Archive for March, 2013

How to Make Maple Syrup

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Homemade pancakes made from my food storage are excellent by themselves, but when you add some homemade maple syrup to them they are so good I wouldn’t mind surviving the apocalypse just on those alone. 😉

In all seriousness though, the more experience you can get in making/hunting/foraging for your own food the more thriving and the less surviving you’ll be doing if things ever get as bad as some think they might get; and having maple syrup is one of those things that could really be a morale booster in tough times.

Making your own maple syrup is actually a very simple process.

Here’s how it’s done (if you want a written description, just skip the video and go directly to the article below it):

How to Make Your Own Maple Syrup

What You’ll Need

Even though (at the writing of this article) the syrup season is winding down, I would recommend getting the equipment ahead of time so that you have it when you need it.

  • Maple or birch trees (yes, birch trees will make birch syrup not maple syrup)
  • Syrup taps
    (this is a link to the kit I use)
  • Bucket or other food-grade container
  • Large cooking pot
  • Heat source – this can be your grill, a propane cooker (what I use), rocket stove or a simple campfire

Making Maple Syrup: Step-by-Step

Step 1: Drill a hole about 2 inches deep that is slightly smaller in diameter than your tap. You’ll want to drill at a slight upward angle and on the south facing side of the tree.
Step 2: Hammer in your taps or “spiles”.

If tapped in correctly, you should see sap dripping from it.

Step 3: Attach container to your tap. If you’re using a hose/tap combination like I use, then just run the tubing into the container (I drilled a hole in the container’s lid to easily feed the tube through). Otherwise, hang a container using the hook/spile method.
Step 4: Start to boil your sap down.
I typically process my sap 10 gallons at a time. 10 gallons of maple sap will make around 1 quart of syrup. I’ll boil the sap outside until it is about 1/2 to 1 gallon left.
The remainder I’ll boil inside over a stove top to better control and monitor temperature:

Step 5: Stop processing once syrup reaches 7°F over your boiling point. At sea-level where I live, the boiling point of water is 212°F. If you’re at a higher altitude you’ll want to measure with a thermometer what the temp is when the sap is boiling. At this step, just add 7°F to whatever that temp is.
Step 6: Filter syrup into a canning jar.
I like using a t-shirt or cheesecloth. Muslin or any other filtering material is fine. Once you place the lid on the canning jar it will self seal as it cools off
Step 7: Store away and enjoy!

When to Tap your Trees

As a general rule, once you have warmer day-time temperatures but still cooler nights, you’ll start to get good sap flow. The best flow comes when the temps reach below freezing at night and above freezing during the day. Where I live in the Northeast that tends to be around late February early March through about April.

How Long Can I Tap My Trees

You can keep the tap on the trees until the buds start to form on the branches. Once the buds form, the sap will become “bitter” resulting in an inferior end product.

A Note on Syrup Grades

What do the various grades of syrup mean?

You’ve probably noticed the various grades of syrup you can buy from the store (ie Grade A or Grade B are the most common here in the U.S.). The grades are basically a judge of darkness and clarity. Grade A tends to be lighter colored and doesn’t have as strong a maple flavor whereas Grade Bs have a darker color and stronger taste.

How do you make different grades of syrup?

In reality, you really don’t have control over what grades of syrup you can make since it varies year to year. As a general rule though, the earlier in the season you make it, the lighter the syrup tends to be.

In my trees this year you can see different colors of syrup over just a couple weeks (the lighter, clearer color was made a bit earlier):

Infidel Armor – Body Armor Review

Monday, March 25th, 2013

About a month ago Chad Cooper, the owner of Infidel Armor, sent me some of their body armor for testing. I was finally able to get outside and test it this past week so I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts and experiences.

Before I show you the beating I gave these things, let’s quickly go over the why’s and wherefore’s:

The Best Options for Body Armor

When it comes to body armor there are a number of different choices you can make: ceramic, steel, Kevlar as well as an array of synthetics and hybrids. Each has their own advantages and uses but for the Prepper crowd I’d have to say the only real choice would be steel.

Think about it.

If there ever is an extended crisis situation where rule of law has gone out the window, we as Preppers may need to deal with the consequences of social unrest and the fact that other less-than-savory elements of society will likely be seeking out resources from those (like us) who have them.

Having the right type of armor for those kinds of circumstances is crucial.

I personally own some soft Kevlar-based armor which is for concealed (under clothing) wear. It has its purposes but would I feel comfortable having that for a long-term crisis situation?

Absolutely not.

After multiple hits (and I’m talking only handgun rounds) it quickly loses its effectiveness. Also, Kevlar vests can lose its protection capabilities over time with regular wear or improper storage — not good if you need a vest for a long-term situation.

Ceramic plates or ceramic hybrids are another option that many consider. Ceramic/ceramic hybrids can be relatively lightweight (compared to steel) and many have the ability to stop armor-piercing rounds like the M995 round.

The downside is that they require yearly x-ray analysis to assess for cracks in the ceramic elements — again not something good for a long-term WROL (without rule of law) scenario.

In my opinion, steel (particularly AR-500 steel) while not perfect, is really the only solution for Preppers.

Anyone who has regularly shot AR-500 steel targets at the range or in competition can attest to how much of a pounding it can take. The benefit of AR-500 steel is that it can take multiple (we’re talking hundreds if not thousands of) hits from high-powered rifles without being compromised. That’s something that will still be effective for you when you don’t have the option of resupply (like the military does) or yearly analysis (in the case of ceramic plates) or don’t have the funds for multiple backup plates.

What you want is armor that is effective, affordable, and able to sustain multiple (or more) hits of high-powered calibers without compromising future engagements.

Does Infidel Armor fit the bill? Let’s find out…

A Closer Look at Infidel’s Plates

Now that you have a really superficial understanding of different armor available to you and why steel is the better option for Preppers, let’s take a deeper look into the plates made by Infidel Armor.

First off, Infidel Armor’s plates are indeed made from AR-500 steel (so far so good). Each plate (not including the anti-spall material) weighs in at about 7.5 lbs — pretty standard when it comes to these types of plates.

Standalone vs. In-Conjunction

Infidel’s plates are also standalone (another plus).

If you haven’t heard of this term, basically there are two types of plates you can purchase: standalone and in-conjuction. “In-Conjunction” plates require that you wear the plate in conjunction (hence the name) with soft armor in order for it to reach its rated effectiveness. This is not the best idea because you may be in a world of hurt if you purchase an in-conjunction plate and try to put it in a standard plate carrier.

All of the plates sold by Infidel Armor are standalone which doesn’t require it to work in conjunction with anything else. This is what you want when simplicity is key.

Anti-Spall Protective Coating

Now Infidel is not unique in the sense that their plates will take multiple hits without issue. There are a number of other plate companies selling AR-500 steel plates where you’ll get the same performance. What places them apart is their proprietary anti-spalling coating that they cover their plates with.

Spalling is basically the fragmentation process that happens when a bullet strikes a hard surface. This spalling can cause severe injury to the wearer of steel plates (especially if it hits the neck or face). The coating they put on their plates helps to contain the spalling and prevents it from hitting the wearer — definitely a good thing.

The only downside of the coating is that it adds an extra 1.5 lbs per plate. So with each plate by itself weighing about 7.5 lbs, we are now up to 9 lbs per plate — a total of 18 lbs for just the two plates (not including the weight of the plate carrier — which is minimal — or side plates if you wanted those as well).

That weight may be a bit much for some people.

Keep in mind that since armor plates sit basically flush to your body and are close to your center of gravity, it doesn’t “feel” that heavy (it’s not quite like running around with a backpack).

As an aside, the thing that kills ya (for those that can attest to running around with plates) is the heat. These plates (and all steel plates for that matter) act very much like a giant heat sink, absorbing the heat around you (as well as what you’re giving off), making it pretty uncomfortable. Just be sure you have plenty of hydration.

A Note on Price and Certification

As a fellow Prepper, Chad (Infidel Armor’s owner) is trying to market his armor packages to other budget-minded Preppers.

For that reason he originally had a target price of $300 for a complete setup (2 plates and a carrier). With his entry-level package currently going for $305, he came pretty close to the mark. That is a very good price if the plates turn out to be half decent considering the military SAPI plates can go for $300 for only a single plate (that’s without the carrier)!

Why so cheap? Well, partly because it isn’t certified.

Does it need to be? Well, not really.

Certification is basically only required if you plan to sell to the government. Since Infidel’s target audience is preppers, not certifying it allows him to keep his prices much lower.

In reality though, certification doesn’t really mean much. First off, they propel a round from a cylinder under laboratory conditions that come no where near what battlefield conditions are like. Plus, they award certifications of level III to those who fail on on the 7th hit!

Will Infidel’s armor perform better? Let’s find out…

Testing out Infidel’s Plate

Check out the following video to see the results of my testing. In it you’ll see me shoot multiple 9mm, .40, and .45 handgun rounds, 5.56mm and 30-06 rifle rounds, and 12 gauge shotgun slugs at it. Will it hold up to the challenge? See for yourself:

Conclusion

When it comes down to it, I would stake my life on these plates. In fact, I would have no qualms about taking the plate that I just shot up and placing it back in my plate carrier. It would still be very effective.

In my tests I wanted to see how it responded to many different types of rounds. There are others who have taken these same plates and literally shot hundreds of high-powered rifle rounds (like the 7.62) one after the other without any penetration issues.

These plates are the real deal — certification or not.

If you’re looking for a solid armor solution at an affordable price, I would have no problems recommending any of Infidel Armor’s armor packages.

Note: Keep in mind that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to purchase some armor now from Infidel or some other reputable seller as soon as you can since I’m hearing talks of certain states looking to ban the purchase/possession of body armor.