Monday, 9 December 2013

The Thing About Paraffin Wax

... in a SHTF / TEOTWAWKI scenario is that unless you've stocked up on candle-making supplies, you won't have any... Also, by the ethos I promote, if you aren't going to be using it in your day to day living right now, then why are you stockpiling it?

The only two reasons that I might stockpile a thing like this would be if I used candles for light now (I don't) and hoped to avoid the inevitable by having plenty of materials on hand to make more (which is a useless prep anyway) or if I figured that I could simply not do without candles if an event happens. (Which is the same useless "unprep" prep thinking.)

See, if I decide that I don't need or need to use candles right now, then I must have a way to continue to live the same way when an event does happen. It's all very well to say I'll have LED torches for a long time to come, but every prepper instinct in you is yelling out "you'll run out of batteries, you idiot!" isn't it? Yeah, because batteries have a shelf life, and keeping more batteries is just keeping a whole bunch more of toxic chemicals and metals that'll turn into ballast one day long before I can use them. Probably the day before that SHTF... And of course, once they're gone, they're gone. No handy hardware store to go get more...

So I'd have to be rotating my way through battery stocks right now in order to use up the oldest stock and keep newest stock in my stash. But am I really using my LED lights as my sole light source right now? Of course not. So I'll use fewer batteries than I'm putting is stock, and that means that no matter what, my pool of stock will gradually get older and older.

THAT right there is why I use the "right now" approach to my prepping stores. If I'm not already using it, then my stockpile will gradually experience age creep, and end up useless to me at the end of its service life, which is generally going to be the exact time I'll need it.

Paraffin wax has no such short use by date, really - you can wrap  brick or two in plastic and mylar, box it up, and store it for ages. However it suffers from the second problem of stockpiling, it uses up space and money you need right now to build up stocks of more useful supplies. I'd prefer to buy more medicines or foodstuffs thank you.

So while in principle I find this article to be a handy resource, and will maybe even make a few paraffin wicks out of a few old tealight candles, I won't be relying on these at all. After all, I don't use them now, and if I figure to rely on them in a disaster, I'll eventually run out and then have to find other ways to achieve fire anyway.

So What's The Alternative?
Well, I already make beef dripping and heat a fair bit of that into tallow. For general household use, and still perfectly good for cooking. Tallow... That's what they used to make candles out of, in the good old days before paraffin factories and being fussy about smells...

So I'll keep making my tallow and lard and other rendered clarified fats, and know that besides using this skill right now so that I'll always be proficient at it, that I'm sure to have a bit of spare animal fat around after my stock of tallow (which actually has a useful life close to that of paraffin, and is edible in all that time besides) is exhausted. And because I use those fats on a daily basis, I also know that my stockpile is well rotated and fresh.

Another word about lard, dripping, and tallow: It preserves finely shredded meat just perfectly. Check out "pemmican" online. So I make the odd pemmican right now as well. Because this way, I'm getting an idea of how long pemmican stores for, how to make the best pemmican, and - much much MUCH more importantly - if I ever need to subsist on it, I'll already know the best recipes to use, my body will be used to having a rich protein source like that in my diet, and it won't be yet another thing I have to learn at the worst possible time when I need my energy and resources for dealing with the stuff you can't plan for.

And I think I may have mentioned tealight candles - now there is something I do stockpile, because we use them all over the house right now to save a bit of energy, they cast enough light to be useful, a pack of 100 costs a few dollars, and they have the same shelf life as paraffin wax. In a SHTF situation they'll be used as much as they are now.


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