Health and Fitness Category

Monday, April 14, 2014

We began our quest to take charge of our health just prior to the end of 2011. Here is our story!

This article is for the purpose of sharing how two individuals (referred to as Person #1 and Person #2) with differing health issues took it upon themselves to learn about their health, deal with their issues, and get off many prescribed drugs. "One size does not fit all." Eighty-seven percent of those who write the Clinical Guidelines that doctors follow have ties to the pharmaceutical industry! (UPDATE: 2014 an article just came out that states now that number is 53%, but it's still too high! See "How to Cure Diabetes" page iii & JAMA article Jan 2014 "More than a Billion People Taking Statins")

When doctors use the same protocols to prescribe the same drugs for every person, never looking for the root of the problem much less at what nutrient deficiencies exist that could be causing the problems, something is wrong!

We have achieved a number of successes, which hopefully will encourage you and demonstrate that some of you can do the same. We learned that we needed to find out what our body was missing and attempt to replenish those nutrients, as well as stop putting things into our body that have no nutritional value or, worse, harms the body chemistry! The body can heal itself, if you treat it with care rather than taking the easy route and merely masking symptoms with another drug.

Where did we start to learn about our health and how to correct problems? (For the serious student only. It requires a lot of reading and time to change your health, but the results are well worth it.)

  1. Books and TW Newsletter of Dr. Sherry Rogers, a physician of 40+ years who finally realized there were some important things missing in her medical training– Molecular Biochemistry and a recognition that the body can heal itself (See "The High Blood Pressure Hoax" pages 39, 202, 222)! She has spent her retirement empowering others on how to take control of their health and find their own cures, using natural means, since the hierarchy in medicine is more concerned about keeping people sick, so their profits increase.
  2. We started with the following four books by Dr. Sherry Rogers, which are very inexpensive for what you get: "The Cholesterol Hoax", "The High Blood Pressure Hoax", "Is Your Cardiologist Killing You", and her latest book "How to Cure Diabetes", which lists the nutrients in one section that most people lack, and how to correct them . Later we subscribed to her TW Newsletter to keep learning and keep abreast of new information. (NOTE: Dr. Rogers' books have something in them for every problem, regardless of the title because most health problems are interrelated.)

Person #1: Changes and Results (over a two-year period, starting the end of 2011):

Description: This person was relatively healthy, took no drugs, but had some lipid levels that could be reduced (cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL), was a little overweight and not very active (trying to work on that), as well as a had some TSH level (thyroid) that was creeping up. She has no gallbladder, which caused some bowel problems after eating! She was a sweet and soda pop junkie! Eating habits needed to improve.

  1. Soda pop. She stopped it cold turkey because it has zero nutritional value and is full of refined sugars and high fructose corn syrup, which is bad for you. (Did you know it is also in ice cream, candy, salad dressings, and many grocery products?) She has no heart problems but noticed she would have what felt like angina and arrhythmia periodically. Now she knows what was causing this problem because it stopped after she stopped drinking soda pop. Listen to your body!
  2. Sweets. She was a sweet addict. She now tries to eat 70% dark chocolate occasionally, when she wants a sweet, but she tries to limit her overall intake. She has substituted a coconut smoothie, watermelon, and nuts. Her cravings have reduced significantly since changing her eating habits and supplementing with nutrients. Cravings are a sign your body doesn't have something it needs. Feed it the right things, and those cravings go away. (Did you know sugar fuels cancers?)
  3. Trans fatty acids. Try to avoid foods with TFAs in them. "TFAs and plastics damage lipid metabolism, constrict blood vessels, and raise cholesterol and triglycerides" ("How to Cure Diabetes" page 163). (Did you know that the FDA allows manufacturers to add trans fatty acids and not label it, as long as it is under 500 mg per 1/2 cup? - "The High Blood Pressure Hoax" page 63)
  4. Salad Dressing. She started making her own with Extra Virgin Olive Oil (1 cup) and Balsamic vinegar (1/4 cup). Then she adds spices, like thyme and oregano with some salt and pepper to taste. The store dressings are full of high fructose corn syrup and other junk.
  5. Water. She started drinking filtered water (Berkey Light), after noticing that by drinking water in plastic bottles over a few months that her TSH level increased. Plastic water bottles leach phthalates (plasticizers) as do all plastic products, including food wrappings. Products in plastics should be avoided as much as possible, even though it's everywhere. Her main beverage now is filtered water. (The body needs a lot of water to function properly– eight glasses per day. However, it should be good water without fluoride and other chemicals that are toxic.)
  6. Cod Liver oil. Carlson Lemon liquid is the purest on the market, and doesn't promote the fish burp, like the fakes out there do. It tastes refreshing. She uses one teaspoon daily after supper, and takes it with her Vitamin D3, which helps metabolize the D3 more effectively. RESULT: It reduced her triglycerides 23% in 6 months, among other benefits. ("The Cholesterol Hoax" pages 141 and 161.) You can find it here: Her lipids– Cholesterol/HDL Ratio– is the most important concern for her to watch. It continues to decrease, as well as the triglycerides. She contributes a lot of this to the quality cod liver oil.
  7. Vitamin D3. She now takes 2,000iu daily. (Many need 4,000iu, to start, if blood levels are under 60 ng/ml.) It takes two to six months to correct a D3 deficiency. (Carlson D3 is one of the best.) She had her Vitamin D3 levels tested for the first time. (The blood test to ask for is the Vitamin D3 25-Hydroxy, which revealed she was a little low.) Most people are extremely low. She now gets this tested annually and suggests others do the same! Vitamin D receptors are in nearly every tissue of the body, and it causes cancer cells to go back to becoming normal cells (called Apoptosis). Therefore, this nutrient (Dr. Rogers says it's really a hormone) is extremely important to your health!
  8. Clay. This works through the digestive system. It does not enter the blood, and it's a great detox. Due to having no gallbladder, she would previously have diarrhea shortly after eating. She started drinking 2 oz of clay a day (one in the AM and one in the PM), and it solved that problem and also made her more regular. It made her teeth whiter, and she received rave reviews from her dentist. She also got immediate relief from a stove burn on a finger by applying the clay mask to the finger very soon after the burn. Where a blister was starting to form, it never fully developed because the clay stopped it as well as the pain from the burn. The next day, it was like it never happened. Those are only a few benefits of a good clay that she has experienced, but there are many more. Remember, all clays are not equal in purity, so be selective. (She heard about this on a radio show.)
  9. Sugar. She switched to coconut sugar for her coffee in the morning. Refined sugar is not good for you. Other good sugars include Just Like Sugar and Stevia (as long as it's pure. Don't fall for Truvia, it's the corrupted version of Stevia). Bad fake sugars: Aspartame, Nutrasweet, Splenda, et cetera). (Did you know that these fake sugars elevate cholesterol and make you hungrier than natural sugars? "The Cholesterol Hoax" page 186.)
  10. Meat. Some don't eat meat, but there are some of us who can't do without it. Therefore, they found a local grass-fed meat producer who uses no vaccines or hormones and bought meat from them. She rarely buys it in the stores anymore and has stopped eating anything with nitrites in it– hot dogs and cold cuts. Buy local when you can!
  11. Real Salt (Redmond) Natural Sea Salt. This is better than refined salt.
  12. Coconut Milk & Coconut Oil. She cooks with coconut oil and no longer buys other unhealthy and refined cooking oils, some of which are GMO (Ex: canola oil) (See "How to Cure Diabetes" page 159). She also drinks a coconut milk smoothie (1 cup orange juiceJ, 1 Tbsp. Honey, 1/2 can coconut milk, and 1 banana) daily. Coconut has gotten a bad rap. It is a medium chain triglyceride that assimilates well in the body, and it has many benefits. (See book by Dr. Bruce Fife "The Coconut Oil Miracle".)
  13. Kale. She started eating kale a few times a week. This is highly nutritious! (Tear it off the stalk and bring to boil in water, then cook for less than 10 minutes.)
  14. Carlson Aces with Zinc and Iodoral. She lowered her thyroid (TSH level) by a whole point by taking one Carlson Aces with Zinc & 1/2 Iodoral daily for three months. She also thinks using real salt, instead of refined salt helped, as well as no longer drinking from plastic bottles and drinking filtered water.

TIP: Ask your doctor for a copy of your blood test results, and then make a chart which will show your progress over time, or what you need to do more work on.

Person #2 Changes and Results (over a two-year period, starting the end of 2011):

Description: She had high blood pressure, GERD, a hiatal hernia, one knee replacement (the other knee was weak), struggles with her weight, from time to time had herpes lip blisters (only one in two years, after making changes), and was diagnosed with diabetes 2, with diagnosis since reversed.

She was taking five drugs (some for over 10 years), and on various ones from time to time for high blood pressure. These included: Losarten, Tiazac (Calcium Channel Blocker that shrinks the brain and more), Metoprolol (diuretic that depletes potassium and more), one for cholesterol (Crestor, the cash cow statin, which now everyone is being told they need to be on), one for GERD (Pantoloc, which also depletes many nutrients), and soon would have been on a new diabetes drug. She thought that labels in the store that read "Diet" were the more healthy choices for her struggle with weight, but she later discovered that diet pop has aspartame, as do many products, and is even worse for you than regular pop and makes you gain weight. (See "How to Cure Diabetes" page 163.)

So, what did she do?

  1. Regarding her diabetes diagnosis, she immediately bought a treadmill and set out to lose weight. Over many months she slowly lost 100 pounds. She reversed this diagnosis, and her blood sugar is now normal. She has not had a bad reading since the initial diagnosis.
  2. After learning from Dr. Rogers books, she asked her doctor to order the Cardio Ion Test from Metametrix Lab, located in Georgia– a test highly recommended by Dr. Rogers. This is a 13-page assay of your total body molecular biochemistry. It is a little high priced, so if you can't afford this test, purchase a copy of "How to Cure Diabetes", and you will find a list of the nutrients most people are low in (page 181), and what to do to remedy the problem. Then read, read!
  3. She consulted over the phone with Dr. Rogers on the results of the Cardio Ion Test (a 1-hour appointment) and received a regime of nutrients to take over time to fix the body chemistry that was ailing, as shown on the biochemical assay. She then began using the nutrients suggested to replenish depleted nutrients, partly caused by prescription drugs.
  4. She began the process to fix problems with a change in lifestyle, eating habits and by using the appropriate nutrients, NOT DRUGS, to replenish and correct the body chemistry! She also started cooking at home more, and stopped eating out as much.

Results: (over a period of two years)

  1. She is off four of the five drugs that she had been put on for life. (Once on drugs, you rarely get taken off unless you say something and take action), She also lowered the dose of her blood pressure drug to the lower available dosage, 25 mg (Losarten).
  2. Her blood pressure is now normal and continues to be so. She used: Natural Calm (magnesium), Carlson L-Arginine powder, Carlson Acetyl-L Carnitine powder and other nutrients to correct this problem. She still uses these and keeps tabs on her blood pressure periodically! She had to slowly wean off of the three blood pressure medications, while taking these corrective nutrients. Slow changes are important with these medications!
  3. For her GERD, she stopped taking the pill immediately, as it is an acid-blocking drug, and acid is quite necessary for proper digestion. It also depletes nutrients. There are other ways to deal with GERD naturally. (NOTE: Some may need to be tapered off these drugs to avoid a rebound effect. She was able to get off of it quickly, without this effect, and has had no problems since. (If you have this problem, check out Zinlori by Metagenics.)
  4. Regarding cholesterol, her statin– Crestor– was stopped immediately! After reading much on this subject, we think the statin was lowering her cholesterol way too much, as well as lowering vital nutrients, which we think brought on her diabetes diagnosis. She also exhibited the symptoms of mania and being zoned out. Since she has been off this drug, she no longer exhibits these symptoms and her cholesterol is normal. (Cholesterol that is too low is dangerous.) She used: Carlson Cod Liver Oil, which is much better than a statin, and magnesium, which acts like a statin. These nutrients don't deplete CoQ10, Zinc, Selenium, Vitamin E, folate, et cetera the way statins do. (Did you know that Lipitor sales exceeded $120 billion between 1996 & 2011, and now they have changed guidelines to where they predict more will go on statins, even if healthy?) What do you think that will do for their profits? Also, do a search on Dr. Duane Graveline, and read about his TIA experience while on a statin. He states they damage the mitochondria. (See "New Study Fine Tunes Diabetes Statin Link" (WSJ, 8-10-12, Wang)("How to Cure Diabetes" page 290.)
  5. She reversed Diabetes 2! This diagnosis woke her up and made her start taking her health into her own hands. She only had one bad blood glucose reading, and that was the one when she was diagnosed. Taking immediate action after that diagnosis is why she successfully reversed her diabetes.
  6. 6) Her first D3 test was 45 ng/ml. It should be over 60 ng/ml. Her levels are now normal. This was very important!

Drugs deplete nutrients that the body needs to stay well. If you can get off drugs by finding a natural substitute, we advise you to do so. After consulting with your doctor, find your deficiencies and correct them, and then slowly weaning off the drugs.

If we can do this, anyone can. It just takes a lot of reading and a commitment to want to be healthier WITHOUT DRUGS!

You will never be truly prepared until you act on behalf of your own health and stop believing the lies that drugs are an answer for every ailment. Big medicine needs to learn to share with natural products, because we know they work. We are proof that you can CURE yourself of some ailments, if you get educated, change your lifestyle, and correct your deficiencies.






  1. "Don't stop what your doctor has ordered until you have cured yourself" (Dr. Rogers "How to Cure Diabetes" page 46.)
  2. "Some drugs cannot be abruptly stopped but have to be systematically weaned off over months." (Dr. Rogers "How to Cure Diabetes" page 46)
  3. "There is a powerful force with obscene financial incentives that has worked hard to keep this information secret." (Dr. Rogers "How to Cure Diabetes" page viii.)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

(In writing this submission after quite a long hiatus, I am hoping to bring awareness to the issue and help people be better prepared. After having to go through this cycle of grief myself in regards to the State and their overreach in professional licensing and control of physicians, I have reached acceptance and have emerged willing to try once again to help others. Acceptance of the fact that ANY one of us can be hauled off by the State now for "infractions" is a tough thing, but as Doc's wife says often: "It is only through faith in God that the State can't control people, which is why they try so hard to eliminate faith". While all of us, Christians, would indeed agree that this is true, it is a tough thing to have faith that you don't need a paycheck!)

The five stages of grief have long been defined and established by medical and psychology circles. Since the late 1960's, the Kubler-Ross cycle of grief has been defined as having five separate stages, with no set timeline for movement through those stages. One person can progress within moments to acceptance, while others can get mired in denial for their entire lives. These stages will be familiar to you and are as follows:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

In regard to these stages and survival issues in a collapse, there are three populations of people to address. The first is the masses– those who will not, and often cannot, cope with the idea that a collapse is even possible. There are plenty of debates about what will happen to this group of folks, but surely the outcome is not good for them. If they do face a collapse, surely many will be stuck even before denial in the "shock" stage, which often leads to indecision, inability, and apathy to the situation. Surely these folks are venerable to State control, dependence, and early death in violent situations. They may get to denial and then progress very quickly to anger at "the government" that they see as responsible for "letting this happen". As many preppers are very aware, these folks usually have less than three days worth of food and provisions available in any type of disaster. After denial and anger, they nearly must progress to bargaining within a few days to avoid dehydration and starvation. They are likely, in the bargaining stage, to willingly give up any and all prior rights in order to eat or even be provided with water. They may be willing to be State soldiers if necessary for their meals or their family's meals. This will lead to depression in varying degrees and then finally acceptance– WILLING acceptance. This is why the rest of us in the other two groups are and need to be armed.

This group of people will be completely helpless without State control. If there is a complete collapse of law and order without the State controlling millions quickly and efficiently, these folks will have to go through the stages of grief as they starve and die off. This would also make them extremely dangerous. Many will surely die in the denial stage as others progress to the anger stage of their process. Violence inevitably and very quickly increases as angry people don't have water and food. Those in denial will be likely to never progress beyond it as they fall victim to angry people. Those that get to anger will vent that anger somewhere and in some way. Again, those they blame will be prone to danger, injury, and death.

In the bargaining stage, folks will be willing to do ANYTHING to survive. If the State does not swoop in and offer an option to people in need immediately, there are many folks out there more than willing to take advantage of these "bargainers" to further their own power towards survival. The bargaining stage will consolidate power in those that have and are willing to provide "favor" for something in exchange. If that is the State, then the State will gain power over those it controls and others that it may want to control. If that is the local gangsters, then they will become warlords themselves and those that are willing to bargain for those provisions that they control. Gangs will grow quickly and organize with warlords of power getting more powerful. This is the inevitable nature of humanity. History has proven this innumerable times, if you require proof.

Depression will be rampant in those stuck in those bargained positions, whether State-controlled or gangster-controlled. Many will be depressed enough for suicide as an escape. Suicides will be numerous, in the depressed seeing no way out, in varied situations. Many others would fail in their situations and either starve or be killed because of their failure. It would be a rough time indeed. As many progress to acceptance, a natural state of conflict will exist between those in power and those that have bargained for survival. This state of acceptance is very prone to volatility, and the usual rebellions (both local and regional) will occasionally cycle through. It would be in your best interest to avoid this group of folks altogether. Anyone that reads this blog will obviously say, “Well, duh.”

Once a person reaches acceptance, it is surely not locked down and static. Often those in horrible situations have to wake every day and progress through the stages of grief just to get up and dressed, and they are at risk daily for stage regression and miring. This is a very important fact about grief processing that is essential to remember: The stages are not 1,2,3,4,5 in order but can be a yo-yo within moments, days, weeks, months, or years. It can go 1,2,3,5,3,5,1,4,5,1,5 and take a lifetime to process. For others, it can progress in order, without deviation, and all within minutes. Some people can skip stages altogether and never have to actually process a stage. The essential fact for survival is to know and follow your own process and the process of others around you to improve your chances. To deny mental health issues and avoid their discussion increases your failure risk in any collapse situation.

For the second group of folks, the stages are the same, but the process is very different. This group includes most of the readers of this fine blog– those who did some preparation and are not surprised by the collapse, but feel that they were caught "not finished" with their ideal preps. Almost all preppers would be in this group of those wishing they had done more and had a little more time (myself included). For these people, denial will likely be minimal. Anger will most-likely be self-directed. Bargaining will most-likely be with those friends and family that were not prepared, urging them to quickly do what they can to help their own survival. Depression about those "lost" will be very real. If communication is quickly difficult or impossible, the unknown status of loved ones will bear down on us all. Depression about our state of being in a collapse environment is serious and also inevitable. Denying this fact is very dangerous indeed. Depending on the situation of the individual, the group, and the larger society, depression will eventually give way to acceptance, if you live long enough. It will be a tough time though for preppers too, not just the unprepared. While the unprepared masses will immediately feel overwhelmed and give up their control to others, the prepper will have to go through this cycle over and over about countless things putting them at risk for stage regression and miring.

Think about the things over the years that you have prepared for that you suddenly "light-bulbed" in terms of your preps. There are so many things that you could have missed that will become front and center in a collapse situation. Every time you run out of something that you wish you had stored more of, every time you wish you had something that you feel like you should have remembered, every time someone complains about some inconvenience and you know that ultimately it was up to you as the "survival nut that read that blog all the time", and when you run out of toilet paper, you have to go through the grief cycle. When you have no more gasoline, it will be time for the grief cycle. When you run out of propane, batteries, ammo, sunblock, bug spray, tape, shoes, it will be time for the grief cycle. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance– that's just the reality of how it works inside our brains.

When you think about the hunting or camping trip you had when you were a kid, you know the grief cycle. "Don't tell me we forgot (BLANK)?!?!?!". "Oh no, we forgot (BLANK)!". "How could we forget (BLANK)??? Are you sure?" "Son of bleepity bleep bleep bleepity (depending on your relations), I can't deal with this trip without (BLANK)!!!" "Maybe the neighbors have (BLANK) and will trade for cash". "At least we have beer...(let the drinking to cope with (BLANK)-missing begin).” "Oh well, the trip will go on, and we can cope without (BLANK)." In my family, as long as (BLANK) wasn't the beer, that was usually the conversation. It won't be a camping trip or a hunting weekend though, so the magnitude and severity of the stages of grief will be much greater.

Finally, the group that you want to be in and hope to achieve is that of the fully prepared. Those lucky few are the hardcores– those that practiced living without power when they had it to see their prepping holes, those that ran drills and practiced security and safety, and those that forced their kids (adult or otherwise) to do what most families do not do– really prepare. Even these lovable nuts will have to go through the stages of grief. Denial, check. (It's over on the news that there is the hint of collapse.) Anger, none, except perhaps venting to God and family. "I told them all!!! Why did they not listen! How could they be so stupid? R17.5 trillion. What did they think would happen?!!!" Bargaining is likely to be minimal, except internally, worrying about what is coming to them for challenges. Most of this will be directed at God, in the form of prayers or pleas. "Get us through today, and I will venture out and try to help people tomorrow" type of stuff. Depending on the nature and severity of the suffering around, these fully-prepared folks may find their Christian nature starts in on them, and they wonder if they are being "too selfish" or should be "making more of an effort" to help others than "just themselves". Depression is a reality for the fully prepared, too. Minds are a tricky thing in crisis, and to deny this is to deny our humanity. Acceptance is much more likely in this group to be reached faster than the other groups and with more permanence.

Interacting with others will be more effective and safer if you can quickly and easily recognize that they may be in a different stage of grief than you and yours. It will not be easy to turn away a known family that are dangerously ill-prepared, even with the food and preps you were just willing to give them to try to help. It would especially not be easy to turn them away at the point of a gun when they again returned to you for help, desperate and bargaining for their lives. How would you deal with them if it was your blood family or a best friend of if they want to leave their three-year-old so that the child might live? These are horrible, difficult grief cycle issues that may be more reality than any of us might like in a collapse. Just because you are well prepared does not protect you from the grief cycle.

So, how does this help your preparations? What can we do about this now, during, and after a collapse to help survival? There are some concrete things to do. First, acknowledge that the stages of grief are indeed real, and talk about the grief cycle now. Think through your own "preparation grief stages" and how you might deal with various scenarios. For those of us in the middle group of preppers, realize that immediately progressing through denial and using the anger that you have for constructive action can save your life and the lives of others. Waiting a day in a dollar collapse may be too long. Have a plan for yourself and your group for collapse day. What happens if you are wrong? So, you have more dog food and gas that you might need that month, big deal. You may also find something that your "24-hour list" might be missing. We have a "24-hour list" that has many helpful survival items that we have thought about buying in quantities and without worry of cost in the event of collapse, as recommended by many prior articles and books on the subject. We have moved past the denial of ever needing it to have it ready. If you have not, perhaps it is time.

Second, realize that sometimes it is the little things that get to us more than the bigger ones. "So there has been a complete collapse, oh well. But we ran out of (BLANK)?!!?!?!?! That's it, time for a complete freakout!!!" This is more real than you can possibly imagine. People in real-world survival situations have found this to be the real-world manifestation of people in grief stages. We have all been upset about something unrelated and taken our anger out on the dog or other loved one. Minimize these risks now. Have everyone in the family make a "top ten things I would not want to not have in a collapse” list. Many of the items may surprise you. While brownies seem like hardly a survival necessity to me, it might be the #3 on both my daughter's and Doc's wife's list. Time to get some "just add water" survival brownies. For $20, we may have avoided a double freakout and have increased the time my family has to progress to acceptance of the bigger situation...well worth it. My own list was a challenge, at first full of foods and other niceties that later seemed petty and selfish. Later, the list had more practical items and retained some of the niceties, just because.

Lastly, realize that you may have a better grasp on your mental thread than others in your family or group. Talking about it openly now may prevent serious problems later. For us, we really don't want to see how my daughter truly reacts and behaves when the grid goes down. She doesn't like thinking, talking, or preparing for even a power outage. We force her to talk about it occasionally, and she does at least relate her thoughts that she knows we have prepared for her, and she appreciates the idea in the back of her mind. It would be the front of her mind that we would worry about when you take her Starbucks away! She is certainly the biggest risk for denial and anger. She would be likely to quickly progress past bargaining when she got there because she would be bargaining with us, so easy solution there. However, when depression hit her, it would likely be hard and smothering. It is up to me, as our family leader, to watch all my people closely, continuing to talk about how they are really doing and if they are progressing through the stages appropriately. Just talking about it helps people process that it is happening. Reminding them of how they denied an issue, then got angry, then pleaded for a bargain helps to reassure them that their current depression is NORMAL and will eventually pass.

So, to recap, before any collapse, talk and talk and talk and better prepare as a group. During a collapse, avoid denial quicksand and turn anger into action with a 24-hour list and a plan. After a collapse, continue to help lead people in their grief as well as the other areas of your strength. Perhaps there is a person in your group that is best suited for this, and you are not. That person should spend some time studying the grief stages and how people progress more quickly and effectively. Perhaps purchasing a book to help for the survival shelves might help if your group is poorly psychologically-gifted. There is the original text and there are more modern versions

There is also a more challenging modern grief "textbook" that is regarded by many in therapy circles to be a must-read if you are into the "current theory" grief idea.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

During a survival situation, being able to do a task with a good amount of stamina can get things done much faster. As an example, a recent survival blog entry was about how bikes are very valuable during survival. If one has no stamina, bikes can be pretty useless. Even if one has a limited amount of stamina, biking can be very exhausting and require a very long time to get from place to place. As a personal example, yesterday there was a big snowstorm where I live. My younger brothers and I decided to shovel snow for money. I can say with certainty that I did at least 75% of the work because I had the stamina to keep working, while they needed to take breaks. There are an endless number of survival situations in which one would find himself needing stamina, but a few include gathering plants in the wild, skinning an animal, running after or from an attacker, hunting, as well as hauling supplies.

When people think of working out, many think of bodybuilding and bench pressing. In a book called "The Lone Survivor," the author (a Navy SEALS trainer) wrote how the people who were heavy lifters were the first ones to drop out of training because they were too top heavy. Our bodies were created to become stronger for utility rather than to, specifically, look good. I had friends in high school who would body build while I would train in cardio. When we would go jogging together, they would be spent within the first mile, while I wouldn't even be sweating. The bottom line is that there are two types of exercising-- weight lifting (body building) and cardio. While cardio (sit ups, biking, jogging, pushups, etc.) is extremely useful for everyday tasks, bodybuilding (in my opinion) is almost useless. It makes one look nice and may be useful for a good packhorse, but that's it.

There are two different types of cardio-- calisthenics and endurance/stamina. As I will explain, these two can be combined, and doing one does not necessarily mean you are not doing the other. Calisthenics is when you are using your body weight to work out. A few examples are pushups, chin-ups, situps, crunches, and squats. Endurance/stamina is where you are trying to keep doing the exercise for as long as planned and get your heart rate speed up. A few examples of endurance/stamina exercises are jogging, biking, jumping, and sprinting. Endurance/stamina can also include calisthenics. Two examples of combined exercises are sprinting with pushups between sprints and very rapidly doing a combination of calisthenics exercises.

Based upon my experience, I will share my detailed explanation of a good fitness program by beginning with endurance and stamina exercises. In my opinion, this is the most useful of all exercises. Their result is the ability to last a really long time and feel really good about yourself. I have recently noticed what seems to be an increase in their popularity, as I have seen many bumpers displaying the sticker "26.2" (the distance of a full marathon) or "13.1" (the distance of half a marathon).

First, I'll start with jogging. I am writing with the assumption that you are in the average shape. If you are not, I have never had experiences with this. I assume you keep jogging the amount you think is your limit until you can build it up to a respectable distance. If you are in half decent shape, you can start off by jogging one or two miles three times a week. Once you feel you could handle this distance, you can follow a strict schedule to get you into good shape. Trying to jog everyday will hurt your body, and will not necessarily get one into the best possible shape. I found a marathon schedule for amateurs a few years ago, and since I was jogging for distance and not for speed, I modified it to fit my needs. So here it is:

  • Week One

    Monday: two miles
    Tuesday: rest
    Wednesday: two miles
    Thursday: rest
    Friday: two miles
    Saturday: rest
    Sunday: rest

  • Week Two

    Monday: light exercise (walking or jumping jacks)
    Tuesday: rest
    Wednesday: two miles
    Thursday: rest
    Friday: two miles
    Saturday: rest
    Sunday: three miles

  • Week Three

    Monday: two miles
    Tuesday: rest
    Wednesday: two miles
    Thursday: rest
    Friday: two miles
    Saturday: rest
    Sunday: four miles

  • Week Four

    Monday: light exercise
    Tuesday: rest
    Wednesday: three miles
    Thursday: rest
    Friday: three miles
    Saturday: rest
    Sunday: five miles

  • Week Five:

    Monday: light exercises (walking and jumping jacks)
    Tuesday: rest
    Wednesday: three miles
    Thursday: rest
    Friday: three miles
    Saturday: rest
    Sunday: seven miles

  • Week Six

    Monday: light exercise
    Tuesday: rest
    Wednesday: three miles
    Thursday: rest
    Friday: three miles
    Saturday: rest
    Sunday: eight miles

You get the point. Basically you ease up the distance on both the short runs and the long runs until you feel like you are maintaining a nice distance. As I said before, make sure to take those rest days. You don't want to wear down your body and cause an injury.

In terms of calisthenics, I make a list of different types of calisthenics and then combine them. I usually take one or two that use various parts of the body. For example, I will do pushups (pecks), sit ups (abs), squats (legs), chin ups (biceps), and sprints (legs again). Sometimes, I will want to work out a specific part of the body, and I will choose a few that concentrate on that area of my body. There are different ways of combining them. One way is to do as many of the circuit exercises as you can in 10, 20, or 30 minutes. Another way is to do a minute of each exercise for five or however many circuits. Still another way is to do one of each exercise, combining many exercises. So instead of putting 5 exercises in the circuit, put 10 or 15. Here is a list of different exercises and a YouTube video explaining each one:

A few points to consider before you start:

  1. Get good running shoes. You don't want to destroy the joints in your legs. The content trauma of your feet hitting the pavement will cause the cartridge by your knees to wear down. If you wear running shoes, it will cushion the impact. Running shoes also protect your feet from injury better than a different type of shoe. For one, running shoes will soften the feel of objects, such as rocks, as you run over them. Secondly, running shoes are built to stop your feet from rolling too much inwards or outwards; this rolling action can result in sprains, a skinned knee, or a twisted ankle. Additionally, running shoes are lighter, enabling you to carry less weight and jog or workout faster.
  2. Always warm up.

    If you start running too fast, you run the risk of pulling a muscle; tweaking a tendon, bone, or joint; or getting into a pace that you can't sustain. You end up slowing down and burning out before you're done with your workout. The worst part is that you're likely to end your run feeling exhausted, discouraged, and dreading your next workout.

    Old studies on animal subjects determined that injuring a muscle that has gone through a warm-up process required more force and more muscle length than a muscle with no warm-up. This study is in line with the anecdotal data that acute muscle tears occur more often when the muscles are cold or not warmed up.

    Additionally, warming up can improve performance. Experts agree that the main purpose of warm-up is to increase the blood circulation in order to raise both the general body and the deep muscle temperatures, which in turn help to heat up the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in preparation for more vigorous activity.

    Warming up can include walking briskly, marching, jogging slowly, or cycling on a stationary bike. Make sure you don't rush your warm-up.

  3. Make sure to stretch. It is better to stretch when you are cooling down, since you are doing less strenuous movements. There are a few reasons why one should stretch. It increases flexibility, thus reducing chances for injury. It also reduces cramps, although it does not help stomach cramps. Here is a helpful example of good stretching (

    The following stretches target the major leg muscles to maintain healthy flexibility and range of motion. Hold all stretches for a period of 30 seconds to two minutes. The Kneeling Hip Flexor and Hamstring Stretch is done from a kneeling position. Plant the right foot on the ground in front of you, so the leg is bent 90 degrees with the knee and ankle aligned. Keeping your back straight, press forward into your right hip while keeping your left knee pressed into the ground and stretch your left hip and right hamstring. To increase the stretch to the left hip flexors, squeeze and contract the glute muscles of your left hip.

    To begin the Standing Quad Stretch, stand with your legs together. Then, bend your left leg, bringing your left heel toward your butt, and grasp your left foot with your left hand. Press your shoelaces into your hand, so that your leg does the stretching instead of pulling up with your hand.

    Begin the Standing Calf Stretch by facing a wall with your hands on the wall at about chest level. Place the ball of your right foot up against the wall with the heel still touching the floor. Now, with your leg straight, gently lean into the wall until you feel a stretch.

  4. Don't eat or drink too much before exercising. I know this can be a challenge, but I find that if I don't wait at least two hours to begin working out I get stomach cramps. This can cause one to stop working out. Additionally, you can throw up if you have too much food in you.
  5. Drink water in order to stay hydrated during your workout; one needs to drink a lot of water. Also, if you are sweating more (such as on a hot day), you should drink more.

Further readings:

Jogging [1] [2] [3]

Calisthenics [1] [2] [3]

Stretching [1] [2] [3]

Warming up [1] [2] [3]

Thursday, January 9, 2014

If you have finally decided to take the plunge and eliminate social networks from your life (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), the skills for maintaining interpersonal relationships should not be completely thrown by the wayside.  Over the course of the last five years our “group” has created a network of people that has proven to be very valuable.  One disclaimer that I must put forth is that the flippant nature of social networking on-line must be completely discounted as OPSEC is paramount.  I would never bring someone into my home to have contact with my family or include them in my preps if I didn’t fully trust them.  This is why most of the people in my network I have met through my church.  Developing a relationship with other families who have similar values and beliefs has been the backbone of the group that we have formed.  Although there are only a dozen active members (not including 14 children) we have developed a set of skills that crosses many areas of need come TEOTWAWKI.  Aside from having a wide range of skills the ability to work together as a team, the members of our group encourage growth “as iron sharpens iron" (Prov. 27:17).

I have isolated six areas of preparation that our group network has been most beneficial:

1. Physical Training:

This has been the greatest area of growth for our group.  Five years ago more than half of the members were overweight and only a few exercised on a daily basis.  As a challenge to all of our group members we started our road to fitness with an eight week program similar to the Get Healthy Challenge.  Group members kept in touch with each other on a daily basis to hold one another accountable.  After this eight week program we decided to focus on strength and core training through the Hundred Push-ups and Two Hundred Sit-Ups challenges.  While working on individual fitness goals group members encouraged and challenged each other with daily progress reports through e-mail, phone or text to see how the others were doing.  Doing these challenges with our wives was also an eye opener, as many of the women took the challenges more seriously than the men.  One of the wives actually won the Two Hundred Sit-up Challenge ending with 312 total reps.  Over the course of the last year the physical training has been taken to a much more intense level.  The majority of the group members participated in a Tough Mudder  Event and a GORUCK Challenge.  While not every member participated in these events due to ability, injury or pregnancy the bottom line is that all of us are in better shape today than we were five years ago.  The average member has lost 20 pounds (I have personally lost 40) and we all have a regular schedule of physical activity that maintains strength, flexibility and endurance.  The challenge, support and accountability that doing these types of activities as a group brings is immeasurable.  I doubt that most people would see the same results if done individually.  Working at the retreat property together has also been good physical training for the group.  Bucking hay, cutting and hauling wood and other chores at one of the two sites we have as retreat properties can be grueling work.  You really find out who your friends are when the hay needs to come in or several cords of wood needs to be put up.  Physically the group dynamic is tested with hard physical labor, but working together completes the task sooner and builds relationships with group members.

2. Medical Training:

This has been the weakest area for our group as we need to increase our level of training.  We do have a doctor (optometrist) and a registered nurse in our group.  Although they both have medical training, by no means are we able to fulfill needs like trauma care or even general surgery.  One of the goals is to get several of the members to take an EMT course at the local community college.  This would not solve all of our needs for medical training, but it would be a start for gaining more knowledge concerning emergency medicine.  This course will be a major undertaking, as 120 hours of classroom, observation and practicum is a commitment that will not be taken lightly by most families.  Ultimately the benefit of the knowledge of life saving skills will have to outweigh the cost of loss of time with one’s family.

3. Food Preps:

Buying in bulk is always better when done as a group.  Greater quantity means lower cost per unit and the most value for the money you invest into your preps.  We bought beef from a local slaughterhouse, grains from the local co-op and worked on preserving them as a group.  Whether it is canning, storing in Mylar with oxygen absorbers or dehydrating, it is always better to have more hands helping with the work.  While most of the food preps were done successfully we have decided as a group to not try to brew beer anymore.  After hours of labor and weeks of waiting we had a pretty nasty batch of skunk beer that was not worth the effort or resources allocated.  Pickling has been discovered as a fun way to spend time together as a group.  Many of the wives were looking for ways to put up excess garden produce, so pickling parties became the summer staple.  Developing the mindset that putting food up was important became the norm.

4. Ammo/Shooting Preps:

Again working as a group to purchase ammo in bulk has always been better than trying to find the best deal for each individual.  Utilizing common calibers as the group standard for our center fire rifle and pistol, 12 gauge shotshells and .22 LR we were able to accumulate adequate supplies of ammunition for each group member.  The greatest resource to ammo preparation as a group has been reloading.  Most of our group members did not know how to reload ammunition when we formed five years ago.  Today most have at least a working knowledge if not their own presses and dies.  We have worked together sorting range brass, going through the steps of case preparation and even pooled our resources during the recent shortage of components.  Sharing load data and ballistics has also helped with refining the accuracy of the rounds we produce through reloading.  It is always better to have someone else check your load data just to be safe when reloading.  We have also purchased several sets of reactive steel targets for our shooting sessions.  While I admit this is the area that the guys enjoy the most and pour the majority of their enthusiasm behind, the wives in our group have all taken classes (as husbands are often the worst firearms instructors for women) and are continuing to hone their skills with range time.  The area for improvement would be to take a tactical course like one at Thunder Ranch or Gunsite Academy.  We did participate in a 1,000 yard long range shooting match (which just demonstrated everyone’s then-current lack of ability beyond 400 yards) as a group, but this was more of a recreational activity, not tactical training.  A couple of the guys do IPSC or IDPA, but the majority of the group is not involved in competitive shooting.  To encourage group participation in a serious training course or a competitive shooting series is the goal for the future.  While all group members have firearm proficiency, few have had shooting experiences under pressure.

5. Communications Preps

Our group started out with FRS/GMRS radios as our primary method of communication in the field, and then we got CBs which were slightly better, now most members have Ham radios.  Studying and taking the ARRL tests together was also a good experience.  While the technician test is not hard, it did require some studying to refresh knowledge of electronics and radios.  It was also amazing all of the different FCC requirements and regulations that we needed to know.  Pooling resources together to build antennas and radios is another good function for the group.  A few members have actually joined a local club that maintains the repeater in our town.  The next step would be to have more members go for their General licenses to increase the bandwidth we can access and broaden knowledge concerning Ham radio.

6. Spiritual Prep

As I mentioned earlier, all of our group members were found through our local church.  We are not exclusive to church members (as some have left the church but are still a part of the group), however it was important to find people that all had similar values and beliefs.  The group members have been a part of a couple of small group fellowships that meet at least once a week.  There is a family Bible study, a women’s study and a men’s study that meets at different times on different days.  This has been probably the most important area of our network.  To “bear one another’s burdens (Gal.  6:2)” and not only hold each other accountable, but to support one another through trials and blessings is perhaps the greatest function of our group.  One of our group members is active duty Army and has been deployed four times overseas.  The group has rallied around his wife and children to provide support during his prolonged deployments, which to me fulfills the second greatest commandment (Matt. 22:39).  While a group may be squared away with beans, bullets and Band-Aids if they are not squared away with their Maker then all is for naught.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

I have recently been introduced to Essential Oils and I am by no means an expert, but I believe they definitely have a place in the prepper’s medical bag. They are a pure, all-natural alternative to many types of medications and ointments without the side effects of chemicals.
Essential oils are extracted from certain varieties of trees, shrubs, herbs, and flowers. The oil is concentrated in different parts of the plant. The most common way of extracting oil is through steam distillation. It takes thousands of rose petals to make one small bottle of rose oil! Most essential oils are not ‘oily’ like vegetable oil, but will penetrate the skin without an oily feel. Shelf life varies, but I’ve read the shelf life of citrus oils is 1-2 years, and other oils possibly up to 8 years, making them a great addition to your 1st aid kit. They should be stored in a dry, dark place. A 5 ml bottle of essential oils contains approximately 85 drops. One drop goes a long way, so I suggest getting a few glass droppers to use instead of dripping from the bottle-sometimes the oil can come out too fast and you don't want to waste a drop!
Some common words you will see when reading about essential oils and their meanings:

EOs=Essential Oils

Neat=Undiluted drops of essential oil

FCO=Fractionated Coconut Oil (regular coconut oil is solid at room temp, Fractionated Coconut Oil stays liquid),

Carrier Oils = Oils used to dilute EOs. Some common carrier oils are: Olive Oil, Grape seed Oil, Sweet Almond Oil, and FCO.

Some ways to use EOs: Smell straight from the bottle or place a few drops on tissue/handkerchief and inhale, diffuse, dilute with carrier oil or witch hazel, apply neat to skin, room sprays, roller bottles, or apply to a clay pendant necklace.

Here’s a small list of some things EOs can be used for: burns, bug spray, aches and pains, insomnia, cold and flu symptoms, toothaches, PMS, athlete’s foot, ADHD, allergies, anxiety, constipation, bed bugs, lice, cleaning solutions, animal issues and many more.
If using on infants, use 1-2 drops EOs to 1 TB carrier oil.
If using on children, use 1-2 drops EOs to 1 tsp. carrier oil.
Do not ingest unless it specifically states on bottle that it is safe to consume.
Use only pure therapeutic or pharma grade oils.
Use glass bottles when mixing up an EO ‘recipe’. The EOs will often break down plastic.
Many oils have similar properties, so if you don’t have an oil you can substitute another.

There are many sources to buy EOs from; I recently became an Affiliate with Spark Naturals. They are very affordable. If you are just starting out, I would suggest the most common oils- Lavender, Peppermint, Tea Tree (also known as Melaleuca), Lemon, and blends thereof are great for specific issues without having to buy many different oils. Spark Naturals offers oils and oil blends. (You can use Coupon Code "DISCOUNT" for 10% off your order.)
-Lavender is one of the most popular EOs, and is great for burns or scalds. Lavender has anti-biotic, anti-septic, anti-depressant, and sedative properties. Promotes healing and prevents scarring. It stimulates the immune system.
-Peppermint has analgesic, anesthetic, anti-septic, decongestant, and stimulant properties. It is great for digestive issues, respiratory, circulation, fatigue, and headaches. It can also keep fleas, ants and mice away.
-Tea Tree is anti-septic, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal. It helps the immune system and helps the body fight off illness. It can be used to treat ringworm, athlete’s foot, infections, and mold. I’ve used it on blemishes-1 drop applied twice a day is very effective. It is also great for cold sores.
-Lemon is anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, anti-septic, and diuretic. Lemon can be used as a water purifier. Add a drop to a glass of water to detoxify and stimulate the lymphatic and digestive system. I’ve even read it can help with weight loss and keep wrinkles away!
-Shield is a blend based upon the legend of grave robbers in 15th century England. They developed a blend of clove, cinnamon, lemon, eucalyptus, and rosemary to protect them while robbing the plague victims. I use Shield in my diffuser during the winter or when someone in our house is getting sick. It smells great. I like the Zaq Allay Diffuser. I’ve bought cheaper ones that haven’t lasted long. (Spark Naturals is one place that sells it) Shield can also be used neat on the bottoms of the feet (feet have the largest pores and EOs get into bloodstream quickly) to protect against germs. I apply Shield (diluted with carrier oil) on my daughter’s feet before school using a roller bottle. I also make a hand sanitizer with Shield.
Other blends: Amend for sore muscles, Bliss for calming, Dream for sleep, Jeddy’s blend for ADHD and anxiety, Respire for respiratory issues, and more.
Essential oils that are good for Sinus issues: Basil, Rosemary, Lavender, Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Tea Tree, Oregano, Lemon.
Oils that can help with cramps/PMS: Basil, Clary Sage, Geranium, Cypress.
Uplifting oils: Orange, Grapefruit, Lemon, Bergamot, and Clary Sage.
Oils for stress relief/calming: Frankincense, Lavender, Roman Chamomile, Vetiver, Ylang Ylang.
Oils for energy/alertness: Lime, Lemon, Grapefruit, Orange, Rosemary, Peppermint.
Frankincense was of course one of the gifts for baby Jesus. It can be used for anxiety, asthma, and to treat bronchitis. It is a strong anti-inflammatory and has anti-tumor and anti-cancer properties.
Myrrh was another gift for Jesus. It is used in skin care, diffuse for bronchitis.
Ylang Ylang and Coriander are said to be aphrodisiacs.
White Fir is a powerful antioxidant, can be used to reduce cold and flu symptoms.

The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann Worwood is a good reference book to have. Another great resource is . Type in an ailment and I’m sure you can find an EO ‘recipe’! has a lot of information on oils and what it can be used for. is a great place to find roller bottles, glass droppers, small glass spray bottles, carrying cases and other accessories.
My suggestion when starting out with EOs is to start a journal, write down or print off recipes you find on the internet. Experiment and write down what works for you.

Here are some recipes I’ve found to work for common ailments, and other uses:
Allergies: Lemon, Lavender and Peppermint applied to feet morning and night.
Athlete's foot: Apply tea tree neat to affected areas twice a day.
Backache: Equal parts Lavender and Peppermint. Use with a little carrier oil if you wish-makes it easier to massage and helps it go farther. My mom suffers back pain and has become a believer after I told her to try this! My dad has diabetes and suffers neuropathy and this has helped him also.
Bleeding: Helichrysum can stop bleeding.
Bug Spray: In 2 oz. glass bottle, 10 drops Lemongrass, 10 drops Lavender, 10 drops Geranium. Top with alcohol free Witch Hazel. You can also use Citronella or Peppermint EOs.
Burns: Apply 2-3 drops neat Lavender. Helps burns heal faster and have less scarring.
Colds and Congestion: Diffuse any combination of Lemon, Oregano, Rosemary, Tea Tree, Eucalyptus, and Peppermint. Or place a drop on a tissue and inhale often.
Constipation: 1-2 drops Lavender in carrier oil, massage on abdomen every few hours.
Coughs: Apply 4-6 drops Eucalyptus on bottoms of feet. Dilute for children.
Cramps: 1 drop Rosemary, 1 drop Cypress, plus carrier oil. Apply to abdomen as needed.
Ear aches: Use carrier oil and Basil EO applied to a cotton ball; rub all around ear several times a day until symptoms are gone.
Fever: 1-2 drops each Peppermint, Lavender, Frankincense with a little carrier oil applied to bottoms of feet.
Hair growth: Add a few drops of Rosemary to your shampoo.
Hand Sanitizer: 2 oz. alcohol free witch hazel, (I like Thayer’s Aloe Vera Witch Hazel) 15 drops Shield, 10 drops Tea Tree.
Headache: 1-2 drops each Lavender and Peppermint applied to temples.
Homemade vapor rub: Melt 2 oz. coconut oil, 5 drops Rosemary, 5 drops Tea Tree, 3 drops Peppermint, 3 drops Eucalyptus. I use a small 4 oz. canning jar.
Mice (Repelling): Put peppermint oil on cotton balls and place around areas needed.
Other types of pain-joint pain, carpal tunnel, arthritis, etc.: Peppermint, Lavender, Birch and Wintergreen in carrier oil. Birch and Wintergreen are very high in methyl salicylate; which is the same component in aspirin. They should both always be diluted in carrier oil. Both are an anti-inflammatory. Birch and Wintergreen should not be used if you are allergic to aspirin or are on blood thinners. People with epilepsy and pregnant women should not use Birch.
Pets: add a few drops of tea tree or peppermint to your dog’s collar to get rid of fleas. For an ear infection, apply tea tree and carrier oil to a cotton ball and wipe inside of ears. Horses, goats, sheep and other farm animals can benefit from EOs too!
Runny nose: 1-2 drops Lemon on the sides of your nose will stop the running. Use caution when going into the sun, citrus oils can cause skin to burn easily.
Sweet Dreams Spray: Water and Lavender in small spray bottle. Shake before using. (I use this when my daughter has trouble sleeping. She gets excited about it and asks for it!)
Toothache: 2-3 drops Clove oil applied to cotton ball, apply to gums.
I am not a doctor; please do your own research!
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to essential oils! I am thankful God has given us this gift and the ability to research and use them. There are so many more oils out there and so much more you can do with them. I’m excited to keep learning about them so hopefully I can be prepared for whatever comes our way. God Bless!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Body
There are two primary tools used to in every situation ever encountered; the mind and the body. Despite the body being such a crucial aspect of survivability, preparing the body for the unknown remains one of the least addressed topics in survival books and on-line forums. It is also one of the areas of survival that necessitates the most maintenance, and requires the most amount of dedication and consistency. Though most survival manuals fail to address the importance of preparing the body, the fact remains that there are no military units in the world that do not have a physical fitness requirement, nor would you find any law enforcement or fire and emergency services department that do not have documented physical fitness standards. Field journalists, adventure travelers, and anyone else who has spent time in a hostile environment all know the value of being fit, and have an understanding of its necessity when the odds change and the environment becomes hostile.  The reality of life is that in a moment the environment can change and unexpected, and often grueling, demands can be placed on the body. The first step for anyone who is tempting the forces of nature, subsisting in a hostile environment, or simply preparing for the unexpected, is to ready the most effective tool in any survival situation; the human body. 

Fitness training for survival requires a different kind of mindset and athlete. Because of the unpredictable nature of a survival situation, the key to an effective physical fitness routine is balance. Balance, in this respect, can be defined as maximizing the body’s ability in the areas of strength, speed, endurance, and flexibility, to the point where any single area doesn’t detract from another. For example, weight lifting strength is an excellent characteristic, and one that has a diversity of use in survival situations. However, weight lifting, and consequently gaining size, to the point that is begins to detract from the body’s ability to maximize its speed or flexibility would be inhibiting for the purpose of survival. To truly maximize the body’s ability to perform at its peak requires a constantly changing exercise routine, to include stretching, strength training, cardiovascular training, interval and circuit training, endurance training, and mixed sports. Varying exercise routines develops muscles in a more effective, more natural, manner. Contrary to those who continually utilize the same exercises, varying exercises and techniques ensures that all individual muscles and all muscle groups are being worked, that all muscles are being contracted from all angles, and that the overall efficiency of the workout is being capitalized on.

In addition to varying the exercise routine itself, consideration should be given to diversifying the environments in which the training takes place. Varying the training environment prepares the body, and mind, to adapt to different conditions, and provides an opportunity to better understand how the body reacts in different settings. By diversifying such conditions as geography, climate, altitude, weather, time of day, etc. other inhibiting factors might also be revealed, such as the fear of heights, claustrophobia, or the inability to swim. This creates an opportunity to identify and address such issues prior to realizing them during a crisis.  The imagination offers endless possibilities for keeping an exercise routine diversified and interesting, and when it comes to training for survival, an exercise routine for the body is incomplete if it doesn’t include exercising the imagination.

Establishing a better balanced and more dynamic body through a diversified physical fitness regimen has other significant benefits. One of the most beneficial, is it bridges the communication barrier between the body and mind. This communication is crucial during a survival situation. As a person becomes consistent with an exercise program, they become more and more familiar with their bodies limitations, abilities, and signs and symptoms. In time, an understanding is established as to how far the body can be pushed without risking injury, or inhibiting future workouts. They soon understand how to fuel for specific types of work outs, and how to hydrate. They begin to understand how the body communicates that it is overheating, in pain, or needs rest. This type of communication cannot be taught by anything other than experience, and by pushing the body to its limits and exposing it to a variety of extreme environments. Another benefit is increased confidence. As fitness levels improve, and the body begins to continually prove itself in a variety of challenges and environments, confidence begins to breed. Confidence, in this respect, offers reassurance that the body is capable of achievement. This is particularly important during a survival situation, or hostile environment, when the body is heavily depended on. Confidence in the body reassures the mind and spirit, drastically increasing the odds of success during moments of adversity.

Strength Training
The balanced development of the deep and superficial muscles that stabilize, align, and move the trunk of the body, known as core strength, is crucial for maximizing the body’s overall performance and can prove vital during a survival situation. The core muscles located in the abdominals and back are used for stabilization and support for all other muscle groups in the human body. Not only is the development of the core crucial for increasing the strength of other muscle groups, but core strength improves the body’s posture, supports the protection of the back and pelvis, and aids in injury prevention and rehabilitation. In addition, the strength derived from the core of the body is also heavily depended on when other parts of the body are injured, and/or when stabilizing the body is a necessity. For the purposes of building and maintaining a well-balanced and injury-free body, core strength should be the foremost objective of all strength training.
To supplement the strength derived from the core, additional exercises, which focus primarily on the extremities of the body, can be added to increase the body’s overall power and muscle endurance. Keeping in mind that the goal is to achieve the most strength and muscle gain possible without inhibiting speed, flexibility, and endurance, it should be noted that overall strength training programs should only be just one component of a diversified fitness program.  Some of the most effective, and most difficult, strength training exercises are nothing more than using the body’s own weight as resistance. This type of exercising, which is ideal for survival training since it closely mirrors those actions most often needed during a survival situation, is called body weight training.

Body weight training is an excellent way to develop both core and overall body strength, as well as add variety to a workout routine. Necessitating nothing but the body’s own weight, body weight training can be accomplished anywhere, at any time, and under any conditions. Another significant benefit to body weight training is its ability to develop smaller muscles within the body. As opposed to most standard gym equipment which uses machinery to isolate the motion of the body and focus resistance to a particular muscle or muscle group, body weight training forces the body to use smaller muscles to stabilize and balance the body as it is in motion.  As the body develops and becomes stronger, the intensity of body weight workouts can be increased by raising the number of repetitions in each set, by adding to the body’s weight with free-weight, or by making it more difficult for the body to stabilize and balance itself.
Standard fitness equipment, however, certainly maintains its place in developing overall body strength. Its use remains an excellent tool for becoming familiar with the basics of strength training, developing specific muscles or muscle groups, and working around injuries. Additionally, most machinery designed for strength training has safety mechanisms that forbid the uncontrolled descent of the weight being lifted. Though this doesn’t eliminate the risk of injury, it does provide a level of comfort when increasing weight or training a muscle until exhaustion. To understand the safety mechanisms, as well as to become familiar with the uses and functions of any piece of fitness machinery, professional guidance is recommended.

Flexibility Training

Flexibility is a key component to being physically fit. It enables to the body to prepare for exercise by stretching and warming the muscles, prevents injury, and maximizes the range of motion in muscles and in joints and series of joints. It also increases blood supply and nutrients to joint structures, which in turn increases circulation. Like all aspects of physical fitness, to reap the benefits of flexibility during a survival situation, a habitual fitness routine that includes flexibility must first exist. Stretching, which is intentionally elongating muscle groups and/or skeletal muscles, is an excellent way to increase and maintain flexibility, as well as, increase range of motion and increase muscle control. Practicing yoga, martial arts, and/or pilates is an excellent way of integrating stretching into a physical fitness regimen. Such art forms offer an almost endless amount of dynamic movements elongating the different muscles of the body, and can significantly develop the bodies overall core strength and mobility. A secondary benefit of practicing these art forms is developing a better understanding of breathing, and its relationship to the body and mind. Breathing exercises, which are an essential aspect of yoga, pilates, and of martial arts, have been said to revitalize the body, steady emotions, and create clarity in the mind, all of which can prove beneficial in a survival situation. Instruction in any of these art forms is available for every level, ranging from novice to advanced, and can be found in almost any format imaginable.

Endurance Training

The primary goal of endurance training is to increase the body’s ability to withstand stress for an extended period of time. Increasing the body’s endurance is a long process. While differences in the body can be seen and felt relatively quickly from strength and flexibility training, the rewards reaped by endurance training take much longer. Mentally, physically, and even behaviorally, training to expand the body’s stamina is trying. Endurance training takes a significant amount of determination and discipline, as it calls for continually pushing the mind and body beyond its comfort zones, and to new levels of ability. Behaviorally, endurance training might call for lifestyle changes to accommodate the processes of fueling, hydrating, for the training itself, and for recovery.

Before an understanding of endurance training can be attained at the most basic level, the two common forms of endurance must first be explained. Aerobic endurance, meaning “with oxygen”, means that the demands of oxygen by the working body are being met. With the body being supplemented with proper levels of oxygen, it is able continue working. Thus, strengthening aerobic endurance means developing the energy production systems to meet the demands of activity for as long as necessary. Conversely, anaerobic endurance is the opposite, meaning “without oxygen”, and the body is working at a level that exceeds the amount of oxygen and fuel being taken in. When the body is in such a state, it is forced to make use of its reserved fuel, depleting it until the body runs out and stops. Anaerobic endurance can be developed through brief, high intensity interval training.  Both aerobic and anaerobic training have significant health benefits in addition to increasing the body’s ability to keep going. 

As important as aerobic and anaerobic strength are to ensuring the body can continue working over an extended period of time, strength endurance is equally important to ensure that muscles within the body can perform repetitive contractions as needed. Exercises to increase strength endurance are performed similar to those to build and maintain overall body strength, but with a slight variation. Typically done at the end of a regular strength training workout, this kind of endurance training is accomplished by working the muscle until extreme fatigue, or failure. This is typically accomplished by lowering the amount of resistance being used and increasing the number of repetitions until the muscle is so fatigued it cannot support the resistance, or completely fails. This type of endurance strength training is commonly referred to as “low weight, high repetition training”. “Negative training”, which is another method for developing strength endurance, is done by applying negative resistance to a muscle or muscle group until the muscle fails.  In both types of endurance strength exercises, the amount of resistance applied plays a significant role. The lower the resistance, or weight, used during endurance exercises, the less strength is needed to be applied and the longer it should take for the muscle to fatigue or fail. Conversely, more resistance applied places higher strength demands on the muscle causing it to fatigue or fail more rapidly. Taking this into consideration, and to maintain a balance between muscle strength and endurance, many begin strength endurance exercises at their normal resistance level, and subsequently lower the resistance as the muscle fatigues. 

Speed and Agility Training
At first glance, the requisite of speed is not as apparent as that of flexibility, strength, or endurance.  Though situations can be identified where speed might be of use, such as running from an adversary or escaping a perilous situation, the true value of speed training is peripheral. In addition to the obvious benefit of reducing the amount of time it takes to get from one point to another, speed training improves the body’s agility. Essential when having to avoid obstacles at a high rate of speed or during moments of increased stress, agility increases the body’s ability to change body position intently without losing balance. The range of speed and agility training drills are endless, ranging from flat surface sprinting and hill runs, to shuttle and figure eight sprints. Sports that necessitate the body’s physical reaction to an opposing player are especially useful at building speed and agility.
In addition to the benefits discussed, speed and agility training also increase the body’s aerobic stamina, explosive strength, and confidence, and is a healthy way of learning to tolerate physical and mental discomfort. Developing speed and agility is a long process, and one that comes with a higher than normal risk of injury. It is important that conservative fitness goals are set when developing a training program, expanding the participants comfort zone a little at a time to reduce the risk of injury. 

A discussion on preparing the body for survival would not be complete without covering the importance of diet. Ensuring that the body has everything it needs to support its health and produce fuel for an active lifestyle is critical. Diet philosophies differ greatly and derive from all spectrums, but many share a similar foundation or best practices.  Primarily, there are three areas of diet that are of greatest concern.
The first, protein, assists in the rebuilding of muscles that have been broken down from exertion. A failure to include enough protein in a diet leads to inability of the body to rebuild these muscles properly. Those attempting to gain significant muscle use a “one gram of protein per pound daily” philosophy, maximizing protein intake thereby providing enough protein to allow for muscles to repair and grow larger. Athletes who aspire only to ensure the body has sufficient protein to repair itself and become stronger, use less protein daily, typically around 0.7 grams per pound. Significant sources of protein are dairy products, eggs, tuna, chicken, lean beef, nuts, beans, and supplement protein sources.

The second area of concern is carbohydrates. Providing fuel for the body, carbohydrates are the key to ensuring that the body has whatever it takes to accomplish the tasks that lie ahead. Glycogen, which is the storage form of a carbohydrate, breaks down during exercise. If the breakdown exceeds the rate of replenishment, the body becomes depleted and is not able to maintain its energy level. This is often referred to as “bonking”. Complex carbohydrates, which are carbohydrates that burn at a slower pace and release a slow, but steady, stream of energy into the body, are excellent for excursions taking place over a longer period of time. Carbohydrate loading is the practice of consuming carbohydrates to provide fuel for the body in anticipation of exercise. Carbohydrates can be found in whole wheat pasta, fruits, vegetables, oatmeal, brown rice, bran-based foods, and rough breads.

The third area is fats. Contrary to popular belief, fats are a crucial element in providing a healthy body. Fats are needed to absorb vitamins, and in fact, sensible fat intake boosts the body’s ability to burn fat. Most athletes consume less that 30% of total calories from fat, and approximately 7% from saturated fat. Fats can be found in beans, nuts, avocados, olives, fish fat, coconut and extra virgin olive oil, dark chocolate, and seeds.  There are fats, however, to stay away from to maintain effective health and fitness. Minimizing preservatives, highly processed food, alcohol, trans fat (unsaturated fat), deep fried oils, flour, white rice, sugar, and fast food is a solid beginning to reducing the negative effects of a bad diet and inhibiting the body’s ability to perform at its optimal level.

The counting of grams and the comparing and contrasting of ingredient labels can be laboring, and time consuming. There are several shopping strategies that focus on a healthier overall diet, and keep the simple trip to the grocery store tolerable. The first can be referred to as the “7 Day Diet”. The practice of the “7 Day Diet” entails limiting purchasing anything from the grocery store that will last more than seven days, and intently purchasing things that will expire within seven days. Generally, abiding by this philosophy increases the amount of fresh vegetables and fruit in a diet, as well as fish and meats. It also strives to eliminate items with a high level of preservatives, and ‘snack’ items such as chips, crackers, cookies, etc. A very similar philosophy to the “7 Day Diet” is the “Outer Perimeter Diet”. This shopping strategy limits food shopping to the outer perimeter of the food store only, eliminating non-perishable and non-refrigerated items. This closely mirrors the “Seven Day Diet” since most foods not necessitating refrigeration and/or are stored on the outer perimeter of a standard grocery store will perish within approximately seven days. As with the “7 Day Diet”, the “Outer Perimeter Diet” increases the purchasing, and consequently the consuming, of all of the major food groups while limiting needless, and unwanted, ingredients. With the emergent of several grocery companies whose primary focus is the selling of healthier, local grown, and organic foods, having a healthier diet has never been easier. Though typically a little more expensive than a standard grocery store, those who embrace the philosophy of primarily shopping at whole markets truly benefit from it. In addition to reaping the rewards of consuming products that are natural, those who shop at whole markets have the opportunity to introduce less chemicals and toxins into their body by purchasing food from a wider selection of organic foods.

Life does not exist without proper hydration, thus, it is crucial that there is an understanding of the relationship between hydration and the body. Hydration is a continuing process. It begins now, and remains a constant practice forevermore.  Firefighters, for example, are constantly hydrating in preparation for the next fire, never knowing of course when that will be. Much like exercise and diet, hydration is not something that can be accomplished at the last minute, but instead necessitates a habitual, proactive, lifestyle. The key to successful hydration is never allowing the body to become thirsty, which occurs when there is an abnormally high level of sodium in the body’s blood. A delayed response exists between the body losing fluid and the initial sensation of thirst, thus, thirst is not a reliable indicator that the body requires hydration, but rather is an indicator that it is already dehydrated. Dehydration is a state when there is not enough water in the body to perform normal bodily functions. When the body loses approximately 2% of its water, thirst occurs, typically accompanied by a loss of appetite and discomfort. At a water loss of approximately 5%-6%, the body moves slower, becomes sleepy, aches, nausea occurs, and numbness is sometimes felt in the limbs. Between 10%-15% the body becomes inoperable, vision dims, muscles spasm, urination ceases, and delirium sets in. In most cases, when the body has lost 15% or more of its water, death occurs.

Water makes up approximately 60% of the human body, and is used by every body system. The standard rule for daily water consumption is the “8 X 8 rule”, recommending that eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid should be consumed daily. Despite the many differing philosophies that exist, the “8 X 8 rule” has little controversy and is the most widely used rule for daily water consumption. There are, however, contributing factors to be considered when applying this rule. Consideration to the environment surrounding the body, the level of exercise or exertion of the body, any illness or injury, the level of food intake, any anticipated activity, and other such factors need to be considered when evaluating whether the “8 X 8 rule” is a sufficient calculator for determining how much to hydrate. Common practices to supplement the “8 X 8 rule” include drinking a glass of water during and between each meal, hydrating before, during, and after exercise or exertion, limiting the intake of caffeine and alcohol, and the most common rule among athletes, soldiers, and survivalists alike, is simply always having a method of hydration on hand.


Mental conditioning is a key component of surviving extreme conditions. Training the mind to operate more effectively under extreme conditions is a gradual, never ending process. The human mind constantly seeks to understand itself, and in doing so, allows itself to listen, and analyze its own thoughts. It is in this ability that a survival mindset can be created, and used when needed most. The most effective mindset for survival exists contrary to how many are led to believe. The “whatever it takes” mentality often credited to an individual pulling through a survival ordeal demonstrates more of the individuals will to live, than it does an effective survival mindset. The willingness to do whatever it takes to survive, by itself, is an excellent quality to exhibit during a survival situation. However, basing a mindset on this willingness alone often leads to carelessness and unnecessary risk taking. An effective survival mindset is one that remains able to analyze, objectively, a situation under extraordinary circumstances. The purpose in doing so is to reduce the situation down to facts, by stripping away what the imagination has added, and seeing the situation as objectively as possible. In doing so, the ability to clearly define individual challenges is easier, as is determining the appropriate courses of action to resolve them. Maintaining, under stress, the ability to understand that a survival situation is nothing more than a series of smaller obstacles, rather than a single unconquerable one, is the most effective survival mindset.

Consider this example: A man is running his first marathon with the only objective of crossing the finish line on his own two feet. In doing so, he will have achieved a lifelong dream, validated months of training, and will of course receive the coveted marathon t-shirt. He runs the first few miles with relative ease. However, on the 12th mile of the 26 mile marathon he begins to feel a terrible pain in his right heel. His survival mindset immediately kicks in and he tries focusing on putting the pain out of his mind, and pressing on. The pain continues, and his imagination begins listing the possibilities as he continues to run: Achilles tendon, blisters, bone spur. At mile twenty the pain becomes unbearable, and reluctantly, he is forced to stop. He limps to the roadside where he immediately falls to the curb, fearing the worst. He begins to unlace his shoe as quickly as he can, hoping for immediate reprieve from the pain. Grabbing the heel of the shoe first, he gently pulls it from his aching foot, and upon doing so almost immediately discovers the reason for his agony. He hangs his head thinking of all the training wasted, all of the effort that went into the day, and how embarrassed he is going to be telling his friends that he was defeated by a pebble.

Using the preceding example, consider how detrimental the mindset used might have been had crossing the finish line of the 26 mile race had meant his survival, and how the “whatever it takes” mentality inhibited him from reaching his goal. An effective survival mindset maintains the overall objective as its focus, which in the example given would have meant completing the race. It embraces and accepts that the path to achieving the overall goal might mean accomplishing smaller obstacles along the way, and having to be flexible to changing environments and conditions. The pain in the heel represented a small obstacle. An effective survival mindset would have reduced the information about the pain to facts, eliminating the imagination from clouding an otherwise clear situation. With this frame of mind, the runner would have recognized the pain as a hindrance to the achievement of his overall goal, and would have been open to being attentive to the pain in the heel when it was first felt at mile 12. The “whatever it takes” attitude is an excellent tool, but like most tools, should be applied only to an appropriate problem. The constant drive to the finish line that often derives from this mindset should never be a blinding factor to the obvious, or an obstruction to using simple logic, such as it was for the runner in the example.

A survival mindset often acts in contrast to what feels natural. In many survival situations, the first and most natural instinct is to move. Whether it is to immediately work towards resolving the situation, to create distance from the negative emotions and stress caused by the situation, or simply because it seems logical to do so, moving simply seems natural. Survival situations, however, are not often resolved by acting quickly, but rather by taking the appropriate amount of time to assess the situation, and act appropriately. Assuming, of course, no immediate threat to life or safety exists. Though survival situations are often accompanied by a feeling of urgency, mentally slowing the pace of the situation to assess, plan, and prepare can greatly increase the chances of survival. By having the survival mindset and taking the time to assess the situation, it might be determined that moving is not the best option. Having a survival mindset and the discipline to manage the pace of a survival situation, particularly in the beginning, is critical to ensuring that the chances of survival are increased for the entire duration. The successful beginning of a survival situation, to include the taking of time to assess the situation, locate useful resources, identify an overall objective, note specific risks and inhibiting factors, and outline a realistic and flexible plan, often leads to a successful conclusion.

There is no fraction of a survival situation that the mind is not immediately applied. No matter what the circumstances of the situation are, or the magnitude to which another resource is needed, the mind remains the most valuable, and most needed, resource during any survival situation. Mental conditioning remains the key to developing the mind beyond the “whatever it takes” attitude, and creating a mindset that is able to step back from a situation, even when the situation appears to be all consuming. In the end, a successful survival mindset is one that enables a person to step back from a situation and view it objectively, control the pace, identify resources and risks, adapt to the circumstances, and thrive in the pursuit of a single objective. 
The body and mind are the primary tools of any survival situation. They are the ultimate prep. Knock the dust off of them, mold them, sharpen them and ready them for anything.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Parasites effect a vast number of the world’s population, and they are seen as directly decreasing the productivity of people, and increasing the morbidity/mortality of affected persons.  I have witnessed numerous children afflicted with taeniasis (tapeworm), ascariasis (roundworm), and giardiasis while on a medical mission trip to a remote region in Peru.  The burden of parasitic infections in these children was immense and contributed to stunted growth, fatigue, and likely cognitive delays.  Though in North America we typically do not worry about parasitic diseases, this is only a recent phenomenon that has occurred in the past 60 to 80 years.  Parasites still do exist in the U.S. and they are still significant enough of a threat that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) collects data/asks for mandatory reporting for many parasitic infections.  As such, parasitic diseases should be part of everyone’s medical threat assessment.                   

Parasitic diseases once believed to be suppressed or on the verge of eradication seem to be re-emerging over the past several decades, this is attributable in part, to increased world travel, declining living/hygiene standards, deteriorating infrastructure, increasing population densities of cities, and an increased resistance to treatment/preventative measures (i.e. malaria).  Though this article does not delve into all parasitic diseases, it does delve into the more common and some of the more potentially serious parasitic diseases.  It will specifically look at those diseases that have a higher likelihood of affecting individuals living in the U.S. This includes those parasites that are considered eradicated/have a minimal disease burden, but that may once again cause issues due to a lack of preventative measures, or a failure of the health-care system in stemming an outbreak.  Prevention, parasitic identification methods (clinical, basic microscopy), and treatment will be discussed for informational purposes only.  Any epidemiological statistics/historical information presented in this article are taken from the CDC web site and are in the public domain.  Methods on obtaining specimens and slide preparation/staining techniques are summarized from the book “Medical parasitology, a self instructional Text” by Leventhal and Cheadle.  The full reference is available at the end of this article.

In the interest of full disclosure I am a health care provider with training in parasitology to include the basic microscopy methods and various treatment modalities mentioned in this article.  If you are experiencing any of the below mentioned symptoms, or suspect that you or another individual has a parasitic infection you should discuss any diagnostic testing and possible treatment plans with a trained and licensed medical provider.    If you are interested in the study of parasites I recommend a course at a local university that also has a laboratory/practical component where you can better learn to identify parasites and become proficient in specimen staining/slide specimen preparation techniques that are beyond the scope of this article.  I strongly encourage the use of proper personal protective equipment when dealing with suspected parasites, and certainly when dealing with bodily fluids to include gloves, gown/lab coat.  Hand hygiene should always be performed after handling specimens. 

Parasitic Intestinal Infections

Intestinal Protozoal Infections

Some of the more common parasites affecting the intestines belong to a type of organism classified as protozoa.  Protozoa are large single celled organisms with cellular machinery much like our own human cells and are unlike any type of bacteria.  The first protozoan to be discussed is Entamoeba histolytica, which causes amoebic dysentery (bloody diarrhea).  This organism has a worldwide distribution though it is more common in Central/South America, Africa, and developing portions of Asia (though I have seen it occur from drinking contaminated stream water/handling contaminated food in the U.S.).  Infections occur with the ingestion of contaminated (with fecal matter) food or water.   Symptoms may include bloody diarrhea, diarrhea without blood, weight loss, possible fever, and generalized versus right upper quadrant abdominal pain (indicating possible liver involvement).  Patients many times present with a history of diarrhea that has been ongoing for a week or longer, and have a history of traveling to areas that are known to have an increased incidence of infections, or possibly drinking untreated water while hiking.  Treatment other than rehydration therapy may be started empirically if the patient has dysentery/inflammatory diarrhea (bloody diarrhea with abdominal pain).  I would begin empirical treatment with an anti-protozoal/clostridium difficile agent such as metronidazole.  Also, if treating empirically for inflammatory diarrhea (bloody diarrhea), it would be advisable to also give ciprofloxacin to treat for any type of pathogenic e-coli strains or salmonella.  The differential diagnosis considerations are vast and beyond the scope of this article, but would include:  Diverticulitis, ulcerative colitis, other infectious diarrheal organism, and cancer.  If a compound light microscope with an oil immersion lens (up to at least 900 power) was available you would have the potential to perform an iodine stain of a stool sample and prepare a “wet mount” of fresh fecal matter to examine a patient’s feces for any evidence of a protozoal infection. 

Preparing a “wet mount” and Iodine staining procedure:

1.  Add 1 gram potassium iodine and 1.5 grams powdered iodine crystals to 100mL of distilled water and shake vigorously until dissolved in solution.  Conversely, you can also purchase Lugol’s iodine stain from a veterinary supplier. 

2.  Using an applicator stick mix a small amount of feces with a drop of saline solution on a microscope slide and apply a cover slip over it.  The specimen/fluid should not run out from under the cover-slip and should be opaque enough to see through it. 
3.  Systematically examine the slide moving from low power to a high power oil immersion lens (using mineral oil) and pay particular attention for any movement from flagellates/amoeba.  Ensure that your light source is dim enough for you to discern any movement and to not wash out your field of view as there is little contrast in an unstained/saline only slide.
4.  Prepare another slide and instead of using saline add a small drop of your prepared iodine solution.  Again systematically examine the slide moving from low power to a high power oil immersion lens .

If Entamoeba histolytica is present you may see movement on the saline slide (as with many protozoal infections).  However, if it the amoeba is present on the slide prepared with the iodine stain then you are likely not to see any movement as the iodine will kill the protozoan, but you will see larger spherical to oval shaped objects typically with greater than 3-4 nucleii readily identifiable and asymmetric in appearance (smaller/darker spheres contained within the larger spherical/oval shape).  

Another intestinal protozoan known as Giardia lamblia causes what is known as “traveler’s diarrhea” and is colloquially known as “Montezuma’s revenge.”  This parasite is one of the most common parasitic infections in North America.  It is found world-wide and is again more prevalent in developing countries.  It is spread via the fecal oral route by contaminated food/water and is endemic to numerous mammals in North America.  Hence, drinking untreated fresh water places you at risk for developing giardiasis.  Interestingly, in 2010 the CDC reported that the highest incidence of infection occurred in Vermont and not in any of the southern border states.  Generally, patients presenting with giardiasis complain of sudden onset of diarrhea that is initially watery, without any mucous/gross blood. They may describe their stools as greasy and extremely foul smelling.  The patient also commonly complains of belching (burping) a sulfuric smell, and extraordinary foul smelling flatus (farts) as well as abdominal bloating and cramping.  The patient commonly states that symptoms worsen after they eat.  Patients may also have a history of traveling to areas that are known to be higher risk, or possibly drinking untreated fresh water.   Generally the diarrhea can be quite debilitating and may require oral and even IV rehydration therapy.  Many times individuals can recover from giardiasis with oral rehydration therapy and develop subsequent resistance to this parasite.  However, if a patient presented with the above symptoms, I would recommend empiric treatment with the anti-protozoal agent metronidazole as there are risks of developing complications secondary to the infection.  Also, the risk of others becoming incapacitated with giardiasis that live in close proximity to an infected patient is very high.  Though the differential diagnoses again are numerous, in my experience giardiasis generally presents as rather clear cut.   Patients typically present nearly textbook with the above symptoms and usually have a history of traveling to a high risk area. 

A compound light microscope can again be used to help identify if Giardia lamblia is present in a patient’s stool using the procedure listed above to include performing wet mounts with both saline and iodine staining solution.  Typically, with a saline wet mount using high power (oil immersion microscope lens) the organism is easily identifiable by how it moves as it is a flagellate.  It’s movement is best described as moving like a “falling leaf” on the slide.  When viewing the specimen that is stained with iodine typically the nucleii are readily apparent and the parasite has either a tear drop shape with an appearance like that of an owl’s face (the nucleii being the eyes), or it is oval with 2 sets of nucleii (total of 4) that that are symmetrical.  In both cases the nucleii look like symmetrical pairs of eyes staring back at you. 

Intestinal Worm Infections

There are numerous types of intestinal worm infections.  However, only the most common ones/higher potential to be seen in North America will be discussed.  They include:  Taenia Solium (pork tapeworm)/Taenia Saginata (beef tapeworm), Enterobius vermicularis (pin worm), Necator americanus (Hook worm), and Ascaris lumbricoides (roundworm).   Tapeworms, namely the pork and beef tapeworm were estimated to have affected 100,000 people in N. America in the 1950’s.  In some places in the world over 50% of the population is infected.  They can grow up to 7 meters in length and have up to 100 segments with each segment producing up to 50K eggs.  Tapeworms are typically spread by the ingestion of undercooked pork or beef that contains cysts/eggs of the parasite.  They can also be spread by fecal-oral transmission.  It is noted that tapeworm eggs are sticky and tend to cling under fingernails and are easily transferred to food.   Tapeworms in humans usually affect the gut, but tapeworm larvae can migrate to muscle tissue, brain tissue, organ tissues.  Larvae migrating to tissues other than the intestines can be devastating (can be a secondary cause of epilepsy/seizures).  Most individuals with intestinal tapeworm infections are asymptomatic and have vague intestinal symptoms (such as nausea, hunger pain, a sensation of movement in their abdomen, loss of appetite, weight loss, bloating).  The most common factor leading to individuals coming in for an exam is seeing/finding worms in their stool or feeling the movement of worms in the anus.  

On presentation a patient may also have a history of traveling to areas that are known to be higher risk and/or they may live in close proximity to livestock.  They may also have a history of eating undercooked beef or pork.  If a patient is presenting with a report of finding worm segments in his/her stool one should be prepared to perform a gross examination of the patient’s feces.  The surface should be examined first for any worm segments.  The stool should be broken up to ensure no segments are present.  If any worm segments are detected treatment should be started.  A compound light microscope can again be used to help identify if Taenia saginata/solium is present in a patient’s stool using the procedure listed above to include performing wet mounts with both saline and iodine staining solution.  Tapeworm eggs are spherical and are difficult to discern as eggs at low power.  However, at higher power there is a thick outer shell that is yellowish in coloration with radial striations pointing outwards.  One may see hooklets in the center of the egg from the scolex that the tapeworm uses to attach to the intestinal lining.  Treatment for intestinal infections only is accomplished with praziquantel.  If infections are present in the liver albendazole may also be used.   Infections from larvae that have migrated outside of the GI tract will likely require additional treatment modalities not discussed here. 

Pin worm (Enterobius vermicularis) infection is one of the most common worm infections in the U.S.  Most individuals infected are largely asymptomatic, which is one reason it is so common.  The CDC recently estimated that approximately 40 million individuals are infected in the U.S. alone.  This parasites’ distribution is again worldwide and is most common in children and those living in institutional type settings.  Transmission occurs person to person via fecal-oral contamination.  It is important to note that eggs can remain dormant for several weeks once outside of the body and are also noted to easily stick under fingernails.  Symptoms, if any are present include intense itching of the area around the rectum (pathognomonic for pinworms) occurring especially at night when the worms exit the rectum to lay eggs.  Each female worm can produce up to 15K eggs.  Other symptoms may include abdominal pain and mild inflammation and redness around the rectum without any evidence of inflammation of the colon.  Occasionally pinworms may be seen with an examination when the worms exit the rectum to lay eggs, or rarely seeing pinworms in the stool itself.  Complications arising from pinworm infections are rare.  Pinworm infections are self limiting, but as auto-reinfection is so easily possible, and the risk to spreading to others is so great I would recommend treating the individual and all household contacts.  Treatment consists of mebendazole or albendazole with repeat treatment in two weeks after hygiene measures have been instituted (laundering undergarments, bedding, and trimming nails).  Diagnosis is easily performed with the use of cellophane tape, a tongue depressor, and a compound light microscope. 

Cellophane tape test performed in the morning prior to showering/having bowel movement
1.  Take a piece of cellophane tape and attach it to both sides of a wooden tongue depressor with the tape wrap around the top of the depressor.  The sticky side should face outwards.  The length of the piece of tape should allow you to apply the sticky side along the entire area of the rectal mucosa.
2.  The Buttocks should be spread outwards, and the taped end of the tongue depressor should be applied to the rectal mucosa and touching either side of the buttocks.
3.  The tape should be removed and applied sticky side down to a glass slide.  Systematically examine the slide moving from low power to higher power (an oil immersion lens is not required).   Ensure that your light source is dim enough for you to discern any worm eggs and not wash out your field of view.
Pinworm eggs can be seen with as little magnification as 100x.  They appear oblong/oval shaped, and they have a distinct line down the middle almost making the eggs appear like a hotdog bun. 

Hookworm (Necator americanus) infections were at one time almost synonymous with living in the Southern states; though infections in North America are exceedingly rare today.  That being said the civilian public health service was still building outhouses in the Southern U.S.  to help eliminate hookworm infections up to 1947.  Hookworm infections can cause intellectual and growth retardation in children, as well as anemia and fatigue.  Numerous historians credit epidemic hookworm infections in the Confederate army as aiding the Union in winning the civil war.  Many Confederate soldiers suffered from anemia due to hookworm infections as well as sores on their feet from where the parasite penetrated the skin.  Hookworm eggs are released in the feces of an infected individual and the egg hatches in 1-2 days.  After hatching the larvae penetrates the skin of humans (typically the feet) and then travels to the lungs via the blood stream where it is coughed up, swallowed, and matures in the intestine while feeding on the host’s blood.  Patients may present with complaints of itching at the site of skin penetration by the larvae.   A subsequent raised and creeping reddish/inflamed track line (typically on feet) that itches profusely may appear and is known as cutaneous larva migrans.  However, it should be noted in the U.S. today anyone presenting with cutaneous larva migrans is typically treated for a type of hookworm (affects dogs/cats) that is not pathogenic to humans (humans are not the definitive host).  Hence, the hookworm dies while attempting to travel in the cutaneous tissues.  The treatment is the same for any species of hookworm (pathogenic to humans or not).  Depending on where the infection is progressing the patient may also have a cough, wheezing, gastric pain, anemia, easy fatigability, diarrhea, and/or anorexia.  A compound light microscope can again be used to help identify if hookworm eggs are present in a patient’s stool using the procedure listed previously to include performing wet mounts with both saline and iodine staining solution.  Hookworm eggs are oval/oblong, and they have a very thin outer shell that is clearly visible without higher magnification requiring an oil immersion lens.  Eggs can contain larvae or 4-8 cell stage embryos.  Treatment consists of mebendazole or albendazole. 

Ascaris lumbricoides (roundworms) infections were once commonplace in the South Eastern U.S. and as recently at the 1980s it was reported that up to 32% of school children in certain areas in Florida were infected with this parasite.  Also, of note numerous species of roundworms exist that affect cats/dogs and are also pathogenic to humans.  Cold and dry climates are typically free of high rates of infection.  A single adult female worm has been known to produce up to 250,000 eggs per day in a host’s intestine.  The eggs are extremely robust and are even known to be resistant to formaldehyde and can remain infective in the soil for several years.  Ascariasis infections are common in the developing countries of Asia (extremely prevalent in China), Africa and Latin America.  Transmission occurs from fecal oral contact.  Once eggs that have been shed in feces are ingested they hatch in the intestine and travel to the lungs via the blood stream where the larvae are coughed up, swallowed, and mature in the intestine.  Most patients with roundworm infections are asymptomatic.  However, patients may experience respiratory symptoms (fever, cough, wheezing) as the worms migrate to the lungs.  Also, vomiting and abdominal pain, nausea, chronic diarrhea may occur after the parasite has traveled to the intestine.  In children that are infected, one may see delayed developmental milestones, evidence of iron deficiency anemia, or evidence of a protein deficiency.  The most common potential severe complication from a roundworm infection is a bowel obstruction.  There are reports of Worms (up to 1ft long) at times seen exiting the nose/mouth/rectum spontaneously.  There are also reports exist of worms exiting a host if a patient is suffering from a high fever, or he/she has been placed under general anesthesia.  A compound light microscope can again be used to help identify if roundworm eggs are present in a patient’s stool using the procedure listed previously to include performing wet mounts with both saline and iodine staining solution.  Ascaris eggs are typically spherical/to slightly oval in appearance.  In viewing the egg, they are noted to have a thin outer though very distinct coat that is not uniform in appearance circumferentially.  Also there is a clear space between the outer coat and a thick inner coat that is described as a yellow brown shell.  The eggs can be viewed without higher magnification requiring an oil immersion lens.  Treatment should be initiated if the parasite is found in feces using microscopy, or if the adult worm is seen exiting the anus/nose/mouth.  Treatment consists of either albendazole, mebendazole, or ivermectin. 

Blood Parasites (Malaria)

One of the most common parasitic infections in the world is malaria.  Malaria is caused by a group of protozoal organisms that invade red blood cells.  There are five different species that cause malaria.  The most deadly is Plasmodium falciparum, which is endemic to the tropical regions of southeast Asia, Africa, and South America.  The most widely disseminated parasite that causes malaria is Plasmodium vivax as it is found in the Americas, Eastern Europe, Asia, and North Africa.  Plasmodium vivax can and does exist in more temperate climates.  Worldwide, malaria causes approximately 500,000 deaths per year (typically children/pregnant women).  Malaria, was once common in the U.S. up until the early 20th century with a range extending throughout the Midwest, South, and the eastern seaboard up to New England.  Malaria was considered eradicated in the U.S. in the 1940s due to a concerted public health effort, and with the widespread use of the pesticide DDT.  However, it should be noted that the CDC states approximately 15,000 malaria cases were still reported in the U.S. in 1947, and even though malaria is currently considered eradicated in the U.S. up to 1,500 cases are reported annually.  These malaria cases typically occur from travelers returning from high risk areas.  As such, there is a risk that epidemic malaria can again occur in the U.S.  One only has to look at news reports about Greece to see how rapidly it can recur when the public health system stops employing preventative measures. 

Malaria transmission occurs from a person being bitten by a female mosquito (specifically of the genus Anopheles) that is infected with the parasite causing malaria.  Within 1-2 weeks after being bitten by an Anopheles mosquito the parasites have multiplied in the liver and they begin to invade red blood cells.  After invading the red blood cells the parasites replicate, and in a synchronized fashion burst open the red blood cells and invade other red blood cells.   This synchronous bursting of red blood cells causes the “cyclic” fevers that malaria is known for.  In fact one can typically state the species type based on the length of time it is from one fever to the next.  Over time Plasmodium falciprum causes fevers every 36 to 48 hrs and Plasmodium vivax causes fevers every 48 hrs.  Symptoms of a malaria infection include high fevers that become more cyclic over time (as described above),an enlarged spleen (over time), headaches, pain in the muscles and joints, and anemia.  If infected with the most virulent form of malaria (Plasmodium falciparum) one may also experience bloody urine, and seizures.  Diagnosis is based on microscopy and the use of more complex slide preparation (blood smears)/staining procedures not discussed in this article.  However, medication prophylaxis is recommended for individuals traveling to high risk areas.  Malaria prophylaxis consists of the daily use of doxycycline two days prior to travel and for up to 30 days upon return.   Also, one’s healthcare provider may consider the use of the medication primaquine as an adjunct to take along with doxycycline . 

Skin Infestations/Infections

There are numerous types of parasitic arthropod (insect) infections.  However, only three of the most common will be discussed in this article and include:  Pediculus humanus (head/body louse), Sarcoptes scabiei (scabies), and ticks (numerous species).  Pediculus Humanus (head/body louse) is epidemic in the U.S. and several million cases are reported annually.  Head/body lice are thin and approx only several millimeters in size with a head, body, thorax, and 6 legs.  Eggs are deposited at the base of hair shafts.  Transmission is from direct contact with an infected individual (most commonly direct head to head contact).  Significant complications associated with infected individuals are limited to secondary bacterial infections from itching, and the potential for contracting typhus (a potentially deadly illness).  Though typhus is not currently a concern in the U.S.  it has the potential to again re-appear.  Itching associated with lice infections is caused by the saliva and fecal excretions of the parasite irritating the skin.  Direct visualization of the parasite leads to the diagnosis as they are visible with the naked eye during a careful examination.   Treatment consists of the use of topical permethrin, or malathion.  Other treatment methods include using a fine toothed special metal lice comb and combing wet hair vigorously daily.  Also, petroleum jelly is thought to cause suffocation of the parasites and should be massaged in and left overnight.  After washing out the petroleum jelly, nit picking using a fine toothed comb aids in preventing re-infestation from already deposited eggs. 

Sarcoptes scabeiei (scabies) is a microscopic mite that burrows under the skin and spreads very rapidly.  Transmission is from direct contact with an infected individual and occurs most often in institutional environments/close crowding of individuals.  Symptoms include intense itching that seems to worsen at night/with hot showers.  Typically one will see a short red/inflamed burrow/tract that is up to several centimeters in length.  A purple/blue surgical marker can be used to color over any itchy/excoriated areas on the patient and then wiped off gently with an alcohol swab.  If a linear burrow is revealed one may conclude that a scabies infection is likely.  The parasite typically favors areas that are cooler, i.e. along the knuckles, penis.  A person’s face is typically not affected.  Potential complications include secondary bacterial infections from itching, or even prolonged itching even after treatment.  Treatment consists of either using topical permethrin (from the neck line down ) prior to sleep and washing off in the morning, or alternatively oral ivermectin.  Treatment should be afforded to close contacts even if they are not symptomatic.  Also, all bedding/clothing should be washed to prevent a possible re-infection.  Oral steroids/antihistamines should be considered if itching is severe. 

Numerous species of ticks are endemic to the U.S. that can carry bacterial, rickettsial (bacterial organism that can only grow inside other cells), viral, and protozoal organisms that may be transmitted when the tick is feeding.  Some of the more common Tick born diseases include:  Lyme disease, tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Colorado tick fever, and anaplasmosis.  There is no scarcity of information about these organisms on the web/CDC web site, and it is beyond the scope of this article to discuss them in detail.   Ticks are present throughout the U.S. and typically larger juveniles/adults will climb up on blades of grass or leaves and seek a larger host (by heat, vibration, odor, etc.).  One should note that ticks that are searching for a host are typically found in greater numbers at the edge of clearings (where the light meets the shade) and where higher humidity is present.  Anytime one has been out in the wilderness one should perform a tick inspection (to include difficult to see areas using a mirror).  Ticks should be removed as soon as they are discovered to decrease the risk of acquiring a tick-borne illness.  For example, a tick carrying lyme disease needs to be attached for greater than 24-hrs to transmit the disease to a human host.  Removal of ticks consists of mechanically removing the tick using fine tipped tweezers/forceps and grasping as close to the skin as possible to ensure that the entire tick is removed without leaving the head in place.  Also, one must take care not to crush the tick during removal.  The area where the tick was attached should be thoroughly cleaned/disinfected after tick removal.  Great importance should be placed on personal prevention in areas that have the potential to harbor high tick populations.  Preventative measures include pre-treatment of clothing with permethrin, use of insect repellant with at least 20% DEET, proper blousing of clothing, and regular inspections for ticks on one’s body.   

Preventative Measures

Individuals as well as localities should incorporate education about parasites and discussions on what they can do as individuals/groups to better prevent parasitic infections.  Even though many preventative measures are commonsense, discussions should include abstaining from using night soil (human excrement) as fertilizer, and using proper latrines/disposing of human waste appropriately.  Also, ensuring that the water supply is filtered/treated properly is of key importance as is appropriate hand hygiene.  In malaria prone areas prophylactic medication should be taken as directed and permethrin impregnated mosquito nets should be used as well as permethrin impregnated clothing and insect repellent with at least 20% DEET.  If at all possible stagnant/sitting bodies of water should be drained in malaria prone areas to help decrease the mosquito population.  Lastly, routine health inspections should be considered in populations living in close quarters/more of an institutional type of setting. 


I hope that this article has been informative to you the reader, and that at the very least you have a greater appreciation for the risks presented by parasitic infections.  I would again urge the reader to consider a formal class in parasitology, or at the very least to review the reference materials listed below to be better armed with knowledge in understanding, preventing, identifying, and treating parasitic infections.


1.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) web site (viewed at ) has a wealth of knowledge relating to parasites in the U.S. and Worldwide.  This includes current and historical information about prevalence of said diseases, treatment, and preventative measures. 
-Specifically, I would recommend reading the following resources from the CDC:
2.  If you are interested in adding to your medical library regarding parasitic infections I would recommend the text “Medical parasitology.  A self instructional text” (5th Ed) by Leventhal and Cheadle.  It is a very inexpensive easy to read reference textbook.
3.  Army field manuals/publications also afford pragmatic advice, and easily readable information pertaining to prevention/sanitation.
- I would recommend reading the following resources

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Dear Mr. Rawles,
I follow you via RSS and have purchases your past archives from Amazon. Following the advice in your blog, I just got done on purchasing some gluten free meal kits. I find it amazing they have these for people with food allergies and yet at rock bottom prices (even with the non-member surcharge.)

I will sleep much better at night for my wife, 17 month old daughter and myself.

God Bless you and thank you for your wealth of resources!

Thanks! - Andy P.

JWR Replies: As I highlighted in the Rawles Gets You Ready Preparedness Course, shopping at Big Box stores like COSTCO is one of the most time-efficient and cost-effective ways to stock up on staple foods. I still highly recommend that. Notably, in recent years, COSTCO has expanded their line to include some specialized long term storage foods in large #10 cans. And, as you mentioned it is great to see that they offer food that are guaranteed to be gluten free. These changes have made a good thing even better

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hello James,
One item that is often overlooked in preparing for a collapse situation - where hair and beards can grow long and so can the interval between showers, is the humble nit and lice comb.
So take a look at the Shantys nit and lice comb, and watch their video. (I have no connection whatsoever with this company)
Best Regards, - Andre D.

JWR Replies: Reviewing the history of the 20th Century, one could summarize: "War is hell, but it is also lousy." Whenever people live in close confines, the spread of lice increases dramatically. Just imagine your household, after The Crunch, with an extra 10 or 12 relatives and friends sleeping on the floor. That would be the ideal breeding ground for lice. So Andre's point is well taken!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

In a situation that will be characterized by, among other things, gutted pharmacies and unmanned hospitals, the remaining population at TEOTWAWKI will be required to provide their own medical care and to meet their own pharmacologic needs.  While there have been numerous helpful articles outlining the importance of antibiotics in the context of TEOTWAWKI there has been very little addressing the importance of an overall pharmacologic strategy.

Some of you—especially those who take daily prescription medication—have likely considered this problem before.  But perhaps you are young and healthy, unburdened by any medical diagnosis.  There should still be a pharmacologic component to your overall survival strategy.  Even the robustly healthy occasionally encounter the minor health annoyance—a stomach bug, say, a case of diarrhea or constipation, or perhaps a urinary tract infection.  The problem, of course, is that, in the context of TEOTWAWKI, the minor health annoyance can rapidly spiral into something life-threatening.

Consider the title of this article, for example.  Constipation is, for most people, an infrequent and easily remedied problem—a couple of Sennekot and a quart of juice cures 95% of cases.  If worse comes to worse, there are suppositories—or enemas.

But suppose that you have no access to over-the-counter laxatives.  Suppose you are plagued by constipation for several days but because it ranks low on your list of immediate problems, it goes untreated.  By the time you get around to dealing with it, you’ve got a very large, rock-hard ball of stool in the lower rectum, and it isn’t going anywhere.   This what medical folks refer to as a fecal impaction.  Impactions are common among already sick, weakened individuals; the treatment is manual removal.  Without intervention, an impaction can lead to colon perforation, peritonitis, sepsis, and eventually septic shock and death.

Or perhaps, in desperation, you attempt to unimpact yourself, or have a willing family member do it.  In the process of this procedure, you inadvertently lacerate one of the delicate rectal vessels--and suffer a large hemorrhage.  Incidentally, I have encountered this exact scenario before, working as an EMT in rural Alaska.

It sounds ridiculous—that a case of constipation could lead to such dire straits.  But make no mistake.  Due to decreased fluid intake and no access to fresh fruits and vegetables, there will be hordes of constipated people at TEOTWAWKI. 

Consider another common health complaint, especially for females: the dreaded urinary tract infection.  Normally it is cured with a three-day course of nitrofurantoin, or, if you lack health insurance, a slightly longer course of ciprofloxacin, which costs ten dollars.  But suppose you have no access to antibiotics, and again, decreased fluid intake.  You have nothing with which to treat the fever that develops.  Eventually you start passing bloody urine, then clots.  The pain evolves from a mild discomfort during urination to a stabbing sensation in the flanks; by day five or six or seven it feels as though every organ in your abdomen and pelvis is on fire.  The infection has migrated from the urethra, to the bladder, up the ureters, and has now settled in the kidneys.  You have developed what is referred to by medical folks as pyelonephritis.  The fever climbs to 105. Your blood pressure bottoms out as the infection spills over into your bloodstream.  Untreated pyelonephritis leads to urosepsis.  Outcome same as above—septic shock and death.

The point is, if you have a body, eventually something will go wrong.  Eventually you will require pharmacologic intervention.



From a pharmacologic perspective, there will be four categories of people at TEOTWAWKI:  The first are those who are healthy and dependent on no medication, or very little medication, for day-to-day function.  They may have diagnoses ranging from seasonal allergies to mild asthma, psoriasis, and the like—the loss of pharmacologic treatment might be inconvenient but it would not be catastrophic. 

The second category includes those with diagnoses like hypertension and hyperlipidemia, who currently enjoy relatively good health. The loss of pharmacologic treatment will have no immediate impact on function.  But in the grand scheme of things, lack of access to drugs will permit deterioration of organ function; in the case of untreated hypertension, for example, long-term exposure to high arterial pressures will cause the heart muscle to become thickened and stiff.  A stiff, noncompliant heart does not pump efficiently: the inevitable result is heart failure and all its symptoms.  This group also includes those with type II diabetes, as long-term exposure to elevated blood glucose spares no organ system in the body.

The third category of people encompasses those who are able to maintain a normal lifestyle in the sense that may still be capable of work, of managing activities of self care—indeed they may even be fit and athletic depending on the nature of the diagnosis--but they suffer from a condition requiring daily intake of prescription medication, the loss of which would be serious or even fatal.  This category includes individuals with diagnoses like type I diabetes, some types of heart disease, and severe hypothyroidism.   It also includes patients who received a donor organ for transplant and rely on immunosuppressive drugs to prevent organ rejection. 

The last category of people are those who would be considered unhealthy, either because of a systemic disease that limits function, function that cannot be fully restored even with daily medication, or because, even though they may still have moderately good day-to-day function, they are dependent on a constant supply of medication and/or medical technology for survival.  The former suffer from severe heart disease, cancer, congenital heart disease, and degenerative neurological conditions such as Huntington’s or Parkinson’s.   The latter group includes dialysis patients, COPD patients who require constant supplemental oxygen, tracheostomy-dependent patients, or those who can only take nutrition via tube feeds.


This article is aimed at all but the last group.  Not that members of the last group have no chance of survival at TEOTWAWKI, but the preparations that would be required are outside the scope of this article.  Pharmacologic preparation of the first three groups, if undertaken with a specific strategy and numeric goals in mind, is quite feasible.


  1. Determine your daily prescription medication needs.  If you and your family are perfectly healthy then the task is simple.  See Appendix A for my recommendations of prescription drugs.  If not, the task is still relatively simple: a one year’s extra supply of necessary prescription medications, in addition to those listed in Appendix A.  You may need to estimate—in the case of an asthmatic that uses inhaled steroids, for example, or for the migraine medication that is taken on an as-needed basis.  Determine what constitutes a one-year supply of the drug.  Record the data, with the names, dosages, and schedule, in a spreadsheet.
  2. Determine your over the counter (OTC) medication needs.  See Appendix B for my recommendations for the average individual.  Gauge your needs by looking in your medicine cabinet—perhaps you use a lot of liquid acetaminophen because you have small children in the home.  Perhaps your family goes through more   
  3. Inventory what you already have.
  4. Develop a plan for obtaining the rest.  Plan to obtain the drugs listed in Appendices A and B within one year.  This will require extra visits to doctors, calling in refills on schedule, being willing to fib about international travel perhaps, or being willing to change physicians.  More on this below.
  5. Store the drug stockpile in an organized and responsible way (indoors, labeled, airtight containers, with 02 absorbers, under lock and key if any controlled substances are included).
  6. After OTC and prescription needs are met, work on a stockpile for bartering purposes.  See Appendix C for ideas.
  7. Buy pharmacology reference books.  See Appendix D for recommended titles.



Don’t discount the potency or usefulness of a drug just because you can buy it at the local drugstore.  Many drugs that used to be prescription-only are now sold OTC.  One example of that is the proton-pump inhibitor omeprazole, used to treat acid reflux disease.  To expand on this example, imagine a situation in which a person who suffers from acid reflux disease exists solely on a diet of canned chili for an extended period of time, without access to his usual proton-pump inhibiting medication.  One day he begins vomiting blood, having developed a gastric ulcer as a result of his untreated condition.  If one of his companions has a supply of omeprazole on hand, currently available at any Walgreens or CVS without a prescription, his condition could be treated in the same manner in which it would be treated at the ER—with a large dose of a proton-pump inhibiting medication. 

Another example is aspirin.  Aspirin has a multitude of uses beyond pain relief.  It is a blood thinner.  For this reason it is often the first medication someone receives when they show up at the ER exhibiting signs and symptoms of stroke.  Aspirin is a central component of the standard protocol in treating patients who are suspected of having a heart attack—the blood thinning properties of aspirin are useful when a clot has occluded a coronary artery.  Aspirin also has unique anti-inflammatory properties—its use is normally avoided in children, but in the context of certain pediatric diseases, high-dose aspirin is a critical component of treatment.   Every time I shop at Sam’s club for groceries, I purchase aspirin in bulk.  Aspirin is inexpensive and potentially useful in so many ways. 



Not long ago a friend mentioned to me that he had thrown away some expired anti-depressant medication.  I suggested that he might instead sock away such medication for the possibility of a survival situation.  His position was simple:  in a true survival situation, he would have no tolerance for psychiatric illness.  People suffering from depression and other psychiatric maladies would be a drain on resources and a liability for everyone around them. 

I considered my friend’s position on this matter for a time and concluded that he was mistaken, for several reasons.  Number one, in extreme situations like TEOTWAWKI, people will inevitably experience depression, psychosis, PTSD, and so on.   Many scientists consider the aforementioned to be adaptive evolutionary responses to trauma, disappointment, and loss (research “Behavioral Shutdown Hypothesis” and “Analytical Rumination Hypothesis” if interested in further information). These conditions affect the toughest, most seasoned soldiers in the US military, so it is folly to assume that a meticulously chosen survival companion will be immune to them.  Depending on the nature of the psychiatric illness, at the very least it will affect the morale of the group; in the worst-case scenario it may indeed adversely affect the group’s chances of survival.  Having the means to treat such a condition may ultimately determine the fate of an entire group—consider a well-prepared, well-stocked family, the head of which is then struck down by a paralyzing depression—imagine that this happens at the worst possible time, at the very height of danger. 

Second, a survival companion may (whether they have chosen to share this information or not) already be taking a medication for depression or other psychiatric illness.  As aptly noted by author West Texas Prepper in the article Letter Re: When the Anti-Depressants Run Out, ceasing certain medications cold turkey leads to a crippling withdrawal syndrome.  Having a small supply of the same medicine on hand would allow a dose taper, thereby sparing the individual of any withdrawal symptoms.  I have witnessed patients, normally fully-functioning, contributing members of society, completely bedbound with nausea, vertigo, and paresthesias after running out of their daily anti-depressant medication.  In an already tenuous survival scenario, it would be imperative to avoid such a situation.

Third, many psychiatric medications have multiple indications.  Some were developed and manufactured for the treatment of other diseases years before their usefulness in treating psychiatric illness was discovered.  Case in point, my friend had thrown away four sample packages of the drug Depakote, known generically as valproate sodium, or valproic acid.  It had been prescribed for a patient diagnosed with bipolar disorder who was experiencing a depressive phase of the illness.  But, unbeknownst to my friend, valproic acid is used to treat a multitude of other conditions, most notably seizure disorders, but also migraine headaches, and chronic pain characterized by neuropathic symptoms.



The expiration dates assigned to drugs is arbitrary and very few drugs are actually toxic past the expiration date (tetracycline and doxycycline being the exception).  Testing has demonstrated that drugs maintain their potency decades after their expiration dates.  Save drugs you are certain you will never use, or never need again, save the ones you think were prescribed in error.  It is impossible to predict what might be useful. Save them regardless of the expiration date, regardless of how few tablets might be left in the package or how little ointment left inside the tube. 

My grandmother suffered an extended illness, the cause of which was unknown for a time.  Her physicians, not knowing what they were treating, hoping to eventually hit on the right drug, prescribed countless medicines, medicines from different classes and of varying strengths.  When I helped my grandfather clean out his medicine cabinet last summer, I found a cardboard box filled with bottles of unused diuretics and anti-inflammatory meds used to treat autoimmune diseases (and also useful in treating malaria).  With my grandfather’s permission I took the unused medication, removed the pharmacy stickers from the pill bottles, and replaced them with medical tape on which I wrote the names of the drugs and the milligrams per tablet.  For those without medical training, I suggest also recording the indication and recommended dose.

Although there are laws prohibiting the stockpiling of prescription medications, there are no reports of arrests for stockpiling medication in the manner described above.  Those who fall under legal scrutiny do so because they stockpile controlled substances, with intent to supply their own habit or to profit financially from supplying the habits of others.  That being said it is best to not discuss this type of preparation with others.  Nor would I advertise on craigslist requesting unwanted prescription antibiotics.  Limit those you involve to immediate family and trusted friends.  




Your primary care physician (PCP) may or may not be a good resource.

On the one hand, he or she may be in total agreement with you, and willing to write scrips for an extra supply of your regular medications, and perhaps even some antibiotics.  On the other hand, he or she may interpret your desire to prepare for a worst-case scenario as a manifestation of mental illness, one that is potentially dangerous and requires further investigation.  If the physician knows you have weapons at home, the situation becomes further complicated.  Therefore I do not recommend that people approach their PCP and ask for prescriptions for stockpiling purposes.

If you decide to do so and are honest about the reason why, and your physician responds by asking searching questions about your psychiatric history, or says, “Now tell me, how long you have had this obsession with the apocalypse?” then abort the mission immediately and refocus all efforts on damage control.

However, there are ‘legitimate’ reasons that physicians sometimes write prescriptions for large amounts of antibiotics, and there are numerous taken as needed (PRN) drugs that physicians write prescriptions for on a daily basis.  Odansetron, the anti-nausea medication, is one that comes to mind.  Benzonatate, the cough medication known as “tesselon pearls” is another.  If you are willing to ask for such medications, citing the presence of nausea or a cough that keeps you awake at night, you can easily obtain such prescriptions.  If you ask that refills be available if needed, your doctor is likely to oblige.   Refill the drug on schedule as refills are sometimes limited to a twelve-month period.

Be a hypochondriac for a year.  Get more than one PCP.  Pay out of pocket for duplicate prescriptions. Ask for samples.  Have a lot of colds. 

Another strategy is to go to the physician with a request for prescription meds for international travel.  Present a list of recommended drugs to have on hand when traveling in that area, perhaps one printed from a reputable web site (CDC).  I don’t know of any physicians that require the patient to present their boarding pass before writing such prescriptions.



  1. Antibiotics
    1. Augmentin-600mg-60 tablets per person (three 10-day courses)
    2. Ampicillin-500mg-63 tablets per person (three 7-day courses)
    3. Amoxicillin-500mg-100 tabs per person (50 days’ worth per person; ten 5-day courses, five 10-day courses, seven 7-day courses—it can be tailored to what is being treated)
    4. TMP-SMX (Bactrim DS)-84 tablets per person (three 14-day courses)
    5. Azithromycin-500mg-15 tabs per person (three 5-day courses)
    6. Cephalexin-500mg-120 tablets per person (three 10-day courses)
    7. Clindamycin-900mg-90 tablets per person (three 10-day courses)
    8. Metronidazole-500mg-90 tablets per person (three 10-day courses)
    9. Cefdinir-300mg-60 per person (three 10-day courses)
    10. Nitrofurantoin-200mg-42 tablets per person (three 7-day courses)
    11. Gentamicin ophthalmic solution-two bottles per person
    12. Erythromycin 0.5% opthalmic ointment-three tubes per person
    13. Ciprodex Otic-ciprofloxacin 0.3%, dexamethasone 0.1% solution-two bottles per person
    14. Aurodex Otic-antipyrine/benzocaine solution-one bottle per person (this is not an anti-microbial but it is useful for attenuating symptoms of ear infection)
    15. Mupirocin 2% antibiotic ointment-two tubes per person
  2. Anti-virals
    1. Acyclovir-400mg-63 tablets per person (three 7-day courses)
    2. Oseltamivir-75mg-30 tablets per person (three 5-day courses)
  3. Anti-fungals
    1. Fluconazole-100mg or 200mg tablets-60 per person
    2. Clotrimazole topical-several per person
    3. Nystatin suspension-100mL per person
    4. Nystatin cream-two tubes per person
    5. Ketoconazole-200mg-28 per person (one four week course)
  4. Anti-parasitic (for treating intestinal worms)
    1. Mebendazole 100mg-20 tablets per person
    2. Pyrantel pamoate (Pin X)-720.5mg-10 tablets per person
    3. Thiabendazole (Mintezol) 500mg tablets-10 per person
  5. Cardiovascular Health
    1. Anti-hypertensives
      1. HCTZ-25mg-365 per person
      2. Metoprolol-100mg-200 per person
      3. Lisinopril-20mg or 40mg-365 per person
        1. An alternative is one of the –sartans (i.e. Valsartan, 320mg) but they are more expensive
      4. Clonidine-0.2mg-100 tablets per person
      5. Spironolactone-50mg-100 tablets per person
      6. Furosemide-40mg-100 tablets per person
      7. Phenoxybenzamine-10mg-25 per person
    2. Lipid Reduction Agents
      1. Simvastatin-10mg-365 per person
      2. Fenofibrate-35mg-100 per person
  6. Gastrointestinal Health
    1. Omeprazole-20mg-365 per person
    2. Ranitidine-150mg-365 per person
    3. Misoprostol-200mcg-80 per person
    4. Odansetron-4mg-100 per person
    5. Promethazine suppositories-25mg-25 per person
    6. Metaclopramide-10mg-25 per person
    7. Diphenoxylate-atropine-300mL per person
    8. Anusol HC suppositories (2.5% hydrocortisone)-10 per person
    9. Lactulose-100mL per person
  7. Urinary Tract Health
    1. Allopurinol-100mg-100 per male
    2. Finasteride-5mg-365 tablets per male
    3. Bethanechol-25mg-20 per person
    4. Oxybutynin-5mg-20 per peron
    5. Colchicine-0.5mg-100 per person
  8. Gynecological Health
    1. Ethinyl estradiol/norethindrone combination-28 day packets-12 per female (useful for a multitude of menstrual problems)
    2. Contraceptive method of choice-one year’s worth per sexually active female
    3. Estradiol gel 0.06%-several tubes per older female
    4. Estratab-0.3mg-365 tablets per post-menopausal female
  9. Pain Medications
    1. Carbamazepine-200mg-50 tablets per person
    2. Gabapentin-400mg-100 tablets per person
    3. Diclofenac-50mg-200 tablets per person
    4. Cyclobenzaprine-5mg-50 tablets per person
    5. Keterolac-30mg-50 per person
    6. Tramadol-25mg-50 per person
    7. Immediate Release Morphine tabs-5mg-25 per person
    8. Extended Release Morphine tabs-15mg-50 per person
    9. Sumatatriptan-100mg-25 per person
  10. Allergies/Asthma/Respiratory
    1. Hydroxyzine-25mg-50 per person
    2. Prednisone-10mg-200 per person
    3. Loratidine-10mg-100 tablets per person
    4. Albuterol metered dose inhaler-3 per person
    5. Steroid metered dose inhaler (Advair, etc)-3 per person
    6. Benzonatate-100mg-100 per person
    7. Hycodan syrup (each 5mL contains hydrocodone 5mg-homatotrropine 1.5mg)-150ml per person
    8. Epinephrine injection (EpiPen, EpiPenJr)-two injection pack-three per person
    9. Guafenisin-phenylephrine (Entex)-100mL per person
    10. Montelukast-10mg-100 per person
    11. Metaproterenol-20mg-30 per person
  11. Skin Conditions
    1. Mometasone furoate 0.1%-15g or 45g tube-two per person
    2. Silver sulfdiazene-45g tube-five per person
    3. Cleocin 1%-two tubes per person
    4. Permethrin (Lindane)-five bottles per person
  12.   Psychiatric/CNS Medications
    1. Lorazepam-1mg-50 per person
    2. Lorazepam suppositories-0.5mg-10 per person
    3. Alprazolam-0.5mg-30 per person
    4. Fluoxetine-20mg-60 per person
    5. Wellbutrin-150mg-30 per person
    6. Haldol-5mg-10 per person
    7. Amitryptiline-50mg-30 per person
    8. Bromocriptine-1.25mg-10 tabs per person
    9. Meclizine-25mg-50 per person
    10. Scopolamine patch-ten per person
  13. Endocrine Health
    1. Metformin-500mg-500 per person
      1. For those with a strong family history of diabetes, Hispanic background, or prediabetes, I recommend stockpiling a one year’s supply of 1000mg strength metformin.
    2. Levothyroxine-150mcg-100 per person
    3. Insulin-300units-10 bottles per family (must be kept refrigerated)

APPENDIX B: Recommended OTC Drugs

  1. Acetaminophen-500mg-1000 tablets per person
  2. Acetaminophen liquid-five bottles per person
  3. Ibuprofen-500mg-1000 tablets per person
  4. Ibuprofen liquid-five bottles per person
  5. Naproxen Sodium-500mg-1000 tablets per person
  6. Aspirin-325mg-1000 tablets per person
    1. 325mg tablets can be cut into quarters, the quarters then approximate the normal 81mg dose recommended for most people with mild coronary artery disease or hypertension
    2. Alternative you can purchase the ‘baby aspirin’ version, often in chewable form, which is 81mg per tablet, though it is not common to find this in bulk and it is more expensive.
  7. Water-based lubricant jelly (KY)-5 tubes per person
  8. Petroleum jelly 100%, 13oz containers (i.e. Vaseline)-5 per person
  9. Immodium (loperamide)-100 caplets per person
  10. Docusate sodium-100mg-500 caplets per person
    1. Simply Right Stool Softener with 400 gel caps per bottle is an inexpensive example of this.
  11. Glycerin suppositories 2gm glycerin per suppository-100 per person
    1. Consider purchasing the pediatric version, containing 1gm glycerin per suppository
  12. Diphendydramine HCl-25mg-1000 tabs per person
  13. Fleet enemas (containing monobasic and dibasic sodium phosphate)-eight per person
    1. Alternatively you can purchase empty enema bottles and make your own saline solution, 1.5 teaspoons table salt to 1000mL of water; this can be preferable to the phosphate solution in store-bought enemas as phosphate can cause cramping.
    2. You may also want to research how to make a soap suds enema, the type often used in hospitals, and store the ingredients—liquid castile soap is the standard.
  14. Hemorrhoidal cream (Preparation H or Equate Brand Hemorrhoidal cream-contains 0.25% phenylephrine to constrict vessels, glycerin 14% as a protectant, pramoxine 1% as a local anesthetic)-2oz tube-5 per person
    1. Phenylephrine is the active ingredient in some decongestant nasal sprays like Neo-Synephrine Extra Strength Nasal Spray or WalGreens Ephrine Nose Drops; moreover these sprays contain a more concentrated dose of phenylephrine (usually 1%)—I have found that a cotton ball soaked with aforementioned spray works far better than Preparation H (or its equivalent) cream for getting the patient quick, effective relief—as an alternative to stocking up on Preparation H, I recommend stocking up on extra nasal spray for the purpose of treating hemorrhoids
    2. If you want a local anesthetic component for treating hemorrhoids, any local anesthetic ointment can be used to supplant a vasoconstrictor—I recommend using lidocaine, 2% or 5%, which requires a prescription.
  15. Medicated hemorrhoidal pads, active ingredient witch’s hazel 50% (i.e. Tucks)-several boxes per person
    1. An alternative to purchasing $6 boxes of Tucks pads containing 20 pads each, is to purchase a $3 16-oz bottle of 100% witch hazel (at Wal-Mart or most drug stores) and make your own pads using cotton balls or the like; witch hazel has many other uses too.
  16. Zinc oxide ointment 40% (i.e. Desitin)-five large containers per person
  17. Medicinal foot powder-1% menthol-(Gold Bond, Walgreen’s brand)-10oz bottle-three per person
  18. Anti-fungal foot powder 2% miconazole nitrate (Tinactin, Lotrimin AF, Walgreen brand ‘Athlete’s Foot Powder)-3-4 oz containers-five per person
  19. Pepto Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate)-16oz-5 per person
  20. Triple antibiotic ointment(should contain bacitracin, neomycin, and polymixin b)-ten tubes per person
  21. Tea tree oil-2 fluid ounces-ten bottles per person. This is an expensive oil; however it has many uses—a recent study indicated that tea tree oil is more effective than prescription medication for the treatment of lice, which is the main reason I have it listed here, as the rate of parasitic infections will be increased at TEOTWAWKI
  22. Pseudoephedrine-25mg-100 caplets per person
  23. Dextromethorphan syrup, 30mg dextromethorphan per dose (Robitussin, Delsym))-5 bottles per person
  24. Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol 16oz-ten or more bottles per person
    1. Warning-in a TEOTWAWKI situation, there will be desperate alcoholics in withdrawal, willing to drink anything with a label that indicates any percentage of alcohol within, no matter how small—isopropyl alcohol is usually not fatal if ingested and its effects resemble those of ethanol (the form of alcohol for drinking); the treatment is supportive care and to not do anything or give anything that interrupts metabolism, as the metabolite (acetone) is less poisonous than isopropyl.
    2. Drinking of isopropyl alcohol will not have the same effects as the ingestion of methanol (found in windshield wiper fluid-causes blindness, confusion, respiratory failure and death), or ethylene glycol (found in antifreeze-causes muscle spasms, heart dysrhythmias, congestive heart failure, kidney failure, death); nevertheless, for any product containing any percentage of alcohol on the label, I recommend adding a bright red sticker with the words “NOT FOR DRINKING-POISONOUS!” with skull and crossbones drawn—and if the TEOTWAWKI happens, keep these items stored in a place that is not well-frequented.
  25. Hydrogen peroxide-10-20 gallons per person
    1. There are many uses of hydrogen peroxide.
    2. See this site as an example of where inexpensive hydrogen peroxide can be purchased (Less than 10 dollars per gallon)
  26. Ben Gay Muscle Pain/Ultra Strength (30% methyl salicylate, 10% menthol, 4% camphor)-three tubes per person
    1. For those with allergy to aspirin an alternative is Tiger Balm Ultra, which contains 11% camphor and 11% menthol
  27. Mentholated topical cream, active ingredients camphor, eucalyptol, menthol (i.e. Vick’s VapoRub)-three jars per person
  28. Electrolyte replacement packets (Pedialyte makes these; a 4-pack costs about $5, Walgreens carries the equivalent; an 8-pack costs $4)-20 per adult, 40 per child
  29. Multivitamins-1000 per person (make sure and include some chewable forms for children or those who cannot swallow pills)
  30. Vitamin D-(1000-5000IU)-500 per person (also comes in liquid form)
  31. Folic Acid (400mcg-1mg)-500 per ovulating female
  32. Vitamin B12-(comes is dosages as low as 100mcg, as high as 5000mcg-recommend a variety)-500 per person
  33. Hydrocortisone cream 1% hydrocortisone, comes in 2oz tubes-10 per person
    1. Alternatively you can ask your doctor to prescribe a stronger version of the same medication, 2.5% strength hydrocortisone cream; this may be preferable if you or your loved ones suffer often from dermatitis, eczema, or other skin inflammation.
  34. Calamine lotion, contains calamine and zinc oxide, can be purchased in 6 oz bottles for about $1.50 at Wal-Mart. - Three bottles per person
  35. Sterile saline solution 0.9% concentration-1L bottles-10 per person
    1. You can make your own 0.9% saline solution but it will not be sterile; this becomes important when using it for the irrigation of wounds, etc
    2. For making your own solution, 9grams of sodium is dissolved in 991 mL of water
    3. Research and print the many uses of saline solution.
  36.  Oral liquid/gel anesthetic (20% benzocaine)-3 per person
  37. Coal tar shampoo (T Gel 2%, Denorex 2%, Psoriatrix 5%)-one per person
    1. If you or your loved ones suffer from psoriasis you may want to purchase other OTC coal tar products (bar soap, ointment, etc)
    2. For those with skin issues, three bottles per person recommended.
  38. Selenium sulfide shampoo-three per person
  39. Phenazopyridine (Urostat)-
  40. Miralax powder-17.9oz-three per person
  41. Fiber powder (Metamucil)-16oz-three per person
  42. Magnesium hydroxide suspension, 1200-2400mg per 10-30mL (Milk of Magnesia, etc)-16oz-five per person
  43. Antacid tablets, calcium carbonate 500mg per dose (Tums)-1000 per person
  44. Mineral oil (liquid petroleum)-16oz-three per person
  45. Earwax removal solution (carbamide peroxide)-three per person
  46. Nasal spray (Oxymetolazone HCl, phenylephrine)-five per person, more if you plan to use these to treat hemorrhoids too
  47. Doxylamine succinate 6.25-50mg per dose-50 doses per person
    1. This is the sedating component of NyQuil brand drugs
    2. It is a potent anticholinergic and can be used to treat a multitude of conditions (morning sickness, allergies, insomnia)
  48. Caffeine tablets-50mg-200 per person
  49. Trolamine salicylate cream 10% (Aspercreme)-5oz-five per person
  50. Tiger Balm Liniment (Menthol 16%, Oil of wintergreen 28%)-0.63oz-three per person
  51. Capsaicin products 0.05-0.1% strength-this is the natural ingredient found in hot peppers; it has been found to inhibit the actions of substance P in pain transmission; it can be used to treat the pain associated with diabetic neuropathy, tension and cluster headaches, osteoarthritis, trigeminal neuralgia, shingles, and more)
    1. Creams (Capsa Cream 8, Zostrix, Walgreens brand)
    2. Nasal sprays (Sinol, Sinus Plumber)
    3. Qutenza, a prescription pain patch that contains 8% capsaicin
  52. Povidone-iodine topical antiseptic-16oz bottle-five per person
  53. Phenol lozenges 14.5mg per lozenge/spray 1.4% in solution (Cepestat, Chloraseptic)-three per person
  54. Cinnamon supplement, 500mg-1000 capsules per person
    1. See the scientific evidence in support of cinnamon as having multiple healing properties
    2. Because I was a gestational diabetic, and because of my Latina heritage (my father emigrated from South America), and because my father, and multiple relatives on my mother’s side suffer from Type II Diabetes, I know that is where I am headed, despite a normal BMI and active life style.  Evidence suggests that cinnamon aids in glucose metabolism; studies have shown a decrease in A1C in diabetics who take cinnamon daily over a period of months.  I take cinnamon every day, in hopes of preventing or postponing Type II Diabetes.
  55.  Fish oil (Omega-3)-1000 caps per person
    1. A cardiologist I trust recommends daily fish oil even for the young and healthy.  Here is an article outlining the evidence.
  56. Baking soda-several five pound bags per individual
    1. There are many medicinal uses for baking soda, and whole books written on this subject
    2. Baking soda is also useful for cooking, cleaning, hygiene, as a fire extinguisher, biopesticide, cattle feed supplement, numerous others.
  57. Nutritional supplementation-Boost, Pediasure, etc
    1. To be used after electrolyte replacement therapy but before someone is ready to take regular foods again.
    2. A nutritional shake can make a huge difference in whether someone gets much-needed calories during a medically vulnerable period.

Appendix C: Drugs for Bartering

The two categories of medication likely to be most useful for bartering are antibiotics and pain medication.

  1. Antibiotics
    1. Amoxicillin-500mg-easy to get and inexpensive
    2. Bactrim DS-excellent for skin and wound infections
    3. Opthalmic antibiotics
  2. Pain Medications
    1. Aspirin
    2. Acetaminophen
    3. Ibuprofen
    4. Any narcotic/opioid (i.e. Vicodin, Percocet)—would be highly desirable in a situation involving serious injury
  3. Vitamins
  4. Insulin-will be a commonly needed, highly valued item since there are so many diabetics in our population.
  5. Inhalers for those with asthma/COPD
  6. Contraceptive devices—condoms, foam, other types of birth control
  7. Caffeine pills-ability to stay wired at critical times will be priceless at TEOTWAWKI
  8. Anti-diarrheals (loperamide, Pepto Bismol)


Appendix D: Pharmacology Bookshelf

  1. The Pill Book (Prescription medications)
  2. The Pill Book Guide to Over-the-counter Medications
  3. Any basic pharmacology textbook
  4. Sanford Guide to Antimicrobial Therapy
  5. Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment 2013 (Lange)


JWR Adds: In addition to storing OTC laxatives (such as Senna tablets and plenty of Metamucil,) I also recommend stocking up on sprouting seeds and stainless steel screen mason jar lids (sold by several SurvivalBlog advertisers,) for growing sprouts at home. Be sure to regularly practice growing sprouts. Growing your own dietary roughage is the most healthy and reliable way to keep yourself regular.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Mr. Rawles,
My child is sick. I need to build a Faraday cage to surround my child's bed. We are in a second floor apartment. Can I use wood and chicken wire?

To create a ground [for the cage], can I: Take an extension cord, tear out the double prong but leave the ground post, cut off the opposite end attach the wires to the wire cage. Would that work?

Thank You, - M.R.

JWR Replies: I will pray for you and your child.

Faraday cages have no positive health effects for humans unless for some very unlikely reason that you live in an area of extreme RF field strength. (Hypothetically, living directly under a 230,000 volt AC high tension power line or right next to a poorly-designed high power microwave broadcast tower with errant side lobes.) The fact is that low level RF (such as the field strengths found in a typical house or apartment residence) has no negative health effects. Because there was cancer one one side of our family, I did some fairly extensive research on this subject. There have been many very expensive and extensive studies conducted on low level RF and they have found essential NO correlation to incidents of cancer, or other diseasesNONE! A variety of home electronics such as cordless phones, cellular phones, microwave ovens, CB radios, and wireless baby monitors have all been studied by reputable scientific and medical organizations. But the study results have all been negative of inconclusive. By the way, what used to be the biggest emitters in American homes--cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions and computer monitors--are rapidly becoming extinct, as they are being replaced by relatively low-mission flat panel displays. But even CRTs were fairly safe unless you sat within a few feet of them, and it is noteworthy that the greatest risk was for someone directly behind them.

Now, if it is electronics that you want to protect with a Faraday cage: Chicken wire will stop many radio waves but has has apertures that are far too large to stop microwaves.  (Look at the size of the fine mesh built into the transparent door of a microwave oven!) EMP is very high energy and has frequency components in a very broad range. So a solid metal structure is best. Copper is ideal, but expensive. Galvanized steel will suffice. A steel trash can works fine. You can supplement the seal of the lid by placing a thin fuzz of stainless steel wool all around the lip before you clamp down the lid.)

And BTW, grounding actually hurts the ability of a Faraday cage to stop EMP, because a grounding cable can itself form an unintentional antenna. The general rule is: For lightning protection, do use a grounding cable, but for EMP protection, do not.

If your child is sick, then take him or her to see a qualified medical doctor!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Do you plan to walk to your retreat?  Then read this first.

For those who like me, are nearing or over 50 years old and out of shape after years of working a desk and who think that walking or biking to a retreat is an option for them, let me tell you about the last 27 weeks and the 850 miles I've covered by walking and biking. In doing so I'm hoping that I can convince you to start now rather then waiting for a situation that forces you to do so. After all, if my retreat were 260 miles from where I live, could I, or you for that matter, really afford to take the 10 weeks to get there that it took me to cover that distance when I first started? That's how long it took me to walk 260 miles and now that I've walked 200 more I can tell you that even in my current shape to walk 260 miles would take me a long and grueling time!

First let me say that I'm not a 'doomsday' prepper and I don't believe that a catastrophic economic collapse will end the world as we know it tomorrow. On the other hand I've seen human nature at its worst (war) and have studied enough history to know that things could go south in a big hurry if the right things occurred and we do seem to be living in a time in which a lot of those 'right things' are lining up to present the best possibility or “things going bad in a hurry” actually happening. I believe, however, that it will occur sometime in the future because, if one studies history, it always does.

I'm a 47 year old Marine who's allowed himself to ride a desk for far too long without exercising. This means that my formerly 'lean and green' 190 pound self managed to add 90 pounds of not-so-lean body weight. My blood pressure was high and I was diagnosed with Hypertension. While I ate well, so I thought, by avoiding processed foods as much as I could (I thought) I never really examined my food intake with a critical eye and as a consequence I added weight in the form of fat and raised my blood pressure to unhealthy levels.

My blood pressure was managed with drugs (a diuretic and Lisinopril) and because of that I didn't worry so much about it. My blood-work was excellent with cholesterol numbers that made the doc jealous but once in a while he'd frown at my blood glucose level which was bumping up against 100 – so not diabetic yet but starting to be something to watch.

I was out of shape, down right fat with high blood pressure unless I took drugs that might not always be available and I was fighting dehydration and a myriad of issues as a result of taking a diuretic and not eating as well as I thought. Something had to change.

After a few attempts to lose weight by dieting and a few 'starts' at walking I finally committed and began walking in earnest. Since I'd started and stopped a few times it was easier this time, but let me tell you, the first time I tried walking a mile was killer! This coming from a marine who once marched 32 miles in under 8 hours carrying a heck of a lot of gear! However, this time I wasn't so bad off and walked two miles with relative ease – if you call having shin splints relative ease anyway.  That first week I clocked 8 miles in 4 walks and I was convinced I could do 'this'. The next I was walking 4 miles per outing and put in 26 miles followed by 27. I was well on my way and felt I could easily attain 100 miles a month which was my goal at the time.

Christmas saw me take a week off but when I returned I stepped up and hit the road for an additional 23 miles and began to examine the foods I ate. I was determined to lose weight and get back into shape and while I'd done a lot of walking (now over 85 miles) I'd only lost about 5 pounds and my legs were killing me. I wanted off the blood pressure drugs and I wanted to get back in shape and lose all the weight.

I watched some movies that inspired me like 'Fat sick and nearly dead', 'Forks over knives' and 'Hungry for change' and through those and help from others I decided to really make some changes. I swapped my two eggs, cheese, toast and butter breakfast for cooked wheat and oatmeal with a little honey or agave for flavoring, I changed my lunches which were usually meat and cheese sandwiches or Ramen noodles packed with meat and cheese (I need the sodium so I thought) to rice with a little flavoring. I cut out meat and dairy from my first two meals with the exception of cream in my coffee (1 cup a day habit).

At first I gained a few pounds back which I attribute to my diet being different but I began to get used to the new foods and actually enjoyed them. It was more filling to eat the grains then I thought and I had plenty of energy for my walks. However, by now my legs were constantly sore and I began to realize that I needed more protein during the day so I added a protein shake between meals (twice daily) which seemed to cure that problem. I left my dinners alone mostly which gave me an incentive to eat well throughout the day because, after all, I could eat whatever I wanted for dinner. Doing this saw my daily caloric intake drop from around 2,800 calories a day to about 2,100 and I knew it would make a difference.

With my legs feeling better and my diet making a difference I stepped off for longer walks with more confidence. I was often walking 7 miles and clocked 25 miles the first week on my new diet and then 40 miles! I also stopped my blood pressure drugs and found my numbers were nearly normal! Frankly, that shocked me. How could this be? After all, I was told I'd probably have to take them for life so how could the doc be so wrong?

Before trying to tackle that last question, however, a new problem arose: my left foot began to really hurt. I'd done a 7 mile walk and then a 3 mile walk in the same day to reach my goal of 40 miles in a week and hadn't stopped or slowed down when I felt pain in my left foot. Perhaps it was the old marine in me loving the march again and feeling better, however it was clear I'd made a mistake the next day. My foot hurt.

I began to research the pain I had and realized that I'd given myself 'Planter Faciitus' which is tearing of the planter tendon on the bottom of the foot. The most likely cause of which was my lack of stretching! All this time I'd been telling myself that walking is what people do, it's not like it's running or something and there is not need to stretch when you walk. I was so wrong!

I also learned that my old runners (unused for most of their ten years) weren't what I needed and I learned about 'motion control' shoes and how they help with the problem I was experiencing. Off I went to the local shoe stores in search of a decent pair of runners to wear on my walks and I managed to find a good pair of gel control / motion control Asics that really helped. I was glad to be able to get back to walking and wasted no time (like a dumb old Jarhead) in getting back on the road. I clocked in another 25 miles before realizing that I was overdoing it and took my old mountain bike in for repairs because I knew I'd need to ride it if I wanted to continue my regimen of daily, or almost daily, cardio.

By this time I'd walked over 175 miles and while my left foot hurt I'd learned to stretch. My shins no longer bothered me, my thighs were no longer sore all the time and my blood pressure was nearly normal still. I'd also lost some weight and was down a total of 13 pounds off my heaviest. I was motivated but also realizing that no one my age or older who wasn't already in shape, was going to 'walk' out any great distances. After all, I was trying to walk in the best of conditions and I was having to learn a lot of things and relearn things I'd long forgotten or ignored. Consider that after each walk I could take a shower, I could eat and drink well and I could relax on a couch if need be. My evenings were spent in a comfortable bed and a nice home that was secure and warm and I had plenty of resources to pull from should I need supplements, shoes, Motrin or whatever. It wasn't as if I was walking through the hinterland on my own carrying a pack with no grid to log into and no Right Aid around the corner to purchase painkillers from. I wasn't sleeping on rocks and filtering my drinking water from a stinking mosquito infested pool and yet all I had managed in 6 weeks was 175 miles and to show for it I had a bad tendon in my left foot.

Clearly I need to change some things and clearly the idea of walking to a retreat could only really be done by the likes of me if the retreat was very close – which means too close to be of use.

I got my bike back from the shop and promptly rode it a mile – and nearly died! Forty minutes later I road it 4 miles and while my pulse was a bit higher then I'd like it wasn't that high. I could do this!

Over the course of the next four rides each getting longer and between riding I walked, albeit shorter distances and often slower paces since I was still dealing with a sore foot (that was healing thanks to the riding and a lot of stretching). My knees would get sore, my legs would complain but overall I was getting use to riding again and the following week I completed a 9 and finally a 10 mile ride. I was getting there and my pulse rate was much lower after those rides then on that first day. I also walked but a lot less and while my tendon had mostly healed it was something I had to constantly pay attention to.

In ten weeks I had completed 205 miles of walking and 55 miles of riding in ten weeks and lost about 16 pounds (20 off my heaviest). My blood pressure was 'ok' and while not below 120/80 in the morning it was often right there or only slightly higher (sometimes it's actually lower but not that often yet). Another 17 weeks followed with an additional 580 miles traveled and my weight is down 45 pounds, I can walk 4 miles per hour for 3 hours with few breaks (I walked in a 'Relay for Life' for 3 hours) and can cycle 13+ miles without killing myself. I believe at this point that I could walk, if I had to, 10 miles per day without much issue if I had to and had to carry a pack etc. To push to 20 miles a day would require a lot more work on my part but at least at this point I'm certain I could make a 260 mile hike inside a month providing there weren't any unforeseen circumstances. If I could ride, I'm certain I could ride 260 miles in 10 days or less though admittedly I'd be very saddle sore! Please bear in mind that this is after over 6 months of constantly walking and riding and eating right. I'm healthier today then I was 6 months ago and still off my blood pressure meds (my BP this morning was 121/79) and while I still ride a desk I work very hard to not allow it to debilitate me like I had previously.

The moral of the story here folks is that if you're out of shape like I was and you expect to be able to walk to a retreat further then a few miles, then you better get cracking and start walking now! Change your lifestyle, diet and routines and get in shape today because it will take months (no get fit quick scheme will work) and a commitment as great as any you've done so far.

I'm continuing on my quest to lose the weight and get back into shape but wanted to take a moment to recap for you some things that I think are important if you, like me, think you could 'walk out' if things head south in a hurry.

1. If you are not walking now then don't assume that you can later. Chances are you will injure yourself and quite possibly end up stranded somewhere you do not want to be stranded.
2. Your body simply cannot take the punishment if you are overweight and out of shape so do something about it now and get back into shape, lose the weight and strengthen your body.
3. You cannot carry all that you need so consider carefully what you think you will or can carry bearing in mind that the added weight of carrying a pack is added weight (ten times) on impact to your feet and knees.
4. You will likely suffer injuries to the planter tendon, Achilles heal and the knees as well as shin splints and other possibilities. Prepare for he worst and hope for the best.
5. You must consider pacing yourself which may mean only walking 2 to 5 miles every other day at the start and only slowly getting to a daily distance of 4 to 8 miles an only if you're at least well enough prepared that you have good shoes/boots that won't cause injury themselves.
6. You will need rest, lots of it, so if you really plan to walk out without at first getting back into shape then you will need a good sleeping mat and a lot of luck in finding comfortable places to rest.
7. There is more to prepping then just buying lots of stuff; physical fitness and personal health are as important, if not more important, then a lot of what you might be spending a lot of time and money on. Having a great retreat won't help you if you can't get there.
8. It is often said that you should store what you eat and eat what you store, but do you? How many have the required amount of wheat per person but don't know what to do with it? Have you sprouted wheat? Cooked it? Milled it into flour for bread? If you store it, eat it! Best way to do that is to start incorporating wheat, oats, rice (black, brown, wild more so then white but white is OK when added to the others), quinoa, farrow and others into your diet now. Try cooked wheat for breakfast and mixed rices and quinoa for dinner. It will be good for you and get you used to eating your storage foods.
9. If you store beans, then eat them! Many store beans but don't eat them so don't produce enough of the enzymes needed to digest them (hence the bloated gassy uncomfortable feeling when you suddenly do eat them).
10. Cut out processed foods, they are bad for you! Even store bought milk is processed and while it may be nearly impossible to replace it at least know that it isn't as good for you as the advertisements say. It's processed and that means 'damaged'. Raw milk contains enzymes and bacteria like 'probiotics' that today's modern American's buy expensive yogurts to get, ever wondered why that is? But I digress, I'm not saying 'go raw' I'm just saying pay attention to what you stuff into yourself on a daily basis and try to start eating right – something most of us have forgotten how to do.
11. Start making things you think you might have to make, or want to, at your retreat. Make cheese (you'll learn all about store bought milk then, I assure you), butter (you'll need good cream for that), soap, flour, sourdough bread etc. Everything you make will taste better then what you buy anyway and you will know what went into it. Just remember that you also have to be fit and maintain a healthy lifestyle so don't go eating cheese for three meals a day!
12. Seriously consider what you think you can do or might have to do and then test yourself. If you believe you can 'ruck up' and march off to a retreat that's 200 miles away hidden deep in the woods then ruck up today and take a nice long walk, chances are that if you're like me and no longer that young and lean fighting machine then you'll learn real quick that you need to make some changes. Make them today and survive tomorrow, make them tomorrow and you won't survive.

I know that's not a complete list but I'm hopeful that those of you reading it might take it to heart and get doing something. Just be sure to get good shoes to start off, to stretch lightly during and after each walk (calve stretches will help a ton!) and to research your diet now and make the appropriate changes to it so that you can both have the energy to keep at it, to keep walking or riding, and the nutrients to heal the muscle you will be tearing down and rebuilding.

Here is a sample of my daily diet for those interested:

1. First thing in the morning I drink a 12 oz glass of water (something that I never would have done before).
2. 1 cup of coffee with about 1 TBS cream and a half TBS of Agave sweetener
3. Breakfast: ½ cup of oatmeal mixed with ¼ cup of cooked wheat or bran and 1 scoop of Chia seeds sweetened with Agave nectar and cinnamon.
4. Snack: 1 8oz protein shake (140 calories, 27 grams of protein) made with water not milk.
5. Lunch: 1 1/2 cups of mixed rice with some flavoring (Mrs. Dash no salt seasoning and olive oil)
6. Snack: 1 8oz protein shake (140 calories, 27 grams of protein) made with water not milk.
7. Snack: on particularly hungry days I have ¼ cup of mixed nuts for a snack in the afternoon.
8. Dinner: Whatever I want but preceded by a large salad (fills my dinner plate) with a small portion of salad dressing (I used to pour on the Blue Cheese dressing but today use a 50-80 calorie dressing that I measure out to be sure I don't pour it on). I try to keep my dinners to about 500 calories except on days I burn a lot more doing cardio.

My current daily caloric intake is about 1,450 calories unless I do cardio which can increase the intake to about 2,100 calories (these are the days I take the protein shakes or eat protein bars).

Sunday, June 16, 2013

I became aware of the need for prepping too late to have the advantages associated with youth.  Seniors are already dealing with issues of declining physical prowess, declining health and a growing sense of mortality.  To add prepping to the list of concerns seemed more than a bit overwhelming but given the realities of our day, prepping slowly became an unavoidable necessity as I began to understand that the economic path on which our nation is traveling is clearly becoming unsustainable and is getting worse, not better.

There was also the additional concern - shared by preppers of any age - of convincing my dear wife that my fears were well-founded and that prepping was seriously necessary if we were to have a chance to survive TEOTWAWKI.  So the first challenge to overcome when contemplating prepping as a senior is the same challenge as for younger preppers:  Becoming convinced that there is serious trouble ahead that will likely destroy the support systems on which we have all become far too dependent. 

For me, that reality began to come home to me as I watched the unfolding of the current administration's agenda to abandon private enterprise as an economic model and move toward a more socialistic, European model.  It still puzzles me that we can easily observe the disintegration of the economic well-being of European nations on our evening new broadcasts, and then decide to emulate them ourselves.  Human nature is a strange thing!  Regardless of the reasons, it became clear to me that there is no will to rectify the situation in Washington and that we are rushing pell-mell toward some sort of inevitable financial Armageddon.  Therefore, the only reasonable path for me was to begin prepping in earnest despite my age of 66 years.

At first my wife was not open to the idea of prepping at all.  Women don't like their "nesting" instincts messed with and to assert that all that we have come to depend on (Social Security, pensions, health care systems, investments, and the like), might well come to an end in the reasonably near future, was and is very difficult for her to deal with.  It was understandable.  So, my initial efforts at raising her awareness consisted of providing a running commentary on the evening news.  As things in Europe began to deteriorate into economic chaos, I would just point out that if we think that we are immune to such things here, we'd better think again!  Then, when President Obama was re-elected for his second term, I turned to my wife and said, "Honey, I'm sorry if this makes you uncomfortable, but now we really do need to get serious about our prepping."  The economic mess that has been created was not going to be addressed by the Obama administration.

Reading was essential to my preparation for prepping.  The first book that influenced me was 77 Days in September, by Ray Gorham.  This was a tale of a man on a business trip to Houston whose plane crashed on take off due to an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on the United States.  It chronicled his trip walking home to northwest Montana, and was a primer to cultural breakdown.  Additionally, I read James Wesley Rawles, Patriots, which served as a wealth of resources for prepping and was a whopping good story.  I couldn't get my wife to read either one because they were both just too scary, but they helped me get prepping into focus for my family and I.

Another influence in raising my awareness was information from a friend of mine who subscribes to Richard Maybury's Early Warning Report.  Mr. Maybury is a combination historian and economist whose writings are both eloquent and pointed respecting how history intersects with economics and whose writings were often the stuff of Ron Paul campaign speeches on the topics.  The subscription to Maybury's publication is a bit pricey, but worth the investment.

My wife was still not really on board (the contemplation of economic chaos was just too unpleasant to deal with for her), so I determined that I would begin prepping on my own simply because it is my responsibility to provide for my wife, (our daughter is grown and gone), whether or not she approved of my efforts and would willingly suffer whatever consequences may come from that.

As retired senior citizens, there are things to be considered in prepping that younger people don't need to consider to the same degree.  Living in the wilderness at a remote retreat simply isn't as realistic an option for seniors no matter how tempting that choice may be.  Health care needs especially come into play and the effort it takes for relocation to such locales is almost beyond our emotional and physical abilities.  This was particularly complicated for us because after 40 years of married life, we had finally retired and moved to our retirement home in northern Colorado, near Fort Collins.  We had often joked that the next box out of our house had better have one of us in it!  So for us (and I believe for most senior citizens), prepping is a "bug in" proposition. 

We have some things going for us in our location.  We live in a small town of about 3,000 people.  It is mostly a bedroom community for Fort Collins, Loveland, and Greeley, Colorado.  Additionally, we are not next to I-25 but about several miles east of that major thoroughfare.  We are about an hour north of Denver which is a cause for some concern, but are hopeful that most desperate refugees would turn west from I-25 toward Fort Collins rather than east toward the open prairies.  Our community is likely small enough to get organized, but I don't see that happening until the proverbial stuff hits the fan and they are forced to do so. 

The problem with a bedroom community is that it doesn't really see itself as a community to any great degree so it will be necessary to try to identify some like-minded folks prior to the collapse to form a cadre of leadership with which to offer our community some guidance whenever things "go south".  It will be a difficult place to defend as we sit out on the prairie with the usual mile section grids that come with that.  Additionally, while some natural water sources are present, most are connected to irrigation canals, reservoirs, and the like, while the municipal water supply is connected to a water tower which requires electricity to pump water into it.  Water is always a big issue when you live in the rain shadow of the Rockies.  Therefore, I have begun to store water in larger quantities in house and garage.

With respect to food preparation, I have convinced my wife that having a year's supply of food is just a practical thing to do if there is any chance that things could get rough - the Social Security and pension checks could stop coming, and the panic following an economic collapse might quickly empty the grocery store shelves.  So I opted for a two-pronged approach.  First, there was the purchase of some long-term foods that stored essentially longer than I am likely to stay alive.  Here I examined the "Mormon Four":  wheat, honey/sugar, dry milk, and salt.  These were basic staples that may not be all that tasty, would keep us alive and I wouldn't need to worry about expiration dates except for the dry milk.  There are some local grain elevators near us who sell wheat in bulk, but the grain has not been thoroughly cleaned and my wife wasn't very excited about that.  So the best source I could find for nice, clean wheat for the price was at  I am not a Mormon, but I do recognize that these folks likely know more about food storage than just about anyone out there.  So 600 lbs. of wheat was ordered (hard red, and hard white) and stored away for safekeeping.  Likewise, a hand grain mill was ordered.  It will give you a workout, but it nicely converts wheat to useable flour.  I purchased a Wonder Mill Jr., grain mill from, and it works just fine.  Additionally, quantities of salt, sugar/honey, and dry milk were purchased and stored in the usual white buckets, but since my wife can't open the usual plastic lids on the buckets, I opted for splurging on some gamma lids that seal nicely, but unscrew for easy access.  Arthritis takes it toll!

The second prong of my food preps involved the purchasing of food items from Sam's Club, and the local grocery stores with emphasis being given to acquiring a year's supply of such goods and using them on a first purchased, first eaten rotational basis.  We built some storage closets in our basement, installed shelving, and stocked them full of goods paying attention, whenever possible, to finding items with extended expiration dates.  We have also planted three raised gardens in our back yard to produce as much produce on our own as we can and have purchased long-term, heritage seeds to keep for the future.

The next real life senior concern to be addressed was prescription drugs.  Both my wife and I are on cholesterol statin drugs, and blood pressure medication as are nearly every elderly couple I know.  What to do about that?  Here I want to carefully evaluate how seriously we need these medications and seek to acquire a surplus of them.  If possible I hope to convince my doctor to prescribe a years supply of these medications.  If he refuses, then it is my plan to see how much of the medications I can take and still not see a significant jump in either my cholesterol "score" or my blood pressure.  Perhaps I can take the meds every other day or every third day instead of daily and save the rest.  Failing to succeed in those efforts means that when things get serious and no further prescriptions can be obtained, then I will take whatever prescription medications I have and cut them in half.  Then I will take half of those cut in half, and cut them in half again.  The object is to wean myself off of them gradually rather than take them as prescribed and then stop cold turkey.  Blood pressure medications and cholesterol drugs are preventative meds, thus, it simply may become necessary to let things play out as they will if they become unavailable. 

In addition to medications, the elderly need to consider establishing a circle of friends and/or family who live in close proximity.  Eventually, us old folks get so old that we just can't get things done on our own.  I've walked through these things with my own parents so I know what I am speaking about first hand.  Aging is simply one of the most challenging aspects of life and there is no such thing as the "Golden Years".  Death does not scare me nor does it frighten my wife.  We are Christian people (I am a retired Lutheran pastor), and we know exactly where we are headed when we die and frankly can't wait to make the trip!  What doesn't excite us is the process of dying.  If we end up in a situation in which the usual artificial supports (medications, hospitals, doctors, and such) are not available, we know that we will die sooner rather than later.  If that is the case, then so be it!  The cadre of family and/or friends near by is simply what people have always done in the past to care for those who can't care for themselves until they go home to be with the Lord.

Older people are not just a drag on others, however.  We have an array of skills, knowledge, and understanding of an age when electronics didn't even exist, when we burned our own trash in the back yard, and by and large took care of ourselves and others without the government having much to say about it.  Those are precisely the skills that communities that are cooperating in surviving need to know.  Additionally, there is a difference between being older and being decrepit.  I am old, not decrepit.  I can work a full day, shoot straight, and think clearly.  Until the day comes when such things are no longer possible for me, then I can be a productive member of any survival community. 

With preppers of every age, however, I hope and pray daily that all of this preparation isn't needed.  However, I will continue to be ready just in case it is.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

This article intends to uncover mechanisms to assist the reader in self-help, self-mastery, and self- improvement.  The topics covered are meant to provide discovery of self- improvement ideas, identification of some techniques to improve your life, and give the reader further tools to pursue a deeper dive into the subject.  The reader will come out of this article with an awareness of the many topics to improve their thoughts, feelings, emotions, physiology, and performance.  The article pulls from sports medicine, psychology, martial arts, health and fitness, and self-help guides.  To really master some of these topics, it is highly encouraged to revisit this article from time to time, discuss these ideas with peers, relatives, friends, neighbors, and practice each day until the self-help tool is internalized into positive habits.  It is also recommended to take unfamiliar words and look them up throughout this article to understand the concept behind the idea.

So why discuss self-help and self-improvement?  At the core of this article is honing our natural ability to adapt and overcome any situation.  We are given both a naturally honed and God given gift to survive and adapt.  The current lingo of today’s expression of this idea is resiliency.  Call it what you like, but those that have adapted tend to survive longer, live healthier, and pass on to future generations a greater propensity to survive, adapt, and overcome.  I feel it is the single most defining mechanism, if highly developed, gives the best chance of living a meaningful, healthy, and thriving life.  It is my intent to introduce ideas about improving your body, mind, and psychology to not only survive, but to thrive. 

My background in these topics comes from 25 years of serving our great nation in combat and peace time for the Army and National Guard.  I also worked for a fortune 500 company for 10 years as a chemist (and sat on numerous panels that discussed root cause analysis, chemical disaster response, and Six Sigma), earned a black belt while teaching adults and children Tae Kwon Do, and being a leader throughout.  Recently I had the honor to attend the Master Resiliency Trainer’s Course for the Army that provided instructor level mastery of self-help.  Much of my experiences with self-help come from mentoring foreign armies and leaders on how to improve.  I have been a trainer for the Latvian Army, a combat advisor to the Afghan Army and Police, and worked with the Liberian Army to improve their post-conflict situation after the civil war.  Stateside I have trained American Service Members on counter terrorism, counter insurgency, and agribusiness best practices.   I have taken my natural propensity to help others and melded into my professional and personal life.

Last year I realized something was terribly wrong.  Mentally I was quickly snapping to conclusions and had a muddled brain, I couldn’t control my emotions and would snap, physically I was getting sick with colds and I looked like a balloon.  Spiritually I was lost and could not find center and was not at peace.  Professionally I was holding it together, but privately my family and I suffered.  I had spent years teaching people how to improve their lives, and yet my life was falling apart.  For years I had been a runner, weight lifter, martial artist, cyclist, rifleman, and led an active lifestyle.  This culminated with a bone break in my hand while playing ball with my daughter.  I asked myself, “Am I really this weak, that my bones are so fragile, that they break when throwing a ball around?”  That experience was an eye opener, and started my journey to improving my life beginning with diet and exercise.    

Nutrition, Diet, and Exercise
It would be irresponsible to not include a disclaimer before talking about life style changes and recommendations.  We must consider and critically analyze any serious endeavor such as nutrition, diet, and exercise, and determine if it’s right for you as an individual.  What works for some people may not work so well in others, and can potentially have unwanted consequences.  Consult with a doctor, physician, nutritionist, or medical professional before beginning a new program like this article suggests.  Get your blood work done to determine any deficiencies or problems, an annual physical, and seek regular advice from the professionals.   For some of the bad rap western medicine gets from over medication and big pharma business, there are numerous advantages to seeking traditional medical care.

I love fat, all kinds of fat from bacon fat, to pecans and walnuts, to creamers and cheese, and everything in-between.  As a kid I used to sneak my mom’s coffee creamer drinking it right out of the jug.  I loved fat so much my parents and friends thought I was strange.  Over time I was taught that fat was bad, especially animal fat.  My gym teacher in 8th grade introduced us to the food pyramid and why it was important to eat 6 helpings of grains and carbs a day.  These ideas of a high-carb, low to no fat, and small amounts of protein diet were reinforced daily in television ads, billboards, in teachers, parents, adults, and peers.  Maybe I was weird, and everybody else was right, so I changed. 

The point is we have been conditioned psychologically to believe carbs and sugars are actually good for you.  We all intuitively know the opposite is true, that fats and protein should be our core diet.  The Paleolithic man lived for thousands of years on a diet consisting of animal meat and fat.  Our brains are encased in roughly 6 pounds of fat.  Every major organ in our body has a layer of fat.  Your nerves are encased in goo.  There is a layer of fat under your skin.  You have fat everywhere on your body, and guess what; it’s actually good for you.  People have stigmatized fat so much that I feel I have to say it over and over to get the point across. Fat, fat, fat, fat, fat, fat, fat!  Increase the amount of fat and protein in our diets, and leave that highly processed garbage food on the shelf. 

Ever notice in a grocery store that the stuff actually good for you tends to be on the outer wall?  The natural, fatty, and protein stuff is usually on the outer wall, (and in coolers).  All the garbage food that contains sugars, starches, carbs, and chemicals tend to be in the middle  I don’t know if grocery stores design it that way because of the electricity outlets for the coolers, or if there is something more nefarious going on with marketing-it doesn’t matter. Did you know that soda contains phosphoric acid, the same acid used in car batteries?  The point is the bases for improving your life come from eating the correct nutrition that our common ancestors ate; God didn’t give us bicuspid teeth to gnaw on tofu, so bite into some bacon and be happy.  For further study see Atkins diet, the Paleo diet, or similar diets that preach meat and fat.

We are awash in chemical toxicity.  There are synthetic chemicals in our soaps we wash our babies in, sweet smelling shampoo that contains petroleum products that makes our Suzy’s and Sally’s go bald, optical brighteners and synthetic chemicals in our laundry soap, MSG in our food, fluoride in our toothpaste, petroleum in our vitamins, and even synthetic additives in our ice cream.  We are so awash in chemicals from big business it’s hard to find a product that does not contain synthetic chemicals of one sort or another.  Our household cleaners contain so much toxicity it warns the user not to mix it with other chemicals, and to use in well ventilated rooms.  Does that sound like something you should touch in the first place?  

Reduce our toxicity by realizing anything derived from petroleum products that touch our skin or we swallow is potentially harmful in the long run.  Be very picky about your bar soap, shampoo, deodorant, and read the labels before you buy.  It’s too easy in this day and age to look at a product’s label, pull out your smart phone, and look up a particular additive or ingredient on the internet.  Why own a smart phone if you don’t use it to get smarter?  Decrease toxicity by using modern tools such as smart phones to increase awareness of harmful additives and ingredients.  Look for natural remedies and ingredients and choose the healthier of two products as much as possible.  Sodium Bi-carbonate and white vinegar do wonders for cleaning up the house, as well as Pine Oil.  Borax and Sodium Bi-carbonate gets your whites whiter.  Use Johnson’s Bar Soap or similar natural soap that touches your skin and get rid of the synthesized fragrances.  I’m sorry, I’ll admit it; I still use the nice smelling deodorant that contains aluminum (and toxic over long periods of time), but we’re all not perfect right?  Along with reducing toxicity, increase the ability to fight off toxicity, infection, sickness, and the like by increasing our vitamin, herbs, and supplement intake. 

One way to reduce your personal toxicity is to increase the amount of cilantro intake.  Besides tasting good in pesto and Mexican dishes, this natural herb has reportedly the ability to remove Mercury and heavy metals from the body.  Next time your tomato crop comes in, think about making a pesto of tomato, peppers, onion, garlic, and cilantro.  I put cilantro in my morning protein milk shakes from time to time for that extra zip and benefit all day long. 

I have to admit my diet of meats and fats leaves missing components out of a healthy food lifestyle.  I also fall off the wagon from time to time and eat stuff that contains the synthesized chemicals because it tastes so good.  To combat these slides into chemical oblivion, I started taking vitamins, herbs, and supplements.  There are a core group of vitamins that really ramp up our body’s natural healing, buffers our body from bad chemicals, and potentially increase our ability to survive and thrive. 

The first is plain old Vitamin C.  I’m not going to get into why our government only recommends 75-90 milligrams a day, but will pitch the idea of dramatically increasing your amount to 500 milligrams a day.  The potential upside of taking the increased amount of C more than offsets the negative effects it has by taking such large quantities, (some people get stomach irritation from taking large amounts).  Some of the time it’s plain not practical to eat 5-6 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, so consuming this pill takes care of part of that. 

The Vitamin C pill should not be considered a first choice, because the pill lacks the live enzymes and phytochemicals you get from fresh fruit and vegetables.  But taking Vitamin C at 500 milligrams may provide protection from cardiovascular disease, immune system deficiencies, eye disease, and skin wrinkling.   The natural way to get Vitamin C is to take in 1 cup of Orange juice (and not Orange sugar drink), red/green/black peppers at ½ cup each (my momma always said eat the rainbow son), 1 cup of Tomato juice, Red Cabbage, Kiwi, and Cantaloupe. These fresh fruits and vegetables put not only the Vitamin C in your diet, but also put positive enzymes in your gut as well.

The sun is evil, and you should stay out of the sun or your skin will burst with cancer.  We have been conditioned to think that sunshine and its benefits are actually bad for us.  Ever wonder why grandma and grandpa break their hips when they attempt to stand up?  Is it a sign of old age, or does living in a cave turn them into withering hobbits and dwarfs?  Get out in the sun, people!  As with anything in life, moderation is the key.  Sunshine is the preferred way to get Vitamin D barring any skin problems. 

Vitamin D3 is the most beneficial of the D Vitamins that provides a natural hormone to control phosphorus, calcium, and bone metabolism.  Vitamin D3 is considered a natural hormone that if the body is deficient, can lead to depression, back pain, cancer, impaired immunity, and macular degeneration.  If your skin is too sensitive for the sun, or you’re stuck in your cubicle working for the man 12 hours a day, consider taking natural D3.  The government recommends from 200-600 International Units (IU’s) per day.  My personal choice was to take much more than that due to my once weak bones.  The doctor can pull a blood test and determine where you are sitting with Vitamin D, so get the test before considering taking extra doses.  I strongly urge the reader to look up the benefits and potential harmful effects of taking several thousand IU’s a day.  I found for my health and body 6,000-10,000 IU’s a day works (10X or more than the government recommends).  There are so many benefits to this Vitamin that this article would be too long if explained.  Vitamin D is fat soluble, and goes into your body where it matters; brain cells, liver cells, and your eyeball cells. 

Recently I have been taking a pill called Astaxanthin (Ass-Ta-Zax-An-Thin).  This natural chemical is found in Salmon and gives them the ability to swim hundreds of miles.  I have taken 4-12 MGs a day for two months and have noticed a dramatic increase in my cardiovascular system, resistance to sunburn, and a restoration of my night vision (it’s like being a teenager again).  Consider taking Astaxanthin with fish oil and Vitamin D3 in conjunction with each other. 

My technique is to wash it all down with a heavy dose of milk, to ensure my body uptakes the calcium as well.  Milk also helps line the stomach and makes the pills easier to digest.  With all pills, do your research and find out what the filler ingredients are before taking them.  Some low end manufacturers fill their pills with petrol synthesized mineral oil.  Look for brands that are all natural, organic, and have been rated positively by other customers.  Taking the combination of 4-12 MGs of Astaxanthin, 2400 MGs of fish oil pills, and 6,000-10,000 IU’s daily of Vitamin D3 has restored my night vision and increased my ability to run.  I have also noticed after 2 months of taking them daily is an increase in my body’s ability to heal after heavy workouts. 

Working out physically not only increases your ability to perform the act, but also reduces stress, gives you a greater self-image, and releases positive feeling chemicals (endorphins) in the brain and body.  The principles of working out I use comes from the Army.  The principles are Progression, Variety, and Precision. 

You should start slow and advance slowly through a Progression of harder workouts over time.  Consider Variety in your workouts to fight the body’s natural ability to adapt and the brain’s ability to wander off and get bored.  Conduct all your workouts with Precision, and focus on correct posture and execution of the task.  In other words, make it real by setting goals and surpassing them, mix it up and conduct physical fitness such as running, dancing, rowing, cycling, lifting, jumping, swimming, playing, etc… you get the idea.  Make each workout count by doing it correctly with skill and precision.  Do new things, work out with a buddy or a group, and most importantly have fun with it.  My fun is combining workouts with rifle drills.

I have started doing dry fire drills with my rifle as part of a workout routine.  Basically I run 3-4 miles, then come inside and start doing ready up drills focusing on the little screws on the electrical wall outlet.  I do a mix of 40-50 of these ready up drills with an unloaded rifle, or just stand with the rifle up to my shoulder as long as I can stand being uncomfortable.  Either way my body is being conditioned, and this confirms my natural point of aim.  Consider combining skills such as hunting, shooting, knife throwing, and axe tossing with traditional workouts.  I find running and rifle drills give my workouts meaning.

Resiliency, Mental Toughness, Character Strengths, and Strong Relationships

Resiliency is basically defined as your ability to bounce back from adversity, deal effectively with stressors in daily living, and adapt to ever changing personal and professional relationships with other people.  Realize that building resiliency takes time, patience, practice, and effort to accomplish.  This is not a quick fix topic that you can simply read and incorporate into your life; it takes real effort and inner reflection to hone this skill.  People aren’t born with a greater natural propensity for resiliency (or survival) over another, they become good because they practice and have internalized self-improvement.  There are preconditions that exist we should identify before moving on to discuss what we can do about them.

Back in the Stone Age people lived daily with life and death situations.  They always had to look out for larger animals like the Saber-Toothed Tiger that could eat them, the other tribe that could raid their camp and spear them, and the like.  Those that were always looking around for these dangers, and reacted quickly enough, tended to survive longer.  The generations that followed these original people continued to hone their fight or flight mechanism until humans as a whole got really good at surviving. 

What happens when you get mad at your buddy at work, your wife or husband, or your neighbor?  Usually voices get raised, arms and legs start pacing, you lose the ability to think, and it becomes like two animals getting ready to dual.  Ever think about why this happens?  In a nutshell the brain has a hard time determining when a threat is real or imaginary (or in your head) over something your partner did.  It’s basically a throw-back to the Saber-Toothed Tiger days of fight or flight. 

When the fight or flight mechanism kicks in adrenaline and cortisol gets pumped into the body.  You get jittery and anxious as a result.  Blood starts pumping to your arms and legs, hence pacing.  The frontal lobes of your brain, you know the “smart” higher reasoning part, slows down, and base brain activity picks up (or the “reptilian” part of the brain).  Your eyes focus on the threat.  You start sweating like a fat baby in a candy store.  This is all well and good if the threat is real and you have to high tail it away from the threat.  But is this mechanism very helpful during an argument with your spouse or co-worker? 

You see we are chemically hardwired to fail in heated conversations with our spouses or co-workers because the fight or flight mechanism was never designed to assist us in that way.  During crucial talking points, or during critical negotiations, we have chemicals coursing through our veins that make us look like maniacal clowns at the circus show.  The strongest-willed among us have this fight or flight mechanism even stronger.  As I stated before, recognizing when a threat is real or imaginary is critical if we are to carry on effectively in our personal relationships with each other.  Recognition is the first step that this propensity exists in every one of us to a degree is the first step at being effective in our relationships with other people. 

What can we do to calm down, reengage the conversation, and prevent our partners from permanently hating us to death?  The first step is to never get to the point that the fight or flight mechanism starts in the first place.  Calm down, separate yourself from the problem and emotions related to the problem, and attempt to see the problem through the other actor’s eyes.  Frame the problem to very specific talking points, and avoid using, “you always are late,” “you never come through for me,” or absolute judgments about the other actor.  Keep the problem in perspective, and keep the conversation on track.  If the conversation does ramp up, and you find yourself starting to exhibit the fight or flight mechanism, politely tell the other actor you are stepping out to make a quick phone call.  As a side note, sometimes during critical negotiations or anticipated messy meetings, I will have a friend call 15 minutes into the meeting, to allow me an out to cool down and leave the room.  In any case, once the fight or flight mechanism kicks in, and chemicals get dumped into the body, it takes practice to keep it under wraps.  Basically the best husband, wives, bosses, whatever has displayed high emotional self-regulation. 

Another technique is start doing deep diaphragmatic breathing to come back to center.  Deep breathing combined with focusing on an object above or to the side of the other actor’s head helps to come back to center.  Sometimes I will start counting backwards, or do simple math in my head while the conversation is going on.  This all aides in re-energizing the frontal lobes, and keeps the adrenaline at bay.  

There are volumes that speak to the topics of building resiliency, mental toughness, character strengths, and strong relationships.  If I may persuade you to look up The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, and 25 Ways to Win with People by John C. Maxwell. Also look up “Resiliency” on the web and do some more research. 

In summary you are what you eat and touch, use nutrition as a base for fitness, we live in a toxic world and avoid becoming a toxic avenger, work out and fight complacency, and control your fight or flight mechanism to build stronger relationships and improve emotional temperament.  I hope this article compels the reader to seek out a better life, to not only survive but thrive, and to improve your station in life by dealing effectively with yourself and others.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Many of the dehydrated "food storage units" available these days specify that you need a certain amount of fats or oils to supplement their unit. You probably know these units, they generally sell as "1 person, 1 year" type of packages and they contain a variety of grains, legumes, fruits and other essentials. They are generally put together with the help of nutritionists that try to deliver a certain amount of calories and essential nutrients per day. You might wonder why they don't just include a container of oil to complete their units. Or even why we need them.

Fats (oils or lipids) are one of our bodies essential nutrients. This means they aren't optional, we get sick and die without them. While our bodies can manufacture some of the fat we need by using other nutrients, we can't make enough of them.

Fats are our body's method of storing energy, lubricating joints and we need them to absorb [the fat soluble] vitamins A, D, E and K which aren't normally soluble in water. And in times of starvation our body burns off stored fat by converting it into energy, mostly by turning it into glucose which is the favored food of our cells. Since this takes some work, and because our body favors the easiest to digest nutrition it finds, fat tends to get stored first and burned last when we have excess nutrition.

Fats are pretty chemically simple, being chains of carbon with hydrogen attached and tail with oxygen attached. Unfortunately the presence of these hydrogen and oxygen molecules aren't all that chemically stable and the hydrogen and oxygen tend to become attracted to and run off with the milk man so to speak. They can get together with each other and create water which will induce a milky or emulsified kind of appearing oil, and this would be a hydrolysis. We often see this with oils that have been "annealed" or subject to repeated heating and cooling.

The other thing is they can combine with oxygen and we have oxidation. We also call it "rancidity" and it's an unpleasant quality we smell and taste.  This unpleasant taste and odor is progressive, it gets worse and worse until the stuff is pretty much unpalatable. Oils and fats coat the inside of our mouths, making our taste buds more receptive to taste which is ordinarily great but if that taste is foul it's even harsher.

Chemically when oxygen gets in the door it starts breaking into fatty acids, specifically hydro-peroxide (measured as PV) and thiobarbituric values (TBA). Unfortunately there's no cheap do-it-yourself test kit for this chemistry at home besides your nose.

Peroxides are even more unstable and break down into ketones, alcohol and aldehydes. Think of a rotten banana Bananas are actually pretty oily and it's partially the oil oxygenating that gives that alcohol or ketone smell.

If you have ever smelled old oil paint from a long time ago, that kind of dank smell was it. This is because we used to use things like linseed and cottonseed oil in paints and it rancidified like all vegetable oils. Once you know what that flavor and odor is you won't forget it. Unfortunately it might be more familiar to you than you realize. Staleness is another flavor associated with rancidity but I've found a lot of people don't detect it. I honestly think we're used to it.  Foods take a lot longer to get from farm to table these days.

Some say that because we've gotten used to refined flours that don't contain as much oils as well as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that some believe last longer on the shelf. In fact we've gotten used to leaving boxes of things like pancake mix in the cupboard for a year or more. And all the people you see buying 3 gallon jugs of cooking oil “to last all year” aren't doing themselves a favor. And in fact we don't really know how long that oil has been on a shelf or in a hot warehouse before it got to you. All in all it seems that buying oils in small quantities is the way to go.

There aren't the kind of immediate health risks with rancid oils as there are from bacteria or other mean little bugs that grow on spoiled food.  Until recently we didn't recognize any major mal effects besides loss of flavor. This is changing as we suspect rancid oils aren't able to do their job for us chemically as effectively as we need them to ask far as vitamin uptake. We're not sure that rancid oils don't contribute to long term health issues like obesity as these fats aren't as easily broken down into glucose. And there's the feeling these oils might turn into free radicals. All of these would have long term health effect implications.

It's worth spending a moment and making this point about brown rice, wheat berries or any whole grain flour. These all contain the germ and bran which contain a lot of fat and these create further challenges for long term storage. Low fat beans store longer than high fat ones, nuts go great in cans but nothing can stop the oils in them from rancidifying over time. This is why cheap nuts often taste bitter. They are older stock. White rice and white flours are optimal for storage. I know that's horrible news to those of us who love our whole grains and count on their enhanced nutrition. That's why we want to take every precaution when storing whole grains and high oil content foods.

We can slow rancidity down but we can't stop it. The ways to slow it down are the very same general rules we use for all foods in long term storage:

1. Keep it cool. It seems a lot of people store their oils up high next to the stove. Over-stove storage is for pots and pans, not for any food product.

2. Keep it out of sunlight. Some people seem to want to keep fancier oils out on the counter. We see this with infused oils that are pretty to look at but out in the light they are deteriorating rapidly.

3. Try to keep oxygen away from it. It would be good if oil came in mylar bags with spouts like cheap wine. The advantage here is the container shrinks along with the stored product leaving less room for oxygen. A large bottle will eventually contain mostly oxygen. Consider breaking your oils out into small containers so this effect is minimized. And note that not all plastics are air-impermeable meaning that air and gases will in fact leak through it. Food grade plastics can be trusted. Glass is best.

4. Don't let water adulterate it. The above steps help as does keeping stored foods at consistent temperatures because changing pressures won't tend to break seals. Keeping oils in sealed containers is our best defense against water.

My personal feeling is that the less refined (read saturated) fats seem to hold up best. Cold pressed extra virgin olive oil fits the bill but so does lard. Some of these cold pressed oils will hold up for months in proper storage and lard does great in cans (no light or oxygen penetration plus it's free of acids and flavors found in other oils). I don't really have science to back that up with other than the shortened carbon-hydrogen chains in these newer unsaturated fats leave it more unstable. I have heard that these unsaturated fatty acids will bind to protein to form lipid-protein globs that are insoluble and I find this as credible as it is undesirable.

[JWR Adds: Canned lard products like Crisco should be avoided, since they are often bordering on rancid even when bought "fresh" at your local store. The metaliziced cardboard containers used for Crisco are permeable to oxygen. As I detail in the Rawles Gets You Ready Preparedness Course, for long tern storage I recommend stocking up on case lots of virgin olive oil and coconut oil in full, sealed plastic bottles. These oils are available inexpensively at COSTCO and other Big Box stores. Although glass bottles are impermeable to oxygen, a plastic bottle allows oil to expand when stored frozen. (Glass bottles will shatter.) When stored frozen at 10 degrees F or lower, olive oil can have more than an eight year shelf life. Needless to say, date-mark the label of each bottle that you store, to facilitate first-in, first-out (FIFO) rotation. I hope that olive oil becomes available in gas impermeable mylar pouches, but for now, plastic bottles are the best available compromise. As I've mentioned before, raising livestock or hunting bears are the only sure ways to provide needed fats in long term isolation. But raising pigs isn't for everyone. Don't overlook chickens, since egg yolks are a good source of fat.]

Perhaps most interesting to me is how fats operate in freeze dried scenarios and upon rehydration. The fats are pretty much still there even with the removal of all that hydrogen and oxygen and I have to remind myself that in fats these are chemically bound to carbon. It's not water, it just contains the components thereof. With normal dehydration these oils are basically unaltered and are more prone to spoilage. With freeze-drying and subsequent packaging we don't permit free oxygen to get back in.

If your diet is severely lacking in fats and you can't find bacon, eat more whole grains. Eggs, milk, cheese all contain it. Corn is such a wonderful source of oil that if you grow enough you can press your own oil. It's almost hard to imagine most of us not getting enough fat in our normal habitual diet.

The cautions come in if you are utterly dependent upon your stored food and have no hope of obtaining food (with fat in it) from outside sources. Or perhaps if your diet is limited to refined starches. For me it's hard to imagine this scenario but other preppers presume this level of isolation even for long periods. The RDA (government's recommended daily allowance) of fat is about 60 grams so that's about two avocados worth. Avocados are wonderful sources of dietary fat but again, most of the other foods you eat have fat as well. For long term storage it looks like the best lipid pick is good old canned lard.

About The Author: L. Joseph Mountain recently published Hidden Harvest: Long Term Food Storage Techniques For Rich And Poor. His web site is where "articles are sometimes archived, info is irregularly updated and questions are occasionally answered." 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

In One Second After, William Forstchen describes a cataclysmic scenario, a widespread EMP effect that is only slightly less devastating than nuclear near-annihilation. The protagonists in JWR's novel Patriots fare better temporarily because the physical infrastructure remains relatively intact for a few weeks after the nation’s economic collapse. In either scenario the five epidemics that are already under way in the United States give new relevance to TEOTWAWKI.

Epidemic (from the Greek: among the people): prevalent and spreading rapidly among many individuals within a community at the same time; widespread.

The five epidemics:
            Type 2 diabetes
            End-stage renal disease (kidney failure)

Although it is the leading cause of death in the United States, heart disease resulting from coronary atherosclerosis is not an epidemic according to the above definition. It is not spreading rapidly but is well established and mortality
is actually decreasing slightly because of modern treatment.

Epidemic #1: Obesity
Obesity is the linchpin for the other four epidemics.
From 2000 to 2010 obesity increased by 80 percent or more in 39 states. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that by 2030 42 percent of Americans will be obese, nearly half again as many as currently bear that burden. A study from Duke University indicates that morbid obesity, a weight 80 pounds or more above standard weight, will affect 11 percent of the U.S. population. Obesity is clearly “prevalent and spreading rapidly among many individuals” as defined above.

Inactivity is a major factor in the obesity epidemic. A century ago only about 5 percent of Americans were obese but labor-saving devices and automobiles have reduced the need for physical activity for the average person by nearly 75 percent. The typical American adult or child spends 8.5 hours a day watching television and using a computer or similar devices.
Diet is the other major factor that leads to obesity. Over the past 4 or 5 generations we have replaced whole-grain products with those made from refined flour and we have increased our consumption of sugar several-fold. The average American consumes 40 pounds of sugar in soft drinks alone in a single year. When the SHTF, whatever the cause, our food supply will be severely compromised.            

One might think that the one-third of our population that is obese will be able to live off stored energy and will survive longer but they will not. The reason is that very few of them are free of medical problems. Obesity is simply not compatible with good health. There are no exceptions. To think otherwise is delusion.

Epidemic #2: Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is the fastest-growing chronic disease in the world. It affects more than 25 million Americans and 57 million more have prediabetes (defined as a fasting blood sugar between 100 and 125), half of whom are not yet aware of their condition. The CDC projects that one-third of the population will have type 2 diabetes by 2050. Among Hispanic females that number will reach 53 percent.

Type 1, early onset or juvenile diabetes, is a disease in which an autoimmune process completely destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. A severe reduction in carbohydrate intake will postpone the inevitable in some persons with type 1 diabetes but not for long. They need insulin daily in order to survive. Reduced supplies of all forms of insulin and the lack of effective refrigeration mean that their days are numbered, as described so tragically in One Second After.

Type 2 diabetes was once known as adult-onset diabetes but it has become common in adolescence and it occurs with some frequency among pre-adolescent children. Persistently high levels of blood sugar cause cells to be come unresponsive to the action of insulin. After a period of such insulin resistance the cells that produce this hormone eventually fail.

A lifetime of moderately intense physical activity almost eliminates the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Experts refer to it as an exercise-deficiency disease. Sometimes it results from a genetic disorder or from prescription medications but these are in the minority. In reality, more than 90 percent of persons with type 2 diabetes are inactive and overweight or obese. Among those who appear to be of normal weight, some fall into the category of normal-weight obese, persons who have gained fat but lost muscle. Although their weight is normal, their waist size reveals the truth because a pound of fat takes up more space than a pound of muscle.

Diabetes is a disease of blood vessels. That’s why its worst complications, heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and limb amputation are so common. These complications appear faster and earlier among children because those growing bodies are constantly forming and re-forming new blood vessels as they increase in size.

When the SHTF death rates will rise dramatically among those with both types of diabetes. Type 2 diabetics who have mild disease will fare better but most of them have
complications that will worsen without prescription drugs. Lifestyle changes can postpone the need for insulin but when metformin and other drugs become unavailable, complications of the disease and mortality will rise rapidly. 

Survivalists with type 2 diabetes should double down on their efforts to lose weight and to become physically fit. Those who can afford to stock up on medications should do so. Pharmacies will be depleted of stock as rapidly as grocery stores when the SHTF.

Epidemic #3: Osteoporosis
The incidence of this bone-thinning disorder will reach epidemic proportions by mid-century. Like type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis is an exercise-deficiency disease. It is not due to an inadequate calcium intake. Lack of calcium makes bones soft, not brittle. Two examples are childhood rickets and adult osteomalacia. The first is due to a lack of vitamin D that inhibits the absorption of calcium; the second has several causes, including chronic kidney disease. These calcium-deficient bones do not break; they bend, causing extreme bowlegs, for example.

There is a bone-building window between the ages of about 5 and 25 years during which the body completes the formation of almost all of its bone mass. Once closed, that window never reopens. The process requires two elements: moderately intense physical activity and proper nutrition. Today’s young people fail on both counts and will face an epidemic of broken hips and collapsed vertebrae when they are eligible for Medicare (if it still exists then).

Only a couple of generations ago most kids walked a lot, rode bikes, climbed trees, participated in pick-up games of various sports, frolicked on monkey bars and roughhoused. Safety concerns, urbanization, organization of sports, cancellation of Physical Education classes in school and other factors limit those activities now. Computer games and television occupy about half of their waking hours today.

Calcium is important during these bone-building years but children now drink twice as much soft drinks as milk. In the 1970s it was just the opposite. Other nutrients for making strong bones include several vitamins, magnesium and omega-3 fats but children who don’t get many vegetables but eat plenty of junk food get few of them. Nearly half of today’s adolescents are deficient in vitamin D because they spend so much time indoors.

Few people, including those in the medical field, are aware that pregnancy factors will affect the skeleton of the fetus when that infant reaches middle age. A pregnant young woman who exercises little, smokes and has poor nutrition will herself have an inadequate bone mass. Her baby will too, the evidence of that being that the rate of forearm fractures among school-age children has doubled since the 1970s.

Most adults lose bone mass year by year because of their sedentary lifestyle. Without regular, moderately intense physical activity bones become less dense and break easily in a fall. Exercise, especially resistance training, helps to restore some of the bone mass that has been lost during years of inadequate physical activity.

Why is osteoporosis a problem in TEOTWAWKI? A hip fracture almost always requires hospitalization, perhaps surgery. Even with modern medical care about 25 percent of persons with a hip fracture die within a year. Picture the scenario when the SHTF.

Epidemic #4: Dementia.

Dementia consists of two different conditions, Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is a disorder whose cause is uncertain. Genetic factors play a major role in about half of its victims. As our population ages it is estimated that Alzheimer’s disease will affect about 25 percent of the population by the age of 85.

Vascular dementia is the result of narrowing of the blood vessels of the brain. Diminished blood flow prevents brain cells from being properly nourished and removing waste products. The result is poor mental function, memory loss and shrinkage of brain tissue. Type 2 diabetes has become the most important cause of vascular dementia.

Persons with dementia require attentive personal care for their nourishment and hygiene requirements. I cannot predict what will happen to them in a TEOTWAWKI scenario but many of them have one or more chronic illnesses that require prescription medications that are likely to be in short supply. In a worst-case scenario they will have a low priority for treatment.

Epidemic #5: Kidney failure (End-Stage Renal Disease)

The kidney is little more than a collection of tiny blood vessels in close contact with equally tiny tubular structures, the combination forming a filtering system that removes waste products in the form of urine. When normal blood vessels within the kidney are replaced by those that have become deformed and scarred because of diabetes or other disease, toxic by-products accumulate within the body. A dialysis machine – what some persons still refer to as an artificial kidney – cleanses the blood in 3 or 4 treatments per week.

When the nation’s power grids fail because of an EMP or a devastating cyber attack it will take the lives of hundreds of thousands of dialysis patients with it. In 1972 there were 10,000 persons on dialysis; in 2010 that number reached 350,000, even as dialysis centers were struggling to keep up with the demand. If the CDC’s projection for type 2 diabetes, the primary cause of kidney failure, is correct that number could soar to more than a million in a couple more decades. The yearly cost of dialysis ranges from $15,000 to $50,000 per year and it will make kidney failure one of our most expensive epidemics.

There is no alternative treatment for kidney failure. Kidney transplantation, which may require a year or two on a waiting list, is not an option for millions of diabetics and it certainly will not be at TEOTWAWKI.

Dialysis units will stop working when the lights go out. Patients with end-stage renal disease will be among the grid failure’s first casualties.

Finding solutions: Genes load the gun; lifestyle pulls the trigger.

All these chronic conditions are lifestyle-related and are not due to genetics or to aging. They were either rare or nonexistent barely a century ago and not because people are living longer and have more time to acquire these diseases. Centenarians in places as diverse as Okinawa and Sardinia are slender and fit and can name their great-grandchildren. They have almost no heart disease and type 2 diabetes is virtually non-existent. Elderly hunter-gatherers don’t develop these diseases either – until they become civilized.

To be sure, if the pharmaceutical industry were to collapse in a SHTF scenario we would again face new threats from old infectious diseases but the thin and the fit would fare best. Obesity and diabetes weaken the immune system but exercise strengthens it.

Scores of posts on SurvivalBlog urge us to maintain a high level of fitness and to keep our weight, i.e., body fat, at normal levels. No one is too old to exercise and eating sensibly (quantity and quality) is not rocket science. It’s not too late to begin a healthy lifestyle. It may be the key that will help you to survive in TEOTWAWKI.

About The Author: Philip J. Goscienski, M.D. is a retired pediatric infectious diseases specialist, CPR instructor, columnist and author. His book, Health Secrets of the Stone Age, Second Edition, Better Life Publishers, 2005 has won three book awards. He has archived more than 400 weekly newspaper columns at

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The term "The Greatest Depression" comes from Gerald Celente, an economic trends forecaster.  I heard him use this term a few years ago in an interview he did on the Alex Jones Show.  Essentially, there never has been an economic recovery, but there has been a lot of unemployment and many former workers have fallen completely off of the map and are no longer counted in the Federal Unemployment Statistics.  TRILLIONS of dollars have been printed since the Economic Downturn of 2008 in which the housing bubble went bust.

This write-up is predicated on the fact that over $16 Trillion has gone unaccounted for (the number $16 trillion is known due to the partial audit conducted on the Federal Reserve which was put in to the Dodd-Frank Bill).  Several prominent traders and economists (Max Keiser and John Williams of to name a few) have estimated that the time to hyperinflation is near.  Max Keiser estimates we have until April yet John Williams says May 2014.  The reasons why we are in this mess financially are numerous and it is well within the grasp of anyone who chooses to read this to find your own conclusions.  I personally believe this all started with the repeal of Glass-Steagall, then the gradual lowering of interest rates by the Fed which leads to wider speculation in the markets, which lead to the Crash of 2008, which led to money printed essentially at 0% for zombiebanks, which has led to an even greater derivatives bubble which sooner than later will pop and with it so will the global economy.  It should also be noted that US Treasuries buying is at a level never seen before, real unemployment is at 20+ percent, and the VIX (Volatility Index) is extremely low, the price of precious metals is being undervalued while yet the purchase of gold and silver is astronomical, and the Dow-Jones index of the stock market is over 14,000, and the Federal Reserve is pumping $85 billion dollars in to the economy each month.  To me, this all spells a set-up.

So, how should one prepare?  First off, have some firearms and know how to use them.  I say a minimum of 1,000 rounds per weapon is necessary.  Next, have a good water filter, and a way to store treated water along with a minimum of six months of stored food per person in your family.  But physically, it is important to be prepared for the worst case scenario and that means preparing your body efficiently and intelligently. 

The following is the plan I have devised, I welcome feedback from anyone who has questions about it.

Block I (4 weeks)
Monday - 45 minutes of Cardiac Output + Weights
Tuesday - HRIT Walking Lunges - see progression below
Wednesday - 45 minutes of Cardiac Output
Thursday - HRIT Walking Lunges - see progression below
Friday - 45 minutes of Cardiac Output + Weights
Saturday - 90 minutes of Cardiac Efficiency
Sunday - Rest

Cardiac Output - Purpose - to increase the strength of the heart, primarily strength of the left ventricle - How - keeping heart rates between 130-140 beats per minute (bpm) - There is a possibility that this method creates hyperplasia of muscle fibers of the heart (splitting in two creating more muscle fibers) yet will not increase the actual size of the chamber.

Cardiac Efficiency - Purpose - increases the elasticity of the left ventricle of the heart, thereby increasing stroke volume (efficiency of the heart).  This method of training is essential for improving resting heart rate as well as lowering blood pressure.  The lower the resting heart rate, the less the heart has to work even at higher heart rates.

HRIT - Stands for High Resistance Interval Training - Some methods of interval training involve high efforts for short periods of time, this method is the opposite.  High Effort for a long period of time.  I have 2 preferred methods for doing this, spin bike with the resistance turned up, or walking lunges with a 20# weight vest on (or even get a link of 3/8 chain and put that behind your neck).  ****In between each repetition of lunge, completely relax, the same goes for if you use a spinbike, come to a complete rest before you peddle each time.  Result - Increased mitochondrial density of the effected musculature.  Since you will be on your feet and moving a lot when SHTF, this will be essential. 

Week 1 - 2x10 minutes w/ 5 minute breaks between sets (day 1); 2x10 minutes with 5 minute breaks (day 2)
Week 2 -3x10 minutes w/ 5 minute breaks between sets (day 1); 2x10 minutes with 5 minute breaks (day 2)
Week 3 - 4x10 minutes w/ 5 minute breaks between sets (day 1); 2x10 minutes with 5 minute breaks (day 2)
Week 4 - same as week 1

Weight Training:
Day 1:
1.  Deadlift - work up to a moderate-heavy set of 8 and do 3 sets at that weight
2.  Bench Press - work up to a moderate-heavy set of 6 and do 3 sets at that weight
3.  Pull-ups - 30
4.  Dips - 50
5.  Sit-ups - 3x30 add 5 reps to each set each week
6.  Hanging Knee Tucks - 3x10 add 5 reps to each set each week

Day 2:
1.  Deadlift - work up your same heavy weight you did on Day 1, but only do that weight for 1 set
2.  Bench Press - same protocol as deadlift
3.  Pull-ups - 15
4.  Dips - 25
5.  Sit-ups - 2 sets of same reps as Day 1
6.  Hanging Knee Tucks - 2 sets and same reps as Day 1

The purpose of these sessions is to increase functional strength, build a bit of muscle mass, and get your body used to moving YOU.

Block 2 (next 4 weeks)
Monday - Cardiac Output - 60 minutes + Weights
Tuesday - HRIT Walking Lunges - back to same progression as before
Wednesday - Circuit Training
Thursday - HRIT Walking Lunges - same as before
Friday – Hill Sprints + Weights
Saturday – Cardiac Efficiency – 90 minutes

Circuit Training - this can be done many different ways, you can train the aerobic system or the lactic system.  The purpose of our circuits will be to train aerobically, so ideally keep your heart rate between 130-150.  Essentially, this is the same as doing cardiac output, but we put this in to a more functional platform because the entire musculature is at work.

Sample Circuit: (Check SEMOSTRENGTH on YouTube, this is my channel and you can see a lot of the exercises I will talk about here)
1.  DB Bench Press - utilize a weight that you can do 15-20 repetitions with and do sets of 8
2.  Lat Pulldown - utilize a weight that you can do 15-20 repetitions with and do sets of 8
3.  DB RDL - utilize a weight that you can do 15-20 repetitions with and do sets of 8
4.  Seated Plate Twist - use a 15# plate and do 8 repetitions/side
5.  Plate Toe Touches - same 15# plate and do 8 repetitions
6.  DB Curls - utilize a weight that you can do 15-20 repetitions with and do sets of 8
7.  DB S-L Lunge - utilize a weight that you can do 15-20 repetitions with and do sets of 8
8.  DB Squat Jumps - just hold 10# plates at your side – 8 repetitions

Remember, keep the heart rate in the range given (130-150), if you find yourself going over the 150 mark, slow down.  Give yourself 2-3 minutes between circuits and complete 3-5 circuits or go 45-60 minutes.  Each week try to improve what you did either weight wise or number of circuits.

Hill Sprints - purpose – Training the heart at very high heart rates and having to recover as quickly as possible.  Keep all hill sprints to 7 seconds, rest once your heart rate hits 130 beats per minute and go again.  Find a hill that is at least 30 meters long and a moderate grade.  A treadmill can give a similar effect as well but be careful.  See how many hill sprints you can get in 1 hour.

Day 1:
1.  Deadlift - up to a moderate heavy set of 5 - then 4 more sets at that weight
2.  Bench Press - up to a moderate heavy set of 5 - then 4 more sets at that weight
3.  Chin-ups - 50 reps
4.  Dips - 100 reps
5.  Oxidative Push-ups - do not lock arms out, constant movement throughout - 2 seconds down/2 seconds up - 40 seconds of work/60 seconds rest  - 2 series (5 minutes rest between series) - 3 sets of 40 seconds on/60 seconds off - each week add a set, and week 4 go back to the original protocol again (3 sets).
6.  Sit-ups - 3x50 (add 5 reps each week)
7.  Rocky’s - 3x10

Day 2:
1.  Deadlift - up to the same heavy weight as Day 1 - then 2 more sets at that weight
2.  Bench - same as deadlift
3.  Chin-ups - 25
4.  Dips - 50 reps
5.  Oxidative Push-ups - 1 series follow same set scheme week to week as Day 1.
6.  Sit-ups - 3x50 (add 5 reps per week)
7.  Plate Chops - 3x10 each side w/ a 25# plate

Give the first 8 weeks a try, and prepare.  Even if the crash doesn’t occur soon, at least you will be in quite fine shape in two months.

God Bless.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Dear Sirs,
I would like to address something in the recent article, Losing Weight, Prepper Style, by Caleb E. that I hope will provide some further information to your readers.
The author of the article describes an approach based largely on the theory that calorie intake/outtake is the root cause of modern health and obesity problems. This is an extension of the classic food pyramid we were all taught since the 70s. This is not necessarily a wrong approach, but its important to know that there is growing evidence that the underlying theory is deeply flawed; that calories aren't the problem, but rather the types of calories.  There is even evidence that the obesity trends in the US can be correlated to the introduction of the food pyramid and its emphasis on high carb, low fat diets.  Understanding the competing theories on this can have profound impact on how a person prepares for disruptive events.

I am not an expert in any of this and only wish to suggest folks investigate with an open mind to the proposal that everything they've been taught about nutrition may in fact be wrong.  I've found the book Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About Itby Gary Taubes is an eye opening introduction to the leading counter-theories.  The whole food and paleo trends also mesh well with what Mr. Taubes discusses.
A simplistic overview on the different approaches is as follows.  We get our body's fuel, measured in calories, from only three classes of chemical compounds; protein, fat, carbohydrates, with approximately 4,7, and 7 cal/g respectively.  We are metabolically limited in protein intake to appropximately <200-300g/day, which only takes us to  roughly 1,000 calories/day maximum.  A sedentary existence consumes at least 2000 cal/day and would be multiple times that for high activity.  The majority of our calories in most scenarios must come from either fats or carbohydrates.  This is the crux of the competing theories.  The food pyramid and current dominant theory pushes us to almost entirely carb-based energy, which its premise of using fats sparingly.  This is the whole grain, lean meat, fruit/vegetable,  'healthy diet' approach, which ultimately is high carb/low fat.  The counter theory is that a reliance on carbohydrates, even whole grain based, is the root cause of most western diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.  It is proposed that our metabolisms are more suited to fat-based energy sources...the very things we are taught to avoid.

My wife and I have both embarked on an exploration of this counter theory on food and have had significant positive effects on our health.  Everyone is different, but the change we've seen after 1 year versus the many decades of life under the old theory has been simply amazing.
How this impacts preppers can be profound.  As a newbie prepper embarking on developing stores of food for my family, I found myself running calculations based on daily calories times people times days to estimate the amount of stores required.  This is straightforward, but ultimately leads to a significant reliance on carbohydrate calories in the form of wheat, rice, other grains, and legumes.  (Beans and whole grains provide protein as well, but still are largely carbohydrate calories.)  It's easier due to the long shelf life and storage density of those items and the poor storability of fats..  But ultimately, this leads one to have months or years of food that will result in a diet that has the vast majority of calories coming from carbs.  Typically on the order of 75:20:5 Carb:Protein:Fat and often even higher on the carbohydrates.  This is an extreme diet and if the counter theories are even partially correct, this could lead to significant health issues after a TEOTWAWKI event.  Aggravating the long term issue is that fats are just not that readily harvestable in the wild anymore.  Even areas with significant wildlife availability currently, it will not last long after a massive ramp-up in hunting/fishing.  Animal farming is the only surefire long term way to maintain significant fat intake, although nut and seed farming can be an alternative is some regions.
My family doesn't currently have the capability of animal farming, but it is a goal.
For the immediate term, we've explored foods that have a reasonable shelf life and have a high fat to carbohydrate ratio.  Even with a limited 1-year shelf life, if your family has transitioned to a daily higher fat intake, maintaining a years worth of these foods can provide significant benefit and diversity in a TEOTWAWKI diet.

Cooking Oils and their storage certainly have been addressed on this site, and we store as much olive oil as we can use within its shelf life. 
Other options that may not be commonly thought of are:
Canned almonds.  Lots of flavored types for diversity and can readily find with a 3-4 year shelf life. Other Nuts and seeds in plastic or bags often list a 1-2 year shelf life.  Eating them regularly and storing at your consumption rate can lead to a significant store of fats.  Nut and peanut butters are a common staple and stores should certainly be maximized.

Tuna in olive oil.  some brands list a 5-year shelf life.  People worry about contaminant buildup in tuna (PCBs, mercury), but most of the tuna in olive oil is based on 'light' tuna not albacore so the risk is supposedly lower.  Still, it should be a significant storage item, but a favorable alternative would be sardines, anchovies, and mackerel packed in olive oil.  A outstanding food source with a low risk of contaminants since they are low on the food chain.  typically have a manufacturer list 4 year shelf life.  Every diet theory recommends eating more fatty fish like sardines.  Highly recommended addition to your stores, but as always best to be eating it routinely and rotate based on your family's consumption rate as canned meat of any kind has a higher cost/calorie ratio.
Canned and bottled olives, and other items stored/packed in oil.  Sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, artichokes, etc.  Learn to use and cook with these items.
They aren't a 'bulk' daily food item, but using regularly and maintaining a supply close to their shelf life can add significant 'fat' options and dietary diversity.
But ultimately, these will only take you so far.  Carbs will still be dominant and its critical to look to your fat sources post-TEOTWAWKI and make securing this for your family a priority.
Also please note that food energy and vitamins/minerals are two separate considerations.  Energy is only carb/fat/protein, while vitamins/minerals provide the secondary chemicals that our bodies need to function.  They can be found in a range of food sources, and many things we eat only for their presence (leafy greens.)  Grains are typically limited in their vitamin/mineral content and is yet another reason to look to food diversity away from stored wheat and rice.
Regards, - Mike

James Wesley,
Greetings from the Northern Redoubt! I read Caleb E.'s entry on dieting with interest.  As a physician, I can find little to disagree with in it - except to say that it is not simply a matter of calories in minus calories out.

For some very readable advice I sometimes recommend to my patients the work of Gary Taubes, who has written several books on the subject:

Diet Delusion  

Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It  

Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health

Suffice it to say that everything most people know, have learned from schools (including medical school) or from the Government, and believe, is total nonsense.  The food advice from the FDA in particular is what I would call dangerously negligent.  In particular, fructose (a component of table sugar, and the thing that is 'high' in high-fructose corn syrup) is particularly risky to overindulge in.  An occasional soft drink isn't going to kill, but a routine diet of that stuff is dangerous.  Fructose is a normal component of fruits, but there is quite a difference between say, eating an apple and downing a gallon of 'healthy, natural' apple juice a day.  One probably won't make you fat, the other certainly will. - R.A.D.


For another perspective on Caleb's topic, see this Wikipedia piece: Low-carbohydrate diet of meat and fish

"Stefansson is also a figure of considerable interest in dietary circles, especially those with an interest in very low-carbohydrate diets. Stefansson documented the fact that the Inuit diet consisted of about 90% meat and fish; Inuit would often go 6 to 9 months a year eating nothing but meat and fish—essentially, a no-carbohydrate diet. He found that he and his fellow explorers of European descent were also perfectly healthy on such a diet. When medical authorities questioned him on this, he and a fellow explorer agreed to undertake a study under the auspices of the Journal of the American Medical Association to demonstrate that they could eat a 100% meat diet in a closely observed laboratory setting for the first several weeks, with paid observers for the rest of an entire year. The results were published in the Journal, and both men were perfectly healthy on such a diet, without vitamin supplementation or anything else in their diet except meat and entrails."

Please also see the Book Calories Don't Count.

Regards, - Vlad S.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, I am not a dietician, I am not a nutritionist. I am an average, overweight guy, who happens to be a prepper and believes that, after trying numerous ways to lose weight and a great deal of reading, research, trial and error, he may have a solution to wading through the sea of dietary B.S. that many people get lost in. All those who take this advice, do so at their own risk and are encouraged to seek the advice of a medical professional first.

Many of us, including survival/self-sufficiency minded people, have a problem with maintaining or getting rid of our excess baggage and I don’t mean the spare sets of luggage you’ve accumulated throughout your life. Losing or maintaining a healthy weight is a national and personal problem especially in this country, myself included. Despite all of the different dietary options available such as, low-fat, low-carb, low-fat & low-carb, smaller more frequent meals, calories in – calories out, selected starches and meats, and the ever popular liquefied wheat grass, spinach, kale, and black bean smoothie with low-fat vanilla soy diet (yea I made that last one up, but doesn’t it sound about as terrible as some of these healthy food options). Dieting can be especially difficult for some “preppers” because we’re spending money, very precious money in this economy, on what I call “future-food” (long-term food storage), that often times don’t think about what we’re eating and doing right now to ensure that we will physically be able to survive and then eat that “future-food”. Several issues need to be addressed in relation to this topic. First the root cause of most weight related issues. The second is portion sizes. Third, stock what you eat and eat what you stock.

One of the biggest questions concerning weight loss or gain and healthy living concerns what the root cause of weight gain is. Taking out hormonal changes, water retention and temporary fluctuation in weight, most dangerous weight gain is caused by an increase in the consumption of calories without a corresponding increase in the expenditure of calories over an extended period of time (the reverse is true, a continued consumption of calories with a drop in calorie expenditure over an extended period of time).It only gets worse when you increase the number of calories you ingest and decrease the amount of calories you normally expend. When looking at society as a whole we see that the third option is what has happened. Our serving sizes have been increased well beyond what “most” (Henry the VIII basically ate himself to death) of our ancestors consumed on a daily basis. While our daily lives have become mostly sedentary.

I will use myself as an example for the individual case study on this issue. While I try to watch what I am eating and when I am eating it, I am still a pretty hefty person and I would like to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. At restaurants I tend to eat everything on my plate (bad idea, restaurant plates are notorious for being over-portioned), because growing up it was drilled into me that I had to eat everything on my plate. As a teen I ate everything on my plate because, “Yea, I am manly and eat a lot, arghghghgh”. As an adult I continued to eat everything on my plate mostly because I didn’t think about it, at that point it was just routine and normal. Now, when I make my own plate, I try not to pile it high with any kind of food (except meat, cause, “Yea I’m a man and I eat charred animal flesh, arghghghgh”). Now, as a prepper I am facing the often-seen-as-insurmountable problem of losing this weight that I have accepted all my life.

Excess weight is much harder to take off than it was for a person to put on. It requires almost a gutsy, grim, determination that is just too much for most people to assume. Overweight and especially obese people have to make a clean break (much like addicts do), with the things and the lifestyle that they have become accustomed to. Their lifestyle has become an addiction, and “Supersize Me” (the movie about McDonald’s making people fat, where Morgan Spurlock basically eats himself into poor health by consuming an all McDonald’s diet for one solid month) has some great commentary on the topic. Other addictions including certain snack foods at certain times, like popcorn at movies (I’ll address another factor of this in a second) chips or cookies with our TV shows, etc. We will indulge ourselves and eat an entire bag of chips or popcorn in a single sitting without ever thinking of the cost, not in dollars but in pounds (and I don’t mean sterling). Even when we have the knowledge of this, when we know what we’re doing is bad; we will still do it, because it is an addiction. We have developed an addiction to bad food. Think about this, if I were to give you the option orange/yellow unnaturally colored, fake butter flavored, overly salted and oiled, movie theater popcorn and homemade popped corn made the same way, in a pan with a little oil and a dash of salt, which would you prefer? I know that I would take the homemade popcorn, because that stuff rocks. I think most people would choose homemade popcorn too, because honestly movie popcorn is terrible, and yet most of us will eat and entire bucket of it. Why would we eat a bucket of something that we don’t even like, that we know is unhealthy?

Because it is an addiction. If we want to lose weight, we must make a solid break from that lifestyle and it requires a deep inner strength. When you’re an adult who can go anywhere, anytime and purchase anything you want without answering to anybody it means that in the weight loss game your ability to control yourself will be the only thing keeping you from falling off the wagon. Just like no one can stop you from buying cigarettes or consuming a fifth of whiskey in a night, no one can stop you from eating a whole fast food menu. To lose weight, you must be able to control yourself and your addictions. The good news, much like other addictions, is that once you’ve distanced yourself from the bad foods and food choices that set off cravings, it becomes easier to avoid them (I can honestly say that I once went a week without eating a McDonald’s sandwich, and when I tried to eat it again the taste made me want to be sick).

Once you have made the decision to get serious about losing weight it becomes a matter of two things, 1) decreasing the number of calories you consume (where those calories come from, and when those calories are consumed is important too, but the number of calories comes first), and 2) the number of calories you expend. That means altering our diets; NOT DIETING! The concept of “dieting” implies denial and restriction, which you don’t want, you want as many options on the table as possible without those options consisting of bad imitations of good foods. A burger, for example, can be a good food item. Grilled lean burger, veggies galore, mustard or even a little mayo, and a whole wheat bun can be a very healthy meal. Just the burger is a good meal, adding in fries or chips, and a soda is where we move from healthy to unhealthy.

The number of calories that we intake is key, and for most of us it is as simple as getting our portions under control. There are some great guides to understanding portions on the web, one of my favorites though is found at the web site for Prevention (it’s the health pamphlet found at the front of most super markets and grocery stores, at the check-out isle so you can pick up a copy after you’ve bought all the necessary items to make your 3,000 calories double meat, double cheese, bacon and fried onion and mushroom burger with deep fried jalapeno bites and chili cheese steak fries dipped in Ranch dressing, yum!). The recommendations I find to be useful are as follows: for most of your starches; rice, pasta, fruits, veggies, a cup is approximately the size of the average woman’s fist. For your meat products; chicken, fish, steak, pork, three ounces is about the size of your palm. For snacking foods like nuts and dried fruit (really high fat or sugar content) one ounce is equivalent to a single handful (not a heaping handful either). For lighter snacking foods like popcorn or pretzels, that same one ounce serving is two regular sized handfuls. Foods like cheese or peanut butter, a one ounce serving is approximately equal to the size of your thumb. For spread, and oil, basically items that are pure fat, a proper portion is equivalent to the end of the thumb.

Using these portions or close to them, for instance, six ounces is a large serving of meat but still an appropriate serving size for a male whose muscle mass burns more calories, we can reduce significantly the number of calories that we take in during the day. Once you do this you will find that you may naturally eat more frequently throughout the day but less in the actual number of calories. Don’t try to force yourself to make that alteration, just let it happen naturally as you change your portion sizes. At this point it is important to note a few cautions and options. 1) Portions are not enough, if you just eat more portions, you must count your calories. A calorie tracker is very helpful, one of the best can be found for free at, and includes and app for the iPhone. 2) You need to eat when you are hungry, the hard part is stopping before you are full; a) “full” does not describe satiated or satisfied, which is the feeling we’re after, and b) just cause we finished chewing the last bite doesn’t mean that food has made and impact on our body and its chemistry that takes time. 3) Timing; timing your meals and eating when you feel hungry (not to be mistaken with bored) can be difficult but can be manipulated easily.

The sugar and carbohydrates found in starches and grains are necessary for recuperating muscles from strenuous activity and makes for long lasting energy to keep you full throughout the day. So eating them earlier in the day or directly after hard work (whether its lifting weights or a long session of chopping wood) is beneficial to weight loss and maintenance. Proteins require time to break down and provide the body essential nutrients for a variety of functions and so can be eaten anytime but the key is to remember leaner meats later in the day. Fish or seafood is better for dinner as it has the least amount of fat, fattier meats are burned off through activity and are stored when the body is at rest and should then not be eaten before an extended rest. As we can see when we eat certain foods plays a role too. Because so many people take only one aspect of healthy dieting into account and focus on just carbs or just fat, or just calories they often become discouraged and give up on their attempts to be healthy.

The fact of weight loss comes down to a few simple facts that taken together seem complex, 1) control your portions and you will control your calories, 2) don’t control when you eat, but what you eat when and 3) increase your caloric output. The last one is the simplest. Walk more. Walking is one of the best activities to increase caloric expenditure with little strain on the body.

Personal note: I spent a year during college studying in London (I was majoring in English Literature and thought that I might as well study in the land that it came from). When I left I weighed in at a nice round 300 pounds (again, not sterling). I went from not walking much to walking between six and ten miles each day. At first I developed blisters on the sole of my feet, my feet ached, my legs hurt, I lived on the third floor which in England means four flights of stairs. Only after a few weeks all of those problems went away, a combination of rapid weight loss, which decreased pressure on my joints and muscles and a strengthening of the muscles engaged in activity. By the time I came home eight months later I had lost 100 pounds from my six foot, two inch frame, and eight inches from around my midsection and yet I had not changed many of my eating habits. I continued to drink (might have had a few too many some nights), eat what and when I wanted to. This unfortunately facilitated putting most of that weight back on when I returned and was no longer walking miles a day.

Exercise is a critical component of weight loss. Just decreasing our calorie count is not enough to keep us motivated to stick with a weight loss program. To see results more quickly, we must increase the number of calories we use. Most people will think this means they need to join a gym, purchase equipment and clothing and a gym bag and a set of matching 80’s head and wrist bands (no? that was just me? Okay). In reality this means a few slight changes or our daily routine that will take up a small amount of time in our overly busy lives. Park farther away from entrances, take stairs instead of elevators, stand instead of sit, make our own food (yea moving around the kitchen burns calories), or walk around the neighborhood for an hour after dinner and before you watch TV, or walk on a treadmill (if you have one) while you watch your TV shows. This doesn’t even have to be fast or power walking. A normal pace, approximately three miles per hour, is a great start push yourself to do a mile or more depending on your physical ability. Remember it’s about the mileage not the time. Your goal is ten miles per day at a minimum. It seems impossible but it isn’t buy a pedometer and spend a Saturday just walking, no need to go fast, just walk, walk to a store, walk through an entire mall from store to store, wander through the stores, get a diet soda or even a smoothie at the food court, just walk and see how far you go in a day (warning: your feet, regardless of your shoe choice, may hurt the next day, yet your shoe choice will determine if hurt is a dull ache or a desire for amputation). Other than the initial aches and pains of unused muscles, walking is so helpful because it is relatively injury and potential for injury free, which means no downtime due to injury.

Other physical exertions that do not require a great deal of financial expenditure include calisthenics and body weight exercises. These may require depending on a person’s physical limitations modifications or alternative exercises. Weights require some financial investment, but you don’t need a full rack of weights or the fanciest machine you need a bench, and a set of dumbbells at weights of ten, 15, 20 and 25. This should cost you somewhere in the neighborhood of $150-$200 dollars. Consider it part of your prepper investments and instead of buying future-food for one or two months buy this. With just these weights, especially if your overweight or obese (cause let’s face it you’re muscle development and tone is lacking), you can burn off a lot of calories and perform hundreds of exercises to keep things interesting. It’s not about getting in the gym and throwing up big weights, it’s about maintaining a focus on calorie output. At first it’s not about perfectly even sets and reps, it’s about good form so you don’t hurt yourself, and about every rep (repetition) being another calorie or ten calories or fifty calories burned off your body. When you’re muscles begin to get used to it then you can start to widen your focus, but at the center needs to be the idea that it’s all about calories out. Many years ago when we worked from before sunrise to sundown, this would never have been a problem, but today with our sedentary lifestyle, and office jobs, we’re less active than ever, and so when we would have been chopping wood and managing a plow, and bailing hay, now we lift weights and walk. Sometimes it’s not fun, but it’s something that most of us have got to do.

Beyond the aspects of portion control (calories in), when to eat what, and exercise (calories out), there are literally thousands of approaches and suggestions and recommendations. I will only make one: do not push too hard. You will want to, you’ll want to buy up the best of everything, the “best” diet food, and the best treadmill. You’ll want to hit the ground running to get this weight off fast cause summer’s coming up and you want to look good in the speedo you just bought while reading this. NO! Pushing yourself to your limits, the limits you remember when you were younger, thinner, stronger, etc. are no longer the limits you have now. Now, you need to take it slow. Speaking from experience it will only set you back or make things worse. Walk, don’t even jog, because your first severe case of shin splints will be nearly crippling and set you back days to weeks of recovery time. Lift light, so what if you think someone else will think it’s girly, man up and do it right. Light weights help to retrain the muscles to get used to strenuous exercise without cause severe muscle soreness and allow you to focus on perfect form and eliminate the possibility for injury. Work your way up slowly, it’s all about climbing that ladder one step at a time. When it comes to food, bypass manufactured stuff, and go after the whole foods. Real food is going to taste better and be better than anything that is processed. Stay to the outside of the grocery stores and when you go to the interior make sure that you’re label conscious. Only buy what you will eat.

This brings us to our last point, “eat what you stock, and stock what you eat”. If we are preparing for long-term, then we have stores of foods that will need to be rotated, and stores of foods that we need to be using. Canned vegetables and fruits, dried rice and beans, and for some of us it’s a metric ton of MRE’s (if they are all chicken and rice flavor, I’m very sorry for you). While long-term storage is important, it is more important to stock the foods you’re actually going to eat and then actually eat them. Rice and beans may sound like good survival food because you know it’s nutritionally sound and that it stores well, but you’ll need to adjust to eating that unless you’re already use to it. Also they don’t last indefinitely, so what happens to your year’s supply of rice and beans if their expiration date is approaching and “the end” hasn’t happened. You have a year’s supply of food to eat that you only planned to eat in a survival situation. If you have a lot of “survival” foods stocked, which mostly consist of starchy carbohydrates and need to lose weight, and so need a more balanced diet, fear not.

Begin by adjusting your food storage plans to a more balanced diet, which includes more proteins frozen, dried or canned (think beef jerky and canned chicken or tuna) and balance out your stores. You might have to can things yourself, which is a great opportunity to learn something new and if you screw up, learn from it. While proteins are not easy long-term storage items, they will keep for a while and can be used easily with other stores. Examples include using canned ham or even SPAM chopped up in navy bean soup, or canned chicken being used for soup or chicken salad. Remember the suggestions from above, you can, while trying to lose weight, basically eat whatever you want by eating the proper portions and at the right times. If you feel like have rice and beans and corn bread prepare accordingly and make it an earlier meal and then have your veggies and ham or beef steak (but not both) for dinner. Vegetables and fruits are somewhat limited storable items beyond canned for long-term storage but you can purchase fresh and froze for the now and canned for the later (or when making awesome chicken soup, which you can then can), and then you can make an infinite number of meal options and varieties. If you have the space set up a small garden there are many ways to garden even in small areas. Grow fresh foods, save money at the grocery store, and have seasonal food source for you kitchen.

These suggestions should enable preppers who are not as fit as they would like to be, to lose some excess fatty weight, develop their physical fitness, while eating from existing stores rather than purchasing both storable food and “diet food”. Hopefully it will help people to realize that it isn’t really “what” you eat, as much as how much and when during the day we are eating it. A final note, is simply to say that if you lose yourself, fall down on or off of your plan to lose weight, don’t be discourage, but chose to get right back on then and there. If that means you’re half way through a terrible meal choice, stop, do finish and if your done eating and allow yourself to realize you just made a bad meal choice, don’t beat yourself up, make an effort to correct it by taking a walk (don’t try to walk off all the calories you’ve eaten in two days to try and make up for it, but take a walk to lessen the guilt) and reaffirm your plan to lose weight.

After having lost weight then you enter the maintenance phase, and now that you have become active, you must stay active. Continue to exercise and mix it up, go hiking, climbing, backpacking if you like the outdoors, if you’re more of a traditional “exercise” person then pick up biking and sports like racquetball, tennis, basketball, swimming etc. and continue to expend those calories. It’s not like a bank and we’re not bears storing up for winter. Continue to watch meal sizes and individual portions, doing so will keep you from slipping back into old habits, and if once in the maintenance phase if you do notice yourself slipping back into bad habits, do not let it continue, stop as soon as you see it.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mr. Rawles;
Yesterday I was in my local Costco store doing some shopping for my prepper pantry, and I noticed something new that Costco is selling, a vegetable oil blend. It's labeled as "Mediterranean Blend" and is a mixture of canola, olive, and grapeseed oil. It may be attractive to value-conscious preppers, because the cost per liter is low; $2.97 a liter vs. Kirkland (Costco's house brand) olive oil for $5.97 a liter. 

Beware of this oil. According to Mary Enig, Ph.D., who is the current world authority on trans–fatty acids, Canola Oil is actually derived from the rapeseed, a member of the mustard family. Rapeseed is generally unfit for human consumption and was once more commonly used as a pesticide and lubricant, among other things. Because of its high sulphur content, Canola Oil goes rancid easily, and baked goods used with the oil will rather quickly develop mold. Gross!

The fact that it does go rancid easily means that Canola Oil is not fit for storage food; it just won't keep. The canola oil in this "blend" make the whole bottle rancid. The low price may be attractive, but what good is that if it all goes bad? - C.H.R.

JWR Replies: In the Rawles Gets You Ready Preparedness Course I mentioned that Olive Oil as the best choice for preppers to store. When purchased in plastic bottles (as sold at COSTCO), it can be stored frozen for at least eight years and still safely used.

Mr. Rawles: 
First off A Big Thank You for all the information you make available. 
I have been putting together a notebook for my office with Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)  for all the chemicals that we use.  Old timers (like me) called these books HazMat Books/sheets.  This  got me to thinking about the chemicals that I use in my house; and started to put one together when the SHTF.
MSDS sheets will tell you:
1.       The Product and Company identification,
2       Ingredients ,
 3.     Hazards identification,
 4.     First Aid Measures ;  
 5.     Fire Fighting Measures
 6.     Accidental Release Measures,
7.     Handling and storage
 8.     Exposure Controls/Personal Protection
 9.     Physical and Chemical Properties
10.   Stability and Reactivity
11.   Toxicological Information.
12     Ecological Information
13.    Disposal Considerations,
14.   Transport Information]
15.      Regulatory Information.
Some of the "sheets" are many pages long and some are just one page.  But no matter how many pages there are; it is a great help in an emergency situations. 
I was surprised how easy it is to find these sheets.  Just go to your search engine and put the brand name of the product in and then look for the MSDS information (usually at the bottom)  If you cannot find it, just email the brand name/manufacture of the product.  They will be happy to send you the MSDS sheet.
Most families do not realize how many chemicals they have in their houses (usually in under the kitchen/bathroom sink and garage) and how harmful they can be.   Dish Soap really surprised me on how toxic it can be.    
I have tabs in the notebook identifying the group of products – like soap.  All information about any kind of soap is in that section.  I have also written an index at the beginning of the book so I can find the product fast.  I would recommend every household or any  retreat location to put together a notebook of MSDS sheets.  It might safe a life.
Blessing and prayers coming your way. - J.A.N.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

This article isn’t designed to cover all aspects of childbirth, of course, but it is meant to reassure people who are unsure of their abilities to do prenatal care and their own or a neighbor’s birth, if the stuff hits the fan. I am a Certified Professional Midwife, and have assisted people in birth as a childbirth educator, doula, and now midwife since 1984. (My North American Registry of Midwives certification, however, is fairly recent, since I have concurrently raised three children alone, and earned a BS in Computer Information Systems.)

One of the first things to remember when the stuff hits the fan, is that most births, if not tinkered with, are straightforward.  Most women are quite capable of birthing at home just fine. I would recommend having several good books on hand, such as Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin (the only midwife who has had a procedure named after her), Heart and Hands by Elizabeth Davis, and either Varney’s Midwifery, or Myles Midwifery. Varney’s is for the American audience, Myles is British, but easy to read and understand.  Laura Shanley’s Unassisted Childbirth, and Dr. Gregory White’s Emergency Childbirth are two others. There is also the book Where There Is No Doctor; it has a good section on childbirth, but doesn’t go into the details that one might need in a post-collapse situation.

I am not calling this article Emergency Childbirth for a reason, because most home births are not! They are normal physiological functions that only require good nutrition, watchfulness and cleanliness to have a good outcome. One should study, to know what normal is. If you have time before the birth (months, I hope), try to find your nearest CPM. They are trained in out-of-hospital birth, and are trained to know how to help the mom birth twins, breeches (a variation of normal) and Vaginal Birth after Cesarean Section (VBAC).  In a post collapse scenario, there won’t be access to the hospital for pregnant women in labor, as was discovered during Hurricane Katrina. (Laboring women were turned away from the hospitals, and either birthed alone, with family, or with the two CPMs that were available to help until more help arrived).

If there is no one that can assist you, then concentrate on the best nutrition you can do, specifically plenty of protein (50 mg daily, minimum) and green leafy veggies (at least 3 servings daily, but more is better). The protein helps maximize fetal development, and the green leafies provide B Complex, Iron and other necessary nutrients. Nutrition is covered more thoroughly in the books mentioned. Better nutrition means a healthier mom and baby, often an easier labor and breastfeeding and better ability to withstand blood loss. Avoiding caffeine, illegal drugs, pesticides, chemicals, and tobacco goes a long way to a healthy pregnancy.  Some people follow a vegan diet successfully, and as long as you get enough protein, it should be okay. In the first three months, the following herbs should be avoided (see Herbal for the Childbearing Year, by Susun S. Weed); Basil, Caraway Seeds, Celery Seed, Ginger(except in small doses for morning sickness and/or heartburn), fresh horseradish, Savory, Marjoram, Nutmeg, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Parsley, Taragon, Thyme, and Watercress, Aloe Vera, Angelica, barberry, Buchu, Buckthorn, Cascara Sagrada, Coffee, Comfrey, Ephedra, Goldenseal, Juniper, Lovage, Male Fern, Mistletoe, Mugwort, Wormwood, Pennyroayal, Rhubarb root, Rue, Shepherds purse, Tansy, Yarrow, Senna, and Mandrake. Seems like a long list, but most people won’t encounter these herbs.

Red Raspberry Leaf tea, however, is a great uterine strengthener and just tastes good! If you have access to prenatal vitamins, those should be taken as well. Folic acid is very important to help prevent neural tube defects and any vitamin regimen should have at least 4 mcg daily.

Exercise is very important, for both physical and mental health. Just getting outside and walking in the yard if weather is inclement is a great stress reducer and helps blood flow to the baby. Yoga, tai chi, and other relaxing stretching types of exercise can help the mom’s body adjust to the changes that are occurring over the course of the pregnancy, and prepare for the birth. Massage is a wonderful relaxing tool and can be used during the birth as well. Learning simple massage, and reflex points can help tremendously during birth. Whatever it takes to get mom loose, can help. Talking to the baby in utero helps the baby learn your voice (Dad’s too!) and helps establish a bond that will make breastfeeding easier. Reading good books, thinking good thoughts (I bet that won’t be easy during post collapse, but it can be done), prayer, meditation, visualizing an easy birth, saying birth affirmations,  and examining your birth beliefs (overcoming negative ones) is calming to the spirit. You have to come to a place within yourself where you recognize that birth is normal, and your body can do this, that it was designed for this. Mind has a lot to do with how easy or difficult a birth may be. Not everything, but negative emotions and unspoken fears can inhibit labor pretty significantly. Mothers who learn to draw on their inner strengths can often know when a situation during labor needs correcting. They learn to get in “touch with the baby”, so to speak.

Rest each day if possible, especially in the last trimester. The baby is getting bigger and it takes more energy just to keep up with daily demands of the family. Napping helps recharge mom’s batteries. If that isn’t possible, getting off your feet for 15 minutes twice a day, can both give some rest, and help avoid varicose veins. Especially with a multiple gestation, getting your feet elevated helps blood circulation to the babies.

You can do your own prenatal care, writing down your blood pressure, taking temperature and pulse, and your weight. You or whoever is helping you might be able to learn to feel baby’s position in the uterus (palpation), to better prepare for labor. A baby that is posterior (his spine is laying near mom’s spine, feet kicking outwards) can often be turned around before labor, avoiding much backache and a long labor. Spending 15 minutes twice a day on hands and knees can frequently turn a baby anterior (spine facing out, away from mom). There are other tricks for turning a posterior baby on  Optimal Fetal Positioning by Jean Sutton  and Pauline Scott is an excellent resource for this. Paying close attention to nutrition in the earlier parts of pregnancy can pay off by helping avoid Metabolic Toxemia of Late Pregnancy, otherwise known as preeclampsia, and noting weight gain in the last trimester, along with any swelling (edema) of the hands, face, or legs (some in the legs/feet is normal especially during the summer months, but should not maintain a depression if pressed with a finger (pitting edema). Facial swelling is not normal, and may indicate a need for medical help.  This is one of the reasons  blood pressure is checked so often. Dr. Tom Brewer developed a nutritional system for nearly eliminating preeclampsia in a low-income population in Denver Colorado. (see

List of items to have on hand for the birth:
Cotton shoe lace (preferably unused, or you could make a “friendship bracelet” out of embroidery floss) (both can be placed in a pan of water during labor, boiled for 20 min, then heat turned off and covered until after the birth)
Bulb syringe,
Chux underpads or black and white newspapers(they can be rolled up to make a bowl of sorts),
4 receiving blankets warmed on a heating pad or near a wood stove (not on it! Or you can heat some water, fill 2 or three mason jars with hot water, put on lids and rings and wrap the blankets around them)
Maxi pads, or cloth menstrual pads
Bath towels, at least 6 if planning a water birth
2 Shower curtains or plastic drop cloths (to protect the mattress and/or floor)
Sheets that are clean, for after the birth, and a set of older sheets for labor/birth that you don’t mind if they get stained.

Herbs: Shepherd’s purse, Ladies Mantle, or Motherwort tinctures or commercial ones like HemHalt or Wombstringe (in case of bleeding),
Superglue (for vaginal tears(small ones, less than an inch long-although those very small ones will heal just fine by themselves as long as the moms stay in bed for the first few days and keep legs together! No tailor sitting or climbing stairs)). For longer tears, you might have to know someone who knows how to suture. Most home births occur without any tears at all, since mom is more relaxed, and water births help too!(we’ve seen 12 lb  babies born with no tear to mom at all) If no suturing available, have mom keep legs together, only moving to get up to potty for the first few days. Nori seaweed is also used as a binding agent on mom’s bottom to help hold a tear together until it heals.
Large bowl or pan (or newspaper bowl) for placenta
Pen and paper to write times or notes on labor/birth
Baby diapers and clothes
Stethoscope, if possible
Tape measure and hanging fish scale(for newborn)
Sling for weighing baby(or you could use a receiving blanket. Just remember to weigh the cloth and subtract that to get the weight of baby.
St. Johnswort tea or capsules (for after pains)

To make the bed for birth, put a plastic shower curtain or drop cloth on mattress, place the clean, “after the birth” sheets on bed, then put plastic drop cloth or shower curtain over them, then the birth sheets. After the mom is cleaned up, all you have to do is take the dirty sheets and first plastic off and voila! Fresh bedding.

For the actual labor and birth, just let mom do what she wants to do. Most women will walk some, rest, dance or sway, eat, sleep, shower, etc, till the contractions become so close together and long (usually 1-2 minutes apart and long) that she cannot move much during them. She will probably vocalize, oohing, singing, or making noise, which is perfectly fine and normal (women are not beached whales, and should not be silenced!) As Ina May says, “an open mouth makes an open bottom”. At some point, the mom will start pushing, and she can reach down and catch her own baby. She can bring the baby to her breast and baby can start nursing right away. Nursing will help the uterus contract, and help the placenta separate more easily. There is no need to cut the cord at this time. One third of the baby’s blood volume is present in the placenta and cord, and it should be allowed to enter the baby (although the term “polycythemia” is used, to my knowledge it hasn’t caused any problems to the baby. He absorbs the extra blood, the unneeded cells break down and they are excreted).

If there is a tight cord around the neck, there is a technique called “somersaulting the baby out”, whereby the attendant holds the baby’s head near mom’s thigh and allows the body to be born over the cord. Unwrap the cord, and baby gets the rest of his blood supply. (I have seen wraps 4 times done this way). Baby should be moving, if not, you can rub baby gently on the back, or flick the bottoms of his feet, and mom can talk to him. He is still getting oxygen from the cord, and it will assist transition to breathing well. If it’s a Water birth, the baby is brought up out of the water right away, and placed on mom’s chest, with a warm towel placed over both mom and baby. The baby usually starts breathing and looking around, connecting faces with the voices he’s heard for the past 9 months. After this point (usually within an hour, but a little longer might still be okay), the placenta separates, there is a small gush of blood from mom’s vagina and she feels a need to push. Once the placenta is birthed, make sure the uterus remains firm(it’s about the size of a grapefruit and easy to feel) and mom breastfeeds baby, if not done earlier. Even if she isn’t planning on nursing baby, (but in a post-collapse, it may be the only source of pure nutrition for baby) breastfeeding helps shrink the uterus to pre-pregnancy levels (over the next few days) helps mom lose any extra weight gained, and minimizes bleeding. The cord can be cut, if desired, when it is limp and white. That shows the baby no longer needs it. Some people don’t cut it, just leave it wrapped in a diaper and carry it around with the baby for a few days until it dries naturally and falls off  (Lotus birth), but unless herbs are used on the placenta, it has a tendency to get a little stinky.

Mom should get up and see if she can urinate (this helps uterus clamp down) and if she wants a shower, someone should be there to help her. In the meantime the bed can be changed of its dirty linen and fresh put down, with plastic underneath. Someone should get mom something to eat and drink, high in protein, and some sugar(mom has done a tremendous amount of work!)  and let her rest and recuperate. Keeping an eye on mom for bleeding (blood pressure checks, color of her face, firmness of uterus) should be ongoing for the next few days.  She and baby should be kept together, to establish bonding and nursing. Wearing the baby in a sling, Mei Tei, or other wrap, helps the baby stay warm, regulate his heartbeat and respirations and establish other rhythms. Within 24 hours, he will probably have his first bowel movement (meconium) and will have peed. Milk will probably come in around the 2nd-to-4th day postpartum. Until then, the breasts produce colostrum, which helps clean out baby’s gut, add good flora to baby, and is anti-bacterial.

I hope this wasn’t too long, but birth is an amazing function, that is awe-inspiring to participate in. It can be a little scary sometimes, too, but the more you know, like any preparedness subject, the better you can be to deal with the unexpected.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Mr. Rawles:
I am writing to address some of the questions in the letter on The Human Appendix. I am a physician who works at a large academic center.

Regarding The letter writer's questions, an inflamed appendix is not uncommon (This is know as appendicitis), and removal of the appendix is one of the simplest surgery's we perform in modern medicine. It is unclear why the inflammation occurs, but if untreated it can be fatal. The appendix was historically thought to be a vestigial organ (useless), or an immune presenting organ ( i.e.: helps the immune system fight off infections). It is thought to have no role in the digestions of foods, and people can live a normal life span without it. The symptoms that go with appendicitis are mid belly pain (pain around the belly button) which moves to the lower right corner of our abdomen over time, and the inability/lack of desire to eat. Recent evidence in the scientific literature points to the fact that the appendix may actually be more important then once thought (see the recent Wired Science article which points to the original science) though this is still under debate . There is nothing you can independently do to keep the appendix healthy (other then try to eat a healthy diet and not take unneeded antibiotics), and we no longer remove appendixes prophetically, that is we do not take them out unless they are infected. There is nothing you can do to keep your babies appendix healthy beyond possibly breastfeeding to make sure he/she develops a healthy immune system.

The Gallbladder is a different story. Most gallbladder problems are caused by gallstones, which are stones made of bile and cholesterol (two substances which the gallbladder stores in order to aid with digestion). When we think about people who get gallstones, the classic med school mnemonic is "fat, female, fertile and forty". Woman, of reproductive/middle age who are fat get gallstones. So the only preventative measure is to stay fit and skinny, as you can't really control your age or gender.

I hope this helps, - S.M.G. MD

 Regarding Letter Re: The Human Appendix, I am not a medical professional but I've had reason to learn about some of what was asked regarding the appendix and gall bladder as I had both of mine removed when I had a gastric bypass.  First, there is evidence the appendix actually has a purpose by storing good bacteria.  It's not critical, but it is helpful.  Without an appendix, the some antibiotics can cause you GI distress.
Next, the gall bladder helps you digest, among other things, fatty food.  Without a gall bladder, you will likely regret eating too much fat for dinner as you will tend to need the bathroom more urgently the next day.  Without the gall bladder, tracking what you eat is important to maintain good GI comfort.
As a GB patient, fat rushes through me and I don't have a very big stomach which can not easily process certain foods (especially proteins) thus causing discomfort.  Further, as a person over 50, my body naturally does not grow the helpful bacteria or enzymes as well.
I've read various medical sites talking about probiotics and there are certain probiotics that create a very good mix of the suggested helpful bacteria.  However, they need to be encapsulated properly to bypass your stomach and get into the intestines lest they be destroyed by the stomach acids.  Probiotics can help you maintain a comfortable life and help you draw in the nutrition from the foods you eat.
I use a product that I found on the internet and researched their claims.  After some consideration I decided to try them and have been happily using their products for over a year.  I found that after a few weeks, I can back off of the probiotic pill to every other day or so.  Can I live without them?  You bet!  But my overall GI comfort level is harder to maintain without them.  
I have not had much luck finding medical information regarding enzymes beyond the fact that as you get older, your body does not produce as many.  What I have learned is that certain freshly picked greens make my digestive system very happy and, for everything else, the enzyme pills help me digest protein and other foods with greater comfort.
I have no ties with this company and am simply an avid user of their products. I personally use them and swear by their effectiveness.
IMHO, their web site leaves much to be desired, but their products perform quite well. - J.W. from Virginia


I've benefited from so many tips from survivalblog that I'd be gratified if you could pass this preventive measure on to your readers.  I have on several occasions cured a case of appendicitis at the painful and nauseous stage by administering a purgative.  Appendicitis is caused by a blockage in the bowel, a hard piece of stool that is blocking the secretions of the appendix.  A purge that leads to full elimination can remove the blockage and give immediate relief.  Aloe vera or gum of aloes is excellent for this purpose.  (Do not use senna or epsom salts if ulcers or hemorrhoids are present.  Purgatives should be used with caution during the first trimester of pregnancy.)
In an environment where people have no choice but to eat high fiber foods, appendicitis would be a rare problem.  There are many other "modern" diseases that would disappear if our diet were not so "modern".  For example, diabetes is only a problem because of the high percentage of refined starches and sugars in most people's diet.  The natural human diet is one of the many things that God set and humans tampered with, to their own detriment. - Suzan G.


There was an article from the Institute for Creation Research just yesterday on this topic, highlighting recent research showing that the appendix harbors a "cache" of bacteria that are used to re-colonize the gut following a major illness or condition that disrupts the digestive system. Evidently there are no vestigial organs. - Tip H. in Washington

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Are you responsible for the most valuable commodity in the world? Do you have small children? Are you a grandparent? Even though your grown children currently think you are crazy, will they be showing up at your door in a SHTF scenario? What about the neighbor down the road, the single mother that is just barely getting by financially? Even though they are not actually your responsibility, will you be able to turn away a stranger with an infant or small child pleading for help? What does God expect out of us? What if you were suddenly responsible for an infant or toddler? Do you have some basic supplies or plans  for this scenario? In many ways, infants and toddlers require careful planning when preparing for a TEOTWAWKI situation.
Infants and toddlers can throw a curve ball into your prepping plans.  Here are some basic needs that toddlers and babies require, that many people may not think to have in their long term storage. Some of these suggestions are simple and inexpensive but extremely valuable. Anyone that has taken care of children knows that keeping them happy and comfortable reduces a lot of stress on the caretaker. Sadly, some parents will not have a clue about what to do when they run out or cannot afford/find disposable diapers. Some of these items are cost (and space) prohibitive for someone that may not be definitely responsible children.  Additionally, there are a few transportation type items my family has acquired. We will use these in a SHTF scenario, but we also use them in our day to day life.

Babies need diapers, plain and simple. Instead of stockpiling expensive and bulky boxes of disposable diapers, I bought a pattern (link) and made one size diapers that fit a baby from 8 pounds to 35 pounds. Both of our children can literally fit in the same diaper, even though they are almost 20 pounds different in weight. These are not your thin pre-folds found on the Wal-Mart shelf (don’t buy them unless you’re using them as burp cloths, they’re terribly thin and not very useful). I can also use the leftover material from the diapers as cloth wipes or the diapers themselves as bandages in extremely unfortunate situations. A couple of drawers of diapers that last for years saves much more space (and money) than years’ worth of disposable diapers. How good would you feel to hand a struggling parent a few re-usable diapers (you may need to show them how they are used) before sending them down the road? Don’t forget a good supply of safety pins for many reasons. Plus, when using my homemade laundry detergent, I don’t have any additional soap to buy or store.  You can find good, used diapers through a diaper cleaning service, online, and at garage sales. Get creative; they are out there if you look for them.

Babies also require milk. Most people can agree that nursing is the most beneficial form of nourishment for an infant. It also is simpler. For example, there is no need to find a bottle (let alone sanitize it), it is always at the right temperature, no one has to measure out precise ingredients, and I can’t think of a single time it has ever been recalled. However, it can be painful to nurse and sometimes it just is not an option. If you suddenly find yourself caring for an infant what are you going to feed that baby?

Through my research, I have found several goats’ milk recipes. Goats’ milk has very nutritious properties and is supposed to be easier for infants to digest than a cow’s milk. So, if you have access to goats, search for some recipes and see if this is something that may benefit your situation. Unfortunately, goats simply are not an option for my family. We live on a military installation and the housing authorities are adamant on their pet policies. Goats will not do here, which leads me to a formula recipe I found in a cookbook. The recipe’s ingredients are common staples in most pantries.

12 ounces evaporated milk
2 Tablespoons Dark Corn Syrup, Sugar, or Brown Sugar
2 ¼ Cup Water (my Dr. recommends boiling all water, even bottled water, to kill bacteria before giving to infants)

Mix these ingredients together (be sure that the water has cooled to an appropriate temperature) then feed to the baby. This can be refrigerated after use and stored for several days.
Since this recipe does not have additional vitamins or iron that infants require, liquid vitamin drops would be important to add in order to meet the child’s nutrient requirements.
As a disclaimer, I am not a health care provider. Perhaps this information will be helpful to a child in a SHTF scenario. In the meantime, please consult with a medical professional with questions or recommendations for the health of your child.

When TEOTWAWKI occurs, how are you going to transport that kiddo if we have to? This is a subject that, unless you are currently or know you will be responsible for children, may be a minor concern. Transporting a child “legally” in a vehicle will not be a priority however; a car seat does keep the child safe and stationary so the other occupants can remain alert to the environment around them. I do not believe that traveling via motorized vehicle will be an option in most SHTF scenarios so, let’s concentrate on non-motorized transportation options.
First off, bicycles are great to have at hand. They provide a quick, efficient, and cheap mode of transportation. But, how will you transport the children on a bike? Well, you could install one of those plastic seats over the handle bars or behind your own seat. Used ones are plentiful and inexpensive at garage sales.  Or, here’s another option. We chose a bike trailer. We purchased an Aosom Elite 3 in 1 from an eBay store. This is a cheaper model, but one is better than none, right? What is nice about this trailer is that two children (up to a combined weight of 88 pounds) can ride in it simultaneously. The trailer has a mesh cover to allow air flow, but it also keeps rocks, sticks and larger bugs from infiltrating the cockpit area. It came standard with a clear plastic cover to go over the mesh to keep rain off the children or to keep the cold weather out. One of the requirements I had when looking for a bike trailer was that it had to convert easily from a trailer to a stroller. This trailer simply attaches to pull behind a bike, and it has a front swivel wheel that allows it to become a stroller. The swivel wheel can be “locked” in a forward position to be used for jogging. The handle bar at the back of the trailer doubles as a roll over bar and can be adjusted to be more comfortable for those of different heights pushing the stroller.  There is also an enclosed area at the back of the trailer that is fairly large (for a size idea, it can fit 4 gallons of milk). Another neat feature is that many trailers can be converted to be on skis for those in snowy regions. A simple ski kit is available on eBay for those that snowshoe or Cross Country Ski. Now, if funds are not an issue for you, I would probably recommend a trailer with a larger front wheel. This would make the trailer more compatible for rugged terrain. Furthermore, when the kids outgrow this, it may be retrofitted to haul game, goods, firewood or used as a great barter item.

What if hiking is more your style or a bike trailer is not feasible for you? Here are some other options. While hiking (or even doing house work) with a “fresh” baby, my Moby Wrap was a life saver. The Moby is a long piece of fabric with a stretch. You can even make your own, just do a search for how to on online. For us, the Moby worked well while the kids were just a few months old. The bigger they grew, the more difficult it was for me to carry them.

Then, I was introduced to a Deuter Kid Comfort Carrier. These distribute the child’s weight more evenly on my body, making long walks more enjoyable for both mommy and the child. Each of our Deuters have a kickstand (which allows us to double the back pack as a high chair because of the balance the kickstand provides), strap in harness, shade cover, and rain shield. They also have mesh pockets on the side, and a deep pocket under the child’s seat. We can store diapers, food, water, and other necessities in the deep pocket. This pack does not allow you to carry “tons” of items for a BOB, but it is perfect for me as a Bug Home Bag, if I am just running errands throughout town. It is perfect for everyday use, too. It frees my hands but also allows a fussy child to be comforted close to mommy or daddy.

Trying to be prepared can be expensive. We were blessed to pick up a Deuter at a garage sale, and the other was a gift from my parents. Here is a money saving recommendation. When trying to get equipment, head to an REI store (or similar facility) if you have the luxury. Be prepared to stay for several hours. Get properly fitted for a backpack. I strongly suggest this, as this will increase your comfort while carrying the child. There are also great videos on YouTube explaining how to properly fit yourself to your pack. Put your child in the backpack and see how you both like it.  Walk around the store for half an hour or longer. Try several different brands and see what works best for you and your children. Take notes on the features you like, how it fits, what you do not like, etc. Do the same with the bike trailer or any other necessities you find yourself needing.  Push the kid(s) around the store. Try to see how the kids fit in the trailer with helmets on.  Is there enough storage area, do the kids have enough room? Again, take notes. If money is not a problem or if there is a remarkable sale going on and you want to support that store, then go ahead, make your purchase.  On the other hand, if you have a smart phone or want to save a bit of money, check out eBay, Craigslist, Bookoo, etc. Take your notes and go home. Find a used product at a more affordable price. Many times children outgrow these tools before the family uses them a handful of times, so you can find good products in like new condition.

The products I mentioned are just items my family finds useful. We are not associated with any of these companies or web sites, nor do we get any monetary gain from sharing our opinions on these products. They are just that, opinions, take them for what they are worth. Children are surely a blessing. Consider them and their needs when preparing your supplies.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Mr Rawles,
 I have had to get off of coffee several times for health reasons and have found that a couple of B Complex vitamins or a non-caffeine energy drink like FRS really helps to ease the pain and symptoms of withdrawal ... of course I had a five cup a day habit, not a 5 pot a day habit like some of your readers indicated.

I also want to thank you for printing the article several months ago about getting off of anti-depressants. My wife was on Effexor, one of the most notorious ones, and we were able to slowly wean her off of the drug by using some of the supplements and herbs indicated in the article and others I was able to research. Withdrawal symptoms for Effexor can last more than a year, but with a lot of prayer and some good nutrition she was able to get back to normal in a few months. - Ernie M.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Mr. Rawles,
The article written by Z.T. was spot on. As I write this, I have been five days caffeine free.

For the past several months I have intentionally been cutting back on coffee. I was a chronic coffee drinker and had been for about 20 years. As many as four pots of coffee a day by myself. I loved coffee.

Many years ago I spent several months in the woods camping and was stuck with no coffee. I learned first hand how debilitating 'minor' addictions can be. For the first two weeks I was useless. Couldn't do anything but sleep and lay in my sleeping bag, sick to my stomach with my head pounding as though it were exploding. For the first ten days I was completely incapacitated. The symptoms abated after that.

The normal withdrawal time is around seven to nine days.
Symptoms of caffeine withdrawal are: headaches, fatigue, weakness, drowsiness, impaired concentration and work difficulty, depression and or anxiety, irritability, increased muscle tension, which may also include, tremors, nausea, and vomiting.

In a final note I would like to tell anyone that wants to kick the habit. It can be done.
Perhaps my plan can help some one.

 I went from four pots a day to three pots for about a month, then to two for a month to a few weeks, then down to one pot for about a few weeks. After that I started counting cups a day until I was down to three cups a day for a month; Up until five days ago when I quit.

I may not have quite as much energy but I am much calmer, relaxed, with much less stress and anxiety. My thoughts seem to be clearer and more organized as well.

If anyone gives it a try I hope it works well for you.
God Bless - D.P.


After a trip to the cardiologist last November, I was advised to stop drinking caffeine. I usually drank a cup or so a day, very little by comparison, plus a Monster (Rehab is my favorite - ironically), and maybe a Mountain Dew or Coke. Not always on the same day and not every day. So I thought that it would be no problem to quit.

It took a full month for the splitting headaches to go away. The fog finally lifted from my brain a few weeks later. After about two months I felt like I was finally awake. I was shocked.

Then a couple of weeks ago I had a couple of sick kids and extra overtime, so I got about 8 total hours of sleep in my work week. I thought that I could surely handle one Monster spread over two days. I had energy galore! I could think with great clarity!

Now, three weeks later without any caffeine, I can't seem to wake up, the headaches are still there, and everything is fuzzy again.

I would surely carry No Doze in my bug out bag, but only as an emergency.


Anyone that has an addiction that inhibits them as it did Z.T. needs to rethink their priorities. I've been a pot a day coffee drinker and a pack a day smoker. Nothing is harder than keeping mental acuity when interjected in every other thought is "more coffee" or "another smoke would feel nice, no?"

My suggestion would be to take off a day or two(or a week in Z.T.'s case) and go through withdrawal. Drink plenty of water and remember that any snippiness is not you, but the drugs. I've gone through withdrawal many times, and currently have been off any drugs/stimulants for over a year. It is good experience to know how to get off drugs and how long it takes. I can say that any "boost" in performance granted by caffeine or cigarettes is an illusion created by its dependency causing lower baseline functioning. If you want to be alert, allot yourself 7-to-8 hours to sleep, turn off the electronics and dim the lights about an hour before bed, and do a peaceful activity such as reading or crocheting before heading off. - J.M.


Hi Jim, and Readers,
I realized a few years ago that coffee to me was and addiction, and when I wasn't able to get it I would develop some pretty rough head aches.
this plus having to make too many trips to the restroom were a great interference to my forward momentum while working or driving.

I made a conscious decision to reduce the intake to one, maybe two cups a day, it took a while to get used to the reduction but since we have really good water I now drink water which is much better for my kidneys anyway. And take a bit of a walk to get reoxygenated it really helps, or just go outside and take some really deliberate deep breaths.

I have stocked up on a large amount of coffee, not only for when things happen, but for trading too. Even though I have reduced the amount I drink, and could probably wean off of it after several days,  It is still very good to keep you alert when the need arises and you have to stay awake on CQ or guard duty after the SHTF. Yes I have pulled copious hours of guard duty, CQ, Staff Duty, and other all-nighters, Long radio watches as a net control operator, napping off is absolutely not an option.
I believe that having that large amount of French roast is a very wise idea  when we wind up having to watch out for intruders and can't shake off the nappiness.

The really hard part is breaking the habit, once broken though, The coffee becomes more effective when you really need it.
There is always the social aspect of a good cup of coffee too, Keep in mind that during tough times discussing situations over a good friendly cup of coffee can be a good ice breaker too.
Blessings - Dave of Oregon


Dear Mr. Rawles,
I know how Z.T. must feel, although I don't have the same level of "addiction" to coffee.  My solution is stockpiling little plastic "tubes" of instant coffee to carry in luggage, purse or pocket.  You can almost always get hot water and then the tube of crystals becomes coffee.  Also great for trade or barter. They are available on Amazon,com. The best deal I found so far is the Taster's Choice Columbian: 160 tubes/packets for $26.56 or about 16 cents a cup. Love your blog.  Take care. - Mary J. in Western Oregon

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I have tried to think about things that you may not have thought of, in regards to The End of the World as We Know It (TEOTWAWKI.) And maybe not just fresh ideas for readers, but even for those that write about these things. And, it's possible that you may even think that I am going waaaay out there to bring you fresh ideas. But I'm not. I bet you haven't thought of how silly and secret addictions can really hurt you. Have you? While the effects of hard drugs, even seemingly minor alcoholism, have their own withdrawal symptoms that are easy to point at and identify. It's the ones that you haven't thought of that may be your undoing. Let me share a story.

Last week, I traveled by commercial airliner for some on behalf of NASA. My flight left at 6:08 am. So, I didn't really have time to fix a pot of coffee. I figured I would grab a cup when I got the the airport and enjoyed a fabulous $10 re-warmed biscuit. And, verily, that's exactly what I did. I enjoyed said biscuit with a small coffee, then boarded the flight from Huntsville to Houston.

Knowing that this would be a long day, judging by post experience on United, I drifted off to sleep on the flight. When I woke up, I found out that we had been diverted to Alexandria, Louisiana due to fog. We sat on the plane an hour, then deplaned into this tiny executive airport. Alas, it has no restaurants and only one kiosk that sold bottle drinks. Since 7 other planes arrived before me, the kiosk was drained. No big deal. After all, I have sworn off soft drinks in an attempt to lose weight.

Boarded, once again, and we finally made the flight to Houston.

That's where it began.

I had a splitting headache. I was sick to my stomach. I had ZERO energy. When I called my wife, she immediately could tell something was wrong. I could barely speak, I was trying to figure out what I needed to do to make it to Salt Lake City with all the delays. But I couldn't think. At all. My brain simply wouldn't work. I told her I didn't know what it was and that I felt I was dying. Being ever so intuitive to her loving spoonful, she knew what had happened. I had 1 cup of coffee. All day.

Sounds stupid, doesn't it? Because I had only 1 cup of Java that day, I couldn't mentally function. And this isn't the product of just a long day. It's happened over. And over. And over.

In fact, I can't start my day without having a pot of coffee. Not because I am spoiled, but because I can't mentally function. See, my every morning revolves around dressing my kids, packing snacks and diaper bags, and getting them to school. There have been days that I have gotten to work and had to seriously think about if I actually took them.

Laugh now. But consider. Are you in the same boat? Do you have a long term tradition of stopping at Starbucks? Do you have to have a pot of coffee at your desk while you read the news, before you start your work day? Do you have to have that Mountain Dew at 2 pm? How about that Redbull or 5 Hour Energy Drink?

You do. Don't you? Don't lie to yourself. It's ok.

And if you don't? Do we dare go down that path? Well, I've already told you about my inability to function. As a NASA engineer, I recognize many of the stereotypes in myself, and one of those is the need to "mainline" caffeine directly into my blood stream. And if I don't....I cannot function.

Okay. So, I think we have beaten that dead horse enough.

What does this mean for our survival? Do you realize just how dangerous this is to your TEOTWAWKI plan? We have had many talks about being on top of your mental game. Having a plan and enacting it, having thought of solutions to conceivable future issues. Making. Critical. Decisions. At. Critical. Times.  This takes clarity of thought. And if you don't have this, you have a problem.

I couldn't wrap my mind around how to change a flight to make it to my destination. How would I ever be able to make a split second decision on how to save my and my families life? I wouldn't. That doesn't even get into the physical ailment I felt. I am willing to bet that I would have been throwing up had I not downed a 34 ounce Dr. Pepper.

Now, I am much better off with my coffee consumption that I have been at other times in my life. I drink about 10 fluid cups a day. That's the only caffeine in which I partake. Let's look at some facts.

According to CoffeeFAQ, a standard 8oz coffee has UP TO 200 mg, but usually around 110mg.
According to Mountain Dew, a standard 12 oz can has 55 mg
According to 5 Hour Energy Drink, a standard shot has 208 mg
According to Red Bull, a standard 8.4oz can has 50 mg

So, while many people may laugh at the amount of coffee I drink, many of those drink multiple 20 oz bottles of Mountain Dew everyday. Or multiple Redbull. According to this, I consume a gram of caffeine a day. A GRAM!

Where do you fit? Have you ever gone without? If so, what were your experiences? I honestly would like to know.

What this past weekend showed me was that I have a severe addiction to coffee which can completely inhibit my physical and mental cohesiveness. It is something that I MUST consider in my survival plan. But, I will be honest. I enjoy coffee, so weaning myself off of it is improbable. So, what's my solution? Well, it's silly and simple.

I had been thinking about this topic and just how dangerous it really is, for something as stupid as a daily habit. I mean, honestly, I don't rank my addiction up there with heroine...and yet, I can now identify what Kurt Cobain must have felt (though I identify that I didn't have Courtney Love to deal with). When I got to my hotel that evening, the first thing I saw was the prepackaged Coffee on the sink. I thought to myself....hey. That's at least a Band-Aid solution. After all, in TEOTWAWKI, our plan all along is that we will have scavenge at least some. But until it's safe, just a few packets of prepackaged brown goodness would get me by. So, I snagged it. And now it's in the pack.

While this may sound stupid and you may not even believe me, others have considered it. In the "Outlanders" series of books by James Axler, coffee is a regular staple of commodities that are held in high regard in the Post-Apocalypse. In "Pitch Black", Cole Hauser's character Johns, has an addiction that is never specified, yet it renders him physically and mentally incompetent after their space ship crashes on a hostile planet.

So you don't care about media? Consider this: Coffee is a staple in military Meals Ready to Eat (MREs). Why? Maybe not for addicted souls like me, but certainly for some of the reasons that I am addicted to it. It's a stimulant. It keeps you alert. It's comforting.

The fact is, the TEOTWAWKI is a scary and harsh place where survival is already walking a razor thin edge. Just to survive and prosper, you already will require a great amount of luck, not to mention the planning and sharper-than-razor mental capacity to make even the smallest decisions that mean life or death. You cannot have anything keep you from making the right call at the right time. Losing your mental capacity over something stupid, such as missing a days worth of coffee, is a silly way to go out.

And, again, we aren't even considering the more serious addictions that you may have. Doing a quick search, I learned that 30% of Americans have a drinking problem. That sound about right to you? It does to me. The effects of alcohol withdrawals are just as dire, and even more so. I have seen it first hand. So, 1 out of every 3 of you that read this now know that your alcohol addiction should be something to consider.

I'm not telling you that you must kill off your secret addictions. It's not my place. And, considering how unlikely an earth-shattering TEOTWAWKI would be, it's probably not worth quitting. Shoot, I know I can't quit coffee. But, it's certainly worth planning for, even if it means raiding the hotel's freebee coffee stash.

Preparing Your Mind, Body and Spirit for TEOTWAWKI, by K B.

I have met many great survivalists from all over this great country.  I have heard a lot of good advice on food preserving, silver and gold purchasing, ammo stockpiling and medication/first aid preparation.  I have further read numerous books and taken part in numerous survival training programs provided by the United States Army, that have taught me how to protect my family, my community and myself when the Fit Hits the Shan (FHTS).  I have utilized learned skills first hand during my tours with the army in Afghanistan and Iraq, survived 2-½ years of homelessness and along with 315 million other Americans, struggled to raise a family of five during these tough economic times.  What I learned so far is it doesn’t matter how prepared I have made my household, food supply, finances, security measures, family, neighbors and community; if I haven’t prepared myself, it was all for nothing. 

Before take-off at the start of every business trip, the flight attendant reminds you that if the air supply bags drop from the over-head compartment, that you are to place your mask on first before assisting others.  The reason behind this is you are useless to anyone else if you are dead from a lack of oxygen.  Any fire fighter will share a similar belief when it comes to their SCBA mask and rescuing people from a burning building.  Imagine spending half of your life reading about and preparing for the end of the world and when it all goes down, you are morally, mentally and physically un-prepared to handle the new normal. 

In this article I will cover the definition of wellness; basic skills one could implement to improve their physical, mental and spiritual well being and resources for improving ones resiliency and the resiliency of ones loved ones.  As a disabled combat veteran, I could not stress enough the importance of wellness preparation, maintenance and stability.  Please keep in mind however, that even the most prepared or resilient individuals cannot predict or survive everything, just like being a non-smoker doesn’t make you immune to cancer, it can only improves your chances of survival. 

For the purpose of this article when I discuss your overall wellness I am referring to your physical, mental and spiritual level of functioning and resiliency.  With that said, I am a mental health worker and a full-time student of Social Work.  Everything you are reading is based on first-hand experience, training/education, evidence based practices and second and third hand observations.  Furthermore there will be disclaimers and notes throughout the article, for your protection and my own.  There will also be two sets of information provided for each of the three areas of strengthening/preparing; a list of skills that can be implemented today without the limitations of TEOTWAWKI and a second list that follows the “Back to the Basics” approach for after the FHTS.  The majority of these skills are presented at a basic level and are a great way to get starting in improving your overall wellness.  For more advanced skills training I encourage you to seek the help of a professional in the area you would like to enhance (i.e. priest, doctor, dietitian, gym, therapist, etc.). 

In current day and future days, our individual overall wellness will define how we adapt to our ever changing world.  The basic wellness model identifies the three most important areas of our functioning as our physical, mental and spiritual health.  SAMSHA expands this model in their “Wellness 10 X 10” model which covers 8 dimensions of wellness.  For further information and publication on wellness, please explore the web site above, it is a great resource and provides numerous publications free of charge.  Improving your strength and resiliency in any of the three areas will have positive ramifications on the corresponding areas.  Likewise, any weaknesses or a chronic issue in any area negatively impacts the other two areas.  It is important to work on yourself while encouraging the same in others, but remember, no man (or woman) can be the Pope, Arnold Schwarzenegger or Albert Einstein all in one person.  Any improvement in any area greatly improves your overall wellness. 

Mind (Mental Health)

Self-disclosure alert.  I suffer from chronic Moderate to Severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with Depression.  I would rather try to survive TEOTWAWKI with a like minded individual, then someone free of stress, mental health issues or firsthand hardships.  Lucky for me, most Americans are like minded, with mental health issues found in the majority of individuals and no one being immune from the effects of stress.  Our chances of experiencing mental health issues are based on our level of susceptibility and vulnerability, as is most physical health concerns.  Having a mental health issue does not however make an individual any less capable of survivor, in this writer’s opinion, it makes them stronger.  Individuals with severe and persistent mental illnesses (SPMI) are going to find barriers others don’t have to worry about, such as medication management, treatment follow through and symptom management. 

When the FHTS, it will only be a matter of time before most individuals will experience a heightened level of adrenaline followed by the phenomenon of “fight or flight” thinking.  When this happens your autonomic nervous system goes to work and your survival instincts and natural reactions will come out.  For more on the autonomic nervous system and the parasympathetic/sympathetic  system please review this article.  For simplicity purposes we will refer to this mindset as the zone.

In the military many drills are repeated numerous times in a multitude of scenarios in order to increase the chances of use when in the zone.  It doesn’t take much to see how training your natural reactions towards stressful situations to mirror your best chance of survival could be highly effective.  Doing this for every scenario and every possible outcome would drive even the most disciplined Special Forces Op or Navy SEAL crazy.  To compensate, we look to improve our ability to “bounce back from” the situations we couldn’t prepare enough for, this is called resiliency.  This resiliency is what helps us to adapt and overcome minor to severe changes in the world around us.

Note: As identified above, no one is immune to the effects of stress and/or mental health issues.  Increasing your resiliency will help reduce your susceptibility but will not make you immune.  In our present day society over half of the American population will experience a traumatic event in their lifetime and over two-thirds will experience at least a minor episode of depression at some point in life.  These statistics are based off of today, when the FHTS, you can only imagine the effects it will have on the average American psyche. 

Present Day Skills:

Getting Connected / Social Support System:  Building strong, positive relationships with loved ones and friends can provide you with needed support and acceptance in both good times and bad.
Make every day meaningful:  Do something that gives you a sense of accomplishment and purpose every day. Set goals to help you look toward the future with meaning.
Learn from experience:  Think back on how you've coped with hardships in the past. Consider the skills and strategies that helped you through rough times. You might even write about past experiences in a journal to help you identify both positive and negative behavior patterns — and guide your behavior in the future.
Remain hopeful:  You can't change what's happened in the past, but you can always look toward the future. Accepting and even anticipating change makes it easier to adapt and view new challenges with less anxiety.
Take care of yourself:  Tend to your own needs and feelings, both physically and emotionally. Participate in activities and hobbies you enjoy. Include physical activity in your daily routine. Get plenty of sleep. Eat a healthy diet. To restore an inner sense of peace or calm, practice stress management and relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation, guided imagery, deep breathing or prayer.
Be proactive:  Don't ignore your problems or try to wish them away. Instead, figure out what needs to be done, make a plan and take action. Although it can take time to recover from a major setback, traumatic event or loss, know that your situation can improve if you actively work at it.

Back to the Basics Skills: (Most of the skills identified above can further be use after TEOTWAWKI).
Share your experience and encourage others to do the same:  Sharing with others and listening to how others are adapting and moving forward with the changes brought on by TEOTWAWKI can not only help identify gaps in progress in individual and group adaptability, but it names issues, makes them real and provides you the ability to take a problem and make it an obtainable goal.
Continue to document your experience:  As identified above, learning from your experience can be a great tool to reduce future effects of stress and change, as well as increase your overall ability to cope.
Develop a Crisis Response Plan:  Identify a written plan for how you are going to deal with negative thinking, thoughts of harm or suicide, depression and other mental health symptoms.  Sign it and share it with others, make it available for reference. 
Use your supports and be a support:  Even if you find yourself in an “I am Legend” scenario and you are the last human on earth, you still have the support of your spirituality (see I told you these go hand in hand) and your own mind.  With others, be there for them, practicing active listening (actually listening and reflecting on what they say, without judging) and show care and support (if the feelings aren’t there, fake it until you make it).  Rely on others for the same.  We are a social species and rely on the interactions of others to experience comfort and relief. 

Body (Physical Health)

Note:  I have read numerous blogs and threads regarding the stockpiling and keeping of prescription and non-prescription medications.  As I have seen in those threads, I will also do here and not encourage or condone the use of non-prescribed medication or the abuse of medication.  I encourage the proper use and disposal of unused medication when no longer needed.  With that said, you are your own person and you know what you need and don’t need.  If you have the need and the means, then it is up to you to make those decisions.

There are many aspects that affect your ability to survive TEOTWAWKI in regards to our current and maintainable level of physical functioning and health.  For this article we will focus on endurance, susceptibility and positive decision making.  For information on trauma care and medical care please review the book “When There is no Doctor.”  

It doesn’t take much imagination to see how the overweight and out of shape will handle the big changes that can come with TEOTWAWKI.  Anyone can overcome change with the right skills and mind set.  With that said, why make it harder on yourself and wait until the end of the world to decide that it’s time to do something about your 35% body fat or high blood pressure.  The first thing I encourage in this area is routine.  Start slow and implement one or two things at a time, in other words pace yourself, pace yourself, pace yourself.  Trying to be the next Mr. Olympian is not your goal.  It is better to be overweight and in shape then be overly fit and unable to complete basic tasks, like running far distances.   

Getting into shape goes beyond working out, it is what we eat and how we carry ourselves throughout the day.  I could easily say don’t smoke, don’t drink, stay away from drugs, don’t eat red meat, carbs are the devil, so on and so forth, but I am not your doctor.  With everything you do for your body, moderation is key.  My biggest piece of advice, aside from pacing yourself, is don’t look at improving your physical health as a chore, turn it into something fun, you can do again and again and again. 

Present Day Skills:
Get active:  All those ads you see on television and on billboards are right.  Getting active at least 30 minutes a day can greatly improve your overall health and overall wellness.  Try doing something you enjoy such as swimming, walking, playing basketball, jogging, dancing, cleaning, etc. 
Get involved:  Join a club or start an exercise regime with others such as your family.  You don’t need a lot, if any money, to get active and to workout, just if you want the big fancy machines when doing so.  Find creative ways to keep the family active throughout the day like walks after supper, playing in the yard after work or doing pushup and sit-up contests during commercials.
Mix it up:  Mix up your routine to make things interesting.  If you planned to go for a nice walk, turn it into a run.  Go hiking or canoeing instead of just lifting weights.  If you miss a day, a week or a month, don’t dwell on it, there are 24 hours in a day and tomorrow is another day.
Moderation:  Get your body used to moderation in most things you do.  Eating, drinking, socialization and other activities are more than fine, when done in moderation.  Too much of a good thing, makes it a bad thing.  Not to mention when the FHTS, it might be pretty hard living up to your vises and abuses, such as excessive drinking, smoking or overeating.
Back to the Basics Skills: (Most of the skills identified above can further be use after TEOTWAWKI).
Stay active:  Your gym may now be closed, but the majority of exercises can be fulfilled in small spaces and without the assistance of man-made contraptions.  For a giant list of ways to work out under even the most strenuous of circumstances, check out this web site.  
Don’t skip a meal:  It is better to eat brown rice for three meals a day then it is to skip a meal or two a day.  Our bodies need calories to survive and when the FHTS, our standard 2000 daily calorie intake may not be enough.
Take care of yourself:  Don’t wait until your cut is infected or your “cold” is a nasty viral infection.  Start with your immediate care and always follow up with the preventive care to the best of your ability, for the sake of your health and the health of others around you.

Spirit (Spiritual/Moral Health)
Spirituality is based not on what religion you claim, or even whom you worship.  Spirituality is what you believe connects us together, powers the universe, keeps time moving and empowers people to do what is morally right.  For some spirituality is found in God (or some deity), nature, art or the universe itself.  For myself I find spirituality in my faith in God and in my beliefs in the Catholic faith.  My spiritual character has further been developed through trials and tribulations, the military, fatherhood and life experience.  Whether you pray to God or baste in the awe of a sunrise over the mountain, we all are at some level aware of our spirituality. 

Your moral system is derived from nature and nurture.   We learn right and wrong from stories, church, life experience, feelings/emotions, school, society, self-discovery and many other influences.  When your moral/ethical system is tested and boundaries are crossed, moral injuries can occur.  These injuries can have long lasting effects and take away the drive that keeps one going. 

If you are a God fearing man or follow some structured religion, it helps to know where you are going when you die.  No matter how much you prepare you will eventually die someday.  Accepting death is a struggle every person experiences in their own way.  By accepting death and defining your reason for life, you have provided the strongest desire for survival.  I know my eternal resting place is among the saints in heaven.  Knowing this and having already accepted death through war and tribulation, I know I survive to honor the blessing of life God has bestowed upon me.  My faith is Catholicism, but my spirituality is defined by my relationship with God and how I honor him and my fellow man.

  There has been a regular theme in this article about priorities, without that word actually being used.  Defining ones ethics and values is one thing, but prioritizing them is another.  For me it goes; God, family, myself, country, community, work.  View this PDF for a questioner if you need help identifying your values.

Present Day Skills:

Pray: Prayer/meditation is an amazing tool for improving your spirituality.  Whether you pray to God or look into yourself for strength, doing so can bring your closer to the thing that ties us all together. 
Get involved:  Get involved in your local church.  Participating in mass/service is one thing, but getting involved with the Monday thru Saturday activities can help strengthen your beliefs and improve your spiritual fitness.  Socializing with others of like mind and spirit encourages growth.  If you don’t go to church or don’t believe in a higher power, you can still get involved.  Spend more time doing what makes you feel closer to your spirit, if it’s fishing, fish; if it’s nature, hike and if it’s the stars, keep your eyes to the sky.  Learn what you can about what empowers you; it can only make you stronger.
Read:  Some religions and spiritual paths come with manuals, while others must be found in various different books.  Owning a manual (i.e. Bible, Torah, etc.) that you never read, is like trying to fly a plane full of passengers without having ever left the ground or taken flying lessons.
Put your spirit into what you do:  If you are conducting an inventory of your preparations, practice praying and thanking God for his gifts.  Utilize mindfulness to enhance the experience of whatever activity or hobby you are taking part in.  You can be mindful canning or cooking dinner, just as easy with practice as you can when in nature or experiencing a wave of spirituality. 
Back to the Basics Skills:
Keep the faith:  When the FHTS, this can be easier said than done.  Morals and values are tested in hard times.  The stronger you are in your spirituality the better you will be able to do this come TEOTWAWKI.  Continue the list of things above to the best of your ability with what is still around.  This last part may be hard, but find God in what has happened.  Remember that God had to go through hell to open the gates of heaven; sometimes being like him (being a Christian) isn’t easy.
Pray, pray, pray:  God protects us (please read Psalm 91) and wants us to live in his blessing of life.  For non-believers, meditation can help stabilize the mess of stress and moral injury brought on by TEOTWAWKI.  When the world is at its darkest and prayer seems futile, at a minimum, one can pray to thank God for another day every morning, taking heed in the continuation of life.

Final Note:
  Death is inevitable for everyone, ignoring that robes you of true appreciation for life.  With death there is a rebirth and in this rebirth eternal life can finally begin.  To all of my fellow survivalists and preppers I wish you a blessed life and encourage you to always help others by giving them bread and teaching them to fish.
Thank you and God Bless.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Here at the Rawles Ranch, we've resolved to get back into doing our daily stretching/calisthenics and thrice-weekly tactical hikes on the National Forest land that compasses our property. (We had let this practice slip away last Fall, as the cold weather set in.) Hence forth, no more lame excuses.

We've also begun supporting C.R.O.S.S. Ministries with weekly support. With automatic PayPal payments, this won't be overlooked. They deserve your support, too. Note that these are Christian missionaries who will train South Sudanese villagers with small arms, so that they can defend themselves. This is a Biblical concept! (Luke 22:36)

We've resolved to be vigilant for any encroachments on our God-given rights. Any proposed legislation that would diminish our rights will be met with a deluge of e-mails, FAXes, letters, and phone calls.

Ditto for institutional moral decline by our government. (Yes, it is OUR government, and we need to remind our public servants that they work for "We, The People.")

We resolved to more diligently memorize scripture.

Lastly, we've resolved to top off our supply of full capacity magazines, including some extras, for barter and charity. (We still need just a few. And even if Madame Feinstein's gun and magazine ban bill is DOA, we can still expect an import ban on magazines, via Executive Order.) I've been mentioning the importance of magazines in the blog since our early days, and have recommended them as an investment since 2007. Our little stack of silver didn't triple in value last year, but our PMAGs did!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

CPT Rawles,
In reference to the article Making Our Bug Out Bags Work: Shaving Weight, I applaud the efforts of Joshua H. taking the opportunity to hike 22 miles in three days, however, without any other information, his resulting experience is not surprising.  As a fellow Army officer, you can attest that ruck marching is essentially a practiced art.  One builds up to those distances and weights.  Cutting weight is good, but only those items not deemed necessary.  Don't cut weight because of a lack of practice carrying a weighted down backpack.  Practice carrying that weight, and build up the weight you can carry, over progressively longer distances.  Otherwise, you will find that you have moved 22 miles in three days, and that is the end of your trip due to medical reasons.  Slowly build up your distances and weight, keeping a standard 15 minute mile time on flat ground. - CPT D.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

There are plenty of times through my day I thank God for allowing me to have a physically capable body.  Appreciation for working out, building strength and mobility to the point I don't have to think about the movements my body goes through.  For example, carrying a laundry basket up and down stairs is something everyone should be able to do without a concern they will injure themselves.

Will I be able to perform the tasks I need to in order to survive? How long will it take me to cover the 12 miles, on foot, that are between my family and me?  Food, water and another location to move to incase of emergency are only good if you don't injure yourself loading the car.  Time to look at another aspect of preparedness.
We all may end up being an athlete or participant at some point in a match of Survival of the Fittest.  The definition of "fittest" is up for debate.  Some will argue they are more fit because they have more guns. Some will argue they are more fit because they have more water.  How about the person who has prepared with the greatest balance?  I'm referring to the perfect balance of preparation of mind, body and supplies.  This leads us to the preparation of your most important tool: your body.

If an athlete is serious about their sport, they will properly train for their sport. This means they may need to build speed and strength but also mobility and stability. Caring just as much about working out as they do allowing their bodies to repair and build.  Once again, balance. 

Over-complicating anything often decreases results.  I'm going to try and highlight just a few crucial aspects of health and fitness: 
Stretching is about proper circulation more than it is about doing the splits.
A strong core will increase your chances.
This one may be obvious to some, but oxygen is very important.
Pull as often as you push.
Strength through breathing.
The sum of all these parts will lead to less discomfort.

There is a high percentage of our population that can't touch their toes.  Don't be ashamed if you are one of them.  Stretching to me isn't about being able to touch your toes or do the splits.  It is about allowing blood and nutrients to flow freely throughout your body.  When your joints are able to move through a healthy range of motion, circulation is not being impeded as greatly, or at all.   When muscles are tight and start to compress a blood vessel or impinge a nerve, you will experience decreased function.  Proper flexibility or mobility will also decrease chances of joint dysfunction. Don't make things harder on your body then they need to be.

Core strengthening is not doing abdominal crunches.  There are over 20 muscles that comprise your "core." The easiest thing to do to strengthen your core is to draw your belly button to your spine.  This engages your Transverse Abdominis (TVA), the innermost unit of your core.   Professionals compare the active engagement of the TVA to wearing a weight belt.  You can start to do simple exercises like holding your body in an up push-up position, while drawing your belly button towards your spine.  A strong core will allow you to walk or run farther distances.  Punches that come from the core do more damage than punches from the shoulder.  The stability a strong core provides is crucial in preventing injuries while performing athletic movements. 

There is only one route to cardiovascular conditioning, and that is to do it.  Cardiovascular function is the ability for your cardiovascular system to pump blood through your body.  Increased cardiovascular function equals increased efficiency of processing oxygen. As I mentioned earlier, oxygen is important.  You will not increase cardiovascular function by reading books, planning to uncover your treadmill or going for a walk.  Start small and increase your activity in small increments.   For someone extremely sedentary, going for walks a couple times a week will increase cardiovascular function.  After a while, your body will adapt and you'll need to work smarter.  Work smart, not hard.  Get moving, start walking or running one time around your block or to the mail box and back.  Then increase to two times, then three times.  When you stop getting winded by walking up or down stars, you know you're making progress!

When you look to increase your strength, you need to be concerned with the muscles you can't see, as much as the muscles you can see.  “Pull as much as often as you push” is in reference to balancing strength from front to back.  Most people have a focus on pushing when they need to balance their strength and focus more on pulling.  Pull-ups, rowing, hamstring curls, glute-bridges are all examples of exercises that can be done to create balance.  When your back is strong, you'll be able to push more weight.  When your hamstrings and glutes (muscles of your posterior hip, aka your butt) are strong, you'll run faster, jump higher and kick harder.  Now that you're increasing and balancing your strength, make sure you stretch. 

Now for an exercise that can help your mind as much as your body.  Everyone when they are born has the natural instinct to breathe with your diaphragm.  When you breathe with your diaphragm, your belly raises or goes out as you take a breath in and your belly goes in when breathe out.  Lie on the ground, put your hands on your belly button and breathe in and out.  Do you feel belly raising and lowering? If you do not, you are more than likely not breathing with your diaphragm.  Practice five minutes when you first wake up and five minutes before you go to sleep.  This will help train your body to breathe with your diaphragm.  This will also give you a time to clear your mind, gain your focus and let your body relax.  Properly breathing provides your body with more oxygen. As we all know, oxygen is important.

Now let's look at just a couple of concerns with improper breathing.  Sometimes it is good to hold your breath when performing an athletic movement.  However, when you have a strong core and you all will, you may find it easier to exhale during exertion.  Boxers and martial artists will exhale or yell when striking or when on the defensive.  Breath holding causes increased pressure in your chest and abdominal cavities and increased blood pressure.  When we breathe properly, we are giving our bodies the opportunity they need to replenish oxygen and clear the CO2 from our blood stream.   Strengthen your core so you do not have to depend on holding your breath to stabilize your mid-section.  Learn how to coordinate your breathing with movements.

When you follow a recipe to bake a cake, you’ll end up with a cake.  When you put one egg and five cups of flour together and then throw icing on top, that is not a cake.  Neglecting either stretching, cardiovascular conditioning or strength training will make it more difficult to reach your goal.  Start your cardio program without stretching and you’ll more than likely wake up in the morning feeling more discomfort than you want.  Stretch without strengthening your muscles and you may injure yourself when doing some strenuous activity.  You may not spend the same amount of time stretching that you do during your cardio conditioning or during your strength training.  That is ok, just incorporate the three in your training.

Keep your training simple and celebrate small victories along the way.  Remember mobility is just as important as strength.  Stretching is about circulation more than touching your toes.  There are proper breathing techniques a person should practice in order to not only breathe more effectively, but more efficiently. This whole article was written on the basis of balance.  The balance of your mind, body and your preparation techniques and focus.            

If you feel you are unable to train yourself, look into hiring a certified personal trainer (CPT).  Working with a CPT for even 12 weeks will be a valuable tool you will see a great return on investment.  You’ll learn proper form and if you take notes, you’ll have exercises you can do on your own down the road. When looking for a CPT, make sure they have a certification through a reputable organization.  Look into NASM, ACSM, NSCA or ACE to find a CPT.  You shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions and you shouldn’t hesitate to let them know what you are training for.  The more they know about what your goals are, the better they will assist you.

Fail to prepare and you are preparing to fail.  I wasn't the first to say this, but like many people, I take it to heart.  For people on a budget, preparing their mind and body for survival is one of the easiest things they can do.  Cars will run out of gas and you will have to move yourself from location to location. Backpacks would be great if they stayed under 30lbs, but the reality is you will have to carry more weight than that from time to time.  Final thought of the article : Wish for the best, prepare for the worst and do not let your lack of physical conditioning put you at greater risk.

Monday, November 12, 2012

As of today, many families are still suffering from the effects of Superstorm Sandy.  Are you prepared, should such a disaster strike your area?
The following is offered as an outline for medical prepping, should you someday find yourself without access to professional medical care.  (Part 1 of this series covered weeks 1 through 6.)
Please note the following abbreviations:
ORG = organizational concerns
OTC = over-the-counter products
Rx = prescription products
ED = education and skills
The supplies listed under OTC can all be purchased without a prescription, though some are only available online.  For prescription items, assess what your group has and what each member is likely to be able to acquire. 
The three-month period is divided into 13 weekly tasks, divided according to topic, making the project more readily manageable.  The outline could also be divided into months, rather than weeks, to cover a year instead.
For more detailed information on medical prepping, please visit

Week 7



Assess your progress to date and establish a plan for securing your medical supplies

Identify individual(s) to establish security to protect both patients and caregivers
Identify and acquire secure storage arrangements for your medical supplies



Constipation:  Metamucil, Dulcolax, Surfak, or generics
Diarrhea:  Imodium, Pepto-Bismol, or generics
Nausea and vomiting: meclizine, Dramamine
Heartburn, gastritis, or ulcers:  Pepcid, Zantac, Axid, Tagamet, Prilosec, Prevacid, Tums, Maalox
Solar oven to warm/disinfect water/heat food without electricity or fire



Request a supply of prednisone or a Medrol Dosepak from your physician for emergency use, such as an asthma attack, acute bronchitis, acute gout, bee sting allergy, hives, seasonal allergies, or acute flares of chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or sciatica
Consider requesting a similar supply from your veterinarian for pet (or human) use



Discuss potential sources of injury and infection with your group, including necessary but potentially dangerous activities
Educate yourself regarding isolation and quarantine, and make appropriate plans for your location
Educate yourself regarding spread of serious illness, in particular droplet-borne infections
Procure appropriate clothing to protect against sunburn, heatstroke, frostbite and hypothermia, mosquito and other insect bites, stinging insects, chiggers, poison ivy, foot blisters
Educate yourself regarding avoiding acquisition of scabies, lice, impetigo, fungal disease

Week 8



Begin assembling easily transportable bug-out medical kits for identified group members (more than 1)

Assess your group for short-term needs (3–7 days, or longer if desired)
Assemble a bug-out medical kit for each group member



AZO for temporary relief of urinary burning or pain
Cranberry pills or juice
Multistix 10-SG or other urine dipstick
Saw palmetto for middle-aged men with prostatic enlargement
Urinary catheters for anyone with obstruction or potential obstruction; catheter lubricant



Request a prescription for an oxygen concentrator if anyone in your group suffers from heart or lung disease, or may be exposed to carbon monoxide, fumes, extreme altitude, or other cardio-respiratory threat
Consider purchasing oxygen or an oxygen concentrator without a prescription (available online)
For anyone who has ever used nitroglycerin (current or prior angina, history of heart attack, stent, or heart by-pass), request additional nitroglycerin from your physician in small bottles of 25 tablets, which will remain potent long-term if unopened and stored under conditions printed on the bottle



Educate yourself regarding nutrients essential to human health
Educate yourself regarding edible wild plants available in your area, and locate potential sources
Assess your food supply for inclusion of sufficient fluids, calories, protein, essential fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals
Assess your seed supply to assure an adequate supply of “colored” vegetables – yellow, green, red
Assess your supply of medicinal plants and seeds
Assess your group for the possible development of scurvy (lack of vitamin C), dementia (lack of vitamin B12 in the elderly), and rickets (lack of vitamin D and calcium, in children)

Week 9



Begin assembling one or more base-stations for your supplies

Assemble and organize secure storage areas as identified on Week 7



Condoms and/or other birth control
Pregnancy tests
Pregnancy calculator
Gyne-Lotrimin for yeast infections
Pads and/or tampons
Vitamins with folate for pregnant women



Request a prescription for Ambien (zolpidem) from your physician for occasional (or future) use
Other prescription alternatives include any sedating medication, such as low-dose amitriptyline, a benzodiazepine (Xanax, Ativan, Valium), muscle relaxers (such as Flexeril, Norflex, or Soma)
If unavailable, procure sedating antihistamine (Benadryl, Zyrtec, Nyquil) or nausea drug (meclizine)



Have group members share personal health needs (such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, or chronic pain) with other group members for improved understanding and chance of individual and group survival
Make sure at least one other group member has the knowledge to help some with any chronic problem

Week 10



Make a wish list of items you cannot acquire at this time

Identify and acquire items to barter for medical goods
Identify and acquire health care items to barter for other goods (pain meds, dressings, vitamins, inexpensive reading glasses, etc.)



Bacitracin for mild bacterial infection
Lotrimin or Lamisil or other topical antifungal for fungal and yeast infections 
1% hydrocortisone cream (and plastic wrap to cover it with to enhance its strength) for itchy rashes
Bleach to dilute 1:1000  for bathing for recurrent skin infections, eczema, possibly ringworm
#11 scalpel for abscess incision and drainage
Rid and/or Nix for head lice; nit comb; Vaseline to smother lice; hot hair dryer to kill head lice
Wart freeze or salicylic acid for treating warts, or Duct tape to cover for 2 weeks
Warm clothing for preventing frostbite
Long sleeves and long pants for preventing insect bites, stings, chiggers, mites, tick bites
Good shoes to prevent blister and callus formation



Request a prescription for an inexpensive, strong steroid cream for non-facial use, such as betamethasone, which is very useful for itchy skin problems such as poison ivy, eczema, and contact dermatitis



Assess group and community need for current or future pregnancy and childbirth
Acquire midwifery or obstetric books and/or videos for use by your group or possibly others
Consider having group watch videos of childbirth
Locate and become acquainted with midwife or physician in your area


Week 11



Identify others you may need and who may need you
Make tentative arrangements for contact and/or access should the need arise



Spiritual preparation; Bible, hymnbook, inspirational reading
Acoustic musical instruments and/or DVD/MP3 player and power source
Books, both fiction and non-fiction, including how-to books
Games and other forms of entertainment
Arrange group bonding activities to build trust before disaster strikes
Make sure everyone has a meaningful purpose and contribution to your group
Identify spiritual and/or emotional leader of your group
Purchase St. John’s Wort for potential depression
Nyquil or Benadryl for sleep
Caffeine or pseudoephedrine for needed wakefulness/alertness
Meclizine for potential anxiety



Request a prescription for Bactroban (mupirocin) topical cream or ointment for superficial skin infections, mildly infected lacerations or abrasions, or small areas of impetigo



Spend time bonding with your group, focusing on hope, purpose, and faith
Assess each member for prior and expected reactions under stress
Discuss how your group will respond if confronted with suicidal, panicky, or psychotic patient

Week 12



Obtain additional supplies a doctor or nurse could use, even if you can’t use them yourself

Suturing supplies
Plaster splinting and casting supplies
IV supplies



Hydrogen peroxide
Medical alcohol
Distilled vinegar
Johnson’s Baby Shampoo
Sterile saline
Baby formula
IV fluids
Nutraceutical thyroid preparation
Potassium iodide



Anxiety is a common problem now, and will likely worsen if disaster strikes

Discuss nerve medication with your physician and request a (small) supply of fast-acting medication for occasional use.   Possibilities include benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax, Ativan – which are controlled substances, and so your doctor may not agree), and Vistaril (a sedating, prescription antihistamine)
Consider requesting a slow-acting medication for chronic use, such as Buspar (a non-addicting medicine, but takes days to weeks for relief), or an SSRI (Zoloft, Prozac, Celexa, Paxil) (equally slow to act)



Determine the proximity of nearest nuclear reactor and typical wind patterns
Decide on radiation detection (dosimeter, Geiger counter) and consider procuring
Purchase KI (potassium iodide) for each member of your group (have multiple doses for children)
Decide which (if any) bioterrorist threats you plan to prepare for (anthrax, plague, botulism, others)
Educate yourself on how to protect yourself against specific bioterrorist threats

Week 13



Group meeting to assess any additional needs and to affirm success of preparations

Review each group member’s medical history and needs, especially for important life changes, such as pregnancy, childbirth, and any new health problems
Review each group member’s medical responsibilities, should disaster strike
Affirm each member’s contributions and success



Make written inventory of supplies you have acquired, location, and purpose
Review weeks 1 through 12 to assess for additional needs and/or shortages
If budget allows, procure additional stock of items most essential for your group
Check dates on items with short shelf-life (insulin, liquids) and re-stock as necessary
Be thankful that so many items are available over-the-counter to help your group and others



Make written inventory of prescription medications you have been able to acquire, location, and purpose
Make written list of supplies you would still like to procure
Have various group members make appointments with their physicians, who may have changed their position on personal preparedness, and may be more willing to prescribe



Review what you have learned, and organize material into notebook(s)
Make sure all group members have access to needed information and know location of notebook(s)
Assess group members for progress, gaps in knowledge, and intentions for future learning
Encourage and thank all for their efforts and cooperation


Monday, October 8, 2012

Dear JWR:
I want to make just a quick comment on C.T.M.’s recent article titled Guarding Your Mental and Emotional Health.  There is an excellent essay that Dr. Song, Director of the Northeast School of Botanical Medicine in New York has made available. He notes that perhaps 1 in 20 folks have an opposite reaction to Valerian. I know, that is only 5% - but what if you are one of those in that 5%?  My suggestion is to give it a try before you stock up.  Practice now, so you know what works. - Linda Z.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

One aspect of our lives that can take us out and render even the most prepared of preppers useless is our mental health. Very few people have ever experienced a long duration high stress environment to test their mental strength. The incredible men and women of the military may be among the elite few who can attest to how their mental health might survive in a post TEOTWAWKI environment. Police, first responders, EMS personnel, and firefighters may have a glimpse into what it takes to survive mentally in high stress environments; however, those stressful events, even the most complicated are short lived in comparison to the amount of time we may have to live in a post TEOTWAWKI environment.

So what type of stresses are we really talking about and how bad can it really affect me? Answering these questions we must be very general since the stress of having to use a 5 gallon bucket as a toilet may tax some, while another may not show the signs of stress taxing on their mental stamina until after months or even years of enduring chronic stressful situations. Textbooks define stress as a negative force that adversely impacts your mental, emotional, or physical well being. So stresses can be anything and potentially everything in a post TEOTWAWKI environment. The stresses we can be certain of are a lack of some if not all modern conveniences that we have today, changes in our daily routines, guard duty shifts, death, potentially having to take someone’s life, and so many more. Most of these stresses- in our very nature as preppers-we are not only ready for but may actually look forward too. But one question remains, does everyone in our group feel the same way? The impact that stress and chronic stressful situations have on our body is astounding. Stress has significant impact on the immune system, making it more likely for someone under stress to become ill or injured. Long duration stress can cause a bunch of different chronic medical problems such as asthma, chronic pain, high blood pressure, bowel disorders, and many more. Most of these problems are due to long term secretion of the hormones and chemicals our bodies produce during stressful “fight or flight situations.” Not to mention chronic stress decreases the body’s ability to heal. It may even effect a child’s development which has been shown through studies of children growing up in abusive environments.

What can be done to ready oneself for the mental and emotional drain of a post TEOTWAWKI environment? As Mr. Rawles and countless others suggest, take a class. There are many different resources out there that can help educate you or someone in your group to be able to identify of signs and symptoms of chronic harmful stress, ways to mediate that stress, and if necessary basic treatment for individuals suffering from disorders associated with stress. Most classes are labeled as Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM). If you are unable to take a course, please accept the warning that a stressful or traumatic situations may render the best prepper useless, here are a few ways to prevent stress from destroying you and your compound from the inside.

The symptoms associated with stress that may wipe out our abilities to compensate come in a few flavors: emotional, cognitive, physical, and behavioral. Emotional symptoms hover around a general negative attitude towards others and oneself; moodiness, depression, agitation, or just generally overwhelmed. Cognitive symptoms vary between memory problems, negative thinking, judgment errors, and even constant anxiety. Identification of these symptoms in our lives might be as easy as realizing we just walked into a room for the third time and still did not get what we needed. It may be as difficult as the person pulling night watch with you constantly saying he sees people moving and then randomly opening fire. (Think of Steve Buscemi’s character in the movie Armageddon as he broke down mentally and started randomly opening fire in outer space.) Physical symptoms manifest themselves in aches and pains, illnesses, headaches, lack of sex drive, or change in bowel habits. These symptoms are generally easier to identify since most of us can admit to feeling “run down.” Behavioral symptoms can be some of the worst, and may be more instantly harmful to your group than the rest. Behavioral changes may manifest as a person eating more or less than usual, isolating themselves, procrastination, sleeping more or not sleeping enough, adoption of nervous habits (taping, nail biting, et cetera.), and use of alcohol, tobacco, or drugs to relax. These symptoms are rare for someone to identify in one’s own self, and even more difficult to get the person assistance. The main key for symptom identification is to be honest with yourself and those around you, watch each other carefully, and use humility and grace in dealing with the effected person. No one is immune to the effects of stress.

There will be no way to prevent the stress or the traumatic events from occurring but preventing the buildup and accumulation of stress over time may aid in a healthy compound. Prevention may not be something that will work for everyone; however it will work for most. The best suggestion modern research has to offer is Pollyanna; yes, the 1960s movie put out by Disney; but before the movie was ever played on the big screen there was a series of books known as the “Glad Books” written by Eleanor H. Porter. Now you don’t have to go out and read them from cover to cover, or watch the movie a dozen times to see the hidden meaning. The takeaway idea that pertains to us is to employ a positive outlook on life and whatever circumstance may be thrown at you. This does not mean you should be looking at every situation as “it could have been worse,” but rather finding the good in each event and generally being positive about everything that comes your way. There is scientific evidence to suggest a mere smile from one person in a similar environment to another can decrease stress. Hugs, expressing gratitude, actively listening to others, and prayer may be some of the strongest preventative medicine that can be prescribed. In addition you may want to consider a stock pile of board games, the sillier the better; the idea here is to laugh. If you have the power to spare for playing humorous movies or recorded television shows may help as well, try to stay with basic humor like the cartoons most of us grew up with that still make us smile. Prevention with positivity will help immensely. However, there will be circumstances or events that can level anyone. In those circumstances treatment may be the only option.

As a family or group the most important thing you can do is to allow the person or persons involved to just talk. Listen carefully, and do not hurry them. Obviously this will depend on the circumstances but they should be encouraged to talk about what happened within 24-48 hours of the event. Try not to offer advice, only listen. The last thing someone wants to hear is how it should have been handled differently; they may come to that conclusion themselves or seek advice regarding how to handle it better as time progresses. Stay away from phrases like “it could have been worse,” and stick to ones like “I am so glad you are uninjured.” Lastly and probably the most important is to pray for the person, and let them know that you care enough for them that are on the forefront of your mind.

If the person is you, know that the feelings you are experiencing are normal. The reoccurring thoughts and dreams are normal and over time will decrease in frequency. Talk to people about what happened. Don’t hold things in, but rather let out your fears and feelings about the event or events that unfolded. Spend time with others doing activities, or helping them with their daily chores. Make sure you take time for yourself to journal, pray, read God’s word, or just meditate. Maintaining your general health will be very important, get enough exercise. Even pushups, sit ups, and air squats done with intensity can make a great workout in a post TEOTWAWKI environment. Get adequate rest, and if not you may want to consider some type of sleep aids that will be discussed later. Hydrate and eat properly, stay away from junk food and alcohol; mainly because they will not allow you to sleep well, and will not aid in your general health.

Lastly, if the above is not working you may want to consider an alternative remedy for anxiety and depression which will probably be the most common disorder faced in this environment. The advice that follows is for a situation where all medical services are no longer available and should not be used currently in place of treatment by a medical provider. Since most people will not be able to store large quantities of prescription medications used for treating the acute onset of mental illnesses; the suggestion would be to stock up on a few of the herbal remedies known to be affective. If you are already taking medications for chronic medical problems or nursing it would be wise to consult your primary care provider to see if any of these medications would interact poorly with the herbal remedies suggested. There are quite a few prescription medications that I give on a routine basis; just like prescription medications, the effects of herbal remedies are dependent on an individual. Outlined here are only a few basic herbs available out of the numerous herbal remedies that could be taken, it would be best to consult a more complete herbal remedy guide for all of the possibilities. As well as work with your primary care provider to see which one may work best for you.  

St. John’s Wort
: There has been a lot written about this herb over the years. The basics are that it contains a compound that acts on chemical receptors in the nervous system to regulate mood. This would make it effective for most people dealing with mild to moderate depression. Be careful when taking this herb to take only the recommended dose since it can be toxic in large amounts. Also, wear sunscreen if taking is since it makes your skin more susceptible to burning.

Valerian Root:
An herb used primarily as a sleep aid or for relaxation. Valerian has been shown to have sedative effects and may be helpful for treating nervous disorders as well. Please remember that this herb is considered a tranquilizer, so individuals using this medication may not be the best choice to operate heavy equipment or a gun. [JWR Adds: Unlike many other sleep aids, Valerian is not habit-forming. It is also a great muscle relaxant, with proven effect in treating muscle spasms. It has saved me from a lot of back pain over the years.]

Siberian Ginseng:
Not to be confused with the more common Ginseng. Siberian Ginseng shows anti-fatigue and anti-depression properties. As well as being useful in treating adrenal fatigue that may be present in someone subjected to long duration of fight or flight (or too many energy drinks).
I normally do not recommend over the counter sleep aids since most can be habit forming, but if nothing seems to be helping getting the needed rest you desire you can always try Benadryl. These medications mentioned above work best if they are only taken when needed. They should not be something you add as a prophylactic to your daily regimen.

While it is always important to do self-study in areas where knowledge lacks; it is especially important in this area, even if your group contains a clinician that is able to deal with these circumstances. What if they become a victim instead of the rescuer? Stay positive, keep your mental health strong, your resources abundant, and your compound cannot fail from the inside.

Friday, October 5, 2012

I started prepping a few years back when I was in paramedic school.  I had no educated goal when prepping initially.  Then I met a good friend of mine that changed the way I look at prepping, and helped me make my prepping intentional.  I read Patriots and I started prepping all the more; now with motivation and intelligence.  When my friend reads this he will probably view this is as some form of Narcissism even though he falls into this category.  But I digress.

I have been a full time firefighter for 5-1/2 years  I am currently a Paramedic, and have been so for 2.5 years, before that I was an EMT-I.  Most of you had no idea there was a difference, but after reading this you may look further into it.  Prior to my time with the fire department I spent time in the Marine Corps as a non-grunt, working on aircraft.    

Firefighters are also some of the best preppers for several reasons and the first is because of our medical experience.  Our medical training is some of the most critical that will be required no matter the disaster scenario.  Paramedics deal with disasters and high stress, high stakes environments daily, and operate at a high level of reasoning (there are exceptions)-often more so than Nurses.  After I just pissed off every nurse that is reading this, let me explain.

Paramedics have a unique advantage over Nurses, even some Doctors, for one major reason.  We have to think on our feet with no one of higher authority or knowledge base in the Medical field is around.  Nurses look to doctors, doctors look to specialists and so on.  Paramedics often have to make split second decisions that can mean life or death.  We may have to call on a doctor for orders, but the major recognition and decisions have already been made.  Our reasoning skills, in high stress environments, operates at a high level; if you are in high stress environments on a regular basis.  To achieve this as a Paramedic you need to be working full time at a high volume department.  Not saying those boys and girls in the rural areas don’t know what they are doing, they are usually some of the best, but an inner city or busy suburban paramedic/firefighter is worth their weight in gold.

Unfortunately when TEOTWAWKI comes to fruition I will have already seen death, major trauma, and gunshot wounds.  With this gruesome experience I can come into situations that for most will be unnatural, and will not have previous experience to draw on.  We have a tendency as humans to stare at disastrous circumstances and just watch.  Experience gets people from inaction-watching a disaster unfold, to action, to move or help out where you can.  In same way it will help your brain more quickly realize when and how to escape or run the other way from a disaster. 

I know from my little Marine Corps experience and my firefighting experience that knowing how you are going to perform under high stress, high stakes environments, is only achieved through doing it every day.  This translates very well to the use of fire arms, particularly deadly force.  There’s a guy I work with that has a saying, “Never mess with a fireman’s family, he sees bad things on a regular basis, and the only thing he is worried about when killing someone that is trying to harm his family is cleaning up the mess afterwards.”  I couldn’t agree more with this statement.  When someone is placed inside of a burning structure or when someone is dying, a cool head that is used to utilizing reasoning skills is essential to see it through. 

Now as a professional firefighter I do not see fire every day.  But I do see it a lot more than the average person, and most likely more than the volunteer fire fighter.  Firefighting as an essential skill has been talked about extensively, but I won’t be going into tactics or the fact that it is darn useful to have some one that has actually fought fire when your house is burning post schumer hitting the fan.  Knowing and recognizing fire behavior, particularly at critical points, are essential to all preppers.  I suggest that everyone has a fire extinguisher.  But not just an ABC-really these are best for electrical fires.  A pressurized water extinguisher, otherwise known as a water can is probably the most versatile and complete fire protection you may need post apocalypse.  These types usually can be filled with a water hose, and re-pressurized with an air compressor attachment you probably already use to fill up the air in your personal vehicles, or bike tire.  I have seen a room in contents fire nearly put out by a ONE water can, saving the structure.  Ideally you want at least one per floor, two if there are living quarters or high fire hazards on that floor.  They need to be some place you look every day and are used to seeing, or you will not remember them.  Many a kitchen fire has been put out by a water can, precious life and property.  They do not go out of date; As well another useful trick that I do with my water cans is put dish soap in them.  Soap breaks the surface tension of water and makes it more readily able to soak into materials, very helpful for small brush fires and mattress/couch fires especially.  A couple table spoons should do a normal water can.   These are easy to use, easy to refill, or re use items.  They average about $60 apiece. 

Emergency Medical training is not hard to come by.  Real world practical experience is invaluable and not readily available.  Paramedics and EMTs usually have access to sources of medical supplies, and medical training, from CPR (not useful post-Schumer, if they are dead, leave them dead), to basic would care.  Medical training is the one skill that may save your life or one of your family members life one day, and it is portable anywhere.  Nurses provide long term care, known as palliative care.  Although this is very useful in a survival situation, often critical care at critical times is what saves lives.  A good combination of both would be ideal.

Another point on why firefighters are the best preppers is our schedule.  Full time firefighters usually work 24 hours on and 48 hours off.  Those 48 hours are usually filled with part time jobs in other fields.  Due to the emotional toll of being a first responder, Paramedic or firefighter, a lot of us choose not to work in our part time in this field.  Some do and gain further experience in the medical field.  I work in an ER, so I have the best of both worlds, I believe.  Where most firefighters work part time is in construction.  Handy man type service, if not an all-out trade that they use to make good money on the side.  These skills are essential at maintaining your bug out property in a variety of ways that I am sure are easily recognizable. 

The schedule brings up my next point.  Firefighters often have the time to not only work part time to make more money, but have time to plan, prep, and to train, three things that can be difficult if you work 9-5 Monday through Friday.  This includes helping you prep and build up your bug out property.  All you got to do is ask.  They are also used to working late at night, and waking up at the first signal of trouble, and operate at a high efficiency, even at 0300 in the morning.

Another essential part that firefighters already have is the mindset.  We have to prepare ourselves and our equipment to go into perilous environments on a daily basis.  We are always planning for the worst, expecting the worst, and we are rarely disappointed.  So when it comes to prepping most firefighters already have the skills of trying to fore see what can, or could happen.  We also know human behavior all too well and know the traps that complacency and lack of training and experience will get you in to.  Many firefighters are already preppers, they just don’t know it.

Further, firefighters are usually in pretty good shape.  We need to be for our job; as well most departments require annual physicals, and physical fitness test.  This makes the transition to a TEOTWAWKI a lot easier.  We are used to a regimented schedule and train regularly for our job.  The minimum training for our job (ISO requirements for major departments) is around 280 verifiable hours every year.  I can guarantee that most jobs do not require this amount of training. 

Operational Readiness is a buzz term a lot of people in security, defense, and public safety use.  It is most easily broken down to a spectrums of events and required training that are: high frequency and low risk (requires little training), high frequency and high risk (requires regular training), Low frequency low risk (little to no training), and finally Low frequency high risk events (need to be drilled regularly to minimize risk).  This is a good start when looking at training for you and your family.  Firefighters are well acquainted to this as stated above, and very familiar with risk assessments and needs.
So if you are looking to add a good group of folks to your prepping group then I suggest you look at your nearest full time fire department.  You may already know some.  They will be a great asset in any end of times, disaster, or apocalyptic scenario. 

There is one downfall to firefighters and paramedics when the Schumer hits the fan.  They will be running into the burning buildings, and running to the aid of others, which may lead them from taking care of their own family.  This was a trait we saw all too clearly on 9/11.  When disaster strikes though, most know the protection and care for their own family takes priority.  With that knowledge firefighters that are married or in a long term relationship, with or without children, are the best choice for addition to groups.

As a side note, many firefighters end up dating/marrying, or becoming nurses themselves, and nurse practitioners.  Ultimately their service to their community will provide some of the best intangible assets.    There is only one group of people that I think could be more appropriate for a good addition to any group of preppers: former or active Special Forces/Infantry soldiers, and and emergency room physicians or surgeons.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A lot of what is posted at the SurvivalBlog site talks about what you should do after a The End Of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI) situation happens. We are constantly forgetting the here and now. I believe that there is an awful lot that can be done today to help maximize your ability to survive if a TEOTWAWKI situation actually goes occur. If the end never does happen, then my suggestions don’t cost you a dime and still improve you and your family’s quality of life. 

We all know what fire can do for morale, boiling water for sanitation, and cooking food for long lasting survivability, but what if you can’t complete the basic tasks that keep you going? Being physically fit and ensuring that your family has a basic level of fitness greatly enhances your family’s survival probability.  My grandfather always said the foundation of any building determines its ability to flex and cope with change. The foundation that relates to a TEOTWAWKI situation is being physically fit to be able to cope with the changes that will inevitably occur when the end is here.

There are multiple health affects to consider when a member of your family is out of shape and the end happens. Nobody can afford to have a seriously sprained ankle, let alone a major disease like diabetes. If you are active and physically fit, the likelihood of both of those cases decreases dramatically. While you can never account for a random injury, or the onset of a serious disease, strengthening your body increases your adaptability for survival. By starting to be physically active in ways that will translate to a TEOTWAWKI situation you decrease the likelihood of torn muscles and physical stress because your body is used to physical activity. Physical fitness will increase the threshold of general tiredness your body can withstand. Due to the basic struggle of survival life, fatigue is the enemy. Knowing your physical limitations, and those of your family, increase your ability to plan activities and prolong survival.

It’s easy for me to sit here and say that you’ll be better prepared if you’re in better shape, but I have a plan for you to get there. My plan contains zero protein shakes, zero expenditure of funds, and zero corporate endorsements. My plan is simple. Hard work, discipline, and using your head wrapped in four steps.

Step one: Analyze future situations.

What likely situation will you face if the end happens?  Walking, running, chopping fire-wood, pulling and pushing various objects, lifting and carrying objects to and from camp are a decent starting point. Extrapolate further and you could see fighting, hunting, building as well. Don’t forget about the mental stress either, that is the one that is a true killer

Think I’m just talking about you? Think again. I’m telling you that your wife, your children, your parents, and anyone else you plan on meeting up with and surviving with need to be in shape. Round isn’t a shape, but it sure is a drain on survival. Imagine if you are the only physically fit person in your camp. You will end up carrying the bulk of the physical workload, and you will break down. All of these tasks equate to the level of stress you will be feeling. By being active you can control your stress to a manageable level and that will enable you to think clearly. Remember this and prepare for it in your mind now; you will face physically punishing tasks on a daily basis and fatigue is just as deadly as any cold night. 

Step two: Use your planed scenario to create an exercise regimen that is realistic, attainable, and something your whole family can stick to.

Obviously, you don’t expect your 3 year old to knock out 50 push-ups every time the your favorite sports team throws a touchdown. I’m not talking military style Physical Training (PT) for every member of your family, but something as simple as taking a family walk through the neighborhood every night will build the strength and make the effort of walking in a TEOTWAWKI situation less of a stressor. Having your wife do some core exercises like  planks, sit ups, and crunches can do wonders for her core strength and who knows, she (and you) might just like the way her body responds to the increased exercise too. Adapt your plan so that every member feels included, but at a level that is proportionate to their current fitness level and your goals related to your planned survival situation.

What my family does is listed below:

Sunday:            Long walk, 3+ miles
Monday:          Upper body and 1.5 mi run
Tuesday:          Core
Wednesday:      Legs and 1.5 mi run.
Thursday :        Core
Friday:              Long walk, 3+ miles
Saturday:          Rest day

The upper body workout is alternating three sets of pushups and  three sets of pull ups until you cannot pump any more out. This challenges your body to work to fatigue and then do that two more times. Over time you will see a dramatic gain in upper body strength that has virtually limitless applications in the survival world.

The legs days are a 3 sets of lunges, squats, and jumps that challenge your strongest muscles. Lunges go in different directions to challenge your form and balance.

Core days are complete butt kickers. Everything is in sets of 30. Crunches, leg lifts, flutter kicks, planks (30 seconds), scissor kicks, and sit ups. Then repeat that 3 times.

The long walks are for my wife, our beagle, and I to get in at least 3 miles. This allows us to communicate after long days of work and to just become closer as a family while we improve our bodies.

The rest day is also very important. In your preparations you must practice moderation and give your body time to recover. If you have to replace a core day with a rest day, that's fine.

Remember that each person has their personal limits and starting point. When I started this I couldn’t do a pull up without both feet on a chair for support. I’m still a work in progress as I am just now at the point where I can do 5 pull ups, unassisted. It isn’t the number or repetitions that matter to me, it’s working to get better that matters. If you need to insert more rest days, change the intensity of the workout, that's fine. Just get started. Everyday you either get better or worse, you don’t stay the same.

Step three: Prioritize fitness. 

Start today. Not tomorrow, or waiting for payday to get a gym membership. Don’t spend weeks on step two, trying to get it just right. Don’t force yourself to decide between purchasing articles for your bug-out bag or a gym membership, it isn’t necessary. Body weight exercises are the core that will build your ability to survive. Push-ups and pull- ups are necessary to build upper body strength that would be used in the everyday effort to keep a fire going. If you’re able withstand the physical strains that are part of survival you can check off one more thing on the list and consider yourself just that much more prepared.

All the time you spend reading blogs, watching YouTube instructional videos and learning survival techniques should be offset by time spent improving your fitness level. If you’re not willing to put the work in you won’t be ready. No amount of reading and watching can make you stronger or able to walk further.

Step four: Lead by example.

If you’re the leader of a house that has multiple members you can’t be barking orders of physical fitness without being part of the effort. Understand that changes in your lifestyle will affect your relationships at home. If you are attentive to the needs and concerns of your family the entire effort will have a positive affect on your family.

We all talk about ways to prepare our families. By learning to defend ourselves, basic medicine, bartering, bug-out preparedness and a myriad of other preparation techniques that will all help you be successful should the need arise. But what about the basics? often the simplest things get over looked and under addressed. Take the time to converse with your family and explain the importance of being physically fit and how doing so enables your plans for survival to go  more smoothly.

Everything that I suggested here in my article is free. There are no start-up costs, enrollment fees, and pressure to sell you. Every local park has some form of pull up bar that you can use and the rest is completely revolved around using your own body weight. That is the beauty of it, no matter what your economical situation this is one thing you can do today to make yourself better prepared for a TEOTWAWKI situation. The only commodity is time, and you’re willing to spend that reading this blog, so why not prepare your body for when the need arises?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dear Editor:
I am a practitioner of fasting. Having learned how it feels to go without food I feel it necessary to let others know. Hunger is a good thing, but letting hunger go too long is very bad. Let me explain how this works. Hunger and starvation are totally different. Hunger is the state that tells you that your body is not receiving food. Starvation is when your body is destroying itself to stay alive. As a geologist in the jungles of South America I had the not so pleasant experience of typhoid. Most of my time there (15 years) I was well supplied by the companies who hired me to explore. This one time the logistics failed. I went through one month of typhoid, and for anyone who wants to know the details I can provide, but the end result was starvation. I had no muscle mass, only gray skin and bone. The recovery period without exercise was two years. Internal damage remains.

You do not need typhoid to get to starvation. This letter is not to instruct you on starvation, it is how to handle hunger. As a fit man I have about liberally 15% body fat. Using fasting to clean my cells of toxins and accumulated vitamins I would need minimum three weeks of water fasting to achieve the goal. Juice fasting can do the same but failure is more likely since it takes longer.

Here's how it goes: For the first four to five days I drink only water (bottled or well-filtered water is fine) and I have fierce hunger. At the fifth day hunger stops and the body realizes that it must draw upon stored energy. So, the body enters ketosis, which is the breakdown of fat to produce energy. The process will continue without any hunger pains until a very distinct signal, that is desire for food from the mouth and throat not the stomach. If you feel hunger from the stomach you have cheated and confused your body, keep going. When you feel that mouth and throat sensation it the time to eat, but eat sparingly. There is the urge to gorge, but resist and develop your food intake that equals the time spent off food. Fruit, juices, then more solid soft foods, then hard foods. Of course this will not be possible in a scarcity environment.

I drink only water for the full three weeks or until the signal arrives. The fasting initially may be a logical decision, the end of it is is not, it is very biological. During that time I experience the full range of effects from illness to euphoria, to true hunger.

Pushing beyond the signal is the beginning of starvation. You will know at that point, all your body fat has gone, it's very visible.That body to dream of is not your friend here. As a survivalist your body fat, in moderation, is your friend and you must keep a decent store of it just in case.

Long periods of accumulation of toxins and fat soluble vitamins stored within the body will have a detrimental effect upon people during periods of stress and food shortage. When the body is pushed to fat storage utilization the toxins come out and you are sick. Under stable societal conditions this is ok. Under scarcity conditions you have a period of problem. Hang back for a bit and let the hunger pass then move forward.

Fasting is one more form of training not often discussed in SurvivalBlog. With fasting the body becomes accustomed to the initial cleaning, This cleaning is the removal of toxins the body has stored for so long. You will be ill for the first week, you will look horrible but it is okay. After that you will feel great and a wave of energy will come across you. This is the body supplying energy to your endeavors. This will only last as long as you have fat reserves to spend. Fasting removes the toxins and vitamins, but restores the vitamins as long as the toxins (smoking the most readily available toxin) is not restored. Smoking is not the only one. There are so many others. The cleansing is worth the effort if the body restores the fat and accumulates the vitamins. How do you know? You feel so much better than before.

In some cases the weight loss is permanent and some not. No matter, since the replenishment of fat to the cells is what you want prior to any crisis but without the accumulation of stored chemicals. Fasting is a short period where the body endures hunger. Experiencing hunger before a crisis is a valuable lesson. Hunger, going without food, for four days is difficult. Most people fail. But, to endure the hunger and let the body adapt has beneficial and some say enlightening effects. Hunger is not starvation. When a person feels hunger they are not starving. Starvation occurs when the body has no energy reserves.

Repeated training in fasting allows your body to learn that the current food stress is okay. The period of hunger is shortened. Again, once the feeling of throat hunger appears, eat, eat sparingly and you will come out of the hunger period cleaner, faster thinking and happier. - Wesley F.

By the way, for those who are currently experiencing addictions, this is another good way to kick the habit before the crisis, but only one habit at a time please. - Ex-Addict Faster

JWR Adds: Some words of warning: Always consult your doctor before fasting. Never fast if you suspect that you are pregnant. Never fast when you are living alone. Beware that you could have dizziness or fainting after just a few days of fasting, so never drive or operate machinery when fasting.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

People who are interested in preparedness seem to love lists.   So, I have compiled a list of 30 steps that may be useful for average families who don’t necessarily have a hideout in the mountains (yet).  This list is by no means all-inclusive and it presumes a basic background in preparedness.  In other words, I hope you have been reading this blog for a long time already!  I am a proud military wife and mother of two grade school students.  I have a master’s degree in chemistry.  We are just an average family trying to get by in uncertain times. I am just optimistic enough to believe that there is hope for the future and just realistic enough to prepare otherwise.  
Coming from Alaska, where power outages can mean the difference between life and death at forty below zero, prepping is as mainstream as owning a TV.  Geomagnetic storms knock out power regularly and a good aurora borealis may mean you better get out the generator.  It is good to see the preparedness trend catching on in the Lower 48 states.  Alabama recently held their first tax-free weekend from July 6-8, 2012 to purchase hurricane preparedness equipment, with tax exemptions on generators, batteries, flashlights and more.  There also appears to be a massive education campaign going on throughout U.S. schools.  My kids are coming home with all sorts of flyers and papers encouraging them to get their parents involved in basic preparedness for hurricanes, tornados, ice storms and more.  Propaganda mission?  Who cares—If we want to make preparedness the norm, then asking kids to make sure their parents have flashlights is one place to start.  There is certainly an emerging capitalist market for all things survival related.  Embrace it and get the goods while you can.  These are the steps that have been useful to me so far, but it is a never-ending job to be prepared.  Good luck.
1.  Water is always number one on any survival prep list, so I have to start here.  Learn the location of the nearest source of fresh water to your home and how to walk to it with filtration equipment and water containers.  Not everyone lives near an Alaskan glacial stream, but it doesn’t matter if you are in inner city Philadelphia next to the Schuykill River (I’ve tried both places), it pays to know your drinking water source in case the taps run dry.  Try drinking it too--AFTER boiling it for ten minutes or filtering it with a Katadyn filter or adding iodine or bleach of course.  Add some Gatorade powder if you have to. If it gives you giardiasis or cholera now, at least you will be able to see a doctor now while we still have a functioning society.  Then, you will definitely know that you need to work on your water purification skills.   
2.  Learn to grow something.  Tomatoes in an upside down hanging basket, potatoes in a bucket on your rooftop, sunflowers on your back patio, or anything you can. You can do a lot with potatoes.  I have grown them from sprouted organic potatoes from the supermarket.  Don’t be afraid to experiment with seed saving techniques.  Pumpkins and watermelons are great starting points for saving seeds.  Kids can help rinse and dry those seeds easily.  A great resource on seed saving that I like is the book Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth.
3.  Practice outdoor cooking.  We love our Volcano stove and use it for everything from S’mores to grilled salmon.  You can even put a Dutch oven in it.  Dutch ovens are great because you can practice using them indoors in the winter when outdoor BBQs are not as appealing.  “The Scout’s Outdoor Cookbook” by Tim and Christine Conners is an invaluable guide.   
3.  Get off the couch and get in shape now.  Walking is a great place to start.  There are elderly people who walk laps around the malls of America that are in better shape than the average high school student.
4.  Lose 5 pounds.  Stop eating all that delicious Hershey’s chocolate and start saving it for bartering.  With the price of groceries going up every day, it’s not too hard to cut back the caloric intake in an attempt to break even on food inflation.
5.  Take care of your teeth now.  Make an appointment to see the dentist for a cleaning and/or fillings now while you still can. Don’t be afraid to get your kids the braces they need just because the end of the world is near.  There are numerous articles on this blog on how to remove orthodontics in an emergency survival situation that involve little more than a wire cutter.
6.  Go to the library and check out some books.  Better yet, start your own survival library.  National Geographic’s  “Complete Survival Manual” by Michael S. Sweeney is very useful. You can get books on everything from how to make goat cheese to how to knit socks to how to can peaches in a water bath.  If the library is not your thing, go online or to Amazon Kindle or Pinterest or whatever works for you.
7.  READ the books and learn a new skill, such as how to make goat cheese or how to knit socks or how to can peaches in a water bath.  Read to your kids too.  There are great books for kids about gardening or keeping chickens for example.  One book I have found useful to get kids thinking about prepping is “Farmer Boy” by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  9 year old Almonzo in 19th century upstate NY does more after school chores than you can imagine. He gets a calf yoke for a birthday present!  Happy Birthday Almonzo, now go break in the calves.  I haven’t heard any more complaints about taking out the trash after reading that with my kids.  
8. Download the Latter Day Saints Preparedness Guide for free.  The 2012 15th Anniversary Edition is available now.  You will be amazed and forever grateful for this outstanding contribution to society.
9.  On your next trip to the grocery store when you are stocking up on extra rice and toilet paper, don’t forget to throw in a bag or two of bird seed.  I’ve been known to eat a handful of those sunflower seeds myself when I’m refilling the feeders.  I’m not too sure I’d eat suet, but you never know.  Just skip the millet because most birds don’t even like that and it tends to get left uneaten by even the hungriest chickadees.  The corn cobs designed for squirrels are cheap and can attract all sorts of game in range of your gun or traps.
10.  While you are at the store, spend some time in the drug aisle and look for things beyond the usual hand sanitizer, multi-vitamins and Band-aids that preppers stockpile.  There was a sale on lice shampoo the other day and we picked some up. It even came with two nit combs, which we didn’t have on hand. We also grabbed some pinworm medicine.  It seems like there are OTC meds for everything these days.  Take advantage of it while you can.
11.  Take a quick stop at the pet store or online and while you are getting an extra bag or two of dog or cat food, grab up some FishMox, FishFlex and Bird Sulfa. sells FishMox 250 mg, 30 tablets for $8.87.  Yes, these are identical to human antibiotics.  Ever taken amoxicillin for strep throat?  In a true emergency with no hospitals, I will not hesitate to take 250 mg of Fishmox three times a day for strep throat even if it were 10 years after the expiration date.  It’s best to store them in the fridge though.  Just please consult one of the many useful survival preparedness antibiotic guides if you have no medical training, or better yet, get medical training now while you can.
12.  Prepping supplies cost money, I know! Budget and get your financial house in order now.  Get out of bad debt and don’t rack up credit card debt. If the SHTF or not, you do not want credit card debt.
13.  De-clutter your life.  Get and eBay account.  Learn to sell stuff lying around your house.  Supplement your income. It is really so easy my school age kids can do it.  They are accustomed to helping me scour their drawers and toy boxes for things they no longer need.  You would be absolutely amazed at the things people will buy.  I have sold half-used bottles of perfume that I didn’t like. Get rid of all that useless stuff around your house to make room for more useful supplies.
14.   While you are thinking about used stuff, take a trip to your local thrift shop.  Do it regularly. Volunteer there if you can so you can get first dibs on incoming items.  I have found some great preps at thrift shops from cast iron pans to down parkas.
15.  Get organized now.   With all the material stuff people deal with, it pays to stay on top of your game and be organized.  My WaterBOB to fill up the bathtub with drinking water is useless in a hurricane if I can’t find it.
16.  Don’t let your bug out bags sit in a corner collecting dust.  Unpack and repack them regularly to stay familiar with what you have.  That is an easy task for us with kids because we have to constantly re-evaluate kids’ clothing to account for their rapid growth.
17.  Take a camping trip this weekend and pack nothing but your bug out bags and see how you do. Try to start a fire with that fancy flint tool you have.
18.  Include kids in prepping.  Start them young.  I’m sure it’s not easy trying to talk to a thirteen year old plugged constantly into Facebook about potential life without power.  Little kids feel more empowered and less anxious when they have confidence that they can do some useful things.  Start small with where they are, and include them as much as you can. It could be as simple as making sure you have extra foods on hand that they like, such as macaroni and cheese, or it could be a more involved task like teaching them to swim.  Be open with them about the reality of our times, but help build their confidence to alleviate some of their fears.   
19.  Invest in a good pair of hiking shoes and break them in. Don’t forget the kids.  Do you really expect junior to haul water with flip flops?  You get what you pay for and that goes for clothes too.  You may not need a new North Face Gortex rain jacket for everyone in your family, but don’t expect to thrive in the tissue thin cotton T-shirts from Old Navy.
20.  Find a good old fashioned washboard.  They have been selling nice American-made ones at Columbus Washboard Company since 1895.  I love this company because they send donations to our troops overseas that include a washtub, washboard and supplies.  Just make sure you get stainless steel.  After you buy it, make sure you stain it with several coats of waterproof stain.  I’m not sure why they even sell galvanized ones (they rust) and I sure don’t know why the wood doesn’t come pre-stained, but I guess most people just buy them for decoration.  Try using it in your bathtub with a bucket of water and see what a pain it is to do laundry in third world countries like Afghanistan.
21.  Learn how to make a honey bucket.  No, I’m not talking about a bucket of the delicious golden stuff, but that is good to have on hand also.  Having lived in Alaska for many years, where many people still voluntarily live in cabins with outhouses and no running water, I learned that a honey bucket is not so sweet.  In the remote Alaskan bush, people just don’t have the amenities that you know and love down in the Lower 48.  In Alaska, a honey bucket is defined as a place where you go to the bathroom like a chamber pot that you fill up and then go dump.  It basically consists of a 5 gallon Home Depot bucket lined with a trash bag and an adult-size potty chair insert.  You don’t need to buy the fancy camp toilets that they sell at Cabela’s.   
22.  Practice using one weapon or help train someone in your family to use one.  Have a “Take-Your-Wife-To-The-Range-Day”.  Get her a pink gun if you have to: they do make them.  Our daughter has a pink Ruger 10/22.  There is something for everyone.  Slingshots for squirrels are great for kids.  Just be sure and protect their eyes and teach them basic safety rules.  Don’t overlook axes and knives.  I know I am preaching to the choir when I lament about how many American children have never helped butcher a chicken or a deer.  Make it a point to train others if you have skills.
23.  Convert some of your assets to silver and/or gold and have it on hand, not in a safe deposit box or ETF.  Junk silver coins (pre-1965 quarters, dimes and half-dollars) are available for sale at such places as Northwest Territorial Mint.  It is worth buying now while you can.  You may experience a three month wait to receive your package since it is so popular.  In this economy with the dollar’s value rapidly sinking, yesterday was the time to convert your hard earned savings to tangible assets such as silver, gold, food, ammo, medication, chainsaws, or whatever preps are on your list.  The general rule of thumb in the investment portfolio brochures is that you should have at least 20% of your savings in the form of gold or silver.  Just don’t stick it under the mattress.  Buy yourself a good safe.
24. However worthless the dollar is, it is still good to have some cold hard cash on hand in small bills.  Even nickels are worth stashing around since they are worth more in metal content than face value.
25.  Get a passport for yourself and everyone in your family.  If things get really bad, you can always head for New Zealand, Northwest Territory or central Patagonia with all that silver for a while.
27.  A supportive community is key.  Choose your allies well and always have backup plans.
28.  Practice, practice, practice.  Everything from cooking rice over a camp fire like they do on the Survivor television show to composting with your morning tea bags or coffee grinds.
29.  Have faith in yourself and confidence in your abilities.  Just don’t get overconfident.  Confidence with humility is essential to a prepper’s lifestyle.
30.  Pray.  I’ll be praying for you all if things get as bad as some of the National Geographic Doomsday Preppers think it’s going to get. Lord have mercy on us all! Amen.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Taking stock recently, I realized that I am probably not as well prepared as most of the followers of James’ SurvivalBlog.Com, certainly not in terms of infrastructure and stockpiles of materials and equipment.  I don’t have a long-term supply of food, nor do I have a survival retreat prepared for when the big one hits.  My bullion holdings are embarrassingly low.  On the other hand, I am probably better prepared than most for any criminal or paramilitary attack on my person, my family, or my home, so I am not totally hopeless by the standards of most survivalists.

The thing is, the deficiencies in my preparedness don’t bother me.  I know that no matter what happens, I can cut it.  I have a number of skills developed over the years, but that is not what I am talking about.  I am talking about that most important of all attributes: the survivor’s mind.  This is what enables a person to apply skills to the resources at hand to overcome whatever is thrown at them, and turn those circumstances to their advantage such that surviving looks more like thriving.

A man or woman cannot overcome a substantial survival situation without a conditioned mind.  You could parachute all of the necessary supplies right on top of a stranded person and they will fold up and die if not properly conditioned mentally.  You could parachute a properly conditioned man or woman into the middle of nowhere with nothing but a knife and a piece of rope and they will come out okay, or at least make a hell of a good show of it. 

I believe that not only is the survivor’s mind the most important thing in his arsenal, but that the specific attributes of his or her mind can and should be actively cultivated.  The key elements of this capability seem easy to identify.  Above all it consists of a consistent determination to be self reliant.  When something happens, you are not likely to sit around waiting for someone to tell you what to do or take care of the problem for you.  I suspect that anyone who is a regular on SurvivalBlog.Com has a good start on this one.  Another key attribute is the ability to adapt and overcome changing circumstances, without an initial emotional breakdown.  We have all seen friends, business associates or family members who will freak out when a flight is delayed, or they panic when the power goes out, or crumble into uncertainty when it rains unexpectedly.  Those people really need to work on this one.   Thirdly, you must be able to instantly size up a strategic situation, evaluate its potential lethality, and recognize a true survival matter when it arises.  Part of this is recognizing threats when they arise, which requires awareness of your environment and how it can interact with you.  Some people go through their entire life in Condition White, never knowing that they were at risk until they have already become a casualty.  A fourth key element is just “guts” – the refusal to give up and accept defeat.  As Aunt Eller said to Laurie in the musical Oklahoma: “There’s just one way: you gotta be hardy. You gotta be. You can’t deserve the sweet and tender in life unless’n you’re tough.”  As Clint Eastwood’s character Josie said in The Outlaw Josey Wales: “When things look bad and it looks like you're not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean. I mean plumb, mad-dog mean. 'Cause if you lose your head and you give up then you neither live nor win. That's just the way it is.”I have not used the word “courage” in this discussion for two reasons.  First of all, it is such a subjective quality, as used in our society, that it is not useful for our purposes.  It is often used interchangeably with the word “heroic.”  People described as courageous often display one or more of the attributes described above, and I have seen people who are commonly known to be true “chicken-s#@&s” display many of those characteristics on occasion. 

Secondly, a man or a woman who has mastered all of the attributes of the survivor’s mind will often choose a course of action that would be considered cowardly, if that is what the situation called for.  The correct strategic decision from a survival point of view might not be heroic or courageous at all. 

The man or woman who possesses the survivor’s mind may not look like a movie action hero or heroine, and may not act like one in the opinion of society at large.  However, a survivor will do the right thing to ensure his or her survival or that of his family or group.  When TSHTF, and you come out on top, and then they make a movie about you, maybe your part will be played by Michelle Rodriguez or Christian Bale.  You will know that it was your head and not your good looks that got you through.

Where do the mental attributes of a survivor come from?  How can you become hardy in a nation that is going through an era that history will probably call the Age of the Wimp?

The survivor’s mind may be the result of genetics, or it may arise from a family’s culture.  Either way, it is clear that you have a tremendous head start if you were brought up properly.  My father was a survivor.  He came of age during the Great Depression, was a professional soldier in Central America before WWII, then spent WWII in Army going across the Burma Road and serving with General Stilwell in China.  He came home from China to become a successful professional engineer and raise his family.

My father structured my education and training, and that of my older brother, to stress not only survival skills, but to promote the development of what he called the combat mindset.  The training included horsemanship, woodsmanship, hunting, climbing, martial arts, wilderness travel, wilderness medicine, and general problem solving.  In an act that would probably result in his being jailed if it happened today, both my brother and I spent a week on our own in the Mojave Desert when in our early teens, followed by several repeat performances in the Eastern Sierra and Mojave throughout our teen years.

We were encouraged to participate in sports, but my father demanded that we understand the limitations of team sports as a foundation for developing individual self-reliance.  My father coached my brother’s little league and pony league teams, but he was never happier than when we were with him in the mountains or the desert hunting, climbing, or working through some survival situation that he had concocted.

I don’t think that it is necessary to be a survival expert to properly nurture a youngster so that they will be able to handle whatever is thrown at them.  As described below, the training and experience for skill development is available for anyone to acquire if the desire is there.  The minimum required of a parent is to teach the philosophy of personal responsibility and self-reliance, refrain from coddling the little darlings into becoming wimps, and support the acquisition of skill and knowledge as a lifelong endeavor. 

We live in an age where teachers are not allowed to use red pens because it may make a child feel inadequate.  Certain sports no longer keep score, or declare winners or losers, because of the severe risk of traumatic hurt feelings.  In such a world, the gift of self-reliance, the determination to overcome adversity, and the commitment to continual self-improvement, are the greatest gifts that a parent can bestow upon a child.

Training and Practice
We live in a society that seems to do everything possible to prevent, if not reverse, the process of natural selection.  Even so, our minds and bodies are the product of a long line of survivors, and we are hard-wired to learn and to creatively apply those lessons learned to a wide range of situations in ways that improve our survivability.  All other things being equal, training will make the difference, and the more realistic the training the better. 

In addition to specific skills, the proper training will foster the development of the survivor’s mind.  In my experience, actively training in areas that are potentially dangerous is the best preparation for true emergencies and survival situations.  A squirt of adrenaline can improve your memory significantly, and it will enhance your ability to react properly under pressure and in the face of danger.  Let’s take a look at a few of the areas that you can work on, and how that fits into the theme of this article.

If your family is not the outdoors type, then general outdoors skills can be acquired through other means.  Some of the programs, such as Outward Bound, also include survival training as part of a more general curriculum on climbing, mountaineering, canoeing/kayaking, or sailing.  Grab any general outdoor magazine and peruse the advertisements and you will find many places to begin.  James’ blog is another place to connect with entry-level skill-building programs.

If, on the other hand, you believe that the most likely TEOTWAWKI scenario will play out in an urban setting, then adjust your training schedule and list of desired skill sets accordingly.  My experience has been primarily in the wilderness setting, so I need to confine this discussion to that set of circumstances.

An area of study that incorporates valuable skills as well as tremendous discipline and mental condition is the martial arts.  I prefer the more combative martial arts for this purpose because real is better.  The closer the training is to combat, the better the skill set that is conveyed, and the keener the mind that absorbs it.  However, the most “sportified” versions have roots in fighting disciplines that were created to meet a survival need, and will provide a foundation for further training.  Even in those martial arts that have been tamed to the point that they can become an Olympic sport still involve a high level of training discipline and athleticism, and ultimately involve two people facing off in a situation that results in a winner and a loser. 

To me, the use of firearms is a martial art.  I have spent a lot of time studying the progression from empty hands through various weapons to firearms and back again.  That doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy firearms and shooting for its own sake, and valuable survival lessons can be derived from a pure shooting sports orientation and training.  A basic introduction to shooting involves the study of safety issues, bringing the lethal nature of firearms and their use to the foreground.  Legal issues relating to firearms ownership, couple with society’s sensitivity towards firearms, ensure that even the youngest trainees approach the subject with a serious mind – a mind closer to being that of the survivor.

If you have not been trained in the ownership, maintenance and use of firearms, then by all means obtain that training, become a firearms owner, and continue to advance your level of training in that area.  Above all assert your rights, and acknowledge your obligations, as an armed citizen who has decided to take responsibility for his or her own safety and defense. 

Shooting is a fun and challenging sport and a highly enjoyable activity for the family.  Above all, safely acquiring skill at arms requires an awareness of deadly force.  This awareness is central to conditioning and cultivating the mind of the survivor.  This awareness becomes more pronounced when the training is for the purpose of self defense or hunting.  This grounding in the reality of life or death is an extremely important element in developing the survivor’s mind.

Rock climbing can be another important classroom for the survivor.  First of all, the skills involved in putting up anchors, belaying a fellow climber, and moving over rock, are all of great utility in certain survival situations, particularly rescues.  More importantly, gravity does not take any time outs, so climbing requires a continuous discipline that is in many ways very similar to combat or combat training. 

Even when a climber is being belayed, the danger from even a short fall is very real.  Unless you are falling from rock that is overhanging, you are going to develop a very close personal relationship with the rock on the way down, and I can assure you that you will feel every single one of those caresses.  I am a relatively old rock climber, and old climbers are invariably careful and serious minded climbers or they don’t make it that far.  Climbing can be practiced nearly everywhere at some level, and is a very wholesome outdoor family activity.  The safety training that comes with the art is an opportunity to teach your children how to learn something serious and important, which carries over into other areas.

Hunting is another way to continue upgrading your skills and tune your mind to survival situations.  To successfully stalk and take game animals in the wilderness you must cultivate and integrate a wide range of skills, and competently apply them to the task at hand.  You must also discipline your mind to the hunt, and to the ultimate reality of the life or death of your prey.  If the game you are hunting is dangerous game, or if the meat you are hunting is essential for your survival, then you must also condition your mind to the fact that your own life or death depends on your ability to make the kill. 

Another important philosophical aspect of hunting is that hunting is an absolute rejection of the growing tendency in our society to view nature as a spectator sport.  To absorb the lessons of our ancestors and take your place in the natural order is to become one with nature in a way that others will never be able to appreciate.  As you grow in the art, you can steadily remove the various tools and technological aids that you use, such that you deal on a more primitive level with your prey.  As you do so you will also come even closer to being absolutely self-sufficient in the wilderness.  Once again we speak of the development of certain skills, but it is the mind itself that is being honed.

Wilderness medicine is another opportunity for building the survivor’s mind.  First of all, particularly if your family is joining you in your journey of discovery, you need to be prepared for the inevitable injuries, and accepting responsibility for dealing with those injuries is an important leap of self reliance.  In addition to the skills themselves, this training further develops a seriously competent mind.   A Wilderness First Aid certificate is the bare minimum level of training, but if you spend a lot of time in the bush you should invest in at least a Wilderness First Responder level of competence.  This training usually results in your pack getting heavier and heavier as you become a walking ambulance, so it will also result in your getting in better shape.   

Soldiers, particularly combat veterans, tend to be survivors.  Military service can be the ultimate in organized training for survival situations.  It includes training and experience in weapons and small unit tactics, the services of most nations also incorporate survival, evasion, resistance and escape (SERE) training.  If military service involves combat, then the survivor will have an entire universe of useful experience to pass along to his family and community, and such men and women are an enormously valuable resource to our society.  Every primitive society looks to its experienced warriors for leadership during times of crisis, and we would do well to do the same.  If you did not have the opportunity to go through this experience, then you can pick and choose amongst a number of civilian training programs that will focus in a weekend or a week-long session various aspects of military training. 

Conditioning and Health
The survivor’s mind resides in a fit and healthy body.  The most resourceful and well trained survivor cannot execute a viable strategy if he is sick or out of condition.  Conditioned bodies resist injury and sickness under survival situations better than bodies that are not in condition.  You don’t have to be both a UFC cage fighter and a triathlete, but it wouldn’t hurt either. 

Generally speaking, a moderately aggressive training schedule that might include a couple of rigorous martial arts workouts during the week, some running and cross-training, bag-work, and perhaps some weights, and then some time on the rocks or in the bush during the weekends, will keep you in great shape and keep you entertained as well.  As a bare minimum you should be able to put in some calisthenics and some running (or even walking) during periods when work or other responsibilities keep you away from more rigorous training.  Pay attention to your overall health as well: get the excess weight off and keep it off, turn down the alcohol and junk food to a minimum, don’t smoke, wear your seat belt – you know what to do. 

You also need to listen to your body when it is telling you that there is something wrong.  I once got on a plane heading for a month-long self-guided hunting trip in West Africa, and my back had been getting more and more painful, but I ignored it.  I was two days hard hiking away from the nearest road when I finally had to admit that I had a very serious kidney stone problem.  I was laid up for several days, treating my condition with palm wine and aspirin, and then managed to get back to civilization by easy marches while the stone worked its way south.  We even managed to harvest enough kob and baboon to make the trip worthwhile to my crew - meat is part of their pay you see - and I came out of it without permanent damage.  It was preventable and could have been much more serious.

Being able to respond because you are hardy and inured to the dangers and difficulties of emergencies is a major portion of the survivor’s mind.  However, a mind that refuses to freeze or quit still needs a strategic groove to operate along in order to efficiently work through the problem at hand.  There are a number of models that we can work with that have broad applicability.

Primarily viewed as a skilled and innovative martial artist, the great Bruce Lee was most importantly a philosopher who dealt with the ultimate reality of combat and survival.  In my opinion, his work The Tao of Jeet Kune Do is one of the most important survival manuals, and should be on everyone’s bookshelf.   My original martial arts training was in both Jeet Kune Do and Kali-Escrima; I have a heavily annotated copy of the original manuscript for Sifu Lee’s book, which was one of our training aides.  One of his frequent sayings was that “Freedom of expression towards the ultimate reality of combat is the goal of all martial artists,” a statement that encompasses much of what goes into creating an effective survivor.  Another of his sayings, on the subject of training and learning, was that a martial artist must “absorb what is useful, reject what is not, and add what is specifically your own.”  A study of Bruce Lee’s works creates an excellent foundation, and provides useful guidance in even the most unusual circumstances.

The late Jeff Cooper was a guru of another martial art, the art of the self-reliant individual and his personal arms – the rifle and pistol.  Although a number of individuals have taken this ball and run with it, it was Jeff Cooper who organized the art of the pistolero into the Modern Technique of the Pistol, and it was Colonel Cooper who fully articulated what it means to be a modern rifleman, both philosophically and technically.  Colonel Cooper also modified the Marine Corps color coding and used it to teach the relative levels of readiness as part of the study of the combat mindset, obviously relevant to this discussion.  Colonel Cooper’s published works are saturated with wisdom for the independent and self-reliant person, and a serious minded survivor’s education is incomplete if he has not included them in his library and studied them. 

Another strategist that deserves your attention is John Boyd, the Air Force Colonel that developed the OODA Loop theory.  OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide and Act, and defines the reaction and decision cycle that must be successfully negotiated to win a battle.  Colonel Boyd was a fighter pilot, and he developed his theories in connection with dog-fighting.  He found that agility and resourcefulness were decisive, in that the pilot that could “get inside of his opponents OODA Loop” would prevail.  If you study Boyd, and think of any particular survival situation as your opponent, then you will begin to see the value of Boyd’s strategic theory as part of the repertoire of the well educated survivor.

There are others of course, and in your journey you will encounter great strategists and teachers who will light the way for you.  These three are a good place to start, and provide a useful framework to start you on your way.

I have never been a religious person.  I was raised in the Episcopal Church, but became increasingly rebellious towards the Church’s monopoly over my Sunday mornings, a time when I would prefer to be in the bush or on the rocks.  As I grew older, I was able to escape that restraint when I discovered that my father felt the same way and would support that decision.  I always considered the wilderness to be my church, and I have never felt more spiritually at peace than when I am in the mountains or desert, and as far away from the rest of my species as I can manage.

On the other hand, I have known highly religious men and women whose faith and devotion to their church was the very foundation of their personal strength.  If that is the way your mind works, then you will not be as strong and self-reliant as you could be if you ignore your need for organized spiritual interaction.  You may also find that your approach to the most likely survival emergencies is best organized around a group of like-minded people that happen to be members of the same church.  Like many loners, I have always envied people who can easily associate in a close community in this manner, and as Bruce Lee would sometimes say, “If it scores, it is effective.”

Dealing with the unknown is more difficult than covering familiar ground.  You may not have been trained on how to survive an airplane crash, but if you think it over and figure out a few basic dos and don’ts then you are way ahead of the guy sitting next to you.  The planning process can and should be a family endeavor.  Instead of a dinner table discussion of the latest episode of Breaking Bad - there are some interesting survival situations in that series – why not discuss some scenarios and what the best response would be?  What if someone kicked in the front door and ran inside screaming obscenities and brandishing a machete, right now?  What if we had an earthquake right now?  When my kids were small, we used to play this game, and one time when the power went out it was the kids that suddenly appeared with the candles and the headlamps just as we had discussed.

In my view, successfully meeting a survival challenge is more about what you decide to do than what you can do.  Of course you must have skill sets to execute a strategy, but it is still the strategy that wins the day.  As discussed above, there is a vast body of knowledge relating to survival, and in fact the web site on which you are accessing this paper has descriptions of many thousands of articles on the technology of survival.  As you pursue your training, and your accretion of survival assets, do not neglect that greatest of all tools, the one that sits on top of your shoulders.  Make sure it is developed and educated, and you will be well served even if you find yourself without the other tools and trinkets that you have amassed to meet your needs.

The Author
William C. Prentice lives peacefully in California with his wife, and is engaged in the business of financing energy and technology firms, and is the acting CEO of a private military contracting firm.  He is also devoted to the personal pursuits of rock climbing, martial arts, and hunting.  Prentice is also the author of Feral, a novel with significant Libertarian overtones, and the short story Purgatory.

Monday, July 30, 2012

James Wesley:
The article by N.H. about weight loss was pretty accurate. The only problem is the recommendations. That is, following the US dietary guidelines. I don;t recommend that.

To make a long story short, study up on the "paleo" way of eating and exercise. Six years ago I cured my growing blood sugar problem and lost 30 lbs in 4 months. I've maintained that ever since then.

I fear that a lot of "preppers" are fat and out of shape because they eat what they store, that is, they consume lots of wheat and vegetable oils because they store well. For anyone that wants to stay healthy now and after the SHTF, you are better off eliminating these items. And while you're at it, ditch sugar as well.

Store coconut oil (non-hydrogenated) and coconut milk and ghee for healthy fats, as well as canned salmon and sardines for Omega 3s and protein.
I've not had wheat and vegetable oils for six+ years and have outdone members of our military in their mid 20's during 5 km races. Not bad for 52 years old! - Dave, RN

Sunday, July 29, 2012

I’m an average, middle-aged guy: happily married, devoted father; active member of my community and church; and am blessed to have a good job that I enjoy.  I’ve been prepping for about 15 years and, despite a tendency to tinker with our plans, am well-prepped.  But, I’m now worrying about our plans.  I didn’t worry about them before but, late last October, I started to worry.  A lot.  This is why:
Our Survival Group tries to get together regularly to practice and train, but, we hadn’t done a Group Practice (GP) for a couple of years.  This past October we had a GP, where, unfortunately, it became obvious that we no longer work well together.   This is because we have gotten--as uncomfortable as it is to admit--fatter and are no longer “in good shape”.
I’m 6’0” tall and weigh 246 pounds; I have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 28.  That means I am overweight and need to “lose a few pounds.”  That is a nice way of saying it.  Another way of saying it is that I carry 42 pounds of fat on me.  That is equal to an 8 year old child!  I should lose more than “a few pounds.” 
Remember when I said I was average?  Well, I lied; I’m actually below average. Many people my age are much fatter!  The Center For Disease Control (CDC) has reported that almost 40% of us are obese (meaning that at least 50% of our bodyweight is fat)
The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute has a handy BMI Chart to help you get a rough idea of your BMI, but you must see your doctor to get an accurate measurement. BMI charts don’t factor your build and that affects your score.  Body Fat Percentage is also another important measure.  I used a US Navy-based formula to calculate my 42 very hug-able, but problematic, pounds of fat
Not surprisingly, being out of shape affected our performance in the GP.  I was shocked by how much we could not do, properly and safely, over sustained periods of time.  On the 2nd night of our GP, with aching muscles coated in A535 and drifting into a pain pill induced slumber, it occurred to me that tomorrow I would not be able to work very well, if at all.  Given that our pain medication and A535 supply was quickly being used up, I realized I was not alone.   Worse, I was shocked to discover that, because I was so sore, I did not want to work; I only wanted to find a cozy spot to lie down; I wanted to give up.

What if none of us could work the next day, or, the day after that?  What if one of us got injured—muscle tear, ligament pull, simple wear and tear, or worse—simply because we were tired and made a mistake?  What if one or two of us gave up and simply stopped working altogether?  In survival situations, not being able to do hard physical work, properly and safely, over sustained periods of time can be disastrous; not wanting to work or giving up the will to keep going, can be worse.  

I remembered what it was like after the Ice Storm of 1998--which caused power outages in much of Eastern Canada for almost three weeks in the middle of January; I also remembered the Christchurch Earthquake in 2010—a 7.1 that left a city and region in New Zealand devastated for weeks.  My shock turned into alarm.

During both The Ice Storm and The Christchurch Earthquake, people died or suffered terribly simply because they were not physically fit enough to walk several miles to safety; to carry basic survival gear for that distance; to carry 5 gallons of water back to their families; or to gather enough wood to make and keep a fire burning for a few days.  This happened despite the fact that, in both of these events, the government and society at large, continued to operate properly and sought to provide help.  

WTSHTF or post-TEOTWAWKI, government and society will not operate properly.   We have to be able to help ourselves.   But, the amount of hard, physical work that must be done in a survival situation is astonishing.  Did you have coffee this morning?  For me, the hardest part about that was counting the scoops of coffee!  Did I have to chop and carry wood?  Carry water?  Start a fire?  No. And, that is just the beginning.

One of the hardest parts of prepping is thinking realistically about what we need to G.O.O.D. and survive WTSHTF/post-TEOTWAWKI.  As preppers, we do can readily do that with regard to our gear and skills.  I suspect it is going to be harder though, to be realistic about our weight and fitness levels.  I believe there are two reasons for this: first, we are gear dependent and believe our gear will save us, so most think our current fitness level will suffice; and second, because almost everyone we see has similar fitness levels, so our fitness level seems “normal”. 
What is your most important tool when G.O.O.D. or post-TEOTWAWKI:  Axe?  Knife?  Gun?  Fire starter?   Water purifier?  Answer: None of the above.  If you are too hurt; injured; exhausted; or sore, after a few hours’ hard work that you cannot do anything but lay down, tools do not matter.  Therefore, your most important tool is you: your mind and body; your ability and willingness to do hard work. 
Equally important in a G.O.O.D./post-TEOTWAWKI situation is the mental and emotional stress you will be under.  This aspect of it did not emerge in our GP because everyone knew that this was a “practice;” it was not “real”.  But, it certainly emerged after The Ice Storm and The Christchurch Earthquake. 
Doing anything under pressure is very difficult; doing it when you are sore; exhausted; dealing with minor injuries; frustrated or angry at how your day is going; hungry, thirsty; or desperate, is virtually impossible.   Worse, it is discouraging and erodes confidence rapidly.  In Canada and New Zealand, I heard people say: “This is too hard!”  “I’m too tired to do this!”  “It hurts too much when I do this!”  This quickly changed to “This is hopeless…”  “Don’t even bother…” “It doesn’t matter…”  Once despair sets in, people often give up hope, and then it is very difficult to survive. 
This combination of physical exhaustion and psycho-emotional surrender can be deadly in survival situations.  And, in Canada and New Zealand, people did suffer and did die.
I believe the best way to maximize your chances in a G.O.O.D./TEOTWAWKI is to think about your body as a tool.  The simple fact is that a tool needs to be maintained.   That is what the next part of this will be about: maintaining the tool. 
There are numerous reasons why we put on weight and get out of shape; those reasons do not matter now.  Quick question: How do those reasons stack up against the need to survive when G.O.O.D./post-TEOTWAWKI?  We need to be realistic about this.  The reasons we are overweight do not matter now. 
There are no gimmicks to what I am about to propose; no quick fixes.  You prep following a step-by-step plan and worked hard at it.  That is what you will have to do to lose weight and get back in shape; to maintain the most important tool you have. 
In a G.O.O.D./post-TEOTWAWKI world everyone you are with will have to do hard work for extended periods of time.  Therefore, you will need to be stronger, more flexible, and have greater cardio-pulmonary capacity than the average North American does now. 
Picture this: 
You have settled into your retreat.  Your stockpiles are starting to dwindle.  You’ve decided that today you will get firewood.  Cut down trees, cut off the limbs, cut the log into pieces to fit your stove, split it into actual firewood, bring it all back to your wood storage area, and pile it.  By hand.  Perhaps you will be assisted by your team of horses and wagon.  But it will all be done by hand.  Chainsaws and trucks make a lot of noise which can attract those you might want to keep away.  Even if you use these tools, you will be lifting and bending and working hard.  Doing this work, will take you most of the day.  And, when you return home, evening chores await.  Since all heating and cooking will likely be done with firewood, you’ll be getting firewood again.  And often.
Or this:

Your G.O.O.D. plans have encountered a snag: all exit roads from your residence are clogged with traffic jams and now you have to hike to your retreat.  Since you have prepped well, you know a couple of good routes to take and what gear to bring.  Your group begins to walk, carrying 20 – 40 pounds each, for miles.   At the end of the day, everyone is bone tired, sore.  Fortunately, the terrain, weather and circumstances are favorable, and you are only dealing with blisters, chafing, and other minor hurts.  You’ve made good progress but have only covered a portion of the distance to your retreat.  The next few days will be spent doing the same thing: walking; many miles, all day long. 

Can you do the work described above?  The sobering reality is that many cannot.  To prepare for this level of work, you must train your body to do hard, repetitive work; and, you must train your mind to do tedious work over time.   
Step 1: See your doctor and get a complete physical.  You need to know what the facts are regarding your body (your BMI for example), specifically, what kinds of exercise and dietary changes are safe for you.  Follow your doctor’s advice.
Step 2: What are your short and long-term goals?  When developing your goals, I’d suggest you remember that when G.O.O.D. or post-TEOTWAWKI, you will need to perform arduous, sometimes tedious tasks, for long periods of time.  Your goals should be to get into good enough physical and mental shape to do that.  This is not about doing a certain number of push-ups or looking good on a beach (so forget those glossy magazines).  You want to attain a moderately high level of functional fitness so that you can do hard physical work all day long.
Step 3: Find a diet and exercise plan that is simple and easy to follow.  I would suggest plans that allow you to start small, integrating the new regime into your lifestyle with minimal disruption but maximal positive effect.  One is provided here.  Numerous others exist.
Step 4:  Record your results.

Steps 1 and 4 are self-explanatory.  Steps 2 and 3 are the focus of the rest of this piece.

No matter what exercise program you pick, your short-term goal should not be to increase your strength and your cardio to a certain point. 
Your short-term goal should be to find an exercise program and follow it for 21 days straight; do it every day.  If you do that, you will be stronger, more flexible, and have greater cardio capacity.  Moreover, if you do something for 21 days in a row, you will have created a habit and begun the process of inuring your body and mind to hard repetitive work.  Sticking with that program over time will only increase your physical capacities and improve your mental toughness. 
However, choosing a plan is no easy task.  The market is full of them.  Might I recommend a plan that is simple, easy to follow, easy to incorporate into your lifestyle.  How does a plan that requires 11 minutes a day sound?

I recommend the 5BX Plan developed by Bill Orban in the 1950s for the Royal Canadian Air Force (later adopted by a number of Air Forces around the world including the USAF).  It is based on 5 Basic Exercises and uses 6 age-based charts arranged in a progression so your fitness improves over time.  The five exercises include warm-up and stretching exercises.  You perform the exercises in the same order every time for a maximum of 11 minutes each session. The theory behind this program is that the intensity of exercise yields better results than the duration of the session.  It works and many elite athletes now use this approach in their training.

Numerous resources can be found about this topic, but here is one that is appropriate for most of us.
Exercise, alone, will not help you burn fat.  The following table shows you how many calories the average person burns if they do these activities for 60 continuous minutes

















If you eat any of these items, this is about how many calories you will ingest:

Tasty Treat


Peanut butter sandwich


Pizza (3 slices)


Big Mac




So, you need to change your diet as well.  But don’t do it right away.  Start your exercise program and 14 days later you will have noticed your appetite has changed somewhat: you may eat less and you might not want to eat the same kinds of food any longer.  Now your body is ready for dietary changes.  Before making any dietary changes, however, consult your doctor and follow your doctor’s advice regarding any and all dietary changes you want to make.  If you have any kind of medical condition, whatsoever, follow your doctor’s advice regarding what dietary changes you should make.
When making dietary changes, look at the palm of your hand.  Whatever size it is, that is a portion size for you.  Eat a balanced, sensible diet: have a portion of protein, starch and vegetables every meal.  If you need or want a snack, eat half a portion of something you ate for the previous meal or will eat the next meal.  The best sources of these items are from food that is raw or uncooked when you buy it and then you have to cook/prepare it.  This also takes work.

Resources that can help you in this effort include:  Canada’s Food Guide and the US Dietary Guidelines.

Just as with everything else in prepping, the most important thing is to develop a plan, implement the plan, and keep at it.  Good luck to you all.
Epilogue: The preceding was written in early December 2011; I decided to “eat my cooking” and followed this program.  Now it is June 2012. 
Six months later--including the Christmas Holidays when I completely ignored my new diet and 5BX (no excuse, but I enjoyed it)--I now weigh 218 pounds.  My BMI will always be high because I have a big build (46” chest; 38” waist), but my body fat percentage has dropped to 13 percent.  Still high, but, I feel better now.  Also, I have finished 3 days of hard, tedious physical work on my hobby farm and feel great!  More importantly, I am now much better prepared to do the work I will need to do in G.O.O.D. or post-TEOTWAWKI situations.
Just 11 minutes of exercise per day, while eating better food.  Maintain “The Tool.” 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The topic of obstructive sleep apnea and CPAP machines has been mentioned regularly in SurvivalBlog. These references were mostly related to how an alternate power supply could be used to keep CPAP machines functioning. In a TEOTWAWKI situation or lengthy grid down scenario persons suffering from sleep apnea, especially severe sleep apnea would worsen and probably die without an alternative power source or alternative type of treatment.

As a dentist who is a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine and treating snoring and sleep apnea for almost 15 years I thought I would give the members some insight into the condition, its possible treatments and implications for long-term survival particularly in TEOTWAWKI. One of the recent blogs referred to a web site. If anything I say sounds similar to information on that site is because the developer is my dear friend, personal mentor and one of the foremost experts in the country.


Snoring is the focus of humor in countless movies, jokes, videos and family stories. There are people whose snoring has decibel levels as loud as a steam locomotive. My own father could bring down the house, not just with his singing or jokes, but unfortunately with his snoring. Over the years he had developed severe obstructive sleep apnea. He was also the first sleep apnea patient that I treated.
All joking aside, snoring is no laughing matter. It’s the reason for many lost hours of sleep for bed partners, husbands and wives having separate bedrooms and sometimes even divorce.

What is Snoring?
Snoring is the sign of a breathing problem, in other words a blockage in your airway. The sound is typically caused by the tongue falling toward the back of your palate and throat. As your airway constricts it creates a negative pressure or pulling on your soft palate. This creates a vibration and sound like a reeded instrument, although much more annoying! If you snore loudly and often, you know the social implications of your problem. It’s bad enough when your spouse can’t sleep in the same room with you, but when your travel companions schedule a separate room because they can’t get a decent night’s sleep, it may be time for you to do something about it.

Even if you have become accustomed to sharp pain in your ribs at night (your spouse’s elbow), a lot of bad jokes, snoring is as serious as a heart attack or even worse a stroke. It is a signal that something is wrong with your breathing during sleep. It means that the airway is not fully open and the bad tunes you are playing could kill you. According to recent sleep studies, approximately 45% of the general population, 30% of men and women over age 30, 40% of the middle-aged population, and 6% of children snore on a regular basis. Studies show that 45% of normal adults snore at least occasionally, and 25 percent are habitual snorers. Sadly, these statistics are on the rise with rising obesity approaching epidemic proportions.

Problem snoring is more frequent in males and overweight persons. It usually grows worse with age. Although obesity is a major factor for snoring and sleep apnea people that are “as thin as a rail" can have these issues. Generally these are people that have narrow jaws, tall (high) palates and or deep bites and are more prone to having or developing airway issues.

Is Snoring Dangerous?

During the days of the Wild West a famous gunslinger shot a man in the same hotel for snoring too loudly. Ouch! It has also been shown that of males over the age of 45 almost 50% have some form of sleep apnea.  An Australian study found that the prevalence of blockage of the carotid artery (which can lead to strokes) was 20% for mild, 32% for moderate and 64% for heavy snorers. According to the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), snorers have three times as many motor vehicle accidents as non-snorers..

Snoring and Sleep Apnea

 According to the experts at, snoring can be a strong indicator of the condition known as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea patients that snore are actually lucky that the condition manifests vocally, so the condition can be treated early, before it becomes life threatening. Partners with concerns are often the ones to bring this problem to light and ask the snorer to seek sleep disorder/sleep apnea treatment. Because of the intermittent periods of stopped breathing, patients do not get the amount of oxygen needed and health risks are increased. Recent studies have led many leading clinicians to state that they believe that snoring will lead to sleep apnea 100% of the time. Sleep apnea has been linked to cases of heart attack, stroke, hypertension, high blood pressure and other dangerous conditions. If you notice heavy snoring in your loved one, ask him or her to see a sleep apnea professional.

How Snoring Affects Others

According to a Mayo Clinic sleep study, it is estimated that snorers cause their partners to lose an average of about an hour of sleep each night. For the average American that is almost 20% of your night’s sleep. Even if sleep apnea is not indicated, the disruption of the sleep cycles of family members can create a hazard. Bed partners of snorers also reports high levels of fatigue, sleepiness and possibly even hearing loss. Recent studies have indicated that repeated disruption of sleep patterns can cause sufferers to perform motor skills at or below the levels of individuals who are legally intoxicated! So even if your snoring is not a sign of sleep apnea, it is likely that your snoring could be a real threat to your loved ones because impaired reaction behind the wheel of an automobile can lead to disaster regardless of the cause. The whole family can suffer when any family member has a sleep problem.

What is Sleep Apnea?
Apnea is a Greek word that means shortness of breath. An apnea episode is the absence of breath for 10 seconds or more repeatedly during the normal seven hour sleep cycle. During an apnea event, the oxygen level in a person's blood drops(while the carbon dioxide increases), the blood becomes" thicker" and more difficult for the heart to pump throughout the body. This puts a strain on the heart (which can show signs of enlargement) as well as the entire cardiovascular system. Coughing or choking sensations, which force you to wake up or get elbowed by your partner, are also common signs. Untreated sleep apnea (OSA) increases the risk of heart attack and stroke, shortens life, and diminishes your quality of life.
What are the common signs of Snoring and Apnea?
Sleep apnea can reveal its presence in a number of ways, and each patient may have a unique combination of symptoms. If you or a loved one experiences any of the following recurring symptoms, please speak with your family physician or a dentist that has experience with treating OSA.

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Morning headaches/migraines (may also signify a jaw joint problem known as TMJ/TMD).
  • Short term memory problems
  • Altered human growth hormone secretion at night contributes to decreased metabolism leading to weight gain and difficulty in weight loss
  • Tiredness
  • Dosing off in front of the television
  • Gastric reflux(GERD)
  • Dry mouth
  • Sore throat
  • Slow metabolism
  • Inability to lose weight
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Severe Anxiety
  • Memory and concentration difficulties
  • ADD and ADHD symptoms
  • Intellectual deterioration
  • Mood swings/temperamental behavior
  • Poor job performance or problems in school
  • Mouth breathing
  • Restlessness and tossing and turning during sleep
  • Impotence
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Difficult nose breathing
  • Sudden shortness of breath, choking or gasping sensation that wakes you up
  • Insomnia
  • Inability to sleep through the night
  • Heavy snoring (more common in patients with obstructive sleep apnea, rather than central sleep apnea)

Pediatric Apnea

Chronic breathing problems during a child’s sleep have been shown to affect children’s physical, intellectual and emotional growth. Heavy snoring in children may be a sign of pediatric apnea. Pediatric apnea causes children to have paused breathing events during sleep and can be dangerous if left untreated. Children with untreated apnea may experience daytime sleepiness, or signs of ADD/ADHD such as lack of concentration and mental capacity, trouble in school, and hyperactivity. A thorough ear, nose, and throat exam are a priority. Any asthma and allergy concerns need to be diagnosed and controlled. Often a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy may be needed to eliminate airflow obstructions.

Apnea and Childhood Development

Visit the web pages from sleep apnea dentist Dr. Brian Palmer. He has given international, national and state presentations on the importance of breastfeeding for the proper development of the oral cavity, airway and facial form; infant caries; why tight frenulums need to be addressed; the signs and symptoms, cause and prevention, and treatment of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea; and basics of dentistry not taught in dental schools.

Sleep Apnea & Snoring Treatment

I will briefly list some of the treatments for sleep apnea, but will focus mainly on the most TEOTWAWKI pertinent answers.
First and foremost, your physician or dentist will examine your living habits and make recommendations for behavioral therapy, such as avoidance of alcohol or sedatives, or sleep positioning devices. Use of pillows to alter your nighttime breathing habits may also be suggested. Your sleep physician and dentist with appropriate training in sleep apnea will help you decide which dental sleep medicine treatment or combination of treatments will work best for you.

Depending on each patient's diagnosis, sleep apnea treatment may be as simple as a lifestyle change such as weight loss or change in diet. Other patients may benefit from the help of a specially designed oral appliance, which prevents airway blockage. Some more severe cases of apnea may require surgical intervention to prevent upper airway obstruction. Jaw surgery, tongue surgery, palatal implants and removal of the soft palate (UPPP, LAUPP,) are among these techniques. Some work well (jaw surgery) and others not well at all (UPPP, LAUPP). 

Nasal Vents

ProVents are a new as a treatment option. The results from the initial studies are promising. They do have a significant impact on lowering the number of apnea events a patient experiences, but they are not adjustable. Any one that is prescribed these by the doctor should insist on a full night sleep study while wearing them to verify that they are working sufficiently. Just because you feel better after sleeping with them doesn’t mean you are getting the best results possible.


Mechanical therapy in the form of a mechanical device called a CPAP, or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, uses a mask with an air blower to force air through the patient's upper airway, assuring constant inhalation of adequate amounts of oxygen. are positive air pressure machines with various types of masks and hoses designed to force air past the main obstruction in the airway which in the vast majority of patients is the tongue. It inflates the airway like a balloon and hose.

CPAP has been considered " the gold standard" of OSA treatment for many years and is incredibly effective for alleviating symptoms, avoiding the health risks discussed earlier and achieving a restful sleep. These benefits can only be realized when the CPAP is actually worn and worn for the fully prescribed amount of time. Sadly, study shows that 2/3 to 3/4 of people given a CPAP cannot tolerate full compliance. The list of problems encountered by CPAP users is lengthy. Many of these can be overcome, but the ones most pertinent to us on this blog are loss of power and portability.

Alternate power sources can definitely be one solution when these are available and when OSA patients want to use them. The majority of OSA patients who cannot tolerate the CPAP or want a non-powered solution and oral appliance should be considered.

As Seen on TV

You’ve probably seen dental appliances advertised on television that claim to handle your snoring problem. These have a few problems. If you snore but have not been tested for apnea and you wear one of these devices you may not snore, but if you have sleep apnea it is still killing you. If you have been diagnosed with OSA these devices are not being adjusted (titrated) for optimal effect and they are not FDA approved to treat OSA. The principle is the same, but as they say: " the devil is in the details".

Dental Appliances

There are dozens of these devices with varying designs, patents and trade names, but they all work on the same principle, basically they move the lower jaw forward in order to open your airway. Since your tongue is attached to your lower jaw basically behind your chin, moving the jaw forward (mandibular advancement) moves his tongue forward, opens the airway front to back, as well as side to side and prevents the tongue from falling to the back of the throat.

The best devices are custom fit and extremely adjustable so that your airway is opened enough to drastically reduce the number of apneic events and ideally eliminate snoring. This adjustment or titration is done in close collaboration between you, the dentist and the sleep physician. When looking for a dentist, be sure they are a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine and ideally one who is a diplomate of that academy. Unfortunately, over the years I have seen dentists treat patients for snoring without knowing whether the patients have obstructive sleep apnea and use devices that are not approved to treat OSA. I've also seen lack of knowledge and follow-up with patients both of which are extremely important for optimizing treatment and avoiding unwanted side effects.

Some physicians shy away from this treatment, but quite honestly in my opinion this is due to what they are taught or not taught in medical school. There is a great deal of research that shows the effectiveness of these" low-tech" devices in treating mild, moderate and even severe sleep apnea. As preppers and survivalists you should appreciate that they are generally very durable, relatively inexpensive and could be repaired without a lot of sophisticated equipment. They are easily cared for and stowable in a tac bag, glove compartment, briefcase and purse or bug out bag. I would suggest speaking to your dentist about making several appliances . . . for a discount (or barter) of course. Remember: one is none and two is one.

One point that I would like to emphasize is that it is extremely important for you or your loved ones to be evaluated and treated regardless of whether a TEOTWAWKI situation ever occurs. This is a life-threatening condition is often ignored or minimized. It is a silent or not so silent killer. For those of you that are trying to maximize your health and your families health as a part of preparedness is crucial to consider seeking treatment. Everyone will sleep and function much better.

For more information on snoring, obstructive sleep apnea and treatment you can visit and

Friday, June 22, 2012

Dear Editor:
I suffer sleep disruption and was prescribed apnea treatment. First a CPAP then a BIPAP machine. Neither of those were right for me, so my doctor put me on ProVent nose plugs. These are little disposable stickers with one-way valves, which seal up your nostrils; you can breathe in but are forced to breathe out through your mouth, so you don't get throat blockage.

Not only did they work better for me, but I realized that since they don't use electricity they're great for grid-down situations. Score!

Their downsides are ongoing availability in a TEOTWAWKI situation, dry throat (so I keep water by the bed) and they're not covered by my insurance, so they're very expensive. $60 per month for some stickers!

I discovered that I could re-use them if I washed my nose well (got rid of oils) and dried my nose before applying. I was able to get 2-4 nights per set. But then I wondered what else I could do. I tried taping my nostrils shut with Band-Aids, and it worked! Not as well -- dry throat got slightly worse, and it's not as comfortable -- but I'm still sleeping well through the night.

I clean my whole nose with soap and dry it. Then I gently tape both nostrils shut with one Band-Aid, leaving just a small gap for a little bit of air to pass. I use real Band-Aids, which stick very well; not cheap knock-offs. I use a second Band-Aid across the top of the nose to hold the sides of the first Band-Aid, to keep it from falling off. Then I drink a big glass of water and off to bed.

I'm glad I started with ProVents just to get accustomed to mouth breathing. The starter kit was $20. I can imagine that going cold turkey to Band-Aids would have been too difficult, so I'm glad I started with ProVent. But now I don't need them.

My next change will be to a high-quality swimmer's nose plug. Speedo plugs get good reviews on Amazon, and they're less than $10. I'll get two of them, for two is one and one is none :-)

Maybe your readers with apnea will consider asking their doctor about ProVents. They're not for everyone; my doctor told me if you have congestion you'll find them difficult to tolerate. On the other hand my Band-Aid solution is like having permanent congestion, so maybe they are still an option.

Thanks for what you do, and God bless! - V.C.D.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

This article isn’t your normal food and ammo stockpiling type of article.  I believe those things are extremely important or I wouldn’t be reading this blog on a regular basis.  I do, however, believe that this subject matter is as important as stockpiling food, ammo, medical supplies.  Stockpiling our knowledge base may be even more important than stockpiling these other items, because no matter how prepared you are you never know where you will be when the SHTF.  One aspect of your knowledge base that I would like to suggest you increase your stockpile is in the areas of therapeutic massage. 

Most people will read this article and scoff at the suggestion that I just made, but I assure you that the idea of adding a solid working knowledge of therapeutic massage techniques to your TEOTWAWKI knowledge base could be the difference between surviving and thriving.  Massage has been a healing therapy for as long as man has walked this earth.  Think about it, when we were children, before we knew about Band-Aids to heal boo-boos, we would instinctively rub the part of our body that hurt.  Even now as adults, if you have a head ache you will most likely take off your glasses and rub the areas around your eyes (temples, jaw, even your neck).   Massage therapy is a part of our make-up.  We use it to heal ourselves and comfort those around us.   It is my belief that understanding massage techniques and how to properly apply them will make my survival much easier for many reasons. 
These are the main reasons I am thankful that I have training as a massage therapist and why I believe you should include a working knowledge of massage therapy techniques into your SHTF knowledge bank.

  1. Muscle recovery is a process that our bodies go through anytime we work it beyond its normal level of activity.  The metabolic processes that take place to allow your muscles to move create waste products that can settle in the muscle tissues and cause stiffness and soreness. When you push your body’s limits it doesn’t have time to remove these waste products on its own.  This is part of the reason we are a little sore after we increase our work out in the gym or try that next level hiking trail.  Basic massage techniques can be used with a basic stretching routine to increase muscle recovering.   These techniques will help manually break down these metabolic waste products that settle in the tissue as well as increase blood flow to the area helping to remove the waste products to be cleaned out of your system. Most TEOTWAWKI scenarios include situations where our daily activity levels will be increased exponentially.  How much work will it be to carry your BOB to your next site,  set camp, prepare the area to ensure safety, gather water and food, try to get a few hours of sleep only to break camp at sunrise and do it all over again the next day?  This will be your day to day existence until you reach your retreat area or find a suitable location to make an extended stay.  Relying on your knowledge of basic massage techniques will give your body an extra boost on its way to recovery that will increase your chances of reaching your retreat.
  2. It is this humble massage therapist’s opinion that human touch is essential for maintaining a healthy physical and mental state of being.  During a time of great stress we may be less likely or unable to seek out the simple touches that give us a sense of being connected to those around us. In a SHTF scenario there will be little semblance to our everyday life, we will be under physical stress, mental stress and most likely emotional stress. We will most likely feel more disconnected from the world around us than at any other time in our life [except for maybe puberty ;)].  The twenty to thirty minutes that you and your retreat group set aside each night to go through a basic massage routine with each other will not only help with the muscle recovery but it will serve as a daily reminder that there are other people working towards the same goal as you: surviving.  This reminder will serve as a method to increase trust and connectedness to those around you.  This sense of connectedness and trust will literally make it easier for you to sleep at night.  It is important to understand that massage therapy is in no way, shape or form sexual in nature.  As a professional massage therapist, this is a misconception that I need to educate people about on a daily basis. 
  3. At some point in time you will need something that you don’t have and a system of bartering may be in place in many communities that you come across.  Massage therapy is an important healing skill that will cost you nothing other than your time and knowledge.  You may not have to trade precious life necessary equipment, food, or ammunition.  Instead, offer your healing hands for trade of the item.  Keep in mind that most people may not understand how important massage is to increasing their well-being, so an important part of your barter will be educating those you will be trading with.  Also, keep in mind that your trade of massage may not hold as much value in a TEOTWAWKI situation, as evidenced by the fact that most people are not willing to pay for a massage when money is tight.  But, if your knowledge of massage techniques is strong enough, you may be able to start a working relationship with another small community. This could be the start of bartering relationship between you and other people you come across, the same way a doctor might barter his or her services for fresh meat or produce.  Please keep in mind that during a massage the person giving the massage is just as vulnerable as the person receiving the massage, so in a TEOTWAWKI situation never work on someone alone, unless you absolutely trust them with your life.  Also, there are plenty of techniques that can be completed without removing clothing.
  4. The techniques that you learn are not just applicable to humans.  The animals that you may be using to help carry your gear will also benefit from your knowledge of these techniques.  For the same reasons that your body will benefit from them.  An over worked animal will not perform to a suitable standard if their musculature has not had enough time to recover. 
  5. Self Defense.  What?  That’s right; I am suggesting that my knowledge base of massage techniques can help me defend myself and my retreat group.  How?  Well, to have a solid foundation for performing massage you must have a solid understanding of the structure and function of the human body.  That means that I know where all the major arteries are located and approximately how deep they sit in the person approaching me.  Also, because of my training in functional assessment of the human body I can point out the site of muscle or joint weakness in the possible threat coming my way.  Because I know how the body works, I can tell you by watching the way a person moves if the limp they are displaying is affected, or caused by a weakness to the left or right side of the body.  This knowledge will help me determine my defense long before I am even within an arm’s reach of the person.

With a working knowledge and understanding of massage therapy you will also have a working knowledge of the human anatomy and physiology.  You will know about the muscles and how they work, the tendons and ligaments that keep the muscles attached to the bones, as well as the blood vessels that keep the muscles supplied with oxygen and energy necessary to work.  Once you understand how the body is meant to work then you can understand how to heal it.  A major plus to  having this knowledge is that even without any traditional medical training you will be able to assess some injuries and know how treat them as well as understand if the cut you or a person in your retreat group just received is an immediate threat to life or not.

Before I go any further, please, let me point out that I am not suggesting that a massage therapist has the knowledge base to diagnose and treat medical conditions.  However, as a massage therapist, I am better able to understand an injury to the body and how to correct the negative effects said injury will have on the function of the body as a whole.   This is why I suggest that understanding massage techniques is an extremely important skill set to add to your knowledge base.  Also, it is important to note that there are some medical conditions for which massage is contraindicated.  So, please, keep in mind that this article is only meant to convince you that these techniques are worth your time in learning.  Most of us do not have the time or money to go to medical school, but in order to become a certified massage therapist you only need to invest minimal amounts of money and your time.  But, unless you have an interest in being a massage therapist when you grow up I wouldn’t worry about becoming certified or licensed (though in most states you cannot practice or advertise your services as a massage therapist without being certified or licensed). 

When choosing the level of massage training you wish to add to your knowledge base please keep these things in mind: financial investment, time investment, and desired outcome.
If you have all the time and money in the world then I would suggest attending a massage program that will teach you the following areas of massage: basic anatomy and physiology, basic massage techniques and functional assessment.  This last part, functional assessment is the most important aspect of the training I received as far as I am concerned.  In this segment of training, you should be taught how to assess the human body for injuries by watching someone move as well as through various muscle testing techniques.  The muscle testing techniques help you to determine if therapeutic massage is indicated for the injury as well as which massage techniques to employ to treat the injury.  The aspect of assessment that teaches you to read the movements of the body will help you not only in treatment of injuries but also in a self-defense aspect as well.  In understanding the way everything is connected in human anatomy, you will be able to determine which side of the body is actually injured as well as where the weak point is located. 

If you have time but not a great deal of money, I would suggest that you seek out a therapist who is like minded and knowledgeable in their field and willing to trade their knowledge for skills you may possess.  This way you get the skill set without investing anything more than your time and own personal knowledge in return.  These knowledge base/skills set trades will not only give you what you want but it will give you important experience in bartering based on the value of knowledge. Check your state laws because this could be considered and internship, in which case you may be able to sit for the licensure exam should you choose to become a licensed therapist.   If you choose to go this route and the person making the knowledge trade with you does not seem to have a strong set of functional assessment skills I would strongly suggest obtaining a copy of Functional Assessment in Massage Therapy by Whitney W. Lowe.  This is the book rom which I was taught functional assessment and I still find it to be extremely helpful when dealing with issues I do not see on a regular basis.  If this book does not seem to help you understand functional assessment then find another, the important part of functional assessment is that you understand what you are looking for if you can’t get it from a book find a practitioner or DVD that will help you understand what you are trying to learn.

If time and money are issues then I would suggest that you find a few good books on therapeutic massage and functional assessment.  I have already mentioned the book by Lowe for functional assessment, so my favorite book to teach you the basics of therapeutic massage is Theory and Practice of Therapeutic Massage.  This book gives you a basic foundation for anatomy and physiology as well as massage history and techniques.  If you are going to get all of your massage knowledge base form books I ask you to also consider the following books to add to your library: Trail Guide to the Body Student Handbook (4th Edition) by Andrew Biel, Mosby's Pathology for Massage Therapists, 2nd Edition by Susan G. Salvo BEd LMT NTS CI NCTMB.

Once you have a foundation for therapeutic massage I would encourage you to seek out additional training and information concerning three specific areas of massage. Sports Massage, Lymphatic drainage massage, and essential oils and herbs for massage.  Sports massage techniques prepare the body for strenuous activity as well as promote muscle recovery after strenuous activity.  Lymphatic drainage helps the body to remove lymphatic fluid from areas of the body where lymph vessels may have been damaged.  Improper lymphatic drainage can lead to painful and debilitating swelling of extremities.  A strong knowledge base in essential oils and herbs used to enhance the benefits of therapeutic massage can increase the benefits while possibly reducing the number of treatments necessary to reach the same goal.  Also, once the SHTF, there may be limited access to the medical care we are used to receiving and a working knowledge of essential oils and herbs could benefit more people than just those who choose to receive massage.

Please remember that practicing massage therapy with proper training can be dangerous if you are not paying attention to what you are doing.  This means that practicing without proper training can be even more dangerous.  For your safety and for the safety of those around you I encourage you to seek proper training of some sort before you begin using massage as a treatment for any ailment.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Growing up, I was never the "Jock" in my family. As the youngest of four boys, I spent a good bit of childhood as a grappling dummy and punching bag. I played soccer and swam on the team but I really preferred spending time exploring nature, building forts, pyrotechnics, reading, and tapping into my imagination. My father is an Air Force Academy graduate and Vietnam veteran who instilled the basics of survival skills in us and focused on cultivating a strong work ethic and obedience amongst his sons. When I was about ten years old, I joined the Boy Scouts of America and to this day never lost sight of the Scout Motto to Be Prepared.

Fast forward twenty years and I’m thirty-one, married with two kids, and I watch the state of our world with skepticism after the financial crisis in 2008 and a couple personal black swans. Living in the Carolina Piedmont, I always made sure I had some extra water, food, and batteries on hand for hurricane season but up until the last couple months my preparations could be considered bare bones at best. There is so much more to be mindful of today with protracted wars, social unrest, encroaching totalitarianism, nuclear disaster, and a looming hell storm of a correction for the global economy, that I would be a fool not to tighten up my emergency preparations.

Take a spin around the Internet and you’ll find an abundance of preparedness sites showcasing advice, gear, food storage, and hydration supplies. One glaring aspect of the survival mentality I frequently see overlooked is the necessity for physical fitness. I am not judging but find myself baffled when I see obese individuals (for instance on the Doomsday Preppers show) espousing the virtues and benefits of prepping. I ask myself how they are going to carry that bug-out bag and all that gear more than 100 yards without promptly succumbing to fatigue. A prepper must be strong enough to handle the physical requirements of chopping wood, harvesting game, hiking challenging terrain, micro-farming, grinding grains, along with executing defensive and offensive tactics. Consider that if you aren’t currently performing or routinely simulating some or all of such aforementioned behaviors, you’ll be hurting with more than blisters and a sore back when the SHTF.

The good news is achieving the strength and endurance required for survival situations is simple, requires little to no equipment, and can be achieved with less than thirty minutes each day. Don’t get me wrong- simple doesn’t mean easy. And the exercises a prepper needs to incorporate in their daily lifestyle will force an individual to dig deep and push his/ herself beyond their comfort zone when they want to submit. We want to focus on intensity over volume. Luckily, most preppers I know already possess degrees of intensity beyond the average citizen.

Now I am no Olympian or physical specimen. However, I do have almost ten years of unarmed combat training which provided a fun, engaging foundation for my survival strength. I encourage all preppers to take some form of martial arts whether it be boxing, judo, Silat, Krav Maga, or a traditional martial art from the local McDojo. You’ll learn valuable skills and cultivate an active lifestyle without the mundane habits of the folks you see doing the same old routine ad nauseam at the local health club.

If you don’t have access to a martial arts school or instructor, fear not. We’ll get you whipped into prepper shape in no time. For those who are overweight or out-of-shape, you must work incrementally toward your goals. Without a baseline level of fitness, trying to overexert yourself by lifting too much weight or not allowing time for rest/recovery will result in injuries, fatigue, and burn-out. As Henry Rollins said, “The Iron never lies,” and she can be a cruel mistress if you don’t respect her. One key to a healthy start is gauging your current abilities and gradually increasing weight, repetitions, and intensity of your routine over time. For all intents and purposes, I’m going to steer this article for fitness virgins or those stuck in the same-old routine. It might be best for those unfamiliar with fitness to check in with their wellness provider for some guidance and be sure there are no unforeseen ailments lingering about before jumping into these challenging and rewarding exercises. 

The primary components of fitness we need to focus on are strength, endurance, and mental fortitude. Here are a couple tests you should perform to evaluate your abilities:

- Can you perform a push-up? How many?
- Can you perform a sit-up? How many?
- Can you perform a dead-hang (suspend yourself)? How long did you hang?
- Can you jog a mile? What time did you clock in?

Push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and jogging are great baseline indicators for your strength and endurance level. All require little investment other than some sweat, a pair of running shoes, and a playground or low-hanging tree limb.

Let’s say you couldn’t get your torso off the ground with push-ups and sit-ups. You dropped like a rock into a pond on the dead-hang. You were sucking wind the first ten feet into the mile jog. This would tell us you are certifiably out of survival shape and can’t even support your bodyweight. It should also tell you while the rest of us are sprinting for the spider hole, booking our G.O.O.D. bags through the mountains, and harvesting crops in our Liberty gardens, you’ve got a pretty good chance of getting rounded up and tossed in a FEMA camp. Life when the SHTF will require us to be tough and push, pull, run, climb, lift, and carry a variety of odd-shaped objects in an infinite amount of situations. Nearly all the tasks required to survive rely on our whole body working as one machine. Take heart that in all actuality, you need little more than your bodyweight to get into excellent shape and cultivate such abilities.

If there is one principle for both the athlete and the terminally unfit to memorize and live by it is Greasing the Groove. Unless you are of beyond-average financial means, most of us preppers scrimp, save, and incrementally acquire our supplies of food, water, gear, and retreat. Little by little, we should acquire what we need to survive without enslaving ourselves with debt. We search pawn shops, thrift stores, garage sales, and flea markets for deals and bargains. This behavior embodies greasing the groove and the same can be applied to fitness. We start with a small, attainable goal and work ourselves toward that goal inch-by-inch, even millimeter-by-millimeter if necessary, and grease the groove until it flows. Then we set new goals when we catch ourselves feeling comfortable.

Five years ago, I couldn’t do one pull-up. That baffled and shamed me because I thought after years of martial arts I would have been stronger. So I began doing research about pull-up mechanics and strategy and came across a web site ( which emphasizes low-tech, high intensity approaches to fitness. The writings of Ross Enamit, the founder of, introduced me to the concept of greasing the groove which comes down to breaking up a challenging movement/behavior/goal into small, attainable bites and being persistent on your course until you achieve success. There was a low oak branch in my backyard and I vowed to perform one pull-up within a week. First I began by hanging from that branch with my arms extended for as long as possible. I’d go outside, hang for a couple seconds, and go on with my gardening or yard work. An hour or so later, I’d come back and hang again. After a couple days of doing a couple sets of dead-hangs on and off, I transitioned to holding myself up at the top of the branch. I’d grab the branch, jump up, and cling as best I could with my chin above the tree limb. If you can’t jump yourself up to the top of your bar or branch, use a chair to get up there. A couple sets off and on over the course of a day and within two days I had greased the groove until I could hold myself up for twenty seconds. My confidence was up and it came time to test this whole greasing of the groove thing so I decided to start from a dead-hang and pull myself up to the top of the branch. And it worked. Not only could I perform one pull-up but I did two! Then I stopped and came back a half an hour later and did another two pull-ups. Progress inspired me. Today I can do nine pull-ups in a set without feeling overly-fatigued. Greasing the groove worked and it should be applied to all exercises and routines.

Functionality is tantamount to many factors when considering our supplies and skills. The same goes for exercises. Strength training, conditioning, and endurance are equally important. We have to forge ourselves through fitness and be able to lift our 60 to 80 lbs. bug-out bag onto our backs then hike it for miles on end, find water, set-up shelter, secure our perimeter, and refuel without succumbing to exhaustion. Functional, full body fitness has gone mainstream with the explosion of Crossfit, P90X, and other such strength/endurance hybrid training programs. I know numerous people getting great results from such programs but since many preppers are DIY kind of folks, they will be able to get in great shape with no more than a jump rope, an exercise mat, a bar strong enough to support their weight, and perhaps a couple free weights. We want our training to challenge, and not just maintain, the muscles and energy systems our body uses to put us in locomotion.

In Ross Enamit’s book, Infinite Intensity, he presents a fitness routine framework the reader is encouraged to tailor to their own abilities. To loosely paraphrase without plagiarizing it starts with:

Day 1) Strength and Conditioning
Day 2) Interval Training
Day 3) Strength Training
Day 4) General Physical Preparedness Training
Day 5) Rest

Sometimes I follow the four days-on, one day-off recommendation. If I have a really taxing work-out and my body tells me to rest the next day, I do it. Or if I spend the day after a work-out being very active by going on walks with the family, practicing empty hands combat skills, playing hard with my kids, or working in the yard, I might work-out every other day. The key is finding what routine and methodology works best for you as long as you are working smart and making gains on your strength and endurance abilities. Be sure to get a notebook and keep track because written goals and tracked results are powerful motivators with patience and experience as the ultimate teachers. 

I recommend everybody starts with a warm-up period for both your work-outs and to ease into your initial weeks of a new fitness routine. A bit of light jogging, a couple low-rep sets of push-ups, jumping rope for a couple minutes, yoga poses, shadowboxing, arm rotations, etcetera, will get your blood pumping and muscles, joints, and ligaments prepared for action. I’m not a fan of static stretching while cold (think just bending over and trying to touch your toes first thing in the morning). Consider the warm-up period your “pre-hab” to help prevent injuries. If you can simulate a couple of the movements you’ll be doing during your routine that day (the pros call these sport-specific movements), then all the better. You are training your mind for what lies ahead as much as your body. And without oxygen, your mind and muscles strain so be sure to breathe through all movements and be mindful of calming down your heart rate after exertion. As you wrap up your exercise for the day, take five to ten minutes to walk around, stretch out, or use a tennis ball or foam roller to work on sore, knotted muscles. This cool-down period will help your body transition into the recovery process and prepare for the work tomorrow.

A great warm-up for preppers would be to set their ALICE pack on the ground, pick it up and get it secured, take it off, and set it down, ten times in a row (alternate the arm you first start threading through the straps  to maintain muscular balance). In fact, I think the best warm-up for a prepper establishing that baseline level of fitness is to muck that fully-loaded survival pack around for an hour, 3-4 times a week for two to four weeks. We did the same thing in Boy Scouts to prepare ourselves for High Adventure trips to the Philmont Ranch out west or Sea Base in the Florida Keys. If you soon discover you need to drop some weight from your pack, by all means lighten the load, but also take careful stock of your limits and the provisions you must do without. After two to three weeks, you will be ready to move on to additional exercises and accelerate your fitness gains.

Here are a couple strength exercises to get you started. These movements will build muscle and expand cardiovascular capacity. They will improve your ability to lift odd-shaped objects like rain barrels, loaded wheelbarrows, and ammo cans, and get your whole body working as a unit. They will contribute to your overall general physical preparedness. You can readily find demonstrations of the exercises I’m listing on the Internet (search YouTube) or in fitness books available at public libraries. Research the movements in detail and seek out credible sources for tutorials. All can be performed with little or no need to purchase equipment if you are determined and not willing to accept excuses. Pull-ups, push-ups, presses, dips, prisoner squats, bug-out bag lifts, sand bag carrying, isometrics, lunges, and step-ups are only a few low-tech options which will challenge you and simulate many of the movements and actions we’ll need to perform when the Schumer hits the fan. Try to do about five to seven of these different exercises during a work-out. Start with two to four sets of the exercise you choose and perform between four to eight reps without pushing your muscles to failure. As you progress in your physical preparations, you can periodically work toward your current physical limits or move greater loads to push beyond plateaus and test your will. Once again, grease the groove. It always works when combined with determination.   

After two weeks of forced marches with your bug-out bag, you’ll have given a nice boost to the lungs and laid a foundation for your conditioning routine. Conditioning exercises will test and improve your agility, speed, strength, and cardiovascular capacity. Do you want just one extra tank of gas in your supply inventory or forty extra tanks? Same goes with your body. Consistent effort, repetition, and limited rest periods between sets will quickly-boost your endurance levels. Conditioning exercises can be as simple as a couple rounds of jumping rope at various speeds, brief bursts of running/sprinting hills, and laps in the pool. More advanced options include free weight or kettle bell swings, cleans, jerks, and presses to test your muscles and lungs and brain. Marching over hills or mountain trails would both serve as excellent conditioning exercises. One of the best parts of conditioning routines is they don’t need to be long to be effective. In fact, a Japanese scientist named Izumi Tabata discovered athletes made tremendous improvements in their conditioning and work capacity, metabolism of glucose, and the burning of fat by exerting high intensity effort for twenty seconds and actively-resting for ten seconds. When performed in 20 second work and 10 second rest cycles, high intensity interval training (HIIT) will boost your cardiovascular abilities. The best part is many HIIT exercises (cycling, sprinting, jumping rope) can bring results when performed in as little as a single four minute (or less) set. If you need to perform longer or more varied intervals than suggested by the Tabata Protocol, than customize your interval training as you see fit.

In my opinion, there is no better exercise for building your conditioning, endurance, and mental fortitude than the much-abhorred and much-lauded burpee. What is a burpee you ask? Well it is the unholy love-child of a push-up and jump squat repeated until your heart is beating like a drum and your breakfast is creeping up your throat. Burpees will humble even the fittest of athletes and bring exponential gains to the beginner and experienced alike. You start standing with your feet hips width apart and your hands at your sides. Bend forward and place your hands in front of your feet. Kick your legs back so you are in a plank position (the starting position/apex of a push-up). Lower your body down until your chest touches the ground then push yourself back up. Hop your feet back (beginners should step or walk their feet) behind your hands and as you start to stand upright use your legs to spring yourself into the air like a basketball player shooting a free-throw. Rinse and repeat. When everything is telling you to quit, you must perform at least one more repetition. You’ll teach yourself that you are always capable of a little more effort (even if you fail to complete the whole range of motion) and you’ll be conditioning yourself to fight fatigue and push through adversity with sheer will power.  Continue to increase the reps as you make gains and improve work capacity. Burpees are "sick and merciless" and they will make you a mental warrior with a 100 gallon gas tank and napalm in your guts.  

To date, I’ve found a diverse routine consisting of calisthenics, free weights, jumping rope, running hills, swimming, interval training, and close-quarters-combat training, four to six days a week has me in better shape at 31 than when I was swimming the 400 meter freestyle in high school. But I would never be in this place if I hadn’t respected the iron and greased the groove. This back-to-basics approach to fitness (where you don’t require a gym and consistently focus on pushing yourself to new levels of strength and conditioning) will fortify your mind, body, and spirit for trying times when the SHTF or we experience TEOTWAWKI. A solid strength and conditioning routine will also keep you healthy and capable to handle the physical demands of our rapidly changing society. I hope this article helps the fit become fitter and encourages the out-of-shape and overweight members of the prepper community to drop the excuses and start greasing the groove. Remember to always eat your vegetables and there is no better time to start than now.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I was born and raised on a farm, lived military and worked all my life, so I am accustomed to hard work and understand the need for a strong physical body. After years of working 10-12 hours a day, I decided to go back to college at nights to get a degree in pastoral studies, so I could keep busy during my ‘retirement’ years. In August, 2005 my life changed with a bad accident, now, disabled and in a wheelchair, my life is upside down and for me it was TEOTWAWKI.  I have always been a prepper and I’m not really sure why, a habit passed down in our family since the great depression. I never ever realized the importance of it until that day.  I am now a firm believer that all people need to be aware of what can happen and to be more prepared for all possibilities. Suddenly I couldn’t work, was facing multiple surgeries and the whole world looked different. Let me tell you now, everything we’ve been told about assistance if you ever become disabled is……..not the truth. For 14 months afterward I had no income and nothing but medical bills and no insurance (COBRA insurance was more expensive than the mortgage.) My choices became clear, sell everything I own (even though I could not prepare it for sale) and move into a nursing home, or get help at home. Luckily, my daughter and grandson moved in with me. We lived off our savings and food storage. I taught my family to forage, seems like in all our years of plenty, I have forgotten to teach my children and grandchildren the skills my grandmother taught me as a child. We ate our salads from the front yard and our garden; the food storage carried us through along with thoughtful friends who would at first bring in meals or a cake or pie. We saved the home, barely.

 Everyone needs to think now about what you would do if someone became disabled during SHTF and how you would care for them.  We now consider ourselves lucky we have already prepared for health related issues. Most preppers I know are my age, Viet Nam era people, we older preppers need to cover all our contingencies, as age itself has its own problems. Have you thought about how you might transport, lift, mobilize and care for a handicap or elderly loved one? Think about it now, even if no one in the family is currently handicap, you never know when something will happen. Anyone who is an active, healthy and disciplined person today can be disabled tomorrow. It could hit you like it did me, literally out of the blue, on a Friday night.

Initially I did not think about our prepping supplies or bug-out locations, only about making it from one day to the next. Now in a wheelchair, the house had to be modified, adaptive aids purchased, a ramp had to be built, our home had to be rearranged, lifts had to be installed, doorways widened and a disability van purchased. These things took extra money I did not have. Modifying our prepper supplies had to wait, and modifying our bug-out locations was way in the future. But now, years down the road, some of what I learned is that no amount of money saved is enough, unless you are in the 1%. One year of food storage is not enough, it can be stretched and stretched, but when it is gone it is most definitely gone. People won’t look at you the same, and that is fine, you don’t see them in the same light either. Some people who professed to be your best friend won’t be found anywhere. And most importantly, you will reevaluate your life and everything in it, including your faith. In times like these, you need to go ahead and pull out the good china and crystal to use every day, “enjoy it now” became my theme. I wish I had done that earlier in life. 

Many survivalists believe in the ‘survival of the fittest’ theory, and would be the first to leave the disabled and handicapped behind. There is something to be said for that, for if I become a burden to my family, as hard as it would be, I know that I would have to stay behind and let them go on. That would be very, very hard for me and for them, but we have discussed it to great lengths and all understand that it could be inevitable. Once said and understood by all, next step is to plan around my disabilities and see how to incorporate these new needs. I realized physically, I need the same thing as everyone else; food, water, shelter, self-defense, a potty, a place to sleep and something to read (my Bible), only my needs are now met in a different way.  We realized we don’t need two sets of preps; my preparations can work for the whole family, while their preparations won’t work for me. Sometimes I feel I am a burden to the family when they remind me that I bring wisdom, humor and hugs to the table. I know ways to defend my family, ways to gather and grow food, how to sew and make anything we need without a pattern and how to wiggle thru life to thrive, not just to survive. Everyone who has life can contribute something, even if it is just the gift of their presences, never, never discount a handicap or disabled person as less than human.

It goes without saying, if you have an electric wheelchair, always keep it charged. I have my charging unit in a backpack over the back handles of my wheelchair, so it is always with me. Have an alternate way to charge it, like a small generator or independent power supply system. My wheelchair has hidden pockets where I can keep pepper spray/mace or a weapon. Many handicap persons are not capable of handling or carrying a handgun or weapon. Also, not all physically handicapped persons are mentally handicapped. I have been surprised since my accident how many people have spoken to me in baby talk or less expecting that since I am in a wheelchair, I’m probably mentally challenged also. I want to hit those people, not only for thinking something so stupid, but for every mentally challenged person out there that has had to put up with stupid people like that. People also tend to find handicap people as vulnerable, and treat us that way. Thank goodness I already had a permit to carry a concealed weapon. My attitude is ‘don’t mess with me, in or out of my wheelchair’ It’s important not to look vulnerable, even the home. When someone looks at your home and sees a ramp, automatically you become a target. Our handicap ramp is to the side and landscaped in a way it doesn’t show. Disability license plates give you away also, so it is smarter to use a removable "hang ticket" [attached to the rearview mirror] instead of a plate.

Many modifications can be made at home, for instance; my daughter created an easy chair for me by adding heavy duty caster rollers to the legs of a plastic outdoor yard chair, it is really handy and easy for us all. My wheelchair can also be used to transport barrels of water, cast iron cookpots, sandbags and other heavy items. Transfer boards can be made from any heavy plastic or smooth wooden boards and used to move any heavy object from one place to another.  Sock pullers can be made from old bleach bottles and a bit of rope by cutting off the top and bottom and slitting the side then attaching long rope handles. The sock is then placed on top of the bottle and pulled onto the foot.

We realized we needed to make minor changes to our accessory bug-out sites also. We have four bug-out locations, one in each direction. Some are in conjunction with other family members, some are only for us, depending on which way we have to travel (hopefully we would not have to travel and could hunker down here at home).  Many of the little things I don’t need everyday any more, we have moved to our ‘Bugoutmobile’ to ease the burden. I suggest people consider adding bed wedges, adult diapers, transfer boards, reachers, portable handicap potties, rollator or walker, small portable lift system, and transfer chairs to their preps. If you have these accessories you will be able to care for almost anyone in any situation.

But the most important thing is to nurture close family relationships, as nothing can be more important to your survival. Do whatever it takes to keep your family first, to keep you all together and to learn to live with each other in a confined area. Everyone has to sacrifice; everyone has to give, to live in a happy community atmosphere. You have to diligently work to achieve family accord; it doesn’t come automatically just because you are all family. Practicing now dealing with your family in a confined space will let your family learn what traits they need to work on, because when SHTF you may have wished you had already learned this lesson and already worked out these issues. Also, living in a confined space, you may reconsider how many beans you have in storage.

 I’d like to share some things that may help someone else, things I learned the hard way. There is a difference between early, regular and disabled pension. If you must leave work due to an accident to take your pension, take a disability pension. There is a difference between transfer chair, wheelchairs and electric chairs. Transfer chairs are lightweight and inexpensive for temporary use (or prepping), wheel chairs are manual heavy duty, and electric chairs are wheelchairs that are battery pack for people who do not have full use their arms. Some auto manufactures will give you a discount for ordering a new disability fully-equipped van (some changes to policy have been made since the recession of 2008). The National Park system issues ‘Access Passes’ granting free access to a permanently disabled person good for the rest of their lifetime. Look for assistance from Community Action groups (like Agency on Aging) not from where you would expect. Adaptive aids make all the difference in the world. Items like reachers, transfer boards, leg lifters, bed wedges, bathroom and dressing aids, wheeled carts and baskets, sock pullers and gel pads are all helpful for older preppers.  Prepping is for hard times, and in hard times you still need to make life as simple as possible. All older preppers as well as those with a disabled family member should consider looking carefully at your in-home and bug-out supplies.    

There were cocky young men in my office that stood over me and defiantly said they would never be disabled, it would never happen to them, they are strong and would overcome any physical injury. Well, I probably felt the same way when I was around 17 years old. But I have learned over the years that nothing is impossible, everything isn’t what it professes to be, you can count your true friends on one hand and taking care of your family is a virtue, whatever their condition.  So believe in miracles and prepare for anything, even disability.

If you would like to add these two sites to your bookmarks, it took me forever to find these places for things I needed: and

Everyone is familiar with planning for "The End Of The World As We Know It" (TEOTWAWKI).  Our long and costly preparations that we make in order to survive the massive disaster that will one day change our present way of living. We try to predict what type of disaster may happen and plan accordingly. It may be plans to survive the coming economic collapse, some form of EMP whether be it solar or man made, or some form of a global pandemic, the list goes on and on. I enlisted in the US Coast Guard back in 1975 and took our motto, Semper Paratus ("Always Prepared") to heart.

All the years of climbing up the sides of ships at sea using a Jacobs ladder to conduct Law Enforcement (L/E) boardings or the thousands of hours running small boats to conduct Search and Rescue (SAR). I never dreamed that I would have three life changing events. Each one being something that would be "The End Of My World As I Knew It".  The first was in 1994 when I was involved in an auto accident where I lost my first wife and son which not only took some of the physical life out of my body but took its emotional toll also. The second was in 2002 when I went through a very bad divorce and lost 88 acres of very well set up survival property. The last was in December of 2004  at age 47 when I found out my body was being attacked by a disease know as Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Not only is this a physical disease which one day may lead to being crippled, but you have to try and imagine the emotional toll it takes also. In the few months it took the Coast Guard to process my medical discharge, I went from employed to unemployed.
People who are young and in good physical shape never dream of one day that something may happen that will change their lives and how they must cope with it after.  It doesn't have to be a disease that changes your life but may be something as simple as just growing old. I feel that I'm one of the lucky ones who has this disease, I'm still able to walk, not very far at one time, not in the heat and many times with the help of a cane, but every morning when I get out of bed and I'm able to walk to the bathroom on my own, its the start of a good day and "Life is Good". Many years ago if I needed to walk some place it all just came naturally, now I need to concentrate on every step I take. There are many things in life that I can no longer do but I have to be positive and be thankful for the things that I still can. 

Needless to say this has changed the way I have to make preparations to survive not just TEOTWAWKI, but each and every day. Living with this for 8 years now, I have pretty much learned my limitations. I know that I cannot handle temperatures much above 80 degrees or below 40, so this determines where in the country I can live. I know I have a left side weakness and that I will fatigue quickly if I overdue any physical activity, so this tells me that bugging out on foot carrying supplies is not happening.  At present I'm able to get a three month supply of my medications at a time but one day the supply may run out due to some future disaster.

People who are dependent on medications may only be able to get a 30 day supply at a time either due to the type of medication or insurance reasons. I would suggest that you sit down with your Dr. and explain your concerns as to your limited availability of medications. Maybe there is something he or she can do to at least get you on a 90 day supply at a time. Depending on the type of your medication it may require refrigeration. This is something you will have to make plans for in the event you have a loss of power. For the people who fall into this category I suggest a small economical generator that will run a small refrigerator or for a longer lasting system you should look into a solar panel system that will run a 12 volt DC camper cooler.       

Knowing ones limitations is an eye opener and we need to plan accordingly. Many of you for now may be in good health or physical condition but you cannot foresee the future and what your abilities will be when you get older. My brother many years ago lost some of his fingers while using a table saw and this has greatly changed what he can do and how he needs to do it, such as shooting a rifle. I was talking with him the other night and he mentioned at the age of 60 he is not going to hike into the woods, shoot a 140 pound deer and drag it two miles out as he was able to do in his younger days. I know that JWR in one of his articles here mentions ways to bring the game to you but depending on the type of disaster, it may come down to more hunters in the woods than game.

Knowing that one day you may be in the position where you cannot hunt or grow your own food you should stock up on the wide variety of Emergency Foods that have been processed and packed for long term storage. Its expensive and can take up a lot of room depending on how much you decide to stock up on, but if you plan accordingly now you will be much better off in the long run. In emergency preparedness you cannot think of the here and now, you have to think way down the road.  What kind of physical condition do you think you will be in 10, 20 or 30 years from now if you live a normal healthy life?

As you make your plans in preparedness now, think if you can still carry out your plan if you no longer have the use of your strong hand or your strength and stamina is not like it use to be. What if you have trouble walking or your eye sight is failing, can you still use the systems you have put in place for survival? Over the past few years it seems more and more people in my age group (mid-50s) are having hip or knee replacement. Many times they come back stronger than they were up to before the surgery, but what would you do if you needed the surgery in the middle of a disaster it cannot be done. In my younger days the further out in the country and away from people I could get the better it was. Now that I'm older and have a disability I feel being closer to neighbors and medical facilities has become more important for my daily survival.        

In my family, I'm the youngest of three boys. It was in 1994 when I had my accident, in the late 1990s is when my eldest brother lost some of his fingers. Then, in 2010 the middle brother was in an auto accident and now has a steel rod  in his leg. Hopefully its not that we are a hard luck family, but accidents do happen. One never plans on being in an accident or having a medical problem, but maybe in the making of our preparations for TEOTWAWKI we should plan as if we may.            

In the making of all your preparations have you set up plans to include someone in your family not being able to carry their share of the load or needing special attention? Do you have a family member in a nursing home? Knowing what may happen to them would you leave them there or pull them out to live with you? How about a child with special needs, have you planned for the caring of them? You can find tons of information in books, tv shows and on the internet on theories of what may happen in the event of some form of disaster and many thoughts on how and what you should do to prepare, but no one can tell you how your going to react to being informed of a disease or how you will recover mentally and physically from an accident or the death of a loved one.

It's better to re-arrange your plans and make the adjustments now than to continue on spending money and setting up systems that one day you may not be able to use. Do you have a bunker you need to climb down into? Do you need to hike any distance to your bug out location (BOL)? For your water supply will you have to carry it up from a stream in buckets? Do you rely on cutting down trees and splitting them up for firewood? Do you have to shovel or plow snow each year from around your walks or driveway? Do you have to shovel the heavy snow off the roof of your house after a hard winter storm? If you can do it now, will you be able to do it 10 years from now? Do you have stashes of supplies that are in hard to access places? Are the majority of your supplies in heavy bulk items?
If you want to have an idea what things might be like, try these few simple exercises. Tape the thumb of your strong hand to the side of your hand. Now try to do some simple things like: opening up a can of beans with a manual can opener, shooting your pistol or rifle, riding your motorcycle or bicycle, getting dressed or using the bathroom. Just spend an entire day doing your normal things in life and see how it works out. Now for the second test, put your strong arm in a sling, bind it to you body and spend the day again doing normal living. How do you feel about climbing a ladder, can you still shoot your weapons, how about carrying a box of your supplies, can you pull out your generator and fire it up, can you still use a hammer and nails to make a simple repair? Want one more exercise? Place an eye patch over your strong eye and again go about your daily routine. One thing you should really test with this one is shooting from strong eye to weak eye. The reason I ask you to bind your strong side is, this will give you an idea faster of your limitations when you have to use your weak side for daily living.

For me, I have found out that I can no longer drive a vehicle with a clutch, including a motorcycle.  I cannot walk much more than 100 yards without getting tired and needing rest. When I go shopping I usually find a cart in the parking lot and use that for my support while walking. I do not handle stairs very well or climbing hills. I cannot be out in the heat or in the cold for very long. I do not operate any power equipment without having a cell phone or when my wife is not home. Because of the weakness of my left hand, I no longer carry items in two hands, I may drop the item in my left and also I need one free in case I trip and fall. If I have 6 bags of groceries to carry in, it takes me 6 trips. Some days I have energy and some days I don't. I don't go anywhere now without my reading glasses. I know when my body is getting fatigued and I need to sit down and rest. One day it was in the middle of Lowe's on a pallet of drywall compound for about 10 minutes until I could make it out to my car for a short nap.

When I bought my current house back in 2003, I bought it for the location with prepping and survival in mind more than the design of the house. I had not been diagnosed with my MS yet so I had no idea that one day it would not be wheelchair friendly if I need to go that route. Even now with the things I have put in place for prepping I may have to either abandon all this one day for a place I can live and move around in or tear this one down and build new. Before I use to be able to work construction around the house doing all my own repairs and projects, now I need to hire them out. Due to no fault of my own, I hate to say it, but in some things I have become dependent on others for help. I do not run anywhere and I know my reactions are not quick.

My strongest assets which makes me know that I will be a survivor is I have been in the "Valley of the Shadow of Death" and my God has carried me out on more than one occasion and he will carry me through anything. Through him, I have a very strong positive attitude. Good luck in your adventures and preps.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Let me start with this statement: You should be in good cardio condition to survive the acronyms, and I can help you get there. Like the guy that sells Men’s clothing say’s … “I guarantee it!”
Why is it important? Because life ain’t a video game! Anyone that visits this site more than once, I would hope, has enough knowledge to know you won’t be playing this game sitting on the couch. And while it would be nice to think of all our fellow men as “good people” … we know when the going gets tough: the un-prepared and desperate folks, and bad guys, will get going.
Even if you live in the perfect dream come true enclave in the Great American Redoubt, you still have to protect it, and you still have to hunt/gather/plant/harvest food and water. If you have a retreat, but don’t live there – you have to get there – and don’t assume you’ll be able to drive. If you live in a big city, suburb or small town – sooner or later, you gotta leave the house. And when you leave your house, whether to patrol you’re area, gather intelligence, scavenge for food/water, or are forced to leave – you need to be in good enough physical condition to stay ahead of the bad guys. It would be nice if you were so stealthy, that you could always avoid dangerous encounters. But when you come face to face with trouble, you have two choices: Fight or Flight. I won’t go into ‘fight’, since that’s a whole different topic and I just read a great article by Gunfighter on small team tactics; but for ‘flight’ – there is no choice but to be in the best condition you can. And I don’t care how far out of shape you are, you can improve. Frankly, if ANYONE depends on you, then you owe it to them to be in good enough shape to do your part and help out.

Brief Background. I was very active in my 20s and early 30s. But the combination of getting married (and my wife is a great cook), having a job that keeps me at a desk 8+hrs/day, and generally staying home with the family ….. all came together, so that by the time I was in my early 40s, it’s fair to say I was out of shape – big time. I'm 6 feet tall, but weighed 225 pounds, with a medium frame. However, at the age of 47, I achieved Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do. That Black Belt test was the most grueling physical thing I have ever done. How did I go from around 45 pounds overweight, and not able to climb two flights of stairs without breathing hard – to surviving a 5hr beating that is a Black Belt test?

This is how you get there, no matter what kind of shape you are in now: Set some goals, Get off your ‘six’ and start, create and follow a training plan. I’ve included mine to help you get started.
After getting in the physical condition required to survive a Black Belt test, you might ask – what are you training for now? For me, it’s simply to be in good enough condition to stay ahead of trouble. At age 50, I don’t pretend that I can take on all threats alone, martial arts training or not. So my goal is that, as I mentioned at the start of this article , if I have to ‘flight’ from a situation, I have a plan: if they run – I run faster, when they start to slow down to a jog  – I keep running, when they slow to a walk – I keep jogging, if they stop – I keep walking. My goal is to put some distance between myself and the threat, and plot my next steps from safety. Knowing that predators are usually after easy targets, they usually won’t follow you for long. And in the condition most folks are in these days, they can’t. So my training goal became: be able to evade, run/jog/walk, for as long as it takes. In my estimation, that would put me in good enough condition to elude most threats. You can tailor your end state goal to your environment and situation. But don’t fool yourself … you cannot be invisible, and will not be able to fight in all circumstances. Except Chuck Norris, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him run?
How to begin … Make a commitment and start! Set a goal and commit to improving. You don’t have to climb Mt. Everest by the end of week one. By taking it in steps, you will be able to get there. As you achieve a milestone, set a new one, until you ultimately get in the condition you think serves you well. For me, the first thing I needed to do is get my weight down to a reasonable, healthy level. I targeted 180lbs, based on where I was before I got married. Second, I needed to be able to function with my heart rate up in the 170-180bpm range for an extended period of time, with short periods of going full out. When I started training in martial arts, I could not even spar for two minutes before being winded! So the strategy is to improve over time, and be realistic. It took me a year to get to where I could jog five miles without stopping, at a pace to finish in one hour. That’s 6mph, or a 10 minute mile. Pretty reasonable target. And in the process, I dropped 45lbs in about six months.
Depending on where you are, you can start at any level below.

·         Starting Out
   My initial training step was to walk for an hour, as fast as I can. Keeping track of how far I went in that hour. If you are out of shape and overweight … you might do this several weeks, or a few months, to start building some cardio strength. Be patient and persistent.
·         Two Intervals (Walk and Jog)

   My next step was to begin adding level of difficulty in intervals. As I mentioned, I could only jog for about 2 minutes when I started. So what I did was … jog for 2 min, walk fast for 5 min, and repeat. At first, I couldn’t do that for an hour, I ended up walking more than jogging. It took me a few weeks to get there.

   Next step is simply to keep increasing the intervals. When I go to the gym, I do intervals in minutes. When I go to the county park and run either on the ¼ mi oval running track or the 2 mi trail, I switch between doing intervals by time or distance. It’s nice to mix it up so you don’t get bored. Start off by just trying to keep moving, whatever pace you run so you can jog the whole ¼ mile, then walk ¼ mile, repeat and keep that up for an hour or 5 miles, whichever comes first. When you can do that, move to jogging ½ mile, walk ¼ mile. Then jog 1 mile, walk ¼ mile. Etc, etc. Until you can jog the full five miles. Once you can jog five miles, work on pace. The first time I was actually able to jog five miles without stopping, it took me a little over an hour. Over time, I was able to pick up the pace, and now I can jog five miles in about 40-45 minutes. Why did I pick five miles? A professional trainer once told me: “If someone can run five miles, I can train them to run a marathon”. So I thought is must be a good target?
·         Three intervals (run/jog/walk)

   Now that you have a good cardio base, you can start to train for evasion scenarios. It’s time to add a third interval – sprinting. As with the plan above, I add time or distance in the mix for sprinting. Initially, I used the same strategy as above, to continuously improve. I downloaded a free interval timing app to my iPhone, but you could do the same thing with a watch. Try starting with 15 sec sprint, 30 sec jog, 2 min fast walk, repeat. Not as easy as it sounds, especially after an hour. Keep increasing to a target you believe will meet your needs. Again, my goal is to be able to sprint until the bad guy slows down and put a little distance between me and the threat, then stay ahead until I get to a safe area. I am getting to where I can flat out sprint for a several minutes, run hard at a fast pace for several minutes more, decreasing to a jog for a minute or two to recover and allow my heart rate to drop, the run hard again if needed.

·         Advanced Training?

   First and foremost – you can start training in a Gym, on a treadmill. But that just doesn’t duplicate real world. You will find that actually running on a track is harder. And a jogging trail is a step up in difficulty from a track. So to keep taking in to the next step, keep making it more real ... Try running trails, up and down hills, thru heavy woods, tall grass, in the middle of the hot summer, even in the rain. All that keeps it interesting, and you won’t get as bored doing the same thing day after day. Secondly, mix up the training – variety is more fun. Some days I just jog. Some days I do mix up intervals based on time – two intervals (2 min jog / 5 min walk), some days three intervals (15 s sprint / 30s jog / 2min walk), or mix up the distance ( ¼ mile sprint, 1mile jog, ¼ mile walk). Also, I have found it helps me to take a day off and rest. I don’t work out on Sunday, regardless of whether I missed a day during the week, for whatever reason.

   Lastly, consider training with your G.O.O.D., BOB, or SWM (stays with me) gear. What are the chances you may have to evade while toting one of these? How far can you walk with a 50 lb G.O.O.D. pack? Can you jog with a 20 lb BOB? How fast can you run with a SWM bag? (Mine is a medium size fanny pack.)

Measuring Success. Obviously, one measure of success is the increase in distance and rate you can run. But, if you are like me, you want cake and to be able to eat it too. The best part of all this is, you can eat what you want, and still get in shape. You don’t have to eat grass and pine cones, join a gym or hire a personal trainer. Here is tip … Get a cheap bathroom scale, and learn some simple math to measure success. Your Weight = Food – Exercise. Understand, to get your weight where it needs to be, it doesn’t matter what you eat, as much as if you are burning it up. This article isn’t about nutrition, just how to know if you are moving in the right direction. So, jump on the scale each day, and if over time: a) weight stays the same – then you are burning the food you eat, and are balanced; b) if, over time, weight is increasing – you are either eating too much or not exercising enough; c) if, over time, your weight is decreasing – you are expending more energy than you are eating. It’s really pretty simple.

I use these free iPhone apps and found them to be very valuable:

  • WalkingGPS – This is a great app to track exactly where you have been, and it even plots your path on a map. Measures distance, time, rate, and even altitude change. I’ll bet the first time you walk what you ‘think’ is five miles, you are way off, it’s further than you think. This will keep you honest. It’s also easy to see the pace you are moving at in real time. So you know if you are jogging at 4mph (15min mile), 6mph (10min mile) or 10mph (6min mile). I’ll bet the first time you try to run at 8mph you are shocked at how fast that really is?
  • IntervalTimer – I can set it up to alert me when it’s time to walk, jog, sprint and listen to music at the same time. I’ve saved several … Jog/Walk: 2m/5m, 10m/2m or Sprint/Jog/Walk: 15s/30s/2min, 1m/4m/1m, etc.
  • Lose It! – great way to track your weight over time, and does a great job of helping you keep track of calories if you want to.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I don’t recall a time in my life when I wasn’t doing at least some planning for “worst case” situations.  That may have come from growing up in an earthquake prone part of the country, and during the cold war when we drilled for nuclear attacks during the school day.  My mother, who was a single parent through much of my life, also modeled planning for “hard times” by storing food, following world and local trends closely, and being careful with money.  I became serious and more intentional in prepping following Katrina, when it confirmed my suspicion that we had better be prepared to take care of ourselves in a disaster, and after reading James Howard Kunstler’s The Long Emergency,  and watching his predictions come true.  My spouse and children have endured my lectures, emails, nagging and copies of relevant articles with patience, and are also on board with their own preparations.

By training and background I am a clinical psychologist, with specialty training in health psychology, helping people manage the emotional impact associated with illness, injury and death.  In addition, I am active in disaster preparedness and disaster mental health, serving locally and internationally as a disaster responder.   I have truly seen situations in which it is TEOTWAWKI for those involved, where home, family, job, government services have all been lost.  And through my years in practice, as well as my work in disaster planning, it is clear that the most important preparation is not “beans, band-aids, and bullets” (although those are important) but mental preparedness and psychological flexibility.   I want to share some of the factors which come into play in big abnormal events such as natural disasters or terrorist events, because I believe we can take lessons learned from these into situations where it all comes apart, and we are left to stand and survive if we can.  In this essay, I’d also like to help you develop some simple skills to manage your own emotional responses and to help your family and friends.

It may surprise some to know that research shows that the most common long-term response to the trauma of a major disaster is not Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but resiliency and growth.  People are pretty good at overcoming bad things without any help from professional counselors or other mental health types.  That’s not to say that people aren’t affected by losing their homes, family members and security.  They are.  Most people show a range of symptoms in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, but tend to recover in about three months.   Some of the responses we should be prepared for are discussed in the next section. Some people will have some significant longer terms psychological issues following a disaster, but hopefully, those people will be in the minority. 

Common Short Terms Responses to Disaster and Loss:

Big events have an impact on body, mind, and spirit.  Once the initial phase of a disaster has passed, doctors begin to see many more patients showing up with MUPS (medically unexplained physical symptoms).  When we human beings experience a traumatic event, it releases a cascade of stress hormones and other chemicals in our bodies.  Sometimes, the body reacts as though the threat is ongoing and the condition can become chronic.  When the body is out of balance, we often begin to experience stomach aches, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, trouble sleeping, pain, and changes in appetite.  The distress experienced by someone who has those symptoms is real.  The pain is real.  It’s a real response to a real physiological change in the body.  But…it is not related to a disease, infection, or injury, but to the body’s chronic stress response.

We also commonly experience cognitive or thinking changes such as trouble making decisions, difficulty with remembering things, trouble concentrating, and re-occurring thoughts about what has happened and what we’ve witnessed.  And, our behaviors and emotions can change due to the stress we’ve undergone, making us more likely to be irritable or aggressive, cry more often, withdraw from our loved ones, feel terribly guilty or depressed, feel panic, engage in more risky behaviors, or “self medicate” with drugs or alcohol. 

We may experience a change in our relationship with God, becoming angry over what has happened, losing interest in prayer or avoiding worship settings and rituals, which formerly were very important to our spiritual lives.  The opposite may also happen, where there may be a renewal in faith life following a terrible loss.

Children and teens are vulnerable to all of the above as well.  In addition, children may regress in their development, acting much younger than their age.  They may begin to wet the bed or play like a younger child, and have trouble being able to separate from their parents or loved ones.  Nightmares are common.  In young children, you may see repetitive and obsessive play, which re-enacts the event(s) they have experienced.  This is the way a young child attempts to make sense of the event and regain some sense of control. 

Interestingly, the elderly can often do better under such duress than others, possibly due to their life experiences which have provided some “stress inoculation”.  Seniors can provide wisdom from their perspectives as well as information from their life experiences.  On the other hand, seniors who have some dementia may become very agitated and confused due to being away from familiar settings and routines.

Individuals with pre-existing mental health issues such as anxiety, depression or psychosis may, in the short term, temporarily get better.  It was reported that, following September 11th, many patients in psychiatric wards temporarily “cleared” their psychosis and the rates of suicide declined.  However, without the access to appropriate medication, patients with significant psychological disorders will need care and support.   Individuals with mental disabilities such as developmental delays or head injuries may experience confusion, fear, and disorientation. 

Many people following a major disaster will have lost loved ones, but be unable to access the services and rituals which would typically help them through the grieving process.  For example, mortuary services and funerals may not be possible in the events of mass casualties, civil breakdown, or pandemic diseases.  Community support may be limited because so many have experienced deaths in their own families and are unable to reach out and help others.  This may lead to complicated bereavement and depression.

When TSHTF How Can You Help Yourself?:

We cannot avoid bad things happening, but we can prepare ourselves psychologically so that we can more effectively use the tools, food, skills and other resources we’ve gathered.  People who do best when their worlds fall apart tend to have some specific factors helpful to their ability to survive and thrive:

They have a support system of family and friends, who can share in the struggle

Human beings are innately social creatures.  We are designed to live in community with others.  The myth of the lone wolf, living off the land all by himself, is just that…a myth.  Following disastrous events, people who have community support are more likely to survive.   Groups are more effective than individuals in identifying resources, sharing work, and in defense against outside forces.

They have spiritual practices which help them to find meaning and comfort even in dark times.

The old saying goes that “there are no atheists in foxholes”.  It may be true that you can suddenly discover your Maker in tough times.  However, preparing for tough times is enhanced when your prayer, study, worship, and charitable practices are a core part of who you already are. 

They have an innate style, or learned a psychological style of thinking which helps them remain more calm, more optimistic about their future, and more realistic about the threats to themselves and their loved ones, neither living in fear nor in denial. They tend to have a mind-set of assuming they have control over their lives and decisions vs being at the mercy of others’ control.

We’ve all known people who were quick to panic, tended to see the worst possible outcomes, magnify the impact, fail to see the good portions of any event.  Those folks generally suck all the energy out of their companions, and are not useful when the SHTF.  I’m assuming all those on forums such as this want to be useful and helpful and not a drain on resources during emergencies.  This involves practicing mental exercises in much the same way you practice marksmanship, canning, or gardening.

Here are some tools which may help you become more flexible and resilient in your approach if life takes a terrible turn:

Learn to recognize when you are making “thinking errors” such as magnifying, assuming, having a negative bias, or worrying unnecessarily.

    1. Magnifying turns a problem into a disaster.  For example, you may drop a case of canning jars and break them.  This is a problem.  It may create a resource limit.  Canning jars may be hard or impossible to get.  HOWEVER, it does not qualify as an End Of The World event.  Your family will not starve because of this one thing.  One way to counter Magnifying is to ask yourself “what is truly the worst case scenario with this event?” and then counter that thought with “and what can I do if that happens?”  In nearly every event, there will be some way to mitigate.

    2. Assuming creates catastrophes when there may not be one in the immediate future.  For example, I might assume that because Mrs. Smith doesn’t say “hello” to me she doesn’t like me.  I may further decide that if she doesn’t like me, she might wish me harm.  Because I assume she wishes me harm, I avoid her…and so on.  If I ask myself whether my assumption might be in error, and whether there might be another reason for Mrs. Smith’s behavior, I can flex my thinking to include the possibility that 1) Mrs. Smith didn’t hear me say “hello”, 2)that she might be distressed about something completely unrelated to me, 3) that she didn’t see me etc.  Those possibilities allow me to more realistically assess the whole situation and also provide me with a chance to practice more flexible thinking.

    3. A negative bias causes us to fail to see the possible positive outcome to a situation or decision, thereby narrowing options.  Listing pros and cons and forcing the numbers to be equal can be a good exercise in learning how to counter your bias.  The worst case of “negative bias” often happens in suicide.  It is tragic to see someone commit suicide because they truly thought there was no possible way they could manage something like losing a job, or breaking up with a girlfriend.  Suicides like that tend to happen because the person is in so much distress they are unable to imagine any outcome except the worst.  They cannot see anything but the negative and this leads to a deadly despair, due primarily to them not being able to identify any positive outcomes.

    4. There are plenty of reasons to worry in our world.  That’s why we try to prepare ourselves for some bad eventualities.  Preparing is different from worrying.  I tell my patients to watch out for “what if…” thoughts.  Sometimes “what if” thoughts can be helpful, such as when we try to plan for the “what if” the JIT delivery system doesn’t work.  But, if you find yourself feeling in a tizzy and uptight all the time, “what if” may be a marker for an anxious thought…e.g. “what if we can’t get food because the trucks are not running, and then what if the garden fails and then what if there’s a big EMP, and what if the nuclear material from Fukushima washes up the river from here and creates mutant zombies and we don’t have enough ammo….” and…well you get the picture.  Sometimes we need to set limits on those “what if” thoughts, so that we can be calm and emotionally more healthy when some of the “what if” stuff happens.  A great tool is “thought stopping”.  If you find you have the same negative or scary thought over and over, it helps to literally say “stop!”, find something to distract, or even snap a rubber band on your wrist.

Cultivate an “outside of the box” thinking style by asking “and what else could we do?” over and over, and using brainstorming techniques.  In brainstorming, nothing is off the table initially.  There are no stupid ideas.  This allows interesting and creative solutions to pop up.

Learn some ways to self-calm so that the thinking part of your brain is able to work. When we become too scared, the lower sections of our brains take over.  Those are the ones useful for “flight or fight”. However, when those parts of our brain are too activated, the thinking/planning/judgment part of our brain isn’t able to work.

    1. Learning simple breathing techniques allows us to be more centered so that we can figure things out better.  An example is “bubble breathing”.  In this technique, you pretend that you are blowing the biggest bubble you can with soapy water and a wand.  In order not to break the bubble, you breathe in softly through your nose, and breathe out very softly through your mouth.  This induces a relaxation response.
    2. Finding a calming thought and repeating it in our heads, or out loud, can help.
    3. Calming spiritual rituals such as reciting Bible verses or the Psalms uses our brains and our bodies and both distracts and calms.  For Catholics, meditating on the prayers of the rosary occupies mind, body and spirit in ways that allow for relaxation.
    4. Physical activity works for many, as does yoga

When TSHTF  How Can You Help Others?

What makes a good helper?

  1. Open communication, trust, empathy, honesty
  2. Recognizing that not all problems can be solved and not all people want to be helped
  3. Recognizing that the helper must set limits of time and energy, and values.  Helping does not mean that you destroy yourself trying to help another

In The First 24-72 Hours
In the first two to three days following a disaster or other large negative event, the focus needs to be on basic needs.  You can help by:

  1. Doing a self “check in” to make sure you have the ability to help someone else.
  2. Listening without trying to “fix “ the problem
  3. Making sure the person has access to food, water, shelter and some measure of safety.
  4. Helping the person locate other family members.
  5. Helping the person identify resources.
  6. Letting them know they are not alone in their reactions
  7. Answer questions honestly and simply

In An Ongoing Disaster, In addition to the foregoing

  1. Try to help them establish a return to some sort of routine, even if it is simply trying to eat at the same time each day
  2. Provide a quiet place, if possible, to reduce noise and other stimulation
  3. Help the person establish small and manageable goals
  4. Help the person to focus on “here and now”, and shorter term future vs long term future issues
  5. Request information about positive things in the person’s life: (“What do you do, on a day-to-day or weekly basis that you enjoy and which helps you feel less distressed?”)
  6. Teach them some ways to manage their bodies and their thoughts: A.) Deep breathing for relaxation and calming. B.) Thought stopping and thought replacement

If you feel that a person you are trying to help is dangerous to themselves e.g. suicidal, dangerous to others e.g. homicidal, or is suffering from a major mental illness e.g. bipolar disorder or schizophrenia DO NOT ATTEMPT TO HANDLE THIS ON YOUR OWN.  THIS NEEDS HELP FROM OTHERS.  IF THERE IS NOT A MENTAL HEALTH PROVIDER AVAILABLE, GET HELP FROM FAMILY, FRIENDS AND COMMUNITY TO ASSIST THIS PERSON SAFELY.

Bottom line…human beings are remarkably resilient survivors.  You can do some mental prepping so that your chances of remaining emotionally healthy, and being a helping resource are increased. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

First off: English is not my native language. I apologize if this article is not easy to read. I hope that its usefulness will outweigh the inconvenience.

I am 40 years old, overweight by about 50 pounds, and I regretfully admit that in the past 15 or so years I became a “couch potato”. In other words, my physical fitness is not up to the challenges of any survival situation.

When I was a lot younger, I practiced karate, boxing, and weight lifting. I was pretty tough, and even back in high school there was no bully who would risk messing with me.
Apart from being a martial arts practitioner, I had (and still have) a huge library of very good books on various martial arts, with an emphasis on “street fighting” applications.
I dare think my opinions are based on a thorough analysis of various available options combined with my own experience and learning from mistakes, rather than mindless following someone else’s rigid views or advertisement.

As I got a family and a job about 18 years ago, hard work with lots of overtime did not help my plans of “getting back to the gym”, but quite frankly - I just got lazy.
I trained less hard and less frequently, until one day last year I realized that I had completely lost whatever skills and physical fitness level I used to have, and I can hardly run half a mile, let alone being able to defend my family in a SHTF situation.
I walk my dog, with an occasional sprint-run up the hill to the house where we live in Western Washington, and I try to keep my flexibility at a semi-decent level... but, other than that, I am completely “out of shape”, - both figuratively and literally.
My results in push-ups and pull-ups exercises are ridiculously low, and my punches are too far from being nearly as powerful as I want them to be.

I’ve been pondering an idea to start regular training, but without a well thought out system, I have more chances of hurting myself in the process than getting any results back. [Been there, done that...]

This article is my first attempt in many years to create an actionable fitness and hand-to-hand combat plan, and I hope that it will be useful not only to myself, but also to someone who can honestly identify himself (or herself) as a “couch potato” and wants to start preparing physically for the SHTF situation.

I will spare you my efforts to provide mental preparedness and/or motivation.
If you have a family, you have all the motivation you need. Just imagine what might happen to your loved ones if a gang of armed, ruthless, blood-thirsty looters attacks your neighborhood... and you’ve got all the motivation you need.
The only trick is to learn how to turn your fear and anger into a burning desire to train harder than before. But please remember that the older you are, the more careful you need to be when performing physical exercises.

Let’s start with the goals: what are we trying to achieve?
Your goals will define your list of exercises, training sessions frequency, etc.
In time, your goals will mostly stay the same, but the list of exercises will have to change.
Here’s my list, which might be very different from yours:
Minimal physical fitness to help me and my family survive the coming collapse. I must be able to:
- walk long distances with at least 50 pounds of weight (basic bug-out bag, weapons, ammo);
- run fast;
- run long distances;
- carry bigger weights for a short period of time (e.g., if an injured family member or neighbor must be evacuated from a burning building);
- climb and jump;
- fight (unarmed) against one or two enemies who are not armed and do not have special training.
Long-term goals:
- continue getting stronger and faster;
- more physical endurance;
- fight using a stick, a knife, and anything that can be used as a weapon, against armed and well-trained enemies.

This last one most likely made you laugh...
I know all too well that real-life fights are nothing like movie tricks.
It is almost impossible to win a fight if you are unarmed, and you fight against a group of special forces soldiers armed with guns.
But seriously: who do you think will be your real enemy?.. Most likely, one or two (worst case scenario, - three) gang members, armed with sticks or knives. Maybe, one of them will have a gun which he will be pointing at you at a short distance.
It is realistically possible to win this fight.
Of course, you need to be really well-prepared, and you need a good portion of sheer dumb luck... but there is a chance. And I say, it’s better that just giving up and letting my family be raped and killed. I’d rather die fighting, but I want to take as many bastards with as possible. Perhaps, as luck would have it, even win…
I can’t rely on always having a gun available, because we all know what happened after Katrina.
How such a situation would develop depends on a lot of factors, such as their original intentions (grab-and-go vs. rob-rape-and-kill), how many members their gang consists of, what the surrounding circumstances are (are you on the second floor of your house with a gun in your hand, with your family behind you, or are you unarmed in a street, with a bandit holding a knife at your teenage daughter’s throat?..), what weapons their have and - more importantly - how ready they are to murder someone. Needless to say, a hungry unarmed neighbor who came to steal your can of beans is not exactly as dangerous as a gang of prison escapees armed with guns.

Sorry, I digress... That was more of a motivation than a plan...

Anyway, let’s get back to the goals.

If you’re like me, and you need to start your physical fitness almost “from scratch”, you need to start slow.
I can run up my hill twice, but then I’ll probably have a heart attack. At the very least, my knees will hurt for several days.
Punching a heavy bag too hard is another good example of my stupidity.
I learned from my own mistakes that I need to know my current limitations, or I won’t be able to exercise for quite some time just because of traumas. If you are half as pissed off as I am, and about as willing to defend your family as I am, it is far too easy to overestimate yourself and have one training session after which you will be able to barely move for a couple of weeks, if not worse. Be realistic. Do not expect great results in a day.

What I am going to do (and you probably need to do that, too) is make a list of some basic exercises that I am going to perform in the nearest future (that is, within the next couple of months, until I feel I am ready for a more serious training) and write down the results I can currently get without negative consequences.
For example, how long can I run at a relatively slow speed before I feel I’ve had enough for today? How many push-ups, and in how many sets, can I do, without having debilitating pain for the next few days? And so on, and so forth.
If you don’t know what exercises to perform, don’t worry, I’ll get to them shortly.

The idea is to figure out how much you are capable of under normal circumstances, and start – slowly but steadily – building up the foundation for future exercises that will help you prepare for a survival situation.
When analyzing your abilities, try to figure out what you already have and what you need to focus on.
For example, if you are strong, but you can’t run a mile, it is obvious what you need to do: more walking and running.

An important thing to keep in mind is that there are different kinds of pain, and it is extremely important to be able to distinguish between them.
If you practiced any kind of sports ages ago, you know what I am talking about.
There’s good pain which you feel (normally, for a day or two) after a good workout. It shows that, once your body has had enough rest and food, your physical results will grow a little bit, thus adding up to an overall progress of your training program.
And then there are all kinds of bad pain, which indicates that something is wrong.
This might be from some illnesses, but it can also be caused by over-exercising or traumas.
I can’t describe in a short article how to be sure that the pain you are feeling is good. If you are sure, fine. Otherwise, talk to a doctor.
Bottom line is: “no pain, no gain”, but not all pain is good.
And you need to be certain that you get exactly the right amount of exercise for your current level of fitness and for your current condition. Too little, and you won’t get any results. Too much, and you’ll be sick. The same goes for frequency and intensity of your training sessions.
Besides, you might feel great today and be able to exercise a lot, but tomorrow you’ll get tired at work and be unable to exercise at all.
There are far too many variables which make it absolutely impossible to make an optimal training plan for everyone. Experiment with your training routine, and change it often to continue “surprising” your body to give it a stimulus to develop.
Worse yet, for each “couch potato”, it is often very difficult to distinguish between tiredness and laziness. Deal with it. Motivate yourself. Just imagine what would happen if your family is attacked, or starving, or needs to be evacuated from a burning building, or something like that...

Now, a few words about self-defense.
I could write a book about all kinds of Bravo Sierra surrounding martial arts, but this is just an article.
The more you research this topic, and the more you practice some kind of fighting skills, the more “deep understanding” of it you get. Sometimes, it’s just a feeling that something is right or wrong, and it is difficult to put it into words.
So, I’ll be very brief.

  1. Practice often.
  2. To start with, use only a few primitive techniques (punches, kicks, blocks, movements) and combinations of them. A simple well-practiced technique is far better than several of those which you won’t be able to do in the critical situation. A simple and reliable technique is far more valuable than a complex one.
  3. Each technique must be practiced in all kinds of scenarios hundreds of thousands of times before you can be sure it will work for you when you are scared to death, in an disadvantageous position, tired and injured, and so on, and so forth.
  4. Practice while wearing the same type of clothes you wear every day. If you train for a survival situation, a uniform with a colored belt is not for you.
  5. If you never practiced martial arts before, too bad. Learn. Read books. Do not learn from movies. Nearly all martial arts schools suck: it is rarely their goal to teach you how to fight for your life. If you can, find a private instructor who has experience teaching in the military or law enforcement: most of the time, they know how to fight for real. The best possible option is a Krav Maga instructor with military background.
  6. There is no substitute for a very heavy and very hard (as opposed to “soft”) punching bag. Period. Buy it, use it, learn to love it. Remember to start slow, even if you were very good at it years ago.
  7. If you can’t do at least 50 push-ups in a single set, your punch will never be any good.
  8. Practice kicks from a sitting position on the floor with your hands tied behind your back. If you know what I mean, good. If not... just do it. Thank me later.
  9. Practice as if one of your arms is injured. If you are any good with kicks, practice with tied hands (there are a lot of blocks which use feet or shins). Practice hand techniques while hopping on one leg.
  10. Learn to sweep an enemy’s weapon away from you (and away other people around you) in one swift move. Practice those moves with a heavy club or a dumbbell, then repeat without a weight, but with a maximum speed. If you see techniques which show a couple of steps combined with a complex wrestling-style throw or arm lock, know that this is BS. Remember that your enemy is neither super-dumb nor super-slow, and there will probably be at least two of them. You can only hope to distract his/their attention and then use at most half a second before he pulls the trigger. As a general rule, learn to tell movie tricks from real practical techniques.
  11. Practice at home, in the backyard, on the staircase, in a car, in a room full of furniture... in other words, practice your skills everywhere where you expect to fight in real life. A gym is hardly the right place. Fight on the ice, under rain, under blindingly bright sun, in complete darkness, when it’s cold and when it’s hot. Wear shoes or be barefooted.
  12. When you get better at fighting skills, add exercises with weapons, especially a knife and a club. Do not use nunchaku or sai or kama or any other samurai/ninja/peasant garbage: it’s just stupid; we are not in a medieval Japan. Learn to use almost anything as a weapon that you can find in the street (a stone, a piece of wood) or in your living room. But again: be realistic; you can’t use a match box as a weapon, regardless of what some idiots claim. A weapon must enhance a human’s ability to self-defense. A table lamp, a pen, or almost any potentially dangerous object probably can be used as a weapon, but a coin with a sharp edge cannot. Just imagine defending yourself with a sharp coin or a match box against an attacker armed with an AR-15, laugh, and move on to practicing serious stuff.
  13. Learn how to fall down. While you’re at it, learn how to fight when you are on the ground. No, I am not talking about wrestling; I mean blocks and kicks and jumping back up to your feet. If you have any doubts about efficiency of wrestling techniques for a real survival fight and if you enjoy watching MMA fights, imagine that the referee is another one of your enemies, and he is armed with a knife while you are wrestling with another guy.
  14. Practice blocks. It takes time and lots of practice to set up your defense, but you won’t survive without it.
  15. There are hundreds of martial arts styles, dozens (if not hundreds) of thousands of individual techniques. Let this sink in: YOU DO NOT NEED THEM. All you need is (at most!..) a dozen punches and kicks, plus a dozen of blocks, all of them combined into 2-, 3-, or (at most) 4-elements combination techniques, which you have practiced countless thousands of times each, and which you can deliver under any conditions with lightning-fast speed and steel-crushing power. Leave jumping-spinning-back-hook-kicks to movie actors, professional sportsmen, and chronic idiots.

Of all the styles, I recommend Krav Maga and Shorinji Kempo.

I can spend days discussing pro’s and con’s of various techniques for self-defense.
But the point is, you either start practicing now, or you spend years talking about it while scratching your belly.
What works for me, might not work for you, and vice versa.
To start with, for a complete newbie, I recommend:

  1. Forward elbow strike.
  2. Palm-heel straight punch.
  3. Forward knee kick.
  4. Forward kick to the groin.

Once you’ve got some experience (assuming you don’t have any yet), you will add more techniques (but not too many!..).
These 4 will get you started. Imagine a very fast and very powerful kick to the groin, followed by an elbow strike, and you’ll feel much better about your ability to defend you loved ones and yourself. Another good thing is, - these simple techniques let you not worry too much about your enemy wearing a bulletproof vest: it is very unlikely that his groin will be protected.

One of the most difficult things to do for someone like me is holding myself back when performing some formerly-familiar exercises.
When I was 17, my friends and I used to break bricks just to show off. My mind still remembers all the stuff, but my body doesn’t. If you practiced, for example, boxing 20 years ago, but have not hit a punching bag in years, be extra careful on the punching bag: you can think you can punch a hole in it, but your fist is not nearly as strong as it used to be, and your wrist will hurt terribly if it can’t hold the punch and bends. Hence, my advice to strike with a palm heel.
The older you are, and the less fit you are, the more careful you must be when you try to become fit.

And I want to emphasize it one more time: talk to a doctor before you start any kind of serious training.

In my opinion, the most important fitness-related abilities for SHTF situation are endurance, some basic strength, and self-defense.

If you’ve been running/jogging for some time now, you are in a better shape than most of us.
But if running is the only exercise you’ve been doing, then you are still not prepared physically for survival.

For a complete couch potato, I recommend the following exercises:

  1. Walk as much as you can every day. If you have a dog, just walk him around your neighborhood or in the park, until you feel really tired. (again: do not confuse it with just being lazy).
  2. Run as much as you can at least 3 times a week. It may be for just a few seconds to start with, but do it. You’ll get better very soon. Watch your pulse and breathing. Talk to your doctor first, especially if you have any medical problems.
  3. Do squats without any weight. Just stand up (try it now! I’ll wait...), then bend your knees completely, so that your butt almost touches the floor, then stand up again. Do it slowly, as many times as you can. If you can do it close to 100 times, you are not a couch potato. Sorry for wasting your time. Keep doing whatever it is you do to be in good shape. Otherwise, do one set of this exercise twice a week (say, for example, right now, and then in 3 days, and then in 4 days, and then again in 3 days, and so on). When you feel it is easy, start doing 2 sets, with 2 minutes rest after the first set. Perform this exercise right after you’ve come back from a jog. Then do the stretching exercises, and then practice kicks: this “pre-tiredness” will help a lot if you have the same problem with my knees as I do (they hurt from kicks unless my muscles are already not only warmed up, but really tired when I start kicking practice).
  4. Pushups. A must-do for everyone. One of the best exercises for your upper body, and you can do it anywhere, anytime. If you can’t do it properly, put your hands on the side of your bed (instead of the floor), and you’ll feel how much easier it is. If you are able to do at least a couple dozen pushups in a set, start varying the technique: put your hands shoulder-width, or wider, or narrower. Keep your feet on the ground or put them on the chair. Push up on open hands or on fists or (if you can) on fingers. Do slow pushups or very slow or normal speed or very fast or “explosive” style. There’s a big difference - and you’ll feel it - between hands-together-feet-on-the-floor-very-slow-pushup and fists-very-far-apart-with-feet-2-feet-above-floor-fast-pushups.
  5. This one is very hard for a real couch potato... but also extremely important. Pull-ups. Basically, the idea is to grab something above your head and pull yourself up by bending your arms. Before I got my own training equipment (and while having no money for a gym...), I used to do pull-ups in a children’s playground. There’s always something close to your home where you can do pull-ups. Worse-case scenario, just hang a rope between two trees. Or, buy a pull-up bar from a sports store: it goes in a doorway, it is easy to set up and to remove (it takes seconds, without any tools), and it costs around $30. Look up “pull up bar” in to see what I mean. The problem with pull ups is that not every middle-aged man or woman can do them. Don’t trick yourself by thinking that you can replace this exercise with dumbbells or barbells “curls”: no, you can’t. If you can’t do a proper pull-up now, not even once, do not despair: you can put something under your feet to step on, so that you can grab a pull-up bar while your arms are already half-bent, and then perform partial pull ups. When your arms get stronger, eventually you’ll be able to get rid of that chair or whatever, and perform regular pull-ups. There might also be another problem: if you are overweight, and/or your grip is weak, you might have difficulty just hanging in there... literally. There’s no better solution for this than regularly hang on the pull-up bar as long as you can, and for as many sets as you can before it really hurts, as many days a week as possible.
  6. Abs workout. There are so many exercises... If you are overweight like me, I am sure you know them all. Do whatever works for you. My favorite: lie down on the floor, then simultaneously raise your hands and legs while exhaling, so that only your butt touches the floor; slowly lie down again; repeat until it hurts.
  7. Punching bag. If you’ve ever worked out on a punching bag for more than a minute, you must know that it’s also a great workout, - both for your muscles and for your cardio-vascular system. The only problem is to be careful with every single move; otherwise, the traumas take very long to heal. The most common injures happen when you punch too hard and/or almost miss the right spot (in which case your wrist can bend and hurt terribly for several weeks), and when you punch the bag without any protective gloves, and your hand slips (this is where you lose a good chunk of your knuckles’ skin, and you can’t punch a bag for about a week). Just be careful, use gloves or hand wraps, and land you punches with precision.
  8. Jumping rope. If this exercise sounds silly and childish to you, try to do it 200+ times without stopping, and you’ll feel how useful it is. You don’t need an expensive jumping rope from The Sports Authority. A piece of regular rope which is long enough and heavy enough will be just as good.
  9. Developing a strong grip. Useful for all kinds of survival situation: from lifting and carrying heavy objects to evacuating from a tall building using a rope, to climbing, to self-defense, and so on, and so forth. There are good grip strengtheners; be sure to get those which are hard to squeeze. Pull-ups, hanging on a rope or a pull-up bar also helps. Besides, performs pushups on your fingers at least once in a while.
  10. Last, but not least: practice blocks and punches with weapons. I don’t mean guns, but heavy objects. I perform several sets of blocks with police-style clubs which have a short handle sticking out (these clubs are also known as “tonfa”), and this helps not only techniques, but also muscles and tendons, while developing speed.

I’d like to say a few words about diet, but I do not think I have a moral right to talk about it until I lose a few more pounds.
Anyway, the only thing really worth mentioning is fasting: regular fasting is good for your health if you do it right, and it is certainly useful to be able to function a day or two while being hungry in case you just don’t have any food at all in a survival situation or you have to give it all to your kids if there’s too little available.

It turned out to be nearly impossible to cram a lot of information in a short article.
I hope it will be useful for someone who wants to get started on TEOTWAWKI/survival self-defense and fitness training, but does not know how.

Yes, I am a grumpy, middle-aged, fat man. But I am determined to maximize my family’s chances of survival in the coming imminent collapse of life as we know it. I’ll do whatever it takes to defend them, and hopefully help my neighbors and friends in the process.
I am preparing, and I suggest you do the same.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

I first began prepping about two years ago so I am fairly new to this.  In those two years I have been fairly aggressive with my education and training on the topic with much of my real world education coming from reading blogs.  I have found an area where there is a great deal of misinformation and limited preparedness so it has prompted me to address this topic since it is the one area where I possess a skill set that I can share.  The topic is healthcare after the SHTF.  I think it is difficult for any of us, especially in America, to understand how so many aspects of our health we may be taking for granted.  I can honestly say that I was in the same boat which is a sad statement considering the fact that I am a physician.

To give a little background as a lead in; I worked as a general and vascular surgeon for about 10 years after I finished residency.  A little over two years ago I walked away from that to focus on nutrition, fitness, and wellness counseling.  There were many reasons for this change, lifestyle being a big one but more importantly I came to understand that we were no longer practicing medicine but rather pharmacology and surgery.  I found that training people to modify lifestyle was the best defense and prevention strategy and this certainly applies to prepping.

I will be focusing on four topics:

  • Optimizing your health
    • Nutrition
    • Fitness
  • Healthcare skill sets
  • Water and hygiene
  • Healthcare supplies

Optimizing your Health

Health should be viewed as a spectrum with chronic disease at one end, disease-free in the middle, and optimized health at the other end.  Think about where you would want to be and whom you would want in your survival group should the SHTF.

In reading through the various prepper and survival blogs, I see so many people that are unhealthy and they do not hesitate to talk about it.  I would be worried if I were in this situation or if I had to rely on this person as an essential link in my support group.  Stocking up on medications may help but what happens when they run out or expire?   Will you live to take advantage of all your amazing preparations or will they be taken from you?  The solution is to get out of the chronic disease end of the spectrum and get as close to optimal health as possible.  I treat and resolve chronic disease every day by basically changing one thing: lifestyle.  This means nutrition and fitness.  You just have to understand that chronic diseases such as Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and most high cholesterol are actually just symptoms of a poor lifestyle, you fix that, and you fix the problem without medication.

Nutrition is the key to good health; the problem is there is way too much misinformation out there as to what constitutes good nutrition.  What I am about to say will make most prepper gasp, but let me explain.  Get rid of all grains from the diet!  Now, that said, I do store grains but I do not currently eat them, they are reserved as emergency foods only.  You may now be asking, “where does this insanity come from?”  Well the answer is biochemistry and anthropology.  We are and always have been physiologically hunter/gatherers and grains were not a part of our natural diet.  Our bodies function best and experience the most positive effects from a hunter/gatherer style diet.  I am not asking you to immediately take my word for it just because I have a few initials at the end of my name, but I do ask that you try this challenge – give up all grain, bread, pasta, rice, crackers, chips, pretzels, popcorn, sweets, etc., for one month and see how you feel.  You will eat only meats, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and nuts during this time and eat all you want.  You will experience amazing results.  Since I do have limited space here to go into all the details, I have provided a link to a video on Vimeo to help explain my approach to this diet: Functional Nutrition.

Other good sources of information are the books The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet by Robb Wolf and The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson.  Sisson also has a great web site at  Good nutrition is 80% of a healthy lifestyle, it is the base of the pyramid of health and without it you cannot develop optimal health.  I am not promoting some agenda here or trying to sell some magic snake oil, all I can tell you is that I have been utilizing this diet in my clinical practice for years and the health transformations and the disease resolutions I have witnessed are amazing.

Another aspect of optimal health is fitness.  It is a necessity in survival and should be an integral part of any preparation regimen.  Everyone seems to prep for food, medical and self defense but another aspect of preparation is your body.  I would like to see the 3 Bs change to the 4 Bs: Beans, Bullets, Band-Aids, and Body.  Your level of fitness will be directly proportional to your chances of survival so you need to train the right way.  Bottom line – lift heavy stuff and run fast.  What I recommend is functional fitness and you do not need a gym for this.  Functional fitness means training the body to be able to do the necessary things in life well and remember, life will be substantially different if society fails.  If you have weights available, then lift heavy – squats, cleans, military press, rows.  Add push-ups and pull-ups.  Chop and carry wood, dig ditches, and run sprints. The book The Primal Blueprint that I mentioned has some good functional training advice and workouts.

Healthcare Skillsets

The practice of medical care could change dramatically in this scenario.  Physicians and nurses currently practice with the aid of technology, sterile environments, a slew of available instruments and specialist referrals.  EMTs and paramedics are trained in stabilization and transport.  Despite my surgical training and experience, my experience in a level 4 trauma center and having been an Advanced Trauma Life Support instructor, I would have little skills to care for people in a post-apocalyptic scenario.  That was until I began studying wilderness medicine.  Wilderness medicine training is available for health care providers (EMTs, paramedics, nurses, and physicians) and what makes this different is that you have to diagnose and more importantly TREAT in the field without the benefit of technology and transport.  In TEOTWAWKI scenario things like minor wounds, burns, blisters, and fractures become potentially life-threatening emergencies. I never realized all this until I took a Wilderness First Responder course offered by NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) and I feel that this is an absolute necessity for someone in your group.  We should all know how to properly clean and care for wounds, close lacerations, treat a burn, splint and reduce fractures and dislocations in situations where we do not have the luxury of modern technology.  Now this course will not make you the Dr. House of the TEOTWAWKI but it will give you the basis to build from and a level of comfort in dealing with many of the issues you may encounter.  You should still have access to someone with advanced medical training.

Water and Hygiene

Wilderness medicine gets you thinking about things we take for granted like water or hygiene.  In the wilderness, clean water is your best friend.  Even sparkling clear mountain spring water can be full of protozoa and bacteria so boiling or filtration is essential.  What kills more people worldwide?  Infectious diarrhea.  This is also one of the number one debilitations in the wilderness along with food poisoning related to poor food prep hygiene.  It is also important to remember that filtration will not get rid of viruses, so in the face of a viral outbreak if the water supply gets contaminated, you will need a chemical disinfectant as well.  Iodine and/or chlorine will work well for this added safety.  We need to look at the health care issues faced in the third world countries in order to fully understand what we need to prepare for should the worst case scenario occur.

Healthcare Supplies

First thing to remember here is that it will do you no good to stock up on supplies that you have no skill or knowledge to use.  When I design and stock kits for people, I always find out what abilities they possess first.  You also have to determine what size group you want to prepare for and the environment where the kit will be needed.  I typically see a need for three types of kits and a stock of supplies on top.

Kit #1: Basic field kit.  This kit needs to be compact and lightweight but still be supplied to cover you for a 1-5 day trip away from your Bugout Location (BOL) for 3-4 people.  This should cover everything for stabilizing illness or injury long enough to get you back to your BOL.  This is the kit that I keep in my Bugout Bag (BoB) and I take hiking or camping.
Basic contents:

  • Sterile and non-sterile gloves
  • Facemasks with eye protecting, also antiviral mask
  • Thermometer
  • Ace bandage and scissors
  • Various quantities of different size sterile gauze and gauze rolls
  • Field surgical kit and sutures
  • Variety of medical and athletic tape
  • Moleskin for blisters and second skin for burns
  • Opsite or other occlusive dressing
  • Steristrips and benzoin for wound closure
  • Small vial of povidone iodine or betadine
  • Bacitracin and Cortisone
  • Thermal reflective blanket
  • SAM splint
  • Eye pad
  • Large irrigation syringe
  • Several cravats
  • Quikclot or Celox trauma bandage
  • Pen light
  • Emergency resuscitator pocket facemask
  • Ibuprofen, aspirin, Benadryl, and various antibiotics

Kit #2: Advanced Home Kit. This is an advanced medical kit for the home or BOL.  It contains all the above items from Kit #1 just larger quantities, plus:

  • Stethoscope and BP cuff
  • Fiberglass casting wrap
  • Greater variety of surgical items
  • Lidocaine, needles, and syringes
  • Battery operated cautery device
  • Skin stapler
  • Greater variety of antibiotics and other prescription meds
  • Emergency cricothyrotomy kit

Kit #3: Advanced Trauma Kit.  Now this kit would be mainly for people with advanced medical training or military field medics.  I keep this is a STOMP bag and it weighs about 40 pounds.  It is basically a portable trauma bay with advanced surgical instrumentation, major wound treatments, airway control, etc.

My recommendation is to train each person in your group in the basic medical skills and have each carry a basic kit.  Many prep groups run drills for defense and bug-out but few run through medical scenarios and these are the most likely issues that they would encounter.  Each group or family should have someone in charge of medical and it should be their responsibility to train the others.

So our best course of action is prepare and prevent.  Prepare by optimizing each individuals health, have the training necessary for your environment, and have the appropriate tools and knowledge in order to act.  Prevent by obtaining/maintaining optimal health, recognizing and understanding the risks of your environment, practice good hygiene, and utilize adequately filtered water.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bring to mind one of the post-TEOTWAWKI scenarios you most frequently imagine, be it the after-effects of a worldwide flu pandemic, series of natural disasters, economic collapse, or nuclear war.  Is this a world into which you’d want to bring children?  At least for the short-term aftermath, I bet you wouldn’t.  Not while you may be on the move or actively defending your retreat or community from danger.  However…”birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it”…c’mon, sing along with me and Cole Porter…”let’s do it, let’s fall in love!”  As the song says, love is natural and often accompanied by relations that can result in babies being born.  What if the methods of contraception you had long taken for granted were not readily available?  If your bunker isn’t well-stocked with condoms, you’re probably out of luck.  Prescription contraception?  Won’t be available.  Medical or surgical interventions (think IUD or vasectomy) won’t be worth the risk, in the absence of ongoing qualified medical care, even if they are available. 

Of course, the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancy is abstinence.  But assuming that abstinence is not the preferred option, how can heterosexual couples engage in sexual intimacy including intercourse and prevent ill-timed pregnancy without contraception?  By observing the woman’s body’s natural function over time and planning intercourse during the days when she is not ovulating, that’s how.  Conveniently, this method also helps couples plan the optimum times to conceive a child as well.  Also known as Natural Family Planning (NFP) or the Rhythm Method, the essence of this approach is that women and their loving menfolk track the ovulation cycle and avoid intercourse or make sure to use a barrier method of contraception (diaphragm, vaginal sponge, condoms, all of which should be used with spermicide to be most effective) when the woman is ovulating.  How does one do that?

The first requirement for an ovulating woman is to understand your monthly fertility pattern or menstrual cycle.  (Men are fertile from birth, but women only become fertile after achieving sexual maturity, usually around age 12-13 and lasting until menopause, which may start between the ages of 40 and 60.)  Days of the cycle may be divided as follows:

  • days when you are fertile (able to get pregnant)
  • days when you are infertile
  • days when fertility is unlikely, but possible

Day 1 of the cycle is the first day of a woman’s menses, or period; the average cycle lasts 28 days, but a healthy cycle might last from 12 to 35 days and vary throughout a year or over a number of years.  The amount of time in the cycle before ovulation--crucial information for pregnancy planning,--aries from woman to woman and sometimes monthly for the same woman.  The period always starts (unless a woman is pregnant) in 14 to 16 days.  The period is the shedding of the blood and uterine lining that will not be needed, as there is no fertilized egg present.

Women with a regular menstrual cycle, which means they menstruate for the same duration each month with about the same number of days between the first day of once cycle and the next, have about nine or more fertile days each month. Should you not want to get pregnant, do not have intercourse on the days you are fertile or use a barrier method (condoms, diaphragm with spermicide, etc) of birth control (this could be a way of conserving your limited supply of barrier contraception, if you have any.)

The knowledge of when you are definitely or likely to be fertile is essential both for pregnancy planning and natural avoidance.   There are three ways to track fertility; they involve monitoring:

  • basal body temperature
  • the monthly calendar
  • cervical mucus

The most accurate method is to combine all three approaches.

Basal body temperature

The average human body temperature is 98.6 degrees, and most people have a consistent body temperature that is close to 98.6 degrees. Basal body temperature is your temperature when you first wake in the morning, before you start moving around a lot.  During ovulation, a woman’s body temperature rises, though usually by less than a degree.  By monitoring body temperature over time, a woman can learn what her basal body temperature is and be able to note when it rises.  This method requires a special thermometer, available at most drug and grocery stores; if you aren’t currently using one, you may consider adding it to your preparedness supplies.  Remember, " two is one and one is none", so think about purchasing a few.  Illness, alcohol consumption, or getting out of bed and moving around can all raise basal body temperature.

Most women have ovulated within 3 days of the temperature spike; you’re most likely to get pregnant 2-3 days before the temperature spike and 12-24 hours after ovulation.  This gives an average 6-day window of likely fertile days.  Sperm can live inside a woman for up to three days, which extends the window to 9 days.

Calendar Method

This method involves recording your menstrual cycle over a period of time, at least 6 months, to determine the pattern.  Projecting into the future, you may calculate the days you’ll be most fertile by subtracting 18 from the total number of days in your shortest cycle (for example, 26 days.) Take this number (in our example, it would be 8) and count ahead that many days from the first day of your next period, once you get it. Mark that date on your calendar; it is the first day you're likely to be fertile.  Then subtract 11 from the total number of days in your longest cycle (for example, 32 days.) Count ahead that many days (in our example, it would be 21) from the first day of your next period. Mark this date on your calendar. The time between the two dates is your most fertile window and the time when you would want to abstain from intercourse or use a barrier method of contraception.  In our example, the window is 13 days, which is long but possible.

This method is the least reliable, so you should always use it in combination with the basal body temperature or cervical mucus method.

Cervical Mucus

A woman’s cervix, which is the portion of the uterus where is joins with the vagina, produces mucus; the presence or quality of this mucus is an indicator of ovulation. The menstrual cycle is driven by hormones, and the same hormones change the quality and quantity of this mucus.   For a few days after a woman’s period, there is no cervical mucus present.  As the egg starts to mature in the ovaries (this happens monthly for a fertile woman), cervical mucus increases and appears at the vaginal opening, cloudy and sticky.  Just before ovulation, the mucus become more copious, clear, and slippery (think egg whites.)  This is when you are most fertile.  About four days later, it should change again.  This method (really all three methods) requires the use of a calendar to record your observations.  Label each day “sticky”, “dry”, or “wet.”  You are most fertile at the first signs of wetness after your period ends.

Many couples who are trying to conceive purchase ovulation kits or fertility monitors from drugstores. These kits detect surges in luteinizing hormone, which triggers ovulation.  You could store some of these kits in your cache, but they are more for people who are trying to conceive than for people who are trying to prevent pregnancy.

Of course, times of significant stress (i.e. TEOTWAWKI) may disrupt a woman’s regular menstrual and ovulation cycle, so this method may not be 100% reliable.  The Center for Disease Control describes it as being 75 – 99% effective at preventing pregnancy (compare with condom use, generally accepted as being 85 – 98% effective); of course, natural family planning will not prevent sexually transmitted infections.  It is also worth noting that chances of conceiving or of  carrying a pregnancy to term diminish after age 35.  According to the National Institute of Health, “For women aged 35-39 years the chance of conceiving spontaneously is about half that of women aged 19-26 years.” (“ABC of Subfertility”, 2003.) Postmenopausal women are not able to become pregnant.

If the anticipated circumstances of your survival situation make it absolutely undesirable to encourage pregnancy (hopefully for a limited time), you will want to include a great number of condoms in your cache.  They take up little space but should be rotated like other perishable items; over time, latex breaks down and loses its strength and flexibility.  Condoms have expiration dates on the packaging.

Besides pregnancy planning and/or prevention, there are a number of other sexual health topics commonly covered in advanced first aid training that are beyond the scope of this article.  A crucial part of preparedness is training and practice; consider taking an advanced first aid or first responder course.  If your natural family planning doesn’t work, then you may need to know how to safely deliver a baby!

Monday, February 13, 2012


Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), is a difficult and tricky topic to cover.  First, let’s get some of the politics out of the way and then some pretty interesting facts about IBS to start with, then we will move on to some helpful management tips.  The actual definition of Irritable Bowel Syndrome is this:  a gastrointestinal syndrome characterized by chronic abdominal pain and altered bowel habits in the absence of any organic cause.  Obviously, if there is no way to actually test for a disease, then there is a wide interpretation of who has it and why they do; therefore, the politics.  There are some folks that believe that IBS should be labeled as a psychiatric disorder.  Often IBS is treated (sometimes successfully) with anti-depressant medications or even psychiatric medications.  Therefore, there are many out there that just toss IBS on the pile of “made up” diseases and close their minds to other options.  There are others that think IBS will be discovered to be a specific autoimmune disorder as time and research progresses.  Again, some medications that help problems like RA (rheumatoid arthritis) help some of the patients that suffer from IBS symptoms.  Others feel that IBS is a mechanical problem and if treated with the right diet and bowel regularity can be cured.  Still others feel that most IBS is misdiagnosed and if the proper workup were completed, these patient would find many alternate diagnoses instead of IBS.
The facts are interesting though about IBS:
• Prevalence varies widely among countries and is usually higher in developed countries
• Younger patients and women are more likely to be diagnosed with IBS
• Females to males with IBS is 2:1
• Costs estimate to be up to $30,000,000,000 dollars for IBS health care impact [, including missed days of work]
• 2nd most common cause of work absenteeism after the common cold!
• 25 to 50% of all GI (gastroenterologist) referrals
• Emotional stress often worsens the pain
The great thing about IBS is that almost all of us could really be diagnosed with it based on the criteria.  You can have diarrhea, or you can have constipation.  Usually, the pain is accompanied by a change in your bowel habits, but not always.  It can be relieved by a bowel movement, but not necessarily.  The official criteria, call Rome III Criteria, are as follows:
• recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort
• at least 3 days per month for at least 3 months
• associated with 2 of the 3
? improves after defecation
? start of symptoms is with change in bowel frequency (increase or decrease)
? start of symptoms is with change in stool appearance
Now, not to get too personal here, but if we eat enough Thai food or Mexican in my family it’s IBS for everyone!  This is what makes IBS tough for people to live with when they have a bad clinical case of it.  Most of the people around them think:  “big deal, you have stomach cramps and bowel problems, who doesn’t get that?”  The problem, from this Family Practitioner docs view, is how much do the symptoms have a life impact.  Lots of people meet the criteria for IBS and it doesn’t really affect their day to day living.  In fact, estimates are that only 15% of people with IBS criteria actually go to the doctor to do something about it.  There are others though that are basically disabled by IBS.  They have severe pain with bad diarrhea and are suffering every day.  This is why lots of different medications end up being “tried out” on IBS patients with severe disease.  Doctors just want to find something that helps the patient.
All patients will IBS should have already tried to eliminate all lactose from their diets to see if their symptoms improve.  That should be the case now rather than later.  Some patients will notice specific foods that worsen their IBS symptoms, and all IBS patients should keep a food diary for 2-3 months and note all foods and all symptoms in that diary.  The trends can be reviewed and those foods that worsen symptoms be avoided.  Again, this should be done now rather than when there is limited choice in foods.  Food allergies can often be a cause of or exacerbate IBS symptoms, and if you have IBS get your lab panel done now to see if food allergies are one of the causes of your symptoms.  Be sure the panel includes gluten, which is another source of IBS symptoms for some patients.  Some other foods that are thought to worsen some IBS patients include:  fructans, galactans, fructose, sobitol, xylitol, mannitol, and even fiber.  The diary should help to clue a patient in if these worsen or cause their symptoms.

Physical activity does help many, but not all patients with IBS.  Moderate physical activity is recommended for patients with IBS symptoms, and in a study those that did exercise improved and worsened less than the patients that were inactive.  Psychosocial therapies can help some patients, but the politics really kick in when you recommend hypnosis, biofeedback, and psychotherapy to a patient with stomach problems.  These treatments will obviously not be available WTSHTF.
Medications really are a last resort for the management of IBS, and any medicine is only to be used with the lifestyle and diet recommendations already reviewed above.  Any medication would have to be life-long and there is a lack of any convincing evidence of therapeutic benefit.  That being said, there are many IBS patients out there that take medications that truly improve their quality of life.  Again, any management of IBS should be done now as trials of medications and adjustment of doses will not be possible at TEOTWAWKI.
So, what can a person do to plan for the future without a grid if they have moderate to severe IBS.  The plain answer is:  make sure you have completed all the steps to modify and control your IBS symptoms, then continue more of the same.  If you have IBS now and manage it with diet, stress reduction, and fluids; you will need to continue those things WTSHTF.  If you take a medication, either over the counter or prescription, and it helps manage your IBS. You should probably have stockpile quantities of those meds for when the grid is no more.  The message is pretty clear:  get moving on management of your IBS when the grid is up and you will be a lot better off if it does go down.  Like most prepping issues, planning ahead pays off ten-fold compared to the “what do we do now” approach.  Stay strong, - Dr. Bob

JWR Adds: A family member with chronic IBS reported that Peppermint, Anise, and Fennel teas allproved to be a tremendous relief. The great news is that you can grow your own peppermint, anise, and fennel in many climate zones. I recommend that you start growing a patch of each now, so you can help any IBS sufferers in your community. Just be careful not to let the anise spread--it can become a pernicious weed.


Dr. Bob is is one of the few consulting physicians in the U.S. who prescribes antibiotics for disaster preparedness as part of his normal scope of practice. His web site is:

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Hello James:

I stumbled across some excellent advice for foot care.  The advice targeted diabetics.  Diabetics need to be especially mindful of their feet are more susceptible to circulation difficulties.  Foot problems can rapidly escalate. 

This advice is also very sound advice for after the Schumer hits the fan.  It is likely that we will all be putting more miles of pounding on our feet. - Joe H.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dr. Ted is incorrect. "Dropping below 15% protein risks Kwashiorkor – it’s the reason why those starving kids in the television commercials have fat bellies – lack of protein actually causes more fat to be deposited!"

More fat is not deposited. [A swollen belly in these cases is a symptom of] edema (fluid) that collects in the abdomen or feet. It comes from the capillaries when there is a lack of protein in the diet and the liver cannot produce enough albumin. Thus the blood is hypo-osmotic and fluid is lost into the peritoneum, also called third-spacing. - J.W.M.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I found this article interesting: Protesters Coming Down With the "Zuccotti Lung". Park conditions put demonstrators at risk for variety of sicknesses, officials say.

The weather and conditions at the "Occupy" protests are likely a microcosm of a post-Crunch refugee camp, along with the attendant diseases and problems associated with lots of people living close together in raw weather.
I think this should give pause to those who believe they can simply pack up and head out into the local woodlot and survive a Crunch-type event. You may leave home healthy, but inevitable contact with other folks will introduce the bugs that can end up killing you. A clean, warm, dry shelter at a fixed retreat goes a long way toward preventing or limiting communicable disease.
Blessings, - G.R. in Texas

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I would like to follow up on my recent article, Some Thoughts of How to Live in Times of Hunger, with a few actionable implications that might make a difference to my fellow preppers. As always, I eagerly look forward to the contributions of the worldwide prepper community to add to or correct my conclusions.
If I ever have to bug-out on foot it will be under dangerous circumstances, and I will need to move quickly and cover at least several miles. This on-foot bugout is my truly worst-case scenario: minimum supplies, emergency escape. If I can plan for this scenario then all other scenarios should be simpler. It is my fail-safe.

However, right now I’m having a terrible time keeping my Bug Out Bag weight low. I can carry it out to my truck. I might even be able to wear my pack and hike a mile. But I sure won’t be moving fast and I won’t get much beyond a mile, if that, in rough terrain. I’m not particularly young, I’m not athletic, I have a sedentary job – I might even represent the “average” American prepper.

Some of the weight in my pack is food, several pounds worth. I’ve researched ideal foods that combine calories, nutrients, and protein in a robust ready-to-eat package for meals on the move. But I’ve been thinking about the whole hunger thing in a different light.

If I escape by the “skin of my teeth” into the wilderness and have enough food to sustain me for two or three days it will only prolong my death if I do not also have the equipment to obtain food once I am in the field. Just as I cannot carry enough water to last me through even two days, I may not be able to both carry enough food and have the equipment to obtain enough food long term by hunting, trapping, or fishing

Based on my hunger research, I know I can perform at near-peak levels for a couple of days with a minimum of food, after which point my performance will begin to taper off as hunger sets in. I won’t be happy about it, but I will survive the experience of “going hungry.”

If I’m not mistaken, the name of the food game, at least for the first several days of a bugout, is sheer calories. But what if I only carry (1) quick-energy carbohydrates to fire my muscles during hunts and escape, and (2) slow-energy calorie-dense foods like fat (or mostly-fat foods) for the sheer caloric-content of it?

Here’s my logic:

Glucose is my body’s primary energy source that it stores in my liver for emergency energy. Sports gels contain mostly glucose/dextrose (or maltodextrose) because it hits the bloodstream quickly and doesn’t require much digestion. These might very well be the best quick-energy option because some gels also contain electrolytes (mentioned in the Hunger article) and caffeine. What’s not to like?

The caloric content of gels is around three calories per gram, while solid glucose/dextrose candy should come in closer to four. Candy made from sucrose (table sugar) has the same caloric content. Werther's Original Creamy Caramel Filled hard candies candy (which I happen to have on hand), for example, is mostly glucose (and you really have to love that caramel filling!). If you can’t afford the more than $1 per pack for the energy gels you could still do pretty well with hard candy for a shot of energy once it dissolved in your mouth.

Yes, there is an energy crash following the “sugar high” (less with sports gels) but the important thing to note is that the sugar (or sugar and caffeine) does indeed provide the energy burst to hunt or escape, and do it with an effectiveness and with a speed unmatched by any other food source. That’s important.

High-sugar foods like hard candies and energy gels aren't the highest calorie content foods, though. The highest concentrated calories come from fat. Pure, solid glucose is something like four calories per gram (the same as protein). Fat contains around nine calories [per gram], that’s 225% more energy per gram! However, fat takes longer to metabolize. For a quick burst of energy during a hunt or escape you certainly would not eat fats. It’s no substitute for sugar.

Imagine that you can barely carry your BOB even with NO food in it. You have the equipment you must have to hunt/fish/trap, but NO food. Zero food.

You work out at the gym and finally have the additional strength to add a bit of food to your pack. What do you add? Sugar. Why? Because it will at least give you the short-term bursts of energy to do the two most essential things you must do: hunt/fish/trap and escape should that be an issue. It won't fill you up, it won't stop you from feeling hunger, but it will work for what you need it for.
Back at the gym you’ve been hard at work and you finally can add a little more weight to your BOB, in addition to the sugars you figure you’ll need.

You know your body isn't going to need a lot of vitamin and protein replacement right away (electrolytes maybe, yes). You know you won't starve for nearly a month. You know that you can function on “empty,” if you have to. You know if you leave on foot you could end up in an unfamiliar location and it could take you days, or even weeks, to begin hunting/fishing/trapping well enough to begin meeting your daily caloric needs [and then transition to gardening and raising livestock once your reach your retreat, where you presumably will have a deep larder]. You may not be able to carry all of the calories you would like, but you would like to minimize the depletion of your body’s energy reserves (fat, sugar, muscles).

If you packed sesame snaps (one of my personal favorites with sugar, fat, protein, and fiber, 186 calories/35 gr package) you’d need 21.5 packages (1.7 pounds) of snaps per day for 4,000 calories. In two week’s time you would need nearly 24 pounds of snaps!

But what food has more caloric energy than any other food on earth? Fat. What food, coincidentally, burns reasonably slowly? Pure fat. Nine calories per gram. It doesn't get any better than that. You need calories, it has calories. (Hey, it's good enough for the Inuit! Can you say muktuk!)

If you packed fat instead of sesame snacks you would only need to carry 14 pounds, SEVEN fewer pounds than sesame snaps. Or, to look at it another way, if you were able to add an extra 24 pounds of weight, the snaps would last two weeks (@4K cal/day), but the fat (453.6gr/lb x 9 cal/gr x 24 / 4000) would last ten more days. (Turkey chili, one of my favorite all-around-nutritional foods, contains 460 calories in a 15 ounce (420 gram) can, works out to 1.1 calories per gram - 800% fewer calories-per-gram than fat. Bad choice as your second tier food!)
Your stomach does flips at the thought of just eating Crisco plain but you realize that coconut oil has a lot of other benefits besides its incredible caloric density. It’s solid at room temperature (liquid in desert temps!), doesn’t burn at high temperatures (like cooking over a campfire), and is very easily digested by the body. And if you get the really good virgin coconut oil from a health food/supplements store it will even smell great!

Coconut oil has antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties – all things we’d like to have in an emergency situation. And its medium-chain triglycerides require less work from your liver to convert it into usable energy (which is why it’s used in sports nutrition, hospital feeding formulas, and foods for people with digestive disorders). Have a look at the amazing properties of coconut oil and its digestibility.

With the weight savings of not having to carry as much food weight (only energy gel for quick bursts) and carrying food with the maximum energy density (fat), I can afford to carry more of what I will need in the long run: equipment to help me hunt, fish, and trap. (Equipment first!)

It does me no good to have a lot of food if my BOB is too heavy to make a quick getaway – the getaway is the thing. And it also does me no good to have a lot of food in my pack if I can't subsequently secure an adequate supply once in the field. The most important reason for carrying the BOB is to get out with the tools and supplies I need to survive long-term.

Eating just sugar and fat while you orient yourself to your surroundings and start to put wild foods on the table is not the final word! There are a lot of variables. You will be able to add the occasional fish, handful of berries, bird, or edible tuber and give yourself some variety while extending your food reserves. You may want to add to your BOB a little of the tastier foods (MREs, freeze-dried meal, canned turkey chili, or sesame snaps) just to keep your sanity...

But do it with the realization that any food that is not pure fat is trading off taste for calories (i.e., raw “body fuel”). You can stretch your body’s energy reserves further with foods that have a high caloric density, and the very highest of these is fat.  Then make an educated choice about the foods you pack!

And if you can’t carry as much food as you’d like, at least be sure you have the equipment you need to obtain food once you’re in the wild! You don't need to be full of food each and every day – you know that can safely survive on “empty” for quite a while!

I’m going to continue to work on my walking and climbing fitness so that I can carry the maximum amount of gear during a critical escape situation. But in the mean time, this weight tradeoff based on an understanding of how hunger actually works might help make my long-term survival a more sure thing. And that’s what it’s all about.

Be Prepared. Trust God. We can do both. - ShepherdFarmerGeek, in Spokane

JWR Replies: My general advice for anyone that cannot live at their intended retreat year-round is to cache nutritious food at several places along your intended route, in buried plastic cache containers. (Like the four liter containers made by Nalgene, triple-bagged in heavy plastic bags.) It is best to cache in rocky soil, to reduce the chance of burrowing rodents finding it. Check your caches annually.

Hiking long distances at a deep caloric deficit is dangerous. If nothing else, hunger is distracting, so your personal security awareness and sleep will both suffer. Hunger can also encourage you to make bad decisions. Longer-term hunger can also degrade your night vision. (See Nick Rowe's POW narrative, Five Years to Freedom.) Further, dependence on refined sugars for your primary source of energy is inadvisable. First, it causes sugar rush-then-crash cycles that are debilitating. Second, depending on your particular physiology, sugar crashes might even cause fainting. Lastly, overloading on sweets can even trigger a diabetic reaction. (Wouldn't that be ironic, to survive on mostly sugar for a week and make it to your retreat, only discover that you've become an insulin-dependent diabetic?)

For ultra-compact food for a lightweight bugout bag, I would advise making powdered blue-green algae (also known as Spirulina) your core food. Ounce-for-ounce it is the ultimate trekking food for humans. The freeze-dried algae powder could be supplemented by whey-based protein powder (like those used by bodybuilders), powdered milk, jerky, peanut butter, ghee (storable clarified butter), coconut oil and perhaps a few sweets like Clif bars and Larabars. This approach has been discussed at length in backpacking magazines, backpacking discussion forums, and blogs. By the way, I've read that you can even make your own energy bars with blue-green algae. (Although I haven't tried this myself, so no guarantees.)

Be advised that for anything more than a four day trek, constipation might become an issue with a protein dense diet like I've described. The importance of storing gentle bulk laxatives (such as Metamucil) has been discussed previously in the blog. Even after you have arrived at your retreat, keeping regular will become very important if you have a diet with a preponderance of meat from wild game. So don't overlook getting a supply of bulk laxatives. Even if you don't end up needing them personally, they will be useful for barter or charity.

Lastly, be cautious about packing too much caffeine (as found in coffee, tea, and sports gels) or other stimulants like chocolate in your bugout bag. Odds are that you will already be feeling very tense in a true Get Out of Dodge situation, so don't add the risk of a panic attack.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dear JWR:
Well, hallelujah for Dr. Bob's practical attitude toward fitness! 

I've been working our homestead for almost 20 years, now, and I've been amazed at what the workout crowd can't do, hurting because they had to shovel manure and those particular muscles weren't on the look lovely list.  I've worked many a man into exhaustion, although I do pay when it's time to try to buy a dress that fits - women aren't supposed to have biceps.  For years I've wondered about spending big bucks to go to the gym when the push lawnmower and a few other practical things would probably do it, but people want the glitz. 

Recently my husband has been able to spend more time on the homestead.  Until then his main exercise was running or training his lower body and he hated tilling and shovel work and had trouble doing it.  By switching to a rowing machine he's been able to do far more - now he tells me to get out of the way so he can move the pens or other work I would have been doing myself.  Can I get an Amen?

One last idea:  if you know the water is going to be a distance away, Dr. Bob, why not plan now to bring it a little closer?  Our water went out a few years back because of a failure in the water tank.  We have a well but we couldn't access it, so until the plumber could get out we dragged water for flushing from the irrigation wells.  It was late winter/early spring, so it could have been worse, but I got to thinking what it would be like to haul all the water in bad weather in a grid down event.  Decided to get a Bison pump.  It does everything they say it does, and it's in the back yard, not in the woods.  Nice during Hurricane Irene.  So if Dr. Bob can find a way to get that water to move even half the distance to his house now (ram pump?  gravity feed?) he'd be doing himself a favor, because if you are living that old-fashioned lifestyle, you have a zillion other things to do beside the water chore.

And when I'm doing that kind of work, I don't worry about my weight, either, and I don't fuss over the eggs or other supposed bad foods because I'm burning them off.  An old pamphlet I found in my grandmother's kitchen actually extolled a national brand of fat for its high caloric content.  Bit different lifestyle then, wouldn't you say? - Linda S.

Monday, October 24, 2011

First, I must state that I am not a licensed physical therapist or personal trainer.  You may be expecting some type of disclaimer of "consult a physician before starting an exercise program" fame.  Nope.  The way I look at it is, I am that physician giving out helpful, free medical advice for prepping--so take it or leave it.  Much of this article references my life and personal experience, and for that you will either be impressed by the thoughtful, personal example; or you will be disgusted and bored by my shameless self-talk.  For this I am sorry; but I try very hard to do as I tell others to do as an example rather than a hypocrite.  WTSHTF, everyone's lives will be very different except for those few amazing and blessed humans out there like this blog's editor.  (Their lives are already very different!)  This article is written for the rest of us.  The overweight family practice doctor from the Ozarks that thinks he's too busy to exercise (ouch, that one hits close).  The housewife jogger that puts in her 2.5 miles every weekday on the treadmill.  The responsible mom with the most awesome pantry--but also 30 extra pounds of "softness" to carry.  The 60 year old guy that is an awesome shot, but also an awesome beer drinker that can't walk up a hill carrying a load without nearly dying.  The list of my friends and family could go on for a long time; but we all know who we are:  American preppers.  We are just like most Americans--eating too much junk food, fast food, and having the best intentions to improve our fitness after everything else on the list has been checked off.  The list you have isn't going away and if you count yourself among this group of American preppers---the time is now.

My time as a Cross Country runner, wrestler, 5K road racer, Air Force Officer, and physician has certainly been enough training and education in fitness.  I was buff in the past--with 8-pack abs and definition.  I could run 10 miles in less than a hour without difficulty.  I could squat and bench my weight.  But, it all came at a price.  Time mostly, pain too.  I spent hours and hours a week away from my family working out.  Something else always is sacrificed.  I was injured often by overuse and over-training.  Sore shoulders, knees, ankles and hips became fairly normal in my day to day life.  Finally, I had a psoas muscle tear in 2005 that gave us quite a scare as they thought I might have a tumor instead of just a simple overuse injury.  (Little did they know how hard I was training).  After the blood was reabsorbed and I could walk again after my brief stay in a wheelchair, my wife banned me from running.  At that time, I was quite sure that she could be persuaded or ignored in the future, so I wasn't too worried.  Time and age have softened me to my current pudgy standing, but the knowledge and will is still there to get buff again.  I would often sneak in running trials and then my wife would catch me and lecture until I submitted to her will.  Then, over time, I began to think a lot about what the point of being fit was.  Did I really want to be cut again?  Was it worth the pain and time?  No, it was not.  There were much more pressing concerns that continued to niggle at my brain.  Suddenly, TEOTWAWKI fitness planning seemed so obvious to me.  Train for what you expect in the future, and don't worry about anything else...genius!
Where to start?  Start at the beginning.  (Real original, eh?)  Seriously though, sit down and make a plan for TEOTWAWKI fitness.  THIS IS DIFFERENT THAN OTHER FITNESS PLANNING!  Everyone can lose weight and get in better shape, but this is not the point of TEOTWAWKI fitness.  The point will be survival.  Plain and simple--survival.  No one cares how fast you can run or how much you can bench when we are all hungry, dirty, smelly and worried about our futures.  So, my suggestion is to sit down with the members of your group or family and actually have a discussion about the "grid down" situation first.  Where would you likely be?  Where would you need to get to?  What if there was NO transportation?  Where is your nearest water supply?  What will you eat?  What will you do if it is the height of summer's heat, or the depths of winter's cold?  Do you have clothing for both extremes with you in your BOB or vehicle--and will you be able to get to it?  Perhaps you can start to appreciate where I am going with this.  Jogging and eating protein bars is not adequate preparation.  Make a plan for your fitness based on your individual responsibilities WTSHTF.  When I sat down with my wife and talked about this issue, I realized that I could facing a 220 mile hike to get back to her and the family.  My first fitness priority became:  getting in shape for hiking home.  What is your challenge when the grid goes down?
Look at your biggest fitness challenge in a post-grid world and make your fitness plan to fit that challenge.  For me, walking and jogging is easy.  I have no major health problems or joint issues.  I am overweight, but not to the point of health concerns.  But, putting on my BOB and hiking up and down the hills is a much bigger challenge than a simple 4 mile walk.  Having to do that hike 54 times in a row is a sobering thought.  And, more importantly, you learn a lot about the problems with your plan and your gear.  I found out that I need a little towel at the small of my back or my pants will fill with sweat.  I learned that if I continue my typical slouchy posture while wearing my BOB my neck really starts to hurt, but by focusing on a more "military stance" and tightening my waist belt and loosening my chest belt, my neck is much better on a longer hike.  I discovered that getting a good filter straw was a far superior idea compared to carrying 2 gallons of water at a time.  I now know that carrying larger volumes of dehydrated and freeze-dried foods beats MREs in my BOB.  The short socks I usually favor did not adequately cover my legs and caused chaffing from my boots, prompting me to buy some of the calf-length ones for my BOB.  I probably could have gained enlightenment about all these issues by thinking, reading, and theorizing--but nothing beats real-life application.  With some of these simple changes to my BOB, it is much lighter and I can hike much farther now on the same energy; and as I continue to "practice" hiking with my gear on and my BOB loaded I expect that the 54 4-mile hikes will seem more doable.
But, this is just my fitness plan for TEOTWAWKI, it is not yours.  Go back to the list and the "grid down discussion".  Perhaps you have not really made a good water harvesting plan.  Mine involves rain water collection, but if there is a prolonged drought the back-up plan is the half-mile hike through some pretty rough woods downhill and then back uphill with a heavy load of water.  My current BOB hiking training will prepare me for that mile round-trip well.  Maybe your water harvest could be improved by building a pulley system and so you need to climb some trees and get the lines hung.  That's a good workout, so get it done instead of going to the gym to work on your definition.  Maybe you need more reliable equipment for water hauling, but you won't know that until you put your new "fitness thinking" into a plan.  Water being the first step to survival, someone in your group or family needs to take on this fitness challenge.  Water is heavy and usually a hill is involved, sometimes a cliff or drop.  Maybe you need to have a simple "bucket rope" suspended over the 15 foot drop at your local water source instead of the slippery adventure at the shoreline.  Building it may prevent an injury later and if nothing else would make your job much less difficult.
Food should be another focus of fitness planning.  Gardening without power tools and gas is hard.  Takes a lot of prep work and can cause lots of blisters and sore spots.  Someone can be in charge of this part of your groups' planning and again--practice.  Real life raking of leaves in the fall can build hand strength and calluses.  Turning the soil in the winter (latitude dependent) or the compost pile can keep your hands, arms and shoulders in shape.  Digging holes for fruit trees in the fall is excellent training.  Spring tilling can be grueling if you haven't been able to (due to snow and/or ice) or you just haven't.  Prepare accordingly doing the activities during the "off" season that you will need to do in the "on" season.  Gardening in one thing, hunting is another.  As every good hunter will tell you:  the kill is the easy part.  Field dressing and hauling a large animal out of the woods is a real test of your fitness.  Practice makes perfect, or at least practice helps prepare you for the haul out with meat for the group.  If you are unable to hunt regularly enough to build fitness, perhaps drag a large and heavy pack through the property for a hour weekly.  Whatever seems to be the most realistic substitute for the real thing you should try to do now.
Maybe your fitness concern is the need for security.  You have "plans" for patrolling the perimeter of your property.  Time to do instead of plan.  Don't just patrol, wear real-life gear and if at all possible carry real-life security measures.  Not always possible and not always a good idea (as you may look like the kind of nut your locals don't approve of), but my plan if the local law enforcement decides to stop and question the nut in camo walking in the dark with a big pack on through the town is to use the "practicing for hunting season" line.  Usually there is something coming up that makes sense, currently deer season.  Closer to Spring it will be turkey season.  Camping trip coming up with the family is always a good one.  My personal approach is keeping a low profile, but perhaps you live in a more "prepper-friendly" area and you could just tell the truth.  Practicing your combat position drops with your gear on is a great way to condition too, the more real-world practice the more muscle memory you will retain.
Another thing to consider when doing your fitness planning is wood harvesting.  If you are going to use wood for heating or cooking, someone has to get it.  At first, most wood will be in the woodpile or close to the house.  The next wood gathered will be deadfall that is in an ever increasing radius from you.  Not much of a challenge really so far.  But, after using much more wood than you are used to, it will quickly disappear and your will be forced to gather wood from standing trees in short order.  Cutting down a dead tree with a chainsaw is one thing, cutting a live tree down with a handsaw is another completely.  Now that's a fitness challenge if you have ever attempted to do so.  Again, practice makes perfect.  I recommend cutting some live trees down now to age on the ground to make cutting a splitting in the future easier while giving you the necessary muscle challenge that you will face more regularly in the future.  Leaving deadwood standing while thinning out live trees may seem nuts now, but if you need them later you will be very thankful.  Splitting is a completely different fitness challenge, and the more regularly you can split smaller amounts, the better trained you will be.  Don't take a weekend and split a cord, take 1/4 cord on weekly.  When swinging an axe, you want to make sure you have not only some strength but also good control, for obvious reasons.  If you are lucky enough to have all the gas and hydraulics you need to help with you splitting, make sure you have enough to last many years, or convert to some work by hand now so you can build the strength and skill necessary to get the job done.
You may notice two glaring omissions from these fitness recommendations:  diet and workouts.  Dieting is unnecessary in TEOTWAWKI fitness planning.  Seriously.  If you are adequately fit to accomplish this schedule:  weekend hunting trip with recovery of mid-sized deer, Monday hauling 200 gallons of water 1/2 mile, Tuesday gather 1 cord of deadwood, Wed split 1/4 cord of that gathered wood, Thursday help with raking leaves most of the day for the garden, Friday haul another 200 gallons of water 1/2 mile; you don't need to worry about being fat.  I doubt that you will be for one, but even if you are then you still have nothing to worry about from a "fitness for survival" standpoint.  And you certainly don't need to worry about working out to make yourself more fit.  That schedule is tough, and will be much more of a reality than you may have really pondered prior to this article.  If so, you have work to do.  Start doing it.  Simple, shorter "workouts" of practice sessions until fatigued or until slight muscle soreness occurs are best for beginners, then advance as tolerated until you are really building up your tolerance to this type of work.  I will mention a few things about diet changes in prepping for TEOTWAWKI in terms of practice.  Start to eat more like you will after losing the grid and your favorite naughty food source (for me, it is Taco Bell).  Go an entire week without using electricity to fix your meals.  Definitely cut out fast food, junk food and eating out as much as possible now to miss those things less in the leaner future.  Eat some of your prep foods together as a group or family so that you can start to appreciate some of the tastes, textures and spicing that you may not be used to.  Some of these things may seem silly now, but will pay off exponentially WTSHTF.  As always, stay strong.

JWR Adds: Dr. Bob is is one of the few consulting physicians in the U.S. who dispenses antibiotics for disaster preparedness as part of his normal scope of practice. His web site is:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I recently completed my third 10 water only fast.  The previous one I did was 13 years ago.  Here are some observations.

1) While the first two times I did a 10 day water fast the hunger disappeared in 3 days, this time, it took 8 days for the hunger pangs to stop.

2) I was much more sensitive to cold temperatures.  Bear that in mind and take appropriate measures.

3) Adding a little salt to the water I was drinking helped significantly with the lightheadedness and tendency to get faint when rising.

4)  A colonic cleansing on day 3 (you could simply do a few enemas) helped a great deal as I was no longer walking around with 4 pounds of fecal matter in my large intestine, held there due to lack off peristalsis for 10 days.

4) Unlike the first two water fasts I have done, this time, instead of breaking my fast eating either fruit or yogurt for my first meal, I had homemade chicken broth.  Later the same day I had slow cooked chicken.  I had no stomach aches and I think it was the optimal meal to restart my digestive tract.  After meat, I went to cooked vegetables, then to fruits and finally to grains three days later.

As a side benefit, now that I am in the habit of making stocks my family and I find that meals cooked with stock not only have much more flavor, but also greater satiability.  A grain cooked with stock instead of water gives me a much greater sense of being well fed and it lets me go a few more hours before I feel the need to eat than otherwise.

Simple stock making instructions

Chicken stock- Take a whole butchered chicken and put the breast in one container with brine and refrigerate, put the wings, legs, thighs, fat and skin in another container with brine and refrigerate and put the remaining carcass into a crock pot with cold water and apple cider vinegar.  The breasts, legs, thighs and wings can be cooked in any manner within 1-6 days of being in the brine.
(I prefer to stir fry or sauté the breasts and slow cook the legs, wings and thighs so as to get the nutrition from the bones.)

The cold water and vinegar will begin to draw out the albumin and dissolve the bones and cartilage increasing the nutritive value.  

Next, put in mirepoix (2 chopped carrots, 3 stalks chopped celery and 1 large chopped onion).

Add enough water to covert the meat.

Slow cook at around 190 F for 6 to 24 hours.  You will need at least 159F to get the gelatin out of the bones.

After 1st hour you can skim off the material that floats to the top.

When done, strain and put the stock (the liquid) into the fridge.  It may or may not turn to a Jello-like consistency depending on the health of the animal and number of bones you use.

Use this stock in the place of water when you are cooking grains or making soups.

For Beef Stock-
Put chopped bones into the stock.  You can pre brown them in the oven if you prefer that flavor  Look up Brown Stock...

Repeat with the same directions )temperature, cooking time, mirepoix and skimming) as the chicken stock.  

When complete, the strained liquid will be very heavy and oily and when refrigerated will turn to gelatin.  You will find a yellow layer that solidifies on the top.  This is the beef fat or tallow.  You can use this for cooking and frying or just add it in with the stock when you use the stock.

Stocks that won't be used in 3-5 days should be put in the freezer.

Advantages of making stocks and brines:

Meat kept in brine will last far longer in the fridge than otherwise and will be far more tender when cooked.

Food cooked with stocks will be both tastier and more nutritious. - SF in Hawaii

Saturday, October 22, 2011

I have experienced two different times in my life of going hungry. The first time I went with very little food for three months. I went from 145 lbs to 115 lbs. I am 5'8 and my weight should be around 140-160 according to the Body Mass Index (BMI). The second time wasn't as bad because I knew what to expect. I went from 175 lbs to about 135 lbs. I now weigh a comfortable 190 lbs. I purposely gained weight above the recommended 160 but I try to keep my weight maintained just under the obese level. I do exercise and I eat healthy.

I have learned several things from going hungry, at least for my experience:
1. Candy bars are not good for trying to ease hunger pains. Yes they can help give a very short term boost in energy, but they leave you feeling hungrier within an hour, some starch or protein is better.
2. Starving leaves you feeling lethargic. Going without food leaves your body without energy to perform necessary functions for survival. You have to be mentally prepared to go hungry. If you do not have the willpower to continue to push through your weakness you will give up and die, literally.
3. Having some stored fat helps you to continue going hungry for longer. Having too much fat will just make you a target when everyone else is hungry too. Yes you can live off of stored energy but do not endanger yourself by becoming obese. You will increase your risk of diabetes and heart problems, as well as decrease your ability to survive in TEOTWAWKI. I purposely am a bit overweight because I have found that when I go hungry it is easier to go down to 135 lbs and function than it is to go down to 115 lbs and function, however I do not ever gain weight above 190 lbs because then I cannot run or do heavy work as well. TEOTWAWKI may not come for another 20 years and there is no sense in putting yourself in risk of a heart attack.
4. You can survive on beans alone. For over thirty days I had no food at all and then I was given a box containing nothing but cans of kidney beans. For the next twelve days I had a can of beans a day and I felt much better and gained a little energy.
Both times I have gone hungry was because I had no or very little money to buy food, it was not a choice and if I can prevent it from happening again I will. I now make sure to have plenty of canned food from my garden in storage, but if I have to go hungry again I know that I can go at least three months on very little food and still work and function.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

We prep in large part to keep ourselves (and those we love) from going hungry in the event of a disaster or crisis.  Yet there’s no way of knowing in advance what kind of crisis we will face, nor how long our supplies will last. Even the most prepared among us could find their supplies wiped out in a fire, in a raid or natural disaster. And our plans for gardening or hunting could be completely disrupted by any number of things.
What this means is that at least some of us are going to go hungry, and its possible that many of us will experience hunger off and on – and we need to face that possibility.

Given that we might go hungry occasionally just how do we handle hunger?
I don’t pretend to be an expert and this isn’t a research paper though I did do some research on the related issues of fasting and starvation. There are things we can do and things we can be prepared with that will help us through the experience of hunger. And the beauty of sharing these thoughts with the prepper community is that there are brothers and sisters out there who know first-hand about hunger and who will either add to or correct my thoughts below. I thank you in advance for your help, because hunger might be in my future as well.
Be Prepared. Trust God. We can do both.

  1. The really good news is that hunger pangs will pass after the second or third day of not eating, if you have no food at all. Hang in there, the hunger will not continue to increase, in fact it will disappear for weeks.
  2. Outlast it – unless already weakened you can go 30 days (or more!) without food. Cody Lundin (98.6 Degrees, p. 204) figures the average person’s fat stores alone contain the caloric equivalent of nearly 500 Snickers bars (if I did the math right) – and that’s not even counting sugar/glycogen stores and muscle protein, both of which can also be burned by your body for energy to keep you alive. The Bottom Line: You’re not going to starve to death anytime soon, but the altitude, water availability, and temperature will affect how quickly your body works through its reserves (lower altitudes and warmer temps are good).
  3. The hardest thing about being hungry is thinking about being hungry. And what can you do about that? Stay busy. Read, sew, build, catch up on projects, and of course work on finding food. Schedule your most demanding projects for the first day or two when you will have the most energy.
  4. Drink lots of clean water or herbal teas. Contaminated water is a quick way to get really sick. Your body’s systems change and adjust, it might be a little hard to judge how much water your need – two liters per day might be a minimum for relatively inactive persons. Your body’s need for water will reduce somewhat as the hunger continues. You do not want to become dehydrated, even in cold weather, and your body must have water to help detoxify you as your body adapts to the hunger.
  5. Oftentimes when food is scarce herbs for brewing tea (to make water more palatable in your condition) are still available or can be found in the wild – you can make tea from many things. Or you can add lemon juice to water to make it more drinkable, if you happen to have that. That said, you do NOT want to try to “fill your stomach” with water – that’s too much water and will create other problems. (If you have no water, but do have food, this would be a good time to fast rather than contribute to dangerous dehydration! Digestion takes water.)
  6. Make a food-procurement plan and work that plan every day. If it takes you a day to find game trails or set traps or plan your hunt don’t panic! Keep your head and work steadily – it might feel like you’re starving, but that actually takes quite a while.
  7. Small quantities of hard candies (Butterscotch, yum!) can reduce the feeling of hunger and give you calories to keep moving. Save the candy in your stash for if and when hunger starts, but eat them sparingly and only when you need to be most active. Some sugar (or a little bit of simple carbohydrates like bread, cereals, or potatoes) may get you through a tough spot.
  8. Make your meals as flavorful and tasty and attractive as you can – savor what food you do have. Spices make bland food better, keep some with your bugout bag (what goes well with squirrel?) and have plenty at home. The military is fond of Tabasco sauce to make food zestier, but I’d like to propose spices that have actual nutritional or healing value such as curry, turmeric, garlic, cilantro, etc to get the most bang for your storage buck.
  9. Work on keeping your sense of humor, it is a survival resource. Don’t give in to anger and bitterness, face it, fight it.
  10. Don’t gorge when you do get food, you might throw it all up and waste it. If you haven’t eaten in a long time you need to ease into eating again. Eating too much at once can make you feel depressed and lethargic (bad in a survival situation) and could easily lead to nausea or abdominal cramping. Start with some raw fruits and vegetables or oatmeal and then wait until you feel hungry to eat again. Don’t break a fast with fatty or fried foods!
  11. Don’t watch other people eat, hang around where you will smell their food, or look at food advertisements. Needless to say, if you don’t have any food stay out of the kitchen – as it has too many food associations.
  12. Expect physical changes in your body such as heightened sense of smell, fluctuations in energy and fatigue, and a bad taste in your mouth. If you’ve eaten a lot of junk or medicines your body will detoxify in stages and you could feel pretty bad off and on. You could chew a pinch of mint leaves or perhaps carry a tin of mint chew/snuff to take the bad taste away.
  13. Sometimes your will isn’t strong enough to focus on your task and deal with the hunger, so having another person to encourage you and keep you going is invaluable. Raw willpower can only get you so far.
  14. When you do have food, don’t fill up on junk if you have any choice in the matter. Instead, stick to wholesome basic foods, raw if possible (cook your meats, though!) If you’re not used to eating like that it will take a little time to adjust. Think of the days when food is plentiful as preparing you for when the food is scarcer. Don’t waste anything: dry/freeze/can your surplus food.
  15. Some smells may help with the hunger feeling: mint, citrus peel, etc. Experiment with what you have available.
  16. If you know you won’t have food for a few days you might try purging your bowels first with fruit-only meals. Don’t make the last meal before going hungry bread or meat or dairy if possible. If you don’t want to go through detoxification don’t consume a lot of toxics (chemicals in water or food, alcohol or tobacco) beforehand.
  17. If hunger is on the horizon consider fasting in advance for longer and longer periods to become familiar with the effects and give you confidence you really can function for a few days while hungry. It will also stretch your food supply a bit before the hunger starts.
  18. Expect that you will feel colder than you usually do. Bring warmer clothes with you when outdoors.
  19. If you only have a little food, a protein meal toward bedtime helps when your body is trying to repair itself (that’s when it releases Human Growth Hormone and does a lot of muscle repair), and a carbohydrate meal at breakfast is when you want extra energy to get moving.
  20. As the hunger continues, do your work/projects as efficiently as possible to conserve your energy. Use tools and levers and wheels to amplify your effort and reduce your exertion, even if you used to be able to do a job by hand. Pace yourself – try to maintain a steady exertion level without huge peak demands for energy. Work smarter, not harder. If you have any choice in the matter, don’t attempt work that requires peak performance or manual dexterity or clear mental focus.

With a difficult decision, write out the pros and cons to clarify things and get wise counsel. From time to time you may have to work at concentrating and thinking clearly and your judgment may be affected. Double-check your work, actually read the instructions, have someone else check your work, watch for critical error points (if something is going to go wrong where is that most likely to happen?), keep it simple, minimize distractions, follow the plan you decided on in better times when your mind was clearer, use equipment only as intended, have a Plan B ready if you do mess up. You may become accident-prone so take extra precautions! [A big thank-you to my brother for his ideas here.]

  1. Drinking a lot of chemically purified water (if you use chlorine or iodine) will mess with your digestive system’s beneficial bacteria that you must have to get the most nutrition from your food. Replenish them with raw vegetables (they have small quantities of naturally-occurring bacteria on them, grocery store vegetables are too clean), or commercial probiotics if still available. Aged hard cheeses, yogurt, unpasteurized sauerkraut, home-brewed beer (un-pasteurized) and brined pickles may help.
  2. Expect trouble with anger, your own and others. Make a plan: time-outs, forgiveness, refusing revenge, talking it through, etc. Also expect to deal with varying degrees of emotional depression, recognize that it’s a result of hunger and not necessarily a reflection of hopeless circumstances. A lot of the depression will be the result of pent-up anger and that anger can be directed into productive action. Quit asking “Why me?” and start asking “What do I do now?”
  3. As you might expect with a situation that triggers anger and depression, hunger will stress all of your relationships, so give them extra attention and cut everyone extra slack. Your loved ones and friends may not be handling it as well as you, they’ll need your help to not give in to hysteria and anxiety about their health and symptoms. They may want to isolate themselves when they should be engaged in solving the problem. Healthy herbs that calm and sedate might be helpful to have on hand if the going gets tough.
  4. Supplementing with electrolytes during extended hunger will help compensate for electrolyte loss through urination or perspiration. You normally get those electrolytes from the food you eat. Supplementing will keep you healthier, not necessarily make the hunger less. Salt, potassium, magnesium, calcium in a tablet might help, something like this.
  5. Try not to eat protein-only meals during the time of hunger. Even if you have enough protein to fill your stomach do your very best to add some vegetables or fruits. Your digestive system needs fiber – even if the fiber source isn’t particularly nutritious – as well as the carbohydrates and vitamins that many vegetables and grasses contain. (Skip the protein if you don’t have enough water, protein metabolism byproducts must be excreted by the kidneys and that uses water.)
  6. Going hungry is the very definition of malnutrition. Supplementing with a good multivitamin will help keep your body healthier. You might not be able to tolerate taking a vitamin on an empty stomach, at least take them when you do have a little bit of food. 
  7. Each time you successfully endure a period of hunger will make the next a little easier, if you can fully recover between episodes. You will be more confident, know what to expect, and your body will have less of a toxic load. You could even get an idea how your body handles hunger by undertaking a “fast” now (it’s actually good for you short-term) – and that might cut down on the fear factor later.
  8. It’s no good to eat dangerous foods just because you’re hungry. Moldy foods can be deadly, certain berries or plants likewise. Know your native plants! If it’s just going to make things worse don’t eat it! It’s not going to “fill your stomach” it’s going to make you deathly ill first and then maybe make you dead. If in doubt, don’t eat it! (And remember – don’t fill up with water!)
  9. If you’re hungry there are probably others who are hungry too. Help them by teaching them to find (local plants!), hunt, or grow their own, but if they’re really desperate share. You don’t know what tomorrow will bring. If you can save someone’s life today, do it. You’re not poor as long as you have enough to share.
  10. Pray! Yes, just knowing there is a God changes things, creates new possibilities, and gives us hope. Unburdening our hearts to Him frees us, don’t be surprised if He meets your need in a way you didn’t expect. Seek Him!
  11. As you are recovering from hunger you will want to not only address your nutritional needs, but the emotional scars that may have resulted from your ordeal. This can be a pretty significant issue. Talk it through with other survivors, your pastor, or a counselor. Don’t overlook this.

Carry in your BOB:

  • Water purification tablets or filter
  • Electrolyte tablets
  • Multivitamin tablets
  • Mint chew/snuff or mint tea
  • Small bottles of spices and salt
  • Hard candies

Some hunger wisdom from around the world:

  • "Hunger is a poor advisor."
  • "Hunger is the best cook."
  • "Hunger sharpens anger."
  • "Hunger teaches many things."
  • "A hungry belly listens to no one."
  • "A hungry dog does not fear the stick."
  • "A hungry man has no conscience."
  • "A hungry populace listens to no reason nor cares for justice."
  • "Hunger and cold surrenders a man to his enemy."
  • "The drums of war are the drums of hunger."
  • "Enough is as good as a feast."
  • "At the working man’s house hunger looks in but dares not enter."
  • "Hunger knows no friend but its feeder."

JWR Adds These Warnings: Be sure to consult your physician before fasting. Obviously, fasting should not be attempted by pregnant or nursing women. It may also dangerously exacerbate any underlying medical conditions--even some that you don't yet know exist. The risk of fainting, especially during manual labor should also be considered. Also, never fast while alone!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Everyone wants to be able to take care of the family When The Schumer Hits The Fan (WTSHTF).  We have all read dozens of articles about how to garden, store food, keep seeds, protect our homes, and generally go about the living of life day-to-day.  We've heard the mantra: Life after the TSHTF is not for the faint of heart, nor the easily-grossed-out.  We've also seen a few that go into detail on how to prepare medically for disaster.  While all of us will be working hard to provide for our families and keep them safe, we also need to be concerned about something less-often talked about:  family planning when there is no hormonal birth control, and prophylactics are scarce.  Heaven knows,  when TSHTF, you and your existing family will be busy adjusting to your new life, and may not be ready to welcome a new bundle of joy before your local area stabilizes. 

The dangers of unexpected or poorly planned pregnancies in a situation where medical facilities and options will be extremely limited cannot be ignored.  Communities may have no real medical expertise, and certainly, without anesthetic, a cesarean section won't be a terribly pleasant or successful affair.  A woman who has had problem pregnancies in the past will most likely continue to have problem pregnancies.  If you suspect your partner will have a problem pregnancy, or if she's had one before, extra care must be taken to consider the time and place of birth: for example, temporarily moving to the area closest to the best medical personnel available.  

Another oh-so-fun factor to consider is the very real possibility of being due mid-winter, when snow might be high, and travel difficult.  Families may want to consider planning the children they want to be born in the fall or in the spring or summer, rather than mid-winter, just so that if there is a semi-competent medical person in the vicinity, they can get there in time without being side-lined by a blizzard.  It's not very likely that the county will be out snow-plowing and salting all the roads, right?  This is not to say, of course, that all pregnancies will end in disaster, of course.  Most of the time, with most women, the pregnancy and birth will probably go just fine.
 Aside from the risk inherent in pregnancy and childbirth itself, however, there are other reasons why planning for pregnancy is important.  There are implications for a woman's health after the baby is born, her family's health, and even to some extent, the health of the community itself. 

Families will probably need to be bigger than the “typical” American size of 2.5 children as a matter of necessity.  Where food is scarce, and farm labor is the mainstay of food production, it will be a blessed family that has four or five children to help out.  More importantly, though, a family needs the children well-spaced, so that there is time for the mother to recuperate in between pregnancies. For the preservation of her health, a mother should probably not have more than one child every two or three years.  This is because of the time it will take to recover from the pregnancy, birth, and the first year or two of infancy.  Remember, when TSHTF the baby will need to be breastfed, like it or not, because home-made formula is not a smart option if there is any alternative.  Babies should be breastfed for a minimum of 1 year, but ideally, it should be closer to two years, especially in areas where food or medical aid is scarce.  Breastfeeding beyond a year may be the difference between life and death for a young child after TSHTF. 

A woman who is worn-out from having a baby every year most likely will have difficulty helping with every-day tasks, let alone trying to manage the hard daily living of farm-work, gardening, and putting food on the table when there is no such thing as convenience food.  She might be fine for three or four years, but just try safely focusing on gardening, housework, and making food-- possibly over a fire or wood-burning stove with five under-five-year-old children running under foot.  Some of those babies aren't going to make it, and you'll end up with tiny graves in your plot.  If that thought isn't appealing to you, you need to start considering your options now.

Beyond your own household, though, there may be other factors to consider.  In a smaller community which depends on its members helping each other out, it would be a pretty uncomfortable state of affairs if most of the women in a community end up pregnant all at once.  It would be very difficult for women to help each other with, say, labor, or childcare if they're all in need of help themselves.  There are some tasks that are just not safe with a baby in tow, and women may need to trade tasks.  In addition, can you imagine if there are only one or two people in a community who are even remotely comfortable attending births, and there are three or four women in labor or about to go into labor?  If even one of them has complications, the others might be out of luck when it comes to having someone experienced on hand to help out. 

Now, I'm not saying all the families in a community should be drawing lots for the right to get pregnant, of course.  Far from it.  But coordination among women or families isn't at all a fanciful idea, and may be the difference between having adequate help in the first few weeks or days or being completely on your own.  It's a small enough consideration to hold off on a pregnancy for six months to a year to space babies between families so not everyone is dealing with the squalling of an infant at all hours of the night at the same time. 
For families without the knowledge or supplies for family planning, purposeful spacing most likely won't be possible.  I firmly believe that children are gifts from God, and that He is the one that engenders new life.  On the other hand, I also believe that God expects us to be reasonable and moderate, and use all the (morally acceptable) tools at our disposal to prepare and take care of our families.  In contemporary society, many God-fearing families still depend on hormonal birth control (“the pill”) or IUDs, condoms, diaphragms, cervical cups, et cetera, to help manage child spacing and family size.  While those families can plan ahead a certain extent and stockpile extra supplies, they won't last forever.  Stockpiles containing latex items, like condoms and diaphragms face serious storage issues.  Latex is extremely sensitive to heat, cold, and light.  Without climate control, they won't be nearly effective enough to be reliable in preventing pregnancy past a summer or two   Stores are not even required to notify the purchaser if they've improperly stored them, so even in perfectly storing new condoms in your stockpile, you are not guaranteed a “good” lot that will last for many years.  Hormonal birth control is no joke, either.   Even if you could store more than a year or so worth of pills, just because something works now, doesn't mean it will continue to work-- and there are serious health risks to unmonitored hormone usage.  Or you could get stuck with a stockpile of mis-packaged pills, like the batch that was just recalled.  In the event that manufacturing of these supplies ceases and distribution dwindles, alternatives will need to be explored.

So, then, if “conventional” methods are unavailable, what options are you left with?
I'm sure we've all heard the “sex-ed” talk about different kinds of birth control, and heard how ineffective the “pull-out” and “rhythm” method are in comparison to the standard industrialized hormonal and physical barriers are.  The bad news is that the talk is right:  those methods probably won't help for long, and are pretty unreliable in any case.  The good news is that those are not the only options after TSHTF

You may know that in the animal kingdom, God designed most animals so that they come into “season” or “heat”  at most two times a year.  What you may not know is that although human beings are fertile all year round, women actually have been designed with seasons too, though the human fertility cycle runs on a monthly, not yearly, basis. Everyone knows about “that time of the month”.  Not everyone knows that there are other, equally important parts to the human fertility cycle that are predictable, observable, and measurable.   With the aid of something to write on and a writing instrument, you can use these observable and measurable signs on a day to day basis to determine the fertile and infertile portions of a given cycle.   Using the knowledge of which part of the cycle she's in on a given day, a couple can choose to avoid or achieve pregnancy.  This practice is called Natural Family Planning (NFP) or fertility awareness. 

There is over half a century of solid research underpinning the science of understanding, and the art of working with the human fertility cycle instead of against it.  You may have heard someone mention NFP or fertility awareness and dismissed it as a “glorified rhythm method”.  Unfortunately, if they've even ever heard of it, your doctor may have reinforced that notion.   The average American's understanding of NFP is severely flawed,  and influenced heavily by the pharmaceutical industry's consistent downplaying and misinformation campaign aimed squarely at your doctor.  By deciding to either abstain from or engage in sexual activity, on any given day, the method can be used to achieve or avoid/postpone pregnancy.  The best part is that NFP is actually just as effective as any form of hormonal birth control, with an effectiveness rating of 98% to 99%.  Even women with irregular menstrual cycles can reliably use NFP to achieve/avoid pregnancy.  It's more effective than a condom or a diaphragm.  It's free, and perpetual.  Once you know NFP, you can use it for the rest of your reproductive life without any adverse side effects, and you can teach it to your children when they get married.  You can't “run out” of NFP.  It can even help couples who are having difficulty with trying to get pregnant, so it works both ways. 

There are several “flavors” of NFP, ranging from the simple to the fairly complex.  Whichever method you choose to learn, it's important that you do not wait to start learning.  I strongly urge couples to start investigating this most basic of knowledge before TSHTF so that they can be prepared. While anyone can learn NFP (and I do mean anyone), learning it is akin to learning how to ride a bike, swim, or shoot.  You will have to learn about it, do it, and practice some more before you feel fully comfortable.  After TSHTF is not the time to try and figure it out on your own.  You don't learn to swim when you fall out of the boat, and you don't learn to shoot when you're going hunting for the first time.

It's best that, if at all possible, you find a teacher that can help you learn the symptoms and help you learn to reliably interpret your cycles.  It's important to remember that NFP is not something that a woman is solely responsible for.  For NFP to work, the couple must be in agreement, and communicate on a daily basis. Once your understanding is firmly established, the effort that goes into observing, and charting is virtually unnoticed.  It will feel like a natural extension of your relationship with your spouse, and will have some interesting fringe benefits.  A key point to remember is that, although in the beginning it may seem daunting, the process is quite simple. Really, if you can learn to tie your shoes, you can learn NFP.  I promise.

There is nothing you need to stockpile for it other than something to write on and something to write with and perhaps if you are so inclined, a book or two for reference and teaching your children when the time comes for them to learn about the birds and bees.  You might consider getting certified to teach NFP to other couples through an association like the Couple-to-Couple League.  You can use the training to teach the other families in your community in case they didn't prepare.  You might also seriously consider obtaining a supply of glass thermometers (instead of the digital, battery-powered kind) for several reasons.  Some of the NFP methods rely on cross-checking body temperature with the other signs.  Equally, though, if you want to be able to determine someone's temperature to, say, check if they're getting an infection from a wound or childbirth or a viral illness, a thermometer is important.  The old glass-mercury thermometers are generally not available [new] in the US, but alternatives do exist.  Glass thermometers are more accurate than digital, and have several other advantages:  no batteries to run down, no need for re-calibration after just a few years, they can be sterilized, and they might make a good trade-item later. 

Although God is the only real arbiter of new life, and all our plans are subject to Him, the  knowledge  of our fertility cycles gives us the ability to discern our actions.  Our families do not need to be beholden to pharmaceutical companies to “help” us control our God-given fertility.  When TSHTF, you don't have to be afraid of the specter of more children than you can manage, or your wife  getting pregnant when it would seriously endanger her health.  You can learn how to work with a woman's natural cycle to plan your family safely, reliably, effectively, and cheaply.

For more information: 

Friday, September 23, 2011

I was just rereading the original posting about "beans, bullets and hygiene". The author wrote to be sure to check out the discount bins for after season sales on holiday soaps. He wrote that while the soaps may be strongly scented "nobody will care after TEOTWAWKI what they smell like". But actually, it may matter. 

We live in the country. We're not daily assaulted by the highly aromatic city folks wearing their cologne, perfume and scented body washes. So when we do happen to come in contact with them, we can smell them coming from quite a distance.
Its sorta' the same as noise. Today's world is so full of the noise of cars passing by, planes overhead, radios and television playing (not to mention those things people stick in their ears) that you don't even notice some neighbor pounding a nail or running a chainsaw.
But after all goes quiet, and after daily showers become much less common, folks' hearing and smelling will become much more sensitive. You'll hear saws running and know "someone" has heat and gas. If a neighbor appears cleaner than anyone else, and especially if they smell "fresher" (that is, perfumey/smelly/soapy) than the usual, you'll guess that they have more water, more soap, and therefore maybe more "other stuff". This is not good OPSEC.
We believe that when going out to community meetings, or on other occasions of contact outside your immediate group, it may be well to wear older, dirtier clothes so you don't attract notice. It may also be well to keep in mind that the person who smells 21st Century will be extraordinarily noticeable when everyone else is living 19th Century.
Our suggestion is that in a dark world, don't show your lights. In a world of no gas, don't be the only one to advertise having fuel for generators and saws. And in a world without instant hot and cold water, don't smell like Paris Hilton. - Jim in N. Ohio

Mr. Rawles,

I wanted to call to your reader's attention to the use of soap nuts in place of traditional laundry soap.  We first discovered them when looking for a chemical and fragrance free alternative for cloth diapers and baby clothes.  We now use them for all of our laundry and for many other cleaning jobs around the house.  They are all natural, economical, versatile, and easy to store - taking up much less room than traditional laundry detergent.   They can be reused several times and then composted.  They also work as a natural fabric softener. which is great for line drying.  Soap nuts are fine for septic and gray water systems. 

Other uses include:

  • Hand soap
  • Dishwasher soap
  • Window cleaner
  • All purpose cleaner
  • Shampoo
  • Pest and mosquito repellant
  • Carpet cleaner
  • Pet shampoo
  • Jewelry cleaner

Soap nuts are already very economical.  To get even more for your money, I recommend:

  • Buy in bulk and split the order with friends and family 
  • Don't buy the "whole" soap nuts.  I prefer breaking them anyway to better release the cleaning agent -  The suppliers don't always list the pieces on their web site, but if you call them they often times will sell the "broken" soap nuts at a largely discounted price, especially if you are buying in bulk. 
  • Grind your own powder and make your own liquid.  It's easy to learn and there are many instructions and recipes to be found on the Internet. 

There are various ways to can and preserve the soap nuts liquid, so you can store it in quantity and have it readily available.  We store our soap nuts in a five gallon bucket with a lid, and this lasts our family of four a very long time.   Soap nuts make a great barter item to keep on hand, since they store easily, take up so little space, and have multiple uses. - WoodsyMama


I wanted to add something to the recent hygiene article and responses that I have read and that is dental floss.  Dental floss is one of the single best tools for not only healthy teeth but, just as importantly, healthy gums.  Gum disease and tooth decay has been shown to affect overall health and contributes to heart disease and possible brain trauma due to infection.  Dental floss is compact and easy to store and it lasts forever (you might need to check that regarding the 'flavored' varieties), there is no reason not to pick up a couple extra packs every time you replace toothbrushes and toothpaste because it could be the difference between saving your teeth and having to learn to survive on broth.
  I also wanted to add a hearty endorsement for using a safety razor, as per the article posted on learning to shave like grandpa.  I started using a safety razor a year ago and I will never go back.  The shave is smoother and easier on the skin, the razor is cleaner because there is less tendency for a single blade to get 'clogged', and the blades are indeed cheaper as well as lasting longer since they are double sided.  I don't have an abundance of facial hair so I have only gone through one pack of double sided razors since started shaving this way.  Its better for your face, less expensive, and more durable - the perfect set of features for a prepper\-friendly shaving kit. Regards, - Doug W.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Everyone knows the rules, stock up on as many beans, bullets and Band-Aids as you can afford. As important as the big three are I feel that Hygiene is more important than some. Over the last few months I have been monitoring my family’s use of shampoo, soap, laundry detergent, deodorant, toothpaste and bathroom amenities. I can firmly tell you I am not prepared for this area.

How often do we just jump in the shower, grab the shampoo and squeeze a glob onto our hands before washing our hair for 20 seconds and washing it all away? My family likes using body wash and this is done the same way. Grab the squishy ball, squirt some on then wash away the grim. This is fine when we have a Wal-Mart, dollar store or other resource to buy more soap next week but how long will it last and do you have enough saved up? I recently completed a survey of my family on how much shop we use. I am going to make some suggestion on how to make yours stretch longer.

My son and I use the most soap. Maybe we are wasteful or maybe we just get dirtier I’m not sure. I do know that I used a bottle of Dove body wash in 3 weeks. That’s 13.5 ounces in 21 days, about .64oz per washing. My son used slightly more and my wife slightly less though she consumed allot more shampoo (I’ll attribute that to my thinning hair and her long luscious hair). I then tried an experiment where I reused some soap squirt bottles. I was able to get allot more soap/per washing with this approach. I was able to stretch my 13.5 oz several months. It did not feel like I was using that much less soap and the squishy ball still made allot of suds but the total really added up. A few times I would need to double pump when I had been working under a car or in the ditch but for 90% of my washes this worked fine.
A great way to clean up quickly before coming inside was suggest on another site I read. Since then I have tried it and it works rather well. Simply put a bar of soap in an old onion bag and hang near an outside water source (mine is near a frost free hydrant). The advantage is readily avail soap and the neat works well to really scrub the grim.

Toothpaste is another big spender for us. We grab the tube and squeeze out as much as we want. I’ve made myself and my son a ¼” rule. We now put on ¼” of toothpaste and brush away. I see no difference when I am done except we don’t have the toothpaste boogers that always end up in the sink after washing because we use all the toothpaste we put on our brushes. A side note from a friend, by brushing 1-2 times a week with your opposite hand you stimulate the other side of your brain which helps make you more ambidextrous (this could be useful in a firefight if something was to happen to your dominate arm).

I always get a kick out of someone stocking 1,000 rolls of toilet paper. I see this is impractical and a wasteful use of resources. I am going to stock some but more for a barter item for people that think they need it. In the last several years I have traveled to several countries and while they have toilet paper a majority of the people I have stayed with do not use it. How do they clean themselves? They way everyone did 200 years ago. WATER, simply use some water to clean your butt and wash your hands good with antibacterial soap. You can store hundred of gallons of soap in less area than it would take to store 200 rolls of toilet paper and it would last you so much longer. Also using toilet paper your septic system will fill up rather quickly. If you do not having running water and a septic system that is working correctly I would suggest digging a cesspool. I have seen these made by simply digging a 6’-8’ deep pit 8’-10’ diameter and laying cement blocks on edge. You then put some type of lid on the structure and cover with 2-3' of dirt. Leaving a cess pool uncovered is asking for trouble. This is a pooling place and leach field in one. It’s not currently looked upon favorably but would work fine after TEOTWAWKI. I feel this is a much better approach to the dig and bury method suggested by some. In the case were no running water is avail I would suggest making a form of outhouse to sit above one You could use reclaimed water from the roof to flush a toilet and have a vent several feel above the outhouse.

We often shop dollar stores for cheap antibacterial soap. Generally we can get a 1gal jug for fewer than five bucks. Don’t be afraid to check the clearance racks at holidays for the unique seasonal scents like burn turkey, eggnog, holiday mint and pine tree up your nose. These go on sale dirt cheap and after TEOTWAWKI no one is going to care what they smell like as long as they don’t smell like a wet dog and are clean. I also get LAVA brand soap from Wal-Mart. I get the 2pack in the automotive department for under $4, if you shop the beauty section it’s more. I don’t know why but I’ll walk the extra 100 feet to automotive to save the money. By shopping for cheaper brands and specials we have been able to accumulate a year’s supply of soap for under $100.

How will you do laundry after TEOTWAWKI? I certainly don’t want to use my fuel to run the clothes washer. Maybe you have an alternative like this wonder washer ? I do not have one yet but this is high on my list. You can watch reviews of it on YouTube. Until then I have installed a double bowl utility tub in our washroom. I have been told that you can force soap through cloths by using a plunger. I would recommend a separate new never used plunger for such activities. Start with your cleanest wash first and move to the dirty stuff after you go. The gray water I routed outside via PVC piping into a raised garden to utilize the spent water best. My wife washes several things by hand now and while it may not be fun she can do laundry in this fashion if need be. Laundry detergent should be stock up as well. I normally stick with name brand soap but for stocking I use and off brand powdered detergent. By shopping around at places like you can buy 45 lbs of detergent in a 5 gallon bucket for $40. This is a great fast way to have the soap one needs on hand to do cloths. We all know that we will be working hard and longer and will get much dirtier WTSHTF make sure you have enough to keep clean.

My house is fed water with an underground spring that has a shallow well pump connected to it.  We pipe our water just over ½ mile to our houses. This spring use to run to the factory that use to site where my property is currently located. It has been in use for well over 100 years and to my knowledge has never dried up. There is enough drop from the spring location to my house to supply me with fresh water. I simply need a way to move it though the house and heat it for showers. I am in the midst of working on either a solar powered setup with 12 volt DC RV pumps or by a water wheel using an AC generator head. The Solar may be my best option for now, however after TEOTWAWKI I doubt that the EPA would bother me much if I installed a Pelton wheel on the stream that runs through my property.
To heat my water I am going to rely on an old fashioned wood stove. I do not have the particulars worked out yet but my plan includes having a Kitchen Queen cook stove that I can use for heating water and cooking on. In the summer this would force us out of our house so a smaller stove would be able to boil water. I am working on acquiring a solar heater that I can connect to run in the warmer months of the year for showers, washing et cetera. This again will require some type of 12 volt DC pumping system to supply water up to the roof and then gravity will take over and bring the water back down to be used.

I feel that being clean will be one of the best luxuries when TEOTWAWKI happens. I also feel that if you are not clean you will be more apt to get sick. It’s something we take for granted now but by making some small changes you can find out how much soap, shampoo and toothpaste you will need to stay healthy and clean.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

I am just beginning my journey into the prepping world and it is amazing when I look back over the last year just how far I have come.  Being only 22 years old, and living on my own since 18 away at school and living in a large metropolitan area, it wasn't my first priority when I first left home.  I went through my first few years living the typical college life.  However, two years in, traveled to China for a while and it really opened my eyes as to how messed up the government of that country is.  What started my transition was seeing the correlation between how they were and the path we were going down in the USA.  After I got back, I started a small business (a fitness center) while still in college and became engaged to my soon to be wife.  All of these things really put my life into perspective and I knew I had to make some adjustments.  Thankfully, I had grown up in a rural part of the country on a farm and had developed several skill sets that one would not have growing up in the city.  I knew how to fish, trap, survive in the wilderness, and was especially proficient with firearms.  I had also grown up in a very conservative thinking Christian family that kept my morals in check.  I was always very into politics and always followed the daily news very closely.  About a year ago at the age of 20, the fire became ignited for having the survival mindset.  Seeing the changes taking place both in this country and around the world, I knew things would eventually "change".  I picked up on the inter-connectivity of the entire world and one small domino falling could bring the whole thing down.  All politics aside, I knew in 2008 we would be heading down the wrong path and it would probably never get any better.  Well, here we are...  read the news lately?  I made a few decisions about what I needed to do and how to live and I never turned back.

I did all the first steps that everyone does...  I bought all the most popular survival books, learned about what to store and how to store it.  I even went as far as planning for if I would have to leave the country and learning about second identifications and legal means to change your identity.  I purchased a lever action .30-30, a bolt-action Savage .308 Winchester long distance rifle with a Leupold scope, a Smith and Wesson M&P .45 along with plenty of ammo.  I bought food that can be stored, water purification, and traded in my car for a Dodge Dakota 4x4 with a standard transmission.  Unfortunately, I am not to the point that I can live at my retreat due to my business.  However, I have moved from downtown to the outskirts of the city on the side of the city that is heading towards my retreat, which is shared by a couple of very close friends with similar mindsets.  I also have four routes that I can take to my retreat if necessary.  I've done all of the basics recommended on this site and many other sources.  However, I feel as a young man that my journey is just beginning.

One aspect of the survival mindset that I feel is often not touched on enough is physical fitness and the necessity of it for a SHTF situation.  Also, I want to touch on the usefulness and practicality of many bodybuilding supplements that are designed for nutrition and supplementation that can be extremely useful for survival situations.  With fitness being my background and my company, I have a very good idea of the how important it is.  I see a lot of talk on this web site and others for preparing for TEOTWAWKI... and especially the moment life changes and we all rush to enact our survival plans.  Grabbing guns and supplies with a BOB, packing a vehicle with everything we can and making the mad dash for our retreat.  Well let me ask you...  If need be, would you be able to make it to your retreat on foot with a full load of gear on your back?  No matter how tricked out your gun is, would you be able to sprint a mile to a position, retreat if necessary (by sprinting), and all the while still be able to shoot?  Do you have the strength in your back and core to put a huge rucksack on it and carry it long distances?  There are so many plans we make to WTSHTF, but can we physically carry them out if we have to?  I recommend that everyone do a combination of strength training and cardiovascular work.  Very likely in a survival situation, we will not have to do endurance long distance running.  It will either be fast paced walking, or sprinting.  So we should be prepared to do either.  Also, strength will help you in bugging out and in terms of usefulness after TEOTWAWKI.  Those who are strong will survive, small and weak people will not be needed or useful.  Am I advocating that we all look like bodybuilders?  Not all, that is even less useful.  However, having a lean, muscular build will be optimal for a survival situation.  You want to be a combination of lean, fast, strong, and slightly muscular.  If you are looking to be in incredible shape, I recommend you check out  It is an incredible workout program that will get you prepared to be in shape.  As they say, any one can have desire to be a great warrior, but are you fit enough?

More on the topic of fitness.  I want to discuss something that I have yet to see on this board.  The usefulness of supplements...  There are several supplements that are designed for active lifestyles and people who work out that are extremely useful.  The things I will talk about are: vitamins, nutritional support supplements, protein shakes, and weight gainers, and testosterone enhancers (not steroids)

Essential for optimal function of your body on a cellular level.  Regulates many activities and is important even when combined with a nutritional diet.  These become vitally important when we have a diet that is not rich in natural vitamins and minerals (eating stored food).  With a diet that is likely for the short term to be void of fresh fruits and vegetables, these nutrients will be very important.  A brand that I use is Apex.  It has a 97% absorption rate and it timed-released, which is far better than the grocery store vitamins that have about a 20-30% absorption rate.  They run about $10-$15 for a two month supply.

Nutritional Support:
Fish Oils: Essential for brain health and heart health
Glucosamine: We will be much more active when SHTF, we will want this for joint support due once again a diet that is not nutritionally balanced.
Calcium: Unless you have a farm with animals that can produce milk, you won't have any... Enough said
Anti-Oxidants: Prevents cancer and other ailments, found mostly in fresh-fruits, which will be hard to come by unless you grow them.
There are many brands to choose from for these, however, since my fitness center distributes Apex and it is proven, I use it.

Whey/Soy Protein:
Very easy source of a high protein food.  Whey protein is derived from milk, where Soy is naturally derived from Soy.  I carry this in my BOB as an easy to carry source of food that is high in protein to prevent muscle breakdown in the event that I have to hoof it to my retreat.  Also very useful at the retreat for long term nutrition.  Best brands for this are Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey (can be bought in 2 lb to 10 lb), or Muscle Milk since it has some carbs and Vitamins/Minerals as well.

Weight Gainers:
My essential food for when SHTF, bulk weight gainer shakes.  These shakes are not useful for most people in a normal situation due to the fact they are extremely high in calories, carbs, and protein and will make most people get fat if they are used regularly.  However, in a survival situation, what more could you ask for?  A compact source of food that is extremely high in calories, carbohydrates, protein, tons of vitamins and minerals, and can easy be mixed in water.  Literally, we are talking about 600-1000 calories with 50 grams of protein, 100 grams of carbs (both simple and complex), packed with vitamins and minerals, and is about 3/4 cup of powder that can be mixed with water in a medium sized bottle.  You can't really find anything even close to that in terms of size to nutrient ratio.

My two favorite brands for this are Ultimate Nutrition's Iso Mass Xtreme Gainer or Optimum Nutrition's Serious Mass.  Both of these weight gainers come in 10 pound tubs.  These babies have an expiration date about 5 years down the road after purchasing, and could probably last longer if needed and come completely sealed.  My retreat has countless jugs of this stuff.

Testosterone Boosters
I have some of these planned for the time period immediately after the collapse.  The amount of stress on the body, both physically and mentally will be incredible.  Except for those who have been in extended periods of consistent combat (several months), none of us have probably ever experienced anything like this before.  Having your natural testosterone increased to the highest optimal level will help you make it through much better.  Your body will heal quicker from strain and you will be better mentally prepared to hand everything.
What I recommend for this is Tribulus, ZMA, and T-Bomb.

All in all, I hope this has brought some ideas to people about the usefulness of supplements and the necessity of many of them after the world changes for good.  God Bless and be prepared.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

After reading the recent MBR article by Zorro, it seems that all the amateurs still fuss over the 5.56/7.62 or 9mm/.45 debate. At our police agency here in the Southwest, we focus on increasing our trigger time via the SIRT laser training pistol, practicing fundamentals through live and dry fire, working through scenarios (lessons learned) and practicing "range fitness".

A great resource for range fitness is Rob Shaul speaks of high percentage shooting positions based upon the experiences of combat veterans, as well as developing the fitness needed to put the gun in the fight.  It seems that whenever I'm selected to attend firearms training courses it's at the worst possible time of year. The temperature for my shotgun course in February was 20 degrees with howling winds. I had to decide between wearing gloves that got stuck in the elevator of the weapon when doing slug manipulation or just letting them go numb. Now I will attend a Rifle course in August as the temperature is officially 110 degrees in the shade. Hydration, heat effect, and laying on the hot ground to zero or practice prone positions are all on the menu. In other words, when we find ourselves in need of deploying the main battle rifle (MBR), its usually at the worst time with factors like weather, visibility, and fatigue affecting our ability to utilize the weapon.  So before a person picks a side in the great ammo/rifle debate, can you run a half mile, do 20 burpees, assume a firing position with your main battle rifle (MBR), acquire targets, squeeze off accurate fire, "change your return address" (i.e. move off the line of attack to better cover), change magazines, and then put the gun back in the fight? I still can't and yet I train for it. I'm considered a reliable shot. I practice, watch videos, and seek out the help of others because I know my life depends upon it. 

My advice is to find a good rifle in a caliber that's readily available. What's a good rifle? (I can hear people leaning in as I write this), Any rifle from a reputable company (Remington, Colt, Winchester, etc) in a caliber you can find at a stocking sporting goods store (.223, .308, .30-06, .22 LR) at a price that you can live with.

Inevitably, you'll purchase other firearms in other calibers as you gain experience (trust me). Seek out competent instruction in your area and practice firearms safety religiously. Improve your level of physical fitness as you improve your firearms skill set. For example, today I will go to the range on my way to work and practice "snapping in" on a target with my AR. I won't fire a single shot [in these particular drills]. Just bringing the weapon up, on target, and acquiring a sight picture. Yesterday I practiced drawing, acquiring a sight picture, and speed reloading with empty magazines for 10 minutes.  Live by the four firearms safety rules, improve your skills, and have fun.

In response to Zorro: Yes the M1 Garand is a great rifle compared to the AR/M4, but I'm partial to the 1903 Springfield because the US Marines wouldn't be known as "Devil Dogs" without it. Just had to say it! Thank you, - Bretmail 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

After reading the BYU Kid’s excellent article on physical fitness for TEOTWAWKI, I had to respond.  I had to take exception to his statement that Crossfit wasn’t recommended because it’s “Metabolic conditioning is not conducive to the ultimate goal of being useful, functional and simple.”

The heart of Crossfit is in fact functional fitness for Law Enforcement and our Military.  I’ve been involved in fitness all my life due to my chosen occupation as a police officer (now retired) and my current occupation as a protection specialist which is what most people refer to as a bodyguard.  I’ve been a competitive long distance runner, power lifter, triathlete etc.  You name the fitness activity and I’ve tried it.  I am now 56 years old and discovered Crossfit about two years ago.  I’ve never been so fit, strong and lean as Crossfit has made me.  Crossfit would work well for any prepper searching for a better level of fitness.  All of the exercises described in BYU Kid’s article are either recommended as Crossfit exercises or are very close to a version Crossfit recommends.   Crossfit is completely scaleable to your current fitness level so that you can work at your pace to improve yourself.  I would urge any SurvivalBlog readers interested in making huge strides in improving their fitness level take a look at the Crossfit web site.  You’ll find drop down menus listing all of the crossfit exercises complete with videos to demonstrate their simplicity.  I’m not a crossfit gym owner, I don’t even belong to a crossfit gym.  I viewed their videos and tried the workouts and got results.  That is what’s important to me, results.  It is not even necessary to purchase expensive equipment.  Most of what’s needed involves dumbells, barbells, pullup bar and a place to run.  You can spend as much or as little as you like to build your own home gym.  Try it you’ll like it! - Carl L.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

In his recent article, The BYU Kid offered some pretty solid advice regarding physical fitness, but neglected to mention a couple things that are important for some of the exercises he mentioned. 

1.) The pushup should be done slowly - most people when doing pushups tend to rush through them as fast as they can. While there is something to be said for explosive power training, for the purposes of functional strength the pushup should be smooth and controlled - two seconds for the descent, hold at the bottom for a second, then two seconds for the ascent. Make sure that your body is straight like a rod (flex your abs) throughout and focus on the ground in front of you instead of looking forward or down at your feet.  Its best to grab a baseball or brick or similarly sized object and place it beneath you if you're unsure as to how far down to go. Place the object underneath you and 'kiss' it with your sternum - do not rest upon it.  Pushups can also be made more difficult in several ways other than simply raising the legs.

The first way is to simply slow the pace at which you do a pushup. Try descending/ascending for five seconds, then holding at the bottom for two seconds.  You'll find that the number of pushups you can do will go down with this slower speed. 

The second way is to perform the pushups on gymnastics rings (hanging from above, the rings about an inch off the ground). These can be a little costly but their use for fitness makes them well worth it - I use Xtreme Rings because they can easily be adjusted for multiple kinds of ring work.  You'll find that doing a pushup on a set of rings is far more challenging than normal pushups, as you need to stabilize your arms and balance them on the rings.  Increase level of difficulty further by elevating feet, or moving onto Bulgarian Ring Pushups - where you start with the rings beneath you, turned slightly outwards, and when you descend your arms should widen and your hands should rotate 90 degrees. 

Additionally, if regular pushups are too difficult, they can be made easier by doing them on the knees - the more your legs are piked beneath you the easier they will become. Work on getting your knees further and further away from you until you can do a regular pushup

4.) Pullups and Chinups are not the same exercise. While the movement is indeed similar the two exercises work the muscles in the arms and torso differently - Chinups will work the biceps more while Pullups will work the lats more.  For most, chinups are the easier exercise, while pullups are slightly more difficult.  Ideally you'll want to work on pullups over chinups, as getting over fences, walls, etc will require that your hands go over the obstacle instead of under.  The ideal pull-up should be done from a dead hang - your feet should not be touching anything, (if your pullup bar is not high enough for this, tuck your legs back) and you should be hanging, completely relaxed as low as you can go while still gripping the bar. Pull up smoothly until your chin clears the bar, and smoothly let yourself down, try not to just drop after you make it to the top. Ideally your body should be completely loose except for your arms and upper torso. You should not be swinging, your body should not wiggle or buck while going up, and you should return all the way back down to the dead hang before you go back up to the top.

I see people in the gym all the time doing half range of movement pullups - where they buck themselves up to the chin position, and then let themselves back down, not going to a dead hang like they should. This type of action i've found to cause the occasional tweaked shoulder or neck muscle as it is very tense and frenetic version of the pullup.   If you can't do a full range of movement (dead hang to chin to dead hang) pullup, then you should build strength by doing negative pullups; jump up to the bar with your chin over, and as slowly as you can, let yourself back down to the dead hang. I find that when you can do about 5 of these taking 5 seconds to descend, you should be able to do a pullup, or at least get yourself to the top of the bar.  

As with pushups, the slower you do the exercise the more difficult it becomes.  I like to alternate sets of smooth, slow pullups, with explosive, fast pullups, as I want to be able to do a muscle up, eventually. (A muscle up is when one does a pullup, but does not stop at the chin, and continues to press up until the bar is below their hips.) Pullups can also be modified to work different muscle groups - a wider grip will work the lats harder, where a closer grip will focus on the triceps more. When doing wider grip pullups its important to remember to let the Lats do the work - seek to keep your elbows out instead of inward. 

Finally, Lat Pulldown machines are great but are frequently misused - where possible always opt for regular or negative pullups instead of a lat pulldown machine. 

A truly excellent (and more difficult) variant of the pullup, that works both the legs, core, as well as the shoulders and arms is the L-Sit Pullup.  While in the dead hang position, keep your legs together, knees straight and toes pointed, and raise them 90 degrees so from the side, your body forms the shape of an L.  Hold this position throughout your set while doing pullups. It is far more difficult than a regular pullup, and requires a degree of stomach and quad strength.  Given that, there are two intermediate forms between the regular pullup and the l-sit pullup that can be done to work up to the L-sit.  The first is to simply tuck the legs - your thighs will be 90 degrees away from you as in the l-sit, but your shins and feet will be relaxed, and perpendicular to the ground.  After you can do sets of Tuck L-Sit Pullups, then the next is L-Sit Low pullups, where your legs are straight like the l-sit, but not as high, about 45 degrees less.  I recommend working up to the tuck l-sit by doing ab work in addition to the regular pullups.  Remember to listen to your body and don't push yourself too hard.

5.) Sprints are great, but the writer forgot to mention that a warm up period is essential when doing sprinting training.  For one who is not used to running/sprinting, its incredibly easy to pull or tear a muscle. Before you begin sprinting make sure to stretch lightly, and jog a few hundred yards. For those new to sprinting don't sprint at 100% effort for the first few weeks until your body gets used to the strain. 

6.) Another great variant of this is to drag a tire or two on a rope through the snow during the winter. Not only will this be difficult as the footing may not be sure and/or slippery, but it'll also help you realize how easily one can sweat while bundled up.  Its best to learn now how to keep dry/ventilated in while exerting oneself in the cold weather than when bugging out or in a dire situation. "You sweat, you die"

7.) I agree that olympic moves are simply the best for both strength building and weight loss.  For those starting I would also recommend that particularly with the Squat and the Deadlift they begin with nothing but the olympic bar, so that they get the form down first.  With these two exercises form is absolutely key to both strength building and injury avoidance. Read up about form and watch videos of correct form on youtube. Remember to focus on contracting the muscles that are working while doing the exercises - with deadlifts its the hamstrings and the glutes, with squats its primarily the quads and thighs. 

Finally the exercises recommended, all of them, should be done by both sexes. I've heard from so many women that they want to get strong and in shape but don't want to become like female body builders so all they do are ab exercises and cardio.  Female bodybuilders get that muscly by using testosterone, steroids, or workout routines that are both extreme and focus on muscle hypertrophy (increasing muscle size) and not simply by weightlifting. Women do not build muscle in the same way that men do, so the worry about appearance is a misinformed one.  Furthermore, Squats, Dead lifts, and Pushups/Pullups are excellent exercises for both losing weight and toning up, as they are compound exercises and work multiple groups of muscles, engaging focus, co-ordination and balance. I find myself soaked in sweat at the end of a workout doing olympic moves and pullups/pushups, more thoroughly worked out, than when I used to do exercise machines and bicep curls.  There's a woman at my gym who squats 25 lbs less than I do -- but she's also 10 inches shorter than I am and probably 100 lbs lighter, and she's by no means 'ripped.'  - Z.H.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

There's one thing that's guaranteed in any SHTF or TEOTWAWKI situation, and that's the age old adage that only the strong survive. But how do we get to that point? How can we improve our strength with things that will actually be adaptable to a survival situation? I would like to lay out a few selected exercises that have direct carryovers to very important skills and suggest a program for you (not my own) and offer a couple workouts that you can incorporate into your current routine.

First, let’s talk about what’s not necessary: any routine found in a bodybuilding magazine. We’re talking survival, not show, and what you want are exercises that will help you thrive. Excess muscle is costly metabolically, so we’re not necessarily looking to gain muscle, but we are looking to increase performance. Another: any routine given by a personal trainer. These guys are alright for some people, but odds are you’ll get a copy and pasted program involving every single exercise machine in a straight circuit. And another: crossfit. While crossfit can be challenging and they use some of these exercises, they metabolic conditioning programming is not conducive to the ultimate goal of being able to be useful, functional, and simple.

Secondly, a few principles; namely:
-Bodyweight strength is the foundation
-Free weights beat machines
-The more work you can do daily the better off you are (if you’re sleeping and eating properly)
-Movements are trained in a progressive fashion- either by adding weight, doing more, doing it faster, or doing it longer (that’s what she said)
-If you’re unfamiliar with an exercise, ask for help
-If you can do an exercise with no fatigue, find a way to make it harder

1) The Pushup

The pushup is an exercise everyone is familiar with but no one gives the credit it needs. You don't need any equipment to perform it, and there's a number of ways to make it more difficult. The pushup transfers into all overhead pushing that may be required, and it helps you to lift your own bodyweight. Pushups can be made more difficult in one of two ways (I don't recommend combining them, but you can if you're ambitious): first, feet elevation, secondly, adding resistance through bands or weights. Strong shoulders, pectorals and a core are vital to survival. When doing pushups, you can go to failure, but I suggest doing 4-5 sets of 10-12 reps with very little rest in between.

2) Sledgehammer

Using a sledgehammer has been a hit lately in functional fitness, and for good reason- pounding the crap out of a tractor tire is fun, it is work, and it makes you explosively powerful. It directly carries over into many aspects of survivalism from chopping down trees and splitting logs to construction or demolition. For this, the key is to find the balance between explosiveness and sloppiness- once you reach it, step away. Remember to go with both arms, or each arm individually.

3) The Deadlift

The deadlift is perhaps the king of exercises. It requires the whole of a person to perform correctly- from your feet to your neck can be activated and benefited. Proper form needs to be exercised- when you deadlift, don't focus on pulling, instead focus on sitting back and having the weight ride up your legs. Wearing longer socks is recommended. The carryover is perhaps most important- notably, the deadlift improves your grip, and grip will be an important thing for any survivalist- from climbing to pulling to breaking, grip work is extremely beneficial. One can increase the grip difficulty by adding fat grips or making their own. The other aspects of the lift- holding heavy weight- will have enough of a strength carryover that no other lift would. With the deadlift, focus on lower reps (4-6) and heavier weights. You can always add in a straight set of higher reps if desired.

Another aspect of the deadlift I want to make clear is the psychological one. It is a true test of strength- getting a weight off the ground, your own bodyweight, maybe even doubled. That is something that is so hard to describe. I personally have deadlifted over 650 lbs, and the mental aspect of that lift was more important than muscle or mechanics. I can’t say for sure the deadlift activates the fight or flight response, but it really separates the men from the boys.

4) Pullups/Chinups

Pullups and chinups are essentially the same exercise in function- you pull your bodyweight up. The movements themselves are much better and effective than machine substitutes. A chinup is performed with your palms facing you, a pullup is performed with your palms facing away. Either way, being able to pull your body up with just your arms is a skill that you will want to cultivate. For simplicity's sake, I'll refer to either as pullups. Again, grip strength is a benefit and these require a lot of it. If you can't perform one, then looping an exercise band around the bar, or using a partner to help you during the concentric (contracting) portion of the lift are good ways to build up strength. As you are able to do 15+ pullups, you can add weight through a vest, a backpack, or a weight on a belt or held between your legs. You can also make these more difficult by using thicker bars, or using towels to pull yourself up.

5) Sprints/ Jumps

Sprinting is the best cardio. Odds are you won't need to plod along anywhere at 7 mph, but a quick 1-2 minute sprint session may absolutely be required of you in any survival scenario. Sprints can be tricky to program, but I highly recommend that they be done in a way that's referred to as Escalating Density Training (EDT). It essentially means that you try to do more in less time, or do more total. Jumps I included with sprints because it's the explosive nature of the movements- they can be thrown in in any situation you want and they are easier to recover from. Remember, the more work you can do and recover from, the better.


6) Loaded Carries/ Sled Drags or Pushes

These are fun exercises. You grab the heaviest dumbbell in each hand, a loaded barbell in each hand, put on a weight vest, throw a bag over shoulder, however you can, you get a weight and you carry it for as long as you can as many times as you can. The carryover is immediately evident and aside from that, it gets you grounded. All these exercises are designed to keep you in touch with the basic human movements- push, pull, jump, run, hold, etc. Farmers walks are also fun to combine with sled drags- get a harness on yourself, throw a bag over your shoulder and drag a sled. Combining the two movements is challenging. Pushing a sled for distance or for time is a conditioning workout that will challenge you but also improve your physical performance and has a carryover to many movements. Building your own sled using a tire and rope is fairly easy and plans can be found with a quick web search.


7) Olympic Moves

These are last on the list because while they are great exercises, they may or may not be as useful as the others. The thing about olympic exercises is for many people they're too technical, or weird, and they're worried they'll mess it up. If you feel that way, don't bother. These are slightly more dangerous exercises and as such you should be very careful with them. I personally love the power clean and the power snatch and I work them into my workouts every week. Learning to generate explosive force has a better carryover to things that require an extended time of work than extended work has to explosive movement. Go and look at videos or train with someone who can coach you through these lifts.

I highly recommend Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 Program. It is a simple, basic strength training book that will get you on the right track for strength and health. If you are interested, please go ahead and purchase it- it's a worthwhile investment. It's not just about survival of the fittest though, it's about survival of the most useful. If you do, I recommend these setups for the exercises:

Main Lift: Bench
Accessory Lifts: Pushup, Dip, Pullup

Main Lift: Deadlift
Activation: Power clean (performed before the main lift to activate the nervous system)
Accessory: Sledgehammer, Jumps

Main Lift: Squat
Activation: Power Snatch (performed before the main lift to activate the nervous system)
Accessory: Sprints and either Sled Push/Pulls OR Farmer's walk

Main Lift: Overhead Press
Accessory: Face Pulls, Pullups, dumbbell presses

 But if you're happy with your gym setup and are just looking for a workout that you can do here are two that will get you on track:

Workout A
Power Snatch 3 sets of 3 at a lighter weight
Deadlift Pyramid up sets of 5 reps until you can't do 5 reps (add 20-30 lbs each set) with 1-2 minutes rest between sets
Pushup 5 sets of 10
Sledgehammer 30 reps (either 30 overhead or 15 per hand)

Workout B
Jump to a box 4 sets of 6
Pullups as many sets of as many reps- aim for 100 reps total per session (over time)
Loaded carries- the heaviest weight you can carry for as long as you can carry
Sprints- 4 x100 meters working up from there.

Remember, the more work you can do, the better. We're not looking for excessive amounts of muscle, we're looking for the ability to perform. Good luck and happy surviving.

Vitamins and minerals are a multi-billion dollar business currently in the US.  Our food is plentiful and fortified, and the use of these pills are generally completely unnecessary.  Medically, the recommendation for vitamins and supplements--from multiple sources--is as follows:  There are no vitamins or supplements needed for typical adults eating a balanced diet with regular sun exposure or consumption of fortified dairy products.  That being said, WTSHTF there will be obvious changes to our typical fattened-calf diets.  Plan accordingly, but there is very little that some people will do, stretching the valuable resources of the rest of us.  Depending on the circle of people that you may need to support, you may be facing less than you were planning too.  Our Christian natures will bring more to the table than we might plan there are likely to be shortages of "plenty" and we may be at "adequate" or even worse "survival" diets.  Starvation is not an option for the survivalist, and there is no good reason that starvation will plague the knowledgeable prepper.  Now that we have established that you will have some food, but not necessarily a balanced diet, we can start to talk about different vitamins and minerals.

Essential vitamins include both long-lived (fat soluble) ones like A, D, E, and K; and shorter-lived (water soluble) ones like B and C.  Vitamin A is also called Retinol and is found in meat, some vegetables, and eggs.  Vitamin B1 is Thiamine and is found in pork, grains, and yeast.  Vitamin B2 is Riboflavin and is found in leafy green vegetables, legumes, almonds, and yeast.  Vitamin B3, or Niacin, is found in meats, fruits, vegetables, grains, and yeast.  Vitamin B5, Pantothenic; B6, Pyridoxal; and B7, Biotin are all commonly found in many foods and are unlikely to be deficient in any non-starvation diet.  B9 is Folic acid and is found in green, leafy vegetables, fruit, grains, and meat. Vitamin D is found in fish, tuna, eggs, and is nicely made by our skin with proper sun exposure.  Vitamin E is found in wheats and green, leafy vegetables.  Vitamin K is also prevalent in green, leafy vegetables too.  Important minerals include Calcium, Iodine, Iron, and Zinc.  Calcium is found in dairy products, many vegetables, and eggshells. Iodine is found in [most] table salt [in Western countries].  Iron is found in meats and green, leafy vegetables.  Zinc is found in seeds, beans, and grains.

Important deficiencies to worry about depend on the age and situation of a person.  Folic acid deficiency can cause an anemia and also birth defects.  B12 and Iron deficiencies can also cause anemia and is most often found in strict vegans, which will be a thing of the past WTSHTF.  Vitamin C deficiency will affect those with limited stores of fruits and vegetables after they run out.  Vitamin D will be important to consider in northern climates with limited sun in wintertime, especially for those that are older adults.

Now, after stopping at my local megalomart, recommendations are pretty easy to make for TEOTWAWKI.  Pregnant women need supplementation of vitamins and minerals, specifically B9, or Folic acid.  This can be accomplished with either Folic acid supplementation specifically, or a good multivitamin, or both.  So, if you have a supply of multivitamins, make sure that any likely child-bearing female is taking one regularly.  Older adults should also take a good multivitamin or Vitamin D supplementation.  This will help bone strength and prevention of falls.  As diets get more "lean" and approach "survival" levels, a good multivitamin will be important for everyone to take at least weekly.

Which one?  Good question, really.  Turns out there are some differences in your basic store vitamins.  Nature Made "complete" is a very good multivitamin that covers all the basic needs of a person across all vitamin and mineral recommendations.  The other name brand vitamins are decent, but in almost all the major brands the "women's" versions are a better vitamin and are superior to the basic or "men's" vitamins.  If you can get enough, there is no reason you would ever be deficient in a essential vitamin or mineral.
Vitamin C is unique and needs special mention.  Anyone suffering from an illness or wound should take Vitamin C twice a day to help with healing.  Those with potentially deficient diets or kids should take a chewable Vitamin C twice weekly.  Chewable Vitamin C is usually just as cheap as the tablet form, either will do.
Zinc is found in sufficient amounts in any of the multivitamins found on shelves, but there is one group needing additional zinc.  Kids with diarrhea lose zinc much faster than adults and are more sensitive to this deficiency.  Zinc lozenges are the best form to buy for this specific use.   One tablet twice a day will help supply the zinc lost through frequent stools and will increase survival and decrease the length of the diarrheal illness.

So, to sum up:

  1. My recommendation is either a "women's" blend or Nature Made multivitamin.  Everyone with a deficient diet should take one weekly, older adults and potentially pregnant females should take one daily.  
  2. Everyone with a deficient diet in fruits and vegetables should take Vitamin C twice a week, along with any children.  Anyone with illness or a wound should take Vitamin C twice a day until resolved.  
  3. Zinc should be taken by children during any severe diarrhea spell until normal stools return.  
  4. Specific supplementation of Vitamin D or Folic acid is best approached replacing those along with the other vitamins and minerals found in a multivitamin. There is no need to buy specific supplements other than Vitamin C and Zinc lozenges.  Hope this helps, stay strong.  - Dr. Bob

[JWR Notes: Dr. Bob is is one of the few consulting physicians in the U.S. who dispenses antibiotics for disaster preparedness as part of his normal scope of practice. His web site is:

Saturday, July 23, 2011

As it is affecting so many of us right now, seems like a good time to give you some information about heat-related problems and preventing heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
Heat Exhaustion most often occurs when people work or play in a hot, humid place and body fluids are lost through sweating, causing overheating of the body.  Usually a person is dehydrated to some degree, from mild to severely.  The person's temperature may be elevated, but not above 104 degrees.  Now, most of us can go inside a cool down either in air-conditioned vehicles or homes.  Even the movies are a great cooling spot, (as bad as they are until that ape movie comes out that I want to see...creepy apes).  This will not be so simple WTSHTF.  Again, making some assumptions about TEOTWAWKI that may or may not hold true; but, if there are basements that are underground, usually the temperature there is never really dangerous for heat-related illnesses.  Go there for the worst weather of summer.  Or your favorite cave nearby.  Or Starbucks...oh wait...that won't work.  Find your cool area now so that you can plan for it if we get this kind of weather next year. (Possibly without a grid power?)

Heat stroke, also referred to as heatstroke or sun stroke, is a life-threatening condition. Your cooling system, controlled by the brain, stops working correctly and body temperature rises to the point at which brain damage or damage to other internal organs may result, usually 105+ degrees.  About 700 people die yearly due to heat-related illness, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  And that's now with power and air for most of us to spoil ourselves with.  Think of what that number may reach without a grid and a medical system to back us up.

Infants, children under four years old, overweight folks, and the elderly are more likely to have heat stroke, as are those who are taking certain types of medication.  So if you are fat, lose it.  If you are an infant or child, hurry up and get over four before this all "goes down".  If you are elderly, well, nothing you can really do about that now unless you get some of that swimming pool deal from that old person/alien movie.  If you do, don't tell my granny cause I don't want to have to hear about it constantly and watch her dancing around. The short message of this paragraph is pay special attention to little ones and elderly folks in this kind of heat...they might need it more than the rest of us.

Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke Prevention
Avoidance of heat exhaustion is pretty easy now but may not be WTSHTF.  Your best try is not engaging in strenuous activity in hot, humid environments.  People who are not used to the heat should be particularly careful.  Intersperse periods of rest in a cool environment with plenty of available fluids to drink.  Avoid strenuous activities during the hottest part of the day.  Hydration is key. Fluids will be important every day but on those days 100-fold more so.  Don't forget electrolytes too, water alone with profuse sweating can cause some electrolyte imbalances in potassium, sodium and chloride that can really get you too.  Best things to do now when it's really hot or then (WTSHTF) are simple things:

  1. Rest in a cool, shaded area.
  2. Drink cool fluids like water or electrolyte-containing drinks.  Salty snacks are appropriate as tolerated.
  3. Loosen or remove clothing.
  4. Apply cool water to skin.
  5. Do not use an alcohol rub.
  6. Do not give any beverages containing alcohol or caffeine.
  7. If you are treating someone that is overheated with exhaustion or possible heat stroke:
    1. Move the person to a cooler environment, or place him or her in a cool bath of water (avoid drowning the person by watching them, please!)
    2. Alternatively, moisten the skin with lukewarm water and fan the person to blow cool air across the skin.
    3. Give cool beverages by mouth only if the person has a normal ability to swallow.

This is really basic information, but hopefully it helps and may get you thinking seriously about this issue if you currently plan to live out on a trailer in the desert WTSHTF.  You won't make it in this weather unprotected from this kind of heat.  Try turning off your air for 48 hours and see what kinds of temps you run in your might surprise you how hot it gets fast or how cool your lower level actually stays.  Everyone's situation is very different so start to plan yours accordingly.  Even you northerners can end up dying of heat stroke when the temp stays above 100 for a couple days, so figure out your preventive strategies now.  And everyone can in theory die from heat stroke if they push themselves without proper cooling.  There's tough, there's smart, and there's alive.  Better to be smart and alive than tough and not.  Stay strong, - Dr. Bob

[JWR Notes: Dr. Bob is is one of the few consulting physicians in the U.S. who dispenses antibiotics for disaster preparedness as part of his normal scope of practice. His web site is:

Friday, July 22, 2011

I love the blog and a lot of the articles. I am a dermatologist and wanted to comment on the Vitamin D article posted on July 21, 2011. Despite what you might read on the Internet, you cannot get a significant amount of Vitamin D from sunlight. This is a huge misconception. Even if you tanned for 8 hours, you would only get about 3% of your daily Vitamin D. You would also cause a lot of sun damage which increases your risk of skin cancer. I realize a lot of information says otherwise, but if you check with the American Academy of Dermatology, you will read data from experts.

Also, although Vitamin D is important, science doesn't support a lot of claims in the article about fighting the flu, etc. It is true that is you have a deficiency of Vitamin D, you can weaken your immune system, but taking extra Vitamin D does not "boost" your immune system. I realize a lot of holistic medicine people want to believe this, but it isn't backed up by any science.

Again, not trying to be negative, but just wanting to let people know that tanning is not a good way to try to get Vitamin D. Tanning also has some bad effects (skin cancer). - Dr. C.S.


Hey Jim,
Living in the Eastern mountains with the associated cloudy days and longish winters our clinic has never tested anyone with enough Vitamin D3 in their system.

The accepted norms for Vitamin D3 in adults is 30 ng/mL to 100 ng/mL. Being more interested in finding the optimal level instead of the statistical normal range we aim for most adults to be in 70 ng/mL - 89 ng/mL range and for those with cancer the optimal range seems to be 90ng/mL to100 ng/mL.

We have also found that 50,000 IU per day for only three days to be a good weapon in fighting winter colds, flus, etc.

For the 25-hydroxyvitamin D test, we get the most consistency from Labcorp which is available nationwide. - S.D. in West Virginia

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Many people take a multi-vitamin.  Some people take multiple supplements.  However, an often overlooked vitamin deserves your closer scrutiny – vitamin D.  New research indicates that vitamin D has holistic effects on the body that cannot be replicated by any other supplement.  These positive effects include, but are not limited to, reduced cancer rates, reduce incidences of heart disease, lower blood pressure, reduced incidences of influenza, and more.  Best of all, for most people, obtaining the proper dosage of vitamin D is incredibly safe, simple, and inexpensive.  In fact, some researchers believe so strongly in the benefits of vitamin D that they consider it “malpractice” for a physician to treat any condition without first determining if a patient’s vitamin D levels are in the proper range. 

As with all information related to healthcare, personal fitness, and nutrition, please consult with your physician before making any changes in your diet or lifestyle.  Additionally, you can overdose with vitamin D supplements.   Watch your intake and have your vitamin D levels tested periodically via a blood test. 

Vitamin D Misconceptions 
Actually, vitamin D is not a vitamin, but a “prohormone” (any substance that can be converted a hormone) produced by the body in the presence of sunlight.  Because vitamin D is actually a "prohormone," which your body produces from cholesterol, it influences your entire body -- receptors that respond to the vitamin have been found in almost every type of human cell, from your brain to your bones.

Vitamin D also differentiates itself from other vitamins because the best source of it is the sun via our skin, not from something we eat via our mouths like most vitamins.   Vitamin D does not exist in appreciable quantities in normal human diets.  While some vitamin D may be consumed by eating some types of fish and drinking fortified milk, the quantity of vitamin D from these sources falls far short of our needs.  We simply cannot obtain adequate levels of vitamin D from our diet.  However, within 20 minutes of full-body sun exposure, most people will generate up to 20,000 units of vitamin D.  To generate even 5,000 units of vitamin D, an individual would need to consume nearly 50 glasses of milk or 10-12 multivitamins – something no one should do!  [JWR Adds: Remember, toxicity is a problem with all of the fat-soluble vitamins, K, A, D, and E.]

With more people working indoors, commuting inside of cars and trains, and, more recently, people using copious amounts of sunscreen in an effort to thwart skin cancer, opportunities to obtain vitamin D from sunlight has greatly diminished.  In fact, many people may be in a vitamin D “crisis” and not even know it!  And, considering how vitamin D affects so many bodily functions, many symptoms and diseases that are being treated with a variety of pharmaceuticals could be greatly reduced or possibly eliminated by simply increasing vitamin D levels. 

Vitamin D – the Superhero Vitamin
While correlation does not imply causation, the following is a partial list of documented events as they relate to vitamin D:

  • The incidence of influenza is inversely correlated with outdoor temperatures (i.e. the higher the outdoor temperature, the lower the number of cases of influenza).
  • Children exposed to sunlight are less likely to get colds. 
  • Influenza is more common in the tropics during the rainy season when people are indoors and receiving less sunlight.
  • Volunteers deliberately infected with a weakened flu virus - first in the summer and then again in the winter - showed significantly different clinical courses in the different seasons.
  • The incidences of influenza are much lower in the months both during and immediately following the summer.
  • Vitamin D deficiency is a major factor in at least 17 types of cancer as well as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, depression, chronic pain, and more. 
  • One recent large-scale, randomized, placebo-controlled study on vitamin D and cancer showed that vitamin D can cut overall cancer risk by as much as 60 percent! This was such groundbreaking news, the Canadian Cancer Society has actually begun endorsing the vitamin as a cancer-prevention therapy.
  • Similar results were shown in another study investigating vitamin D’s impact on breast cancer. It discovered that light-skinned women who had high amounts of long-term sun exposure had half the risk of developing advanced breast cancer (cancer that spreads beyond your breast) as women with lower amounts of regular sun exposure. 
  • When JoEllen Welsh, a researcher with the State University of New York at Albany, injected a potent form of vitamin D into human breast cancer cells, half of them shriveled up and died within days. 
  • The effects of vitamin D were even more dramatic on breast cancer cells injected into mice.  After several weeks of treatment, the cancer tumors in the mice shrank by an average of more than 50 percent. Some tumors disappeared.  Similar results have been achieved on colon and prostate cancer tumors in mice.
  • A study by Dr. William Grant, Ph.D., internationally recognized research scientist and vitamin D expert, found that about 30 percent of cancer deaths -- which amounts to 2 million worldwide and 200,000 in the United States -- could be prevented each year with higher levels of vitamin D.
  • According to a new report, low levels of vitamin D may double the risk of stroke in Caucasians.  Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States.
  • And for you sports fans, the team physicians for the Chicago Blackhawks credit rigorous vitamin D supplements with improving player performance and being a contributing factor in the team’s 2010 Stanley Cup Championship. 

In the past few years, vitamin D is has finally been receiving the attention it deserves considering its critical role in human bodily function.  Almost weekly, new research is released confirming the benefits of vitamin D.  Unfortunately, pharmaceutical companies prefer to manufacture countless drugs to alleviate symptoms that are often caused by lack of vitamin D.  These pharmaceutical companies don't like to advocate vitamin D as a valid course of treatment because they cannot patent vitamin D and profit from it.  And, because these pharmaceutical companies advertise heavily in all media outlets (including magazines and online news sites), they may exert influence to suppress articles on homeopathic and natural treatments.

UV Rays and Vitamin D
Similar to cholesterol which has two main types (HDL – the “good” cholesterol; LDL – the “bad” cholesterol), sunlight contains two wavelengths: ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB).  UVB is the winner (the “good” waves), as these are what converts into vitamin D.   However, UVA (the “bad” waves) is the culprit that leads to skin cancer.  Additionally, UVA is not affected by the position of the sun or clouds whereas UVB is dependent on both of these factors.  Ironically, UVB rays are at their most intense at mid-day – the time of day that most people try to avoid sunlight.  Unfortunately, by spending time outside in the morning or late afternoon, you are exposed to UVA rays (the “bad” rays) while receiving virtually no UVB rays (the “good” rays). 
Recently the FDA announced new guidelines for sunscreens.  In the past, many sunscreens only provided protection against UVB rays which cause sunburn, but offer no protection against UVA rays which cause skin cancer (in recent years, more sunscreens have been offering protection against both types of rays).  Insidiously, this combination of UVB protection and no UVA protection is the worst possible combination because the benefits of vitamin D (via UVB rays) is reduced or severely curtailed and no UVA protection is provided (contributing to skin cancers).  In fact, some hypothesize that the advent of sunscreen actually has contributed to the rise in all types of cancer, including skin cancers, because these sunscreens cause a sharp drop in vitamin D levels which is correlated with increased cancer risk.

How Much Sunlight Do I Need?
Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics has doubled its recommendation for daily vitamin D intake in children.  The new guideline is 400 international units (IU) each day.  Many researchers believe this recommendation is still far too low and children should receive a minimum of 1,500 IU per day if they are not exposed to daily sunlight. 
The best “rule of thumb” is enough sunlight to turn your skin the lightest shade of pink (for most people, this will be less than 30 minutes of sun exposure).   Also, keep in mind that exposing just your head and arms is probably not enough, you will need more exposure (e.g. upper body, legs).  Don’t  forget – sunburn is bad!  You don’t gain any additional vitamin D by getting a sunburn and only expose yourself to long-term skin damage and possibly skin cancer.   Another good “rule of thumb” is this: If your shadow is longer than you are tall, then you are not receiving the best UVB rays. 

If your unique situation prevents you from receiving direct sunlight, another option is take a vitamin D supplement.  Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is the preferred choice, not vitamin D2.  The most recent and respected research for oral supplements is 35 IU per pound of body weight.  For a 200-pound person, this would be approximately 5,000 IU; for a 50-pound child, this would be approximately 1,700 IU.  You can purchase vitamin D supplements at most any drug store or health food store.  For children, I give my children “Lil Critters” vitamin D gummy vitamins (purchased at Wal-Mart and Target). 

In the future, if diseases increase and access to physicians and antibiotics are limited, vitamin D can and should be considered an intervention method.  For someone suffering from influenza or a bacterial infection or most any illness, increasing vitamin D levels can and should be considered.  If regular access to sunlight is not possible, increasing oral supplements to 15,000 IU, 20,000 IU, or more should be considered.  Some researchers believe 50,000 IU per day for less than 10 days will not result in overexposure to vitamin D and may help thwart or mitigate infection and disease.  

Warning: You can overdose on vitamin D!  If you receive daily sunlight, most likely you do not need oral vitamin D supplements.  If you need to take oral vitamin D supplements for a long period of time, I strongly recommend that you have your physician check your vitamin D level with a blood test (the 25-hydroxyvitamin D test). 

My Personal Experience with Vitamin D
For several years, I have been ensuring that I receive adequate levels of sunlight during the fair weather months and supplementing with oral vitamin D during the winter months.  During this time, I have had no influenza, virtually no colds, and no other serious health issues.   During the winter months, I take 5,000 IU each day.  If I am traveling on business or not feeling well, I will increase my dose to two to three times that amount.  In the fair weather months, I spend time outdoors in natural sunlight to obtain vitamin D.  Finally, as part of my preparations, I keep plenty of vitamin D in 5,000 IU capsules on hand.  Considering the benefits of vitamin D and the potential increase in diseases during “the Crunch”, vitamin D supplements should be as important as bullets and beans in everyone’s preparations.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

There have been many article about medical advice and certainly there is no shortage of information available in SurvivalBlog. But as a good old-fashioned country doctor I hope to give you some solid, comprehensive information that you can use now to prepare for WTSHTF.  There are some basic assumptions about TEOTWAWKI that most people have pondered.  Let’s go over the lists first.  It will be darker, colder, hotter, wetter, drier, and dirtier.  There will be less safety, less clean water, less food, more danger, more work, more exposure, and more pain.  Sounds like a bad camping trip. The difference is that it lasts forever and there is no hot shower and massage afterwards.  Anyone reading this already knows this, so what can you do about it now medically to make survival for you and your family more likely and easier?  First, go shopping for some basic supplies.  Second, go shopping for some basic over the counter medications to put on your shelves.  Third, go to the local doctor or health department for some shots.  Fourth, head to the dentist a lot this year.  Fifth, and lastly, figure out how you are going to get some medication for infections and ongoing maintenance treatment for chronic medical conditions when there is no pharmacy available.

Basic supplies include first aid materials that you might not think of and the ones you probably already have.  My experience has been that most camping first aid kits have 1 or 2 useful items and a dozen or more that take up space.  Don’t buy a kit unless it is a good one and get gauze, Band-Aids, Ace wrap, chemical ice packs, a couple splints, and tape.  Make sure you have enough quantity to last your family or group for a couple years.  Gauze and Band-Aids really can’t be reused, so make sure that those are given a priority in space accommodations.  Ace wrap and splints can be rewashed and reused for a long time.  The good old cowboy method of using a stick and some rags works—but only if you lay in a bed, don’t move, and expect to die while not contributing to your society.  Chemical ice packs will be a great thing to have when there is no ice, having them or ice will be extremely helpful WTSHTF.  This is not rocket science and you probably grow angry that you have wasted your time reading this so far—fear not, good stuff is coming.  Medical supplies you may not have thought of include screen, duct tape, foam spray, super glue gel, soap , eyeglasses, and a glasses repair kit.  It is assumed that shelters of some sort will still be standing and hopefully there is some ability to weatherproof such a structure against critters large (like dogs) and small (like mosquitoes).  Therefore the duct tape, foam spray and screen.  Prevention of bugs is a really helpful way to reduce your risk of stupid things that can kill you like infected bites, malaria, or a variety of killer meanies.  Duct tape should never be in short supply repairing large gaps and tiny holes, and holds wounds and bandages too.  Super glue works great to close up small wounds when stitches are not available, of course the soap is needed to wash them first which is reviewed in detail in some of the prior posts in great detail.  The gel works better than the watery stuff because it is much easier to control and not glue yourself to the patient.  We have used super glue on our animals many times, it works great on torn goat and dog ears so it would work on humans too.  Many of the glues we use medically are just expensive super glue in individual sterile containers.  Owning just one pair of eyeglasses is a really bad idea, as Twilight Zone fans are fully aware.  It would be best to have three or more, even old ones are better than nothing.  If you have lots of cash laying around losing value, you might talk to your local eye doctor about getting surgery to avoid glasses altogether, but there is risk involved and certainly eyeglasses are fine if you have them.  An eyeglass kit with the little screws and tools would make you a real friend to lots of people WTSHTF.

Over The Counter (OTC) meds are currently readily available at rock-bottom prices, so make sure they are on your stock shelves and not in your medicine cabinet.  Medicine cabinets are a horrible place to store medications long term because of the humidity and temperature changes.  Our  family likes to have regular supplies and TEOTWAWKI supplies separate because we are just not that organized to replace everything multiple fingers may “lift” from the stockpile without proper notification.  You already know how much lists amuse me, so here goes the next one:  Diphenhydramine (Benadryl), acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin, naproxen (Aleve), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), RID, anti-fungal cream and spray, vitamin C, multivitamins, bug spray and sun block.  Benadryl will work for allergies and itching, plus is a pretty good sleeping pill for most people.  Tylenol works good for fevers, some headaches and pains.  Aspirin is one of the world’s greatest medicines, multipurpose pain pill and blood thinner.  In the future, will be a must-have for anyone on a blood thinner now that would be unavailable.  Naproxen is another good pain and ache medicine along with ibuprofen to have on the shelves.  Pick one, unless you have the room and the knowledge about Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflamatory Drugs (NSAIDs) beyond the general population. 

RID will come in handy to try to get the lice out, but again prevention and haircuts work better.  Anti-fungal creams and sprays may help but usually won’t eliminate fungal skin problems in wet, dark scenarios.  Vitamin C is a great thing to stock up on, many of us will not have the available fruits and vegetables we are used too, and vitamin C is kind of important to prevent you from looking like a pirate in 2020.  It also helps fight off infection and should be used anytime anyone is sick with fever, so having enough vitamin C may be tough from a shelf space standpoint.  My suggestion is the chewable type as kids can easily take them and is a great substitute for candy which won’t exist.  A regular old multivitamin a couple times a week will provide some of the micronutrients missing from a fattened calf American diet we are all currently used to, so taking one  more than twice a week won’t do much for survival and makes for expensive urine.  Bug spray prevents ticks and mosquitoes, both of which carry potential infections you don’t want to have to put up with if you could help it, so use when needed until supplies are gone.  Obviously, the medical recommendations above are loose and should be verified with the most senior medical mind available in any given scenario.

Now, to address your local health care professional usage preventively.  The one thing you can and should do now is get your tetanus and pneumonia shots from your local health department or clinic.  Make sure your kids are up to date on their shots.  (Conspiracy theories should be ignored, shots are a good thing generally; this is a subject books have been written about on both sides, short story is:  shots don’t give you autism—case closed.)  The only other health-related info that you may find helpful is really basic and simple.  Be able to be in good enough shape for hard labor and lots of walking.  If you are obese now, lose weight so you are overweight but not obese.  There are some evidence showing obese people actually die sooner in starvation situations because of ketone buildup as they process their fat stores they believed would protect them from the hard times.  You are kidding yourself if you think your pasty, flattened fat bottom is suddenly going to burst into survival mode “when the time comes”.  The time is now, tubby, to get your body mass index (BMI) to 26-29 to maximize your survivability.  The same applies if you are currently working on your modeling career and have a low BMI of under 22.  You do need some fat on you; so certainly you should shoot for 24 if you really want to live longer and not been eaten as “lean meat” by the survivors.   There are BMI charts available online and at every clinic that will tell you your BMI for your height and weight.  Now you can lecture all your too fat or too skinny friends and neighbors with some authority on the topic of optimal survival weight—you’re welcome.  Medication that needs to be prescribed by a health care professional (used loosely) is a complex topic addressed in the last section and will be addressed separately below.

No one knows the date of WTSHTF and it could be today—we all know that and will recognize it when it comes.  Until then, get some friends and family together and make your local dentist a lot happier.  Preventive dental care can save a lot of pain and suffering when it is not available anymore.  Get that tooth pulled that looks like a gray chiclet, fix that small cavity, repair any current dental devices with the best permanent options available.  If there is a choice, my advice is always opt for pulling a tooth from a survival standpoint.  We will all be a lot uglier, hopefully the people around you won’t really care that you look like the rest of us.  Tooth lifters and booze may be the only option to pull a nasty tooth in the future—it works, but it sure isn’t fun.  Flossing is the world’s greatest dental prevention, start now and continue to floss at least twice a week until death.  Having floss, a toothbrush supply, and some toothpaste will really pay off for long-term survival and general happiness.  All of us have had a toothache before, it’s not really happy.  Topical numbing medication does work and should be on your shelf.  Toothpaste, even used rarely, will provide that loving fluoride to your teeth that will be missing without government provided water.  Teeth are something that most people take for granted, don’t leave them out of your survival planning.

Lastly, we get to the very tricky topic of getting the medication that you may need for survival or at least comfortable existence.  Know your medications, what they are for, and what you really need for survival.  If you show up at your local doctor’s office requesting medications for TEOTWAWKI, you may end up in a hospital bed with a nice snuggly coat on.  Most doctors are too busy to really care about TEOTWAWKI and are not married to survivalist nuts like yours truly.  Some doctors have not thought even one tiny bit about the subject and will not cooperate when you dreaded “educated patients” come barging into their routine day with demands for the unusual; it will also increase your likelihood of ending up with the snuggly coat.  Most doctors also work for large organizations with electronic health records—tied in heavily to government control and potentially government monitoring now or in the near future.  It is to your advantage to keep most of your survival preparation out of your medical record, just to be safe.  Antibiotics, antiparasitic, and antifungal medications are very complicated in real-world use and need extensive knowledge to treat effectively and safely.  There are some resources available and doctors that still take cash out there not connected to electronic health systems—for now.  Seek them out and pay cash for what you need—that is the best way to stay “under the radar” as they say.  A final word about medication expirations—they are just numbers on the side of the bottle WTSHTF.  The U.S. military asked the FDA to conduct a major SLEP test on medications when they started dating them. They found that 90% of medications were good up to 15 years after their expiration date was long past.  Both OTC meds and prescriptions should be kept in cool, dark, stable environments to maximize their effective use.

Hopefully, this information was helpful to you and can help give you a new check list of worries that can be completed shortly and without too much difficulty. We own and operate a clinic and a web site that provides medications to patients for health and survival.  Our web site is Antibiotic preparedness packs are available along with all the information here and much more.  You can also use my consulting service for your ongoing prescription needs for disaster preparedness.  This blog has helped inspire us to help people with their medication concerns and was one of the motivating factors in keeping us on the right track.  Stay strong and stay healthy, - Dr. Bob

Friday, July 1, 2011

Humidifier - check. Electric fan - check. Lullaby CD - check. Nightlight - check. Final kisses and whispered prayers, and at last you’re ready to lay your tiny baby down to sleep.

Modern convenience makes caring for a little one easy as pie and exhaustingly complicated at the same time. Our parents muse, “How did we ever get by without that nursing pillow/bottle warmer/Sippy cup tether?” Yet somehow, the human race got this far without all of today’s fancy gadgets designed to ease parents through the baby years, and we would be wise to consider how it used to be done when evaluating raising an infant during a crisis situation.

To begin with, let’s determine what the basic needs of an infant really are (hint: they’re not too different than anyone else’s): food/water, warmth, hygiene. In this article I will discuss how to meet the needs of an infant on a very barebones level, as well as mention some tips on making it easier on yourself and your little one.


How did women feed their babies before the introduction of powdered formula and bottle warmers? The answer is obvious, and so is the solution for feeding your baby during an emergency: breastfeeding. Out of style for several decades thanks to the influx of commercially produced baby formula, breastfeeding is making a comeback. And why not? Science has proven that it is impossible to duplicate the nutritional advantages of breast milk in a lab, and countless studies have revealed the benefits for both mom and baby. Breast milk is free, portable, stays fresh without refrigeration, and does not need to be prepared; it is the perfect emergency food for your baby. Plus, breastfed babies do not require any additional fluids until they begin to eat solids, which means your stored water supply will stretch further.
However, the only practical way of ensuring a supply of milk for your infant is to have the baby’s mother begin to nurse him at birth, as a woman’s milk is provided by a “supply and demand” type of system. Therefore, when making the decision as to whether your baby will be breast or bottle fed, consider the implications in a survival situation. Sometimes physiological or situational issues make it impossible for a woman to nurse her baby, and a baby can certainly be fed formula in an emergency; breast milk is simply preferable for the reasons listed in the previous paragraph. If you have a formula fed baby or anticipate having one in the future, it is prudent to keep a supply of formula on hand to last several months.

As your baby grows, his nutritional needs increase. Though most doctors agree that many babies can thrive off of exclusively breast milk up until between six and twelve months, it is not uncommon to introduce rice cereal to an infant as young as four months. Baby cereals and canned food are luxuries, and are certainly not necessary in a survival situation. Rice cereal can be made by grinding up grains of rice and mixing with water, as can infant oatmeal. Mashed up versions of what the rest of your family is eating generally works fine for a baby as well, and it is important to keep nursing the baby or supplying it with formula until he is at least a year old (and can begin to drink whole milk, if available) and is eating “meals” with the family.


My husband and I enjoy dressing our one year old daughter in her pretty little sundresses and hairbows; the variety of baby clothes available today is astonishing. Aurora has a closet far more extensive than our own, with tiny sandals, jeans, tights, and sweaters in every color imaginable. When it comes down to it though, babies require very little clothing to be perfectly healthy and content. The extent of the clothing your baby will need depends on your climate, of course. We live high in the mountains of Northern Arizona and have four distinct seasons, with temperatures ranging from the 100s to negative twenty degrees. In the summer, all our fair-skinned baby really needs is a diaper (more on that later) and something to block the sun (a hat, lightweight pants and a shirt, or even just a thin cloth to drape over her if she’s exposed to direct sunlight). “Onesies” help keep her clean and provide protection from insects. In the winter, keeping an infant’s head, feet, and hands warm is extremely important. A warm hat is a necessity (have a couple in a variety of sizes), and a blanket for swaddling will suffice, though cozy “sleepers” and fleece “sleep sacks” will make your job easier. You will find that in an emergency, the fewer clothes you rely on for your baby, the better: less to keep track of and less laundry to do. Go ahead and keep a hairbow for your baby girl though, they’re good for morale and don’t take much space!

Making sure your baby is warm enough at night is also a concern in a survival situation. The most basic way to address this is the concept of “co-sleeping,” where the baby shares a bed with the mother and father. Allow me to point out immediately that a parent who has been drinking alcohol or who thrashes about violently in one’s sleep should never sleep next to an infant. Mothers who co-sleep with their babies are generally surprised at the quality of rest they get each night. They are comforted by knowing their baby is safe with them, not in another part of the house, and nursing the infant while lying down allows Mom and Baby the luxury of feeding without having to get up. There are valuable applications of co-sleeping in an emergency: a better rested mom is much more “present” the next day, sharing body heat with a baby provides extra warmth on a cold night, and if you have to leave somewhere at a moment’s notice at night, you have your most priceless belonging  right there with you.


Right up there with the lost sleep, one of the most unappreciated parts of infant care is undoubtedly the diaper. There’s no getting around it: your baby’s need for a clean diaper will not go away during a crisis. Not including diapers in an emergency plan for your young family can cause serious problems, as diaper rash (which can develop if a diaper is not changed frequently enough) can be bad enough to cause infection. This, however, does not mean you need to go to Target and buy two thousand disposable diapers (your wallet will never recover). There is an alternative! Let us look once more to the distant past, to the days before Huggies and Pampers. You know what I’m going to say, and I know you’re cringing! Don’t worry; it’s really not that bad! This may come as news to you, but cloth diapers have come a long way since the days of noisy plastic liners and sharp pins. Type “cloth diapers” into a search engine, and you’ll be overwhelmed with the options (I was). Every survival-minded potential diaper-er should at least give cloth diapers fair consideration, because when disposables are gone, they’re gone. And the best part about it? This is one survival supply that will not sit idling on a shelf waiting for a disaster; if “just in case” never happens, you’ll still be getting use from them! Now that I’m done trying to muster up your enthusiasm for cloth diapers, allow me to give a brief rundown on the varieties out there:

The Classic: Yes, these are basically what your grandma used. A cloth diaper (some come “fitted” however, meaning you don’t need fasteners!) with a separate plastic cover. A new invention called “snappies” takes away the need for sharp pins. This is the most economical way to cloth diaper your baby. A con from the survival standpoint is that they require more space to tote around if you’re on the go, since there are several different components to them. Popular brands include Thirsties and Bummis.

All-In-Ones: Hands down, these are the most user-friendly diaper out there. In fact, they’re almost as easy as a disposable, only you have to wash them. A disadvantage is that most all-in-one diapers come in different sizes, meaning you must purchase an adequate amount in several sizes. Also, they take longer to dry since the absorbent layer cannot be removed from the rest of the diaper. This is generally the most expensive way to cloth diaper your baby. Popular brands include Kushies and FuzziBunz.

Pockets: My personal favorite, and a great compromise of the previous options-  a “pocket” diaper consists of two pieces: a waterproof outer “shell” with snaps and/or Velcro, that on the inside has a fleece or suede layer that lays against the baby’s skin. In between the fleece and the shell there is a pocket. These diapers come with absorbent “inserts” which the parent positions inside of the pocket. Yes, it is a little more work than with the all-in-one diapers, but it allows you to add more inserts for greater absorbency as needed, which is a plus. After the diapers are washed and dried, we stuff them with the inserts so they’re all ready to go. They fold up into a compact little bundle and are very user-friendly. We use BumGenius; FuzziBunz is also a reliable brand.

The nitty-gritty on cloth:
The obvious deterrent to cloth diapering is the whole “storing stinky diapers and washing them” business. This is understandable. With the luxury of a washing machine, I can honestly say that it’s really not a big deal. However, in a situation where there is no electricity and washing must be done by hand, yes, it is a bit trickier. But it’s still not too bad. The different brands of diapers come with slightly different washing instructions, but for the most part it’s not any more difficult than washing any load of laundry. And yes, the diaper pail can get stinky. But so do disposable diapers. If a situation arises and you are not going to be able to obtain more disposable diapers for your baby, your options are limited. Rather than cutting up your high school letterman’s jacket and favorite rain poncho to diaper your wee one, you will be so relieved (and a little smug) to have a cloth diapering system in place. Even if you rely on disposables day to day, have a stash of prefolds and covers in a closet somewhere, you know, just in case.

Other Hygiene Issues: Honestly, your baby is probably better off without baby wipes (look at the ingredients in those things!) - a cloth of some sort and a little water or a mild soap solution will do fine. Use boiled water to sterilize any contaminated baby items, like pacifiers or sippy cups, and I mean contaminated, not just “it fell on the ground.” It’s good for your baby to be exposed to some germs, so do not stress about keeping his environment pristine.  


Having a helpless little life that is completely dependent on you, that you would die for in a heartbeat is a sobering thing, even in the best of times. An emergency only magnifies that. However, by taking just a few things under consideration before a crisis hits (even if you do not yet have children), you can alleviate those new fears. This article addressed what to feed an infant, how to keep it warm, and even diapering a baby under less than ideal circumstances. I’ve saved the most important point for last: love your infant, and enjoy him, no matter what is going on in the world. Play peek-a-boo and tickle his feet, snuggle him to sleep and tell him how much you love him. It costs nothing and requires no gadgets or supplies, but nothing will make him feel more secure. Though he’s small and vulnerable, the needs a baby has are actually quite simple. And the best part is, your little one doesn’t know any different. He won’t miss the fancy toys and organic food from a jar; if he’s got a full tummy, is warm and cozy, and has a diaper on his behind, he’ll reward you with his steady growth and development and drooly grins, and you’ll look back and realize it was no effort at all.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hi Jim,
I wholeheartedly agree with using silver spoons daily.

At issue with the article is the fact that many people have misconceptions about colloidal silver including F.J.B.  It should not be consumed internally.  Gargling or swishing around the mouth is fine, as is using it in a nasal sprayer for the sinuses and nasal passages.  Swallowing colloidal silver, however, is not advised.  The problem is that the elemental silver reacts with the hydrochloric acid in the stomach to produce silver chloride which does not have any of the sought after properties the the metallic silver has.  It will however contribute to argyria. Colloidal silver should be used topically to control infection. 

Additionally, it is not made properly by running a small current through water.  It can be made at home, but requires a decidedly more difficult method.  Page 320 of "General Chemistry"  5th Edition by Nebergall, Schmidt & Holttzclaw states that the colloid is prepared by drawing an electric arc with silver electrodes under water.  The vapor condenses to particles of colloidal size.  The "Bredig Arc" is drawn with 5-10 amperes at 30-to-40 volts DC.  

There has been a very large contingent of people espousing the idea that a small current derived from batteries will produce a proper colloid.  This is simply not true.  Commercially prepared colloidal silver has a clear golden color.  If a preparation is water clear and /or milky in color, then it is not colloidal silver.

Lastly, Sterling Silver is alloyed with 7.5% copper, not nickel. [JWR Adds: I've already corrected that post.]

Sincerely, - Ray K.


Mr. Rawles:
Just a quick comment on  The Case For Silver Spoons, by F.J.B.:

We purchased our Big Berkey [ceramic water filter] in 1999 and have used it daily since.  My husband began "storing" a few .999 fine silver bars in the bottom.  The bars still sparkle, the water tastes fine, and we have had no major sicknesses like the flu in over 10 years. - Grace H.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Most folks today would agree that we live in troubled times. At any moment, a single event could change the balance of our society for the worse, taking us back to what some might call the dark ages. Predicted solar flares, EMPs, earthquakes, or  even terrorist activity today could lead to a complete infrastructure failure that would affect every aspect of our future. During such a grim event, our personal health would be a great concern. Without refrigeration, many medicines would spoil. Without power, pharmaceutical plants shut down. The few hospitals that have back-up power will soon run out and close if they are not overrun by the masses first. Most modern medical practices would become useless. What is common surgery today, will become a thing of the past. Without the power grid, virtually all that goes into modern medical practices for the common man simply goes away.

Everyday tasks that we would have engaged in without concern before such an event could now pose a health risk that leads to infections or sickness and could even lead to death. Running a barbed wire fence, turning a wrench on your truck, or cutting fire wood will require extra care so as to not get hurt or injured. In fact, just sitting down to a meal could lead to your demise. Aside from the main course, what are you ingesting from the plates and utensils themselves? Like it or not, without automatic dishwashers, we will all be taking a greater interest in washing the dishes and being certain that they are clean, which is why we all should now be looking at silver spoons.

Silver spoons may be the very reason some family lines have continued through the ages while others have been completely lost. Perhaps this, too, is why the general population holds a negative bias towards those who were “born with a silver spoon“.  While the lower class ate their meals with dirty hands and wooden spoons, the elite would eat with dirty hands and silver spoons.   

At this time, I feel compelled to make full disclosure in that I was, indeed, silver-spoon-fed Gerber baby food by my mom who always tried to keep my hands clean.  While on her honeymoon in the Appalachians, Mom bought a souvenir silver (baby) spoon that would be a hand-me-down silver spoon from my older sister to me. It was soon lost by me to my younger sibling who in turn lost it to our still youngest sibling who saw the silver spoon retired. The silver spoon came out of retirement some twenty-five years later to assist my wife in feeding our son. At that time I marveled that I hadn’t starved to death as a child for the tiny size of the silver spoon.

Further, while growing up at home with my family, we were sometimes allowed to dine with Mom’s silverware on extra special occasions such as every third Christmas dinner or every seventh Easter Sunday meal.

So you see, while I am no stranger to silver spoons, I am clearly not an elitist that would have had his own silver baby spoon and dined daily with the family silverware. And Mom was no elitist either! She was just a young and sentimental nurse who knew of silver’s benefits and wanted to protect her children.

Big industry has learned what smart moms, and elitists all over the world, knew all along. Silver fights germs because silver is poison to germs!

A Swiss botanist from the 1880s is credited with coining  the phrase oligodynamic effect which, simply put, means that silver is toxic to bacteria, viruses, molds, fungi, spores and other unpopular micro-organisms! In other words, a spoon made of silver would naturally fight bacteria, viruses, and other micro bad things that might want to hang-out or live on your spoon. Some test results suggest that in as little as 6 minutes a silver spoon will have killed all the bad stuff on it.

A silver spoon self-sanitizes as it sits in your drawer waiting to be used.  This property is shared by other heavy metals as well, but silver is the most affordable, and safest, heavy metal that won’t cause other adverse effects on us (such as lead does). Scientists, doctors, and nurses have been aware of this for years, but modern medicine went in another direction. Only today are we hearing about the wonders of silver in medicine and industry.

Today, fabric manufacturers are adding silver particles to socks and other clothing to control odors caused by bacteria. Silver-coated polyester fabric is used in heart valve replacement surgery. Silver is used in mattresses and bedding for both its antimicrobial effect and its heat dissipation qualities. Silver is used in fabrics that in turn are used in RF Shielding and protecting electronics from EMPs. Silver is used in the fabric mesh of radiation protective suits. Silver is now being used in bandages and first-aid materials. Kitchen sponges are available with the benefits of silver. Colloidal silver (a liquid suspension of silver) is being used almost anywhere you can think of that germs are growing. It is being sprayed into HVAC vents to kill germs and bacteria. It is used as an antibacterial burn treatment. It has been shown that colloidal silver, taken internally, is effective against E. Coli  and over 650 disease-causing organisms. The use of silver in industry continues to grow and we may never see an end to its possibilities.  It is also of note that American pioneers would drop a silver dollar into a jug of milk to keep it fresh from spoilage. What else did they know that has been forgotten by modern man?

Knowing what silver can do, and owning pure silver (.999 fine), you can actually make colloidal silver at home for dipping your socks into or even treating cancer. There are many internet posts on how to make colloidal silver at home and the uses of colloidal silver. It is fairly easy to make and can be done with a few 9-volt batteries, silver wire or two silver bullion coins (.999), a quart canning jar, two alligator clips and some distilled water.

The process involves creating an electrical current that runs through the two clips suspending the silver in the distilled water. As the electricity flows through the silver and into/through the water, silver ionized particles are left behind suspended in the water. Once made, it should be stored covered and away from sunlight. Use it as a topical antibacterial for cuts, scrapes  and burns. After a societal-changing event where there is no doctor or hospital, you can take sterile bandages and dip them into the colloidal silver solution for use as an antibacterial bandage.

It is not recommended that you use a sterling silver spoon to make colloidal silver.  Sterling silver is .925 pure, having some copper in it. We do not want to ingest the copper so it is recommended that you use .999 pure silver as is found in silver bullion.  It is also of note that early silver spoons were nearly pure silver. It was later that they were alloyed to make the spoon stronger and harder to keep it from bending. Today, “Sterling silver” is .925 pure silver.

Another age-old benefit of silver spoons dates to the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907) China.  Silver chop sticks would turn black or tarnish quickly when the silver reacted with popular poisons of the era. A silver spoon (or chop stick) will tarnish on contact with sulfur, and therefore any arsenic sulfides, making it a handy arsenic-poisoning detector and a lot easier to keep around than a chef or a peasant for random taste tests.

All said, everyone should have a silver spoon in their kit. It should be widely used by all in family survival kitchens, BOBs, and even carried by each individual to be used when eating out (you’ll always know whose mouth it last touched).  It will also be in the ready should you need to barter or buy something while on the road. After all, it is silver and just like cash. Maybe you should have several with you.

I would support a universal distribution of silver spoons to every man, woman, and child in these United States as an alternative health care plan.   In essence, the silver spoon is a pocket health care plan!

Remember what Mom always said: Wash your hands, eat well, be healthy, use your silver spoon and stay away from hard ice cream to prevent bent spoons.

Buy some silver spoons and you just might be continuing your family line.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

As my husband excitedly plans how to care for our family if disaster strikes and  how to live on bare minimal amounts of food, I am preparing my heart for caring for my family during hard times.  I know that my job is maintaining the emotional presence of my family during the hard times that we may face. These are things that we can all inexpensively incorporate into our lives now and reap the benefits from.  I am also happy to tell you that these are things that you can use around your house every day, and will also bring enjoyment and healthy to your daily lives.

Diatomaceous Earth - This organic mineral dust has so many uses. We have used  it for long term food storage such as wheat berries, corn and oats (and anything else you would like bugs to stay out of). We sprinkle this through all of our goods before storing (no need to rinse them before using).  Not only is it an effective insecticide for plants and food, but can also be used for filtration, absorbing spills, blood clotting activator, bed bug killer and heat resistant material.  It is widely used in the farming community and natural health community as an organic de-wormer (for pets, sprinkle on food or mix into water).  We take a heaping spoonful at least twice a day in water and drink, our children take it as well.  Parasites are a problem for humans as well, and if not treated, nutrient absorption is not as effective.  This is the cheapest way to treat this problem.  There is no "proper dosage", as it is completely harmless.  A 50 pound bag is available for around $50 at a farm supply store.  Note: Buy only "food grade" Diatomaceous Earth. We use this for all of our pets, our chicken coop, and sprinkled on our chickens to kill lice, mites and fleas. Sprinkled around garden plots to keep bugs out (make sure not to get on flowering buds of vegetables, as it will kill bees.) For the ladies, it is also used as a great clay mask to absorb oil from skin. Wear a mask when transferring it, so that you do not breath in the dust.

Iodine - I could write a whole paper on why we should all have iodine supplements.  It can be used to protect thyroid glands from radiation. (See the SurvivalBlog archives.)

For survival use - It is a widely used antiseptic that when painted on the skin prior to surgery kills 90 percent of bacteria within 90 seconds.  Another great use is as an antiseptic in drinking water.  The thyroid gland needs this to make thyroid hormones that regulate metabolism and for development of the brain and body. (There are many studies available that show the health rates and lower cancer rates of the people of Japan, who eat seaweed which is high in iodine.) The health benefits are numerous. 

We used to get iodine from our food sources, but because our cows don’t eat grass anymore and our soils are depleted, many of us are lacking this mineral. Even if you do get sufficient intake of this, chlorine and fluoride in our water inhibits absorption.   It is a prescribed drug (per the FDA), so when you go to purchase it, it will be labeled “Not for internal consumption.”  To test your body's need for iodine, you place a drop on your wrist or foot, if it absorbs within four hours, your body is in need of iodine. (You will want to slowly build up [with an incrementally larger area of skin covered], over months so as not to disrupt your thyroid), if the mark stays close to eight hours, then you are sufficient in iodine. Your body will soak it up if you need it.  We do this a one time a week to check our levels.  There are many health problems associated with not having enough iodine.  I would encourage you to do your research on this topic, especially if you have hypothyroid issues. Since taking iodine, I have had an increase in energy, lost weight and had more balanced hormones. My body was definitely lacking. Caution: Too much iodine can be more detrimental as too little, so use it sparingly! If you are leery of using this [via skin absorption], then take sea kelp supplements or eat more seaweed. It is still needed for water purification, radiation protection and wound care.  I would recommend Lugol's 2% Iodine Solution. Check with a doctor first if you are on prescriptions or have other health concerns.

Melatonin - when the heart rate stays increased from stress, the body slows its production of melatonin which regulates sleep.  It instead produces chemicals such as adrenaline to keep your body awake.  We are packing melatonin because we know that in tough situations we may not be able to sleep.  Especially if we are taking shifts that our bodies are not used to sleeping because we are on lookout duty.  Sleep is crucial we all know, but we know how cranky we get without it, so this is preventative to keeping others around us happy as well!  This is something simple and will come in handy!

Natural Stress Relievers

As a trained naturalist, I would like to share with you ways in which you can keep your families moods elevated the way that God intended, without a prescription for Prozac.  As a wife and mother I have taken my calling from God to care for my family.  Through planning for hard times I have found myself stumbling for answers and on my knees praying that God gives me the wisdom to keep them safe, and to somehow find happiness amidst the storms in life that may come.

I have read much mentioned that I should be packing puzzles and games to keep my family busy and their mind off of what will happen during times of disaster.  I would like to not just keep there minds off of what is going on, But help them face it and cope with it so that they may find true meaning and happiness and know that all is well no matter what we find ourselves facing.

I know that many of you have prepared for hard times and have everything ready to go. But have you taken time to think about how shocking this will be, even though you KNOW it is coming? How will your body react?  How will you explain this to small children? 

Number one: Stress is not good for the body. How will you counteract it?

  • Words of encouragement, Bible verses, speak out truths to your loved ones, have Biblical inspirations ready to read.
  • A 20 second hug. Slows the heart rate, gives a feeling of calmness and belonging.
  • Pack stuffed animals and silky blankets, even for your older children!
  • Have journals for each member of your family to sketch and write their feelings

Have a box packed with essential oils and spray bottles ready to mix: (I buy mine from   They have great prices and great products.)

Lavender - treats anxiety, depression, fatigue, anti-bacterial, anti-viral properties, eczema, wounds, nervous disorders, head lice, joint and muscle pain, skin ailments.  Research confirms that when lavender is inhaled it produces  calming and sedative effects and also assists in pain management. Lavender has been widely used in past wars on the battlefields when traditional medicines were scarce!

Tea tree oil - a natural mood and healthy hormone stimulant, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, anti-septic, balsamic (boosts absorption of nutrients,) cicatrisant (heals wounds more quickly,) expectorant (helps expel congestion from the body during cold or bronchitis) and anti-fungal, insecticide.  Another great thing about tea tree is that it is sudorific which means that it helps the body rid itself of harmful toxins. Besides infections, another cause of illness is accumulation of toxins in the body.

Peppermint oil - known as the “worlds oldest medicine,” it is a must in your emergency kit.  It treats indigestion (including morning sickness and motion sickness and IBS), respiratory problems, headache, nausea, fever, stomach and bowel spasms and pain.  It contains nutrients including iron, manganese, magnesium, calcium, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, copper, Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Its also used for dental care, respiratory  and digestive problems (anti-spasmodic), stress reducer, has been used to treat UTIs, relieves pain, helps blood circulate, helps reduce fever, removes dead skin and excess oil, kills lice and removes dandruff and helps build up the immune system.

Ylang ylang - used to reduce frustration and soothe the nerves, a known aphrodisiac, reduces insomnia and helps combat anxiety and depression.  Also known to stimulate hair growth and equalize sebum production in the skin.

Our family has developed a blend of essential oils that we always spray in our homes.  People always tell me that they love the smell of our house and think of us when they smell lavender. I take this scent with us wherever we go. I do this because growing up as a child my dad was a truck driver on the road for weeks.  There were eight of us kids, and we all fought over his pillow when he wa away from home because that was the smell of our dad.  I want my kids to know the smell of their home, the smell of safety and love….to bring back feelings of peace. I will send bottles of this with them when they leave home someday.

Bug spray blend- mix with one half pint of Witch Hazel in spray bottle and enjoy. Keep out of eyes!
1/2 teaspoon citronella essential oil       
1/2 teaspoon eucalyptus essential oil
1/2 teaspoon lavender essential oil         

Have a massage therapy kit, with alcohol for sanitizing, a foot washing kit, lotion, and small cards with massage instructions.  This will help relieve headaches, tension, promote healthy digestion, to relax back tension (after working all day chopping wood, and how to relieve a cramped muscle).  I have used and experienced myself with massage therapy and would encourage everyone to pick up or print off some simple massage techniques.  Even doing hand and foot massages during high stress times will protect your body from the increase in harmful hormones during the stress response and actually help the body heal. Do some research on the benefits of massage therapy!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

There are some no nonsense, low-cost hands on things that we can do right now and daily to become more prepared in a slow and steady, simple manner. I recommend using Regularly Unavoidable Training Triggers (RUTTs). Getting in a RUTT could save your life.

We all know people that are in a rut.  Some people like to smoke their cigarettes and some spend hours a day in front of the television.  Some people without even thinking about it pick up a little bit of candy or junk food when standing in line at the grocery store.  The truth is that ruts are very easy to get into.  Our quality of life and our very survival will depend on the RUTT that we are in.   Lets talk specifically about how you can get into a RUTT that affects you physically.   Like most people, hitting the gym has never worked for me.  First, you pack a bag, then drive to the gym, change, and work out.  Someone is inevitably using the equipment you want to use.  Then you need to clean up and head home.   

What a huge drain of time and energy.   I would rather be in a RUTT.  Instead of going to the gym, I would rather use quick five minute exercises at many different Triggered intervals during the day.  This has the benefit to allow me to relieve stress, mentally switch gears between daily tasks, and allow me to clear my head as I go about my day.   Here are a couple of things that I do and the Unavoidable Triggers that initiate the action.  

Near the entrance to my home I have an inconspicuous string that is dangling such that the bottom most part is just out of reach for me to jump and smack it.  Every time I go in to or out of that door (almost), I jump up attempting to contact the string. The idea is do this often enough such that eventually you get good enough to actually hit it.  At that point where I actually hit it, I immediately find something to stand on and trim 1/4 inch off of the string. (wash, rinse, repeat)  How high can you jump? Easily 30 attempts a day (approximately 5-10 jumps at each passing of the Trigger) , over a month definitely pushes the 1,000 attempt mark.  Could that whole body explosive jumping action benefit you on occasion?  Would it come in very handy in a survival situation?  I set one up for each of the nieces and nephews at their homes,, and made it a game.  

 The Regular Unavoidable Training Trigger that initiates this exercise is merely passing through the front door.  Get in a RUTT and do it every time.   What would be the benefit if you were to place a punching/heavy bag  just inside a child's bed room door, such that they could not enter without giving it a bit of a shove.  Would it benefit that child physically to push that bag out of the way 10 times a day for years?  Could you do the same thing for your bedroom/ den/ office/ man cave?  This exercise is Triggered by entering and exiting the room and is Unavoidable.    

What would it do to a child's (or adults) agility and ankle strength if the middle of their bedroom floor from a young age (It has just always been that way) J had a large section covered by a piece of wood or thick carpet with a random array of tennis ball half's attached to it.  Would agility improve over time?  Here the Training Trigger is Unavoidable and is always present when walking in this room.   If there was a pull-up bar above the bathroom door. Every time you finish using the bathroom do a pull up or two on the way out.  As most people use the bathroom a few times per day, this Regular Training Trigger is Unavoidable.  

A 2x4 on the floor (or laying in the garden if the spouse will not tolerate it in the home) makes an excellent balance beam. Get in the habit of always traveling along it when you come to it. When you get to the point where you are doing it without even thinking,,, turn it on edge and screw a couple of supportive "feet" to it. Now walk the narrow edge from then on. It will soon become second nature and brainlessly easy. Have you been able to do this for a while without thinking about it?  Place or screw a stable block under one end to create a 1' incline. The balance beam is right there whenever you approach this area.   It is in your way, Unavoidable and it is just easier to play along with this game you have made for yourself.  You could even disguise it as decorative landscape edging.  

Is there any way that a Tarzan rope could be incorporated into your daily comings and goings?  Would you and your kids benefit if the Tarzan rope was the only acceptable way to leave the front porch.  If there was that and a balance beam coming up the stairs into the home, kids would come and go using them every time.   

A personal hero of mine, J.J. Armes, is said to have turned all of the stairs in his home into high traction rubber inclines to benefit the physical abilities of his family.  How is that for a Regularly Unavoidable Training Trigger?  As a bonus, this would also seriously confuse a burglar and slow down the uninitiated.  

Almost as drastic, a couple of well placed boards or commercially purchased climbing hand holds could become the only acceptable way for the kids (big and small) to go upstairs to the bedrooms or to enter their tree house.   Although not complete, I am currently working on weaving a stout climbing rope so that at multiple times of the day I can take a moment and climb it as I pass.  A regular thick rope is climbable; however, a proper "fast-rope" is much easier on the hands and will result in more frequent use.  If you ever find yourself feeling unmotivated to climb the rope, just attach a small sign that reads “Do NOT Climb Rope - By Order of a Large Government Agency.”  You will soon find that the urge to climb has returned.

I like to frequently have a look and see what is in the refrigerator.  On the main shelf , front and center and sideways, I place the water pitcher.  Now, whenever I open the refrigerator, I have a glass ready to fill with water.  It is usually the case that after having a drink of water, I am not thinking so much about getting a little snack.  

What kinds of things do you Regularly do as you go about your day?  To what positive things can you attach a Regularly Unavoidable Training Trigger?   

Is there a BB gun trap target on the back wall inside of the wood shed with a BB training pistol standing by such that each and every time you fetch wood you can have a couple of practice shots?  Is this proximity to a safe backstop also a good time to practice retrieving your pistol from your concealed carry?  Yes, I know, the wood shed is often cold.  But is that not the point, to practice in all conditions?  What about practicing after you have split a few logs?   Does the screen saver on your computer show a different intricate scene or series of objects and when a button is pushed, does it block you from proceeding until you put check marks in the box corresponding to the items that were actually in the scene? Would that help improve your recall and situational awareness.  Can you set the level of difficulty?   Can others upload expansions and new scenes?  (Well, mine certainly cannot.)

Do you without fail play the "situational awareness game" when out in a public setting like a restaurant?  It goes like this:  Everyone but you closed there eyes, and you ask them three questions about the surroundings. For instance: What color are the drapes?  Does the room have fire suppression sprinklers installed?  How many exit signs are visible?  How many people are wearing hats? The players can answer with a show of fingers and the winner leads the next round.  My Trigger for this is all dining out occasions.  

When traveling home never travel the same path twice.  It is a proven brain stretcher and allows you to familiarize yourself with what is currently going on in the area around you.  Attempt to use unconventional paths such as through parking lots and behind shopping centers.  This simple exercise could really be a life saver in a bug out situation.   It is easy to fall into a habit or a RUTT, why not set yourself up, and create a few that would really benefit you and your family.  Just like food preps, slow and steady, simple and stupid, can win this race also.

JWR Adds: One good RUTT is positioning pull-up bars at the top of two or three doorways inside your house. Get in to the habit of doing four or five pull-ups each time that you walk through that doorway when you aren't carrying an object. This can be turned into a fun game for the family. If you have teenagers, it can even be made a bit competitive--in a friendly way, of course.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Letter Re: Inexpensive Mailorder Eyeglasses


Just completed an order with Zenni Optical for a pair of "computer glasses" (as opposed to "reading glasses" for the tech age, I suppose) and I am very pleased.  For $11.90 with shipping and handling. I got a pair of glasses that I was able to customize for computer work.  You can hardly get a pair of generic Chinese-made readers from Wal-Mart anymore for that price.  I plan to make a bulk order of backup glasses for the family from them.  It took a while to get them, but it was within the timeframe that they post on their site.  I also had good service from in the past, but they're more expensive.

Thanks for all you do for preppers. - Crusty

JWR Replies: It is important that everyone who wears eyeglasses or contact lenses to have at least two pairs of eyeglasses, and preferably three pairs. Remember our motto: "Two is one and one is none."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Many of our family and friends have teased us about my husband's and my desire to live as independently and as far away from others as we possibly can. They have often scoffed at our (as one relative called it) “end of the world pantry”. These are of course the same family and friends that love to vacation at our place. The very same that called immediately after 9/11 and asked if the violence and terror reached near their homes could they come and stay with us. These same people have begun calling in the days since the massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan and are asking what they can do, or should do to prepare for a possible earthquake or other natural disaster in their area. The laughing and teasing has stopped and the listening has started, but we fear as with the 9/11 attacks, as soon as the around the clock media coverage dies down, so will the listening.

There are a good many people reading this that are like my husband and I once were. You are dreaming of the day that you can afford to move to your ideal place, but not quite there yet. We spent 14 years dreaming and planning, but almost no time at all actually preparing for the life we now live. We read many books on homesteading and wilderness living. We attended every outdoor type show we could find. We talked about living in the woods and wore out our copy of the Lehman’s catalog and Abigail Gehring's "Back to Basics" book. However we didn’t do much actual learning and practicing of the skills we need to live where we now do. In that respect, we were not much different from our unprepared and panic-stricken family and friends.

Our home is located seven miles from a very small town of about (to quote a recent local graduate, from a graduating class of 12 students) "400 people and 10,000 cows". It is primarily farmland, campgrounds and hiking trails. To get to the place we have called home for 14 years now, you go through the small town, past the last campground and park at a pullout on the county road. If the weather is conducive (it is often not) and the snowmobile is running well (it is often not) then we can snowmobile in the two miles to our home. Much of the time we walk. The trek is two miles with a gain of about 1,000 feet in elevation. There is no groomed trail, we have had to climb over downed trees, walk around mudslides and hike through chest deep snow. We have come face to face with cougar, bear, and elk on this trail. Perhaps scariest of all, we have several times run in to illiterate hunters and mushroom pickers as well as quite a few looky-loos that just want to see “the weird survivalist people” that live up the hill. (The use of the term “illiterate” is justified as these poor folks cannot read the numerous "No Trespassing" signs, nor do they have the capacity to understand gates and chains.)

It doesn’t matter if it is raining, or below zero, or the ice is so thick that there is no way for our crampons to dig in as we attempt to slide uphill, that steep trail is still the only way home. In the non- snow time, which is about 4-5 months a year here, we can drive our old one ton pickup in and out for our larger deliveries. That is if the road is not washed out and if the creek can be safely crossed and if our old truck can handle the switchbacks and steep trail and if it is not too muddy and isn’t too rutted from when it was muddy. Our snow free days are about two months behind those of the valley located only 8 miles down the mountain. We have often hiked out in two feet of snow, and reached the valley to play softball on a completely snow free, green field in 60 degree weather, even though that is less than 10 miles from our snow covered home.

Our water comes from a spring and is gravity fed to our home. Our septic is also gravity operated, so no power for us is no problem. Our only source of heat is wood and that is also often how we heat water and cook. We do have limited power, but we really don’t use it much except for refrigeration and freezers. We homeschooled our children and amazingly as adults they are all intelligent human beings capable of working hard and making a living. We live in a very remote home and we like it that way.

The same friends and family that used to scoff but now ask how they can live as we do seem more panicked than prepared. So many of these otherwise intelligent people don’t seem to have the slightest idea what it takes to live in the wilderness, or even to live in a smaller community on a little farm. They have absolutely no idea how to survive for more than about 24 hours should a disaster of any kind befall them where they currently live. If you are as we once were, dreamers, then perhaps some of our “should have” list could be helpful to you. Even if you currently live in a cramped apartment in the city, or small home in the suburbs, there are many things you can be learning and practicing right now to help you when you do make the leap to the wilderness. Even if you plan on staying in the city or suburbs and riding out whatever storm may come your way, get prepared now and don’t end up like so many of the people we know. Be ready instead of reckless.

I cannot stress this one enough. While model types may look great in a business suit or fancy evening dress, stick thin will most likely not cut it in the woods, even less likely to cut it is the couch potato.  It has taken more strength and stamina than we ever thought we had in us to live where we live. We could have saved some valuable time once here, not too mention exhaustion and blisters, if we had been in better shape. What one wants when living a simpler (ha!) life is lean muscle and lots of stamina. This requires real healthy eating and strength training. Joining an expensive gym is not required, and in fact could be a major waste of money. Instead, walk everywhere you can. After work strap on a backpack with weight in it and walk, uphill whenever possible. If you do not live in an area conducive to walking, then get an inexpensive used treadmill off Craig’s List or your local want ads. Slowly increase the weight in your backpack until you can easily carry at least 1/3 your body weight. Do push-ups and squats and lunges as often as possible.

My husband recently ventured into the valley only 10 miles away from our home, but almost 1,500 feet in elevation lower than our home. While he was gone we had a freak snowstorm that dumped over 4 feet of powder in less than 24 hours. If we were skiing, 2 feet of powder would have been awesome, or snowmobiling in say 1 foot of new powder we would have had a great time. However walking in 4 feet of powder is nearly impossible. It took 36 hours total and three separate attempts for my husband to get back home. He was able on the second day to get the snowmobile about ½ way up the hill but that was only after taking numerous runs at the very steep hill. Then he walked up the rest of the way in chest deep snow as I walked down to help break a trail. I had on our large snowshoes, he, unfortunately, was caught off guard and had to walk in his hiking boots without snowshoes. It took two full hours for me to walk about ½ of a mile down, and the same amount of time for him to walk about ½ mile up. It was exhausting and very difficult. Although the snowshoes prevented me from sinking all the way down in the snow, I was still sinking to about thigh high. Since I couldn’t get my snowshoes above the top of the snow, each step I took I was lifting all the snow that fell in on top of my snowshoes. It was kind of like walking in hip deep water with 20 lb. ankle weights on. My husband was walking uphill without snowshoes and literally pushing snow with his chest. Once we met up it was another hour until we were back in the house. Even though both of us were physically spent there were still animals to tend, fires to build, wood to be brought in and food to cook. We can’t have pizza delivered to our house! At 50 and in good physical shape and used to this type of extreme exertion we were nearly done in. Are you in the kind of shape that could handle this level of exercise? If there were an EMP or other disaster that prevented you from driving to your bug-out place, could you walk there? Are you capable of chasing an elk for 5 miles and then after finally shooting it, gutting it and quartering it could you carry it back to your camp or home? You can and should be getting into real physical shape right now while you are waiting to get to your ideal spot.

As for eating, there is an excellent book titled “Nourishing Traditions”, by Sally Fallon. This book has been a literal lifesaver for us. We used to live the “low fat, soy protein, low salt” type diet and what we got for it was hormonal imbalances, extra fat, and poor health. Now believe it or not we eat lots of animal protein, veggies and fruits and healthy fats – like eggs and milk products and olive oil and nuts. We are by no means puritans when it comes to our diet, but we are living proof that every little bit helps. After following the outlines in this book, we are now at healthy weights and have (for the first time in a long time) healthy cholesterol levels, and healthy blood pressure. We are at real healthy weights, not some ridiculous insurance company’s idea of healthy weight. Although overweight according to the charts, our fat to muscle ratio is terrific, better than when we were at our “ideal”. We also have only been sick with the flu once in the past 16 years. Unfortunately it was the H1N1 virus, which we believe we picked up on a trip to the city about a week before we came down with it. Other than gallstones (a result of rapid weight loss) and the removal of the offensive gallbladder, we have had no serious health problems at all. Most of our medical issues have been accidents with the snowmobile, chainsaw or chopping wood (all due to our own stupidity) or falls on the ice or post-holing into deep, rotten snow. When we first moved here, in spite of the fact that we had hiked and backpacked often, it still took me about 90 minutes to hike up to our house in good weather. Now on a packed trail I can hike up here in about 20 minutes with a loaded backpack and still have energy once I am home. The overall health benefits from being in shape and eating well are invaluable in the wilderness.


Many places in the woods or desert areas do not have electricity or cell reception. Many people are also addicted (and I mean that in the literal sense!) to their computers, iPhones, iPods, iPads, televisions, DVDs and gaming systems. Not only will many of these things not work if there were an EMP or extreme disaster, but many areas do not have access for making these things work right now. In spite of an ugly cell tower blocking our otherwise beautiful view of the top of the mountain we live on, cell phones don’t work here. In fact, to get cell reception you have to climb up the hill behind our house, or go to the valley where cell phones work in a few choice places. There is no high-speed Internet hook-up either. We are lucky to be hooked up through our dial-up service at 26 kbps – that is on a good day, it can be as slow as 9 kbps. Those television commercials that claim you can have high speed internet no matter where you live, don’t often apply to extremely remote places. Even though high speed is available only a few miles down the mountain from us, we cannot get it here. That translates to no videos, no Skype, next to impossible to download pictures attached to e-mails. We cannot play games on our computer, except for solitaire and a few other card games. No chat rooms or Facebook, no Twittering, basically we can e-mail text only, and view text only sites, or sites that do have pictures instead for us will have boxes with little red “X’s” in them where the pictures should be. All this is contingent on the phones actually being up and running, which in the last 16 years has been about ¾ of the time. We have had visitors that nearly go stir crazy without constant input and instantaneous feedback of their (mostly, but admittedly not always) narcissistic “social sites”. While we are on the subject, no one has 200 “friends”! You may know 200 people, but these are not your “friends” America! These are simply, for the most part, other people that are so wrapped up in themselves they also believe that other people actually care when they took a bath or where they ate dinner. Obviously it can have some huge benefits, such as people being able to contact others letting them know of safety after the Japan earthquake and tsunami, or after Hurricane Katrina. But lets be real here folks: The vast majority of people on social networking sites are hooking up with old flames and bragging, or making stuff up about their lives. There are people in our extended families that can spend hours on the computer, but cannot finish a school or work assignment or housework. We personally know three different people that ended up having affairs and ruining their marriages and they all began on Facebook!

Besides the time-sucking computer, there are also many folks who come home from work and plop in front of a television. That is just as bad, and no, watching television with family does not count as actually spending time with them. Our teenaged niece actually sat at one end of her couch, while her friend sat at the other and instead of talking to one another, they texted each other! One teenaged visitor to our home once asked, “You don’t watch television, and you don’t have video games. Cell phones don’t work here and your Internet connection is lousy and you don’t let your kids get on there anyway. What exactly do you do?!?” He wasn’t being rude; he was asking a question very seriously because he couldn’t imagine what one would do without all the constant electronic input he was used to having. Many of you reading this may be included in this population of folks that “need” their electronic fixes daily. Perhaps you should try now to go without these things. Actually turn off your handheld devices, including cell phones. Unplug your television and gaming systems. In fact, do without as much electricity as possible for at least one week, a month is better.

Obviously we are not recommending that you all unplug your refrigerator or freezer and let your food spoil. Also there are a few (doctors, people on transplant lists, pregnant women) that may actually have need of a cell phone, but maybe limit it to necessary calls only. For those of you with older children, this could be the challenge of a lifetime, but give it a try. Many will find that after the initial shock wears off, you are actually living life, instead of just tweeting about it. Another benefit is you might actually spend some real time in actual conversation or playing with your children or reconnecting with your spouse. In my old life I worked in social services. I was continually told by clients that they did not have time to try out some new discipline technique, or take a class or actually cook with their child. When I asked these people that seemingly had “no extra time” in their schedules if they watched television, virtually all of them admitted that they spent about 4-5 hours each day after work either on their computer or watching television. I would then ask them if they wanted to explain to their child later on that they didn’t have time for their children because they needed to watch a television program, or they needed to update their facebook page. Most, but sadly not all, said that they thought in light of what they were actually spending their time on, that they could change their schedule to benefit their child. There probably isn’t anyone that reaches the end of their life and says, “If only I had spent more time watching television or on the computer and less time with my family”. Get used to not only no electricity before you are forced to do so, but also get used to actually doing stuff with your family – most people enjoy it a lot!

A mother of four once lamented to me that she wanted to get her kids out of the low income housing they were living in and move them to the country. She was upset because she said there simply was no way she could save even one penny each month. She was also very concerned because her children were exhibiting some rather serious behavioral problems. They lived in a cramped three-bedroom apartment, and there were six (yes that is six) televisions in the home. There were gaming systems hooked up to all but two of the television’s. All had DVD players attached – as well as four individual DVD players in the family van.  All the children had numerous handheld games and laptops. Mom had a big computer in the dining room (it was on the table because all the kids ate in front of their own televisions or game systems). She was paying for three cell phone bills for her and the two oldest children. They ate almost exclusively pre-packaged, overly processed food and take out. The family was receiving food stamps, free medical and mom was getting free educational services so she could better herself. The family was stuck in a cycle of self -created mayhem. Her children told her what to do, and blatantly defied even her simplest of requests. They were not allowed to go outside because of the neighborhood in which they lived. This mom asked for my help, so I sat with her for hours and went over her budget and showed her how she could easily save at least $300 per month. Some of the cuts she could make immediately were to get rid of all but one television, and sell all gaming systems. The family didn’t truly have need to be paying for Internet at home as the children never used it for school, and the mother admitted that she mostly (in her words) “got lost” in it to avoid her children. Her schooling to that point had only required printing of papers. Since she lived in an area where free Internet was available through their public library, it really was a waste of her money. Some of her children’s behavior problems might also be alleviated if she insisted on family time instead of five separate individuals living in one apartment. Unfortunately for her children, this woman today, 10 years later, lives in the same low- income apartment in the city. The neighborhood has gotten worse, she is further in debt, and her children that stayed in school (two dropped out) are in special education classes for severe emotional and behavioral problems. She fantasized about living in the country, but was either unwilling or unable to do the work it took to get there. If you are serious about wanting to move from the city, then get yourself in financial shape to do so now.

Cut out all extras. Almost any budget has some wiggle room to lessen output and increase savings. We struggled for a long time financially, but luckily for our children and me, my husband was determined to be debt free. Now as many of our friends and family are drowning in debt and living in homes they owe more on than they are worth, we own our home and vehicles and we have money. Even if we don’t have everything we want, we definitely have everything we need. We have even taken some awesome vacations and paid cash for them so we could truly enjoy the trip, instead of worrying how we were going to pay off our credit cards once we got home. Our children as well, now all adults have proven to be very thrifty and seem to recognize the difference between wants and needs. If you get control of your finances now, you are that much closer to reaching your goals.

Some skills we have needed and used often are cooking from scratch; building a fire (there is an actual skill to this art!); wood cutting and gathering; cleaning, loading and firing a gun; basic home repairs; animal care – including butchering; gardening and preserving of foods; first-aid (I have had to give stitches twice); teaching homeschooling; and many others. While we could and did practice some of these skills before moving here, such as hunting and gun care, and canning and gardening, we had to learn many others the hard way. One such hard-learned lesson was how to build a proper fire and clean a chimney and NEVER burn wet wood! We learned this by a chimney fire that nearly cost us our home. Now we know to burn only properly cured (dry) wood and to clean the chimney about 3-4 times a year. We also learned from an old man to burn a “super hot fire” in the morning and let it “blaze away” for about an hour before dampering it down. Since we have done this, we have little creosote build up when we do clean out the chimney. Also clean chimneys draw better and burn hotter making the house warmer with less wood. Canning is another skill that I highly recommend you practice before you need to actually can anything. It can be tricky and I have found that nothing replaces practice and actual experience in perfecting this skill.

In order to learn and actually perform these skills now there are many resources. The most obvious are older friends and relatives that have actually done these things. There are also gun clubs in most cities and towns that offer beginner classes. Local hospitals and community centers often offer classes for free or low cost on everything from cooking to first aid to gardening. Years ago when I started canning (and even some tough questions now) I found our county extension experts to be a fantastic resource. County extension offices (in the government pages of most phone books) offer free advice and pamphlets on many subjects such as gardening, canning, and curing meats, animal care and others. Home Depot and Lowe's offer classes for free or materials only fees on everything from installing a water heater to putting up sheetrock to building a deck.

Another great resource for learning some of these skills are nursing homes and senior centers. Many older folks are more than happy to share what they know and also most love to have an occasional visitor. Simply ask the director if they could match you up with someone or if you could post a notice on their bulletin stating what you are looking for. Something like, “Young housewife seeking to learn art of baking from scratch” or, “Middle aged man wanting to learn building and home repair skills”. We were fortunate to have grandparents that lived a very long time who were very willing to share what knowledge they had gleaned through the years. To learn about animal care you might consider volunteering at an animal shelter or vets office, you can gain a lot of knowledge and do something worthwhile at the same time. Most people learn best by actually doing things, instead of simply reading about them or watching a DVD.

Basically what I am really talking about here, is instead of wasting your time dreaming or fantasizing about what you want someday, learn to do it now so when you do realize your dream of living out away from all the chaos of a city, you can actually relax and enjoy your accomplishments. Become a “doer” not a “dreamer’.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I have to agree with this article.  I first heard about the South Beach diet from a coworker who lost over 100 pound and kept it off for many years this way.  I've successfully used it myself, me, who thought I could never stick to a diet.  It was developed by a cardiologist with the goal being to provide his patients with a diet that would greatly lower their risk of stroke and heart attack and improve their cardiac and blood profiles.  My only caveat is I don't agree with his recommended use of Splenda and NutraSweet.  Use all natural Stevia instead. - Kathryn N.

JWR Replies: I concur! As I've mentioned before in the blog, I recommend minimizing the intake of aspartame-based artificial sweeteners (like Benevia, Canderal, Equal, NutraSweet, Equal, and Spoonful.) They have some profound negative health effects that are just starting to be revealed. I predict that in the long run, aspartame will have a reputation as bad as Red Dye #2.

Mr. Rawles-
I felt I must respond to the article that was presented on the South Beach Diet as a tool to get into shape before TSHTF. It is an excellent way to eat for those who suffer from hypothyroidism and in fact is one that is highly recommended by many endocrinologists for those with Hashimoto’s Disease (of which I deal with and have dealt with for years). The body turns carbs into sugar which causes an inflammatory reaction within the body and for those with hypothyroidism this means muscle aches, pains and low energy. When I stay away from processed foods, fruit and what I will term ‘bad’ carbs, I feel really good even when my TSH levels are way out of whack. Eat one doughnut, one piece of white bread or drink one soda, I can feel. I believe that if your readers who suffer from hypothyroidism just tried the diet with no other intentions except to feel better that they would find that many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism would either be lessened or go away. Protein is the hypo's suffers best friend and carbs are not!   Blessings - Rev. L.B.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

I would guess that most SurvivalBlog readers would agree that the mind, including state of mind and skill set, is one’s most important asset during TEOTWAWKI. Additionally, I would argue that being physically fit runs a very close second place. I have always been a prepper to a certain degree; even before I had ever heard the term. However in the back of my mind I knew that my body would not make it far even if my family’s survival depended upon it. In addition to being pre-diabetic, I was taking medication for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I subtly tried to acquire a stock of my medications from my doctor, but was unable to secure more than a few months’ supply. I also spoke to my doctor about my weight and he mentioned that I should take a look at the South Beach Diet. I bought the book and the ideas sounded reasonable. However, I failed to act upon the information until in January 2010, when after several years of working in front of a computer monitor, I hit 300 pounds. I decided that day that I would not gain another pound and I would do everything in my power to regain my fitness.

In my youth, I had been a muscular 200 pounds at 5 foot 11 inches, and I thought that I would never see that level of fitness again especially now that I am in my forties. After all, I had eliminated soda, and started eating more salads and less fatty foods all to no avail. A few years back I had lost quite a bit of weight while on the Atkins diet, but the way I had implemented it was very unhealthy. In fact I developed gout from the all of the red meat I was eating. Once I went back to my old habits, the gout never returned, but I regained all of the weight I had lost and more. Exercise had proven to be even more of a challenge because I was perpetually tired. It’s amazing how just a day at the office can exhaust you when you are carrying an extra hundred plus pounds.

In my mind diets always represented a short-term state. The problem is that as soon as you stop dieting, even if you had reached your goal, you begin to regain the weight because you go back to your old habits. In order to be successful at permanently losing weight, I knew I would have to make lifestyle changes. I studied the Paleo diet and the South Beach diet. I even revisited the Atkins diet, which had even been revised since the time I had tried it to be more healthy. I found a growing body of evidence that avoiding fast carbohydrates and embracing good fats in moderation would cause you to lose weight, balance blood cholesterol as well as blood sugar. In fact, the low-fat, grain based diet that has been advanced by the FDA, which I had believed in as gospel, could actually have been working against me.

The main concept of this movement (at least to the extent of my understanding) is that your body will burn carbohydrates first until they are gone and then it will burn the fats. The more carbs you have in your diet, the less likely it is that you will burn significant amounts of fat. When your body absorbs carbs it produces insulin to break down the sugars, and if you intake a significant amount of carbs that can be quickly absorbed by your body your blood will get a huge spike in insulin to help burn those carbs. Once the carbs have been processed you still have the insulin in our blood, which will cause you to crave even more carbs. The resulting situation can be self-perpetuating and quite addictive. Some sources of quick carbohydrates that I expected to see were sugared soda and sweets. Other sources were more of a surprise such as white flour, white rice, potatoes and fruit juice. As it turns out, while fruit juice is much healthier, it puts just as much sugar into your system as soda and just as quickly. Once you have stopped yourself from riding this carb pendulum, your body will start to process fats, which will naturally lower cholesterol and help you to lose weight.

I started by eliminating almost all carbs from my diet for the first two weeks to break myself from the carb addiction. Meals consisted lean meats, cheese, and lots of green vegetables. I avoided anything made from grains, beans, fruits, and milk. During this time, I was not concerned that I probably ate even more calories than before I started. I felt that I was missing something from my diet and I was trying to make up for it. By the end of those first two week, I had lost 10 to 15 pounds without counting a calorie or working out, and I was starting to get used to the staples of my new way of eating.

After those first weeks, I started to add a serving of slow carbs each day such as beans, a slice of 100% whole wheat bread, a bowl of oatmeal, brown rice. Be careful with bread and especially more processed foods. Many “wheat” breads still have enriched white flour in them, and most processed foods have an incredible amount of added sugars and other hidden carbs. If you are not eating a whole food, it is imperative that you read every label. You will be absolutely shocked at what you find. I also tried to avoid any carbs first thing in the morning, which helps to lower the possibility of a spike in blood sugar.

By the first couple of months, I had lost about 40 pounds, and began eating smaller portions. I was still not counting calories or letting myself feel starved. If I had cheated, then I just restarted the next day. But, I didn’t cheat that much because I was seeing some serious results, and I wanted to see more. Additionally, I was feeling much better, had more energy, and started to walk every day. A visit to my doctor around this time revealed that my blood pressure had dropped and my cholesterol was spot on for the first time since it had been measured in spite of my long history of taken satins to lower it. As a result the doctor took me off of half of my medications for blood pressure, and reduced the amount of statins that I was taking.

About this time, my wife, who was seeing similar results, and I decided to plan a backpacking trip for midsummer. We knew we would have to work hard to prepare, but all of the hiking and workouts we did in preparation started to seem much more like fun than work. Just before leaving for our trip, I visited the doctor again. By this time I had lost about 70 pounds. My blood pressure was perfect as was my cholesterol. I was allowed to discontinue both medications altogether as long as I promised to self-monitor my blood pressure and go in for regular check-ups to monitor the cholesterol. To this day both my blood pressure and cholesterol are right where they should be without the help of medications.

As it turns out, our backpacking trip went without a hitch, with one exception: we had significantly underestimated how fit we had become, and could have traveled quite a bit more distance than we planned.

Today I have lost a total of 95 pounds, and I have added weight training in the last few months. I find that I actually enjoy exercise now that I have energy and my body has become used to it. The remaining weight has been a bit more difficult to lose, but I am building lean muscle. I am within five pounds of my original goal, and I can comfortably hike all day with a 40 pound pack. Well, okay, I am mostly comfortable. I still get sore feet and am glad to sit down at the end of the trail, but the hike is enjoyable and not a strain.

Now that I am close to maintenance weight and have started weight training I have been changing my diet to reflect that fact. I now eat 2 or 3 servings of slow carbs a day including whole fruits. I also try to limit the meat portion of each meal to the size of a pack of cards while each plate is ¾ vegetables. In fact I now eat much of the things that we have in our food storage, such as dried vegetables, canned or in season, dried or canned beans, whole wheat, whole oats, and dried, frozen or canned meats. The closest we come to eating processed foods is bread, which we still eat in moderation.

I intended this article to show others what is possible. It was not possible in an article of this length to fully cover all of the topics you will need to be successful. If these ideas sound interesting, please spend some time studying how to implement a healthy low-carb diet, and discuss your findings with your doctor. I have found The South Beach Diet to be a wonderful resource. The author, cardiologist Dr. Arthur Agatston, does not try to sell you foods, but provides the science behind the diet as well as real world examples and recipes. I do believe that understanding the science is quite important because that’s what enabled me to work the concepts in to my daily life and around the types of foods we eat and have in our larder (we never stored processed foods). Believe me if I can do it, so can you!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I’ve been a prepper for several years now.  Living in South Louisiana kind of forces one to be with the high probability of hurricanes.  I’ve taken it to the next level and want to be as prepared as possible not just during the summer months for hurricane season, but year round for the litany of other possible disasters whether they be natural or man-made.  With the help of this site and several others I thought I was well on my way to having things pretty well covered.  We have the house prepared for a temporary short term dislocation, and a hunting camp in the boonies of North Central Louisiana that I along with my in-laws are turning into a functional retreat for TEOTWAWKI.  One thing that I’m ashamed to say never dawned on me was what happens if disaster strikes while you are on vacation.  This came very close to happening to me while in Hawaii, and it taught me a very valuable lesson.  There are no vacations from being prepared.

Due to the massive earthquake in Japan, our family vacation to the Big Island of Hawaii over the Mardi Gras break was interrupted by a tsunami.  While sitting on the lanai with my wife and my father in law, enjoying the cool Hawaiian night breeze, we were jolted out of our relaxing conversation by the shrill sirens of the tsunami warning system.   There we were, people who have had the foresight to try and prepare ourselves and extended family for just about every possible situation at home, getting caught with nothing but cargo shorts and flip-flops.  From the long process of getting our homes and our retreat ready, we had the awareness to see that we were not in a good situation.  My brother in law and I immediately jumped in the rental van, which was thankfully a big 12 passenger Ford, and went to the nearest gas station to tank up and get some groceries just in case.  By the time we had gassed up the van and bought a couple of cases of water and some non perishables, the lines at the pumps were 10 to 15 deep, the store was already running low on bottled water, tempers were staring to flare, and being defenseless was starting to make me feel uneasy.   Our plan of action was changed from moving everyone up to the rooms on the 5th floor, to leaving the crowded beachfront resort area before the tsunami hit.   
We planned to take some extra clothes, blankets, pillows, toiletries and other items “borrowed” from our hotel rooms, and head for higher ground to spend the remainder of the night in the van and ride out the tsunami in the nearby mountains.  On our way out after gathering up our “supplies” and family members, the Hotel public announcement system was announcing that they were evacuating the hotel and were asking people to put on warm clothes and load up on busses that would take them to a safe area.  Not wanting to be herded with several hundred strangers to a shelter, we just quietly set out on our own.  As I mentioned previously, we live in southern Louisiana and are familiar as to what happens to tourist in a disaster situation.  We ended up finding a fire station in a little village up at a higher elevation and spent the night there.  The six kids slept on the benches in the van and the adults spent the night watching the news on television with the firemen in the firehouse and taking turns trying to sleep in the front seats of the van.  Thankfully the Tsunami did minimal damage to the island and we were able to return to the resort the next morning.

These are some of the things I learned from this experience that will hopefully help others:

  • Situational awareness.  Be aware of what could happen at your vacation destination.  This could mean earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, blizzards, or even social unrest depending on where you are traveling.  Also as a side note, while at your destination stay sober even though you are on vacation.  I enjoy adult beverages just as much as the next guy, but I refrain from getting drunk, especially when at an unfamiliar location.  This paid huge dividends when we had to jump from relaxation to survival mode.  I felt sorry for the drunks at the hotel as they were being loaded up onto buses confused and disoriented.  It looked a lot like a scene from “Titanic” in the lobby when we left. 
  • Communication.  The entire island cell phone system was shut down due to overload while we were getting gas and we could not communicate with the rest of the family. Having some simple little 2-way radios would have really helped.  Even though they have limited range, they would have been better than nothing.  It would have really expedited our departure if we could have told them to get ready to leave before we got back to the hotel.
  • Transportation.  Always have a means of personal transportation.  I will never stay anywhere without a rental car again.  We were all very thankful for that huge tank of a van.  Not having to rely on the local government or the hotel staff to evacuate us was a tremendous weight off our shoulders.  There was no way we were going to put our family in a New Orleans Superdome situation if we didn’t absolutely have to.
  • Emergency radio.  I have a little Kaito Voyager that could have easily been packed.  Luckily we had a television at the fire station, if we didn’t we would have literally been in the dark as to what was happening.  Our iPads and smart phones of course didn’t work when the cellular system was down, and running down the van’s battery trying to listen to the radio was out of the question.
  • Shelter.  Those little emergency reflective blankets could have been a life saver if we weren’t able to “borrow” the hotel blankets. Also, always pack a lightweight jacket or sweatshirt even if you are going to Hawaii.  It gets cool at night no matter where you are if you have to sleep under the stars.
  • Water.  If we would have been on our own for any extended period of time, we would have run out of drinking water in a hurry. Two cases of bottled water would not have gone far with 12 people.  It would also have been impractical to try and buy more at the time.  We got hard enough looks from people while putting our water and food in the van.  I will have a back packing water filter with me on the next vacation.
  • Food.  We were able to get some food before our excursion, but it would not have lasted long and did not have the best nutritional content.  If we would have waited even 20 minutes longer to go and get food, it would have been even slimmer pickings.  Having a few high calorie ration bars already packed would have been a good insurance policy.
  • Emergency First Aid kit.  Although having two very active boys under the age of five means my wife’s purse pretty much doubles as a first aid kit, having a dedicated small backpacking first aid kit would have been better.  You would probably have to modify some of the contents though to get past airport security.
  • Flashlights.  Our hotel had emergency flashlights in the closets which we again “borrowed” for our little night time excursion.  However, this is the first time I’ve ever seen this and I won’t count on it for future travels.  I can’t believe I never thought of the importance of bringing a flashlight or two on vacation before.  With small children this is even more important just to have in case of a power outage at the hotel to keep them calm.
  • Personal protection.  When traveling it is very hard and sometimes impossible to carry a firearm.  I may be limiting future vacation destinations to other states that recognize my concealed carry permit.  Even though it is a huge pain to fly commercial with any kind of firearm, it is something that I think should be considered.  I’ve never done it with a handgun, but I have done it with hunting rifles.  I could be wrong, but the procedure is probably the same.  It is something I will be checking into.  Thank goodness things never got out of hand.

Most of the items listed above take up little to no room and could have been easily packed in a small book sack and carried onto an airplane except for the personal protection item.  What was the real punch in the gut is that I have all of these things in duplicate at home.  I just didn’t have them with me when I could have really needed them. If the Tsunami would have hit Hawaii harder, we could have been in a bad way.  Thankfully we had the presence of mind and ability to take care of ourselves and the Tsunami did not do any real damage to the island. 
I guess my advice to fellow travelers is to take along a cut down version of a G.O.O.D. bag when you go on vacation.  You don’t have to go overboard and there are many items you would like to have that will not make it past an airport screener.  But there are some things that I really would have liked to have had and really could have needed had things gotten worse than they did.  I know that with all the things you have to pack for a week long vacation, especially with kids, having to pack another bag that you will in all likelihood not need may seem like overkill and paranoia to many people. But driving up a mountain in the middle of the night to escape an oncoming Tsunami, kicking myself for getting caught with my pants down, is not something I’m going to repeat.  I wasn’t prepared for this vacation, but I will be for the next one.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Many are preparing with physical items for “The End”. This aspect is extremely important, but what good will it do you if you are mentally weak? In survival situations research has shown that on average the mental willingness to live equals roughly 50% of your survival chance. This is based upon the individual, whether already mentally weak or strong, the type of situation, and the duration of the situation that the individual is in. Some people are very wise, strong, prepared, or a combination of all, but will not make it passed the initial phase of a catastrophe due to their lack of adaptation, psychologically.

Many cancer patients make it through to remission mainly through mental will. Much like a body that has exercised principally in cardio for five years will do fine in a 5K run, a mental willingness has proven the same in mild to serious situations. I would like to discuss some situations and tips to prepare you psychologically, not just for yourselves and family, but for others that you may encounter.

The Mayo Clinic says that the effects of stress on the body include:

  •      Headache
  •      Back pain
  •      Chest pain
  •      Heart disease
  •      Heart palpitations
  •      High blood pressure
  •      Decreased immunity
  •      Stomach upset
  •      Sleep problems

Effects on thoughts and feelings are:

  •      Anxiety
  •      Restlessness
  •      Worrying
  •      Irritability
  •      Depression
  •      Sadness
  •      Anger
  •      Feeling insecure
  •      Lack of focus
  •      Burnout
  •      Forgetfulness


Effects on behavior are:

  •      Overeating
  •      Undereating
  •      Angry outbursts
  •      Drug or alcohol abuse
  •      Increased smoking
  •      Social withdrawal
  •      Crying spells
  •      Relationship conflicts

If these are symptoms during normal times, you could imagine what they would multiply to during a SHTF scenario. What would the effects be if you have to kill another human being? If hearing a random gunshot in your neighborhood gives you chills now, what about a battery of bombs being lobbed your way? It’s hard not to give to orphaned children right now, what about when you are on a tight food supply and there are three kids outside your house starving and begging for food, looking like they are starving to death?

Taking care of yourself and others:
If you are someone that has never been in harm’s way, may I suggest that you do so? I am not saying to do something potentially fatal, but do something that will give you a rush, an adrenaline high. This means different things for different folks. If you’re someone who enjoys hiking, whitewater rafting, or hunting grizzlies, try something that will push your limit whether it is writing an article or skydiving.  Get out of your comfort zone to feel what that rush is. If you are a homebody that prefers a good book to taking a walk in the park, go hiking. Try giving a speech in front of a crowd. Push the limits that you are comfortable with.

One item that I would highly recommend is what is commonly known as a “Ride-A-Long”. You can ride a shift with police, paramedic/EMS, or with the fire department. Try and do it in an area that has high traffic. The things that you will see will forever change you and help to toughen you for the future. Another issue that many of us face and are unable to cope with is the fact that someone we love will die shortly after the SHTF. Is your spouse on insulin? Are your parents on high blood pressure meds? Is one of you children epileptic? You need to face the fact now, not that they will die, but that they can die in a TEOTWAWKI situation. How are you going to take care of them in their final days? How are you going to provide security with them in your care?

If you are currently overweight, have a curable condition, or have an addiction, then now is the time to take care of these issues. If some kind of tragedy occurs after the SHTF and it was due to something you could have take care of before, you will be overcome with grief. Perhaps your small child is being attacked by either beast or man and you could not quite get there in time because of your physical health (being obese, no endurance due to lack of physical activity, a bum knee because you’ve put off surgery, etc.) guilt will surely overwhelm you. In an already dangerous situation, adverse effects could take place to self-punish. This does no one any good. For those of you that are already in the acceptance stage of future catastrophes, what about those you love? If you already have a plan set up and an elderly person will be staying with you, have they faced the fact that they may not last long? Have you and your members? Looking at the obvious, an eighty-four year old female who quite possibly could be on medications, will not last long. Medications run out and if she has to “run for it”, death could quickly be upon her.

The Basics:
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory of psychology often presented in a triangle for visual understanding. At the top we have “self-actualization”. This includes creativity, being factual, understanding of one’s self, and realization. At this stage it is said that you understand what you were meant to do and that you do it. The next stage down is “esteem”. This is where one searches for the need to be an individual. Uniqueness, self-respect, and confidence are key attributes. The next stage is “needs of love and to belong”. Here is where things are broken down a little simpler. One searches out relationships through family and friends. They understand the importance of giving and receiving love. After this stage is “safety and security”.

One understands that there are real dangers in the world. This security is provided by one’s self and others. This security is not just against physical harm, but also against modern ideals such as losing a job or home, losing a loved one, or losing in one’s health. At the bottom of the pyramid is “physiological needs”. This is where the most basic instincts of all living beings stem from. The needs of food, water, shelter, and procreation are found. After looking at this pyramid, you could see how quickly humanity will decline. At the bottom of the pyramid is also the bottom of the barrel. People who were not very far up on the chain to begin with will quickly dissolve into murderers, rapist, drug abusers, alcoholics, and possibly even cannibals.

For some, the lack of morals that they’ve always had, the law helped to keep them in check. Once the law is gone and no one to take them away, their true inner selves will be exposed and they will search and destroy at will. Others will not be able to handle the notion that they will never be able to watch television again, or surf the Internet. No more fast food and easy living. No more one night stands and endless parties. Drugs and alcohol will depress these stresses and wind up turning them into mindless junkies. Your CEO may find himself looking at his girlfriend with a hungry eye because his maid hasn’t brought groceries in three weeks. He’s never cooked himself anything, but he completely understands the pangs of hunger.

Someone from your local place of worship may have had a complete mental breakdown. They’re confused, hungry, and dirty. They never truly had faith in what they practiced to believe, and now they are mentally incapacitated. Your own spouse, parent, child, or sibling could quickly reach the bottom of this barrel. When the facts that your family is well prepared with stocks of food, water, medicines, and a strong shelter cannot penetrate the mind of someone entangled in the beliefs of modern society, what do you do? When they have become so dependent on modern society that the fact that they have to make their own food and can’t cruise down Main Street any more sends them suicidal, or even homicidal, how will you react?

The Others:
Not everyone will break down and become evil. That neighbor down the street that you thought you couldn’t stand may turn out to be your best ally. He may be a war veteran, mentally hardened, but soft in the heart. He has food, shelter and security. Your spouse, who may have been weak before, may surprise you by pulling themselves out of the psychological muck and begin to take charge. Your computer loving, cell phone texting, television-watching kid could be the one to accept that there has been a large change and help to keep the family together and sane.

In survival situations of small scales, most people tend to unite. Even for the few that don’t pitch in, the others help them out. In larger scale situations, people generally tend to separate. You have the people who expect to be taken care of or that can’t take care of themselves, and the other group of people who realize the extent of the disaster and are barely able to take care of themselves and their families. If the situation is dire and last long enough, there will be confrontations between the two groups. In these situations, it will be important to find others of like minds not only for physical needs, but also for emotional. Try to find others who aren’t just prepared like you, but have the same morals, religious beliefs, political ideals, and values that you have. Remember that crazy Uncle Joe? You can stand him for the holidays, but that’s about it. Now imagine him living with you all day every day for years to come in a TEOTWAWKI scene. Hopefully you understand.

Being the Shrink:
It would be beneficial to have someone in your group or family who is experienced in counseling, psychology, or psychiatry. They don’t have to possess a degree, but preferably someone who has taken some classes and is understanding of the theories. This person could even be you. Why not take the initiative upon yourself to be this person. When a situation arises, you can help calm and support someone who has just lost a loved one or who has realized that the world is going to be a very different place. When someone realizes that they are going to expire, you can be there for them. When fights and quarrels break out amongst family, friends, or party members, you can help to restore the peace. Many times, when you finally have an outburst, the ones that you have consoled will then turn to console you. As a person who has studied these areas, you will be able to keep track of members’ mental health. Just as preventive medicine is good for medical health, the same applies to mental health. Should you notice that someone’s attitude has changed, find out the reason why and counteract it before it turns into a problem.

Psychology is a large, growing, and ever-changing field of medicine. This is why I have given you tips and reasons versus actual plans of action for different scenarios. Psychology also is not so clear cut. Some people who you may think would break down, may not. Lots of people that strongly believe in their religions will suffer to the end without resorting to their animal instincts. Their empathy for a greater good will prevail. No one can truly know what is going on inside the mind of someone else, but you can help by doing what you can. Although some people don’t truly know what is going on inside of their own minds. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I would like to add my two cents to the discussion of the Great Carolina Blizzard of '11. I had some similar experiences to B.H.: Deep frustration over dead batteries in cars. I had two every day drivers that just would not start. While it was fairly cold for our area, I suspect that high humidity added to the cold had a draining effect on the batteries. In the future, I would think about a short start and warm up every 8 hours or so on vehicles that I knew were to be needed on short notice. 

It took me an hour and a half to get our cars started and out to the street the first day that we ventured forth. That compares to the usual turn the key and go. This is another point in favor of a regular dry run up and down the drive way with essential transportation.

Times like these provide windows into the minds of our neighbors. This situation and the others similar to it lead me to conclude that, at least in our area, folks will cocoon for hours or days when something happens. After that, who knows what will happen, there has not been any precedent locally on which to base an opinion.

The most sobering lesson was the effect of personal injury. I was taking my portable jump starter out to my stuck vehicles when I stepped on a patch of ice. I dropped like a stone and landed with my arm under my chest. "Crack", my ribs said. As I lay in the snow, rolling my eyes at my natural graceful coordination, I assessed my condition. There was no real pain and I had no chills that I had had after my other bone fracture experiences. I could breathe deeply in and out with out any more than some minor soreness. (Different answers to those questions would have led to a trip to the Emergency Room ) After I passed my personal triage, I got up and proceeded to get the vehicles going. I found I had some serious difficulty using the arm on the effected side. Any movement with even a minor load was seriously difficult. I was reminded how our body works through stiffening our core to provide a solid base for the movement of our limbs. To make a long story short, I concluded that I had cracked a rib. There is no real treatment for this other then tincture of time: 4 to 8 weeks. As I sit here this morning 10 days later, I still have to sleep in my recliner due discomfort when prone. I had to change my plans for getting outside and working today due to my limited upper body strength. I am getting better, but it is frustratingly slow.


1. While we are used to having our bodies ready to do what we need them to do, that can change in less than a heart beat. Believe me, I will be more thankful for a normal day from now on.

2. Especially for us Gray Panthers: listen to what your body is telling you. I tried to push through this injury, and just made it worse. Know your limitations, and realize that you do not exceed them with out paying a price.

3. In spite of all our plans, serendipity will play a role in our future. Some things, perhaps most things, will be as we expect. There will always be the unexpected and unplanned that will stretch our flexibility. 

Regards, - Wh2thdr

Monday, January 10, 2011

James Wesley:
It is beginning to snow in Alabama.  In small towns all around, the grocery stores have been stripped down to the shelves.  People were buying food to cook in fear that they might not make it to the grocery stores when they need to.  Milk is all but gone.   

I went to the grocery store Sunday morning to pick-up a few doughnuts for our Sunday school class.  I saw one of my wife’s friends on the junk food aisle.  She is a single mom of two.  She said, “I have $40 to buy groceries to get us by for the next few days.  What do you recommend I buy?”   

We quickly developed a plan based on what her kids would eat and drink and under the assumption that the power will go down.   This was her shopping list…

1.       Pop tarts - She wanted a hot cereal for her boys; I said stick the pop tarts in an oven.

2.       Coca-Cola.  She said that she had to have caffeine.

3.       Bread.  She asked about sandwich meat. I recommended tomato, banana or peanut butter.

4.       She wanted milk.  I said good.  Asked if she had a cooler.  She said yes.  I said if the power goes out, stick it in the snow and throw the milk in it.  By the way, she bought a half gallon because there were no gallons on the shelves.

5.       She bought a few soups and cans of chili in case the power does not go out.

6.       She also got the ingredients to make vegetable soup from cans and potentially some cornbread.

7.        She was going to buy a case of water.  I got her to buy an extra case.  

Then she surprised me when she asked if she could cook on their natural gas stove.  I asked it got hot enough to boil water.  She said it did.  So we talked about cooking on the stove if she needed to and she only had to worry about the power going out and not having electricity to keep her fridge running.   So she bought some chips and Little Debbie cakes.  She said she had a popcorn popper on the wall that was given to her.  So she bought some popcorn to pop on her stove in her antique corn popper. 

We then talked about how to make snow cream and she realized that she had everything she needed to give the boys a treat.   After talking to her, she realized that she was in better shape than people with just electric heat and water heaters.  She has a gas stove and gas water heater.   I then invited her to church and I was surprised to see her and her boys sitting in our sanctuary.  I told her I was glad to see her.  She told me that she was confused about what to buy and prayed that if someone would help her she would go to church today.     

Being prepared to help others can pay dividends for our Lord.    By the way, she had $12 leftover from the $40.  Most of all, she does not have to worry about what the kids will do for food.  She has it all laid out.   - J.E.H.

JWR Replies: Coincidentally, I was recently sent a photo link that illustrates the immediate result of yesterday's ice storm warning in Trussville, Alabama: No Bread at Trussville Wal-Mart. (Thanks to J.B.G. for the link.)

Mention of all that soda pop and those high-sugar processed foods really makes me wonder. Do people really eat that way? We don't claim to have a perfect diet here at the ranch--yes, plenty of corn chips and even a few potato chips have passed through our portals without alarm--but we certainly eat a better diet than that young lady. Please, folks! For the sake of your health and your ability to perform physically and mentally when the proverbial Schumer hits the fan, adjust your diets:

  • Less refined sugar
  • Fewer processed foods
  • Little or no MSG
  • Moderate protein intake
  • Fewer carbohydrates
  • Wholesome oils (like coconut oil and olive oil)
  • Plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Lean fresh meats, preferably either home-raised or wild game

And, guess what? If you buy healthy foods in bulk then not only will you have better health, but your weekly grocery expenses will go down!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Fats are in important and often neglected part of the diet, especially when it comes to the typically carb-heavy foods typically stored.  Grains like wheat berries and rice along with beans are a cornerstone of any preppers dietary thrust. This provides an overabundance of carbohydrates and some proteins. And when it comes to animal-based protein, I often see information on how easy it is to raise rabbits for protein, and with good reason. They propagate quickly and are easy to butcher and don't take up much space. The problem with rabbit is that it's almost devoid of fat. In fact, if you eat solely rabbit, you will eventually die of "rabbit starvation" no matter how much you gorge yourself, due to rabbits lack of fat. The point is, we need fat to live.  

But if I Eat Lots of Fat, I'll Get Heart Disease!
While the mainstream dietary advice for the last 30 years (the governments food pyramid for example) tells us to eat low fat, and that eating fat makes you fat, and that eating fat will "clog your arteries",  this is patently false. This all started back in the 1950s with