Thursday, November 10, 2016

Taught by Rats

The summer rains were late this year, but very heavy. Everything that could germinate, bloom and produce seeds, did. As a result, we've had a bumper crop of pack rats as well. We learned this the hard way when my husband was having some trouble with his truck. Seems the pack rats had munched on $400-worth of wiring. This was our first such experience in more than 20 years of living here.

So we began taking more serious anti-rodent measures. First was keeping the hood raised when the truck was parked, and ensuring the truck was moveddaily, even if only a few feet. Because our dog loves chasing and catching small animals, poison is not an option for us. Mouse traps were placed below the vehicle. After the second trap disappeared, Dear Hubby wired them to somewhat flat surfaces in the engine compartment of the vehicle.  Still, no luck.

At the time, we had no concept of pack rats being significantly different from mice, at least size-wize. I had seen their burrows, but never the actual critter. After seeing one caught by a neighbor, we changed strategies. The body of the rat was a good 6 inches long, and the well-fed rascal was at least three inches in diameter. This was a horse, uh rat, of a different color.

Next came removal of brush piles and moving lumber storage to remove rat havens. The missing mouse traps were found in one of the small brush piles.

Bring on the rat traps. Yes, real, big traps. No, we did not go the have-a-heart rodent relocation route. The reasonable potential for rodent- or flea-borne disease here in the mountains of the southwestern US was not an acceptable risk. We chose the big plastic traps that operate like big, mean clothespins. The brand may be 'A better mousetrap' or something similar. We chose these because of the sanitary issues. You can release the deceased rodent and re-set the trap without touching the business end. When baiting with peanut butter, we use clean disposable utensils kept from adventures in fast food, then throw them away after one use because they contact the business end of the trap.

Today, we hit paydirt -- a lovely, well-fed 5 or 6 inch packrat (excluding tail length). We will continue with this strategy until the food chain returns our furry friends to the normal balance.

Morale of our story is to have both rat and mouse traps in your supplies if your preparedness is designed to cover events that may last several weeks.

Have you had rat-stravaganzas in your location?

Sunday, November 6, 2016

My Top 5 Small Multi-purpose Items

I really don't want a 50 lb pack as my Get Home bag, so I choose a lot of items that can serve more than one purpose. Sometimes, it is a primary purpose. Other times, the item can double as redundancy for another basic survival item in the bag or complement it to create a luxury.  A few of my favorites are listed below. I'm not listing the obvious items everyone carries, like a knife, fire-starter or water bottle. What are your favorite multi-purpose items?

1. Dental floss: It tends to be very strong. In addition to its obvious use, it can be used for sewing thread (ensure you have a needle that has a big enough eye), suture thread in a pinch, substitute for twine, making a crude shelter by tying corners of mylar blankets or tarps to spots or trees. I carry 4 X 10 yard mini-containers with cutters.

2. Small bottle of 91% isopropyl alcohol: I use a 2 ounce plastic dropper bottle from REI (test in store to be sure no air escapes when you squeeze it) useful for sterilizing stuff, a solvent, ear drops to prevent fungal infection after swimming, drying tinder and helping start a fire, cleaning skin around a wound. The 70% isopropyl (rubbing alcohol) isn't as useful as the 91%, especially for sterilization. These are usually side-by-side on the store shelves.

3.  Mylar blankets: In addition to other lightweight bedding and a heavy duty mylar tarp/blanket, I keep at least 3 of the small cheap ones in each bag for so many uses. Many articles have been written about these because they have so many uses such as a poncho, groundcloth, rainfly, sling, fire-reflector, foot-warmers and water proofers (before getting feet into cold water), etc..

4. Metal cup: whether a canteen cup or deep stainless cup (not those skimpy Sierra cups) these can be a major kitchen-creator. Use to boil water, mix food, scoop water from sources, catch rainwater to fill your bigger bottles, store a roll of TP in your pack to keep it dry and round, hold a tea light for fire-safety. Depending on which bag, mine is either a GI canteen cup with stove stand or a round cross-section 28 ounce cup which holds a roll of TP perfectly.  VERY WORST CASE you can soak the TP (in the metal cup) with the alcohol and light it to keep from freezing to death (this is the luxury item mentioned above -- a chemical stove). This is a very hot fire, so do it in a place where you can maximize saving the heat (small rock, earth or snow shelter) and keep safe from fire or melting something.

5. Tea Lights: in small metal/foil cups, the 100 for $8 or less kind, unscented.  First use is to prolong the life of your other fire-starters. Use 1 match to light the little candle and use the candle to light your splinters, tinder or alcohol dotted square of TP to start your fire. Heat source : in your metal cup in a small space made of your mylar blankets, you can actually warm hands, feet etc.. Heat water: half a canteen cup of water over a canteen-cup stove with a good tea light or two can give you a smokeless unscented fire for hot water in a short time. If accomplished in your mylar hooch, it will also warm the space somewhat.  I keep at least one empty plastic medicine bottle full of these in each of my 'bags.'

What are your multi-purpose favorites?