Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Using The Kindle In Suburban Prepping

     Almost everyone either has heard of the or has an eReader. Be it a Kindle, a Nook, or an app running on a tablet like an iPad. I originally received my Kindle as a gift on Valentines Day a couple of years ago. I remember thinking "I like paperback books.....this is a fad." I charged it up, loaded a book or three and read it daily.

     About 5 weeks later the battery was low and needed it's FIRST recharging. I remember thinking "5 weeks! That's incredible......I wonder if I can work this into my preparedness plans."  What's not to like about the Kindle as an option? I can load my ENTIRE preparedness library onto the device versus trying to print/bind/catalog/store/transport it on paper? Seriously.....paper?  It's SEARCHABLE, talk about a huge time and effort savings. It's portable, I carry it in my EDC (Every Day Carry) bag most days.

     So I started looking into making it a real part of my preparations.  There were some immediate challenges that had to be overcome. There were also some challenges that presented themselves later on, mostly as a result of solutions to the immediate problems.

     Powering the device was my first challenge. I know five weeks of battery life with intermittent use is great....but it's still a hard stop on the device when the battery finally dies. When the battery is dead.....the device is useless. My solution to that problem is the Solio Classic solar charger. It's light, small, cheap, and does a good job. There are better options now, but at the time I went with the Solio. I can charge it with the Solio, or run it from the internal battery built into the Solio if my Kindle battery gets damaged or fails. I can also use the same Solio unit to charge my iPod and cell phone.

     Finding a durable way to carry it was an issue as well. I mean, we're not prepping for a sunny afternoon on the beach. We're preparing for bad times.....including natural disasters. I found a durable, pretty rugged, soft case which secures the device well. It's made by M-Edge. The case also has several pockets on the outside which I use to carry things I use with my a clip-on light, spare battery for the light, and a zip-lock bag. When I pack it in my EDC bag, I pack it near the middle, and surround it with other items that would help protect it from damage if the bag was damaged.

     Protecting it from the elements was also a concern. Like I said, we're preparingg for bad things like natural disasters. The simplest way I could think of to protect my Kindle from the elements and still be able to USE it in the elements was with a zip lock bag. I keep a 1 gallon size Zip-Lock bag in the outside pocket of my Kindle case, and several in my GHB (Get Home Bag). I put my kindle inside the zip-lock and can read it just fine. It'll float in water, and will keep rain, dirt, and grit out of the keys. It's not perfect but it's functional, cheap, has multiple uses, and is easily replaceable.

     Reading it in low light is a problem. The screen is not back lit, which is why it has a 5 week battery life. It requires a light source to read in the dark. I use a flexible light that stores and secures itself in the case I keep my Kindle in. The light is named the eLuminator.....clever huh? Works really well and runs on a single AAA battery.

     The Kindle is electronic, so it has the same issues you would have with ANY electronic device. However, it fits my needs very well. I have the 3G version, but keep the air-card turned off to prolong the battery life. However it's there if I need it to surf the web, check e-mail, etc. It's painful on a gray scale screen....but it can be done. I can also play MP3's on my Kindle. It's not the perfect solution for those types of things, but it does provide redundancy. One is none and two is one.

     I'm not an expert, and I don't play one on the Internet. This is just one tool I found useful. The portability combined with battery life, and searchable functionality made it a no brainer for me. If you have any suggestions about how else the eReader can be used, or any questions please e-mail me at

As always, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dehydrating Food in The Suburbs

    I bought a food dehydrator several years ago to make jerky and trail mix with. For about a month I was a jerky making fool (I made all kinds and flavors), then I put the dehydrator up.....and forgot about it. Recently I found it again and wondered if I could find other uses for it besides making jerky and trail mix. Some of you are probably thinking out loud "Of course you can, there's LOTS of ways to use it". I didn't know of any. I'm embarking on a journey of dehydrator self discovery. I know there are probably a million websites with dehydrator recipes on them. I'm sure I'll check them out when I run out of ideas, but I like to experiment on my own. Here are some of the things I learned.

     I usually buy tomatoes from Sam's club in the big plastic box. There's probably 15-20 Roma tomatoes in there. We make salads with them, and within two weeks, I end up throwing 1/2 of the box out because they've spoiled. So I started dehydrating half of the box. After the first week I inspect the tomatoes and cut out any bruises or damage. Then I slice them about 1/4 inch thin and dehydrate them. They create "tomato chips". Which my youngest child loves. She eats them almost as fast as I can make them. I tired them, and it was like a bullet of tomato flavor hitting you in the mouth. I tried rehydrating them, and had mixed success. I could use them for cooking (in chili for example) but not over a salad. I store them in a zip lock back because they get eaten so fast. For long term storage you could put them in a mason jar with an O2 absorber and they would store for a long time I'm sure.

     Dehydrating pineapple chucks that have been rolled in sugar make a great candy.  My wife likes these, and I make them about twice a year. I buy the canned chucks of pineapple when they're on sale. Open and drain them, them roll them in regular sugar. They'll pick up more sugar than you want if you don't let them dry a little after draining. I drain mine in a spaghetti colander, and let them sit for about 20 mins before sugaring them up. Dehydrate them until they're hard, then store in either a zip lock or a jar. These make a great addition to trail mix.

     Thinly sliced Kiwi fruit dehydrate down to a chip like consistency. I peel mine first though. The "hairy" peel doesn't dehydrate well, and looks pretty nasty to be honest. This created the taste sensation much like the tomato bullet, but fruity....a Kiwi bullet if you will. I haven't found too many uses for these, aside from the occasional snack. Very occasional, kiwi are expensive and the taste just isn't an everyday thing for me.

     I experimented with making fruit roll up type snacks. I tried jellies, jams, and apple sauce as the base before dehydrating. Some of them came out pretty good, some of them came out pretty bad, most of them came out very messy. I couldn't get decent consistency. Either the base was too thick or thin in the dehydrator. Dehydrating the thicker spots dried out the thinner spots too much making them brittle, while the thicker spots were leathery. Different temperature settings helped a little, but created other challenges. If I used a jam, strawberry for example, the fruit would not completely dry out, while the jam part would dry too much.  Any suggestions on this one?
      I'm not an expert and I don't play one on the Internet. Please submit suggestions and recipes, for my kids sake. You can comment them in at the blog site, anonymously if you want. Or you can e-mail me directly:  As always, thank you for reading.