From David In Israel: On Passive Solar Water Heating

After Passover the weather in Israel always turns hot and clear. Perfect weather to save money.
American hot water heating is always on and is always wasting electricity or gas.
Passive solar is cheap and simple plus it can be supplemented with electrical on cold days.
It is law that every home have a passive solar water heater so I get to see the design on every house,
being in the West Bank I also see that the Arab homes and mansions will always have at least one dud shemesh (sun water heater)
If a commercial model is too expensive the construction would be simple and cheap: The collector is about 1.5M x..75M x 7-to-8cm deep panel placed at the lowest south facing part of the roof. Hoses carry the water up to the "dud" or tank which is as high as possible on the roof Israeli tanks are insulated, cheaper Arab models are simple black plastic tanks on stilts. Convection carries colder water from the bottom of the tank into the collector and hot water rises to the upper intake on the tank. On cold winter days we set the timer to run the immersion heater built in to the tank as on days near freezing the heater barely produces luke-warm water.
A wood framed glass paned collector with Black painted PVC pipe would likely make a great collector and a plastic barrel would probably make a good tank with a little Bondo work, similar to the Arab heaters.
Insulating the tank would make for warm water in the early morning. If a tank were suspended above the chimney it might be able to grab a few more precious BTUs from the hot gasses during the winter, get creative and let us know. Israeli water heaters will run near boiling. It is possibly easier to heat and insulate a small amount of very hot water than large tanks of less hot water.

On a related note: Your body also a solar collector. Avoid heat related injury. Remember that as hot weather approaches to keep hydrated!! If your urine is not clear and colorless you do not have a sufficient internal water storage and you are storing up toxins that your body wants to eliminate. Make a pre-hydrated body part of your survival kit!
You should always have at least a liter of water in your hand in your pack or next to you even when you are inside.

Letter From Michael Z. Williamson Re: Countdown to Collapse


In response to Rosy the Bull, I have to say I’m not so pessimistic. I heard similar dire warnings about how the US economy would collapse at $3 a gallon gas, and it didn’t happen. A great many countries in Europe and Asia, with smaller economies than ours, are paying over $6 a gallon now, which as a percentage of per capita income is five to ten times what we’re paying.
As to the comments on nuclear attacks, those are inaccurate. Depleted Uranium is barely radioactive, and its danger is as a colloidal heavy metal toxin. The dangerous radionuclides from nuclear blasts are dangerous because of their short half life. It takes days for most to reach safe levels, months for a few. Even most of the area around Chernobyl is now repopulated, and that was a far more toxic contamination than most nuclear weapons. (The Ukraine insists it’s not safe, despite people living there and GUIDED TOURS, because they get aid money from fuzzy-minded anti-nuke types.) Almost all nuclear weapons these days are designed for efficiency, and the "dumb" ones are still a triple stage fission trigger with a tritium squirt to generate enough extra neutrons for the remaining fissionables to be as thoroughly used as possible. The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were 1.4% and 14% energy efficient. Modern fusion boosted weapons are up to 40% efficient. It’s normally the case that the radius of total destruction exceeds the radius of the radiation.
Even with crude weapons–there are people living at ground zero in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki today, and were there within a few months of the attacks. The fear of contamination lasting "lifetimes" is groundless.
While any disruption of oil will affect the world market, whether or not we get oil from Iran (Which at present we mostly don’t), I’m more concerned about the long term effects of industrializing India and China. Their populations are going to need massive amounts of resources, and no amount of politicking will reduce the effect. High fuel prices are the way of the future, and they are painful. But I don’t believe they’re going to cause a collapse.

Three Letters Re: Folding Fighting/Utility Knife Recommendations?

Good to see your using the CRKT knives. They are very affordable. I also like the 12 series tantos. Thery have a good portable size. I followed the link that you provided. I hope you didn’t pay the $48.00 price though, I sell that same knife on eBay for $34.99. Go to ‘Knife Brigade’ if you are interested. I can normally beat the prices of most of the other vendors. I’m just happy to get $10-to$15 dollars over what I pay per knife (guess I wont be getting rich). Best Regards – Jason
P.S. Remember–Monday May 1st is ‘American Buy a Gun Day’


Hi Jim,
I’ve been reading your blog for several months now and really appreciate all the work you put into this.
I just wanted to comment on your recent survivalblog post relating to knives.  I’m in no way affiliated with their company but Swamp Rat Knife Works makes knives which are very literally some of the toughest and best performing in the world at only a slightly higher cost than Cold Steel products.  They are superior in nearly every way imaginable and, as I just mentioned, are quite reasonably priced.  They also have a no-questions-asked warranty and top notch customer service.  I have been incredibly well impressed.  They’re certainly worth a mention next time the subject comes up.  Also, you may want to consider referring people to BladeForums for a reference on knives.  That is where the experts go to chat and there is a great wealth of information available there.  Again, not affiliated just passing on some info I learned the hard way having many knives fail on me at inopportune times. Take care! -Ian


Greetings James and Family, and Blog Readers,
I am not a knife connoisseur or aficionado. However there are some knives that ‘strike my fancy’ for one reason or another. One such knife is a Mikov knife made in the Czech Republic. I was at a show several months ago and ran across a vendor for these knives. Like a lot of gun show vendors I had ran across his table at several other shows. I stopped and talked to him for awhile and when I left I had one of his Mikov knives in my possession. The knife is very well made in my opinion and the price ranges from around $50.00 up depending on what you want.
They offer features from a basic knife with automatic blade and ABS scales to Damascus blades and Stag scales along with rare woods and other exotic materials. The automatic feature is quite unique as compared to other knives of the same genera. It can be carried in the pocket safely or on the belt in a holder. I think one thing that attracted it to me was the way it felt in my hand. For me it is comfortable and well balanced and the auto activation of the main blade is fast, sure, and solid. The particular model I selected was the Mikov auto – 241 NH2, which has an integrated manual saw blade. The basic model has only the auto blade. And the additional manual saw blade does not add a lot to the thickness of the knife and retains much of the same feel as the single auto blade model. Another aspect that amazed me was the spring system for opening the knife. The spring is owner replaceable if ever broken or lost. The cost of a replacement spring is only five bucks. And if you live in an area where automatic knives aren’t lawful to carry the spring can be easily removed and the knife converts to manual operation. Mikov offers other knife models with additional tools and one model designed with EMTs and Rescue personnel in mind. It has a
special blade for cutting through seatbelt harnesses as well as other tools such as an integral auto glass breaker. The EMT and Rescue models have a bright yellow handle, as requested by the Czech Rescue organizations, for quickly locating the knife. The Mikov Company also makes the Czech Army fixed blade-fighting knife. This knife also incorporates other useful tools with it that the trooper may require like a detachable saw blade that can be stored in the handle. This sheath knife like it’s automatic little brother, in quite ingeniously designed. I think from a value for the money aspect the Mikov knives should be considered by any outdoorsman, camper, or survivalist. They also offer their automatic in a left-handed model for you southpaws. And for you do-it-yourselfers they have kits with the same quality components as their complete knives. In my opinion this is a totally
fascinating knife maker with a good product. Of course I have not dropped my Mikov knife out of a chopper from 400 feet, nor ran over it with a vehicle to see if it breaks. But I have managed to utilize it under normal circumstances with no injury to myself, and so far even my ‘ham handed’self has not broken it!
For the ABS scale knives, see:
For their homepage, see:
– The Rabid One

Letter Re: Brushy Hillsides: Better to Leave As-Is for Erosion/Landslide Control

I’ve been reading your superb site for some time and have learned a lot. There’s lots of interesting and helpful stuff.

As a family, we are about to leave the shores of ‘Airstrip One’ [England] and have purchased a few acres of Greek island to return to our smallholding roots. Our patch, in common with most places in the Med, is in an earthquake zone and we own a hilltop and steep slope. The area is also prone to brush fires in the summer.

My query is, should we cut back the vegetation on the slope for fire suppression or is the need to prevent land-slip, either by earth tremor or seasonal rains, more of an issue? Many of the locals simply cut back to bare earth, but there is a significant amount of landslip in these places and we do not want to awaken one morning and find our home in the neighbour’s olive grove at the bottom of the hill…

Any comments/advice appreciated. Keep up the good work and congratulations on becoming full time on the site. I wish you every success for the future. – Mike in England

JWR Replies: Of the two risks, fire is the greater concern. I’d recommend a minimum 20 foot firebreak around your house and keeping the remaining brush pruned low. Since you will be building from scratch, use fireproof construction. (If it is masonry, be sure that it is very well reinforced, since Greece is indeed earthquake country. Although you will probably not have access to the equipment and materials in Greece, SurvivalBlog readers in other areas might consider Monolithic dome or Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) construction. Monolithic domes are virtually fireproof and ICF houses are fairly resistant to fire, depending on the type of roof used.


Letter Re: Folding Fighting/Utility Knife Recommendations?

We have a copy of your novel "Patriots" published by Huntington House; and even had the 8.5 x 11 [self-published] precursor to the book. I’d like to ask you a question. Do you know of any tactical/SERE knife evaluation forums out there.
I’d like to obtain the best folder out there for my son. I have an old Al Mar SERE, but am curious if anyone has compared the various folders such as Al Mar, Masters of Defense, Benchmade etc.
Keep up the great work, James! – R.S. in Ohio

JWR Replies: I am by no means a knife expert. (Although the Memsahib claims that I am a seasoned expert at buying knives.) My general preference is for folding knives. Why? Because you will almost always have a folding knife in your pocket. Big sheath knives get left behind–often when they are needed the most.

The following is my advice for those you that like me are not independently wealthy: I think that the Cold Steel, CRKT, and Benchmade brands are some of the best affordable knives on the market. Granted, there are custom knives that are superior in many aspects, but most of them are quite expensive. I would rather have a half dozen Cold Steel or Benchmade knives than spend the same amount to buy just one from a "name maker." Lets face it: If they are used on a day-to-day basis, knives get lost, stolen, or broken with alarming regularity. I know some purists who swear by their Chris Reeve, Lyle, Ruana, or Randall knives. More power to them. They own great knives that are expertly-made, durable, and, will hold an edge. They will even appreciate in value, if well cared for. (Witness the recent meteoric price increases for early Randall fighting knives in Heiser sheathes.) But my approach is instead to have a larger number of moderately priced knives. With these extra knives I will have spares on hand in the event of loss or breakage, and perhaps even a few for barter and charity. You can of course follow this approach to an absurd extreme. Don’t buy Chinese junk, just because you can get 10 knives for $100!

FWIW, my "daily carry" folder is a small CRKT M16-12Z with Zytel grips. This is a good knife that sells for less than $50. It has a half-serrated AUS8 stainless steel blade with a Tanto type point. BTW, I prefer tanto style blades, since they are less prone to broken tips. (Yes folks, I’m a bit hard on knives.) It has a belt clip, which I consider a necessity on small and medium-size folders. I previously carried a larger model (also a Tanto style, from Benchmade), but I found that it was too bulky.

Regardless of your choice of knives, a top quality knife sharpening system is a must for your retreat. At home, I prefer the Lansky Sharpening System. When out in the field, I use a compact Cam-Nu sharpener. There are several other good ones on the market. But just be sure to get a diamond-impregnated sharpener if you have any knives that are made with the modern stainless steels such as ATS-34. These are usually hardened to a high Rockwell scale number, so you’ll find that they are difficult to re-sharpen with a set of traditional stones. (But the good news is that their hardness also means that they hold an edge much better than traditional knives.) A diamond sharpener is a must!

Letter Re: Springfield Armory XD Series Polymer Frame Pistols are the Ars Nova

Dear Jim,
I love the site and have learned much. As soon as I can scrape together some extra money, I will be joining the Ten Cent Challenge.
"Some Guy" wrote about the lack of availability of spare parts for the XD series pistols and the lack of certified armorers. One is true, the other is patently false. Springfield has indeed been less than forthcoming with spare parts. Most of this seems to be just a lack of manufacturing capacity. If I remember correctly, they can barely get enough parts to make the pistols, let alone keep extras around. Why no third party has taken up the slack, I have no idea. They do, however, have a lifetime warranty which Springfield is quick to honor. Also, the weapon is built rock solid, even passing the fabled Glock abuse test, and it is only the odd pistol that needs work.
As far as there being no certified XD armorers, that is demonstrably false as I have dealings with one on a regular basis. He is also a Glock armorer, and a Kel Tec armorer. They are out there but one can get certified only by invitation, not just any guy in his garage can become an XD armorer. Here is a good forum for more info on the XD:
Thanks again for all the info. – DD

Odds ‘n Sods:

Yikes! Copper is at $7,000 per ton!

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The folks at Safecastle mentioned that they give substantial discounts (generally 10-20%)to Survivalblog readers –for everything listed in their eBay store . All you have to do is mention SurvivalBlog when you e-mail your requests for quotes. Some of Safecastle’s highest volume product lines are Maxpedition, Mountain House, JetBoil, and Katadyn. BTW, it is better if you e-mail Safecastle at rather than using the eBay message system.

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Take the time out to read Dr. Peter Hammond’s great piece about Switzerland. This is something you don’t read in most history books.

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SurvivalBlog reader Dutch in Wyoming notes that America is experiencing another unintended consequence of our debt-financed Asian buying binge: The death of our oak tree forests.

Note From JWR:

Yesterday I took a "speed hike" day with #1 Son and and #3 Son here at the Rawles Ranch,. (I’m trying to lose a few pounds and get in shape for a four day course that the Memsahib and I plan to attend at Front Sight, later this year.) While on the hike, we got our best view ever of the beavers on our neighbor’s pond. They are cute, but destructive critters. They have been busy for the past two years. Their dam has raised the pond’s level by a couple of feet, and this has increased the pond’s surface area to nearly six acres. (It was formerly only about five acres.) They have also decimated the trees that used to ring the north end of the pond. Since they are rapidly exhausting their food supply, I suspect that the beavers will abandon their lodge and move further up-country next year. Coincidentally, our first letter today concerns ponds…

Letter Re: Ponds, Aquaculture, and Pond Predators

Hello James,
In the event of a TEOTWAWKI scenario, as discussed previously on your blog, food and water will become critical in supply. My query is to seek out knowledge from within your following on newly constructed ponds as a water and food source. Here are my questions:
1). What type of fish replenish the most rapidly while offering a genuine nutrition?
2). What types of fish are compatible or necessary to keep a full circle eco-system continuing?
3). How many fish can you support per cubic yard of water?
4). Should food be introduced into the water until the young are established?
5). What predators, (i.e.- ground/air living) would be a potential food source or havoc on your newly established "eco-system".
I don’t recall any lengthy discussions on this subject. Any advice would be greatly welcome! – The Wanderer
JWR Replies: I have only limited experience with ponds and aquaculture. Perhaps our correspondent in Brazil would like to chime in. He has been developing a pond aquaculture system there for several years. Does anyone else out there care to comment?