Poll: What are the Best Items to Store for Barter and Charity?

Everyone seems to have their own opinions about what are the best items to keep on hand for post-TEOTWAWKI bartering. I did mention a large variety of barter items in the Barter Faire chapter of my novel Patriots  (The chapter titled: "For an Ounce of Gold.") Of course many of the same items are important to keep on hand to dispense as charity.

Since two heads are better than one, and by extension 5,000 heads are better than two, I’m taking a poll:  Please e-mail me your lists of preferred barter and charity items, and I will gladly post them.

My personal favorites are:
.22 Long Rifle rimfire ammo
1 oz. bottles of military rifle bore cleaner
Waterproof duffle bags ("dry bags")
Thermal socks
Semi-waterproof matches (from military MRE rations)
Military web gear (lots of folks will *suddenly* need pistol belts, holsters, magazine pouches, et cetera.)
Pre-1965 U.S. silver dimes
1 gallon cans of kerosene
1 pound canisters of salt (may be worth plenty in inland areas)
Small bottles of two cycle gas mixing oil (for chainsaw fuel)
Rolls of olive drab parachute cord
Rolls of olive drab duct tape
Spools of monofilament fishing line
Rolls of 10 mil "Visqueen" sheet plastic (for replacing windows, etc.)

I also respect the opinion of one gentleman with whom I’ve corresponded, who recommended the following: Strike anywhere matches.
Playing cards.
Cooking spices.
Rope and string.
Sewing supplies.
Candle wax/wick.

Again, I would greatly appreciate seeing your barter and charity item lists.  Please e-mail me your lists and I will post them in the next few days.

Radiation Protection Factors for Dummies – by L.H.

When building a homemade fallout shelter in a basement, or on a cement slab inside the first floor, it is important to understand halving thickness and protection factors.
First of all, after a nuclear detonation, there will be light, heat, and a blast wave. This essay assumes that you will be out of that target area, with your home and roof intact. If you are close to targets, you may need better shelter than this improvised model. At the end of this essay I will list a few sources showing target maps, fallout maps, blast areas, etc.
Fallout is the mixture of the dirt and materials at the site of the blast, all mixed up with radioactive material. Every single piece is radioactive. Near the blast it can fall out like gravel, then farther away like rice grains, then like sand, and then like fine powder. And every fallout particle is sending out gamma rays.

You need to take almost immediate shelter for the gamma radiation from fallout. Gamma rays are part of the electromagnetic spectrum, like radio waves and X-rays and light. If you picture the fallout landing on trees and the ground being like tiny little light bulbs, you realize that even in a basement there will be dim, indirect light. If your basement walls stick up a couple feet above the ground level, there will be lots of little light bulbs all along the edge of the basement shining at you. As light and radio waves reflect off the atmosphere, in the same way the gamma rays scatter off the air. Little light bulbs will land on trees and the roof. You want to dim/block them as much as possible, on all four sides and overhead.

A halving thickness is the amount of material that will block half of the gamma rays passing through it. Any mass will block them, whether lead or feathers, sand or chocolate bars, as long as you have enough mass. You can use all of your survival foods and other items to add extra shielding.
Here is a list of materials and their approximate halving thicknesses. (References differ slightly when listing these figures.)

2.2” concrete
3.5” sand or dirt
4.4” water
8.8” wood
7” books or magazines
4”hollow concrete blocks
3.2” red bricks
5” broken anthracite coal
5” wet peat moss

Here is where many items you are storing up can contribute to shielding. [JWR Adds: If in sealed containers, these foodstuffs will still be safe to consume after shelter emergence if any residual fallout dust is first washed off of the exterior of the container.]
7” sugar
7” navy or soy beans
7” butter or oil
7” shelled corn
7” wheat
7” potatoes
7” rice
12” coffee beans
9” apples

Now, one layer of any item above will block half the gamma rays. That is 1/2, which is called a protection factor (PF) of 2 (read only the denominator of the fraction). 1/2 of the rays are hitting you, 1/2 are blocked. By adding one more halving thickness, you block half of the remaining gamma rays, so now 1/4 are hitting you. So you have a protection factor (PF) of 4. Another layer blocks 1/2 of that remaining 1/2 of the radiation, so that means only 1/8 of the original total outside radiation is hitting you, and you have a PF of 8.
A fourth layer of anything listed above blocks half of that 1/8 radiation still entering, so now we only have 1/16 of the outside gamma rays hitting our body. ( PF 16)
5 layers= PF 32
6 layers=PF 64
7 layers=PF 128
8 layers=PF 256
9 layers=PF 512
10 layers=PF 1024

Now, how much of a PF do you need? The answer involves how much gamma radiation, or rads/ Roentgens, are in the fallout outside your house. They are called “R”. The less R the better. 50 in one day is considered the most you can safely handle, or 10 a day for a week, or 100 over the course of two weeks. So your shelter must not let you get more than 100 R in two weeks. (It is far safer to get none or almost none.)

So, how many R will be outside after bombs, and how does PF relate?  The first question depends on where you are and where the bombs are, how big the bombs are, and where the wind is blowing. If you are 25 miles from a total of two megatons blowing your direction, during the course of two weeks there will about 4,500 R total outside. If 200 Russian bombs go off nationwide, the East coast can easily get 20,000 R outside during two weeks. If you are 25 miles from a target that might get four big bombs you could easily have 20,000 R outside. Suitcase nukes would produce much less fallout. You have to decide if you expect limited suitcase nukes, a limited Russian strike with MIRVs (several bombs on one target area equaling one megaton total), or a “real” nuclear war with perhaps hundreds of big bombs of two or more megatons each. Sources below show fallout possibility maps.
Now, how does PF relate to the R outside?
Remember that the bottom denominator of the fraction is the PF, telling you what fraction of the fallout (R) is hitting you. A PF of 2 means half of it is hitting you. A PF of 16 means 1/16 of it is hitting you. A PF of 100 means only 1/100 is hitting you.
If it is 20,000 R total outside during two weeks, you don’t want to get more than 100 R, so you need a PF of 200. Makes sense? Divide the R by the PF. 20,000 divided by 200=100. If one 2 megaton bomb detonates near you, and the R over two weeks is 4,000, what PF do you need to only get 100 R? 4,000 divide by what equals 100? Answer is 40.So, a shelter with a PF of only 40 can save your life. This is the FEMA minimum standard. PF 200 is much safer. The ideal is PF 1,000, which equals about 3 feet of dirt or sand, or 22” of cement. STRIVE TO GET AS CLOSETO A PF 1000 AS YOU CAN, OR AT THE VERY LEAST A PF 200.
Now the basement shelter should have a PF 1000 on all four sides. If you cover the exposed sides of the basement, outside, up and over the ceiling level, with ten layers of the halving thickness chart items (3 feet of sand or 4 feet of hollow concrete blocks) your basement will have an automatic PF of 10. That means 90% of the fallout is already blocked, and you need to only get a PF of 100 on the four inside walls and overhead for a total PF of 1000. That means seven layers of the materials listed above.
4 feet thick of old magazines and paper will work. Stagger some water barrels. You can get 5 gallon buckets of wheat and rice and beans, and stagger them so there is 4 feet total of wheat and beans on the sides. About 5 feet of wood works too. Personally, I think the 7 foot thick wall of coffee is a good idea.

The hardest part is the overhead shielding. A basement support with 10.5” of sand 3.5×3) has three halving thicknesses or a PF of 8. Add one more layer and you are up to PF 16. My first and second floor and roof are at least another halving thickness for a PF of 32.
(This is easily done with the steel shelving units at Home Depot that hold 2,000 lbs per each top shelf (20 cubic feet of sand): with two units that is a foot of sand over 40 square feet. [this was my method, but I don’t trust the specs and used more supports per cubic foot.] Or make your own supports with 4×4’s, or cinder blocks with 1/2 inch plywood. Try to get 4 layers ( PF 16) overhead, using sand, or maybe some cinder blocks with a waterbed on top of that. Hopefully the house floors and roof will then get you to PF 32.)
As soon as the bombs go off, you pile 7” of books and wheat and beans on the first floor directly overhead. That gives you a PF of 64. (The overhead PF of 32-64 will save your life if all four sides are PF 1000, even if fallout is severe.) Better to pile on more stuff though, another 7” of stuff- plenty of your cans and heavy items. Anything with mass. That gives you a PF of 128 just from last minute living room piles. This is for a worst case scenario. But if we have a limited strike, the fallout will be far less for most of us. Even one waterbed overhead on the first floor, with 9” of water, gives a PF of 4. That means you get 1/4 of the initial radiation. If it is 600 R overhead, with no shelter you will get severely ill and might die. Just using the waterbed over the basement with basement walls covered up outside all the way up, means that you get 150 R and will be basically OK.
So, the moral of this story is, start now and do what you can. Don’t feel like it is useless to only do a little, if you can’t do a perfect shelter. Do what you can now and build up the shielding as you get money. Start with a foot on all sides, and try and get to 18”. Then go for two feet next summer. Think about your stash of preps and books, and what can go overhead on the first floor. Mark off the first floor spot that will have last minute cans and buckets and books. Clear the basement area, and get the flashlights and bedding ready. Try really, really, hard to do something in the basement- overhead- now, even an old table you can lie down under covered with cans and buckets.

You can find lots of useful information here: http://www.radshelters4u.com/, including a free download of Nuclear War Survival Skills, and all sorts of maps and diagrams.
Our favorite book for basement shelters is J Allan South’s “The Sense of Survival.” This wonderful little chart compares the mass of many items. Use sand and dirt as your standard for a halving thickness, and you can see how various things like beans and wheat and wood compare.  http://www.reade.com/Particle_Briefings/spec_gra2.html

JWR Adds: I consider a home fallout shelter a must for anyone that is serious about preparedness.  The end of the Cold War–culminating with the breakup of the former Soviet Union–significantly increased the risk of the use of nuclear weapons. (Since traditional nation states are are much more responsible with their toys than are rogue states or terrorist groups.)  Two SurvivalBlog advertisers (Safe Castle and Ready Made Resources) offer prefabricated shelters as well as consulting on shelter construction and HEPA air filtration systems.  Also, be sure to read the extensive information on fallout shelter design, construction and ventilation available for free download at Dr. Arthur B. Robinson’s Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine web site.

Letter from “Fred the Valmet Meister” Re: Low Compression / Low RPM Stationary Engines

I just discovered these cool "Hit and Miss" gas engines made in the 1920s and 1930s by Maytag. They were used to power washing machines. Very simple engine; maybe one horsepower. You start it with a foot pedal that leverages a gear to spin the crankshaft to get it going. What a wonderful little engine for a remote location.  These could be used to power the washing machine or even run a small generator to charge up a bank of 12 volt batteries. I noticed that there are currently several for sale on eBay and they even have leather drive belts for them and water pumps. Could be used to fill up a water tank for gravity feed. – Fred

Letter Re: The Micro-Farm Tractor

In response to the excellent article, "The Micro-Farm Tractor", I have to say my best bet for all-around small farm tool would be the diesel all terrain vehicle (ATV). ATVs have quickly infiltrated into many farms today, as haulers, sprayers, snowplows, transport, and so on. You can purchase many available farm accessories that make it into the equivalent of a mini-tractor, as well has many hunting related accessories, since they appeal to the hunter’s market as well, like gun racks, camo, storage, and essential noise-cutting mufflers (very effective units can be had at Cabela’s). I would suggest a diesel unit, since they are longer lasting, more reliable, and you can use stored (for several years with proper preservation) or improvised diesel (biodiesel.)  I was out elk hunting last year in foul weather and I immediately saw the advantage hunters had getting around in the muck with an ATV. If we had actually taken an elk, we would have had to spend all weekend hauling pieces of it out! (In a way we were glad we didn’t get one where we were hunting, seven miles down a mucky old road, with steep hills to the right and a steep ravine to the left). With an ATV, we could have gotten a whole animal out in one or two goes, with a lot less slogging in the muck. Just make sure you’ve got a winch, and maybe even a come-along. Also, many of the hunters were able to cruise with an ATV on trails that would (and have) gotten me stuck in the mud. To sum it up, I plan on purchasing one or two as soon as our move to a few acres of rural property in southern utah is completed early next year to use as my mini-tractor, hunting companion, snowplower, all-around hauler and 4 wheel drive short distance transport. – Dustin

JWR Replies:  In addition to biodiesel, you can also legally use home heating oil if operating off road. (The only significant differences between diesel and home heating oil are the "no tax cheating" added dye and the standard for ash content.) There are several options for diesel-powered ATVs. These include:

The Kawasaki Mule. See: http://www.atvsource.com/manufacturers/kawasaki/2003/mule_3010_diesel.htm


The John Deere Gator. See:  http://off-road.com/atv/reviews/quads/gator-2003_02/

(The U.S. Army Special Forces uses John Deere Gators, but I’m not sure if that’s because they are the best ones made, or just because of a "Buy American"  contracting clause. Perhaps one of our SurvivalBlog readers in SOCOM can comment on their opinion of the Gators.

Note: Polaris also made a diesel quad back around 2002, but they were reportedly problematic, so they were quickly discontinued.

Letter from Mr. Lima Re: CONEX Containers

Per the letter from the Blog reader regarding CONEX containers- Yes they are a great way to store bulk supplies at your retreat. I’ve been using them for almost eight years now and have noticed several things when using them.

First, try to get one made of "COR-TEN" steel. My father has years of metalworking experience and pointed out one of ours that is made of COR-TEN. It reputedly holds up better. I’ve seen a noticeable difference in the one COR-TEN we have compared to several others not made of it.

You might want to weigh the difference in cost between finding one locally or buying one closer to the coast and preferably a major seaport where they will be cheaper. Shipping costs being the deciding factor, as well as condition of container. We’ve never paid more than $1,500 for a 40 foot container and you can find them for around $1,000. if you shop around. Keep in mind most places will just give you a general quote on the phone. You want to go to their yard and check one out for yourself, make sure the doors close and latch properly, climb up on the roof, and inspect closely for holes.

Figure out EXACTLY where you want it dropped, unless you have heavy equipment- and I don’t mean a small tractor- you will not be moving it from that position.

Go to the junkyard and get four to six old metal tire rims. Put them down on the corners below the container. It will help air circulate a little bit under it. We’ve had problems with moisture coming up from the ground in to two of the units. Doing this helped the problem immensely.

Readers should plan to ventilate the containers, as you mentioned, even if it’s just for storage. They get very hot. Might not be an issue up North, but it is here in the South.

Re: Use as a bunker or as hardened shelter, etc. Keep in mind that CONEX/SeaLand type containers have most of their strength in the floor and on the corners of the roof (which is probably why they can stack them a dozen high on ships). You absolutely MUST reinforce the insides if you plan on completely burying one. (Such as 6x6s or heavy timbers.)

Here is what [U.S. Army] FM 5-103 "Survivability" says about containers (page 4-31):
"Large metal shipping containers such as CONEX containers, are used to make effective shelters… …are easily converted into protective command posts, communications shelters, troop shelters, aid stations, and shelters for critical supplies. Because the CONEX container’s floor is stronger than it’s roof, it is inverted to resist more blast and provide some overhead cover. Although the shelter sometimes constructed above ground, it is easier to construct it below ground by placing the inverted CONEX container in a hole half it’s height and then covering the roof with earth."

For our purposes, shipping containers make great storage facilities and can make use as initial entrances into shelter systems, housing for families, etc. They are fairly secure and can be used for pre-positioning of bulk supplies even at the "absentee owner" type retreat. Hope this helps. – Mr. Lima

Letter Re: Understanding Human Immune System Response to Infection

Hello! I just finished reading Patriots   for a third time – INCREDIBLE book. I’m also a good friend of "Dr. Buckaroo Banzai." I have a master’s degree in immunology and teach in a nursing program at a local college. My comments are aimed at the general education of the readership of your blog. The immune system operates largely on the function of T-helper cells. There are two main T-helper varieties. One variety (T-h1) deals with intracellular pathogens (viruses, few bacteria) and the other (T-h2) deals with extra-cellular pathogens (majority of bacteria, protozoa, fungi).  What separates these two groups are the cytokines (chemicals which modulate immune response) that are released. T-h1 cytokines promote immunity to intracellular pathogens AND SUPRESS the function of T-h2 cells. What this means is that the body’s response to a viral infection WILL leave the patient more susceptible to a bacterial infection. The opposite is true as well – bacterial infections leave the body less prepared to deal with viral infections. Just thought you’d want some of the background here! Keep up the good work, keep your powder dry, and God bless! – Dr. Rocky J. Squirrel

Letter Re: Power Outage Alarms

Thanks for keeping up the good work. I have inadvertently discovered a great power outage alarm. We were bought a carbon monoxide detector a while back. Whenever the power is cut, or the unit is un-plugged, it WILL wake you up!   I don’t know how long it continues to go off because it is so loud, I get it stopped right away. This is an item we should all have, too, just to detect the carbon monoxide. – Sid