Tactical Homesteading: Your space and its use

This article is part of a series discussing if Homesteading is right for you, and the advantages and disadvantages of more rural living.

In the last post there were several considerations about the location of your homestead. Commuting and telecommuting, distances you can tolerate, a more isolated lifestyle, infrastructure needs, and risks and resources. In this segment, let’s consider what we can do with our property and how we can put the land to work for us.

Available resources

The first thing to assess is the resources already available on the land. What foliage exists, and what types of flora might be beneficial to invest in. When I purchased my property, the original owner had planted many apple trees. The advantage is I have abundant apples, but years of neglect have destroyed many of these trees and bringing them back to health has been a chore.

Additionally, we’ve found very large sugar maples, and made maple syrup for the first time. There are abundant blackberries. We found a large patch where morel mushrooms grow in abundance.

We have countless deer, rabbits, and cranes visit our yard regularly.

The natural woodland one would expect is a bit missing on my property; the previous owner having cleared much of it away for an orchard. I heat with firewood, and there is limited standing timber to harvest.

I have wetland on my property, and a small lake only 50 yards off my property line. A cordial neighbor agreed to water access and fishing rights.

Our first full jar of maple syrup! Tag added for fun!

Accessing the resources

Once the resources are identified, it makes sense to ease your ability to get to them. Whether making a path through the overgrowth, turning a section of overtaken orchard back into ‘yard’, or even installing a dock, getting at needed resources is very important.

When I was clearing some overgrowth with my tractor, I noticed a gap between the trees. The grass was easily 5′ tall in this area. I put my front end loader near the ground. This not only beat down the grass and prevented my tractor’s radiator from becoming loaded with debris, but it acted as a handy probe in case of rocks or stumps. The rear of my tractor was equipped with a rotary cutter, able to mow down all manner of foliage and even saplings up to 3″ thick.

As I followed the new trail, I realized it must have once been the access road for the orchard. It circumnavigated the entire orchard area, and finally doubled back to the central area I had built my house.

This trail now provides important access to the wetland, the maple trees we tap for syrup, and out to the corners of my property.

Start grooming the land

Similarly to utilizing the resources already at hand, start grooming the land for expanding its capabilities to meet your needs. For me, that was putting in a gun range. It was also clearing back much of the overgrown grapevine and Asian Bittersweet that has invaded the property.

Depending on how much land you have and the amount of work you want to do, you may leave some land overgrown and natural. It’s fine.

Importantly, LEARN TO GARDEN AND BUILD A GARDEN. This is the one thing I wish I had gotten to earlier. It doesn’t take much to install one, and garden maintenance can be one a few hours a week. The self sufficiency gained is very important as you get real, tangible results after only your first season.

Look over your garden and revel in the self sufficiency it will one day provide. No HOA Member telling you the tomatoes are ‘unsightly’, or the sunflowers are bringing too many bees to the area…

A 16′ x 4′ raised bed garden

Assess your needs

Now that you have something started, grow into it. Trying to feed a family of 4 with just what you grow, and hoping to accomplish that right away, carries a high chance of failure. Weeding the garden is hard at first. What is food and what is unwanted. How hard is it to tell? Why does my back hurt? You definitely have the energy for a smaller garden, and can work your way up as you gain experience.

Within a couple season, you’ll have a great idea of what your family likes and dislikes, what you might be able to sell, and what grows best in your area. Use that knowledge and focus on it; just don’t focus to the exclusion of other things. You family has dietary needs, both nutrients and caloric intake.

After a couple years is the time to truly start to assess those needs and expand for them.

Building infrastructure

Whatever you add, you will likely need equipment to upkeep it and make it thrive. IBC totes allow you to store water for the long haul. This is great for gardening.

If you are making syrup, a network of tubing and a way to route it might need to be thought up. Trees might need pruning while you know what branches are healthy in the summer.

I built a small shed for my gun range. No more lugging targets, pylons, staple guns, and other equipment every time I go out there.

Find the experts who KNOW each topic. Trade them your knowledge or pay them.

This is a marathon!

Remember, you will not achieve self reliance and sustainability overnight. It will take a couple of years just to feel like you’ve gotten started. A few more to feel like you’re thriving. Along the way, you are getting better. More knowledgeable. Wiser. You’ve worked, and know what works. Things go from a “That’s impossible!” to “Gimme 5 minutes” pretty quickly.

Tactical Homesteading: Location

For more on this series, see the intro, here: https://keepandbearllc.com/2021/02/28/tactical-homesteading/

Homesteading is basically using your land and skills as a resource to achieve some type of resiliency. To begin with, “your land” will have a location, and that location should be based on your needs. To determine your needs, be realistic with yourself and your family about what is important in your lives, and don’t give in to fantasy or flights of fancy about your wants and needs. It may sound romantic or refreshing going completely off grid 40 miles from town, but if hitting the bar or the yoga studio is one of your major solaces, then that 40 miles will begin to be a barrier to your happiness. Let’s look at some considerations when choosing a location.

Commute?

If you commute to work, you have to consider the drive distance and drive time to get there and back. It’s no secret that bigger land requires a more rural area in general. Just how far are you willing to drive? Moreover, how crowded are the roads that way? Will you be able to achieve a sense of peace and solace if you have a 45 minute bumper to bumper stop and go headache twice a day?

An easy way to reduce this concern is to telecommute. Thanks to the pandemic, employers have really opened up to this possibility, with some employees contributing more than ever since they no longer have a drive time, and are interrupted less than having a presence in the office. Have a legit conversation with your boss. What does the job allow for? What are the boundary conditions? Are there any measurables that can be put in place to evaluate the possibilities?

Other distance concerns

Other commuting concerns are distances to stores, hospital, emergency response, night life, etc. What are your vulnerabilities as far as needing outside help or resources? If you’re the type that goes to Lowe Depot 8 times to finish a project, the distances might become formidable. Alternately, if you buy stuff for projects once, are handy and adaptable, maybe the distance is acceptable.

Telecommute/Infrastructure?

If your job allows for telecommuting, your next step is to choose a location where the infrastructure supports the activity. If you’re so far out that only satellite internet is available, you’ll need to really ascertain if the bandwidth and data caps prevalent in these plans will support your work. Satellite internet has earned its lackluster reputation. High ping (the amount of time a signal takes to get to the destination) makes it horrible for any computer gaming, and can create awkward and unnatural pauses in videoconferencing.

Likewise, movie streaming, gaming, uploads and downloads, and other internet activity can be severely hampered if you’re too remote and the infrastructure to support your needs isn’t there. Ping kills. Ascertain if your lifestyle allows it. Again, don’t give into some notion that life will be simpler and Little House on the Prairie when you are an avid gamer. You like what you like. Support that.

For many, unlimited cellular data plans strike the balance between remoteness and connectedness. Evaluate if cellular data speeds are adequate, and which providers cover that area. Take a hotspot or use your phone as a hotspot and test by watching YouTube or the like.

Community

If you’re the type that prefers to have friend over all the time, and thrive in a busy community, homesteading may not be for you, or you may have to settle for a smaller lot closer to urban and suburban areas. We’ll be discussing distances from these areas in the next article. This article is really creating zones of area one can look for when considering a rural move with preparedness in mind.

Risks and Resources

If you are lucky enough to have the entire country to consider for a job, consider the threat scenarios you’ll inherit by moving there. If you move to a trailer park in Kansas you had better prep for tornados. Likewise, if you move to California, Nevada, or Arizona, you will need to contend with drought and possibly wildfires.

Likewise, areas have their own inherent resources. The heartland has vast farming capability. The Great Lakes region has an abundance of water and woodlands. Finding the right risk versus resources balance is important.

In the end, location is vitally important, and will be a continuing theme for the remainder of this series. The considerations here are just to provide an overall list of considerations. Actual threat reduction comes next.

The Mindset of Initiative

A number of protection ideals I’ve learned through my career as a student and an instructor have tied together in interesting ways. While each of them are individually worth their own article, I’ve come to realize they are facets of the same quality: Initiative. In the context of use here, initiative is ultimately the mentality of self ownership, willingness to act, and having a plan to enable.

These lessons are:

  • Action vs Reaction
  • Control the Encounter
  • Never Give Up

Action vs Reaction

The truth of a protective mindset is we are usually reacting to threat. A great many instructors say “act, don’t react”, but acting first is usually considered aggression. A peaceable people will not initiate violence. We may be forced to react to it in some way, and we may have enough heads up to preclude violence entirely (escape and avoidance). We may have trained diligently for the situation and can easily handle neutralizing the threat in some way, but nonetheless we are reacting to the presence of the threat. So where does “Action, not reaction” come in to play? The best way to characterize this is “Now that I am dealing with this situation, I’ll work MY plan, not theirs”. If my plan for dealing with someone attempting to grab me is to throw punches and make distance, I’m going to enact MY plan to do so because that’s what I might be better at. Bad Guy is still a contributor to my actions because he poses a threat, which can vary (he could start by shoving then pull a knife), but my mentality is one of “I am in charge of me, and now you must react to the violence I am visiting upon you.” This ties very closely with controlling the encounter.

Control the Encounter

Once the determination to enact the plan is made, controlling the encounter is priority. The first step is to never, ever, ‘surrender’. We cover this in some depth in our Concealed Pistol course because it is so very important.

Surrender is different than ‘submit’. If Bad Guy completely gets the jump on you and demands your wallet at gunpoint, remember, YOU are in control of the encounter. You may likely choose that giving him the wallet is the best choice for you at the time, and you may submit to the request and do so, but your mindset must never enter a state of surrender where you think “he has a gun so I have to do what he says”. Once you’ve mentally surrendered, and if things turn worse, you must now overcome your own compromised mentality as well as the threat the bad guy imparts. For instance, once you’ve handed over the wallet and he follows up with “and get in the trunk”, the last thing you need to be doing is regaining mental control over yourself and the situation.

Despite Greedo having the jump on Han during their altercation at the cantina in Mos Eisley, Han controlled the encounter and ultimately prevailed.

By maintaining a mindset of controlling the encounter, you continuously ensure you are mentally in charge, despite the odds of the scenario. It matters.

Never Give Up

Our bodies can push on far longer than our brains think. Continued training reinforces this, and so many endeavors have been decided on willpower over skill.

From a protection standpoint, in general the defender does not need to defeat Bad Guy, merely outlast him. Bad Guy need anonymity, concealment, and quick action to carry out Bad Guy things. Once enough phones are recording him and the sirens can be heard, Bad Guy’s time doing Bad Things is limited. Often, defense is merely outlasting.

Even if rescue is not imminent, Bad Guy knows the risks in doing Bad Things. He’s looking for quick and easy. Once the defender demonstrates he is not an easy target, and especially if the defender exhibits control of the encounter, Bad Guy realizes he isn’t getting what he wants and moves away quickly. In this case, it wasn’t being exposed, or imminent police arrival, it was Bad Guy’s lower resolve that ultimately ended the controntation.

An Example

I use this example in our Michigan Concealed Pistol class for a few reasons. Primarily it is to convey that not all altercations are physical or lethal force encounters, but just as importantly, to Act, and to Control the Encounter.

I work on the west side of Ann Arbor, MI. There’s a Meijer there, and I was pumping gas into my Jeep. The CPL class teaches to Make a Plan, Practice the Plan, etc., and I had taken that to heart years earlier by envisioning various scenarios. One of which was being approached while pumping gas.

A rather dumpy looking guy was hovering near the front of the convenience store there, and I had made a note of him because it was an odd place to just loiter. He wasn’t smoking , leaned up against the wall casually, or anything that suggested he was just waiting for someone inside. While pumping gas I kept an eye on him.

I noticed him look around, and his eyes swept the 6 or 8 aisles of pumps at the station, then he turned back to the pump near me. He approached a guy on the other side of the pump and got right in his face demanding money so he could get some gas. He was not extremely loud, but very forceful, and clearly attempting to intimidate the guy pumping gas.

While this was going on, I performed the couple ACTIONS to better my position. I assumed that Bad Guy would come to me next, since he surveyed all the pumps being used, I guessed that he wanted to surprise and intimidate as many people as he could (hence the not-very-loud voice used). I also assumed he’d take the quick way from pump to pump, around the side near the store.

  • Action 1: I unzipped my coat so I had access to my holstered and concealed firearm. I guessed that because this guy gave up on the first gas pumper that he wasn’t really going to attack, but I wasn’t leaving it to chance.
  • Action 2: I repositioned myself so I was on the opposite side of the gas hose, and could quickly get around the corner of my Jeep for concealment in a single step.

Bad Guy did indeed come around the front of the pumps, and with a very belligerent look said “You’re going give me some money”, as he started advancing towards me. He was met with me, very loudly and forcefully, commanding “STOP. NOT ANOTHER STEP!”.

He literally stumbled backwards just at the strong verbal commands. After regaining his composure somewhat he advanced again saying “I just need some….”

“THAT’S FAR ENOUGH!” I again strongly commanded. The look of hatred in his eyes would be comical if I wasn’t worried how he’d react. “I’M NOT GIVING YOU A THING. GET OUT OF HERE!”

By now, other motorists were watching at other pumps. He realized he was not in control of the encounter with me, and moved to the next aisle of pumps, where a lady in her late 30’s was pumping gas. She looked absolutely terrified as he started towards her.

“I DON’T THINK SHE HAS ANYTHING FOR YOU EITHER.”, I forcefully stated. He turned to me (I had concealment from my vehicle and was watching his hands more than anything else) and the look of hatred was palpable. He ended up giving me a gesture, and walked into the store. The look of relief and thanks the lady gave me was something I’ll remember forever.

Again, I use this example because I don’t want my students thinking the firearm is the answer to all their problems. This was not a physical or lethal force incident, but the potential for it was there. I didn’t know what Bad Guy was armed with or what he might do.

But most germane to the topics at hand are that even though I was reacting to Bad Guy’s presence and actions, I enacted my own actions to ensure my safety. When Bad Guy rounded the corner and engaged me, I controlled the encounter. He was unable to enact his attempts at surprise and intimidation, and realizing he had lost control of the encounter, gave up dealing with me.

A more subtle lesson here is Never Give Up. I didn’t know the lady in the aisle next to me, but in the moment I included her in my protective sphere (the people we will choose to protect). By not giving up, and extending my control of the encounter past immediate threat to me, my resolve in the situation outlasted his and he stopped (at least, until I was gone).

The Mentality of Initiative

The aspects of acting and not merely reacting, controlling the encounter, and never giving up form an overall mentality of initiative. The mindset to act, take control, and prevail. This mentality of initiative is a paramount mindset to instill in yourself. In all your endeavors, train with diligence, be in control mentally, and persevere in your effort, and you are training the mentality of initiative.

In defense of life and property

This week in St. Louis, a couple found their home surrounded by an angry mob marching though the neighborhood. I don’t know the particulars of the mob’s demands nor their purpose. Its not relevant to this subject.

What is relevant is the nature of response by the couple. They came out loaded for bear. The husband with his AR-15 (was that a 20” barrel and fixed stock?!?) and the wife with her PPK. Now, much fun has been poked at these two and I would say it is wholly undeserved. These people were thrust into a potentially violent situation that would have most people quaking in their boots. They felt threatened and they reacted.

I’m quite certain that if you had asked them last year what they would do if an angry mob showed up on their doorstep the husband would chuckle and remark that’s why he has his rifle and that would be the extent of the planning and training he undertook to prepare for that event. He probably thought the idea so far fetched it would be nothing more than a joke to him. We now know it wasn’t so far fetched.

Now my point is not that everyone should be training and prepping for an angry mob to show up at their doorstep. No, my point is that you need to train for the likelihood of having to use your firearm and that means understanding how to use it and when to use it.

This couple came out of their homes, firearms in hand and ordered the mob off their lawn. I want to be clear: They did nothing wrong and were well within the law to do so. I don’t know the particulars and I am not going to armchair quarterback their action. What I do want is to try and give you a couple more option to think about as you prepare your plan of action in the event of the threat of violence (you are preparing a plan, aren’t you?)

A firearm is a tool of last resort. Once it comes out of the holster, once its unslung from the shoulder, once it is leveled at another human being, the world changes very quickly. You are now in a gun fight. The very real possibility that a life will be taken is now on the table. You need to prepare mentally for this and decide now how you are going to act in such a situation.

Tactically speaking, keep a barrier between you and the aggressor. Communicate to them to leave at once in a stern (read loud) voice. I have no doubt profanity will be used. In the case of this couple, no one appeared to approach them and they were outside but I didn’t see them make use of cover. In a situation like this cover is useful not only for protecting from incoming fire but also to allow them to conceal their arms till they need to make it know. It may be that introducing a gun in the situation prematurely could escalate the situation, keeping it hidden but ready to use may be the best course of action.

If the gun needs to come out, don’t delay. Get on target and order the aggressors to leave at once. Keep an eye on your avenues of escape, on how many attackers you can see, on your surroundings (don’t get tunnel vision, move that head!) and how close you are going to let your aggressor get to you before you engage. You have to draw a mental line in the sand and yell out that if they come closer you will be forced to shoot. If they get too close and you don’t act you could end up in a fight over the gun and that is never good thing.

I want to stress that I am not advocating for the use of deadly force in protection of property, this is not permitted, but deadly force in the protection of life and limb is! As for this couple, they have an affirmative defense of acting in protection of their lives. They can articulate that they did fear for their lives, an angry mob could cut through them like a hot knife through butter. They did a service for the rest of us in their actions.

We can see what they did learn from it and take the good and leave the bad. As much as we teach to our students that being aware of your surroundings will keep you out of a fight most of the time, in these odd days its is entirely possible the fight will come looking for you as it did these folks. Plan now so you don’t have to plan as you go.

Stay frosty.

Talking with family members about defensive firearm ownership

Talking with family members about defensive firearm ownership

With the COVID scare and the unrest associated with the authoritarian abuse of power around the George Floyd murder, Americans who were once in the “opposed to” or the “neutral about” firearms rights have decided that a defensive firearm is an option to protect themselves and their family.

Unfortunately, most of the people in this belief group have had years of reinforcement that guns are bad, and that evil will invariably ensue should they decide to bring one into their home. Their quandary lies in the general assessment “does the added dangers of firearm ownership outweigh the dangers of being defenseless”? It is a very rational question; but the ‘quandary’ part comes far more from media misinformation being a seed in the decision making process about ownership, fogging all their data.

In this article, we’ll go over some of the things you should consider when determining if a firearm for home defense as right for you, and how to talk about it with your family. These items, in turn, help to demonstrate to loved ones that you have taken their safety into account in this decision.

Identifying fear

For most people attempting to discuss bringing a defensive firearm into the home, the issue will be managing their fear, and like was mentioned before, penetrating the wall of misinformation.

At its core, you must demonstrate you have an understanding of the risks of owning a firearm. You must show that these risks can be mitigated, and that the mitigated risk of ownership is less than the risk of remaining defenseless. To get this balance, we need education.

Education

Education is the antithesis of fear. When the HIV scare of the late 80’s hit, it was education that quelled the fear of getting AIDS from a mosquito bite or a public toilet. More recently, education has suppressed the Karens and their fear projection of public spaces and sans-mask interaction when facing the coronavirus scare. We now take educated precautions based on facts rather than listening to a bunch of Facebook posts about how walking in a park will end humanity.

When we are unfamiliar with a thing, we fear the thing. When we become familiar, that fear is replaced with understanding and respect.

For firearm ownership and usage, that understanding instilled through education allows the owner to pick up the firearm and operate its controls (actions, reloading operations, safeties, and trigger). We know how the device works and all the buttons and levers are not mysterious any more.

That respect instilled through education allows all this to be done knowing the firearm is potentially dangerous machine, and to perform all of its actions and operations in a manner that does not introduce additional risk due to ignorance or negligence.

Education, followed with repetitive training, instills the rules of firearm safety upon owners and users.

Take a class. Bring the adults. Our Essential Handgun course is set up specifically to take those first steps of ownership with you.

When we are properly educated on firearm handling, the risks of ownership are mitigated to a level lower than the risk of outside threats. But what about the uneducated members of the household? We must control access.

Controlling access

The simple truth is you are considering a firearm because you have people to protect. Yourself, spouse, children, Aunt Martha, whoever. They mean something to you. The biggest risk is the firearm hurting someone other than bad guy. To mitigate that risk, we control access to the firearm.

Controlling access to the firearm is simply this: Those authorized to use the firearm have access to it. Those who are not authorized to to use the firearm do not have access to it.

The gun safe may be an inexpensive handgun safe with a biometric sensor to open it, or it may be a massive 40+ rifle safe able to store a respectable collection. How you intend to store or stage the firearm will take some consideration, and the safe that is proposed should support that method.

The talking point here is clear: Adults will have access to the gun via the safe, and the children will not. The gun will be in the safe unless it’s being used.

An interesting aside here is the safe’s ability to protect from fire. Full rifle safes are often fire rated, which means your important papers, jewelry, silver dollars, grandma’s keepsake necklace, and your nice watch collection can all benefit from this purchase. We all have things we would prefer to put in a safe if we give it some thought. Here’s one opportunity to do so.

Any discussion about what firearm to purchase should also include what gun safe to purchase. Make it a part of the ‘total proposal’.

Training

This goes beyond mere education. Education is ultimately the gathering of knowledge. Training is the ability to put knowledge into practice. Training is the commitment to continued safety, and increasing education.

Training is available before you even buy your first firearm. All decent schools will grant their students access to firearms to use, and responsible instructors will respect a student’s decision to acquire training before a gun purchase is made. If you, or you and spouse take training together, have a talk about the shared experience, and get the concerns in the open, training becomes an excellent way to bring familiarity to a topic to make it approachable.

The major takeaway from training is to acquire wisdom-based safe practices.

Develop safe practices

If your circle is unfamiliar with the sight of a firearm, bringing it out of the safe may be a cause for alarm. Cleaning it at the kitchen table may be a source of nervousness. Do not introduce these stressors.

If the firearm isn’t being used, ensure it stays in the safe, ready to be used. (As an aside, the NRA safety rules state to keep a firearm unloaded until it is being used. The Keep and Bear, LLC position on this practice is that a firearm in a safe ready for home defense is “staged”, not “stored”, and that it is indeed being used, just not actively wielded.)

Before the purchase, you can demonstrate your intentions to develop safe practices by setting up an area on the workbench for gun cleaning. Put a “No Ammunition” sign up in that location to demonstrate there will be no negligence involving gun cleaning. If asked about it, use it as an opportunity to show that you are addressing fears.

Ongoing vigilance

You know why mom is reluctant to get another pet? Because she’s the one that feeds the current pets. When the new puppy goes from being new and exciting to watch his every move to a known and accepted member of the household, his care must continue.

So too with firearm ownership. Do not let all the above demonstrations of responsibility be temporary. Maintain an ongoing vigilance to safety, education, storing/staging, and training. If you’ve reached this stage, you might have already been given the green light to get the gun. Show you were worthy of that concession. Keep your circle’s concerns and safety in the forefront.

Communicate

This is truly a family decision. The adults must be on the same page. If Cousin Larry is a scumbag and will probably hock the gun, and you leave it out one Tuesday when he’s over… It’s up to you both to ensure that he doesn’t know about the gun, cannot get access to the gun, and you’ve agreed giving him the combination to the safe just isn’t happening.

You must be brutally honest about your situation, and you must accept if the risks cannot be mitigated. An adult child with mental issues prone to anger at home may preclude firearm ownership to ensure he/she does not harm. A son/daughter with lots of friends over all the time may prevent firearm ownership due to the transient nature of guests in the home. Your own issues, such as depression, anger, etc may mean it isn’t the best choice. Be honest with yourself, and be honest that you may not be able to address every fear or concern brought up.

Similarly, going back to fears, what are each person’s fears around firearm ownership. Address them. Don’t call the concerns stupid or unjustified. Fear is an emotion and could quite well be unjustified. The end game is addressing the fears, which , for a rational person, means reducing the perceived risks. Show you can reduce them, you will reduce them, and they will stay reduced.

Protection training during Stay-At-Home

Most of the USA is now closed for business. For many of us, we have lost access to martial training and firing ranges. This doesn’t mean we should be putting our protective training on hold, though. Here are a few ways to adapt or develop new training methods.

Strength and cardio training

There are honestly thousands of books, videos, and other sources out there for this training. For protection, a definite balance between strength training and cardio is needed. Look for strength-increase and flexibility-increase videos, not just “bulking up” exercises. The same with cardio.

Strength and cardio training by “definitely not me” and “also not my wife”.

If you don’t happen to have any equipment at home, add “no equipment” to your google searches. There are still many exercises that can be done using body weight resistance, as well as stretches!

Practice the basics you DO know

There are a number of martial arts apps out there that show applications you can do from your screen. We advise against these because there is no instruction or critique to break you from a bad habit or incorrect movement. Without this, imperfections (vulnerabilities) can become ingrained and need to be relearned.

But, if you happened to have trained well before this self-distancing, AND if you know some moves well enough to have not been significantly corrected on, continue practicing them!

I can honestly say that when troubleshooting trainee technique at the dojo, most of the trainee issues stemmed from improper positioning caused by poor footwork. If your training includes footwork patterns or routines, do them over and over, taking care you are doing them well.

Punching bags and artificial targets

Percussion training is kinda hard to get wrong. With some basic combinations under your belt, train them, and train them hard. Work them into a cardiovascular workout. If you have the means, a torso target allows you to work on target selection far better than a punching bag, but be prepared to load it up with sand (they leak a bit, don’t use water) to make it stable.

Physically striking is far superior to “punch into the air” martial movement. there is no substitute for actual striking to ensure your fists or chopping hand strikes are resilient.

Another great tool are the Cold Steel line of melee training weapons and the Rings Blue Gun line of firearm training weapons. These can allow for great weapon manipulation and movement training. If your martial skills involve breakfalls and rollouts, practice going into prone, supine, and urban prone. This will not only improve your ability to obtain cover/concealment, but the large movements will improve cardio.

Dry fire dry fire dry fire

When practicing dry fire, set up a place that you know is safe, and keep it that way. The rules of gun safety are not suspended while doing this; they are more important than ever.

Safety steps:

  1. Pick a dry-fire location in the home free from others, including pets or important valuable. Establish that this sectioned area is an ammunition-free zone.
  2. Ensure the area you will be dry ‘firing’ into is safe, and what is beyond it is safe and will trap a bullet if all else fails.
  3. Read your owners manual and confirm that firing on an empty chamber is not detrimental to your firearm. Most modern semiautomatic and revolver firearms are able to handle dry firing. 22LR pistols are a notable exception.
  4. In a separate area, remove all ammunition from your firearm. This includes the magazine and chamber or the cylinder for most modern pistols. If you have a training barrel for your firearm, install it here. Confirm the firearm is empty through sight and touch.
  5. Move to your dry fire location. Ensure it is free of obstructions and people.
  6. Reconfirm the firearm is empty through sight and touch.
  7. If for any reason you must pause this training and leave the area, perform all safety steps over to ensure the firearm and training area are in known states when resuming training.

Dry fire for sight alignment and trigger congtrol

A training program I took emphasized that most firearm issues can be resolved with sight alignment and trigger control. After spending a full 8 hours on these two factors alone, I am in complete agreement.

Fortunately, these two factors can be practiced without ammunition. When dry firing, you can work on maintaining sight alignment and picture while manipulating the trigger. These items are the very fundamentals of superior marksmanship, and it can be done for FREE.

  1. Perform all safety steps noted above.
  2. Practice dry firing by squeezing the trigger while maintaining sight alignment/picture on a target fastened to the wall.
  3. Pay special attention to any movement in sight alignment that trigger actuation provokes. Correct it. There is no rush here, and each trigger pull can take as long as needed to perfect.
  4. Repeat until your trigger actuation does not affect sight alignment/picture at all. (This can take years!)

Dry fire for draw and acquiring target

Once the fundamentals of sight alignment and trigger control are well understood, it’s time to bring the drawstroke into play. Using ALL the same safety steps shown above, AND all the sight alignment/picture and trigger control exercises, practice drawing from holster, presenting the firearm, and getting on target with a proper sight alignment and trigger actuation.

Remember the fundamentals of a good drawstroke:

  1. Using support hand, remove concealing garments from the holster area.
  2. Primary hand acquire a solid grip on the firearm with thumb-forefinger webbing lodged firmly in the tang of the handgun and fingers in a solid grip. Trigger finger must be extended.
  3. Draw the firearm deliberately to the pectoral index point. Support hand comes to the chest.
  4. Rotate firearm to the front. Shooter may need to engage from this position and firing from this position should be practiced for close quarter engagements.
  5. Extend the firearm forward with a “punching out” movement. Support hand should naturally acquire a proper grip on the firearm during this extension. During extension, begin to acquire sight alignment and sight picture. Shooter should be able to put rounds on target during the extension action for close quarter engagement training.
  6. Once at extension, finalize sight alignment and sight picture.
  7. Actuate trigger during the drill at the appropriate time determined for your practice.

Dry fire with moving and shooting

Using ALL the above steps, and adding in objects, navigate to cover/concealment, move around obstacles to get on cover. Add partial cover to your target… the list is endless what you can do here, and it all builds in movement familiarity with the firearm.

By now it should be apparent that there is so much that can be done with dry fire. In fact, the only thing missing is recoil management and the assessment of shot placement.

Train the mind

Internet research costs little, and finding good sources doesn’t take that long. Train the mind with good information. Justifiable use of force, the laws of protection and firearm ownership, the anatomy of violence, and so much more. Go for depth, not breadth. Find a subject and truly deep-dive it. Surface smatterings of many topics are easily obtained. Focused knowledge in one thing leads to much more understanding.

Training beyond stay-at-home

Of course, ALL of this must be reinforced with this most paramount of paradigms: You are NOT PLAYING. This isn’t a tactical LARPing exercise, Mr. Wick. You MUST do all the above training as if it is a live-fire exercise, with the exact same mindset for training and consequence. Do not train in poor muzzle discipline. Do NOT train in a bad drawstroke. If needed, record your training and play it back and scrutinize as if it were someone else’s Facebook post that the world will nitpick into oblivion. You could even send it to your instructors for their review, or a close group of training friends operating in an ego-free way.

Most of us have been ‘gifted’ with extra time on our hands. Whether it be working from home and no commute time to actually being furloughed. These times are hard, and they will get harder before it’s said and done. In desperate times, the worst in some people comes out, and the best in others comes out. It’s up to us to ensure our best is greater than their worst. Train hard, train focused.

Setting up a home quarantine room

The world is watching the Coronavirus spread with great concern. Prior to that, it was Ebola, or HIV, or whooping cough. In our increasingly interconnected world, disease can spread quickly and over great area. The Coronavirus has hit Wuhan, China hard. One of China’s major trade centers is effectively shut down, with industrial implications for the entire world.

Here at home, Michigan USA, the concern has become real. Being the cradle of the US auto industry and much of that industry having ties to China, it is not a stretch to realize it will affect our economy significantly. How can we, as emergency preparedness practitioners, take steps to ensure our family remains safe?

Understanding how disease is transmitted (routes of transmission)

There are 3 main types of disease transmission. Setting up a home quarantine room will need to ensure that all forms of pathogen transmission are addressed.

Aerosol

This form of transmission is when the pathogen are suspended in the air, either through vaporous liquid droplets (like coughing and sneezing) or particulates (like dust or pollutants). The pathogen is then inhaled, absorbed by the recipient (through eye or mouth deposit) or deposited onto a surface and later touched. Most pathogens do not survive long in an aerosol state, and close proximity to the infected person is required for transmission. Coughing, sneezing, and exhaling are all forms of initiating aerosol transmission.

The COVID-19 virus has been found to be transmissible through aerosol.

Direct contact

Transmission is achieved when contact is made with the pathogen. The pathogen is usually introduced by contact through skin, blood, mucous membranes, saliva, etc.

Oral/Consumption

Pathogens are often introduced through food and water. Unclean practices like failure to wash hands can introduction fecal and urine particles onto food which sustain the pathogen long enough for transmission.

There are other subtypes of these transmissions. Venereal is direct contact through reproductive activity. Fomite transmission is when a carrier touches an object that is later touched by a receiver (such as door handles, etc.). Vector-borne is a direct contact transmission through a carrier, such as a mosquito.

Considerations for the quarantine room

The widespread nature of this virus means for most of us, it will be a matter of when, not if, a loved one gets it. With hospitals quickly reaching capacity, the need WILL be to stay home and self-quarantine.

The following items and considerations will be needed to effectively quarantine a room and be able to tend a patient at home. Note that these considerations are to reduce/eliminate pathogen transmission. They do not include patient treatment. Isolating pathogens to this room and preventing spread to other areas is the primary objective.

Sanitation cart

A cart that can be easily moved as needed is ideal for a sanitation cart. Some people will choose to use a stationary location such as a linen closet or bathroom cabinet. Whichever is chosen, it should be easy to access and easy to determine when supplies are running low. Consider the following items for a general sanitation cart, and UNDERSTAND what items are applicable for the pathogen in question:

  • Antibacterial wipes.
  • Bleach (or other medical grade cleaner) and cheesecloth towels.
  • Disposable nitrile gloves.
  • Face shields, face masks, and safety goggles.
  • Biohazard and vomit bags.

Room preparation

If at all possible, the quarantine room chosen should be free of porous materials and surfaces. Cushioned furniture aside from the bed, clothing in closets, stuffed animals, papers, books, carpet, and more, should be removed or minimized. This may be well above and beyond the capability of most to do, but understand that these surfaces can harbor pathogens and are a risk to those giving care to the quarantined person.

The quarantine room should also be chosen, ideally, to have its own bathroom with shower. With water vapor, toothbrushes and toiletry needs, and human waste disposal, this bathroom is a significant source of pathogen transmission.

Quarantining aerosol pathogens

This is the hardest thing to accomplish, as airborne pathogens can become direct contact pathogens as well when contaminated particulates land on surfaces. Those items will be covered below, and this section will focus on the aerosol nature of transmission only.

Create an entry/exit barrier. In addition to the room’s door, a plastic sheet hung a few feet outside the door creates a double-door barrier with an ante room space between them. This is the bare minimum necessary for effective quarantining. The care giver can gown outside the area, enter the first “door”, close it, then enter the second door. This greatly reduces the pathogen’s likelihood of escaping the quarantine room. When exiting, the caregiver leaves the second door, closes it, de-gowns and disposes of the gowning material inside the ante room space, then exits the first door and disposes of the gowning material.

While cleaning the quarantine room, vacuum carpet using hepafilter vacuums only, while wearing face shield, goggles, and respiration mask. This is a high risk activity that is agitating particulate matter in the room. Another alternative is to use a true steam-cleaning carpet cleaner at 170F or at least 5 minutes per surface, or 212F for 1 minute per surface.

If cleaning items in the room, minimize movement of the items, and do not shake out bedding, clothing, or other fabrics. This releases whatever pathogens were on them into the air. Aerosol transmission is the most difficult to mitigate. Do not take a direct contact item (pathogen on an object) and purposefully make it an aerosol.

If the temperature allows for it, close the vents from this room to the rest of the house. If conditions do not allow for it, add filtration and UV irradiation as necessary.

Install cold air return filters in the quarantine room and bathroom. Filters are rated with a “MERV” value, and a MERV value of 13-16 are medical grade that block bacteria, most dusts and aerosols, and suspended water droplets. Well ahead of needing this room, install a cold air return register than accepts these filters.

For the furnace filter, install a filter with at least a MERV rating of 9-12, but 13-16 is better. By the time a pathogen has gotten to the furnace, it will have traveled several yards or more. Most pathogens cannot survive an extended period of time in open air, and between the cold air return filter, the distance to the furnace, and the furnace filter, there is little chance of a pathogen being redistributed into the house’s HVAC system. These filters are an excellent preparedness item to stock up on before they are needed, and kept in their sealed packaging until needed.

Some return vent housings are able to accept filters in them.

Portable air filters that use filtration (not ozone) can help, but one must purchase the correct filters (HEPA only, not “HEPA style”), change the filters as indicated (they can get expensive), and actually leave it running.

Another excellent means of air filtration is an Ultraviolet furnace insert. These high intensity ultraviolet bulbs are excellent to destroy virus, bacteria, and mold, with the added benefit of reducing maintenance for mold on AC coils, etc. They can be expensive, but this is one of the more certain ways one can ensure air returning to the rest of the house is virus-free.

Quarantining direct contact pathogens

By creating a quarantine room, an attempt is being made to limit direct contact to one area only. Regular cleaning in this room is required, and wiping down all flat surfaces regularly with antiseptic cleaner is an important first step in minimizing direct contact transmission. Here are a few other tips:

  • Be prepared to dispose of everything: The clothes in this room, the cot/bed, blankets, books, TV Remote, etc., can all hold a pathogen. While a pathogen may not live on a surface for very long, porous surfaces can hold enough contaminant to allow a pathogen to live long enough for transmission. It may not come to this, but be prepared for this.
  • Learn to degown in the correct way so that degowning does not create an exposure. Have waste bags available for disposed of gowning.
  • Any eating utensils and serving ware should be immersed in a tub with bleach concentration, fastened with a lid, and removed to the house’s kitchen area.
  • Read, understand, and practice the surface decontamination methods for the cleaners you are using. Lysol disinfectant sprayed on a surface requires TWO MINUTES to be fully effective. This is very different than the typical wipe on / wipe off method most people use for cleaning.
  • Wear a face mask and goggles when dealing with all things in this room. It will help with instinctually touching face and eyes.

Quarantining oral/ingested contact pathogens

For quarantining, an important objective is to ensure food items and eating utensils do not pose a threat to those that use them subsequently. For best results, dedicate a set of utensils to the infected person and wash them separately. If this is unmanageable, soak the utensils and serving items in a basin with 1 tablespoon bleach per 1 gallon water for at least 2 minutes after all extra food material has been rinsed or scrubbed away. After that, run in the dishwasher with the highest heat setting available.

Cleaning kitchen sponges, washclothes, and more can be done by soaking in the same bleach concentration, then rinsing well, putting on a microwave safe plate, then microwaving the items for 2 minutes on high. Ensure there are no metallic strands or abrasion materials in the cleaning supplies when doing so.

Another important factor to consider is preparing foods in a clean way. First, ensure that the food preparer is not ill. Notrile glove, mask, and eye protection are excellent means to prevent contamination of food items, as is minimizing the handling of packaging and subsequent handling of the food item.

For cooked items reaching high heat, they will be pathogen free after heating up provided the heating goes above 170F for at least 5 minutes (assuming the heat has time to transfer throughout the food so that all areas of the food are 170F for at least 5 minutes). The very best practice one can do is to minimize direct contact with the food after heating.

Conclusion

Not all the above items will be affordable or even necessary depending on the pathogen that is being quarantined against. Nor should the above take the place of medical professional practices. This article should be seen as things to consider, and best practices to thoroughly research and enact.

Our very best option is to self-distance and prevent getting this virus in the first place.

Don’t drink the water (before filtering!)

Living in the Great State of Michigan it is said that you are never more than 20 miles from a major body of water; fresh water to boot! The Great Lake State has fresh water that is the envy of the world, and rightly so. Its beautiful, fun and vitally critical to life as we know it; but sometimes we take that last part for granted!

If you haven’t considered what you’d do if the water suddenly stopped flowing through your taps I’d encourage you to look into it. Keep & Bear has a wonderful Emergency Preparedness class that addresses the need for clean H2O. It is an important topic but I want to talk about something else that can be overlooked: How do you get clean water on the move?

My wife and I enjoy traveling. To date we have been to some beautiful places. In our travels we rarely go the ‘tourist resort’ route and routinely find ourselves in places lacking in the creature comforts of most of
the USA. Clean water is chief among them.

While bottled water can be available, carrying the amount needed isn’t always practical. The rivers, lakes, streams, and waterfalls may be all around, but they are often teaming with microscopic organisms hostile to the human digestive tract. The solution is finding a way to filter out the bad and keep the good.

Thankfully you and I don’t have to figure out how to do this (at least in its basic form). The wonders of the free market have done it for us. Prior to our last trip to South America my wife researched and purchased a water purification bottle. She settled on the Grayl Ultralight Compact Purifier. This bottle was designed to fit in backpacks and be easily transported. With a 16 ounce capacity it could filtered out waterborne pathogens (viruses, bacteria, protozoan cysts), including Rotavirus, Hepatitis A, Norovirus, Giardiasis, Cryptosporidium, E. Coli, Cholera, Salmonella, Dysentery along with pesticides and heavy metals. It could turn contaminated water in to drinking water in 15 seconds! Its filter is good for 40 gallons and is replaceable when its limit is reached.

Using the bottle is simple. From as clean a water source as can be found, fill the “cup” part of the device to the fill line. Place it on a firm surface, then insert the inner assembly. The o-rings at the bottom keep the water from simply displacing up and out of the cup. The downward force the user puts on the inner assembly forces the water through the orange filter housing and filter. The filtered water is then forced into the clear reservoir area where it is stored until used. The bottom o-rings and the lip at the top ensure unfiltered water doesn’t have a sneak path along the outside of the inner assembly and into one’s mouth when tilted up to drink.

With this little bottle we were able to climb Machu Picchu, hang out in Cusco, and explore the Sacred Valley of Peru. We never had to worry about our water or risked getting sick! For traveling I can’t think of a better thing to bring along. Of course its not limited to just traveling. There are many instances where something has happened to the local water supply (broken water main, contaminates in the system, Flint…) where having an effective water purifier on had would be invaluable.

Berge, Kim, and a Fitbit reading 86,372 flights of stairs. Achievement unlocked!

I use Grayl and its line of purifiers, whether this works for you or not, I highly recommend you find one for yourself!

Concealed means concealed

What to do when your concealed pistol isn’t as concealed as you thought…

In our classes we always tell the students that if you are carrying concealed properly nobody else should know.  Last Sunday, in church no less (I am authorized to carry there), I let a few people know and it was an oopsie on my part! As I sat in the pews I thought nothing was amiss.  My Sig P226 was secured snugly to my side in a slim pancake holster covered by my sport coat. It was a nice new sport coat that fit well and has a cut that lent itself to great concealment.  It also had a 4 inch slit in tail of the coat that I thought nothing of as I shifted in the pew. The service was nearly over and I rose to walk up and take communion.

Creative commons photo courtesy of www.amtec.us.com

As I returned to my seat I noticed my friend in the next row.  Wide eyed and almost in a panic he silently mouthed ‘Your GUN!’ At first I was confused then I realized I was exposed! It seemed the handle of the pistol had poked through the slit in the tail as I shifted in my seat, when I rose it was pinning the sport coat to my body fully exposing itself on my right hip!  Now, thankfully I attend a church where the pastor is very happy to have me carry during service and there are other law enforcement officers that attend as well. No one who saw was too concerned. I quickly covered up and had a chuckle with my fellow LEO after service about what I just did. I’m not excusing my mistake, but it happens.  Here are some pointers to keep in mind should you commit this CPL faux pas.  

Regain concealment

If you are in a public setting (out on the street, in a store or the like) and you realize your pistol is exposed, or worse yet, have someone tell you it is, don’t panic!  Nothing has gone terribly wrong at this point. Chances are not too many people, if any noticed it. Its a sad fact that many of our fellow citizens go through their lives unaware of those around them.  Simply covering your pistol and straightening your clothes might be all you need to do. Do it quickly but in a manner not to draw attention to yourself.

Concealing and securing your pistol is priority one.

Deescalate

Generally speaking those folks that are weapon adverse that happen to notice it probably won’t make a scene so much as quickly exit the area.  If they are sticking around, you may become the center of their attention. You may have garnered the attention of some anti-gunners who believe it is their civic duty to accost and harangue you in public for your decision to peacefully and legally exercise your rights. Here is where it is very important to keep your cool.  If you are confronted by such a person this is not the time to have an argument. Someone confronting you in such a manner is not interested in opposing view. They are just interested in virtue signaling to all in earshot that they believe such and such and anyone who doesn’t is worse than Hitler.

Don’t give them the satisfaction of a confrontation.  Remember that everyone has a phone with a camera. Anything out of the ordinary will find its way to the Interwebs! Be kind, be courteous and go about your business. If they press a confrontation, remember it is not worth your aggravation, and simply leave. This isn’t about right or wrong, its about taking the most prudent course of action.

Mitigate unwanted response

You may have garnered the attention of someone who calls 911.  If the police arrive, stay calm; they are responding to a situation they have little information on and may act in a manner you perceive to be belligerent.  Don’t argue at that point. Their primary purpose at that point is to secure the situation and ensure their safety. If you comply the situation, if it was escalated, will quickly de-escalate. 

Thankfully the great state of Michigan recognizes that carrying a pistol is a right. While in the past the police could be hostile to this idea, that is not the case today. Most police officers are very enthusiastic about the private citizen being armed.  To that end they will simply ask you some simple questions to establish who you are and what is going on. Its a no-harm no-foul situation. You may get advised to keep that pistol concealed, but beyond that they will simply take your information (to confirm that they indeed made contact with you) and be on their way. 

Dealing with unintended separation

If, in the process of carrying, you physically get separated from you pistol (it came out of the holster, fell on the ground, or the worst: you left it somewhere), your first duty is to reacquire and secure that pistol. In a public setting if it hits the ground, heads are going to turn! Quickly and deliberately get control of that pistol in a manner that doesn’t endanger those around you.  If someone else should pick it up, using an authoritative voice, calmly and firmly instruct them to give the pistol back to you. Of all situation this is the one with the most risk. Hopefully they will comply quickly. If they do not, I cannot advise you on the proper course of action other than to say that you are responsible for that pistol and you need it to be safely in your possession. 

To that end you might have to do something. People will be watching and more than likely the authorities will be called. At the conclusion of such and incident, and God willing nothing bad has happened, you will need to re-evaluate how you carry and take deliberate and effective steps to ensure this occurrence is not repeated.

If you carry and do so responsibly, chances are nothing like the above will happen to you, but in the event something doesn’t go as planned, remember that you assumed the responsibility for concealment, there are cameras everywhere, and the best way to make up for irresponsible actions is to assume that responsibility immediately.

Stay Frosty!