Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Benefits of Diesel Vehicles and Block Heaters Particularly to Preppers

This shows the placement of a heating element portion of a particular type of block heater.  A cord would be attached.  (Rendering:  )    

     I own a diesel car, a diesel truck and we have gasoline powered automobiles also to cover the bases should diesel fuel be difficult to get in an emergency.   Diesel cars and trucks have many benefits particularly to those with an interest in preparedness.   The positives are that a properly maintained diesel engine in a car can yield a million miles of travel, and therefore it can be economical in the long term.  Secondly, my car gets incredible fuel mileage and has an 800 mile range on one tank full of diesel fuel.   The negatives to driving a diesel car are that one must have access to a fine and reasonably priced diesel mechanic and to the parts needed to regular maintenance and replacement of key engine parts which age.  Secondly, there are a number of places in which diesel fuel stations are far and few between and so one must pay attention as to where they are on long trips.  (Nova Scotia comes to mind, and New Jersey law does not permit you to pump your own fuel which means at midnight when driving through you might need to stay overnight until you find a diesel station open.)   In addition, a diesel needs a strong battery and in Winter could benefit from a block heater.   A block heater is a device which you or your mechanic can order and install on your car  There are some that can be permanently installed in your car and others which can be applied and used episodically.  There are a variety of types of these and they may replace an engine core plug. These help to keep the engine warm enough to keep the engine warm.  If you live in a cold climate or even one which is only seasonally cold, please investigate the types of block warmers or engine heaters which are available to your vehicle.  These can lengthen the life of your starter, your battery, and your car as they help the car to start and warm more quickly on subzero mornings.  Remember never to race a cold engine, diesel or a gasser.  Start them with enough time to idle slowly allowing the oil to circulate to all the parts of the engine before subjecting the car to the demands of street or particularly highway driving.

Information and Type of Block Heaters

               For several reasons diesel cars and trucks can be difficult to start in sub- zero weather. Due to simple physics, a battery particularly one which is less than new, has a diminished storage capacity in cold or freezing weather. In addition, in cold weather oil is very thick and this means that the engine itself can be three times more difficult to start even with a new battery !   Both the diminished storage capacity in cold weather and the viscous oil issue can compound to create a real problem on cold mornings.   Please consider what I have written concerning block warmers in the paragraph above.

               This is one respect in which our Alaskan friends are streets ahead of us !


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Why You Should Think Twice Before Disconnecting Your Landline


This is an inexpensive landline telephone.   Wal-Mart sells these for under ten dollars.


           Of course, all of us are looking for ways to shave operating costs from our households, if just to have extra cash for preps.   Although I can certainly understand the choice to economize or to disconnect cable or dish, I have great reservations for most people in terms of permanently disconnecting their home's landline.

                   In the US, Canada and in many other places in the world, when we call 911 (or 999 in some other countries) from our landline,  the dispatcher instantly sees the address location on screen.  If you call and tell the dispatcher that you are hiding in a closet and that someone has just entered your home, they will know where to send the police.   If you call 911, and tell them, "I'm doing CPR, please come !" they will.  However, this is not true from a cellular phone.  When you call for help from a cellular phone, the number and often the name of the caller comes up, but no address is provided.   You may have to take the extra step of providing an address when you have little time to do so, or worse,  when for some reason, you can't speak  If the dispatcher does not hear clearly the number you said then essential time is lost stopping at the wrong address. Although it is possible to triangulate a location from a cellular phone, this is by no means an automatic process, and the police may, or may not be able to do this for you, depending upon the type of phone you have, and your location.   Police friends of mine have indicated that sometimes, it is not at all possible to obtain an address location from a cellular phone, depending upon the location.

                 In addition, in a grid down emergency, the battery back up at the cell phone tower will work for only a few hours to a day, leaving you with no communication in a widespread outage.  A landline provides an extra means of communication, and if you have a landline which on each floor, is connected directly to a phone outlet, it will work even during power outages, because the small amount of power needed to power the phone, even during an outage, is provided with phone service..   Cordless phones are notorious for not working during power outages.  In the area in which I live most people have cordless phones as landlines.  When the power goes out, no one can report the outage.  Therefore, in our own very rural area, we are often the only ones reporting an outage. Others simply cannot.

        In communications, and in all types of preparedness, you should layer your preps

                  The best way of preparing for emergencies is by layering preparations.   Therefore, the best way of layering communications is to have a landline phone.   You should have a corded phone on each level of your home in order to make calls during power outages.   You should also have at least one cordless phone which would enable you to bring communications outside your home or to an outbuilding during a medical or other emergency.   It's certainly been helpful for me to being a cordless phone down to the barn, on occasion.   You should also have a cellular phone, even if it is a pay-as-you-go plan, in the event that you need to communicate with someone when you are en route, or away from your home, or camping.   You don't need to have phones with internet access, or smart phones, although these are nice to have.  You do need to have a layered strategy of basic communications for your home.     You also need to have the phone numbers of your family members written somewhere other than the phones themselves, in the event that in an emergency, the phones, or one in particular, malfunctions or is lost.  Of course, having a HAM radio in addition, and having a technicians level license or higher is also an excellent idea in terms of emergency communication preparations.

                 Rather than disconnecting your landline, call your phone company and ask how much a very basic landline for low use costs in your area.   In some areas, a low use line especially designed for people with medical issues can be had for twelve dollars a month.    Some companies offer a measured use rate of seventeen dollars a month.   Such lines may not be enabled to call coast to coast, but they will get 911.   A lot of local phone companies will become quite flexible when you indicate that you are considering shutting down your landline entirely.

                  Preparedness is about living prepared,  frugally and safely, and for teaching your children to do the same.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

What is a CINO, and Why Does This Concern Preparedness ?

Love One Another

   I have a term which I use, which is conspicuous Christian.   We have all met individuals or sometimes families who fall into the subgroup of Christians who enjoy very conspicuous displays of charity or good deeds. They like to be seen by other Christians as doing good.  People in this particular category may have actions in private may not be so consistent, or can be downright contradictory.  In fact, some of the conspicuous Christians I have known did  visible good while being judgmental and even hateful to friends, neighbors or family.  In order to be Christian in their eyes, you had to be a Christian just like them.  Although, no one is perfect, the inconsistency and hypocrisy in such individuals is striking in the subgroup to which I am referring.

                   This week I heard another term, which is a bit different, but in the same vein,. CINO,  is an acronym for Christian in name only.  I suppose one can be a conspicuous Christian or a CINO, or both at the same time. Both hint at the possibility of insincerity or hypocrisy.  In the nineties I think the term Holy Rollers was also popular as a disparaging term for Christians.    Why am I bringing this up in a survival forum ?

                   A percentage of people who spend some time in the preparedness community are motivated by faith.  Some of them wish to seek Christian like-minded families and learn from them. Some of them look to form loosely connected groups for networking who could aid their family should events occur which leave one or both parents unable to function as before. Some families are drawn to preparedness because it is a tenet of their Christian faith.   Some Christian groups believe that we are indeed in the End Times, and that we should be prepared to feed our families for seven years of tribulations.  Of course, all the political and economic challenges which are being endured the world over contribute furthur to the malaise and concern.  The attack of Christians and Jews worldwide for nothing more than their faith may also contribute to discomfort and perhaps to more attention paid to faith. This alone may drive some to concerns for preparedness for times to come which may well be worse than these.

                   I too am somewhat motivated by a Christian faith in terms of my activities in preparedness. I suppose I could prepare for my own family and keep my mouth shut, which would by far be the smartest and probably safest though self serving practice.  Instead, I write books, blogs, and radio programs on broad preparedness subjects particularly medical preparedness s in the hope that other people, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindu, Sikh, and what-have-you, would be better informed and better positioned to help their families in the event of a natural or man-made emergency.  I have known people who considered themselves atheists or even Wiccans to be fine people. They do good works for simply different reasons than I, but they are no less good works.  I am pleased with my own faith, but I also accept that each soul who resides on the Earth in this snapshot of time, is on a journey of faith and that other than setting the example, that I cannot motivate others to "do as I do."  It has also been my recollection that very few people die as atheists, and that death bed conversion happen a great deal.  However, I am on the path prescribed for me, and I can't really presume to direct the path of others, as I think God often already has.

                   Please remember a few things as we move into more difficult times.  Never allow a label to help you make choices regarding alliances or friendships.   People who wave a Christian label could be decent honest people, or they may also be profoundly evil.   Before you divulge where your "bug out" location is, or how much freeze dried peanut butter you have, you should take years to get to know someone. You and they should have helped each other through terrible times long before you set all your cards on the table. They are not your spouse !  Remember also that a Muslim label does not make someone less than trustworthy.  When I was teaching college, I had an older student who had been a specialist physician in Afghanistan and who had been allowed to emigrate to the US when the Taliban had attacked his family.  This was a profoundly fine and trustworthy person regardless of the religious label he had.  He is a proud gentle Muslim.  He was learning medical terminology and the terms of pathophysiology in order to practice in a related medical field in his new country.   I have also known Jews and Hindus who are also fine people.   The God of us all gave each of us free choice.  People who chose or were socialized to be a part of all faiths have the choice as to whether to be profoundly good, or to be profoundly evil.  The label may not bear any particular magical charm in one way, or the other.

                  As the proverbial truck rolls into the ditch wherever we are, remember that friends and alliances often come from places we did not expect, and that sometimes those whom we believed to be our friends in thick or thin might not be up to the task. Paranoia is not necessary, whereas extreme caution before trusting someone with complete information regarding your situation and holdings certainly is.

                 Blessings to you all, regardless of your label.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Evaluating Hidden Earthquake Damage

              Many times as I write this particular blog I am torn as to what to write.  Some days I would like to get up and complain bitterly concerning the farce which is Net Neutrality. Giving control of the internet to the FCC will allow this, and other regimes to come to license websites, and then most blogs will likely be gone.  Other days I would like to alert you all to a big spike in the radiation levels at Fukushima Daiichi.  They have a new leak of radioactive water, and there are uncertain as to its origin.   However, most days I try to adhere to bringing you practical information with regard to preparedness for items that are no less important. For today, at least, I will direct my attention to preparedness. Please read about Net Neutrality and about the radiation at Fukushima Daiichi elsewhere. The links I have provided below are a good start.

Not all damage is quite so obvious.   This was a California quake.  (Picture:   )

             Today, I would like to talk a bit about earthquakes.  The 5.8 earthquake which occurred in Central Virginia in August, 2011, changed the landscape forever.   Two schools were damaged to the point of being condemned and later destroyed.   Some nice homes were broken in half, and judging from my last trip up there, still are.   Foundations and even brick homes were destroyed. The quake damaged monuments in DC and was felt in high rise buildings in Toronto. Though historical brick buildings have been repaired and two schools rebuilt, the real estate market in the target area will never be the same, nor will the confidence of people living in many areas of the country, who now realize that whether your area is in a known earthquake zone, that an earthquake can in fact occur, anywhere and at anytime.  People in the earthquake area were long told that "we don't have real earthquakes here".  The builders whose own homes were damaged or destroyed in Virginia of course, knew that they were.   However, a large number of people who had damaged glassware, thrown canned goods, collapsed closets or upset Pomeranians really may not have known whether their homes were damaged. This is the point of today's post.

This is earthquake damage in Japan.  (Photo:

            FEMA, when it sends teams to a place that has an earthquake is quite naturally focused on those with serious damage. Obvious earthquake damage to a well, a septic, a foundation etc. is certainly going to receive attention whereas the people who don't think they have any damage, are not.  However, families can miss damage to their homes, as serious damage may not be obvious until later.

After an earthquake, ANY earthquake, these are things you should note and consider.   If you have any of these things at your home, you may wish to hire a licensed contractor to evaluate whether these are cosmetic issues or new structural ones. Remember also that your home may not be damaged by the initial quake, but that aftershock damage is cumulative. The aftershocks may damage a home when the initial quake did not.    Turn off gas if you have it, and have your gas company check for leaks as soon as they are able.  If you can smell gas, tell your gas company and do not reenter the building.

1.  Inspect your home in daylight following the quake.  Go to all sides.  Note any superficial or large cracks in the foundation or brick structures.    Does anything look crooked ?   Is the floor protruding from one side when it wasn't before ? Has the roof or the gutters pulled away from the house ?

2. Is your brick chimney still standing ?  Does it have cracks or dust from mortar which has fallen from the chimney ?  Is it still attached to the building or standing freely by itself ?   You should not use the chimney whether it burns wood or vent gas logs until it is inspected. Carbon monoxide is a risk.    Certified chimney inspectors do exist and the faster you schedule one, then the faster you can safely use your chimney again.

3. Take a tennis ball and place it on the floor of each room.  Does it roll ?   If it does then the earthquake may have caused some shifting in the foundation, and you should get an inspection.  Note all creaking when you walk on the floors that did not exist before the quake.

4. Are your fences crooked or broken ?   Can you open the door to your toolshed or outbuildings ?
    Has your deck pulled away from the house ?   Do your exterior staircases and interior ones look and feel the same as you use them ?  Check everything in daylight.

5. If you have a well your water may have slightly muddy water following a substantial quake for a week or two.  Anything more than slight clouding could mean that a well inspector needs to look at your well.  There were families who had to have a new well drilled following the 2011 quake.   Sometimes the water level of your well will change after a quake.

6. Open all your windows and open all your doors.  Open glass sliding doors.  Does everything still work ?

7. Look at all the hidden areas in your home.  Check crawlspaces, basements, understairs storage,  for changes.

8. Check all masonry.   Are the concrete pads or patios cracked or damaged ?

9. Check your furnace, hot water heater, and other appliance connections for leakage.  Look for plumbing leaks.

10 Look around windows and doorframes for cracks and look at corners of drywall.

11. Check your electrical systems, and check to see if all your lighting fixtures are intact, and if they are, if they are operational.

12. Do you have any area of collapse on your property ?   These can just be concave areas where they did not exist before, or actual holes.  Note also any sandy areas where they did not exist prior.   Keep children and pets away from any soil or areas which has changed following an earthquake until an inspector of some type has certified their safety.

  This is not a comprehensive listing of everything that should be done following an earthquake.  It is a start which will help families to recall following such an event, that there are specific tasks which will need to be done once the safety of family and pets is assured.

Regarding Net Neutrality:

Regarding the latest radiation leaks at Fukushima Daiichi:

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Exploding or Bursting Canned Foods


These are generic cans of food which leaked. These were dated 2009.  (Picture by )


       When I was a child my parents kept a basement of emergency canned food.  It wasn't so much for fears of nuclear attack, I think, but more out of concern for a protracted Winter storm or a series of such.  At the time, we lived in a farming area in the Northeast, and some of the Winters there conjure my memories of Siberian Winter. I remember in particular many cans of grapefruit, pineapple, and tomato juice, and of course lots of fruits, vegetables, and canned meats.  I remember that most foods at that time, could be retained for ten years, regardless of the coded or uncoded dating system. After a couple of years in the basement, canned food was sent to the pantry upstairs for consumption.  In all those years I don't think we ever needed to throw a can away.

              I stock short term food supplies, and long term supplies in my own home, and I always have. The short term supplies are canned, just as they always have been, and I stock the #10 freeze dried canned varieties for long term storage, as these will last ten, twenty or even thirty years depending upon the type of food packaged. Both standard canned foods and the #10 freeze dried varieties are stored in areas which are both heated and cooled in order to lengthen their shelf life. These tend to be cool places year round.

              After about two years in temperate storage, I move the regular canned goods to the large pantry in the kitchen for consumption.  With a large family and a lot of sons, it has been rare that something hasn't been consumed and gets discarded.   I also have a couple of rules about buying canned goods.  I don't ever buy dented cans simply because I am buying for storage. I am content to pay a little bit more for the ability to store for a longer period.  In addition, I have noted that many of the generic cans of vegetables and fruit are now made of much thinner cans than they used to be. Some will actually click and pop back and forth if you test them with your thumb, which is something I was taught they should never do.

               A few years ago, after the 5.8 earthquake which destroyed homes and schools in the next county, I took a good look at all of our canned foods. During the quake, canned food was thrown up against the pantry door.  I checked everything for dents and bulges and I did throw a few things away in the event that there had been an unseen rupture.  A short time after, we had an explosion, or more correctly a seepage under pressure from a can of dog food which had a pull top lid.  The dog food was not stored in the area I had checked so closely.  Black foul smelling greasy spray had contaminated the cans around it, the shelf liner, and some cleaning products I kept nearby in another cabinet.  I threw out all of the sprayed materials and decided to keep a more careful watch of anything with a canned pull top lid.   I cleaned the area around it with gloved hands and bleach, before allowing the cabinet to dry and then later restocking.

                  This year while pawing through canned fruit while considering what type of cobbler to make for dessert, I found that a large can of peaches, which I had purchased about a year ago had leaked black bubbling fluid onto a number of other cans of fruit. 

 I donned vinyl gloves, removed the offending can and the five other contaminated ones. It seems that cans are being made far thinner than they used to be and that the seals to some of them are not holding. Bacteria is seeping into some of these cans and when a gas is eventually produced, the can either ruptures or explodes causing you to lose other cans, which after such severe contamination, cannot safely be cleaned and used. Interestingly, the offending can came from China as did the five others that needed to be thrown away.

In view of this, I am considering new canned storage guidelines which I have interspersed with some of the common sense old ones:

1. I think that in future, we will buy more freeze dried food in #10 cans. and fewer conventionally canned foods.

2. Since the cans from China and Thailand definitely seem thinner, and I tend to stock canned foods rather than use them immediately, I plan to avoid cans entirely which were not canned in the US.  I do occasionally buy food from the Asian grocery and I have not found the Japanese food to have poor canning quality control.

Also, with regard to the Chinese canned food, companies in China do not have the same liability as do American companies when selling canned goods here.   This is another good reason to be wary.

Liability for Products in a Global Economy by Dennis Campbell and Susan Woodley

3. I plan to consume acidic foods in cans more quickly than within two years.  Acidic foods would be tomato products, pineapple, mandarin oranges, etc.

4. In the past I did keep some canned Italian tomato sauce for pizza. I am considering buying it in glass jars now.

5. When you do buy canned foods, buy just three or four at a time, rather than twenty or twenty-five. You are more likely to get cans home without having them dented during packing or the trip home. The more cans they bag for you, the more dents are likely to occur. This will make stocking up during sales a bit more difficult, but perhaps we should pay a couple cents more and avoid the exploding can trap.

6. Always return or throw away any can that bulges from one end, seeps, has a dent over a seam, or clicks back and forth under pressure from your thumb.

7. Always unload canned foods from your car.  Don't allow them to remain in the car overnight during hot weather or during freezing weather.  Whether the can ruptures during freezing weather or not, storing canned food in unheated or uncooled areas costs its lifespan.

8. We will continue to keep canned foods in storage in heated or cooled locations that are dry to ensure their maximum lifespan. Avoid cans which are rusty. They should be stored in areas where rust does not form.

9. Select generic cans carefully.  Some generic cans seem to be made of thinner metal than others.  We can still use generics, but we should select the more substantial cans. Be alert to labels which are stained, indicating leakage from somewhere, perhaps that can, perhaps another.

10. This also impacts something else we do.  When I am able, I donate new canned goods to a food bank, and sometimes to church. Although these are used by church pretty quickly,  I have no idea how long the food banks stock supplies before giving them out.  In future, I will donate only boxes of canned food which comes from Sam's Club which is not only American made, but is known to be very fresh by virtue of rapid turnover and good quality control.

Read more about this topic at:

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Thoughts on "Mental Hygiene"

Steven Fry and I do not share thoughts on faith or on God, however I think he is a brilliant man and a fine actor particularly in the comedic sense. Steven Fry has suffered bipolar disorder for possibly all of his life.

      Maybe it's because I am a nurse, or perhaps it's because I don't stand in judgement of people, but a lot of people confide in me when they are having difficulties. Many human beings approach mental illness or mental difficulties incorrectly.  Many people see the bulk of humanity as mentally healthy and people who struggle with a mental health issue as rarities or as people who have done something wrong. Some people think that people who struggle with a mental illness challenge have displeased God and are being punished for it in the form of a mental health challenge.    In reality, statistically every family has someone who is struggling with a mental health issue.  Privately, I believe that if you include depression, anxiety, eating disorders,  situational crisis, and bereavement then every human being is at risk at some time in his or her life for a potential mental health issue, even if it is simply a situational adjustment disorder.   If you have worked as a police officer, fireman, nurse, first responder, or as a soldier then you have witnessed some things that may well surface later as sources of sorrow or even could ultimately be described as part of the spectrum of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Those who have experienced a concussion of any cause are much more likely to experience mental health issues later, particularly as they apply to mood.    I think it's important to acknowledge this because judgement of others  simply isn't constructive.  Some of the things we see as human beings are so egregious that I would wonder more about the mental health of a person if they were not disturbed or a little tortured over the experience. We need to have empathy for other human beings to function effectively in almost any role.  I don't want police who don't have compassion for a man in a difficult situation.  We all don't want nurses who think someone is "carrying on" when we complain of severe pain.  Humanity can be a double-edged sword, and this is true, but not to have humanity or empathy would be far worse.

                In all honesty, I know more people who are struggling with a mental health issue now than I ever have. The reasons for this are multi-causal.   First of all,in the past,  many people would hide their issues due to the stigma of mental illness until they became a suicide.  Sometimes suicides were recognized as suicides, and other times in the past, they weren't.  I have a close friend whose father committed suicide when he and his siblings were children, and this had a ripple effect throughout family and friends for many years. No one was sure why he did it, and everyone blamed themselves.  Suicide does great damage, not only to a family in present day but to children and to grandchildren who are yet to be born.   Secondly, in the era of social media and the accompanying social shifts, many people are enduring more background stress perhaps  than they noticed in the past.  They will tell you that they are bombarded with sad news on all sides.  Television, social media and the internet shouldn't be sanitized, but they are a source of stress for many.  On one channel there are twelve coptic Christians being beheaded by ISIS on social media.  On another, there is the trial of a foster mother who murdered her foster child.  On another there is a report of a widespread layoffs coming from a large worldwide company with corporate headquarters in the United States. This particular blog is meant to be informational and I make great efforts to be positive, yet women in particular have said they find it "depressing sometimes."  The You-Tube video showing a number of  young Ukrainian soldiers holding a house in a war zone, and then the following day showing them all dead is quite disturbing, even if the intent of actually completing the second part of the video may be Russian propaganda.   In the nineteen fifties and even in the sixties, most of us lived in relatively insular worlds without bombardment of media.  We watched the news at night, and particularly in the US, it was a fairly provincial process.  The networks didn't tell us much that didn't directly impact Americans, and frankly most Americans knew so little about other lands that many of us wouldn't have cared about issues in Senegal, Brazil, Vanuatu, or Sakhalin Island.  I saw this less in criticism and more in contrast as background for the present day.  Even during World War II, most families had psychological safety zones at home or at school or work, despite the fact that Europe, the UK and the US all were enduring a longstanding existential threat.

               The other reason I think we are seeing more mental illness is diet.  As magical as our bodies may seem, we are chemistry sets.   Much of our mood, our outlook and our behavior is modified by our blood sugars.  When we eat high glucose foods and trigger higher than normal amounts of endogenous insulin, we teach our bodies to live on a glucose roller coaster..  For an hour or so after eating too much we may be thirsty, impatient, and temporarily energetic or even hyperactive. Then a couple of hours pass as our bodies liberate lots of insulin, and our blood sugars drop. Even non-diabetics become anxious, more prone to annoyance, and less likely to complete the task well.  Since the amount of insulin we produce tends to be the same the following day, we have just set ourselves up to crave high sugar the following day at about the same time.   The same may be true with regard to various deficiencies in trace elements and vitamins.   So much prepared food and erratic eating habits may result in deficiencies of which we are unaware.  Some families require more of some vitamins than others. Certain disorders cause us to require larger amounts of B-vitamins for example, to ensure proper food utilization.  Deficiencies of chromium, for example, can lead to disorders of glucose regulation and potentially a mood disorder.

             Sometimes though,a person who is otherwise healthy and is eating more or less properly experiences something in life, and the neurotransmitters which modify our moods just can't adjust or properly regulate and a mental health disturbance occurs.  When this happens we need to see it for what it is, and encourage the person to get some help. The faster such a problem is detected and addressed then the better the chances are for a full and lasting recovery.

               There is one other thing I would like you to do, whether you are preparedness minded or not.  In maintaining your own mental hygiene, use common sense about the inputs to which you expose yourself.  "Terms of Endearment" makes me sad, and I absolutely can't watch "Steel Magnolias" because the Julia Roberts character dies of complications of juvenile diabetes, and because I have a daughter with Type I.   I know I need to read about viruses and smallpox, and biological warfare, and I do so with a certain amount of clinical perspective. I do not have to watch things which I know will upset me.  My mother once confided that the "Diary of Anne Frank" made her cry intermittently for weeks.   Enjoy social media for the things you wish to do and things which enrich your life.  Withdraw from the parts of it which are a draw or an annoyance.  Balance your life whenever you can.

               I hope this has been some positive food for thought.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Long Term Storage of Chocolate: Chocolate's Role in Preparedness


       Those of you who know me well know that chocolate is one of my favorite foods.  I may not eat a lot of it, but a small square of the good stuff with a cup of tea can be a very welcome pick-me-up. My safe was empty for many years with the exception of a couple of foil wrapped bars of Cadbury's milk chocolate.  Most women, and an awful lot of men find chocolate to be an important comfort food. There is also a lot written about chocolate being a potent mood elevator.  Chocolate can also be an excellent survival food from a standpoint of providing quick palatable calories particularly during periods of high caloric expenditures during extreme cold or high mandatory activity, as might occur during an evacuation where they could be a large amount of hiking..

               Sadly, chocolate in bar form does not last well in the long term.  The fats in chocolate over time, turn rancid.  Mold in the form of white dots and other markings can also form on the chocolate. Some brands are more likely to grow mold than others.  Other items added to the chocolate, like nuts, raisins, etc. can also age and leave the chocolate inedible. Although chocolate rarely grows bacteria, we should not eat chocolate that is contaminated with mold or has turned rancid.   I have been experimenting for years to lengthen the storage time of chocolate.   At first, I would buy bars of chocolate during the Autumn (when it's less likely to melt). Then, I would double wrap the bars in their original packaging in two layers of aluminum foil.  Then, I would store them in a cool dry place.  The safest place for chocolate in my home, away from my many children was inside the safe. This also kept the chocolate from me for extended periods. Fresh bars of Cadbury's and the better brands of chocolate will last for as long as twenty-four months.
                Refrigeration of chocolate can lengthen its freshness, but I have abandoned doing this because even when the chocolate is returned to room temperature, having refrigerated it may impact its texture.

These are other brands of high quality chocolate with a good shelf life.   (About 24 months by my own experimentation in the American South.)  Dark chocolate does seem to last longer than milk chocolate:

Elite Chocolate is available in milk and dark chocolate.

 Elite Chocolates from Israel   (Can also be purchased at Giant Grocery Stores, Kroger, and others.).

Toblerone will also last 24 months.  I have misplaced or hidden bars of Toblerone for Christmas stockings for that long !

   Dark Milka, Hersheys and Nestles plain chocolate can also last for almost 24 months if purchased fresh and kept in a cool dry place.


                I am also told that dark chocolate chips if kept in a cool dry place will also last as long as 24 months.

                Other friends and chocolate officionados have tried to lengthen the life of their chocolate bars by freezing, sealing with an airtight plastic packaging system, etc.    Freezing seems to disrupt the texture of chocolate (just as it does cheese) and so it is not a recommended way of preserving chocolate.   The "Seal a Meal" or similarly styled systems do help, but they don't lengthen the survival time of chocolate bars beyond the twenty-four months I already receive from wrapping them in double aluminum foil and storing them in a cool dry place.

                 There are a couple of other ways we might be able to enjoy chocolate in a long term storage sense even if our chocolate bars must be consumed within about twenty-four months. You can purchase ready made cans of chocolate pudding in #10 sized cans.  These are quite good and I once bought one for a family reunion. However, once opened this ready made product is opened, it  needs to be consumed within a day or two, and so they aren't really practical for families who aren't planning an actual event where most or all of the cans contents would be consumed that day.

This is ready made chocolate pudding and will store for a couple of years.  You can buy this at any grocery store which stocks institutional sized (#10) cans of food. Some Wal-Marts stock this.

           Many of the freeze dried preparedness food companies sell a #10 can of chocolate pudding mix.   Such cans last as long as ten years unopened and should be reconstituted within one year once they are opened.  These are wonderful because they allow you to mix and reconstitute as much or as little as you need, even just one portion a day, if need be.  Some companies sell a freeze dried container which is smaller than the #10 sized, and would be useful for a one or two person household or for backpacking.

Most freeze dried major suppliers sell a number ten can of chocolate pudding to be reconstituted with water.  This one comes from Nitro-Pak.    Buy it Here

This is a number ten can of cocoa powder.  Most lines of freeze dried and food preparedness websites sell cocoa powder.  This one has a stated life of 20 years. Buy it here

A great thing to have in your supplies.  Buy It Here

              There are some other ways that you and your family can enjoy the taste of chocolate in emergency situations.    Augason Farms sells a product called Spiff-e-Whip.   It's most common purpose is to be reconstituted as per package directions and used as a topping for cakes, puddings or hot chocolate.  However, there are some other things we can do for our family chocolate addicts.   This product will last ten years in the can, and should be consumed within one year when opened.

Spiff-e-Whip Page 

These are recipes for chocolate icing and for chocolate mousse using Spiff-e-whip and cocoa

You may also experiment with this product in order to come up with some reduced calorie or controlled sugar recipes of things you already make.

This is a #10 can of brownie mix.  It will last many years unopened, and should be consumed in a year once it is opened. Buy It Here.

This is an Augason Farms chocolate cake mix which is gluten free. It lasts ten years unopened but should be consumed within one year once opened.  Pictured is the everyday sized can.   Buy It Here.    

               Certainly, we all have much more important and concerning issues to consider in preparedness than luxury foods. However, keeping a remnant of our normal lives prior to the disaster can be a psychologically very positive thing for both spouses and for our children, especially on special occasions such as birthdays.  So, direct your attention to the essentials of water, food, shelter, and medical supplies, but when you can, think about the small items which help to spell security and comfort for individuals, and especially for families.

Once Again, I have absolutely no business interests whatsoever in any of the brands or products mentioned in this post.  These are simply brands and types of products I have tried and have used. I encourage you to explore other brands also.