August In Precious Metals, by Steven Cochran of Gainesville Coins.

Welcome to SurvivalBlog’s Precious Metals Month in Review, where we take a look at “the month that was” in precious metals. Each month, we cover the price action of gold and silver, and we examine the “what” and “why” behind those numbers.

The July closing price for precious metals were:

Gold: $1280

Silver: $20.38

Platinum: $1456

Palladium: $870

August began on a Friday, with non-farm payrolls coming in far below expectations. Gold jumped $15 to regain the losses taken on July 31, while stocks tanked 2%, as investors moved into dollars. On the 5th, gold saw a $20 jump on fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, despite the dollar rallying at the same time.

Geopolitics were the name of the game in August, as gold rode a crisis-driven rally into the middle of the month until a failed smackdown on the 15th. Gold recovered within hours, but the rally had been stopped. Gold’s high closing price for the month was $1312, which was actually hit three times– on the 7th, 13th, and 14th of August. Silver eased throughout August, dropping over a dollar by the end of the month.

Thin trading volumes in all markets, which are normal in August, added to volatility. When volumes are low, trades that normally don’t affect the index numbers have more of an effect.

Precious Metals Market Drivers in August

UKRAINE

Geopolitical risks and economic sanctions continued to buffet European markets in August, in a roller coaster ride of escalation and de-escalation. On August 6th, Putin announced retaliatory sanctions on the E.U. and U.S., in response to the sanctions the West imposed after the shootdown of a civilian airliner.

As the Ukrainian Army pushed back the pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, Russia gave up trying to arrange a ceasefire and decided to send over 200 trucks loaded with humanitarian aid into rebel-held Luhansk, in eastern Ukraine without Ukrainian permission. In what may have been a provocation aimed to test Kiev’s resolve, a Russian convoy of 10 APCs and supporting vehicles crossed into Ukraine while Western reporters watched. The Ukrainian Army claimed to have destroyed multiple Russian vehicles in its territory the next day, a charge Russia denied.

Late in the month, Ukrainian forces captured a Russian paratrooper company that had crossed the border in a wooded area, apparently by accident. What wasn’t an accident was rebel main battle tanks suddenly appearing near the Ukrainian coast, crossing over from Russia far from the nearest rebel-held areas. President Poroshenko of Ukraine and President Putin of Russia met in Kiev, Belarus, for talks to defuse the situation, with little progress.

This meeting was apparently so Putin, an ex-KGB colonel, could meet Poroshenko and decide how far he could be pushed. Russian Army troops invaded Ukraine, far from any rebel territory, in an apparent bid to open a land route to Russian-annexed Crimea. Another offensive was reported near Donetsk, as Russian troops, backed by artillery firing from Russian territory and advanced anti-aircraft missile systems, try to break the Ukrainian siege of the rebel-held city. Reporters have seen Russian tanks more advanced than any owned by Ukraine battling Ukrainian army forces. Rebel troops could not have obtained such advanced weaponry from overrun Ukrainian army bases, showing that Putin has decided he doesn’t care if the West knows the Russian Army is fighting inside Ukraine or not.

EUROZONE DEFLATION

The loss to European businesses from the sanctions against Russia, combined with the Russian sanctions against the EU, put the European economy on a fragile footing in August. Italy slid back into recession, adding to the worries. The euro traded near 11-month lows for most of the month, which in turn boosted the dollar. A strong dollar means fewer dollars are needed to buy an ounce of gold, which lowers its price. Despite the dollar rally, gold managed more than one large move upwards during the month.

One sign of European deflation is that the German 10-year bond is yielding less than 1%, while the bonds of “sick” economies, like Italy and Spain, are trading close to, or below, the yield of the 10-year U.S. Treasury note. This may be the market expressing its doubts over the U.S. government’s ability to pay its debts. Why else would bankrupt Spain be able to sell debt cheaper than the U.S.?

MIDDLE EAST

Gold saw safe haven demand, as the U.S. conducted airstrikes from drones and U.S. Navy fighters in northern Iraq against the terrorist army known as The Islamic State. Formerly known as ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), they were using captured American-made tanks and artillery to attack Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, as well as carrying out an extermination campaign against Iraqi Christians and Yezidis.

The U.S. airstrikes broke up the offensive and caused ISIS to revert back to the insurgent tactics of car bombs and blending in with the population. They later released a video of them beheading an American photojournalist that they had captured in Syria in 2012 and swore vengeance against the U.S. The American government has responded by preparing to expand the air offensive into Syria to hit ISIS targets.

This puts the U.S. into the position of assisting the Assad government of Syria, which it is trying to overthrow, by attacking the strongest anti-Syrian rebel faction, who has stolen American-supplied military equipment from the Iraqi Army and moderate Syrian rebels. U.S. planes are bombing U.S.-built tanks.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, Israel and Hamas finally agreed to an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire in Gaza, with both sides declaring victory. The death toll in this latest war totals over 2000 Palestinians and 68 Israelis. Israeli prime minister Netanyahu has been criticized over his leadership in the crisis by opponents on the left and the right.

The government of Libya has been on the losing end of battles with tribal rebels, but “mystery jets” struck several rebel targets in the last week of August. To the surprise of many, it wasn’t the work of NATO or the U.S. but of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. The U.S. was irritated that it was not included in the operation, but having Arab governments cleaning up the messes in their own back yards is something we should be applauding.

All of this fighting led to an unusual August rally for gold.

On The Retail Front

The Royal Canadian Mint has replaced its classic 100oz silver bar with a new .9999 fine silver 100oz bar. This has rapidly become a popular item for those looking for unquestioned quality in their large silver bars. For those who invest in pre-1933 U.S. gold coins, Gainesville Coins has recently expanded its selection.

In a story showing the bad publicity you can get by ignoring what the customer wants, news circulated the web about how the company who produced the commissioning coins for the amphibious assault ship USS Somerset outsourced the work to China. Once the artist of the coins found out, he immediately notified the commanding officer of the USS Somerset, who had the coins destroyed before the commissioning.

Market Buzz

WESTERN REPORTS OF PLUMMETING CHINESE GOLD DEMAND EXAGGERATED

The Western media is full of reports how Chinese gold demand has seen a major drop. There are several reasons not to believe this:

  1. Reports are comparing volumes to last year, which saw a frenzy of gold buying unequaled in decades. When viewed over a more appropriate timeframe, demand is still quite healthy.
  2. Western mainstream media believes that imports through Hong Kong are total imports. That simply isn’t true. The communist government in Beijing became concerned about Western reporters going through the numbers to try and discover how much gold the Chinese central bank was buying for its gold reserves. They have started importing the gold directly into Beijing, and also through Shanghai, which they want to build into the world’s main gold hub.
  3. China is allowing more banks, including foreign ones, to import gold this year.

Speaking of the Chinese, Casey Research talks about all the gold moving into Asia, never to return, in the article “We’re Ready to Profit in the Coming Correction – Are You?” Also at Casey Research is “Top 7 Reasons I’m Buying Silver Now.

David Stockman talks about how nothing at all has been done to curb the abuses of the Wall Street megabanks, even after the government has given them $4 trillion of taxpayer money, in “Wall Street Isn’t Fixed: TBTF Is Alive And More Dangerous Than Ever.

Eric Sprott talksabout how the COMEX is corrupted to allow Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and others to manipulate paper gold prices, and the health of the physical gold market.

Peter Schiff has announced that his radio show will be ending a four-year run and moving to the Internet, changing to a video blog. One of Schiff’s more popular articles this month has been “Former Mob Boss Says Avoid Wall St., Buy Physical Gold.”

While Europe struggles to avoid falling into a deflationary pit, more and more economists are worried that Yellen is asleep at the switch in the U.S., and we’re facing a sudden increase in inflation that the Fed won’t be able to halt without destroying the economy (any more than they already have).

Alisdair Macleod asks, “What if China and Russia Succeed in Going Off the Dollar?

Large platinum company, Lonmin, is struggling to restructure itself to survive a $600 million loss caused by the five-month long strike by mineworkers in South Africa. The unions have already threatened to strike again if any workers are laid off (after they got a 140% pay raise), and the government has also threatened the company if it closes any mines. Curious how, when asked directly, neither the union nor the government wanted to take over the mines themselves. If they think that they are making millions of dollars of profit, why not?

Looking Ahead

The markets will start picking up near the end of next month, as the wedding and festival season in India starts cranking up. Even though the Indian government hasn’t relaxed the restrictions on gold imports, that gold is still getting into the country. Smuggling is still increasing, and the police can’t stop even 1/10th of it. That gold is still being bought somewhere before being smuggled in, which means physical gold demand is still holding up. We wondered what happened to the smuggled gold that they did catch, and this is what we found.

September is traditionally a big month for gold. Have you kept your powder dry?

Let’s end this month’s column with a news story that shows even billionaires can see some of the dangers facing today’s fragile society.

Scot’s Product Review: Work Sharp

I used to dread sharpening things. Sometimes I would go look for another knife, hoping it would be sharp rather than fixing the one in hand. Other times, I would just make do with the dull one. I’ve sometimes thought that my sharpening phobia might have something to do with how my dad was able to make anything sharp with one of those round axe stones that are coarse on one side and fine on the other with a finger groove around it. He could apply some oil and make short work of most any cutting implement. He passed away, though, before he had time to teach me everything he knew. Sharpening was one of the things I missed out on learning.

I tried to teach myself, but I had a lot of trouble with this. Over the years, I went through an assortment of stones, files, laps, steels, jigs, sand paper, and what not. I finally hit the point where I can do a fair to middling job, thank goodness. I think what helped me the most was working with one of the jigs that hold a stone at a set angle. You start with a coarse stone and work your way down to a medium one and then a fine one. I discovered that even I could get a steak knife scalpel sharp using a jig, and that’s really satisfying.

Using this tool taught me at least three things about sharpening. First, you need to judge how coarse a sharpening tool to start with. If what you are working on is really dull, you will waste time and frustrate yourself if you don’t use something aggressive in the beginning. I was usually afraid to use the really coarse stuff. The second is that you simply can’t let the tool wobble while you stroke the edge. If you do, you won’t get a sharp edge, you will get a dull round one. That’s why jigs and guides are so popular. They let us sharpen without wobbling and making things worse than they are. The third bit of knowledge is the importance of patience. You have to spend enough time with each level of abrasive or you won’t get to sharp. After using the jig for a while, I decided to try sharpening without it. I worked really hard being consistent and discovered that even I could do it, though it took concentration and effort.

Even though I have finally reached a point of being able to keep things reasonably sharp, it is still a lot of work. My ears always perk up whenever I hear about something that will let me do a task faster and with less work, so when someone I respect told me about the Work Sharp Knife and Tool Sharpener. I decided to take a look. When I poked around the videos on the Work Sharp web site I heard Dan Dovel, the engineer who designed it, say “You don’t have to know what you are doing to use this thing.” That sounded pretty good to me. The Amazon price of about $62 also sounded good.

The Work Sharp is an interesting tool. Think of a hand-held belt sander. It uses ½ inch wide belts. It also comes with some guides to help you keep your tools at the same angle as you sharpen them. Bench belt sanders are a popular tool for knife makers and others who want to put a good edge on a blade quickly. A compact, portable hand-held belt sander is one of those ideas that I’m sure a lot of people think they should have come up with, too, when they saw the Work Sharp.

To use it, the first thing you do is pick the right grit. It comes with three different belts– an 80 grit one, a 220 grit one, and a 6,000 grit one. The 80 grit one is for a really, really dull knife (and I had some of those) or for things like lawn mower blades or shovels. Yes, you can sharpen shovels, and when you do, you will kick yourself for not doing it sooner. If your knife isn’t extremely dull, you will probably want to use the medium grit belt, though if that doesn’t work, try the coarse belt.

Next, you select the guide that has the correct angles for the tool you are working on. You get two guides with the Work Sharp. One has a 25 degree bevel for outdoors knives, and the other has a 20 degree bevel for kitchen knives. The 25 degree one also has guides for scissors

When I got mine, the first thing I did was attack the kitchen knives, especially some old ones handed down by my mother-in-law. I’ll admit that I am far more motivated at keeping the Spyderco I carry all the time sharp than I have been with kitchen knives, especially the ones from my mother-in-law. This is nothing against my mother-in-law (just in case my wife is checking up on me). These knives are made of steel that holds the edge for a long time, but once they get dull, they are tough to sharpen. Our other kitchen knives are a lot easier to sharpen, but don’t hold the edge as long. That’s kind of a trade-off with knives, I fear.

I went through each grit with the first knife, as I was impatient to see how well it worked. It is more efficient when doing several knives to do all of them on each grit and then change to the next belt. It isn’t hard to change the belts, but batch processing almost always saves time in any endeavor. To change a belt, remove the guide, push the tension roller in and turn it to lock it in the retracted position, and slip on a belt. Then release the tension belt and pop the guide back on.

The first knife, which was VERY dull, came out quite sharp. It might even be called scary sharp. It easily shaved hair off of my arm and sliced through newsprint without drag. It also smoothly went across a fingernail– a test I use to see if the blade has dull spots.

I did have to do some work on these knives though, as I was changing the angle of their bevels from the original one to the ones on the Work Sharp guide. That’s normal with any system that uses a guide. Your knife might be cut on a 22.5 degree bevel, and your system, like the Work Sharp, gives you a choice of either 25 or 20 degrees. If you want an exact match to a bevel, you have to find a tool with an adjustable guide or learn to do it by hand.

Another interesting issue is that since you are sharpening with a belt sander, the bevel you make is slightly convex. That’s because the belt has some give to it and it wraps a bit around the blade. If you sharpen on a stone or some other flat abrasive, you get a flat bevel. If you sharpen on a spinning wheel, like a bench grinder, you get convex edge. All this means that the first time you sharpen a knife on the Work Sharp, you will spend a bit more time than you will need to later as you are reshaping the bevel to an angle that matches the Work Sharp guide as well as making it into a convex bevel, if it isn’t already. Take all this as warning too. If you go back and forth between sharpening methods, you will spend time getting back to the bevel angle and shape that goes with whatever tool you are using. This is true of any change in sharpening methods, not just when you use a Work Sharp.

Serrated knives are very popular these days, both in the kitchen and in the pocket. You can sharpen them on the Work Sharp as well. The technique shown on their videos is to simply lay the flat backside of the knife against the belt. This works, though I would prefer to get the belt into the individual serrations and sharpen each one from the bevel side. Most serrations are too narrow, however. It might be nice if they made a narrow belt for that purpose.

You can sharpen a bunch of other things with the Work Sharp. I’ve already mentioned I’m a fan of sharp shovels. I have to go through sod and roots fairly often, and a sharp shovel really helps. They dull quickly though. I usually use a bench grinder to get most of the metal off and finish it with the coarse belt. Lawn mower blades, loppers, and most other garden tools are also good fodder for the Work Sharp. One thing I wonder, though, is if they could come up with a coarser belt to use on these sorts of things so you could go a bit faster.

Besides sharpening, there are a bunch of other things you can do with a belt sander. Many of the things you might do with a file can be done with the Work Sharp. It is very handy for gunsmithing. One of my pet peeves with my beloved 1911 pistols is that they usually have some very sharp edges. These can make you bleed and tear up fine leather holsters. I used to take files to those sharp edges, but now I use the Work Sharp. I just take off the guides and run the belt over the offending parts. I’ve also used it to help fit grip safeties. Gunsmiths use bench belt sanders for these jobs, but I don’t have space or funds for one of those, so the Work Sharp is a boon. You can use it for most any polishing or deburring function, and not just for guns.

I feared that the belts wouldn’t last long, but I am very pleasantly surprised. The closest I’ve come to wearing one out has been the coarse one, which gets used a lot on shovels and stuff.

Work Sharp also offers a super version of this, too. It’s the Worksharp KO. I haven’t used it, but it offers an adjustable angle for the knife bevel and a wider selection of belts. It has a couple of optional attachments that make it even more versatile. It runs $130, and the options can add another $140. I’m afraid I’m going to want one.

As much as I’ve turned into a Work Sharp fan, I’m not saying that you don’t need to know how to sharpen things by hand. A Work Sharp depends on electricity. We are preppers, and we worry about that stuff. If electricity fails, you need to have the tools and know how to use them to sharpen things by hand. That means files and stones for a basic tool kit. If you really mess up an edge, files will save a huge amount of time. The stones will get you sharp once you set the angle with a file. You need coarse, medium, and fine ones at a minimum. and maybe even an extra fine and a leather strap to boot. The thing the Work Sharp will do is let you keep things sharp with minimal effort for as long as we have electricity. This, as that blonde lady says, is a good thing. Just don’t forget to keep up with manual skills. – SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor, Scot Frank Erie

Recipe of the Week: Green Tomato Pie, by OkieRanchWife

This is a great way to use green tomatoes on plants that just got hit with a freeze. I found it in an American Heritage Cookbook from 1978.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ pounds Green Tomatoes
  • ½ cup Sugar
  • 4 tablespoons All Purpose Flour or Wondra Flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoon ground Cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon grated Lemon Zest
  • ½ teaspoon ground Nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground Allspice
  • ½ teaspoon Sea Salt or Kosher Salt
  • 2 tablespoons Butter
  • Pastry for 2 crust 9 inch pie, homemade or store bought (I cheat and use store bought)
  • Sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Dunk green tomatoes in boiling water for 1 minute. Peel and remove core. Or don’t skin them for a bit more fiber. Cut into ¼ inch slices. In a medium saucepan combine with ¼ cup water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove slices from liquid and set aside. Mix sugar, flour, cinnamon, zest, nutmeg, allspice and salt into the liquid in the saucepan. Cook and stir until just boiling. Remove from heat. Add butter. Mix. Gently stir the slices. Cool for 10 minutes. While tomato mix is cooling line the pie plate with one prepared pie crust. Spoon in the tomato mixture. Place top crust over the tomatoes and adjust. Seal, crimp edges, cut slits to allow steam to escape from the baking pie. Sprinkle with additional sugar if wanted. Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes.

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Do you have a favorite recipe that would be of interest to SurvivalBlogreaders? Please send it via e-mail. Thanks!

Letter Re: NRA’s Commercial

Hugh,

I am a pastor in eastern Washington. I spent most of the early evening calling every Christian I know to relate an urgent e-mail request I received for prayer originating from northern Iraq, where a team of volunteers were reporting the taking of their city by ISIS. They were witnessing the systematic beheading of children and known Christians. They were asking for God’s help and strength not to run. After exhausting my address book and spending time on my face, I felt that I should go to SurvivalBlog, as I have done daily for some time. When I saw the commercial featuring Navy Seal Don Raso, his message echoed what I have been feeling for some time. The disintegration of hope and the loss of confidence in our leadership can be heard in the grocery store checkout line, gas station, at the water cooler, and at the dinner tables across America. Something precious seems to be slipping away. We must band together to strengthen what remains of our foundations. It’s time to take a stand! – SVM

Odds ‘n Sods:

By way of Mac Slavo’s excellent blog, comes a link to a thought-provoking piece by Dave Hodges: The Blueprint for World War III. – JWR

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Here’s an interesting piece over at Todd Savage’s Strategic Relocation blog: Bug out – Bush Pilot Training. – JWR

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Armed & dangerous: 89-year-old World War II veteran shoots armed robber. – G.G.

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These are the people that are supposed to be above reproach! Third Florida County Judge in Seven Months Faces DUI Charges. T.P.

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Charged with driving an unregistered car designed to resemble a police vehicle. – T.P.

Hugh’s Quote of the Day:

“It is commonly believed that the rights of the American people come from the Constitution. Nothing could be further from the truth.” [Our rights are inalienable; they exist independently of government, not because of government.] – Jacob Hornberger

Notes for Sunday – August 31, 2014

Today, we present another entry for Round 54 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The $12,100+ worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate, good for any one, two, or three course (a $1,195 value),
  2. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  3. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 Nato QD Billet upper with a hammer forged, chromlined barrel and a hardcase to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR type rifle to have quick change barrel which can be assembled in less then 1 minute without the use of any tools and a compact carry capability in a hard case or 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  4. Gun Mag Warehouseis providing 30 DMPS AR-15 .223/5.56 30 Round Gray Mil Spec w/ Magpul Follower Magazines (a value of $448.95) and a Gun Mag Warehouse T-Shirt. An equivalent prize will be awarded for residents in states with magazine restrictions.
  5. Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  6. A $300 gift certificate from CJL Enterprize, for any of their military surplus gear,
  7. A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $300 value),
  8. A $300 gift certificate from Freeze Dry Guy,
  9. A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo,
  10. A roll of $10 face value in pre-1965 U.S. 90% silver quarters, courtesy of GoldAndSilverOnline.com, (currently valued at around $180 postpaid),
  11. Both VPN tunnel and DigitalSafe annual subscriptions from Privacy Abroad (a combined value of $195),
  12. KellyKettleUSA.com is donating both an AquaBrick water filtration kit and a Stainless Medium Scout Kelly Kettle Complete Kit with a combined retail value of $304,
  13. TexasgiBrass.com is providing a $300 gift certificate.

Second Prize:

  1. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  2. A FloJak EarthStraw “Code Red” 100-foot well pump system (a $500 value), courtesy of FloJak.com,
  3. Acorn Supplies is donating a Deluxe Food Storage Survival Kit with a retail value of $350,
  4. The Ark Instituteis donating a non-GMO, non-hybrid vegetable seed package–enough for two families of four, seed storage materials, a CD-ROM of Geri Guidetti’s book “Build Your Ark! How to Prepare for Self Reliance in Uncertain Times”, and two bottles of Potassium Iodate– a $325 retail value,
  5. $300 worth of ammo from Patriot Firearms and Munitions. (They also offer a 10% discount for all SurvivalBlog readers with coupon code SVB10P),
  6. A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials,
  7. Twenty Five books, of the winners choice, of any books published by PrepperPress.com (a $270 value),
  8. Two cases of meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value),
  9. TexasgiBrass.com is providing a $150 gift certificate,
  10. Organized Prepper is providing a $500 gift certificate, and
  11. RepackBoxis providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  3. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  4. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security,
  5. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances,
  6. Ambra Le Roy Medical Products in North Carolina is donating a bundle of their traditional wound care and first aid supplies, with a value of $208, and
  7. APEX Gun Parts is donating a $250 purchase credit, and
  8. SurvivalBased.com is donating a $500 gift certificate to their store.
  9. Montie Gearis donating a Y-Shot Slingshot and a Locking Rifle Rack. (a $379 value).

Round 54 ends on September 30st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Amish as Prepper Role Models, by V.R.

This one is so obvious, I can’t believe that it hasn’t already been written for SurvivalBlog. All that I know about the Old Order Amish is gained from association with individual families in a couple of Amish settlements in southeastern Minnesota. These folks are reputed to be among the most conservative of the Old Order Amish, having not yet adopted many of the modern conveniences other Amish groups have seen fit to adopt. For instance, SE Minnesota Amish still use steel rims on their buggies and farm implements, they cook and heat with wood, and they use kerosene lamps and lanterns for artificial light sources. The cultural differences between Amish groups seem to be directly proportional to the distance between their settlements.

Amish history goes back for over 300 years (1693), to the heart of the Protestant Reformation. If you count the Mennonite connection, from which they separated, you could say it dates back almost 500 years. The first thing to understand about the Amish is that they are first and foremost Protestant Christians, and they are devout. A friend of mine pointed out that most of us Christians really have only two commandments left, but the Amish still obey all 10. With regard to religion, they differ from modern day Protestants primarily in that they are Anabaptist (adult baptism) and they are absolutely pacifist.

The Amish secular culture is what makes them good prepper role models. When they first immigrated to the New World from Europe in the early 18th century, they were essentially mainstream peasant farmers. Almost everybody lived on small subsistence farms in those days, and the family consumed almost all of what these small farms were able to produce. If only 10 percent of the population lived in villages, towns, and cities, it computes that the average surplus to be sold to these urbanites by the farmers was 10 percent or less of their food and fiber production. The Industrial Revolution was about to change all of that.

I doubt that they called it “The Industrial Revolution” as it was happening, but the populace certainly noticed major changes in the way people lived. Industrialization, enabled by coal, was creating jobs in the new foundries, and factories located in the cities, and innovation in manufacturing and mass production made farm implements more affordable and more productive. The inevitable result was that more and more of the subsistence farmers were either moving to town to take jobs for wages or were becoming commercial farmers with the use of modern machinery. By 1860, some of the Amish had seen enough of this progress, and they asked themselves, “Are we risking our mortal souls by changing the way we’ve always lived, and moving off the land and into cities?” By one estimate, about 200 Amish of 1860 decided that progress was a real risk and opted instead to reject any further modernization. These 200 are the ancestors of those we now call the Old Order Amish. These are the ones we can learn the most from.

The first lesson preppers can take from the Amish is to find strength in a community. The Old Order Amish organize themselves into worship districts (what we would call a congregation) of about 120 people. This is because they worship in each other’s homes, taking turns, and 120 people are about all that can be accommodated within a single family Amish home. Some number of worship districts, from 1 to nearly 200, is situated in an area known as a settlement, usually named for the local post office. Within these worship districts and to a lesser extent within a settlement, there is a high degree of conformity, decided and enforced by each individual worship district. The intent is to develop and preserve cohesion within the community by discouraging envy and pride. The point is, preppers will need some kind of cohesive incentive for their own community. Like-mindedness will work for some communities, to some degree. Strong leadership will also work for some communities, to some degree. It is true that no community will work for some individuals, and that no community will work for all individuals. (This happens to the Amish, too.) There must be good chemistry to be strong enough to bind individuals into highly functional communities. Be aware of the dangers of falling apart, be a good neighbor whenever you can, and have some mechanism to communicate to community members when they are not living up to community standards.

The second lesson is to prepare to live without electricity. The Amish live off-grid for reason of economy and to minimize recurring periodic financial obligations. They do use battery-powered lights, especially in barns and stables, where a fire hazard exists with the use of kerosene lamps/lanterns. They also might use small gasoline-powered generators for power tools when working for non-Amish (“English“) customers but only in order to be competitive with English carpenters and roofers. Other petroleum-fueled engines are used to replace the steam engines that were commonplace in 1860. They use small, gasoline engines to power their water well lift pumps and washing machines, and also use large, diesel engines as stationary power units for saw mills, farming applications, and workshop power. If it ever comes to a time when we can’t get gasoline or diesel fuel, the Amish, along with the rest of us, will need to make some reverse technologic adaptations. However, because the Amish already heat and cook with wood and have some kerosene on hand for light, they might not even know that the electrical grid is down until an English neighbor tells them about it. As a prepper, you should have a transition plan to a non-electrical lifestyle within a few weeks of losing grid electricity. The transition plan might include a generator ready for immediate use to ease you to the next step back.

My first grade teacher– a displaced person from Germany following WWII– said that the three things necessary for survival are food, shelter, and clothing. Even though I was only in the first grade, I recognized her experience and conviction in matters of hard living and have not forgotten her lesson. She may be responsible for my early recognition of the need to be prepared (for anything.)

The third lesson is to learn to be self-sufficient for food. That includes water. Have a well pump that can be operated manually. Know where there is flowing water within an easy walk of your house, and learn how to filter and purify water of unknown purity. Learn how to grow food, lots of it, using open-pollinated seeds and non-commercial fertilizers. The Amish use canning of seasonal surplus as their primary food preservation method, and typically put up more than 100 quarts of fruits, vegetables, and meats for each member of the household annually. Pressure canning is the preferred method for non-acidic foods, such as meats and beans. Nowadays most Amish families have a kerosene stove or at least kerosene burners specifically for summertime canning. It will take some practice to learn to run a wood-burning cook stove at the even-enough temperature to keep your pressure canner gauge within the desired range to accomplish pressure canning. Practice, practice, practice. Every Amish home also has some form of root cellar. This might be a hole dug into the ground or a building set in a hillside. Most popular, though, is a room in a basement corner with the inside walls and ceiling heavily insulated. The objective is to keep this room as close to ground temperature as possible, which wobbles around 52 degrees Fahrenheit in southern Minnesota. That’s cool enough to keep root crops edible into the spring and winter squash and pumpkin at least into the new year. If you don’t become self sufficient, remember that it’s likely to take the surplus of ten others to satisfy your needs. Learn to preserve the food you grow and harvest. The Amish hunt and fish but for sport, not because they need to. They’ve been doing that for a few hundred years now.

The fourth lesson has to do with shelter. Maybe someone in your community can help with construction and maintenance of shelter but maybe not. At the very least, have a few hand tools for woodworking and learn how to use them. The Amish hold “a frolic” to build a house or barn. The young learn carpentry from their elders, during these group activities. Build a garden shed yourself or help a neighbor build his. Fix your own broken window. Construction is actually pretty easy. Think of the log cabins built by our pioneer forefathers with few tools and without any knowledge of trigonometry. Think of Jesus Christ, a carpenter without a lumber yard.

The fifth lesson is clothing independence. The Amish ladies make all of their family’s clothing, and they do it with an antique treadle sewing machines and needle and thread. That’s about all I can tell you about sewing, and, yes, I do have some reservations when I think of going into a second or third year without a department store.

The sixth lesson we can learn from the Amish is in regard to transportation. The Amish, of course, are dependent upon horses. I will never be. When my last bicycle is gone, I’ll be limited to walking wherever I need to go. I’m just too brittle at my age to learn to ride or even to handle horses. As an EMT, I’ve picked up several people my age– lifelong riders who were bucked off or otherwise injured by their horses. Three that I can think of had broken hips or pelvis, two had punctured lungs from broken ribs, and another had a concussion. Without the best of modern medicine, there’s a good chance they all would have died. I can’t take the chance, but I do encourage my grandchildren to get familiar with horses while they’re still young and flexible.

The last lesson we’ll consider is personal protection without rule of law. Because of their devout Christianity and their interpretation of the New Testament in particular, Amish are pacifist to the extent that they will not even sue for grievances against people who have wronged them in business or stolen property from them. Their response to violence has been to quickly and publicly forgive the perpetrators of the violence. They are forbidden by the Amish church to join the armed forces or even to employ self defense against aggressors. What can we learn from this? Well, I guess we can at least re-examine our own predisposition to respond to violence with greater violence, and we can pray for the Amish.

Letter Re: EMP

I currently keep my backup mini-iPad in an EMP bag. Do I also need to keep my power supply for it there, too? Thanks – A.B.

HJL replies: Yes. In fact, it is probably more important that the charger is in the bag than the ipad. Being an electrical engineer with considerable radio technology experience, I have a perspective that is a bit different than most on the subject. The true danger of EMP is in having antennas or things that act like antennas pick up the electrical energy. If the object in question either has wires or parts that could be considered long antennas or is connected to parts that could suffice as such, then the object is in danger of being susceptible to EMP. Many modern cars fall under this category because they are basically networked mini-computers with considerable wire interconnecting the various parts. Your iPad alone does not, unless you have it connected to the charger when the EMP hits. The charger (with cable) and house wiring that the charger is connected to becomes that antenna that makes it hazardous to your iPad. Unless you are at ground zero, or very close to it, your normal electronics won’t have any problems surviving. The advantage to the EMP bag is that it will block any wifi or cellular signal and keep Alphabet agencies from activating the camera or microphone to spy on you. As for protection, the charger is probably more susceptible to EMP than the iPad, just because of the length of the cord attached to it. Most modern electronics are made from such sensitive electronics that they are designed with ESD/EMP protection from the start. The integrated circuit has built-in shorting diodes, and the circuit boards will often have additional protective circuitry. The manufacturers do not know where you will be taking your electronics, and the protection is cheap insurance for them. It is easy to protect objects that are not connected to anything from EMP, because the induced voltages will be so small. It is much harder to protect anything connected to the power lines, phones lines, or even many local computer LANs that have miles of unprotected cable.

Hugh’s Quote of the Day:

“And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it. Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man.” Luke 23:3-4 (KJV)

Notes for Saturday – August 30, 2014

August 30, 2014 is the 95th birthday of Joachim Rønneberg, a hero of the Norwegian resistance during World War II. His exploits earned him the War Cross With Sword, Norway’s highest military honor. In April 2013, Rønneberg was presented with a Union Jack during a ceremony at the Special Operations Executive (SOE) monument in London to mark 70 years since the successful Gunnerside heavy water plant sabotage mission.

o o o

Today, we present another entry for Round 54 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The $12,100+ worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate, good for any one, two, or three course (a $1,195 value),
  2. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  3. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 Nato QD Billet upper with a hammer forged, chromlined barrel and a hardcase to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR type rifle to have quick change barrel which can be assembled in less then 1 minute without the use of any tools and a compact carry capability in a hard case or 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  4. Gun Mag Warehouseis providing 30 DMPS AR-15 .223/5.56 30 Round Gray Mil Spec w/ Magpul Follower Magazines (a value of $448.95) and a Gun Mag Warehouse T-Shirt. An equivalent prize will be awarded for residents in states with magazine restrictions.
  5. Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  6. A $300 gift certificate from CJL Enterprize, for any of their military surplus gear,
  7. A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $300 value),
  8. A $300 gift certificate from Freeze Dry Guy,
  9. A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo,
  10. A roll of $10 face value in pre-1965 U.S. 90% silver quarters, courtesy of GoldAndSilverOnline.com, (currently valued at around $180 postpaid),
  11. Both VPN tunnel and DigitalSafe annual subscriptions from Privacy Abroad (a combined value of $195),
  12. KellyKettleUSA.com is donating both an AquaBrick water filtration kit and a Stainless Medium Scout Kelly Kettle Complete Kit with a combined retail value of $304,
  13. TexasgiBrass.com is providing a $300 gift certificate.

Second Prize:

  1. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  2. A FloJak EarthStraw “Code Red” 100-foot well pump system (a $500 value), courtesy of FloJak.com,
  3. Acorn Supplies is donating a Deluxe Food Storage Survival Kit with a retail value of $350,
  4. The Ark Instituteis donating a non-GMO, non-hybrid vegetable seed package–enough for two families of four, seed storage materials, a CD-ROM of Geri Guidetti’s book “Build Your Ark! How to Prepare for Self Reliance in Uncertain Times”, and two bottles of Potassium Iodate– a $325 retail value,
  5. $300 worth of ammo from Patriot Firearms and Munitions. (They also offer a 10% discount for all SurvivalBlog readers with coupon code SVB10P),
  6. A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials,
  7. Twenty Five books, of the winners choice, of any books published by PrepperPress.com (a $270 value),
  8. Two cases of meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value),
  9. TexasgiBrass.com is providing a $150 gift certificate,
  10. Organized Prepper is providing a $500 gift certificate, and
  11. RepackBoxis providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  3. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  4. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security,
  5. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances,
  6. Ambra Le Roy Medical Products in North Carolina is donating a bundle of their traditional wound care and first aid supplies, with a value of $208, and
  7. APEX Gun Parts is donating a $250 purchase credit, and
  8. SurvivalBased.com is donating a $500 gift certificate to their store.
  9. Montie Gearis donating a Y-Shot Slingshot and a Locking Rifle Rack. (a $379 value).

Round 54 ends on September 30st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.