Gear Review: Wansview Outdoor WiFi Wireless Camera

To be perfectly honest, I originally had no plans to review this product, but I’m so pleased with the results that I thought I would share them. The camera we’ve had facing the front door/driveway for the last 6 years finally died so we set out to replace it, inexpensively. We settled on this Wansview Outdoor WiFi Wireless Camera based on price (around $40) and customer reviews.

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The camera is weatherproof and connects to your wireless router so you can link it to Continue reading “Gear Review: Wansview Outdoor WiFi Wireless Camera”

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Prepper Garden Update 10-1-17

As the leaves are turning and beginning to fall, we’re very pleased with not only the successes (and a few failures) of the season, but that we are still getting some production. If you’ve been following, then you already know that we grew everything from seed and staggered our plantings in an attempt to extend our harvest.

Carrots and radishes have been a mixed bag, with some carrots still growing, while the last of the radishes went to seed long ago. The first planting of peas went well, but the second didn’t produce at all (possibly just too late in the season. The corn is long gone as we talked about in our last update, but will definitely be a great opportunity for us next year. Continue reading “Prepper Garden Update 10-1-17”

Cutting the Cord

Part of the journey to a more sustainable and self-reliant life is eliminating unnecessary expenses. Analyze your spending and eliminate the fat; we’ve gone through this exercise several times over the years and we always find something that can go. One of the biggest ‘luxury’ items people spend money on is cable TV. Remember when TV was free? The average American is now paying $64 a month just for basic cable, not to mention all the add-on movie channels, sports channels or just expanded basic; I personally know someone who pays $230 a month for cable they rarely watch!

Time to cut the cord folks; YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, etc., can replace most of your TV watching for a fraction of the cost. How many channels are you paying for that you never watch? If you’re ok with wasting money, fine, but literally hundreds of thousands of others have dumped cable with many more to come. I know, some of you will insist that you have to have that local TV news, but even if that’s a priority for you, are you paying for other services you aren’t using? Some folks have gone back to putting an antenna on their house to pick up free broadcast HD TV (you do need a special antenna and converter box or HD ready TV to watch).

Still have a land-line? Seriously? Even my elderly parents have moved on to cell phones. When was the last time you even used that thing?

We cut the cord 2 years ago and never looked back. Not only are we saving money, we actually spend less time watching movies and more time actually talking to each other. What a concept!

If you found this helpful you might also enjoy a few of my other articles:

Starting 2017 off broke? Try these 12 money saving tips

Financial Prepping

Prepping on a budget

Breaking a bad habit!

Credit, Credit, Credit: Too Much or Not Enough?

Solar: Taking the Plunge

Ok, so we finally took the plunge. We just made our first, and probably not the last, investment in some solar equipment. Disclaimer: we are not trying to go ‘green,’ reduce our use of ‘evil’ fossil fuels, reduce our carbon footprint, or any of the other catch phrases often associated with alternative energy. No, we are simply trying to be as self reliant as possible. We want the ability to generate at least some energy independent of the grid.

Renogy 200 Watts 12 Volt Complete Solar Panel kit Monocrystalline with Charge Controller +Mounts+ 100AH Gel Battery+ 500W Pure Sine-Wave Inverter

Those who read regularly know that we have been researching this for a while, trying to find a reasonably inexpensive way to get started, not an easy task as we found. So many of the starter kits we found require quite a few additional items just to get the system up and running, the system we chose seems the most complete in it’s price range. This one actually comes with a battery, which is apparently very unusual, and an electronics friendly pure sine-wave inverter.

We will be posting updates regularly, starting next week when we begin the install. Wish us luck!

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst!

Happy prepping!

Rethinking Our Water Plan

When we selected our property one of the main selling points for us was access to water. The property has 2 streams on it providing access to ‘clean’ water in the event of a ‘grid down’ or other SHTF scenario. Aside from a couple of pallets of bottled water, the streams, with the aid of a couple of gravity filters were to be our primary source of water should the municipal water facility fail. Seemed like a good plan, and continues to be our primary back up, but earlier this year we did discover a flaw – a draught. In the nearly 10 years we’ve owned the property, the larger of the 2 streams had always run strong even in dry conditions – this year was different. The extreme draught conditions we experienced here in the South this past year turned these streams into little more than mud – problem. Our once ‘flawless’ plan revealed a flaw. We have often thought about drilling a well, but in this mountainous area, wells were drying up during this event. Despite the fact that this was an extremely rare occurrence, we had to develop an alternative plan in case the SHTF during a draught.

We watered our garden regularly, but what if the municipal supply failed? Rain barrels are an ideal back up for drinking as well as feeding your garden, but during this time very little water found its way into them and using stored drinking water would prove less than ideal. The draught was so severe that even our trees were dying – in a grid down situation we would be in trouble quickly.

So what to do? A giant water tank was out of reach financially and would certainly draw attention to us in a SHTF scenario. So as simple everyday preppers we’re trying a few different things. Adding a couple of additional rain barrels to store water when rain is plentiful – a friend of ours now drinks only rain water –  will help feed the garden longer during such an event. Adding a couple more 50 gallon barrels of treated drinking water in ‘The Bunker’ will extend how long we can keep ourselves and our animals hydrated, but this along with the bottled water still doesn’t give us the warm and fuzzys. So we’ve begun filling empty 2 liters with water – not the ideal solution; but a simple, cost effective way to add more water storage. Stored on their sides, you can pile up a lot of water in a fairly small area. Sources on the web say it’s fit to drink for 6-8 months, depending on who you believe, and usable for cleaning, washing up, and flushing the toilet long after that. We feel we could probably extend its usable time by running it through a gravity filter for drinking water, and of course using it to feed our thirsty vegetables. This fits easily into our routine as we just add one at a time, no real cost, no real hassle. We’ve also stored 10 2 liters in the chest freezer as an additional back up.

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As preppers we all learn from each other and we would love to hear from you what you are doing to protect your water supply.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

Happy prepping!

 

Solar Power: The Elusive Goal

Lowering your bills, living off the grid, being more self-reliant; all require the ability to use less energy while possibly producing some of your own. As part of our prepper journey and desire to escape the rat race we have been researching solar and wind energy – to a frustrating end. Hundreds of sources, kits of all sizes, from small stand alone systems to recharge your laptop to whole house systems costing 10’s of thousands of dollars – confusing at best.

Setting the goal; our primary goal is to reduce our bills by lowering our use while having some energy backup other than gas/propane generators and heaters. Here in the South we get plenty of sun and wind, but finding the right way to harness it without going into the poor house is a completely different story. We are looking for stand alone power, as opposed to grid tied, which lowers the cost and complexity a great deal. We would like to be able to run a PC, wireless router, and a couple of small LED lights on a regular basis, while having the option of running a small heater in a power outage. If any of you are on this journey, your input would be greatly appreciated.

This video depicts what is probably the most basic low cost system (around $150), but its benefits are very limited. Note: this system also comes without a battery or inverter.

Here is another video installing this same unit: better use, but the installation seems a little sloppy.

 

We are currently debating between a couple of starter systems based on their reviews and cost. Every system we’ve looked at has something else you will need to purchase in addition to the system and of course the batteries.

Here’s another helpful video we found:

To be perfectly honest, the more I read and watch the more confused I become.

Home Depot offers several starter kits ranging from $235 to about $1300; Amazon offers several similar systems. At this point we’re leaning towards a Grape Solar 200 watt starter kit from Home Depot for $577. Amazon offers the same system for $461, but without the inverter. Batteries will obviously increase the initial cost depending on what you buy. We will update this post when the system is up and running. We will also be exploring some wind energy options in the future so stay tuned!

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

Happy prepping!

If any of you have useful links or advice we are certainly open to suggestions.

Gear Review: FoodSaver V3240 Automatic Vacuum Sealing System

I know, I know; you would probably prefer to read about some cool new survival gadget, multi-tool, etc., however, anyone serious about food preservation should definitely consider purchasing a vacuum sealer.

A vacuum sealer is not going to replace Mylar Bags for ultra long term storage, but they are great for your short to midterm storage particularly if you a freezing fruits, vegetables and meat. Removing all the air, unlike using regular freezer bags, prevents the dreaded freezer burn that lowers the quality of your frozen food supply.

The unit is super easy to operate, just use the built-in cutter to create the size bag you want, use the ‘Seal’ function to seal the bottom of the bag, fill with whatever you wish, then use the ‘Vacuum Seal’ function to remove the air and seal the bag. For a proper seal be sure to always leave at least 3 inches of room at the top of the bag. The ‘Vacuum Seal’ function has options for Normal or Gentle and Dry or Moist depending on what it is you’re preserving. The unit also has 2 rubber feet and 2 little suction cups that keeps it from sliding around your counter.

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We have used the unit to preserve peaches, apples, blackberries, blueberries, pineapple, corn, green beans, pasta noodles, dried beans and even dry cat and dog food. Yes, dry dog food. Dry dog food doesn’t have a very good shelf life, about a year, but the quality deteriorates quickly once opened. To save money we buy the large bags, put some in regular large freezer bags for daily feedings and vacuum seal the rest for longer term storage. This routine allows us to save money by buying in bulk (and reducing trip to the store) while still preserving quality.

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I often find good deals on steak (and I LOVE steak) sold in ‘Family Packs,’ but being married to a vegetarian used to prevent me from taking advantage of those deals, not any more. As advertised, vacuum sealing the meat prevents freezer damage and according to their website lengthens safe storage to 2 years vs. 6 months with regular freezer bags.

t-bones-unfrozen

t-bone-frozen

The FoodSaver brand replacement bags that are sold by the manufacturer are rather pricey, but we found a great deal on replacement bags on Amazon. These bags don’t fit in the top of the unit like the originals, but are much more affordable and get the job done.

This unit has excellent performance, is priced under $100 on Amazon and qualifies for Prime shipping. Buy yours here!