ammunition.  With a Remington, this is a perfect reload, as the magazine holds six rounds and the tube holds one, or seven shots.  I would imagine that in most home invasion scenarios, you probably won't need 14 shots, but who knows?  Either way, it's always a good idea to carry an extra reload, even if you don't use it.

The other side of the shell holder is shown here.  Sorry the buttstock appears upside down.  iPhone cameras are quirky little things.  What you see are the two main straps that hold the holder in place as well as the back strap as it wraps around the rear of the buttstock.  I personally use the weapon with the shells away from my face.  These little straps actually provide some comfort as they go up and over the top of the stock.  My cheek rests against the soft portion of the Velcro piece, and I keep the front strap down enough so that it doesn't overlap into my face.  It's secure like this.  In the case of my Winchester, with a more traditional Monte Carlo Style Hogue over-molded stock (which I might just review someday), I pulled it over tightly so that the tail end of the strap, again, is not in my face, but tucked over the other side.  In both cases, it's a very comfortable piece of gear that it easy to live with.  With as many years of use I've had with this shell carrier, I hardly notice it anymore, until it is needed.  With a shotgun, that need comes along quickly.

This picture actually shows the back strap going around the rear of the buttstock.  It is a very important component to this system and is a big part of what makes this thing work so well.  Not only can you adjust the retention of the two main straps to conform to your stock, but the back strap keeps it from shifting forward under fire, which to me is of great importance.  It also helps stabilize the shell holder so it doesn't tend to rotate around the buttstock.  You need not worry about finding the shells on the top or bottom of the stock when you reach for them.  Predictably, they are in pretty much the same place you left them, and that kind of reassurance can't be bought with any amount of money when things get ugly.  This is exactly why I have one on each of my shotguns at home.  To me, they are invaluable assets to have, and at a price-point of around $30-$35, you'd be wise to invest in a couple of spares.

As I mentioned before, this system gives you a relatively quick reload for your shotgun, and since it is self-contained, you can just grab your gun and go, provided you don't think you'll be heading into combat.  Of course, if I knew I would need a hundred rounds of ammunition, I might just grab my AR-15 and a chest rig instead, but sometimes, your situation won't require a military-style semi-automatic rifle.  Shotguns have their place, just like any other weapon system, and you need to know what to use them for, and how.  Training is paramount to proper shotgun operation.  Fortunately, you can buy dummy shotgun shells just about anywhere so you can train with emergency reloads, tactical reloads, and administrative reloads all in the comfort of your own home without the need to leave.  Plus, since you are not practicing with live rounds, there really isn't any way to hurt yourself or anyone else for that matter.  When you get out and train with your buddies, you will be able to impress them with your skills, as I'm sure you are the only person you know who actually trains, right?  Right?

 In terms of firepower, what does this shell carrier offer?  Well, When you take into account the capacity of the weapon itself, and the spares you have on board, you take the Remington 870 from a 6+1 only to a 6+1 and seven more.  That's 14 rounds on the shotgun itself.  That's nothing to sneeze at either.  14 rounds of 12 gauge buckshot is a force multiplier in and of itself.  In the example of a 9 pellet buckshot load, that's 126 pellets combined, which is brutal.  Imagine being shot by just one of those.  It's not a pleasant feeling at all.  Now imagine you facing a guy armed with 14 rounds of buckshot, or 126 lead balls that will be traveling extremely fast in your direction.  I hope I never end up having a shotgun pointed at me, ever.  Add a side saddle to that combination, and your devastation potential is much greater.  My Winchester 1300 Defender holds 21 shells total.  7+1 in the weapon itself, 6 on the side saddle, and another 7 on the Tactical Tailor buttstock shell holder.  Is it heavy? Yes, but a shotgun load-out is heavy anyway, so you'd better start hiking with it.  I personally do a lot of bench presses and bent-over row lifting to prepare myself for it.  One of the things you need to understand before undertaking any sort of shotgun shooting is that you must man up to the weapon system.  After a day of shooting, even with just bird shot, your shoulder will be bruised, your fingers will be numb, and you might just tear a fingernail or two trying to get those shells, which seem to develop sharp edges, into the magazine tube.  You noticed I wear gloves?  Yep, I'm speaking from experience here.

My wife tells me I can write a page about nothing, so I'm going to let the pictures above tell the rest of the story, as well as the links below:

Tactical Tailor Shell holder
Tactical Tailor Main

-James

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Remington 870 Tactical WITH Magpul Furniture - Complete Reversal

I got to thinking a month ago that I really wanted to get a good set of sights onto my shotgun.  I began researching and calling around to see what it would take to outfit a ghost ring on my existing plain Jane Remington 870 Express, as well as an appropriate front sight.  In a previous blog entry, however, I argued that anything more than a bead sight was really unnecessary.  Most of my opinion was based on cost as well as the practicality of having some extras on the shotgun.  I will say that a bead is really all you need, but as my shooting evolves, and my taste evolves, so too do my choices in firearms.  After taking the ole 870 out for a shakedown shootout, I realized I hated the ergonomics of the stock Remington chose to put on it.  The recoil pad felt like a brick, and the angle of the grip area wasn't ideal for my wrist.  Indeed, as my experience with the gun increased, so too did my longing for a little more.  I may consider myself to be an average shooter, but to most people I meet, I'm not an average shooter.  To most, I'm exceptional.  Of course, in the company of real exceptional shooters, I always feel like quite an amateur.  That doesn't mean I need to settle.  It does mean that I maintain the right to change my mind on occasion and trade up whenever I can.  We've seen that before.  When I got my Rock River Arms AR15, I was quite a happy camper.  Then as my experience with the gun rose, so too did my expectations.  While there is nothing wrong with a Rock River Arms carbine per se, there were a few things here and there - small things - that got me pining for more.  So too has my experience with the ole Remington 870.  Gone now is the plain Jane scattergun I was happy to buy.  In it's place is the evolution - the Remington 870 Express Tactical.

Okay, what's make's it so "tactical?"  Personally, I think it's just a marketing ploy to get the zombie hunter types out buying their guns.  In truth, the mechanical operation of the Tactical 870 is identical to the bare bones 870. What peaked my interest is the fact that as I researched sighting options, I came to the same conclusion that Remington had, and they sell it with them already installed.  Hmm... After a call to a gunsmith, I just wasn't happy with the price it would take to get something on my gun.  For the price I was quoted, I could almost buy a new shotgun... ehh, hrm... Not a bad idea!  I put the old 870 up on the classifieds, and within 20 minutes, I had a buyer.  Excellent!  I was able to sell off a few other things I didn't need or grew out of, and by the time 1 o'clock PM rolled around, I had more than enough money to buy a Remington 870 Tactical.  Not bad for a day's worth of selling and trading.  Hey, when I put my mind to something, I can get it done.  It's just a question of motivation.

As you can see from the picture above, I didn't leave the fore end alone for long.  Actually, I had already purchased the Magpul MOE fore end for my old shotgun, but never got around to installing it.  This fore end is superior to the original in every way.  It gives plenty of purchase for my ape like hands, and since I shipping was free from Amazon Prime, I included a section of rail to mount a light on.  My only gripe is that the fore end from Magpul is a little slippery.  That's nothing a little skateboard tape can't solve.

But that's not where it ended.  I still have the memory of that horrible Remington stock clear in my mind.  I found the Magpul SGA stock at a gun show and decided to throw caution to the wind and buy it.  I had intended on shouldering an 870 with it already installed, but alas, nobody had one I could play with.  But for $100, I wasn't going to let a high value stock option (pun intended) slip through my fingers.  I brought it back home and installed it.  It was a bit of a pain to get the stock bolt started due to the design of the stock, but I managed to get it on and torqued down nice and tight.

Now let me emphasize when I say this, the Magpul SGA stock is the MOST COMFORTABLE stock I have ever shouldered.  I've held everything from the Knoxx Stock to the AR15 style stocks with Mesa Tactical adapters, to speed feed, Hogue, and many other pistol grip stocks over the years, and each one has left me wanting a bit.  They were either too short, too long, angles wrong, or didn't have suitable sling options.  The SGA offers everything I want.  It's still a monte carlo stock (technically), it has sling points all over it, the length of pull adjustment is the best I've seen, the cheek rest can be adjusted to accommodate optics, should I change my mind even more, and the grip angle is ideal for me.  It's as if the gun shoulders itself!  When I raise it up, the gun levels perfectly, effortlessly.

When I first look at it, it sort of reminds me of those brooms that the wizards on Harry Potter ride around on when playing a game of Quidditch.  You would think the angles would make this stock feel a little weird when shouldering, but honestly, it doesn't.  Form follows function in a huge way with this stock because the angular lines of the stock are the result of Magpul not compromising ergonomics for style.  Sure, there are many other stocks that are prettier, but none really have the ergonomics that are needed to effectively run a shotgun.  Don't get me wrong.  I've run shotgun for years and have become quite proficient with them, despite having to work around ergonomic issues.  But why settle for less when you don't have to?  I really don't see the point in working around a problem when you can solve it and make life easier.  Do you?

If you look at the sling mount on the side of the stock, which is repeated on the other side, by the way, you will see a round knockout just in front.  That is a hole provided so you can install an optional quick detach sling mount.  Up where the stock meets the receiver, there is another spacer, which when removed, provides a spot for a SGA receiver sling mount.  On this one stock, you get two sling mounting points standard, and the option of adding two more on whichever side you want.  That gives you six different mounting positions to accommodate your shooting style and virtually any choice of sling you want.  That's worth the price of entry alone.  On top of the stock is the standard is the standard riser, which aligns your eyes with the irons that the gun comes with, and it aligns me with the ghost ring perfectly.  You can buy optional low or high risers to accommodate different optics of different heights.  You can see a slotted screw toward the rear of the stock.  If you remove that, you can pull the butt pad adapter out and add or remove spacers to adjust your length of pull.  I have two spacers in mine.  It is actually shorter than the original stock, and the slightly shorter length of pull puts the ghost ring rear sight the same distance from my nose as the rear sight on my AR15.  For those who want to use a different recoil pad, Magpul sells a butt pad adapter similar to the one the gun comes with, but shaped to accommodate the oval designs of most recoil pads.  I like the Magpul pad.  It's softer than the recoil pad that Remington sent.

The grip area of the stock has some traction due to some kind of stippling, and the top of the grip has a rubber back strap that is used to cover the mounting screw, and provide more traction.  The front of the grip has ribs that also provide some traction, and the raised lip extending from the bottom of the grip keeps my hand from slipping off the end.  Along with that, the grip itself swells around the palm area ever so slightly to allow a firm grip on the weapon.  The angle of the grip not only make shouldering this gun effortless, but also allows you to hold it in close to your torso with ease.  I'm not suggesting that you should fire this weapon from that position, but for a low ready type of position, it is comfortable.

All of this work in ergonomics is focused around making the shotgun comfortable to shoot and aim.  I'm not suggesting shotgun shooting is ever a pleasant experience, but much like doing anything dangerous, making the gun more controllable and less troublesome in a gun fight is better than putting up with something that is just a band aid.

If you are looking for a solution to your shotgun, you might give Magpul a look.

-James

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Being a Prepper - Long Term Food Storage Prep

In my last installment regarding food storage, I showed a picture of hard red winter wheat in the grinder.  I figured I'd start this with the actual wheat flour after it has been processed and ready to be folded into a loaf of bread, rolls, made into pancakes, or any number of foods that one might want to eat.

Of course, storing flour is a short term solution at best.  Processed flour will conceivably last a long time, however, after a year or so, the nutritional value of said product begins to diminish.  This is the reason I like to store my wheat in the hulls, unprocessed.  If stored up properly, it has to potential to last upwards of 30 years in storage.  You have to get it right, however.  Otherwise, it will go bad.  I have some pictures that I will show you regarding this that will clue you in on the good points and bad points of various types of storage.

Back when I was first learning how to store up food, I made a few mistakes.  I have learned from my mistakes, however, and have come up with a near foolproof solution to long term food storage.  This is an economical way to do it because instead of buying it prepackaged in a #10 can, we must first assemble the items we need.  By the way, this method of food storage isn't only for wheat.  If it is a dried good, unprocessed, then it can be stored this way.  I'm by no means an expert, and there are a few different ways of accomplishing this, but my method is easy, inexpensive, and effective.

In order to store with my method, you will need a few things:

1. Food grade plastic pale
2. Mylar food storage bags
3. Oxygen absorbent packets
4. An airtight lid

Step 1. Make sure your food grade bucket is big enough to accommodate the amount of food you intend to store.  I purchased my 6 gallon pale at Emergency Essentials.  Since I eat what I store, and store what I eat, I also invested in their resealable Gamma Seal lid, which snaps onto the bucket with an o-ring seal, but spins off for easy access without a lifting tool.  The spin off lid section is also sealed with an o-ring to keep air and contaminants out.









Step 2. Place the Mylar bag into the bucket.  The idea behind this bag is double protection against odor, light, and creatures that might nibble through the plastic container.  Mylar bags can also be bought at Emergency Essentials.  My bags are resealable, much like a zip-loc bag.  I use this because I don't need an iron or a bag sealer to reseal after getting what I need from it.











Step 3. Drop a couple of oxygen absorbing packets into the bottom of the bag.  Then fill the bag with product until there is just enough room in the bucket for you to fold your Mylar bag into it.  Place two more oxygen absorbing packet on top before you seal it.  Oxygen absorbing packets are cheap and can be obtained through Emergency Essentials here.  Tip: Since O2 absorbing packets absorb oxygen, it is important to reseal them when you don't need them. I vacuum seal the ones I haven't used in a FoodSaver to keep them ready for use when I need them.

Step 4. Push as much air out of the Mylar bag liner as you can and seal that puppy up, either with the zip-loc closures that I have, or using a flat iron method to heat seal the bag.  Then roll the bag into itself and stuff it into the bucket nice and well.  Leave enough room at the rim to allow a lid to be placed on it.






Step 5. Place your lid of choice onto the bucket and press firmly to seal.  Occasionally, I will use a rubber mallet to tap around the rim to insure a complete seal.  Remember to make sure your lid has an o-ring.  Those lids you can buy for 99 cents at Home Depot won't cut it.







Step 6. Inspect the container to verify it isn't cracked or broken.  Then take some blue painter's tape and with a Sharpie Marker, identify the contents and date it.  That's pretty easy.














Now for some caveats.  First, don't use just any bucket.  Buckets that have had paint, oil, chemicals, etc are not acceptable food storage containers.  My advice is to buy brand new FOOD GRADE containers.  Technically, you could store food in the containers without a liner, but remember that plastic permeates air, so some air will seep its way into the container.  The Mylar bag does not permeate oxygen, so your sealed food will stay sealed, free of air and bugs.  The problem with storing food in containers without bags is that insect eggs can hatch while in storage.  Yes, there are insect eggs in the food you eat. Get over it!  The presence of oxygen and a nutrient rich environment, like a bucket of grain, is ideal for young insect larvae to thrive.  One more advantage of the Mylar bag is that light cannot penetrate it.  Believe it or not, light sucks the nutrients out of food, rendering them nothing more than empty calories.  The combination of a food grade bucket and a liner provide ultimate protection against light and oxygen.

So what's the difference between a food grade bucket and say an orange Homer Bucket from Home Depot?  Well, food grade buckets are made in molds that use release agents that will not harm the food or humans.  Your run of the mill Home Depot buckets are made using mold release agents that are cheaper and are harmful to humans.  There really isn't a difference in the plastic itself.  The release agent, however, out-gasses over time and will contaminate food.  This is the reason there is a significant price difference between food grade containers and those that are not.  Be safe.  Spend the money now and buy a food grade container.  Don't be cheap and run the risk of getting some crazy form of cancer years down the road.  Your food storage is supposed to keep you alive - not kill you.

Store your food sealed against moisture, air, and anything else that might damage your food.  This is a picture of wheat, believe it or not.  It was stored away in a non-food grade container with no liner in a damp basement for about 3 years. When the food was transferred out of this container, evidence of moisture was present in the bottom. The food had to be discarded.  Moisture allows all sorts of mold spores to grow, bacteria to grow, and you end up with spoilage.

The storage conditions for your food storage should be as free from moisture as possible, cool, and dark.  That's a hard combination, but doable.  We chose a small room in our basement.  We have a heavy curtain at the window to block out the light, and the vent for the heater is closed.  It keeps the room in the ideal temperature range year round (between 50 and 70 degrees).  Since the room is finished, the moisture content is at acceptable levels.  Combine all that with the storage method I described above, and you have pretty solid way of storing your long term staples for years to come without spoilage.  The best part is that I have opened buckets of wheat I stored up over four years ago, and it tastes delicious when prepared into my wheat breads.

You don't need to go crazy and stock up all at once.  Buy a little at a time. Get as many buckets as you can afford at one time.  Go to Costco, the LDS canneries, etc to get your staple products.  The price of food goes up every year, so the more you buy, the more of an investment you are making.  Imagine buying a bucket full of wheat at only $6 today, and realizing 15 years down the road that your same bucket of wheat is worth twice or triple what you paid!  That's money saved as you start using your food storage over time.

LINKS!!!

Emergency Essentials
Food grade buckets
Oxygen Absorbing Packets 
Gamma Seal Lids
Mylar Bags


-James

Being a Prepper - Food Storage Philosophy

As far back as I can remember, this wheat grinder has been in my family. In the early 80's, my parents, who were dirt poor at the time, invested considerable money to purchase this appliance because they knew then, what so many people are learning now, that you cannot rely on the government to feed you when times get tough.  Back in the early 80's when I was still learning how to tie my shoes and spell my own name, my parents - through example - taught me the fundamental importance of having a sustainable food storage.  Back in those days, I remember a room full of 5 gallon food grade buckets, full of things like flour, wheat, oats, instant potatoes, corn, etc, and a garden.  I also remember the nearly weekly ritual my mom had.  She'd break this wheat grinder out to process hard red winter wheat into wheat flour so she could make homemade wheat bread and honey wheat rolls. I can still remember the sound this grinder made back then, as I do now. It has a big turbine to operate the grinding wheel and sounds like a jet getting ready for take-off.  Indeed, whenever I use it these days, I have to wear ear plugs, and I make my kids do the same.  The dog, for obvious reasons, is put outside before I fire this bad boy up.

Food storage, to me, isn't about being a paranoid survivalist with a bunker full of food and guns.  For me, food storage is way to sustain yourself through hard times, be it economic, natural disasters, political, or for those really expensive emergencies that come up on you, like a transmission going out on the car.  You need the car, but you also need to eat.  Well, eat out of your food storage for a couple of months and take the bulk of the money you'd spend on groceries and get your car fixed!

For short term, and long term use, food storage has saved my family on a few notable occasions.  When my wife and I got married, we started storing away a little here and a little there.  Eventually, we had enough food storage to last a few months.  When my son was born mid 2008, the economy seemed to collapse.  I went from getting 50+ hours of work a week to about 24 hours.  The cash flow was cut in half over night.  The work just wasn't there, and at the time, it was not feasible for me to find something to augment my job because there really wasn't anything out there to speak of.  Nobody was hiring, it seemed, and the ones that were hiring wouldn't hire me because I was "overqualified."  We lived off our food storage for months on end.  It wasn't bad either.  We had good food to eat and we didn't go without.  Despite the fact that the money wasn't coming in, we had a little savings to fall back on, and enough food so that our grocery budget each month could be less than $100 and we were fine - bellies full each night.

When the money started coming in again, we restocked our supplies and bulked up.  We put as much as we could back into savings.  The thing is that the economy wasn't doing any better than it was before, so once a big slow down at work hit again, we found ourselves getting into our food storage more and more.  It wasn't as bad as 2008 when the work seemed to have stopped completely, but it was enough that we needed to use more and more food storage to keep us above water.  For a few years, off and on, we found ourselves needing it more and more.  When times were good, we'd replenish.  Once they got bad, we would rely more on what was in our basement than what was on the store shelves.

Face it, the economy hasn't been doing well at all these last four years.  My wife and I got so used to food storage eating that we learned new ways to store, better recipes and techniques, to make food storage life better than just going to the store whenever we needed something for a meal.  A little digression: we went to a food storage potluck for church one time, and we saw mainly the same dishes from other people.  There was a lot of pasta, beans, bread, etc.  I even saw a bowl of popcorn; c'mon!  I think my wife and I were the only ones who brought scratch made pizza to the potluck.  People could not believe it.  How on earth could we make pizza from food storage?

Diversity.

We have learned, through experience to diversify our food storage to make living on it more palatable.  In fact, I'm about to divulge a tip that most people never consider when stocking up on food supplies.  If you take nothing else from this entry, take this: Store what you eat.  Eat what you store.

It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to store up foods that you are not accustomed to eating.  If you are not accustomed to beans, wheat, legumes, etc, then why store them?  It will be a huge shock to your system if you suddenly find yourself in need of that food storage and your body hasn't been prepared for the wheat and beans diet.  And why store that crap anyway?  I don't store a lot of beans.  I don't like them.  My body, as well as my kids and wife, are accustomed to wheat because I make wheat bread occasionally.  But I don't consume it daily - nor would I plan on it.

What we have at our house is a combination of short term foods and long term foods that we rotate as we eat.  I remember my old restaurant days where F.I.F.O. was gospel.  First In First Out were words to live by as you rotate the new food to the back of the shelf and the older foods to the front, to be consumed first.  There's nothing worse than going to get a can of peaches from the shelf, only to find that it is over 5 years old and rancid.

Another thing we learned, and this is simply trial and error, is what foods we don't eat.  When we moved from Washington, we threw away a lot of stuff that had expired simply because we never ate a particular food product.

This move across the West also taught us not to rely so much on electricity for our food storage.  We gave an entire chest freezer full of beef, chicken, pork, sausage, bacon, bratwurst, etc to some friends because there was no way we could keep it frozen during a move across three state lines in the middle of the summer!  So, we bought a smaller chest freezer to store a limited supply of meat.  We go through it quickly too.  This way, if the electricity is shut off for a period longer than a day, we don't lose hundreds of dollars worth of food storage.  Indeed, if a generator is available (wait for that entry), we could use that as long as the gas holds out, but then we're back to square one.  Now that we are renting our house, being able to have a "light and fast" food storage is important as well.  If the landlord decides we have 30 days to move, I don't want to get bogged down trying to figure it out.

For the mundane needs, not being able to cook the food isn't a huge consideration.  All the times we've needed our food storage to get us out of a bind, we always prepared it, cooked it, and ate like kings even though money might have been tight that month, or we needed to pay for something big.  However, for other needs, like disasters, where electricity and gas shortages are considerations, you need to be able to sustain yourself with nothing more than a camp stove, barbecue, or even a fire in the backyard.  Even more important is the need to be able to eat with no preparation at all, in dire situations.  This is the need to diversify.  You need to have a combination of foods that you can cook, and foods you don't have to cook.  Otherwise, you are setting yourself up for failure either way.  On top of that, it needs to be foods you already eat.  The reason is because you will already know how to make meals based on your food storage and will know exactly what you need to get it prepared.  The last thing you want is a pantry full of flour, wheat, yeast, and salt, and not know what to do with them!

I alluded to a new food storage system that my wife and I are experimenting with, and so far it has been a huge success.  It is a system of freeze dried foods marketed by Shelf Reliance.  This is technology meets food storage for the 21st century.  Gone are the days of storing "staples" in huge buckets for years on end without ever opening them (although you really should store up long term like that - see below).  The Shelf Reliance food storage makes it possible to store up meat, fruit, vegetables, milk, eggs, sour cream, and even desserts without the need for electricity.  The shelf life of most the food is 25 years.  For instance, ground beef is 25 years.  The shelf life of different foods will vary, as in the case of tomatoes, which has a shelf life of 8 years.  If you have a 1 year supply, this should be a moot point.  However, the longevity of this food comes in handy in the event you don't touch a can for 3 or 4 years.  It doesn't just go bad on you.

Skeptical about the meats, I purchased ground beef, beef chunks (cubes), chicken, TVP (which is high protein soy product like what taco bell uses), to put it to the test.  We normally use ground beef for tacos, enchiladas, etc, so that's what you see the to the left.  This is the ground beef, fully prepared with taco seasoning, and it is delicious!  Once reconstituted  it's nearly impossible to tell it was ever freeze dried.  In fact, if I didn't know it was, I probably never would have known.  I made a beef stew with the beef chunks, and it was so good.  My advice is to reconstitute the beef with a water and bullion mix to make it absorb a ton of flavor.  As for the consistency, it was like eating freshly bought beef from the store.  The TVP is used as a high protein filler to make certain things go further.  For instance, in a lasagna, you would use some meat and TVP together to not only make your meat go further, but to enhance flavor, and introduce more protein to the meal.  It has been used for years and is more or less a staple these days.  Vegetarians delight because there is no meat in TVP.  It's a soy based product so you can enjoy the guilty pleasure of eating something that was killed without actually having to eat something that was killed.  We tried chicken in a soup my wife made using some of our on hand Franks Red Hot Sauce (from our food storage).  It was a good soup, and the chicken was pretty good.  I'm a huge fan of this system.  It's more expensive to buy meat in this fashion, but the long term storage benefits outweigh the cost.

If you go the website, linked above, Shelf Reliance can walk you through the entire process of getting started, calculating needs for your family, and getting a plan going.  The best part is I don't have to leave my house.  My wife and I are set up on a plan where we simply have the food delivered to our house.  We can let Shelf Reliance figure out what we need and send us based on their calculator, or we can adjust the order to fit our needs and taste.  Since we are still learning, we ordered different foods to see how we like them.  So far, the results have been fantastic.  Our goal is to incorporate as much of this product as we can.  Right now, this food is 30% of our budget.  Our goal is to make it 75% of our food budget.  Eat what you store. Store what you eat.

You still need regular staple foods as well.  Whenever my wife heads downstairs to get some chicken, she'll bring up any number of things to make a meal. From corn, green beans, peas, tomato sauce/paste/chunks, to barbecue sauce  marinade, etc, we have enough on hand to make a simple meal or an extravagant one.  It all depends on what we are in the mood for that night.  As you can see from the picture on the right, we have dedicated shelves to store our foods on, and we have a few of them in the house.  If you are lucky enough to have a dedicated room for your food storage, do it.  It's much easier to use your food storage if it is organized and easy to get to.  We have a small room in the house that has our freezer and shelves, as well as appliances to prepare the foods.  My FoodSaver sits on one as well as my parent's old wheat grinder.  Along with that is a myriad of other appliances that we do not use everyday, but keep down in the basement because it takes up valuable space in the kitchen.  In fact, we store no food in the kitchen at all.  All of our food is downstairs in our own little grocery store.

I will expound on food storage in my next entry because I want to cover the process of storing dry food in a bucket long term.  I also want to address water storage.  I can't put them all in one entry though because it would be a very long entry indeed.  My goal is to disseminate information.  Food storage isn't hard folks.  Just Google food storage, and you will see.  Just remember to budget and make good choices.  Many a dollar is wasted every year on food people will never eat and just toss.

-James

Saturday, November 3, 2012

I Witnessed a Train Collision



This was filmed by myself.  I was working in Wellington, Utah when a train collided with a truck. You can read my description, from youtube, below:

While working out in Wellington, UT, I witnessed a train collision with a water truck. I happened to get it on video because I was taping the train for my 4-year old son, who is a big fan of Thomas the Train. As I started recording, I was looking down to see where the train was, and panned the camera over to the engine and followed it to the crossing. Little did I realize that it was about to destroy the water truck. I turned away for a moment just before the collision to see how long the train was and heard what sounded like a stick of dynamite exploding, only to turn back to see the truck being mauled to death by the train. I was stunned for a moment because it was surreal to see this happening right before me. After I gathered myself, I turned off the camera and ran as fast as I could to help the men inside the truck. I was expecting to see bodies when I got there. Thank God the two men were okay - not even a scratch.  That was one heck of a ride for them, and they are the luckiest men I know.  Despite the fact that the train destroyed the truck, the men inside were okay and they are alive, and will be going home to their families tonight. I spoke to the conductor on the train, and the two men aboard are okay as well.  I'm so thankful that this didn't end as bad as it could have, and will keep these men, and their families, in my prayers tonight.
I've been contacted by many news agencies wanting to share this video, and I did end up on t.v. in a few places.  The two news agencies, I'll link below:





Another link below:

Train Collides With Truck In Carbon County | KUTV.com

-James