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3/9/12

Open Thread: What skills are you working on?

We all know and talk about the importance of skill versus gear.

I've always got a couple different irons in the fire, but the area I'm focused on most right now is developing my physical abilities--getting in better shape. I have been using Rushfit as a starting point - it's a full body workout with functional/fight-ready fitness in mind. Mostly body weight exercises and some dumbells. The DVDs are a good way of pushing yourself, and it's refreshing to see a world class athlete like Georges St. Pierre struggling through the same workouts. Getting through one of these workouts is exhausting but very rewarding. The full set has DVDs with a variety of workouts--core strength, flexibility, balance, endurance, power & explosiveness and so on. I've enjoyed it so far.

More conventional skills-wise, I'm working on brushing up on some medical stuff--looking at taking some kind of wilderness first aid/first responder class within the next couple months. Doing reading, research too. May pick up a pig leg for some suturing practice.

I'm also doing some experimenting with meat preservation--aka jerky making :-). Initial results are quite good. Planning on working up another batch tomorrow.

What skills are you working on developing?

36 comments :

  1. advanced first aid, and Fire making with a REAL flint and steel.

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  2. Getting in shape, learning wild edibles and snares. Luckily I ended up with pretty much a field surgeons kit left over from my wife's two bouts with breast cancer...everything from sutures, epinephren pack, ster strips and even a surgical stapler...talked the doc into giving me that one, so im good on the trauma kit!

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  3. Hey Mr. Wolf, I am a Medic that works with Security teams in bad parts of the world. If you are interested in taking an online course I would definately recommend EMT & F ran by Scott Reasor out of Hayden lake Idaho then you do 5 days of on hand practical training there at the lake. Spend the money and get your EMT-B well worth it plus the trainers are the A team.

    As far as your PT goes, I take jobs that require a PT test usually quarterly. It is great that you are working to get fit in the prepper world. My recomendation is to go old school and stretch it did wonders for me getting ready for this next contract that I am trying to get on. As soon as I started stretching my performance went way up and I dropped alot of the aches and
    pains. That is of couse after your regular work out.

    Ray Ray
    PSS Medic

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    1. One of the good things about the Rushfit program is that they work a 10-min warm up and 5 minute stretching cool down into every workout. I've been stretching outside of that too to improve my flexibility...my kicks are not what they once were.

      Thanks for the reco r.e. training. Probably not in the cards for me this year, but something to keep in mind! Certainly interested in and recommend this level of training.

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  4. A few heath concerns have me kinda stuck in neutral for a bit. I wanted to start kick boxing, but the doc's have nixed that for the time being.

    I'll be re-doing my wilderness first responder cert later in the spring, I'm also looking into some other health care training, maybe EMT, maybe CNA.

    I'm learning how to make some cheeses, but haven't got two far into that yet. Homemade cream cheese is easy to make. After I get the hang of making cheese I'll move on to making paper.

    A little while back I discovered I need to re-learn how to get a fire going when things are damp and soggy outside.

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  5. I'd LIKE to get back in good physical shape (yeah..right..I'm almost 60..) I Do need to spend more time at the shooting range with my new glasses, instead of working. I have been working on learning more about cooking BBQ (in my 3 smokers) and learning some "classic charcuterie / sausage" skills. I figure that if I can trade some good meat products that won't spoil quickly with my neighbors, who may raise pigs or shoot the deer I miss, I just might have somebody willing to help watch my back, if the food is good enough.

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  6. I live in an urban area so my skill-interests are related to that environment. I'm brushing up on lock picking, hot-wiring cars, and other material scavenging skills.

    I wear glasses, with out them I am blind. I always keep a hand written prescription with me so If I come across a eye-glass store I would know what to look for in a SHTF type setting. That is, if the five pairs I have now become thrashed.

    I try to get the know the area I live in. Know what useful things are around me and how to use that to my advantage. What places keep fuel stores? Race tracks are a good source, bus terminals etc. What places have food? besides the obvious, there are distribution centers. Things like that are good to know ahead of time.

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    1. If you are looking toward the scavenger route you may want to get a good map and start designating key "supply" locations as you encounter them. I could see doing this in a push-pin color code system.

      There are many advantages to doing this.
      (1) you have a list of where to go for things.
      (2) you get a better idea of your area (and route conditions) and a visual image of where you haven't scouted.
      (3) its good for situational awareness practice and keeping your mind sharp.

      Another idea along the same lines is pools. I have taken to "scouting" on online mapping/imagery sites (google earth, msn maps, etc) for nearby houses and neighborhoods to see who has large pools in their back yards. This may not important in your area, but it really is in mine. I live in a very dry climate and while pools may not be the most ideal source of water, during a utility down situation they may be the nearest source. Obviously filtering/treating as necessary, but the nearest natural water is 15 miles.

      The mil has designed many jobs around this particular approach to info gathering. You can push it even further by looking for other stuff if your on a good site that is kept reasonably current, and you have the patients to study what you're looking at: boats, bicycles, motorcycles, storm shelters, RVs, etc, etc.

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    2. Scavenging legitimately abandoned stuff is one thing, but most things of value are not going to be abandoned and left for the taking in most disaster scenarios. And if someone else owns it and you're taking it, that's looting and thievery.

      Make your own preparations.

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  7. Can you save up for laser eye surgery? I too have long distance needs for glasses and have been thinking removing the need for them would be a good thing in a SHTF scenario.

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    1. If you are thinking about it, and can afford it, DO IT. My eyes were mild to moderate, but I did them anyway because I was afraid my blurry vision would be a liability in case of an emergency. My wife, who is legally blind without her glasses/ contacts, now has 20/15 vision. It is a life changing operation, and is very liberating!

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  8. Trying to learn canning, Spanish, and how to adequately sharpen a %$#!@ knife. I didn't think it would be so difficult. Lately, I've made a few fire cans and some egg carton firestarters (most;y for camping), and have also bought bicycles for myself and my family, including a nifty little trailer for the kid, and when she's older, for supplies. Seemed really important to have alternate transportaion. I list this under "skills" as it's been 20 years since I was proficient at bike riding!

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    1. Get a leather strop and some honing compound - helps quite a bit!

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    2. I've never used a leather strap but AW is right- it's really important to keep your stone wet. Your stone won't wear away as fast and it will keep metal from clogging the pores (or whatever you call it). Over the years I have used everything from spit, gun or 3in1 oil, etc.

      Me, I'm trying to master the axe sharpening (manually of course). My grandpa taught me knives but never attempted axes/hatchets until now; I never had a need or opportunity until now.

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    3. I have a hard time keeping the bevel the same on both side of an axe.

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    4. UGLY ROOSTER

      Hey, hq7, if you are gonna use the blade on food items, consider using mineral oil (food grade is best). That way, you can go straight from honing to wiping clean. The blade won't need decon from the other oils, and I have found that mineral oil is more than adequate for honing as well.

      Hey, Michael, a couple pointers about the ax...
      Generally speaking, the ax will serve you better if you keep the angle relatively wide. The edge will be too delicate if narrowed like a knife. Also, it is a barely appreciable point, but noteworthy-think of the ax edge as a chisel. One side flatter, one side is more angled. But just a little! Depending on how you land the ax, the edge will THROW the wood out and away from the trunk.
      Consider the two bit ax. The ax man would spin the ax 180° each time he transitioned from to to bottom. If you think of the JOB and it's particular details, you can see how having three or four axes will be helpful. Each ax is configured differently and is best suited for specific jobs.

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  9. PT:

    -I finally got back in MMA after a hiatus. Learning the techniques and skills is fun, the crowd is great and makes it fun. I am not in it for the "dude, I can so kick that guy's ass". The classes are very fun, and one can train in more than just the physical aspect. Strategy, technique, patience... not just shoving one's elbow into one's opponent's crotch. Great exercise, especially if you push yourself.

    -As I get older, I started staying away from heavy weights, and gravitated more towards body weight exercises. Plyometrics is fun, and luckily my knees have never given me a problem; I'm a relatively small guy (5"4 on my tall days, and 145 soaking wet). The "Insanity" and "Asylum" DVD workouts are challenging and fun to do. 45 minute workouts are a godsend in a hectic schedule, and I can hit it up it my garage any time I want. I still do weights every so often, semi heavy a couple of times a month, but just for some extra cross training.

    Firearms:
    - My wife and I have started hitting the range. We will be purchasing a pistol for for her soon, and she's claimed my 10/22 plinker. Now I have to buy new firearms for me. Such are the sacrifices of marriage. I plan on doing at least 1x a week with her, and an additional 1x per week on my own, ammo willing.


    Misc skills:
    - Picked up some Sere lockpicks, and I am slowly learning how to use them. Have yet to open a lock though. Can anyone recommend some good youtube vids?
    - Getting the right mindset. I've been reading many prep blogs, asking many questions.
    http://teotwawkiblog.blogspot.com/2012/01/reader-question-securing-gear.html was my question, and was AWolf was kind enough to address it here.
    - Learning what I really need in my EDC bag and on carry. I was carrying the kitchen sink with me, and slowly made a list of what I really need. My main BOB and emergency gear are still overpacked and filled with redundancies, which they will still be after some more efficient reorganizing, but my on person gear will be whittled down to what I REALLY use everyday.

    - I also need to learn how to be a bit more concise ;)

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    1. Check out ITStactical for some locking picking info.
      http://www.itstactical.com/topics/skillcom/lock-picking/

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    2. For lock picking, really just go buy a couple $10 padlocks and start there. Watching videos is not a huge help - once you understand the mechanics behind it, lock picking is 90 percent feel and experience.

      r.e. EDC stuff - for on person, I think the "musts" are a good pocket knife, watch, flashlight and, if you have a permit, a handgun and reload. A small multitool is also helpful, and sometimes I belt carry my Charge xTi. Other small low-use bits and pieces can be fit into a pocket kit of some kind - I put some extra stuff in my wallet for EDC purposes.

      For an EDC bag, the big things, IMO, are a stainless water bottle or cook cup, a good first aid kit, a full sized multitool if you don't carry one on person and some food. Those are the things that I regularly use out of my EDC bag.

      I also try to include most of the rest of Dave Canterbury's 10 Cs - some basic fire starting stuff, gorilla tape, Petzl headlamp w/ spare batteries, a paracord donut and so on. Other survival-y bits are contained in an altoids tin kit, which I can easily slide into a pocket if I need to. Some work gloves (I use the plain Mechanix gloves) have also come in handy.

      Best way to trim down a pack is to break out a scale. Weigh every single piece of gear you're carrying, write down their weights and then assess on how often you use each item today and how important it would be in an emergency. Could it be improvised or easily found if you needed it? What possible emergencies might you face?

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    3. I'm 43 and I've been doing a heavy weight workout about every 5 days. I've found if I do them much more than that I get really sore and don't get much extra benefit from it. Yoga classes 2 or 3 times a week have been a huge help for me.

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  10. Anon...about the EDC and what you really need in it. I did the same thing. Then I thought about what it was that I really needed too and my EDC got very small as did my BOB. As I increase my skill sets I find I need less. My EDC is a pocket knife, my 1911, a credit card tool I keep in my wallet (has a blade hidden in it, a ferro rod, magnifying glass, whistle, compass, awl, and tweesers), another credit card tool (has saw, can opener, blade some wrenches and a few other things), a 550 cord belt and belt buckle with a hidden blade. (with a single cut I have a belt that just became 100 feet of cord in less that 5 seconds) I view my EDC as what I can carry easy to get to my BOB in my car or to hike the 35 miles home from work.

    For my BOB I look at other BOBs and see lots of luxury items. As I said the more skills I develope the less I need. People carrying lots of water I find I carry some and means to purify water should I need more. Firestarter, I found ways tor procure some from almost any environment. A tent, make a shelter from your environment or get the multi use poncho/sleep system featured on this site which also works as a sleeping bag. One thing I carry is a hammock. It's just for sleeping in. You can use it as an extra bag, bear bag, fishing net, the beginings for a shelter, laundry bag, etc. In the marines we had to wash our clothes by hand in boot camp. So I do not carry as many sets of clothes as I see in most people's BOBs. Another thing I carry many don't think about is sunflower seeds and yes for eating. They help keep your mind off that fact that you are hungry, help set your mind at ease, source of protien, salt to retain water and great for keeping you awake for those long hours not to mention they taste good. I can fit most of my survival kit into a M16 magazine pouch. Just a couple thoughts to help with slimming down the pack.

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  11. I live in the "burbs" of a northern city. Not much north of where I am but farm land. As my spouse and I plan to bug-in, I've been gathering "trash" and old boxes to spread around our place to make it look as if it's been already looted. Glass to break on the driveway, flat black paint to appear like smoke trails and darken windows.Extra siding and roofing materials to spread around too. My nearest neighbor has a small farm and plans to bug out, so I'll set fire his place if it comes to that. I have a barn, so storage is not a problem. This and some wood across the door and windows we hope will keep us safe. If the SHTF, I've got enough food, so I'll wait until the grass grows nice and tall before planting my garden and sinking a second well.

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  12. If you are young and begin a lifelong excercise program you will experience a glitch or two along the way. Injuries and things that will cause you short term or even long term mobility problems. If you wait until you are 30-45 to start a physical fitness program you will definitely have injuries and some of them will be debilitating. The list of injuries people incur when they start excercise programs after years of sitting on the couch is quite long. Best advice is to make excercise a part of your life from preteen till death. Second best advice if you are already over 30 and haven't done anything more vigorous then bowling is to start slowly and proceed very slowly. The problem is your body will quickly respond to excercise and you will feel good, really good and strong and become convinced with a little more "pushing" you could be the next winner in the Boston Marathon. But your body does not progress evenly/equally. Parts of your older and lazy body are not ready for prime time and if you let your major muscles which you can easily strengthen in two weeks control what you do then you will hurt yourself. A good program for an older person should take two years before you begin really pushing yourself.
    Now it's true that most of the "sports" injuries can be treated, relief is just a doctors visit away. And we might think that's the answer but in general once you get one of these injuries you are stuck with them and they will prevent you from being able to achieve what you wanted to in the first place. If you want to prepare for bugging out and being able to walk 70 miles carrying your bugout bag then over-extending yourself and acquiring plantar fascitis will mean you cannot walk 70 miles. Period, end of story, done. Sure, someone who got plantar fascitis will write in and say they are "cured". BUT can they walk 70 miles carrying a backpack??? Odds are they cannot. Plantar fascitis stays with you forever and it limits your ability forever.

    The list of possible injuries is very long and not all of them are equal but all of them can be avoided.

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    1. Gel insoles help alot for we old folks

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    2. Most people will struggle with 30km/day, particularly through areas with lots of inclines. Your bag would need to be very light... water being the heaviest make up of your bag. Also, walking 30+km has a lot of other debilitating issues, especially if you're not wearing clothes and shoes suited to long distance walking, e.g. work boots or business shoes... I think your feet will get fatigued in 15km. Further on (50+ km), you will have chafing and will get worse and worse until you really cannot walk - chafing on the private parts, chafing where your pack rubs to and fro on your back, where your shirt rubs your chest.

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  13. 1. Started with some basic EDC items.
    2. fixed up a "get home bag" for both vehicles.
    3. acquired storage space for long-term food storage; we already have a pretty well stocked pantry for short- and intermediate-term food. Now I need to stock it.
    4. need to acquire a means of backup electricity generation. I'll need to keep the freezers/refrigerators running for 3-4 weeks until we eat our way through it. Hate to waste all that food.
    5. Looking for a local first aid course, followed by wilderness or trauma course.
    6. A "bug out now" situation isn't likely from this location, but I want to at least put together a packing priority list for in the event we do have to evacuate.

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    1. Just a suggestion.. Our local Red Cross Chapter has just started posting "Become a Disaster Volunteer" on their flashing outside sign (alas, not a large enough sign for the whole message, so it actually reads "Become a Disaster" .... "Volunteer" but I have a silly sense of humor.) They are a very good place to start. Even if the training isn't free, it's still a pretty inexpensive place to pick up skills. Start with First Aid/CPR and work your way up. They offer EMT training, wilderness rescue etc, as well - some things you might not expect.

      To get a list of courses by ZIP Code:
      http://www.redcross.org/portal/site/en/menuitem.d8aaecf214c576bf971e4cfe43181aa0/?vgnextoid=58d51a53f1c37110VgnVCM1000003481a10aRCRD&vgnextfmt=default

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  14. WOLVERINES !!!March 10, 2012

    I doubled the size of my garden this year, and drought permitting, will learn freezing and canning skills. Also, bought a dehydrator at China-Mart the other day. Maybe the fruit trees will do a little something this year. Got another set of chicks this week. They will replace the current egg layers next year. Will try to breed rabbits shortly. Basically doing the homesteading thing. It'll cut down on the food costs once I stockpile everything I need long term (deep freezer, canning supplies, animal shelters, etc)With my luck being what it is, by the time I git all my ducks in line with the homesteading thing, I'll have to bug out, and some random thugs will enjoy the fruits of my labor. Until then, I'll be content being the crazy prepper guy at work.....

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    1. Sounds like you are doing very well. If you have an odd body, get them to carry some of your chooks along when you bug out.

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  15. Well I think after 60 odd years I have all the skills I need, accept perhaps some in depth medical skills, but I have first aid. If anyone is after learning some skills, they can check out my blog & my video channel. I instruct via books & DVDs now, less insurance problems!!!
    http://woodsrunnersdiary.blogspot.com.au/
    http://www.youtube.com/user/historicaltrekking?feature=mhee
    There is a great article by one of our group members on our forum all about safe water. Well worth reading. This chap really knows what he is talking about.
    You can see it on our sub forum "The Survival Connection" at:
    http://eighteenthcenturylivinghistory.freeforums.org/safe-water-t396.html
    Regards to all, Keith.

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  16. Ive been working on my string cheese theory....

    no really Ive been working on snares and knife sharpening.

    Jimi

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  17. Just discovered your blog, like its realitic approach. I'm working on fitness from a different angle: while self-defense classes are cool and do take them, I'm working on skill I would actually need in a survival situation. Mixing up with someone during a PAW/SHTF situation will result in an injure when the will be limited to no Medical care. Available.
    So I'm working on long distance hiking, concealment, and my overall endurance. Ive also started studying more hand to hand/ melee weapons training. How many people actually know how to fight. With a tomahawk and large knife.

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  18. Trying to maintain a level of fitness that isn't couch potato. I also need to learn to cook biscuits without selfrising flour. LOL Learning to bake in cast iron is my next thing on the list along with soap making.

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  19. I've just started learning about medicinal herbs and plants. In my spare time I'm taking my Kindle out to the woods and parkland near my house, and identifying what is nearby. Turns out, I've got a decent pantry growing just beyond my backyard.

    I'm reading up on using the environment around you to plan ahead for future needs - like using non-emergency time to map out what edible plants and trees are in your area. For example, knowing there are walnut trees in the park a mile from your house, or knowing the locations of ponds and fruit trees. Knowing and logging this information is vital - in an emergency situation, you'll want to make a beeline for these assets, and not spend emergency time doing prep work that should have been done while you had the chance.

    I'm a Clean Eater, meaning I don't eat processed foods - so living off the land is fine by me - but I'm confident my stockpile will at least give me and my family 6 + months of relative comfort before we need to look "farther afield" for food - and I want to be ready. Our not so distant ancestors knew which plants to eat, which ones to brew to reduce fever. We've lost this ability due to Safeway and Kroger. I'm hoping to get this knowledge within the next 6 months.

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  20. Learning basic wilderness living skills: cordage, firemaking, primitive tools etc. Also blacksmithing and getting in shape. Next will be mead, beer and whiskey, for trade.

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    1. Child of Odin,

      As an experienced brewer I can tell you that the brewing of wine (outside of the really horrible stuff) Is quite challenging.

      Mead is quite simple but takes a goodly amount of time (Usually 6 months) to make, and have it be legitimate to drink. So that is one factor to consider.

      Some pretty good beers can be made in about 3 weeks time, at most a month. The difficult part about making beer is having a source of ingredients as well as the Equipment to make it. the heat source is not that difficult, but the mashing tun is something that i would reccomend constructing as part of your Prep. (I built one for the same purpose you have) I suggest the book "How to Brew" By Palmer for some good tips. The other large consideration is the amount of water needed and having it the appropriate temperature for sugar extraction. (Which is what the yeast eats). To make five gallons of beer you require about 10 gallons of water. So be sure your plans for water can account for that.

      Lastly Whiskey or any form of distilled spirit is actually the easiest of the categories to make. Aging improves taste but not overall effect. As part of your prep I would reccomend building a pressure cooker still and having some kind of electrical plan in place so you can heat using electricity. Open flame stills can be quite dangerous in comparison. Mash or wash can be made as quick as one week and then distilling can be done in a day (depending on how much you make) The other advantage to having a still is that it can purify water, and alcohol for fuel. If your plans can support it, a still can be made for less than 100 dollars including a heating element. It can also be made collapseable for easy transport.

      Hope that helps

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