We begin with the “Comms drill” report first. Since being an extra class ham radio guy, who has been in charge of all kinds of computery stuff over the decades, this was a real series of Crashcading Events that was both sobering and instructive.
Friday’s Digital Crashcade
Life changed here at 4 PM Friday afternoon.
We lost our two, voice grade, CenturyLink (BrightSpeed) lines. But it was not a normal failure. The Internet portion remained working, but the voice-side was hosed. No, it wasn’t the DSL filters, but now there’s something that few people have (other than us) for a worst case EMP/HEMP scenario. We just ordered more, too. (Actiontec ScreenBeam Universally Compatible Inline DSL Phone Filters – 4 Pack.)
We didn’t think much about this outage – Fajita Friday and after a couple of delicious and spicy, plus some YouTube videos, it was bedtime for Bozo, in a manner of speaking.
Next thing you know, it was Saturday morning and off to publish the Peoplenomics report. 10-minutes before publishing, though, a power outage takes down all the power for a mile or three around here. Oddity 2.
Of course, I didn’t even notice it. The solar backup system is so fast that lights didn’t even blink here.
In fact, the first thing that called my attention to the outage was I had started to track down all the phones to make sure the problems were not an “off the hook” issue.
But this is when the next weird event came along. The old TrimLine style phone in my office for the MagicJack backup to backups was tested, but it was BROKEN!
(Yes, this is getting to be a big pile of coincidences. And yes, I have ordered more backup phones – these, in fact.)
But this gets me to the “bottom line” for a couple of preppers on the edge of a failing society: Back up your comms. The takeaways from this section go like this:
- Make sure you have a deal with your closest neighbors to share comms issue information. Within minutes of completing this morning’s PN report, I knew my neighbors were having the same issues. One in fact, has a telco message about an outage in the area.
- In the event of an EMP – and this is something I had not seen mentioned on the “play prepper” sites: You need double-deep on the DSL filters if that’s how the poison gets into your home.
- Next is you need two, not just one, unpowered, easy to see in the dark (without glasses?) dial up phones if you still have copper into the home.
Last, but not least, the reason we were able to remain cool and just work the problems sequentially, was that we never really lost comms at all. You see, the two terrestrial DSLs don’t compare with the ViaSat which in turn doesn’t compare with Starlink service.
But even this would not matter, except my consigliere last year insisted that we install (as part of our getting off-planet a bit) a MagicJack phone number. Less than $50 bucks a year, pick a number and virtually locate it. See https://magicjack.com for details. Pictured right is the MagicJack hardware hanging off the side of my mega box from a USB port.
There is still more, even deeper backup in the works. Informed of the issue, G2 advised me to be on the lookout for one of his satphones “with a few minutes on it” which recently came back from a contractor pal who does…um…mining security(?) in South America.
Point is, we can never have too much comms. And all this was before lighting up any ham radio gear and fire/police scanners, GMRS/FRS scanning, CB, and marine channel ears. We never want to be in a total “comms down” and event clusters (for however and why) are useful when taken as amusing training exercises.
Ham Radio Corner
The second of the Icom 761s is almost back to working. Got the new power supply in, and it lights up and looks great. Just one small issue: No transmit coming out of it. (Curses!)
The choice now is to keep digging into it. Having changed out the RF board on it, that turned the receiver into a super-hot set of “ears again” but there’s no RF into the PA section on transmit – so back to checking the mini coax connectors and plugs on the inside of it.
This, by the way, is what the low power RF section looks like inside one of these beasts. So, if you’re ever walking down the street and see something just like it, feel free to mail it to me.
Even Adam (hamguy123 on eBay) thinks it may be something not too obvious. “761s are great radios, but they do have their quirks, sometimes….” He’s a marvelous source of parts and archival Icom knowledge…the kind of hands-on genius/RF artist that you don’t see much of anymore. Except Hank, our ex TV engineer out on the Big Island. This isn’t a TV transmitter, though. Except on slow scan on 20 meters….
Outside Fire Cookery Prep
Since prepping is the other big drawing card to this site (besides our nearly prescient market calls), we need to have a quick wood stove discussion. High level stuff.
As you would expect, we have about 400 gallons of propane on hand at any one time. Some is in 20-pound jugs and some in 70’s and some in the 500-gallon fixed tank. But it occurred to me recently that we only had one option for backup heating and cooking with wood.
This is a very hefty backup box wood heater. Popular in the Depression because with some luck, or friends in the grocery business, you could come up with old (wood) boxes and get some cooking and heating on the cheap.
By the way, hard to find wood crates anymore and if you do burn pallet wood, remember to inspect to make sure you’re not poisoning yourself since some pallets are treated. A British pallet maker site offer some extremely useful tips here:
- Some wood pallets are treated with chemicals when manufactured, which can be toxic if burnt. Check for marks or stamps on the long sides of the pallet. Markings to look out for include MB, which means the pallet wood has been treated with Methyl Bromide. This is harmful to humans and the pallets can release toxic fumes if used as firewood.
- Pallets marked EUR, which is an old EU logo used on wooden pallets, may also have been treated with chemicals, so you should avoid burning pallets with this marking.
- Heat Treated (HT), Debarked (DB), and Kiln Dried (KD) stamps generally mean the pallet wood will be safe to burn, however remember that pallet wood burns hot and fast, so care should still be taken when using it as firewood. Unmarked pallets should not be burned as it is impossible to know for certain what the wood has been treated with.”
We will occasionally land a useable pallet – and with a pry bar, the wood can be used for many things besides burning. You have a planer, for surfacing, right?
A Wood-fired Camping Stove
Anyway, so I got to looking at the box stove and it is frankly too big for half the year’s fire cookery needs, even in the event of an extended “prepping event.” The big box stove takes too long to heat up and you have to keep them away from combustible walls and such.
SIDEBAR: When I was a kid (I’m not now???) my mom used the pot belly stove down in Pappy’s shop. Well, pappy being the firefighter and all, mom decides to load it with a lot of cardboard. Which burned fine. Then she chucked it full of maple wood and some of that really dense cardboard.
Well, wouldn’t you know it? The phone rang upstairs. With no cordless phones in the mid 1950s, she went to take the call. Five minutes later she came back downstairs to the basement and the plywood wall not too far from the stove was on fire.
A call for the fire department, a frontal attack with a garden hose and the problem was solved. Pappy (at work during this) got a day off without pay to “teach your wife about fire” and although I ran out to tell the firemen “Fire’s out – back to the firehouse!” no one is paying attention to a six-year-old. Once a rig is dispatched, there’s got to be a report and that means putting eyes on things…
Point is, the first several times you run a new wood-fired anything, be present and learn it’s “personality.” Before that day, the little potbelly stove was called “Oscar”. After that day mom shortened it to something with just four letters.
The Summer Stove
Besides topping up the freeze-dried and rice along with other prepping goods over the past few weeks, a new lighter weight (and lighter priced) camp stove arrived. Big enough to boil water on, but small enough to be useful on the deck up against the house. 2-1/2 inch flue pipes.
Old aluminum printer plates can be found now and then. With the ink dry, that is all you need to cobble up lightweight heat shields. They just can’t burn and if they reflect heat? Well, that would be fine, too.
There is enough stove pipe included to put smoke overhead and a damper in the flu pipes and on the front door of the unit to keep the fire in check, as needed. We bought more, anyway.
That odd silver box is a different brand’s water heating tank. Which we figured even though it only holds a gallon could certainly help with freeze-dried and maybe a second filling to have some “scalding water” to dry dishes.
City slickers who haven’t done much camping may not appreciate some of the stove-based finer things in Life. Like hot socks getting up in the morning. And by scalding your dishes in reasonably dry weather, the heat makes the boiling water on clean dishes evaporate much quicker. Sterilizes things, as well. No point in doing work you don’t have to.
We will. over time, do some basic mods to the stove. For example, when we looked at the “grate” that came with it for the wood fire it was much lighter than we expected. Some 1/4 or 3/8ths inch rebar and a few passes with the wire welder will be a cobbled-up heavy-duty replacement.
Start saving your Amazon boxes, especially the 12″ on any dimension ones, because they will hold a reasonable amount of wood if you collect a half dozen boxes in advance.
For actual cooking (like low embers and sticks to do kabobs on) you will want to use a low resin, dense hardwood. Our taste here (because we have tons of it) is white oak. No pine for cooking open food, though. For just cooking and dishwater or coffee, pine is fine and is easy to start. Cedar smells great when burned, but isn’t good for cooking.
The downside of pine is that it burns with a lot of creosote, so a hot fire until you’re ready to take it down to embers and call it quits.
Now, in terms of cutting several – what seems like miles” of 1 to 4 inch “mini logs” each 12 inches (or 11) in length, you really ought to take a look at those new 6-inch long chainsaws.
This is a “tree farm” says our USDA survey paperwork, so we have occasion to try a few woodsy things. We so liked our “mini chain saws” that we bought a second!
There is not much, if any that we could find, that makes any of the ones on Amazon really stand out. They are all basically 20-volt DC tools and a good charge will get you more time than you really wanted to spend in the woods cutting scraps off the burn pile. After the first storm or two of the winter, going out into the woods with a tractor and bucket to haul things should find you a ton of “deadfall.”
Remember in seasoning wood, there is a sweet spot. Massively “Over-seasoned” wood may be great structurally, but it does let off a (very few) BTUs (British Thermal units) worth of heat loss per pound. This is because long-seasoned wood chemically changes a bit. The ideal is wood dried in the one- or two-year range. Refer to 1328351 (osti.gov) (known in the woods as “The effects of long term storage on the net calorific value of wood pellets.”
Today’s Homework Assignment: Read the 144-page PDF from the Forest Products Laboratory of the U.S. Forest Service (free, here). You too will become very aware of how wood is aged, dried and how some of that arcane lab knowledge can be used to advantage both in the shop and in a survival setting (though don’t ask me how).
When you have read that, continue on and scan Firewood Seasoning | Forestry and Natural Resources (uky.edu). High moisture content unseasoned wood is 20 percent less energy efficient, slower to light and yada, yada.
Remember, the cleanest burn, easiest lighting fire is one which involves six-month (or longer) seasoned/dried out of the weather wood. Or, handing your spouse the matches…
Now, what did I forget? Oh, right! We will need a few boxes of these:
And where the coffee pot? We keep a spare one of these handy, too. (Farberware, Yosemite, 8-cup perc.)
Write when you get rich,