Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Situational Awareness- Cooper's Color Code & Boyd's O.O.D.A.

Situational awareness is vital to preppers and for good reason. As preppers, we need to be aware of our surroundings to safely conduct our business as usual.
We also need to be aware of threats. Threats can range from recognizing that a storm is coming, to noticing that a stranger is lingering in front of your house, among many others. Your situational awareness and your state of mind will play a huge role in recognizing a threat and minimizing your exposure to that threat.

Cooper's Color Code:
Cooper's color code is a system used to categorize different levels of awareness.
White: The lowest level of awareness, this can be described as completely unaware of ones surroundings. In this level one does not notice people or changes in their environment. This is the state that an attacker would look for in choosing a victim.
Example: Walking down the street texting, with earphones on. This person generally is not paying attention to their surroundings.

Yellow: This level is cautious and aware, it can be described as a relaxed state of awareness where one does recognize the possibility of something unexpected happening. This is the ideal state of mind to remain in at all times. In this state one notices people and their behaviour as well as small changes to their environment. This is not a difficult to do by simply continuing to pay attention to the surroundings.
Example: Walking down the street, you watch all vehicular traffic as well as any people on the street with a cautious eye.

Orange: In danger, this state focuses on a determined threat allowing you to evaluate the next course of action. In this state you have identified the cause of danger and are preparing to take action.
Example: You notice a man in front of your house. He makes a sharp turn up your driveway and proceeds into your backyard.

Red:  The highest level of awareness, red is now in conflict. Red is the zone where you carry out the decisions made in orange. This is the fight or flight zone. If formal training is present, this is where it should kick in.
Example:  I'm going to use a first aid example here. Your toddler is quietly watching t.v. with a bowlful of grapes, then from the kitchen you hear a gagging, coughing sound, this is orange. You see your child standing with his mouth open struggling to breathe. You are now in red.

Using this system you can train yourself to remain in yellow most of the time. You can then escalate your awareness depending on the threat, plan for, and take appropriate action. Practice throughout the day remaining in yellow and fluidly transitioning to orange when a possible threat is identified. It helps to imagine a possible threat and transition into orange, then try to plan for any possible course of action.

This can also be used in communications.
Code Yellow- relaxed caution
Code Orange- possible threat detected
Code Red- in conflict

Boyd's O.O.D.A Loop:
Boyd's O.O.D.A. loop is a continuous process that is an apt extension to Cooper's Color Code.
It stands for:
Observe: Observe the threat.
Orient: Orient yourself, process any courses of action.
Decide: Decide on the most appropriate course of action for the situation.
Act: Act on the decision.
Example: You're at a corner store, a man enters with a mask on and a gun in his hand. You have now taken your awareness level from yellow to orange. The man is already on action mode of O.O.D.A. you are at the observe mode.

Practice will allow you to transition quickly from one to the other. Practice this loop in your mind. Imagine some of those "what if?" scenarios and practice the transition of O.O.D.A. through your thought process.
What if you came home to an intruder in your house?
What if someone tried to snatch you wallet or purse?

Although these techniques were originally created for the military and the police they have since been adapted to train for numerous other scenarios. I believe they are a vital tool especially for preppers who want to be ready for come what may.

This is likely something most of us have naturally become accustomed to doing. We pay attention on a larger scale and prepare on a larger scale but many issues occur on a personal level every day. By remaining in a relaxed state of awareness or level yellow, and being aware of any possible threats many unfortunate situations can be easily avoided.
There is no better tool to prep and condition then your mind.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Preserving Citrus

Somehow this month I ended up with tons of lemons, limes and little oranges. It pains me to throw away perfectly good items so I had to do my best to try to preserve as much as I could.

I am not a fan of marmalade but that is certainly one great option to preserve citrus. Another good tip that I used was to juice them and freeze the juice in ice cube trays. Once well frozen, they can be easily transferred to a freezer safe bag, readily available to add to recipes or drinks. I love carbonated water with citrus ice cubes.

Then, using my trusty dehydrator, I sliced up the oranges into 1/4" slices along with the remainder of limes and dried them. These are great to add to a water jug in the fridge for some flavour or to add to a mug of hot tea. I heard that they are also great for crafts or as an addition to some natural bath soak recipes but I have not tried those yet. I do like the look of them though, just doing nothing in a pretty jar.
Please feel free to share in the comments any other ideas for saving citrus or for using stored citrus.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Product Review - MRE from Meal Kit Supply


Packaging – Delivered by UPS, the mre s come in a clearly labeled white and black box. Although this makes them easily found and identified in a prepper’s storage room, your UPS guy has no need to guess what’s in the box. Fortunately for me, my UPS guy seems pretty oblivious as to what they are, and having gotten only one case, probably didn’t raise any eyebrows. However, regular orders being delivered in order to bolster your supply could draw some attention. One could consider this an OPSEC issue, but it is only a minor one in my opinion as most UPS guys are more interested in getting back home to dinner than what they are actually delivering. Although, Meal Kit Supply might want to consider a more discrete package.

Contents – Inside the case is twelve complete meals, the sample sent to me included the flameless heater option. There were only 2 meals that were duplicated and those were more suited to a breakfast, which they say is the most important meal of the day anyhow. Each meal is packed in its own thick plastic bag which proved to be quite durable and waterproof, albeit somewhat frustrating to open using the “open here” pull tabs, but a pocket knife makes this a non issue. Here is the meal breakdown…
Apple Maple Oatmeal – 2
Maple Flavor Pork Sausage Patty – 2
Chicken With Tomatoes and Feta Cheese – 1
Beef Ravioli in Meat Sauce – 1
Spaghetti With Beef and Sauce – 1
Meatballs in Marinara Sauce – 1
Chili With Beans – 1
Chicken, Noodles, Vegetables in Sauce – 1
Ratatouille (Mixed Vegetables and Penne) – 1
Vegetable Lasagna – 1
Instructions & Nutritional Information Booklet – 1

The vegetable lasagna meal was packaged in a way that I could not read the meal description, so curiosity got the best of me and this is the first meal I tried. As I mentioned, the thick plastic bag that these meals are packed in can be difficult to open, which is probably a good thing if you think about it, but a pocket knife makes quick work of that issue. Inside the bag were the different components of the meal which consisted of…
Main course
Grape Jelly
Fudge Brownie
Carbohydrate Electrolyte Drink Mix
Cocoa Beverage Powder
Accessory Packet (Spoon, Instant Coffee, Coffee Whitener, Sugar, Salt, Pepper, Moist Towelette, Napkin)
Ration Heater

When I added up the calorie content of each item, I found that the complete meal had about 1200 calories. Two of these per day would meet minimum requirements and three would certainly sustain you in an active environment. Although not every daily nutritional requirement was met by the meal, vitamin C was well represented with over 500% of the daily needs and several other vitamins such as B6 were very well represented.
Item By Item –
The first thing I did was get the main course started with the heater. This required the heater bag being filled to a line with about two ounces of water. The bag is then folded around the main course meal pouch and set outdoors. The reason for this is that the reaction that produces the heat also produces no toxic exhaust steam and hydrogen gas. I put mine outside the back door on an old piece of scrap drywall and waited the recommended ten minutes.

Next, I figured I would go for the drink mix, as most of us wake up with a pasty mouth and need some liquid refreshment. The pouch contains enough powder to mix with twelve ounces of water and was very reminiscent of Tang from the seventies. The powder can be mixed in the pouch, but would be awkward to drink from given the shape of the pouch. I poured mine into a water glass.

Next came a little appetizer, the crackers and grape jelly. The crackers were a lot like unsalted soda crackers and were a bit broken up from being tossed around a bit. With the grape jelly spread on top, they were actually quite palatable. The picture only shows half the portion as I had already given some to my tasting team, my two and four year old kids.

Now that the ten minute heating was done on the main course, let’s take a look at what we have. The heat pack has to be handled carefully as it does what it is supposed to, which is create heat. The foil pack with the main course opens along the width, which helps when you need to eat out of the foil.

Wondering just how much food is in this little packet? Me too, so let’s take a look on a plate.

Doesn’t look like much does it? Well believe it or not, it’s not a bad sized portion.
At first glance it looks kind of like a can of Chef Boy Ardee, but on closer inspection you can see some beans and veggies mixed in there and let me tell you, it may not be gourmet, but it’s a lot better than the stuff in a can and I didn’t even need the salt & pepper!

Now for a little dessert. I started with the applesauce. The foil pouch it comes in had a label touting the words “…enhanced with maltodextrin for enhanced performance”. Malto-what?
I had to look this one up to find out more. Simply put, it is vegetable or grain starch broken down into sugar that has a very high absorption rate by the body which will give you an energy boost faster than other forms of sugar. The best thing about the applesauce was the packet, designed to be eaten out of with a narrow opening. The second picture shows the portion size on a plate.

Ok, so now for the piece de resistance…the fudge brownie. I have to admit that it just doesn’t stand up to mom’s brownies, but for something out of a foil package it was pretty good! The portion size is more than what you would expect and was surprisingly big. A desiccant pack is included, so be sure to remove it before enjoying.

Since we’re on a chocolate binge, let’s take a look at the cocoa drink powder. This was probably the best packaged item in the meal. The foil packet had a re sealable zipper and was hourglass shaped. This allows for you to add hot water to the pouch, seal and shake. It was also an ideal shape to hold and drink from. Not too sweet, but pretty good.

Now, to finish off the meal, let’s have a look at the instant coffee. Not worth mentioning you say? Think again! Ok, it’s not a Tim Horton’s double double, but as far as instant goes, it rates better than the jar of Maxwell House I occasionally dip into. I used six ounces of boiling water for it and as soon as the powder hit the water, you could smell that this was something just a bit above your average cup of instant. And guess what…it was pretty darn good!

Summary -
Overall, the taste was not haute cuisine, but it was a heck of a lot better than I expected. Calories are well represented and even though I shared every part of the meal with the kids, I was more than satisfied when we were done. By the way, the kids enjoyed everything too, which is important to many of us, as we don’t need to take special foods along with us in a bug out situation just for them.

The plastic pouch that each meal kit comes in is rugged and waterproof. Careful attention is made to provide variety in both the meals and the case pack. Storage time is 5 years, may be more of less, depending on temperature, but the manufacturing date on the case is a code, which the key to is provided, but could be marked in a way that would make it simpler to read…like just stamping the actual date.

These meals are not going to sustain you in perfect health over long term use, but then again, they aren’t meant to. They make a perfect addition to a bug out kit, or just to take along on day trips to the deer blind or fishing hole. The packaged meals weigh between seven hundred and eight hundred grams each and nutritional info as well as ingredients are on each item. Also, each foil packet of food or drink mix has preparation instructions printed on them.

All in all, these make a great addition to your food storage plans and they will definitely have a place in mine.

Visit Meal Kit Supply at

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that these are shipped out of Canada, so no customs worries at all.

Friday, January 4, 2013


It's time for my annual challenge to EAT TO THE BOTTOM OF THE FREEZER.  

This is a challenge I look forward to this every year.  You can read the post I wrote last year about this event.  It's always fun and it's a great way to force yourself to use up the bits and pieces that accumulate in the freezer and the pantry.

I'm starting the challenge officially next Monday January 7th and going till the end of the month.  This allows for the weekend to have a look at your supplies and see if there are any glaring holes - no sense setting up for failure.  Of course if this was an emergency you wouldn't have the weekend to stock up!

There's always EGGS!

The rules for this challenge are really whatever YOU decide they are but this year I am committing to purchasing ONLY fresh fruits and vegetables.  I know we have some bread in the freezer but when it's gone we'll be back to making it from scratch.   I have all the ingredients for baking and cooking and at this point I can't imagine what I might run out of but that's one of the points of the challenge.  When we buy bread for example we don't really give much thought to what's in it - or at least what we would need (and how much of it) to replicate a loaf of bread. I learned from the last challenges that baking our own bread required more wheat than I thought it would. 

My goals are these:

  • To clean out the freezers and reorganize while I'm at it.
  • To go through the kitchen cabinets and eat all the random leftover things - this may require some ingenuity!
  • To go though my food storage area and rotate out any food nearing it's best before date.
  • To make note of the ingredients we need to make/bake/cook that we normally just buy pre-made - a continuing journey away from processed foods.
  • To eat all the squash that is starting to "go" in my improvised cold cellar - that still is not working very well.
  • To begin some new good habits in cooking and baking more from scratch.
  • To save January's budgeted grocery money and add it in our emergency fund.

    This challenge is about more than JUST saving money it's also about learning the age old maxim of "making do".   How creative can we become?  Can I still make healthy nutritious meals without multiple trips to the grocery store.  Can I mange without ANY trips to the grocery store?  DH and I would go for this option - the kids would revolt without bananas!

    My daughter is a great help and support when this time of the year comes around.  She is always up for it and loves coming up with ideas for how to stick to the challenge. She is a most faithful baker as well. We're starting off with quite an advantage over some of you.  My chickens are laying madly right now (more on that soon) so we have eggs.  Our freezers are filled with frozen fruit and vegetables, home grown chicken and organic ground beef and hamburgers plus I have lots of food canned as you know if you've been reading this blog for any length of time.

    Last year we ran out of butter and came to an ethical dilemma - do we go ahead and buy the butter or stick it out instead?  We were making our own bread - think warm fresh bread with butter - and doing really well on the challenge so we decided to "splurge" and buy 1 pound that we would then stretch till the end of the month.  It's not about keeping to the letter of the law so much as the spirit of the law.  If you learn something - you have not failed!

    Two of the most common comments I get to this challenge are: 
    • "But I'll eat all my food storage!  All the work I did storing it up goes to waste"  - I disagree on the basis that food needs to be rotated anyway.  This is just a tool to help us do that while making decisions about what we have stored and whether it is the most appropriate for our families.    If you choose you can set aside the grocery money and buy food to replace your food storage stores.
    • But I'll miss all the great sales that I want to take advantage of to build my food storage supply."  I'm OK with shopping for those items as long as they DO go into your long term storage and don't get eaten in January. 

    This challenge always inspires me.  I think of how many times I head to the store for a few things and come out with "stuff" I didn't know I needed.  I become more mindful - at least for awhile - of what is a NEED and what is a WANT.

    Anyone else up for the challenge??  You can play by your own rules or choose to do it for a shorter length of time.  Leave a message and let me know.

    Tuesday, January 1, 2013

    Great Expectations and Goal Planning

    Another year.  Another chance to start over with a brand new page on a new calendar and another chance for most of the world to make those pesky New Years Resolutions.  I don't do New Years Resolutions because although I enjoy the clean-slate-fresh-start-excitement of it all I have failed too many times.  My resolutions tended to be short sighted and mostly wishful thinking that came after 2 weeks of parties and fun and not enough sleep!

    That doesn't mean I don't have a plan but it took a lot longer than a few hours to put together and it's something we work on all year long - revising as we need to but always with the goal of moving forward and seeing progress.

    Having a farm has increased the need for a long term plan dramatically and thankfully we learned a few lessons in the past that bare directly on this goal setting mission.

    We lived in our home in town for just over 20 years. That's a long time to not have a real plan but we were so busy living our lives and raising our family that I didn't give much thought to long term planning at that point - I was just trying to survive until nap time!  

    One of the greatest lessons we learned was about having a plan.  I'll call this one The Lesson of The Kitchen Floor.

    When we moved in the floor was covered in alternating black and white tiles - we could have played people-sized-checkers on it.  It was not in terrible shape but it was our new home and we wanted to make it ours. The decorating bug overcame me and I wanted that floor GONE.  Ohhh - nice clean linoleum flooring - no cracks for crumbs to get in between - easy to mop up - this was going to make life easier for me-who-happened-to-be-8-months-pregnant.  All went well - we managed to lay the flooring.  It looked great - until we moved the fridge in and gouged a huge chunk of the flooring right in front of the main entrance to the kitchen.  OH NO!  We were too broke to redo it and there didn't seem to be anyway to fix it so we lived with it.  (and have you ever tried to keep a WHITE linoleum floor clean with little kids in the house??)  

    Three years later - which nicely coincided with an equally pregnant-me - we decided to make the kitchen a little bigger which meant renovating the floor again - this time going for a more "country" look by replacing the floor with painted pine boards.  I loved my new floor and the best part was when I got tired of the colour I could paint the floor again and have a whole new look.  I must have done that 3 or 4 times - it was barn red for awhile, then it was sage green...

    Fast forward several years and a total kitchen renovation was in the works.  We were putting in new kitchen cabinets so that was the end of my wooden floor as the huge gaps and the demolition finished it for good.  But on to better things - lets get ceramic tile!  Oh-so-clean and easy to care for (anyone who has tried to install ceramic tile in an old house is already shaking their heads at our naivety) but we ploughed ahead and had the floor installed - insert several naughty words here to get the full effect of the process. Of all the flooring this was by far the worst!  Momma Mia - it cracked, it split, it was cold - I HATED IT!  We sold the house with that floor and I wasn't sorry to leave it behind!

    The moral of the story???  ...I think we exhausted all the possibilities - all on ONE tiny kitchen floor.  What a complete waste of time and money.  We could have saved ourselves lots of both if we had taken the time to make a long term plan for that kitchen.  We could have lived with the black and white tiles, made a more informed decision about our options and spent the money ONCE on a renovation that would have lasted more than a few years. 

    That floor is in the  forefront of my mind when I think about renovations here at the farm - there is definitely work to be done inside and out but so far we haven't done much more than PLAN.  I do not want to repeat that scenario again.  Of course the plan doesn't always work.  We had a satellite dish installed for our internet a few weeks ago and afterwards realised it is not in the best place considering the placement of the soon-to-be-installed wood stove chimney.  Sigh.

    Thankfully nothing here is so bad that we can't live with it.  When we moved here we thought we would rework the house in a certain way but after living here for 2 years we realised those plans were ill conceived for various reasons.  It's taken actually LIVING here to see what needed to be done.  The patience required is a little easier to come by at this age then it was 25 years ago.

    I had someone come to visit us about a year ago and he was surprised that THIS was my dream home.  Not this house?  he asked repeatedly  (while I wanted to bonk him in the noggin) YES - THIS HOUSE!  I can see it as it WILL be although I love it - crooked walls, creaky doors and all but I have a PLAN to make it even better.  

    Our lists of plans take up pages.  It's a constant work in progress and one that wouldn't get very far without constant attention. My husband and I have priority meetings regularly to stay on track.  It is probably the number one thing that keeps us getting things done on time and in order.  There's a common way to set goals using the SMART system. 

    Make your goals:

    This skill - and it is a learned skill - is something that carries over into other areas as well.  Planning food storage for example.  Write the plan first THEN proceed to purchasing food and or supplies. 

    For practicality sake I use my favourite computer program OneNote to keep all the notes and lists.  Some people like paper copies but I do really well with notebooks made in the OneNote program.  There's a FREE program called Evernote that is similar if you're in to that kind of thing.

    I have organizing and paring down my huge book collection, reorganizing my kitchen, and our annual eat-to-the-bottom-of-the-freezer-challenge on the list for January. Do you have any resolutions or goals for the year you would like to share?

    Happy New Year!