Thursday, January 22, 2015

Use your preps daily - learn how and what works - a Berkey filter failure example

One of the things that has become very obvious over time with striving to be prepared is that we acquire a lot of things for "when the SHTF".  Sadly what that means for a lot of people is a lot of things they bought that end up sitting on a shelf, in storage, or in the way some place that don't get used.  Worse yet you pull these things out to find out they are broken, don't work, don't work as expected, or frankly don't work in anything resembling SHTF situations.  Over the last couple of years I have run into several examples of things not working as expected, or worse yet when you really need them they don't work at all.  The plan goes out the window when supplies and preps don't work.

Use and practice with your preps now:
The best advice I can give is use and practice with your preps today.  Don't just plan to use them during an emergency but make them a part of everyday life.  The more we transition from life support on the system to more self sufficient living this should become clear what needs to be done.  Keep asking yourself where does this "stuff" come from and how can I duplicate it with a grid down or emergency situation?  What if it turns out to be a "long" emergency?  Will you be able to continue to function and live?  We all have to keep thinking about this and how we transition from the systems we have today.  Now back to your preps...  Use them daily, then put them through real world scenarios for long term use.

Let me give you an example of one that I think many preppers are using or planning to use for an emergency.  Water filtration.  My choice for a water filtration system is a Berkey.  Now these are fine filters.  I use mine every single day to filter my city water supply here at my urban homestead.  I have had it for some time and had used it in that capacity the entire time.  Like many people I had seen the videos of people filtering river water and rain water through the Berkey and thought my bases were covered.  Have some spare filters and your ready.  Figure out where your water would be coming from in an emergency.  In my case I had planned to use a rainwater catchment system for my source of water.  So in 2013 I decided to setup the rainwater catchment and use that for watering gardens.  In the process I decided to try using the water for drinking and use the Berkey to filter it.  Seemed like a great idea and it would demonstrate the long term viability of the plan and system.  Things went great.  I got the rainwater catchment setup and started harvesting.  Took water from the system and started filtering it through the Berkey.  Things went well for a while.  But what I soon discovered is that after a few weeks of using rainwater through the Berkey you start to get a slimey buildup on the filters.  This build up slows and then stops the flow of water through the filters.  I then cleaned the outside surface of the filters but the deposits come back very quickly.  I attribute this to no chemicals in the water to kill the algae growth that appears to be what this film is that is coating the filters.  I changed the filters a couple of times which is quite costly and the same thing happened.  At this point my next step in experimenting with this would be to try the ceramic filters with a sock over the filter element.  I however suspect that I will get similar results.  So that taught me some lessons.   I will probably not use the Berkey long term for my water filtration with rainwater.  I am going to construct a biosand filter which has been proven to work and even takes advantage of that film or growth that takes place in the water.  So that will be one of those next tests and projects coming up.

The Berkey is fine for short term use in an emergency, but longer term real use I would have to say it failed.  I am glad that I tested and used this in real life every day use or I would not have known.  I still use the Berkey daily for filtering city water, but I know realistically I need a better plan long term.

Another example of a lesson learned was over Thanksgiving.  We went out to our off grid homestead to get some work done at our barn.  We decide to camp out in the barn and I decided to pull out the emergency space heaters that I had in our preps.  Our barn isn't very big, but it is after all a barn, it is newly built pole structure and no insulation in it to speak of.  And of course it just happened to be below freezing half of the trip.  I thought surely we would be covered with the heaters and supplies we have.  The square footage that is quoted for these heating devices is based on a reasonably insulated space.  Not a barn and I would find out.  The heater ran and kept it above freezing in the space, but that was about it.  It was still quite COLD.  We had our military sleep system(MSS) sleeping bags and I had some wool army blankets with us.  We were quite toasty to sleep, but you surely didn't want out of bed in the morning!   So more lessons learned...  We find out by using and putting our preps through real world use.  Practice and live with it for a while.  We were out for a week and slowly figured out what worked and what didn't and now know what steps to take next.  The MSS sleeping bags work pretty well, but for my own personal preference I actually liked doubling up some heavy wool blankets and a fleece blanket because I didn't feel so confined and could regulate the temperature better.  Of course we were sleeping in a barn so this isn't the same as being outside.  In that case I might have preferred the MSS.  I will have to give that a try and compare what I like in a purely outdoor scenario and exercise my bug out bag(BOB).  I may have the chance to do that this year during our trips back to our off the grid homestead.

I have other examples of things that have worked or failed in our preps and plans, but I think you get the idea.  As I think of things that I recall working or not working I will bring them up in the hopes that it might help you too.

I still have other preps that I will be running through the paces and figuring it out.  I am now very aware that even though we might have a plan, and the "things" to execute the plan, we might be in for a rude awakening and really should have practiced this not just thought about it and "planned".   

Don't wait to transition to a sustainable lifestyle.  Don't wait to practice and use your preps.  You just might find that your planned preps don't work as expected and could be very costly to you and your family.   The lessons I learn with our water system were crucial for me to understand and I am very glad I went through that exercise.  My urban homestead where we are now does not have the water catchment system setup, but we will be building a simple one in the next couple of months and I will go back to using rainwater where ever possible here at the homestead as we practice self sufficiency and sustainable living.  Don't wait to pull out your preps and use them, figure out what works and what doesn't.  Are they a short term use or a long term viable option? 

I would focus on the basics first... How will you provide water for you and your family?  How will you make fire?  What is the source, supply, and practical daily use of your plan.  Then try it, use it, practice it.  I won't lie, I love YouTube, and online blogs and forums for the great wealth of information and sharing that happens, but there is a huge difference between watching someone else do it and doing it yourself.  Perfect example is gardening.  I have been gardening for some time now and I am still learning SO MUCH every year and I see what does and doesn't work.  It is only in getting the "dirt time" that we figure things out.  Make sure your getting your dirt time!

I will be doing some projects this year that I will document and show what we are doing and how.  I will provide as much detail as I can so you can do the same.  I will document the water catchment system and we will be building a little rocket stove for our small patio and will be using it for our day to day cooking in the evenings to put these things through the paces.  Also planned this year is some vermi-composting, Back to Eden Gardening and we will show you some of the earthworks and water catchment and gardening things we have done along with composting systems.   We will pull no punches and tell you what has worked and what hasn't so that you don't have to make the same mistakes and hopefully will call you to action for your own preparation, planning, and sustainable living. 

Well that is all for this post.  I hope you have a awesome and wonderful day.

God Bless,

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