Sanitation Category

Monday, April 7, 2014

Hello Hugh,

I liked the article on Sanitation, although I have a different idea for my shower. I too will install my handpump. It has a hose bib connection for it (Bison pump), so I plan to run a hose into the house or to my out door shower that is sitting stored away for future use. It involves fours sheets of plywood cut to 6 feet 6 inches, two pallets of equal size, a box of good screws and even carrage bolts to assemble the shower room and a few extra 2X4's for framing all precut for assembly. I have a 55 Gallon drum painted black with a square hole cut out of the bottom of it, and place it upside down on the top of the shower house, after assembly. I already have the pipe and valve hardware, and a flexable hose type shower fixture ready to install in the small bung hole of the drum..after the drum is placed upside down on the shower house/out house, cut a cover to fit the the bottom of the drum, which is now the top. Paint it black also, as it helps to hold in the heat. Filling in the morning about 3/4 full will heat enough water to give a whole family a warm shower. We had 12 men using this system in Vietnam. We all got warm or HOT showers depending on the day. often it was so hot we had to add cold water before showering. Blessings - D.O.

o o o

P.W. sent this link in about clothespin kits which might be fun for the kids to make: Classic American Clothes Pins.

o o o


It is a great article, However, Preparing Now for Good Sanitation, has what I consider a mistake. His suggestion to get clothespins from DG has been problematic for me as they are cheaply made. They will break with the slightest pressure. Good clothespins can be bought at Ace Hardware. I have both and the DG pins can be used in making crafts—and even that, not very well. Please inform your many readers. J.H.

Hugh Adds: I would also warn against the type obtained at “Walmart”. Most clothespins are cheap imported junk. You will know the difference when you see and use the better variety. The Ace Hardware pins seem to be the best we have found as well.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Good sanitation is paramount in a survival situation. So, protecting and extending your septic system and drain field in a long-term SHTF situation is very important in providing good sanitation. This is something that should be considered before SHTF happens.

I do not have the money to purchase two fancy composting toilets or the money to install them, nor will my county approve it. I will be using a hand pump on my well to get water after SHTF, when there is no electricity. Therefore, I had to look to other ways that would provide good sanitation for my family, protect my septic system, and not require me to pump and haul water just to flush a toilet 10 times a day.

Protecting your septic system can be accomplished with just a few minor lifestyle changes, a little money, and some effort now before SHTF, so you have the necessary equipment and supplies on hand before anything happens. Below are the actions I have taken now and what I will do in the future after SHTF.

For those on city utilities, these preparations are even more important because without electricity the city waste treatment plant will shut down in only three to seven days, rendering your toilets and sinks useless or something worse– backing up sewage into your house.

Here's what to do to get prepared before SHTF

Step 1- Make sure that you have your septic system pumped out every two to three years because you will get little notice that SHTF is coming and you need you septic to last as long as possible afterward.

Step 2- When purchasing food from the grocery store, get paper bags not plastic and store all of the paper bags for future use. The Walmart in my town has small paper bags hanging from a rack in the frozen food section. Every visit I try and grab five to ten bags. I will be stepping up the acquisition of these bags.

Step 3- When women are using the toilet and toilet paper has only urine on it, place the toilet paper in a paper grocery bag next to the toilet. When the bag is half full, replace it with a new bag. The bag with the used toilet paper can be used to start your wood stove in the winter or disposed of in your burn box or added to your compost pile.

Step 4- Purchase two good dish pans, and use them in your sink for washing and rinsing the dishes. If you can afford it, purchase a couple of extras. The used water can then be disposed of around your trees and in your garden rather than going into your septic system.

Step 5- Purchase, or get for free, three five gallon buckets for each bathroom in your house. This is a good use for the smelly pickle buckets you do not want to use for food storage.

Step 6- Purchase a toilet seat lid for each of the buckets. These can be purchased from or If you can afford it purchase a couple of extras.

Step 7- Purchase three 19- or 20-gallon Rubbermade totes with lids.

Step 8- Purchase a rapid washer. These can be purchased from or Also, you can purchase a new toilet plunger that will only be used for washing clothes.

Step 9- Purchase a package or two of 100-count shop towels. These will become your future washable toilet paper.

Step 10- Purchase an old, large cooking pot with a lid for each bathroom in your house.

Step 11- Purchase a good strong clothes drying rack that will last many years. There are some very good ones available for purchase at

Step 12- Purchase this book: (HJL Notes: Night Soil is a highly controversial subject, and one fraught with bad information on the internet and potential dangers. I highly recommend searching the SurvivalBlog archives for more information.)

Step 13- Purchase a solar shower for each member of the family. If you can afford it, purchase a couple of extras also.

Step 14- Purchase a good amount of clothes pins. The dollar store is about the only place I have seen clothes pins for sale in the last few years. They have both wood and plastic ones. I have a stock of both.

Step 15- Make a clothes pin bag. Take an old button down shirt (toddlers size), button all of the buttons, turn the shirt inside out and cut off the sleeves at the elbow and seam closed. Then seam closed the rest of the sleeves at the shoulders. Seam closed the bottom of the shirt. Turn right side out and insert a plastic clothes hanger and you now have a cloths pin bag. If you have no toddler size shirts available, check your local goodwill store.

Step 16- Purchase washable feminine pads for each female member of the family. To overcome the “eww yuck” factor make sure that each female has theirs made from a different fabric pattern. These can be purchased from If you have the money available you may want to purchase a couple of extra sets for bartering. This will be item in big demand.

Below are the actions to take after SHTF (using supplies listed above):

After SHTF, place three of the buckets in each bathroom– one for feces, one for urine, and one for holding sawdust. Install the toilet seat lids on two of the buckets. Instruct all of the family members to use the paper bags for the used toilet paper. When the commercial toilet paper runs out (or you hide the stock of commercial toilet paper for bartering in the future), place the old large cooking pot in each bathroom. Add one teaspoon of baking soda and a couple of drops of liquid dishwashing soap to the pot and fill 1/2 way with hot water. Instruct the family to place the used shop towels (your new supply of washable toilet paper) and any washable feminine pads into the bucket after use. Once a week, on washing day after all the other clothes are washed and rinsed, bring the pots and dump them into the wash bucket for a good wash and rinse. Then hang them out to dry and sanitize.

The bucket containing the feces should be converted to manure for your garden. (See HJL's note above) A compost bin can be constructed using a 55 gallon plastic drum to convert the feces into usable manure. The bucket containing the urine should be diluted and used in your garden, or an outhouse can be constructed well away from your water well, and the feces can be dumped into the outhouse. Before anyone asks why a person would not simply just construct an outhouse, only use it, and forget about the indoor bucket toilets, I do not want to use the outhouse in the middle of the night in 20 below zero weather.

The three rubbermade totes and rapid washer will become your new washing machine. One tote will be used for washing and two totes used for rinsing. First, wash the whites and then the colored clothes. Only then do you wash the washable toilet paper and any washable feminine pads. The same wash and rinse water can be used for five or six loads of laundry. The clothes drying rack can be used outside during the warm summer months and inside near the wood stove during the cold winter months. Remember that the amount of laundry will increase when all of the disposable products run out and you are now using only washable products, so plan for that.

The solar showers can be used indoors during the cold winter months and outside during the warm summer months. An outdoor shower can be easily constructed using a pallet to stand on and a few posts and some paracord and a tarp with grommets and the solar shower. A solar shower can also be hung on a hook over the bathroom sink to assist with hand washing.

Our dishes will be washed with water that is heated on the top of our wood stove during the cold winter months and heated on the outdoor grill during the warm summer months.

Each of these steps will greatly reduce the the amount of water and other matter entering your septic system and drain field, and we will extend the life of our septic system by a good 10 to 20 years or so, until it has to be pumped or serviced again. Hopefully, by then that service will be available again.

Some of the items you may already have on hand and will not need to purchase. However, if your purchase all of the items in my list, you are looking at less than $450.00. This small investment will pay off big time when SHTF and there is no person or equipment to clean out or repair your septic system or your drain field.

Transitioning now rom disposable to reusable, where possible, will lessen the adjustment effect on your family. Items that are an easy transition, include using no paper plates, coffee cups, paper napkins, or paper towels. This does not have to be expensive. Ten yards of fabric would make a large number of washable napkins and dish towels that will last through many years of use. I have cloth napkins that I made 20 years ago and am still using.

Be sure that you are well stocked up on bars of soap or have the supplies, equipment, and skills to make soap. For under $20.00 you can purchase enough raw materials and supplies to make 25 gallons of laundry soap. Homemade hand sanitizer can also be made, and you should have a good supply on hand as well as the supplies to make more. There are recipes for all of these available on the Internet for free. It just takes a quick “bing” on yahoo or google search, plus most of the raw materials are available at your local grocery store.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Hello Hugh.
I have been following what is going on in Venezuela and the hoarding situation. Now of course their regime has made it illegal to hoard anything. So, I have been following what items that are in short supply. Not in any particular order they are: toilet paper, milk, powdered milk, coffee, corn flour, wheat flour, diesel, all soaps of any kind, and tires for cars and trucks. A black market is thriving, of course. The penalties for hoarding range from 6 to 14 years in prison. The very government that created this mess is now trying to lay blame on the merchants and people. Thank you, Hugh, keep up the great work. Matt in the West

HJL Replies: I have always found it disturbing how easily someone can be accused of hoarding. You are hoarding if you are keeping others from obtaining needed supplies. If you obtain your supplies during a time of plenty, you are simply being prudent. It's also a pet peeve of mine that I can scrimp and save and spend my money on preps, while others around me travel the world. Then, when they need the things I have, they feel I am obligated to share with them. It's a shame, but it is what it is. That's why OPSEC is so important. On this same idea, I have noted that toilet paper always seems to make the list. Sooner or later, toilet paper always becomes an issue. What do you do when you run out? The same thing 80% of the rest of the world does. How to Use a Bidet Bottle gives some specific instructions on how this is done. Most of the world simply uses a cup of water, but a quart (or pint) drinking bottle filled with water works very well. It's like a portable bidet, but it does take some practice to master. Most third world countries do not have facilities to wash your hands afterwards, hence the tradition of using only your left to touch your bum. With soap and water afterwards, there is no worry about it though. When I introduced this concept to my family, the comment back was, “Gross!”. I simply reminded them that when they take a shower or bath, they are doing the same thing.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Clean drinking water is critical to your survival, because without potable water you will die within a few days. I don't intend to hammer away on this point, because everyone who visits this blog generally knows how important it is to have access to clean water, and this subject has been covered many times from many different angles. Many of us have several hundred gallons of water stored away in containers, some more portable than others. Some plan to rely solely on a Berkey water filtration system to filter surface water collected from ponds or rain catchment barrels. While the Berkey filters are excellent and water storage is a must, having these will not be good enough in a prolonged grid-down scenario. Your water storage may run dry, and your Berkey filters have a limited lifetime and may not be able to handle long-term filtering.

The Lord handed us a pristine planet, and though we may have polluted much of the water we have been entrusted with, He has given us the materials and intelligence necessary to purify our water. Most of the modern world relies on municipal water treatment facilities to provide them with clean water. Water flows from faucets and toilets flush with the flip of a lever as surely as the sun rises and sets. By paying the water company every month we are guaranteed an almost unlimited supply of clean water. Most of the time the public shows no appreciation for the system that delivers the water or knowledge of the process by which it is treated and delivered, but most everyone expects to be provided with water as though it were a birthright. The public generally does not question the quality or safety of their water while the nameless, faceless technicians at the utility company work their "magic", and we generally put our faith in them to deliver. However, some of that faith has been shown to be eroding over the last few decades as more people have been relying increasingly on water filtration systems and bottled spring water.

I hope that the reader will understand that there is no magic taking place at water treatment plants, and that individuals are capable of treating contaminated water in their own home in much the same way as it is done at a water treatment plant. I should note that I do not advise anyone to drink water that may be unsafe, or to treat unsafe water for drinking. The materials and methods I describe may be hazardous if proper care and proper safety equipment are not used. Because I have no control over the quality of your source water, or the procedures you employ, I can not make guarantees and will take no responsibility for injury or illness that may result from this information. I am not providing explicit instruction or advice. In an extended grid-down scenario, however, almost every activity will come with a heightened degree of risk, and at that time only you will be responsible for making risk assessments concerning water availability and water quality.

I can say that I have personally used the method I am presenting here to treat and drink small amounts of water from a canal in the downtown area of a large southwestern city. The water I drank did not pass through a water filtration system as I advise in the final step below to insure absolute safety. I felt there would be no point in using the Berkey as part of the test because the Berkey is quite capable of handling contaminated water without prior filtering or treatment. My method is intended for a maximum production of just over 12 gallons of water per hour. This volume of water is more than suitable for bathing and cooking, and somewhat suitable for drinking. However, the final step for absolute safety would be a pass through a Berkey or similar filtration system or by boiling.

Required Materials

This is a list of materials you will need to set up your water treatment system and should not cost more that $200. [In 2014 USD]

  1. Aluminum Sulphate - Known as Alum, a 5lb. tub can be purchased at any pool supply store for $15. This is a type of flocculent which will make suspended solids in cloudy or turbid water stick together and sink to the bottom of the container. See flocculation in action in this video.
  2. Calcium Hypochlorite, commercially known as pool shock. A one pound bag costs $5 or less.
  3. Five gallon white food grade buckets, at least two.
  4. Five gallon colored non-food grade buckets, such as Homer bucket from Home Depot, at least three.
  5. Sturdy glass bottles with ground glass stoppers (laboratory grade glass) to safely store the calcium hypochlorite. These can be expensive, but Amazon has some very reasonably priced bottles.
  6. Basic pool chlorine/PH test kit. Buy additional large bottles of testing solution.
  7. Fifty-five gallon plastic drums. You should already have several of these in your backyard.
  8. Cloth filter. I use a Singed Polyester Felt Filter Media Fabric Sheet for use in aquariums.
  9. Hydraid Biosand Filter.
  10. Pool filter sand.
  11. Aquarium gravel. Ten pounds with smooth rounded edges approximately 1/8 of an inch in diameter to 1/4 of an inch in diameter
  12. Aquarium gravel. Ten pounds with smooth rounded edges approximately 1/2 of an inch in diameter to 3/4 of an inch in diameter.
  13. One gallon plastic jugs. Two or three will be enough, and they should be clean. Do not use milk jugs.
  14. Measuring spoons. This set should be dedicated for water purification and not used for cooking.
  15. Tuna Fish can, 4.8 ounce to 5 ounce. Can should be cleaned thoroughly.
  16. Twelve ounce jar or can with lid removed.
  17. Five pounds of non-galvanized iron nails, three to four inches long. The rustier the better, and if they are new out of the box, make sure they are wiped clean, and completely free of grease. This is only necessary if you are concerned about mitigating the arsenic in your source water.
  18. Activated carbon or charcoal pellets. These can be purchased at Wal-Mart in the aquarium section or at any aquarium store.

Some important notes on materials:
Pool Shock

Calcium Hypochlorite is a dry form of bleach with chemical compound Ca(CIO)2 better known as "pool shock" and can be purchased at Walmart, Home Depot, or any pool supply store. Avoid pool shock with clarifiers or anti-foaming agents. A concentrations of 78% or higher is preferred, but do not buy anything lower than 65% Ca(CIO)2.

This powdered form of chlorine is superior to liquid bleach because it has a very long shelf life, very compact and is highly portable. Calcium Hypochlorite is very caustic to the skin. The fumes can burn eyes, lungs, nasal passages and sinuses; seep into your food storage; ruin the biolayer in your biosand filter; and it will rust every tool in the shed if not stored properly. You must wear chemical resistant gloves and eye protection and work in a ventilated area when handling this stuff. I always handle Calcium Hypochlorite on the back patio, and only if there is no breeze. You do not want to be down wind if there is a breeze.

Pool shock must be stored in glass labware with ground glass stoppers only. Do not use mason jars, Dutch beer bottles with ceramic stoppers and rubber gaskets, or corked wine bottles. Over time, the chlorine gas will eat through rubber gaskets, plastic, cork, and even metal. So, do not take a shortcut on this because chlorine gas is no laughing matter.

For safety reasons, pool shock must be kept dry like regular dry pool chlorine. Refer to the safety guidelines on the packaging.

I keep my pool shock in reagent bottles, and I carefully pack the sealed bottles inside Home Depot buckets with bubble wrap to cushion the glass. I then seal the bucket tightly with the bucket lid. The bottles and buckets are clearly labeled with information about the contents, with warnings like "keep dry", "caustic", and "fragile".

You might be thinking at this point, "Why take the risk? Why not just keep a few bottles of Clorox around instead of this dangerous dry chlorine?" Understand that liquid bleach has a short shelf life. It loses its efficacy at an unacceptable rate, and within a year or two your bleach will be useless. You cannot rely on weak bleach to disinfect your water. With unknown potency, you will be playing a guessing game with ratios, and over time you will effectively have no bleach at all. Consider the following:

  • Currently, a one pound bag of pool shock costs about $5.00 or less.
  • This one pound bag of pool shock has an unlimited shelf life, if it is stored properly.
  • A one pound bag of pool shock will make 128 gallons of stock chlorine solution, the equivalent of 128 gallons of bleach.
  • This 128 gallons of stock chlorine solution will disinfect 12,800 gallons of contaminated water.
  • If you factor in weight, cost, and value, there is no other item in your preps that can come close to a bag of pool shock. Twenty pounds of pool shock stored at your retreat translates into 256,000 gallons of clean water. Should you ever need to bug-out, one or two pounds would be very easy to pack.

Hydraid Biosand Filter
The filter

The Hydraid biosand filter stands two and a half feet high. It is roughly one and a half feet wide at the top with a taper leading down to a smaller diameter base. Unlike traditional concrete filters, which are often constructed on site, the Hydraid is plastic and very light weight when empty. The Hydraid looks a lot like a small round plastic recycle bin with a PVC pipe running up the length on the outside. For those unfamiliar with biosand filters, please look at this video.

The design of the filter is brilliantly simple in one sense because it looks to be just a plastic trashcan filled with four inches of rocks on the bottom, a few feet of sand on top and a PVC pipe running out of the bottom and up the side. The complexity of the design is not so apparent. The biosand filter works several ways:

  1. The first phase is biological predation where micro-organisms feed on dangerous pathogens. The top surface of the sand at the top of the filter perpetually sits below several inches of water, and develops a biological layer of beneficial organisms which consume and remove parasites and pathogens up to 99.8%.
  2. The second phase is mechanical filtration. The sand acts as a mechanical filter, physically trapping debris and pathogens.
  3. The third phase of filtration is adsorption. The filter media emits an electrical charge of sorts and pulls the remaining debris to it like a magnet.
  4. From this point, the water slowly filters down through the last few feet of sand which is devoid of light, food and oxygen, killing off any remaining organic pollutants and pathogens.

It is important that no chlorinated water, tap water, iodine, or chlorine gas ever come into contact with the biolayer because the disinfectant will kill off the beneficial organisms, thus destroying the biolayer. It is also important to place the filter indoors and in an area where it will not be disturbed. If the filter is placed in a high traffic area and it gets bumped or rocked, the biolayer may be damaged.

Contaminated water should always be poured onto the diffuser plate where it will drip gently down onto the biolayer. Water should never be poured directly onto the biolayer, as that too will damage it. By being consistent with your source water, the biolayer will develop organisms specifically catered to treat water from that source. A biolayer formed from canal water may not be so effective against pathogens from harvested rain water.

According to the Hydraid brochure, the filter is capable of producing 12.4 gallons per hour with intermittent use. This amount of water serves the daily needs of eight to ten people. If you consider that one person requires one gallon of water per day just to survive, 12.4 gallons per hour would be a luxury for you and your family in a long term survival scenario.

Triple Quest Company and ordering information

Before ordering, you must understand the intended application for this filter. The filter needs to be set up correctly with the filtration media. It needs to be primed for several weeks to let a biolayer develop, and it needs to be used and maintained on a consistent basis. None of this is especially difficult, but it does require some commitment, unlike ceramic or carbon filters which are more "plug and play". In an extended grid-down scenario, as in months or years, the biosand filter would be a perfect choice. The biosand filter is not a good choice for those prepping for short term events like hurricanes, floods, or temporary civil unrest. Someone living in a remote area without well water but access to a stream or pond, could definitely rely on one or two Hydraid filters. A Hydraid would not be suitable for a vacation cabin because it would not be used and maintained with regularity.

From what I understand, the Hydraid is not intended for use in this country, and it is not marketed as a retail item. Triple Quest manufactures these filters for Non Governmental Organizations (NGO's) like UNICEF who provide aid to families in developing countries. Triple Quest is geared for handling orders by the pallet load to be shipped overseas. Triple Quest is not accustomed to filling orders of one or two units for domestic use, so please take this into consideration when ordering your filter. By doing business with Triple Quest, you are supporting their humanitarian operations. Whether they would admit to it or not, they are doing God's work by providing, free of charge to the poorest of the poor, a device to filter horribly contaminated water.

Though research has shown the Hydraid to be incredibly effective against biological contaminants, parasites, and pathogens, Triple Quest will not recommend it for general use in this country. The filter is intended for use by people in developing countries living in squalid conditions. It may be that another reason Triple Quest cannot promote these filters for the American market is because they have no control over the water source that the user may attempt to filter with their product. Should the user not follow the installation and maintenance instructions properly or try passing water contaminated with diesel fuel or chlorinated tap water through the filter, the end result would reflect poorly on the product and could leave the company exposed to endless litigation. This is just my guess as to why these filters are not marketed to the public.

To order a Hydraid BioSand filter, contact Triple Quest at (616) 254-4222.

Sourcing local filtration media

When you place your order for a Hydraid filter, do your wallet a favor and order the filter only. If you order the filtration media, you will have to pay shipping on 106 pounds of sand and rock, all of which can be purchased at a swimming pool store and aquarium supply store for a lot less. When you place your order, ask how many pounds of each type of media you will need. By purchasing just the filter, which includes the plastic body, lid, diffuser plate, and outlet pipe, you can probably spend about $70.00, including shipping. If you opt to pay for the load of sand and rocks, the cost will be at least twice that amount. It would make more sense to spend that money on an additional filter to give to a family member or friend.

Inferior designs and short circuits

Do not attempt to rig a common trash can with a PVC standpipe for use as a biosand filter. Most trash cans are made out of low density polyethylene and will easily flex and bow out at the sides, creating a short circuit of sorts where the water on top bypasses the sand filter entirely, running down the sides to the bottom where it will enter the outlet tube. The Hydraid is made from a higher density polyethylene and is rigid enough to prevent a short circuit. Likewise, never build a biosand filter with the standpipe tube running up the inside of the filter. This will also create a short circuit, as the water on top will follow the outer wall of the PVC pipe right down to the bottom, bypassing the filtration media. I have seen several how-to videos on how to construct one of these dangerously designed filters on Youtube, many of which are too painful to watch. This video demonstrates the wrong way to build a biosand filter.

Because the consequences of drinking contaminated water are so severe, stick with the design that is tried and true.


The best filtration media for the biosand filter is pool filter sand. This sand can be found at Home Depot and swimming pool supply stores. Do not use masonry sand, play sand, or beach sand. The size of a coarse grain of sand like what you would find in a sandbox is measured in fractions of a millimeter. The size of a fine grain of sand, like pool filter sand, is so small it is measured in microns. The organisms we are trying to keep from entering our bodies are in the micron range and will easily pass right through coarse sand. The size of the grains in a bag of pool sand are very consistent, ranging between 10-40 microns.

Activated Carbon (Charcoal)

If you do not have a Berkey system, you can make a carbon filter with activated charcoal/carbon pellets from Walmart or an aquarium store packed into a 2 liter plastic bottle with the bottom cut out. This carbon filter is in no way as capable as a Berkey, but it will remove excess chlorine, heavy metals, and fluoride from your water, making it safer and giving it a much cleaner taste. These pellets are relatively cheap and easy to store in bulk. Never filter your water with charcoal intended for BBQ grills, whether it was treated with lighter fluid or not. Grilling charcoal is not activated, so it makes for a poor filter. This type of charcoal is also very good at absorbing airborne contaminants right through its paper bag as it sits on the shelf at the hardware store for months on end. The charcoal will absorb nearby pesticides from the garden section and petrochemicals from the quick light charcoal bags sitting a few feet away.

Before beginning, understand that this process is not guaranteed to remove pesticides, heavy metals, or petrochemicals, unless a Berkey filter is used in the final step. It is important to find the cleanest water source possible. However, do not collect chlorinated water or add chlorine or any other disinfectants on the front end of this process. Chlorine and other chemicals will damage the biolayer of the filter. Once your biosand filter is set up and primed, you can begin. You can see the proper set up in this video.

  1. Collect surface water in colored 5 gallon bucket. Filtered water should never be poured into a colored bucket, and raw untreated water should never come in contact with a white food grade bucket.
  2. Cover the bucket and let the water sit undisturbed for a day.
  3. Sediment should have settled to the bottom. Place a cloth or a Singed Polyester Felt Filter Media Fabric Sheet over another colored bucket and carefully pour the clear water into the bucket, making sure not to let any sediment enter the second bucket. Clean out first bucket and rinse the Singed Polyester Felt Filter Media Fabric Sheet.
  4. Place a clean empty white bucket underneath the vinyl outlet tube of the Hydraid biosand filter.
  5. Remove the lid from the top of the filter and gently pour the water onto the diffuser plate. Be very careful that not even a drop of the contaminated water drips down into the clean white bucket sitting on the floor. Pour the water slowly and carefully. Place the cover back on top. Filtered water should begin flowing into the white bucket as the water in the filter finds equilibrium.
  6. Store the filtered water in a clean 55 gallon drum designed specifically for water storage.
  7. Repeat the filtration process until the drum is nearly full. Leave a little room for your chlorine solution.
  8. Put on eye protection and chemical resistant gloves.
  9. Pour a half gallon of water into a one gallon jug. Add 1/8 of an ounce (about 1/4 teaspoon) of pool shock to the jug. Cap the jug and gently shake or swirl the contents until they are dissolved. Fill the jug with water until it is about full.
  10. Pour one half gallon of the chlorine stock solution into the 55 gallon drum and let it sit for a day.
  11. Collect a small amount of treated water from the drum and run a chlorine test with your pool test kit. A chlorine reading under 0.2 parts per million (ppm) is too low, and is not considered safe according to the EPA. A higher chlorine reading around 3.5 to 4.0 will make for very unpleasant tasting water and can cause health problems over time, but you can be assured that all pathogens are dead. If your water has a chlorine level between 0.2 and 4.0 ppm, it is safe to bathe with, wash clothes, and probably safe enough to drink.
  12. For additional peace of mind and for improved taste, it would be a good idea to run your drinking water through a Berkey or other charcoal filter one or more times to remove all chlorine and any residual contaminants. The pre-filtering and slow sand filtering with the Hydraid will no doubt greatly extend the life of your Berkey filters.
If you wish to bypass the biosand filter altogether and run all of your water through a Berkey or other carbon filter, I suggest the use of Alum in addition to performing steps 1 through 3 above . The Alum acts as a flocculent, which pulls together all of the undissolved solids floating around in the water, most of which are too tiny to be seen. I have not been able to find any information regarding Alum and potential interference with the biolayer of the filter, so I never flocculate water before running it through the biosand filter. I imagine that the Alum would be indiscriminate, and remove many of the beneficial micro-organisms from the water as well as the dangerous pathogens.
  1. Collect surface water in colored 5 gallon bucket.
  2. Cover the bucket and let the water sit undisturbed for a day.
  3. Sediment should have settled to the bottom. Place a cloth filter or Singed Polyester Felt Filter Media Fabric Sheet over another colored bucket and carefully pour the clear water into the bucket, making sure not to let any sediment enter the second bucket. Clean out first bucket and rinse the Singed Polyester Felt Filter Media Fabric Sheet.
  4. Fill the empty tuna can with Alum, then scoop the Alum into an empty water jug. Fill the jug about half way with water, cap it and gently shake for a few seconds.
  5. Pour the alum solution into the bucket of water, cover and let sit for a day. Rinse out the jug that contained the Alum solution.
  6. After 24 hours, the water should be very clear and clean looking, and a fair amount of sludge and scum will be resting on the bottom of the bucket. Again, carefully pour the clear water into a clean bucket, making sure not to let any sediment enter the second bucket. Clean out first bucket.
  7. Add 16 drops of your chlorine stock solution, mix well, cover and let sit for a few hours. See step 9 above for instructions on making chlorine stock solution.
  8. This water is now ready to be poured into your Berkey or homemade carbon filter.
If you wish to treat more than five gallons of water at one time, refer to the following ratios to create a flocculent solution.
  • Five gallons of turbid (cloudy) water requires one half gallon of Alum solution made up of 5 ounces (empty tuna can full) of Alum powder mixed with one half gallon of water.
  • Ten gallons of turbid water requires one gallon of Alum solution made up of 10 ounces of Alum powder mixed with one gallon of water.
  • Twenty five gallons of turbid water requires two and a half gallons of solution made up of 25 ounces of Alum powder mixed with two and a half gallons of water.
  • Fifty gallons of turbid water requires five gallons of solution made up of 50 ounces of Alum powder mixed with five gallons of water.

One gallon of chlorine stock solution will treat one hundred gallons of biologically unsafe water.

One quarter teaspoon (1/8 of an ounce) of pool shock added to one gallon of water will make enough stock chlorine solution to treat 100 gallons of water.

Twelve to sixteen drops of stock chlorine solution will treat one gallon of water. Depending on the concentration of Ca(CIO)2 in the pool shock you use to make the solution, it may require more or less. Test chlorine levels with your pool test kit.

The process described in detail above can be broken down into four steps:

  1. Screening and pre-sedimentation.
  2. Coagulation, flocculation, and sedimentation.
  3. Filtration.
  4. Disinfection.

These are the same basic four steps that your municiple tap water is subjected to before it reaches your faucet. The chemicals, agents, and methods presented here are very similar to those used by water treatment facilities.

If you suspect that you have arsenic in your source water, there is a simple modification that can be made to a biosand filter. I tacked this on the end because most people will not have to worry about this problem. Parts of Southern California, Arizona, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Maine, South Texas, North Texas, Massachusetts, and Montana have concentrations of 50 or more micrograms per liter in their ground water.

Some arsenic is naturally occurring and enters the water supply through runoff of eroded natural deposits. Runoff from farms and waste from glass and electronics production are other sources of arsenic. The modification I made to my Hydraid is a simple one, and it involves nothing more than a few pounds of non galvanized rusty iron nails placed on top of the diffuser plate of the biosand filter.

Without getting too technical, arsenic in the water is attracted to the iron oxide in the rust, which then flakes off and becomes trapped in the sand, never making it more than an inch or two into the filter. Without the rust, arsenic would pass through the sand unobstructed.

I hope that I have demystified the process for treating water and that there is no magic taking place at water treatment plants. All of these steps to treat water, except for chlorination, are just an accelerated simulation of the natural process of filtration and sedimentation. With these basic materials and instructions, anyone can begin learning how to treat contaminated water. By familiarizing yourself with the Hydraid biosand filter, you will learn the mechanics of how these filters work, and you will carry this knowledge with you wherever you go, whatever the circumstances. At some point, if the need should arise, you may even be able to construct a large capacity biosand filter out of concrete or masonry block, with scavenged materials. Now is the time to learn and perfect this skill.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Dear Editor:
In response to the article titled: When The Schumer Hits (Literally), by Prepper EMT:

I am on board until we reach the recipe, which calls for lemon juice and lime juice. Unless you live in a citrus grove or in  a state where you can grow citrus and are lucky enough to get sick when the fruit is on the tree you are going to be in trouble here.   I suggest that [instead] each person stocks the ingredients to make a simple electrolyte solution that uses common and easily stored ingredients. There are several recipes to be found by simply doing a search on the internet.  There are also powdered mixes of electrolytes that you can stock. Sporting goods, camping stores and your local vet are all a good place to shop. One of the simplest ones (not necessarily the best) is:

6 teaspoons of sugar,
½ teaspoon of salt,
and 1 liter of water.

There are others that use "lite" salt and baking soda etc.  Do a little research and find the ones that work for you and your 'pantry'.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Over the years there have been occasional posts on SurvivalBlog about making various "homemade" soaps using easily found commercial ingredients. These often include store-bought washing soda, Fells Naptha, Zote soap, baking soda and such. Simply grate them up in the right proportions, mix and there you go. There have also been posts going a step further that explain how to make soap from easily purchased oils, meat counter fat or suet, commercial lye and fragrances. It's just not that hard if you make use of the ingredients and instructions easily found these days.

But what do you do in TEOTWAWKI if the stores close, either from lack of product to sell or from looting? What if the commercially made ingredients for so called "homemade" soaps become unavailable? You need to keep clean or you'll likely get sick. And you could certainly use some trade goods for barter...  and everybody needs soap.
So, what do you do? You (and your neighbors) have run out of Irish Spring, there's no longer any of the sodas or commercial lye to be had and somebody's gonna get infected from the dirty cut they got while gardening.  Well naturally, you’ll make your own soap from scratch, right? Only problem is that it may take a few hundred years (or even a few thousand, as it took our distant ancestors) to rediscover how it’s done. --Although maybe a bit less since you probably heard something about fire and fat, or some such. …Or, you can learn now the easy steps that all those years of trial, error and happy accident have handed down to us. 

In this article we’ll cover how to make soap when SHTF with self-procured ingredients. Plus, we’ll write a bit about how to make soaps until then, the ‘easier’ way with those store-bought ingredients. 
We run a mostly self-sufficient farm, a museum in the time period of 1820 to 1920 and teach homesteading skills classes. Among the things we teach is that having a self-sufficient mind set/lifestyle now will greatly enhance your mental/physical ability to make the right decisions when the time comes. Sustainability is a luxury now, so you can learn and experiment at your leisure. Wouldn’t you rather screw up a few soap batches now when it’s of little consequence, instead of later when it’s a necessity? Plus, as immediate benefit, homemade soap makes excellent, low cost gifts for friends and family and saves money, so you can spend more on your 3Bs.

-- There are only 3 essential ingredients in soap.

       1). oil/fat

       2). lye (sodium hydroxide, or NaOh)

       3). water

Any type of oil/fat can be used, from store-bought vegetable oil to rendered animal fats (lard or tallow).  A combination of different oils will give you a better quality product and usually is varied depending on how the soap will be used.  Each oil or fat has different qualities that is based, in part, on the density/properties of the oil.

 For example:

  • Lard, tallow and coconut oil (which are saturated fats that stay naturally solid at room temperature) are high in lauric acid and therefore very cleansing. 
  • Olive oil, castor oil and sweet almond oil are all very moisturizing and conditioning.
  • Coconut and palm kernel oils both add lots of lather, which is always nice.
  • Different additives such as beeswax and cocoa or shea butter help your skin to retain its natural moisture and will make a harder, longer lasting soap bar. This makes for nicer hand/body soaps.

You’d probably want a laundry soap to be cleansing but not moisturizing, while a shampoo soap is often better if it added a bit of conditioning as well.

Note: is a great resource for soap recipes (or do any standard google search for many other sources). The great thing about is that they have a free lye calculator that allows you to put in the oils you want to use and the size of batch you want and it will calculate how much lye, water, and oil you need for the recipe. It's my go-to site whenever I want to experiment with a new recipe.

 So, let’s begin with the essentials: .

1)    To render an animal's fat you'll need to cut off and set aside most of the fat scraps at butchering time (you'll probably want to keep some fat for sausage making). Generally speaking, lard is the rendered fat of pigs and most other rendered fats are considered tallow. If you can't render the fat immediately, store it somewhere cool for up to 48 hours (after that the connective tissue and meat could begin to go rancid and may produce a less desirable tallow or lard should you want to use some for cooking). Slaughtering animals in the colder months helps keep the fats fresh longer, and is generally when you’ll want to slaughter larger animals anyway.  Cut the fat into smallish chunks and remove as much of the meat as possible. The fat then needs to put into a large heavy-bottomed pot and put over a low to medium fire/heat. Adding a small amount of water (less than a quarter of a cup) at the beginning will help prevent the fat from sticking to the pot. Adding a splash of vinegar of any sort will make your end product whiter, harder, and reduce any smells left in the tallow/lard.  This is better to do outside over a fire because of the smell of the fat. It isn’t exactly bad, but isn’t aromatic either.  Once your fat is starting to heat, all the lipids will liquefy.  You want steam to be coming off the pot, which shows that the moisture is rendering out.  You don't want smoke, which means the fat is burning.  Stir occasionally. Note that many a fire has been started by heating huge, overfilled pots of oil on a woodstove, spilling some over the edge and igniting the entire top of the pot. Take caution as you would with frying chicken, deep-frying french-fries or any other oil-heavy thing.  Leave ample headroom in the pot and make sure little ones are not underfoot.  Never leave unattended. 

At some point (anywhere from 20 minutes to a few hours, depending on the amount of fat you have) all the solid chunks (bits of connective tissues and any meat left in the fat) will brown and migrate to the center of the pot. When these have browned sufficiently and seem somewhat crispy, you can scoop them out. These are tasty cracklins that can be drained, cooled, salted and eaten as a snack or in cracklin bread.  What you have left in the pot is all liquid fat.  Pour this through a metal strainer or cloth into leak proof containers such as a ceramic crock, mason jars, or a plastic or metal bucket, wait for it to cool and solidify and cover and store in a cool, dark, dry place. If you’re pouring in glass, make sure the glass is warm enough that it won’t crack when filled with hot oil, and if using plastic make sure that it is thick enough and that the tallow/lard is cool enough that it won’t melt the plastic.  Also, it doesn’t hurt to do this outside or over a sink, since cleaning rendered fat off of your counter, stove, floor, and every dishrag you own is no walk in the park. 

The fat will keep without further processing and can be stored like this for quite a long time. The tallow can then be used at any convenient time to make candles, medicinal salves/balms, used to preserve meats, cooking, pie crusts, biscuits, frying, used to waterproof shoes/clothes/outdoor fabrics and of course in soap.  If for any reason you didn’t render out enough moisture, no worries.  The entire batch won’t go bad, you’ll just maybe have a big of mold in the bottom of the container, as it will be heavier and sink, so just discard the very bottom, ruined portion.

Note: This is another reason why moving to your farm/survival community before TEOTWAWKI will put you uncounted steps ahead in the game. It’s much easier to render tallow from fat if you have animals and have the knowledge, tools and skills to properly raise those animals, plant, raise and harvest the crops to feed them, have the knowledge to process the animals and have the skills to make use of what the processing provides.  Simply bugging out and hunting rabbits is a very quick way to suffer from malnutrition due to a lack of lipids (fat). And without the abundance of fat that properly raised domestic animals have, you can't make soap and stay healthy and produce many other necessaries such as shoe waterproofing, candles, skin salve, lip balm and more.  While you can use raccoon, deer or possum fat, they just won’t have enough fat for all your needs. If your only available source of dietary fat is from wild game, you’ll do much better to keep it as food than using it in soap. Rendering animal fats into a useful, storable tallow or lard is simple, but only if the animal has some fat on it to begin with.

2). Lye, or sodium hydroxide, is present in wood ash. Some historians believe that soap may have gotten its name from the Romans, who would make their animal sacrifices atop Mount Sopa, above the Tiber River.  During the sacrifices, the fat from the animals as well as the ashes from the burnt bonfires would run downstream to the river, and the women found that washing their clothes the next morning in the residual bubbles made the clothes come out cleaner. 

Ashes can actually be used in a pinch to wash cast iron pots/other cooking utensils. But if you want lye water to make a batch of soap, you'll need to extract the lye from the ash. 

To make lye in your kitchen in small quantities, boil hardwood ashes (soft woods are too resinous to mix with fat) in a little soft water or rain water for about half an hour. Hickory, sugar maple, ash, beech and buckeye are generally the woods that will produce the highest concentration of lye, but any hard wood can be used. Allow the ashes to settle to the bottom of the pan and then skim the liquid lye off the top. You can do this daily and when you've got enough of the weak solution, condense it for soap making by boiling the liquid down until an egg or a small potato will float due to the high concentration of sodium. It should float enough for a portion the size of a quarter to rise above the level of the water. Since lye is a form of sodium it makes the water much denser, like sea water.  Generally speaking, one to two gallons of leached lye water boiled down will yield just under half a cup of sufficiently concentrated lye water

If you want to make a large quantity of lye water, you'll need a good quantity of wood ashes from any combination of hard woods.  Once you have a large quantity saved up, you'll need a large container; a barrel, a big bucket, an old grain bin, a big wooden box, an old bee box, etc.  Smaller containers work also, but just have a smaller yield.  You'll need a quarter-sized hole at the bottom corner or multiple tiny holes. First line the bottom with a thin cloth or two, followed by a layer of sand (or grass in a pinch) and small rocks to act as a filter. Charcoal is also a good filter. Then pour in the ash and pack down tightly, leaving at least a few inches room at the top to add water. Slowly pour rain water through the ash-filled box until it starts to run from the bottom. Generally it’s a good practice to add a half to a gallon of water at a time, waiting a good half hour in between adding to give the ash time to settle, and the lye water time to trickle though the ash and filters. Have a container under the hole to collect the water that's settled thought the ash, sand and fabric. Don’t use tin or aluminum, or the lye water could eat into to.

~~Note: If you really like processing big amounts of ashes and lye, and you think you might want to start an important after TEOTWAWKI business, we strongly suggest that you make a visit to the Mormon Museum in Kirkland, Ohio.  They have a fantastic restored ashery where they produced mass quantities of lye, potash (a very useful fertilizer) and pearl ash (which they used in fine ceramic making) from the collected ashes of the cooking and heating fires of the surrounding community. (For other uses of potash/pearl ash, see the Wikipedia page on Potassium Carbonate.)

3). Water needs to be non-chlorinated, chemical free water. If you have city water you'll need to buy distilled water or collect rain water, starting several minutes after it has begun to rain (so the water is free of air pollution and/or gutter or roof dirt). We have well water and we've used it for years with good results.

Okay, so now you're probably wondering how to, …actually make the soap. So let's get started.

There are two basic types of lye soap: cold process and hot process.

Cold process is where you combine your oils, water and lye and stir until the mixture comes to a 'trace' which means thickens up the consistency of pancake batter. You'll be able to lift up a spoonful and drop it back into the soap and see it form a line on the top without readily mixing back in. This is then poured into a mold without cooking or adding any heat, hence the term ‘cold processes. This is a process generally done with commercial lye crystals, as lye crystals give you a very exact concentration and it’s quite easy to be accurate.  Also, because this soap is poured into a mold without the additional step of cooking, if you end up with too much lye, the remaining lye can leach out into the soap, leaving you with lye pockets inside the end product. You can now mix in any additives you're using (such as colorants like beet root powder, exfoliates like fine sand and wheat germ, or fragrances such as dried herbs) and then pour/scoop it into your mold.   Once in the mold it should be put somewhere where it won't get touched by tiny fingers (it still has caustic, active lye in there) and left until it hardens, usually between 24 and 48 hours, occasionally longer. Once it's hard enough to cut it into bars, remove the soap from the mold and cut to your favorite size. Then you'll want to leave the bars on a wooden, marble, silicone, glass or ceramic surface. Leave uncovered and an inch or so apart and turn them every day so each part of the bars get full access to air. Note: A wooden surface (and some others) may be discolored from the lye, so don't use your favorite decorative cutting board. I learned this the hard way.  This cold process soap will take between 2 and 6 weeks to fully saponify, but my general rule is 4 weeks.  A good way to test to see if it's ready is to touch the tip of your tongue to a bar and if it's very acidy then it's not ready.  Using it early, won't kill you, but if you have sensitive skin it could be a bad idea.

Hot process starts out the same, but after the ingredients are combined the mixture is then put on a heat source, either your stove or a low fire, and heated up to the point of trace.  This needs to be done very slowly and watched very carefully.  It goes from ‘nope’ to ‘soap’ very quickly, and if you let it stay on the heat too long you’ll end up with a flaky, lumpy end product.  Throughout the heating, you’ll see bubbles on top of the liquid. When the soap is ready to pour into the mold, the soap all the way to the bottom of the pot will be the same consistency; thick, like brownie batter.   The additives are then put in and it is then put into a mold. This mixture will obviously be very hot, which is why you need a heatproof container. Once in the mold, this will continue to bubble for several minutes. You should tap the container against the table or whatever it’s on carefully to force the air bubbles out to avoid ‘holey’ soap.  This soap will harden a bit quicker, in as little as 6 hours or as much as 36 hours, and will only need 2 or 3 days curing time before it's ready to go.

There are pros and cons to both methods. Depending on if you want to use additives, the still-very-active lye in the cold process batch can destroy some of the colors/properties of your additives. Alternatively, the high heat in a hot process batch can destroy some of the scents/qualities of other additives. Generally, you have to figure this out with trial and error. If you intend to use essential oils in your soap, cold process is generally preferred as most essential oils have a flash point (evaporation point) of around or under 120 degrees, and hot process soap is always hotter than that, so the oils are mostly lost.  

One of the obvious pros for the hot process soap is that it can be used much quicker. But another of the cons of the hot process is that the bars are rarely as uniform and nice looking as cold process. Generally when you cut into a hot process bar, it has a few air pockets here and there due to the rapidly changing consistency, and until you become quite good at this process, it’s easy to overcook it, leaving the soap clumpy and just not quite as smooth and creamy looking as cold process bars. It's still just as functional and long lasting as cold process, but won't give you the same appearance.

So, now that you have chosen your process for making soap, here are some important rules to remember:

1) When using crystallized lye always add lye to water, and NEVER water to lye. The results can be potentially dangerous, similar to adding cold water to hot oil.

2)  Always add lye to cold water, NEVER warm or hot. As soon as the lye is added, a chemical reaction takes place that heats the mixture immediately to over 150 degrees. Make sure you're mixing this in a non-aluminum heatproof container in a very WELL-VENTILATED area in a container with plenty of headroom, either outside or in a very large kitchen with windows opened.  If you have a sensitive respiratory system, a mask and outdoor preparations are recommended.  Gloves, an apron and full coverage pants/shoes are also recommended.  Make sure no young children are nearby or running underfoot. . You want to make sure it stays in the bowl or pot where it's supposed to be. After the water and lye are combined and you're letting it cool, keep it at the very back of the counter where spills/splashes are unlikely.

 This is highly caustic, very dangerous stuff.  When pouring in, make sure your face isn’t right over the pot, or the fumes can quite literally take your breath away 

3) All ingredients need to be measured by weight, not volume. No measuring cups allowed. Get a small scale, either manual or a digital. A good digital scale that goes up to 10 pounds can be purchased for around 15 dollars. Used manual scales (along with larger used pots, kettles and other equipment) are commonly available on or at antique stores. The reason for using weight is that volume can vary depending on many environmental factors, so using weight helps you get the best possible results.

Note: In TEOTWAWKI, you can measure your oils and lye water by volume as long as you’re using the same measurement for both (i.e., you can’t measure one by weight and the other by volume). This is a somewhat less desirable form of measurement, but if it’s all you have, it’s all you have.

 Whether you're doing hot or cold process soap, all of your oils need to be liquid and right around 100 degrees before adding your lye water.  Therefore if you're using coconut oil or lard you need to heat them up until they're liquid (usually around 80 degrees). The lye also has to be around 100 degrees before it can be combined, which requires a certain amount of cooling, as it heats up to around 150 degrees when combined with water. 

These are the steps I generally take for cold process soap using lye crystals.

1) Combine lye with water, adding lye to water, whisking or mixing well (with non-aluminum utensil) while slowly pouring in to keep granules from sticking. Set aside to cool.

2) Melt any solid oils on low heat and combine all other oils together.

3) Once both the oil and the lye water are around 100 degrees, pour lye water into oil and mix well from the bottom. Continue to mix pretty consistently until it reaches a trace, or the consistency of pancake batter, where when a scoop is lifted up and drizzled back into the mix it doesn't readily re-combine.

4) Add essential oils, dried herbs (fresh herbs have too much moisture and can cause soap to mold, or exfoliate.

5) Pour into mold(s).

For Hot process soap, the steps are the same except that once the lye water and oils, you put this mixture over the heat and slowly cook until this mixture thickens up (see above paragraph about hot process soap).

Here are the basic steps for lye soap after TEOTWAWKI:

1)    Render your animal fats as described above.  A combination of fats is fine.  Lard generally creates a bubblier, more moisturizing soap, and tallow creates a harder, dryer soap. Both are very cleansing.

2)    Create your lye water by one of the methods previously described, then cook down lye water to get the desired concentration (see above article on lye making)

3)     Measure your ingredients. In a survival situation, using measurements in volume is acceptable, though somewhat less reliable.  As long as your lye water is of adequate concentration, the general recipe for a good quality soap using all animal fats (which have different SAP values, but are similar enough that the difference in densities is somewhat negligible) is  ¾ c of lye water to 2 c of rendered fat

4)     Either heat or cool both of these ingredients to right around 100 degrees and combine, adding lye water to fats.  Follow instructions for hot process soap from this point.

Since we aren't at TEOTWAWKI just yet, we'll just add a few more notes about soap making with the additives and oils that are still currently available. That is, we’ll add a few more suggestions on how to make 'fancy' soaps.

-Generally our favorite oils to use for everyday body/hand/face soap is a somewhat equal ratio of olive oil, coconut oil and tallow or lard. I also generally add beeswax since I like hard soap bars and it gives it a naturally nice scent/color.  Herbs can be added to give it the properties of those herbs (calendula is great for facial soaps, rosemary is great for skin also, jewelweed or plantain can be added for a good anti-itch/poison ivy soap, etc.). The herbs need to be dried or the added moisture can cause your soap to grow mold.

-Other great additives are any sort of exfoliating 'thing' to help with dirt removal/rough skin. Examples are oats (also soothing for skin), wheat bran, pumice, ground apricot seeds, very fine sand or poppy seeds. Dried herbs also add some exfoliation. There’s no magic number for the amount of additives you include, it depends largely on how much exfoliation, color etc. you want. But I rarely add more than half a cup of additives per pound of soap, and generally less than that.  Essential oils are something you have to be careful about, as too much can keep your soap from hardening. I usually use about 1.5 tablespoons per pound of finished soap. Most essential oils add antibacterial/antimicrobial properties which is a nice added touch. Oils highest in these properties include sage, tee tree, thyme, oregano, and any citrus especial oil.

Note: Using homemade lye will result in a soft soap. It's just as cleansing and has as long a shelf life. It's just a bit different.  If you want hard soap bars you can add salt to the soap before you pour it into the mold. The good proportion is two and a half pints salt to five gallons of tallow. Also, a little powdered rosin added to the 'grease' just before the lye is mixed in helps the soap to set more firmly. However, presumably, in TEOTWAWKI, salt will be quite a hard to acquire necessary, and using it to make soap may not be the best use, as salt is essential in preserving meats, fermenting vegetables (a fantastic and nutritious food preservation method) and 93,885,754 other things. (There are always wild edible plants that have naturally high sodium levels that can be substituted in the diet such as sassafras leaves, colt's foot, lamb's quarters and Queen Anne’s lace seeds, so maybe you'll have some to spare for soap if you know your plants. It's interesting, though that just like with wood, the plants need to be burned to ash before the sodium is fully released.)

-Worth mentioning is that there are natural saponins available to you in nature. Yucca root has natural cleansing/lathering properties if boiled in water, as does soapwort. Egg whites simply have to be beaten to a lather and used on your hair with fantastic results. The yolk can then act as a conditioner.

-One of the daunting things about making (fancier) lye soaps with lye crystals is that you have to be pretty accurate with your measurements to get a good product. Also you can't exchange oils in recipes, as each oil requires a different amount of lye. This is because each oil has a different density, therefore it takes a different amount of oil to make it 'saponify', or turn into soap. What that means on a chemical level is that the fatty acid chains making up the oil no longer repel water, but attract it. Each oil has its own saponification code, often abbreviated as SAP value. If you're going to make up your own soap recipe you need to have a list of these codes, which is easily found through another google search, or at this link.

-The saponification number of an oil needs to be multiplied by the ounces of oil you plan to use, and the quotient will be the amount of commercial lye required for that much of that oil. For example, if you have a pound of lard and want to figure out how much lye you need, you need to find the saponification number for lard, which is 0.138. So, in this example, the lard's SAP value is multiplied by the ounces of oil you have.  That will tell you how many ounces of lye needed.  So your math will be 0.138 (lard SAP value) X 16 (ounces in 1 pound) = 2.21 oz. of lye. (I always round the amount lye, water and oils to the nearest tenth, so it would be 2.2 oz. of lye crystals needed.)

Okay, now you have the amount of lye you need. So how much water do you need? The easiest most accepted ratio is to double the amount of lye and use that much water. That will give you a 33% lye solution, a very good, general lye solution amount. So in the above recipe, the amount of lye required is 2.2 oz., so therefore you'll need 4.4 oz. of water. So this is our newly calculated recipe: 16 oz. lard, 2.1 oz. lye, 4.4 oz. water

Note: This is the only mathematically complex part of soap making, and even this part can be avoided by simply finding a recipe and not creating your own. 

-Any oil you use needs to be pure oils with no added ingredients or preservatives. These will affect your end product. Also you need to be sure you aren't using oil blends. Some olive oils are combined with vegetable oils to make a cheaper product or one with a higher heating point. So check ingredients. Also note that since this is something that is going to be washed right off of your skin, we’re not advocates of spending $65 for a gallon of organic cold pressed extra virgin gold label coconut oil for a soap batch. We buy that for eating. We buy a cosmetic grade oil for soap making.  –We’re also not an advocates of added chemicals perfumes or any sort of artificial ingredients. They're just not healthy, in my opinion.

-A fantastic resource for affordable, good quality soap making products is   They  have a local pickup location near where we live, but they also have free shipping if you don't live in Ohio.  They sell oils, additives, molds and much more. 

-Pomace olive oil, also, is a much cheaper choice and much better for soap making than traditional olive oil, as it's the last press and still carries some of the olive sediment which is very good for your skin. Keep in mind that pomace olive oil has a different SAP value than regular olive oil.

-Lye is a bit trickier to find. Depending on the laws in your state, you may find it at a hardware store being sold as drain cleaner. You just need to make sure it’s granulated and that it's 100% sodium hydroxide with no other ingredients. If you can't find it there, you may need to do a bit of searching. We live near several Amish communities and so finding it in large, bulk quantities is not an issue. 

-You should never use aluminum pots, molds, bowls or utensils when making soap, as the aluminum can leach into the soap and discolor it, or even transfer aluminum to your end product. The lye, in some cases, can even pit or eat right through your aluminum pot/spoon/whatever and ruin them. (Actually, while we're on the subject, I highly recommend ridding your home of all aluminum, especially where cooking is concerned. It's nothing but bad news.  Cast iron, stainless steel or copper are all much better choices.) 

-In terms of molds, anything but metal can be used. Ceramic, glass, thick plastic like Tupperware, an old wooden drawer, cardboard boxes, silicone molds, etc. all work.  You can buy nicely shaped molds of all sizes or you can make your own. You just need to make sure what whatever you're using is heatproof and is thick- no thin plastics or very thin cardboard. And of course no aluminum. If you're using plasticware or cardboard, then popping the finished soap out or ripping the paper away is usually easy, but if you're using something hard like a wooden or glass mold I always line it with freezer paper, shiny side up, so when the soap is ready to come out you can just lift the whole block out. It's quite a job otherwise and you may end up deforming or breaking the edges of the soap bars.

So there you have it. The short course on soap making. We teach soap making here, as well as many other homesteading classes and it has been our experience that learning any self-sufficiency and homesteading skill is easiest and best learned with teacher guided, hands on experience. But, if you work at it on your own and learn by trial and error, you should be in good shape before SHTF.

Laura and Jim Fry

One final P.S.:

While we teach a wide variety of homesteading skills classes, we also recommend you check out our friend Tom Laskowski at A couple years ago, Tom was named by his peers (of primitive skills experts from across the continent) as having contributed the most to the general knowledge in the field. Tom teaches everything you need to know to survive in the ‘woods’, along with additional homestead skills such as soap making. We also most heartedly recommend our friend Doctor Cindy Koelker at She teaches everything you need to know about medical concerns. And of course she is SurvivalBlog’s Medical Editor. 

The three of us work together to teach how to “Survive, Stay Alive and Thrive”, both now and in the coming ‘interesting times’. Should you come to any of any of our classes, we also recommend a visit to the nearby Lehman’s Hardware in Kidron, Ohio. Jay and his daughter and son run the largest non-electric store in the world. They are really great people and the business is unequalled for filling your equipment and goods needs for “after EMP”. You could also plan a stop at the even closer Mormon food warehouse to fill your bulk food needs.

James Wesley;
In building our retreat, we will have multiple modern bathroom facilities in various buildings. The septic system was recently installed. However, we are thinking for long-term situations that a more primitive back-up would be desirable just to have on the property. So, the question is: Which is better: An outhouse that could utilize fireplace and oven wood ashes and simply relocate as time dictates or a composting toilet? We have researched both outhouses and composting toilets. We can see reasons to have either.

Interestingly, this old property only ever utilized cesspools. They are dried up and have composted all material that was ever in them.

I know there is a wealth of knowledge in the SurvivalBlog readership concerning both methods. Over the years, readers have submitted articles on outhouses and composting toilets. My question is, from personal experience, do people have a preference and why?

Thanks! - S.A.

JWR Replies: I can answer that question, but perhaps some readers will want to chime in.

Because composting toilets use an ongoing "live" process they are not suitable for infrequent use.  If you stop using one for more than a few days, the good bacteria die and you often end up with a clogged, stinking mess. So they are only really suitable for continuous use.

They also require a ventilation fan, and that represents a daily drain on your alternative power system.  For that reason alone, I would recommend using a traditional outhouse for backup, with sprinklings of slaked lime powder, or ashes to control odors and insects.

Outhouse construction and operation has been discussed at length in SurvivalBlog, most recently in the October, 2013 article: Your Retreat's Privy, by Stephanie M.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Mr. Rawles,
I've been making my own laundry soap for a couple of years now and I've found that Zote works a little better than Fels Naptha or Ivory.  Our whites have been whiter since we switched from Fels Naptha to Zote.  I estimate that I've spent perhaps just s $15 on laundry supplies over the past two years.  That's much better than $10 to $12 for a bottle of liquid detergent!

Keep up the good work and God bless your efforts. - Emily S.

Mr. Rawles,
I would like to add to the suggested recipe for laundry detergent presented by JDC in Mississippi.  Having used this same recipe for several years, I can attest to its effectiveness for laundry.  However, I have found a couple of improvements necessary for optimal cleaning.

I found the homemade detergent to leave my whites looking dingy over time.  Also, unlike commercial detergents, this one causes towels to develop an unpleasant odor.  An informal survey of friends who also use this recipe indicated this problem existed for all of us, regardless of the water source or the bar soap used.  Several of us were on municipal water and several use well water.  Different bar soaps were also used.  Some used essential oils, others did not.  We all experienced the same dingy whites and stinky towels. 

Through trial and error, we found a solution that works.  After making the batch of detergent, I store it in a closed 5-gallon bucket and from this bucket, I fill an old detergent bottle for use.  Before adding the detergent to the bottle, I pour in ½ cup of blue-colored liquid commercial laundry detergent.  This adds enough bluing to keep the whites from turning brownish-gray and adds enough fragrance to keep the towels from souring.  My personal preference is the All brand, but others have found success with Tide or Wisk. 

Also, I’ll offer a word of caution based on a lesson I learned the hard way.  For this project, the bucket should be new.  The detergent will absorb odors from the plastic container.  I made the mistake of making my first batch in a thoroughly cleaned pickle bucket that had no discernible odor from its prior contents.  As the weeks progressed, the detergent drew out the odors from the plastic, causing the laundry to smell of pickles.  With kindest regards, - Virginia Mama

Monday, November 25, 2013

Mr. Rawles:

Here is a recipe for soap, not food,. This has saved us a lot of money and aggravation over the years. We decided to make our own laundry soap after my daughter (now four years old) was born. Her skin wouldn't tolerate any artificial perfumes or dyes and she would break out in horrible acne if exposed to artificiality of that sort.

The basis of this recipe we found online, then modified it to meet our needs. It includes only shelf-stable materials and is suitable for both washing machines and hand-washing.

The ingredients include:

--One bar of soap, grated. The soap you use is up to you. We've used Ivory, Octagon, soap made at home with lye and vegetable fats, homemade soap with animal fats and lye, a soap called Zote( that is usually marketed to Latinos), Fels Naphtha, and a wide variety of whatever is on hand, all with good results. The Zote is marketed as a laundry soap. It comes in a 14 oz. bar, significantly larger than a standard 4-5 oz bar of soap, so we usually make a double batch when using it. (If the math seems off, adjust it. I'm saying only what has worked for us.)

--1 cup of washing soda. This is not baking soda. I have read that you can make washing soda out of baking soda by baking it (which eliminates some of the carbon and some oxygen, as I understand it). But as the two are approximately the same cost to begin with, I see no sense in converting sodium bicarbonate into sodium carbonate. The only reason I can think of is if you should choose to store only baking soda and not washing soda, or if you should happen to run out of bicarb.

--1/2 (halfa) cup of borax. Some people use only a quarter cup of borax, claiming it doesn't cause clothing to break down as quickly. They might be right. They might not. YMMV. We use a half cup and have seen no inordinately negative effects in four years.

--3 gallons of water. Just water.

First, start by boiling about 2-3 quarts of water in a stainless steel pot. DO NOT use your good cast iron for this unless you want to ruin the seasoning/coating. Turn the water down to a simmer after it boils.

Begin adding the shredded soap slowly, allowing a small quantity to dissolve before adding another bit. Use a large stainless steel or plastic spoon to stir. Stir constantly until all soap has been added and is dissolved. You will end up with a thick mixture I call "soap soup" just because it's fun to say.

Into a five-gallon bucket or other large container, place the borax and washing soda. Pour the soap soup in with the other ingredients and stir with the stainless steel spoon until the dry ingredients are dissolved (or nearly so). We use a round kitchen-size trash can with marks on the outside to show three gallons and six gallons are. You'll have to measure those ahead of time.

Add enough warm water to bring to three gallons. Stir wholeheartedly, making sure everything but the bucket and spoon dissolves. Cover the mixture and allow it to sit for 24 hours before putting it in bottles. You don't even have to bottle it: You can use it straight out of the bucket. However, we found it best to save up empty laundry detergent bottles for a month or so before beginning this project. If you stir the bucket thoroughly before bottling, and shake each bottle thoroughly before using, you'll get the optimum distribution of materials for each load of laundry.

At one cup of laundry detergent per load, this makes 48 loads. I usually make a double batch, which is 96 loads -- meaning about two or three months worth of laundry for approximately $6 invested in the detergent. I'm an EMT and my uniform must be changed and washed after each 24-hour shift, at least, to get rid of the mixture of sweat, blood, and red Mississippi mud. I have a 4-year-old, my wife is a professional, and I work 48-96 hours a week and consequently I do a lot of laundry.

Before bottling the soap, I add 30-40 drops of tea tree essential oil to the mixture. That might sound like a lot, but 30 drops over 96 loads is actually a very small quantity. My wife has a history of MRSA and the tea tree oil seems to be effective in keeping that particular infection at bay. Put it this way: She hasn't had an outbreak since we started using the oil. You could also add other (and more) essential oils to the soap mixture, should you want your clothing to smell pretty. I prefer my clothes to smell like nothing at all (call it OPSEC), and a third of a drop of tea tree oil per load leaves nothing noticeable behind. Lavender and other flowery oils do leave a smell.

So, for five or six cents per load of laundry using shelf-stable ingredients, you get clothing that is very clean, smells of nothing at all (unless you want it to), and turns whites more white while leaving colored clothing still colored.

As always, thanks JWR for your time and energy in keeping this blog site up. - J.D.C. in Mississippi

Friday, November 15, 2013

I just finished reading the article by Stephanie M. titled "Your Retreat's Privy" and I'd like to add a couple of ideas. First off, let me start out by saying that I, along with my wife and 3 boys, live remote and off-grid here in Alaska. Our only form of a toilet is an outhouse, or as we call it here in Alaska, the Long Drop :-)

The first suggestion I'd like to add to this article is if you live in colder climates, find yourself a piece of 1" thick styrofoam and cut it out the same size as the toilet seat so that it makes a ring to put on the seat - it's much more bearable in the winter to sit on styrofoam than the cold seat. In fact, if you have multiple people in your family, you can create a seat for each of them and keep them hung on the wall in the privy or in the cabin / house if it's too cold outside. [JWR Adds: I've heard that dense blue styrofoam works best, for this purpose.]

Second, since we often see temps hovering around -20 degrees in the winter, we keep a long, stout stick handy to knock down the poopcicle that will form in any cold weather environment. I dug our hole about 8 feet deep so I don't have to do this often but if your hole is only 3 to 5 feet - you need to watch this. I"m sure I don't have to mention what would happen if you're using the outhouse in the middle of the night and the poopcicle is hovering right about seat level.

Third, don't make your outhouse too small. Since you're going to the trouble of building a subfloor, walls and a roof, expand it out to a 8'x10' building, insulate it if you want but buy some Visqueen (sheet plastic) and put a vapor barrier in the walls and ceiling. Once you have it dried-in, you can build or buy some cabinets with doors and store extra toilet paper, feminine products, etc., thereby saving space in the cabin for more perishable items. Besides, who doesn't want as much toilet paper as possible in a grid-down scenario?

Finally, don't forget to put the toilet seat down when you're done. I heard that a guy down the trail from us went out to use the bathroom one night and got a cold nose on his backside. Apparently his dog had fallen through the seat and ended up down below - this guy pulled the toilet seat off the bench and jumped down to rescue the dog. I'm not sure I love my dogs that much but around here, he's lucky it wasn't a small bear cub with an angry mother lurking around the corner of the outhouse.

Thanks for the great article, Stephanie! Regards, - Trevor W.


Dear Mr. Rawles,
The article “Your Retreat’s Privy” was very informative. If you have pest problems, there are a couple extra items that can also assist you with flies and spiders. You can build a fly tight seat lid and you can use a 2 to 3% solution of Malathion sprayed on the roof corners and under the box lid to help control flies and in my part of the country spiders especially black widows. Borax can be also put in weekly to help prevent fly breeding. If you choose to have a ventilation gap under the roof overhang, it never hurts to have rat wire around to prevent birds nesting in this location. There will also be times when a pit privy will not work for your family as the author discusses in the article.  In my work, I generally have to replace pit privies not because they have failed but because as wise King Solomon knew “time and unforeseen occurrence” has befallen the resident. As part of your outhouse construction, remember to also provide the materials you will need to help your ill, very young or aged as the case may be. The verse cited in Deuteronomy provides for a basic approach to sanitation that can be an excellent backup. Good health to you, your readers and their families. - Elaine M. in Virginia


Concerning Stephanie M.'s article on building a privy for your retreat, there is an additional, and simpler, solution to having a privy.
For several decades now we have used porta-johns. This offers (IMHO) many advantages over home built johns. Every [modern] commercial porta-john I have ever seen is made of fiberglass, making them basically impervious to decay, and they have sky lights. They have rounded corners and edges, have no splinters or nails, are white on the inside and are fully sealed to wind and rain infiltration. During the day they are bright inside and at night easy to light with candle, lamp or flashlight. They are very easy to keep clean and are bug and spider free. --We simply spray them down with a hose or bucket of water every so often, making it "the cleanest room in our house".
In order to make them chemical free, we simply cut out the bottom and postion them over a hole, as Stephanie suggests. Then after each use we toss in a cup of sawdust, lime or wood ash, whichever happens to be currently available (which totally controls flies and 'fragrance'). 
The porta-johns I've seen all come on skids and are overall quite light, so they are easy for even one person to move to its next hole. Around here its possible to buy a new john from the companies that rent them, but an even better solution is to buy a much cheaper damaged john from the company, then make whatever minor repairs that are required (often just fixing a door hinge).
We 'camouflaged' our johns by painting all the exterior (excluding the sky light) the predominate color of the surrounding background landscape. Then we painted trees and bushes over the base coat, so that the out-houses blend in quite well with the landscape (and helps to keep them out of sight from any stray g-men who might happen along in the days before the coming nobamapocalypse). - Jim in Ohio

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Have you considered an outhouse/privy as part of your preparedness plan?
If you could no longer flush your toilet because you were having plumbing problems,   or your commercial water supply was cut off and you didn't want to use your water stores for flushing, do you have a good backup plan,practical even for long term?

Going in a bucket with a toilet seat attached to it in your bathroom is one option, but then you have to keep dumping it somewhere. This doesn't seem like a good long term plan to me.

Now, if you happen to have a good independent water source and a way to get it pumped where you need it when you want it then you may not need to worry about this. But then again, if you happen to have an overcrowded house for a while, or maybe after a long term disaster or economic collapse your septic system has filled up and you do not have time at the moment to empty, it then an outhouse could really come in handy.

An outhouse is a simple, low cost, practical, long term, back up plan. Not the modern plastic port-a-johns that have to be hauled away and emptied when they are full, but the old-fashioned kind that have been used for hundreds of years (and still are used by lots of people all over this country) before we had modern septic systems and city sewage.

If you have some basic carpentry skills and can dig a good sized hole then you can build an outhouse.

We lived for five years with an outhouse and no indoor toilet. The outhouse was approximately 35 feet from our door and was not at all a nuisance. In the hot summer time you would get a whiff of it from time to time but it certainly didn't permeate the yard or anything.  During those five years a baby in our family was born at home  and we potty- trained two toddlers  so sometimes we kept a potty chair in the house  so it would be more convenient and we dumped the bucket in the outhouse.  I know some families who have outhouses attached to their houses by roofed walkways.

First off you need to choose a good location  in relation to your shallow well, spring, pond or creek  if you happen to have one or more close by, you sure don't want sewage seeping underground and contaminating them and you don't want your outhouse to get flooded and contaminate a good water source in that way either. Where? 100 ft. from surface water, 4 ft. above the water table, and 150 ft. from a drinking water source is enough enough distance away, according to this web site. But there may be specific regulations in your area concerning this, so be sure to do some checking! 

In sandy soil the sewage will drain away faster and heavy clay soil  won't drain as well, you don't want it to be like a pond and hold water a long time. Do not put it in a place  where rain water will drain into the hole.

The next step is digging the hole.
For big double outhouses a back-hoe or track-hoe will help get the hole dug quickly but for one outhouse you only need a hole a few feet across so a back-hoe bucket would be too big. If you end up digging the hole with hand tools a shovel and post-hole-digger will do the job and a pick and grubbing hoe will help loosen up the soil  if the ground is hard but when the hole gets a couple feet deep it gets hard to swing them. You can use a bucket to help haul dirt up out of the hole and you can pile some of the dirt up around the hole and pack it down if you want to and it will help direct rain water away, but then you might need to build a step up into the outhouse  over that dirt so you don't track mud in on a rainy day.

You can pile the extra dirt behind the outhouse, then it will be ready when it's time to cover the hole.
I recommend the hole be at least 3 ft. deep and I would rather have one deeper than that . If the hole is too shallow then the outhouse will have to be moved too often, but a hole 5 or 6 ft. deep will last many years, even if it is used regularly. You might need to reinforce the sides of your hole to keep it from collapsing, we never had to do this but different soil types might be more prone to collapsing. If you dig your hole square you can put plywood  against the walls and use 2'' x 4''s  cut to length braced tightly from side to side and front to back and nailed in place.
Now it is time to build the outhouse structure.

You can build it any size you want but 4' wide and 6' deep and 7' tall will be sufficient in size. Use treated lumber.
It is best to build the outhouse on skids of some kind so that when the hole is full you can pull the outhouse to a new location. 4'' x 4'' posts will work fine for this.
 The dirt from the hole should not be sealed up around the bottom of the outhouse, if there are a few inches between the bottom of the outhouse and the dirt then the decomposing sewage will be able to ventilate easily and won't just be ventilating up through your toilet opening.  The 4''x 4'' skids will help accomplish this 

We used 2''x 4''s for floor joists and the walls  and bench were also framed with 2''x 4''s. Build the bench against the back wall approx. 1 1/2  ft. high and 2 ft. deep and as wide as the outhouse.  Use plywood or OSB for the floor and the front and top of the bench. After you have put plywood or OSB on the floor and front of the bench, before you have covered the top of the bench, you need to put a shield of some kind  on the inside front of the bench to shield that piece of wood from urine. A piece of tin or metal roofing will work good for this. It doesn't have to be as wide as the whole bench, 2 ft. will be wide enough,  put it right in front of where the toilet seat is going to be. Make sure the shield is long enough that it hangs down below the floor at least 1 inch. Now you can cover the top of the bench. 

Get a toilet seat and lay it on the  bench where  you want the hole to be, mark around the inside of the ring, drawing it onto the plywood. Remove the seat and cut out this circle. You could do this before nailing the plywood down onto the bench frame if you think it would be easier that way. Now you can use a toilet seat and lid and bolt their hinges down onto the outhouse bench just like they were screwed to a toilet and you'll have an easier to clean, more comfortable to use seat than just a hole in the plywood would be.  

Another toilet option that will eliminate the need to  build a bench is buying an outhouse toilet pedestal/toilet cone from they cost around $150. There may be other places that sell these too.

We used  plywood to cover the outside of our outhouse  but metal or siding or any exterior  paneling would work fine also. One thing you might want to consider is the insulating qualities of wood versus metal, a metal outhouse sitting in the sun on a 100* day would be very hot inside. Use any standard exterior door or you can build a custom one for your outhouse.

The roof needs to be slanted with the front higher than the back by a few inches, so water won't stand on the roof and it won't run off onto your head if you are standing at the door.    If you make the roof big enough that it overhangs 6 to 8 inches on either side and at the back and about 1 foot or more in front  it will help keep the water from trying to drain into the hole and also when you run to the outhouse on a rainy day and someone is already in there you can stand up against the front of the outhouse and be out of the rain. 

You don't need the tops of the side walls to be slanted along  with the roof, just make them as tall as the rear wall and then you will have ventilation holes up there that will also let in a little bit of light during the daytime.

Now your outhouse is ready to be put into use, but you don't have to leave it in this state, you can finish the inside if you want to.    Linoleum is especially nice to have on the floor, it makes it a lot easier to clean. 

If you give all the wood on the inside two coats of white paint it will be much brighter and nicer in there.
If the outside is covered in wood you could paint it too, to help protect it from the weather. 
An ice-cream bucket or coffee can with a tight fitting lid to store the toilet paper in will help keep it from getting damp from humidity in the air or condensation  that might drip from the ceiling.
 A laminated sign on the door reminding everyone to wash their hands might be needed too.
You can also put a bottle of hand sanitizer in there.
You can even run an electric line to it and put in a light if you want to,  to use as long as you have electricity.
You will need to regularly clean the outhouse to check for wasps nests and spiders.
Put a trash can in there too because anything that is not decomposable should not be put in the hole.
Powdered lime or sawdust or ashes sprinkled liberally into the hole every couple of days will help keep flies away and help  keep down odors.  If the outhouse is being used infrequently  then this won't be as necessary but if it is your main toilet then this helps a lot and a 5 gal. bucket full of one of these products sitting in the corner with a scoop in it is handy.

You might think that an outhouse draws swarms of flies but although there were always a few flies in our outhouse during warm weather we really never had a big problem with them. Whenever your outhouse gets filled to within 2 ft. from the ground level, you can pull your outhouse to a new location with a truck, tractor or horse. Or if it's not too heavy a group of people could pull it.
You need to immediately fill the old hole with soil. (Otherwise someone or some animal might fall in it.)   Mound the dirt up a little bit and pack it firmly, because after the sewage has decomposed the dirt will probably settle.

Don't let little children use the outhouse by themselves even if they can use the indoor toilet on their own, as you don't want them to fall in.  You can put a protective grid in the outhouse under the toilet seat fixed to the inside of the bench. Something like a cattle panel, with holes small enough that a child couldn't fall through but big enough that they won't get clogged up. We put a latch on the outside of our door  high enough that a little child had to have help opening it. A child-size potty seat that you can set on top of a regular toilet seat will help children feel safer if they don't like the outhouse. 

If you need more details on how to build, here are some web sites that should help:

If you are wondering if it is legal to have an outhouse, you will need to check your local regulations where you are because they vary from place to place. But even if it is presently illegal to use an outhouse in your locale you could build one and use it for a tool shed until it is needed.    

In Deut. 23; 12&13  God told the Israelites to have a place without the camp to bury their sewage.  If God thought this was a suitable method then I don't know why it wouldn't work today. 
After a long term grid-down collapse or catastrophe an outhouse may be the most sanitary solution for some people. -   D.P.C. in Arkansas

Dear Editor,
I really do appreciate Kali for bring up our Dear Aunt Flow because is something I don't think a lot of women have thought about. I did want to bring up a concern I have about using tampons and menstrual cups that I don't think has been brought up yet which is the risk of toxic shock syndrome. From what I remember learning in nursing school it's basically when bacteria gets introduced into a dark moist place in the body is allowed to grow and gets into the bloodstream  through thin skin and becomes life threatening. I've heard of this happening not only with women using tampons that are too big for them but also with individuals who used a tampon to stop a nose bleed. Our OB instructor told us a few things to do to avoid toxic shock are to make sure to change tampons at least every 4 hours, don't sleep with them in, wash hands before putting them in and just avoid the super-absorbent varieties all together. I have personally know one woman who experienced toxic shock, it almost killed her and did enough internal damage to leave her with fertility problems years later. I personally wouldn't want to take the risk in a grid down situation. Even though toxic shock is rare it can require a lot medical interventions which probably won't be available in such a situation. Just as a side note, I am not an OB nurse nor do I have expertise in that area of medicine, I just vividly remember that class discussion from nursing school and thought I would share what I remembered. See the Mayo Clinic's web site more information on the subject. - Marie

Monday, November 11, 2013

Dear SurvivalBloggers,
I have used folded up cloths as pads for years for my monthlies.  As long as you use a cotton cloth at least as big as a bandanna, bleed-through of a pad is surprisingly not that likely. 
Have several, that way you always have a dry one and they can hand wash and hang dry in shifts.  There is no reason why they can’t be as sanitary as the commercial ones.
To wash one, soak it in soapy water.  Once it’s soaked a bit (like 10 minutes), rinse it and wash it again with soap until it’s clean.  It doesn’t take a lot of water if you do it that way, and it takes most of the work out of it too.  At the end of the period, put the clean ones through the laundry for real with very hot water. 
I suppose one could make a plastic shield out of a piece of a trash bag, and fold it up in the pad near the bottom.  That would help with bleed-throughs.
The only thing that is truly inconvenient about cloth pads, besides that they like to migrate more than the ones with the stickum, is if you are traveling and have to use public rest rooms, you’ll probably have to stick the used ones in a Ziploc bag until you get the chance to wash them in private.   I just use commercial pads when I am traveling, that way I don’t have to worry about it.
Back in the day, the commercial pads didn’t have stickum.  We had special underwear with straps to hold the pads on, or we would safety pin them on. - Penny Pincher

Avalanche Lily Replies: One of our writing contest sponsors, Naturally Cozy, makes hand-sewn washable cloth menstrual pads as well as incontinence pads. Buying these is a great option for anyone who isn't handy with a sewing machine. (Or for those of us who are handy, but who don't have the time to sew because of a busy schedule.)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Hi Jim,
The really bug thing about long-term black outs, is the failure of urban (and not-so urban) water systems.  Few care where their clean, safe, drinking water comes from, since it’s been gushing out of their pipes all their lives.  Electricity pumps water into towers and tanks on high ground where gravity does the rest.  No power, no water.  Even the FEMA planners in New Jersey I lectured to a few years ago didn’t quite grasp the implications of a post-EMP America....they all thought they’d be inconvenienced because they couldn’t use their computers. Toilets need water to flush, so there will be sanitation issues on a Biblical scale. There will be disease outbreaks soon after 315,000,000 people start eliminating outdoors.  Few peopele will dig latrines in the concrete jungle to properly bury waste.  Ultra-modern buildings built without windows capable of being opened will soon be unusable for their designed purpose....but maybe can be used for baking, eh?  

Our fellow citizens who lived through Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy already have had a taste of this, except that no outside help may be coming next time.  Next to immediate considerations for clothing, water will soon prove our biggest challenge in coping with life without power.   When I ask neighbors where they will get clean water to drink when it no longer comes out of their taps, I get “the stare.”.

Best Regards, - Paul

Saturday, September 21, 2013

During a break-down of society you may happen upon a dead body. In a without-rule-of-law situation such would not be unusual. This article will give you a rough outline of what to look for when you examine a dead body. The dead body may be near your camp and you may need to get rid of it pronto. There are several reasons why you might need to closely scrutinize a corpse and document what you see.

You may need to protect yourself from the outbreak of disease. You may need to protect yourself from later accusations of murder once the system rebounds. You may need to know whether a killer is on the loose somewhere near your camp. You may need to know if this is a body which can be safely buried and preserved, or whether the body needs to be burned in order to stop the spread of disease.

If you have a camera available, be sure to take photographs. If you have the means to write, by all means take notes. Put on disposable surgical gloves if available. Use a breath mask if available. Use common sense not to infect yourself. Put on old clothes or strip to the bare essentials if necessary. Obtain soap and bleach and water to clean yourself before you chance touching anything contaminated.

Each death scene is unique, so you must use your intuition. The steps you take may be the only chance this victim has for future justice. Loved ones of the diseased person, if they can, may later thank you for the information you retrieve. You may find evidence that exonerates an innocent person. You may find answers that determine whether your group should break camp and leave the area.

As you write your report it is important to both jot down your general feelings, and to specifically note certain important items. Note the location where the death occurred, because it may be important later for law enforcement purposes regarding jurisdiction. Different state or local authorities get involved in investigations depending on the location where the body was found. Make note of anything that seems unexplained or suspicious, or that may turn the death scene into a crime scene. State in your report whether or not you think the death was accidental.

Note the date and time, and make a record of any identification paperwork you may find, such as a drivers license or an identification card, because they may later be lost. Look for tattoos or identifying marks on the body. Do not overlook the obvious, such as cell phone numbers which must be written down before the battery gives out.

Try to determine the cause of death. Make certain that the person has not just passed out and is still breathing. Mark off the area where the body is located and do not let others contaminate it. Look for any loose hairs or skin under the person's fingernails that might reveal they defended themselves or have been in a fight. Do not jump to conclusions as to what happened, but rather look at things with an open mind. Your job at this point is to record facts and details, not to come to a firm conclusion of how the person died.

Notice how the dead person is dressed, and record any anomalies. Figure out whether you think the body has been moved. Note whether the body is stiff and rigor mortis has set in. If the body is contorted or looks like it fell in an awkward position, that might mean the person died suddenly. An apparently painful look on the person's face does not necessarily mean they died in pain.

Note any blood or vomit. Vomit can be strong enough to cause acid burns on the face or the skin. If the body has been dead for several hours, gravity will make the blood drain to the lower parts of the body, so look for tell-tale signs of discoloration. Note whether the eyes are open or shut, and whether the eyes have clouded over. These details may be important to later determine the time of death. Note any odor, discharge, or discoloration.

Take a photograph or make a drawing showing the position of the body before you move it. Only then should the body be positioned face up for examination. Begin without removing the clothing, rather tug and stretch the clothing to take an overview of the various parts of the body. Later an autopsy might be done, but at this point the purpose is to see if there are any general signs pointing to the cause of death.

Note any signs of good or bad hygiene, nearby liquor bottles, hypodermic needle marks, and torn or disheveled clothing. Swelling of the body may be due to retained water. Purple condition of the upper body often points to sudden stoppage of the heart. Record the condition of the hair and teeth. Abnormalities in the eyes such as different sized pupils should be recorded, as should puffiness of the eyes. Blue lips may mean lack of oxygen. Note any blood coming out of the eyes or ears or mouth, and anything else that seems out of the ordinary.

If you push on the skin and it dents instead of springing back, that is a sign of dehydration. Note and record the location of any bruises. Yellow skin points to liver failure. Pale skin may indicate loss of blood. Look for scrapes and lesions on the skin. Skin condition indicates many different things, so anything you find may be important to an expert later.

If there are any people around who know what happened, ask them questions and write down their answers. See if there are any medicine bottles nearby, and ask if anyone knows about any medical documents. Write down anything that indicates this was a natural death, as well as anything that indicates it was an accident, a crime, or foul play. Ask if the dead person complained of chest pain or other pains in the previous few days. Find out if the person over-exerted, for example by hiking much further than normal.

Write down relevant things like snowy or rainy weather, finding the body outdoors, finding the body in or near water, ropes or chains or weapons nearby, signs of a scuffle, etc. If there is an injury try to figure out if it was made by a blunt object such as a baseball bat or a sharp object such as a carpenter's saw. Look and feel for broken bones, which may or may not poke out through the skin. Look for scrapes and burns, and signs of suicide such as multiple cut marks on wrists.

Lacerations are blunt force injuries which are often confused with cuts. If there is a gunshot wound, look and see if there is also an exit wound where the bullet came out. The types and causes of wounds are so vast that it is important to take photographs or write down descriptions for later reference. Remember that the body will deteriorate, so chances are you will be the only person available to document these facts.

Decide whether you think rule of law soon be reinstated. It may be days, weeks or months before authorities can be summoned. If this is the case, then it is important to take steps now that will help identify the body later. This may include taking a DNA sample with a swab to the inner cheek, taking fingerprints with any ink or dye you can find, taking a blood sample, and taking a hair sample. Do not overlook other things such as keeping cigarette butts, keeping car keys, drawing facial pictures, etc.

Beyond that, look for signs of infection which occurred before death as opposed to deterioration which occurred after death. Old healed scars may be signs of previous surgery, and must be differentiated from recent wounds, but both are important to record. Other cuts or injuries may be indicative of earlier resuscitation attempts by medical personnel.

When rule of law is gone you and your associates may have to decide what to do all by yourselves. For health purposes you cannot afford to let dead bodies deteriorate near your camp or water source. You may have to pick up camp and move on. Or you may need to bleach or burn clothing or other items to be sure to get rid of infection.

Even if you have a fortress supplied with all the amenities, it will do you no good in the long term if there is infectious disease from a rotting body nearby. You may have to make a decision about whether to burn or bury a dead body, or whether to leave an infected area. Timing is key, and it may be better to make the decision sooner rather than later. In your situation take all the known factors into consideration, obtain the advice of others, and then act decisively. The decision will be totally up to you.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Mr. Rawles,

Thank you for a great blog site.  I'd like to share some techniques we use every day at our off-grid homestead that would be applicable for grid-down living

With 280 watts of solar panels in the southern plains, a good Xantrex controller, three marine deep-cycle batteries and an inverter we power a 9 cubic foot freezer-turned-refrigerator fitted with an analog temperature controller, a portable dvd player used nightly for movies and documentaries, 1 to 3 small fans in summer, a netbook computer, and a couple of compact fluorescent lights along with charging cell phones and cordless tools and even running a sewing machine on sunny days.

In our experience a homemade composting bucket is the best choice for human waste disposal and if properly constructed and maintained can even be kept and used in the house.  An outhouse works but I have yet to visit one that was particularly pleasant (read – I usually come out blue in the face or gagging.)  Chemical toilets are just plain gross as well.  Separately-collected urine makes a great garden fertilizer. [JWR Adds: Readers are warned that the risks of using composted human feces for garden fertilizing far outweigh the benefits.]

We have used a bio-sand or slow sand filter for water filtration exclusively for several years.  They are used the world over and work well for biological contaminants.  One can be constructed for $100 or less.  Ours is housed in a plastic 55-gallon drum. Plans and information are available on line.  Google “bio-sand filter”

Off-grid clothes washing is much facilitated by pre-soaking clothes for an hour or so up to overnight with 1/2 cup ammonia added to the water (if adequate water supplies are available.)  Ammonia is a great clothes cleaner and really cuts grease plus it takes much less water to rinse out.  Gray water containing ammonia seems to cause no harm to garden plants.  Borax, on the other hand, can kill or damage plants.  The little pressure washers, plungers and other gimmicky laundry aids have been a waste of money for us.  A washboard, a scrub brush (for jeans) and elbow grease will get clothes clean just as easily.  In a long-term grid-down situation lye leached from wood ashes will clean clothes. One thing to remember in considering SHTF clothes washing strategies is that without adequate rinsing clothes both stay dirty and attract even more dirt from the soap trapped in the fibers.  It may be that an ammonia/water or lye water soak and one quick rinse is the best option.  Bedding can be freshened between infrequent washings by hanging it in the sun and the breeze.

Five gallons of water is easily enough for a bath even for a woman who wants to shave, condition hair, etc. For example: wet down a little, wash hair without overdoing the shampoo, wash body, rinse.  Apply conditioner (again, don't overdo it), shave and scrub feet and nails with the water that's accumulated in the bottom of the tub, rinse again.  You're done in 5 gallons and most likely will have a little water left for a final rinse of the rag.  An oval, shallow black poly stock watering tank makes a great bathtub that even a child can move and empty. - Judy B.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

(Level II Scenario, continued)


For me, a 1,000 Gigawatt generator is not needed. Just 12 volt deep cycle storage batteries and a photovoltaic panel to charge them up, along with with a homemade generator from a lawnmower engine fan belted to a Chevrolet car alternator will be enough to power some communication electronics and spot lighting.  Deep cycle batteries are preferable to regular 12 V car batteries as they last much longer, but car batteries will certainly do in a pinch.  Incandescent lights need more power than fluorescents which need more than white LED arrays. Do some experimenting.  Another way to generate electricity is by turning a DC motor into a generator.  A DC motor accepts a DC voltage, from a battery for example, applied across two terminals and translates that energy to a rotary mechanical motion that drives whatever the motor is hooked up to, (a cordless drill, a kids play jeep, whatever).  A generator is the exact same motor, except instead of applying a voltage and harvesting a rotary force, you apply a rotary force and harvest a voltage.  All you do is hook something to the motor shaft, a bicycle, hand crank, a water or wind wheel, and turn it and a voltage is generated across the same two terminals the battery was previously hooked to.  Pay attention to polarity.  The motor should have a plate on it indicating what amount of voltage and amperage it will generate.  As you put the generator under a load it will become harder to turn, the result of a phenomenon called back EMF.

I don’t know much about big generators.  The options are basically gas, diesel or propane.  Diesel appears to be the best option.  Gas is more dangerous to store than diesel and the diesel generators last longer under a sustained usage (lower RPM).  Propane may also have problems lasting due to top end lubrication (I’m not sure about that) but propane is the easiest to store.  A generator could be used sporadically, say a couple hours a day to keep the refrigerator cold or run appliances.  If you do store gas or diesel, treat it with preservatives while it is fresh, at the beginning of the storage cycle, and store it in a safe manner.

There are a lot of electronics that could be harvested from a car, 12 Volt lighting, batteries, radios, CBs, meters and gauges.  Not to mention the metal to fabricate tools, hydraulics to provide motive force, petroleum products, the motor, the wheels and tires, transaxles to translate a rotary force 90 degrees, seats (what Southern abode is complete without an old car seat gracing the front porch?).

We have pretty well considered water; (did I just say well?)  That's the next step in a more permanent water supply:  a well.  It is certainly possible to hand dig a well, but before attempting to do that, you should find out how to go about it because a well cave-in is nothing to be ‘cave’alier about.  The best bet is to have the well dug by a professional; don't forget to have a way to get the water up without electricity, or have a generator.  Research how to locate a well with regard to septic systems, water table etc.

Lighting is also covered by using Kerosene lamps and /or rechargeable solar powered lamps.  Have spare wicks, globes, bulbs, switches, and plentiful fuel or energy.  Even if using Kerosene lamps, it would be wise to have a more concentrated, focused, portable, powerful method of lighting available to use when needed.  Of course, a flashlight fills the bill quite nicely.  Have some way to use rechargeable batteries. 

For more permanent ways to dispose of bodily waste, I reckon the most lo-tech is the good ol' outhouse.  Dig a pit about 6-8 feet deep, build a portable house to cover it and provide privacy.  When it gets near full, cover the last few feet with dirt, dig a new hole and pull the house (built on skids?) over to it.  Lime might be used to keep the smell down, another exciting topic to research.  Other options are methane digester toilets, burning the waste in 'honey pots" or using the existing septic system by hauling in flushing water by hand.  The latter option is probably the easiest and less damaging to the water table than an outhouse, non-potable water can be used for flushing.

Washing dishes in a water conservation mode can be done by using the following process:   1.) scrape the loose food of for the dogs to eat or to compost for the garden, 2.) fill one sink with water and some soap, 3.) fill another sink with water and a 1/4 cup of Clorox, 4.) Wash the dishes in the soapy water, 5.) rinse/disinfect in the Clorox water and 6.) set out to drain or towel dry.  Dishtowels will be worth their weight in gold; I suspect the cloth could be purchased fairly cheaply and towels cut, and hemmed, from the roll.  If need be, recycle the water through a distiller or use it to wash something else.

Washing clothes will be a chore.  I guess a big washtub or two and a washboard is the way to go, hang em up on a clothes line, it's been done before.  Another option is to cut a hole in the top of a five-gallon bucket lid and agitate using a (clean) plunger, kind of like an old-fashioned butter churn.  A clothes wringer would be cool (A large industrial mop bucket with a wringer might suffice).  Speaking of which, study up on ways that these common things were done before electricity, read books on pioneers that kind of stuff.  Figure out how to make soap or stock up on enough to hold you over for a year or two, just in case, God forbid, a collapse drags on that long.

Trash disposal will be non-existent in a survival situation.  Around here if we miss one trash day, it starts to pile up something fierce.  Over the long term, this could be a serious health hazard.  Trash piling up will smell, attract rodents and flies, and encourage disease.  On the bright side, there will be less packaging to be disposed of since most new production will be home generated, food and such.  None the less, have a sanitation plan.  Separate trash at the point of origin, paper and combustibles in one can,  biodegradables in another, glass and metal in a third.  Burn the combustibles, compost the bio-degradable, and bury or pile up the metals and glass.   Re-cycle everything possible.  Keep the area cleaned up from trash blowing into the yard.

Bathing could be accomplished by heating water on a stove and pouring into a tub or maybe by constructing a solar shower outside for summer use.


Communications could be clutch.  Try to cover as much as the spectrum as possible.  Get a short-wave radio, or Ham transceiver, covering at least 15 kHz to 30 MHz; a police/fire scanner covering the local emergency bands, an AM/FM radio, CB radios, and a television.  Have the ability to power all these with a 12-volt battery.  A Ham rig would be cool to enable two way conversations.  The shortwave should cover the upper and lower sidebands as well as CW signals.  The police scanner will be useful if there are riots or civil unrest.  CB radios, especially ones with sideband channels, can be used for personal communications, maybe one base station and 2 or 3 handhelds, all with rechargeable batteries.  Avoid having an 'antenna farm' outside your house so as not to draw a lot of attention.  Point to point communications in the form of intercoms, sound powered phones, hand, mirror, and semaphore signals could also be used.


If the gasoline is flowing, well and good, if not, it’s back to bicycles, horses and feet.  Make sure the car stays tuned up, has good tires, a full tank of gas and is in good working order.  Stock up on spare parts, water pump, alternator, fluids, and plugs, et al.  You can build an 'Urban Assault Vehicle' with winches, heavy-duty bumpers, and extra gas cans and all that stuff if you are so inclined.  Having a couple bikes handy might be a good thing.  Spare inner tubes etc, etc. 


The immediate concern regarding education is knowledge gained before problems occur.  Learn how to do stuff, study farming, gardening, carpentry, blacksmithing, medicine, cooking and preserving, stone masonry, weaving, trapping, hunting, fishing, metal working, electricity, plumbing, the list goes on and on.  Pick one or two things to get really good at and cross train in the others.  Gather information, books, magazine and Internet articles to keep as a reference library.  Don't neglect classics and light reading. And the three R's, reading, 'riting and 'rithmatic.   Set up schooling for the children if the schools shut down for a while and train constantly in as many sufficiency disciplines as possible.  Have school supplies available.


Picture yourself in a shelter with four young kids and no crayons; picture yourself climbing the walls.  Games, books, coloring books and crayons, lots-o-paper and pencils (exactly how would you go about making a pencil anyway?) textbooks for higher education, radio, outdoor activities.  Have fun.

Government Relations

A real wild card, chances are they won't be prepared (in a good way) for a serious societal emergency.  Of course with the current bunch of crafty, disingenuous, lying, cheating, stealing, power mad, constitution stompin' yahoos in Washington, that won't matter as they are likely to make a power grab (for the good of the people, don't you like children?) using the various Executive Orders surreptitiously signed into law over the last few decades.  "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you."  Yeah, right.

As far as self-government goes, pick a leader, establish a legislative and a judicial body is one option, follow the US Constitution; another might be to set up a system of Judges like the early Hebrew people had in the Bible.  Definitely something to think about.

Local Area Relations

That would be your neighbors.  Help them get informed about survival in general, if not your plans specifically.  If your neighbor has his own food supply, he won't be knocking on your door for a handout when the SHTF.  This is where it gets a little confusing.  If someone is doing a full combat assault on your house, hey lock and load, ready on the right, ready on the left, commence fire, not a real moral dilemma; but, if your neighbor, your beer drinking buddy, and his extended family are starving next door and you've got some food stashed back, but not really enough to hand out willy-nilly without endangering your own family, then what?  One possible solution would be to store a lot of extra bulk foods, (corn, beans and rice) to be able to share liberally, also within your group, if you hand out a meal, someone within the group fasts for that meal for a net loss of nothing, as long as no one fasts excessively.  Maybe a combination of both, even so keep an ultra low profile, maybe leave a bag of groceries on the front steps at night.  If the food is distributed openly, the person receiving it can hoe in the garden or chop some firewood to help out.  Help as much as possible within your neighborhood and community.  Try to form supporting groups of people that have diverse skills and knowledge. 

Job Security

If your job goes under due to societal issues, you will need an alternate career until everything gets back to normal.  Gather tools and supplies to accommodate a backup career.  Try to focus on something that 1) you know how to do and  2) will be in demand.  Some job where the work came to you rather than you going to the work would be desirable.  Something like a produce stand would be ideal or battery charging station, just a thought.

Bugging Out

Bugging out, aka leaving your home base, without a clear destination that is able to absorb you and your family, is just another way of saying: refugee.  Refugees are helpless and totally dependent upon the vagrancies of whatever group takes control of them, be it a government or an armed band of thugs; or both as happened during Katrina.  Forget bugging out to the forest with a .30-30 and a backpack; it won’t work.

Have a secure bugout location in mind before you leave.  Bring what you can: weapons, ammunition, food, medicine, seeds, tools, blankets, camping gear, pots and pans, functional clothing and footwear, candles, lighters, whiskey, kerosene lamps, Clorox, soap, detergent, towels, gasoline and kerosene (keep your vehicle gassed up).

Be prepared to take back roads as the interstate system might be shut down.  Travel with a group if possible and keep a well-armed presence.  Have actual paper maps; don’t depend on the GPS system being up and running.  Beware of roadblocks.  


Level III Scenario

I guess I really don't know what to say about this type of scenario.  Lock and load.  Pretty much like a super level II scene.  Sort of like the movie "The Postman" without the happy parts.  Who knows?


Do not be dismayed by the prospect of societal collapse; take precautions but don't freak out; it won't do any good anyway.  If I were to guess about the potential for a societal collapse, I would say probably a mild level II scenario with more inconvenience than danger.  The foregoing text dealt with a more severe level II with the premise that is would be better to be over prepared than under, "better a year too early than a day too late", as the saying goes.  Which is good advice, don't wait until it is too late to start preparing, it may be too late by then to get many items.  Get the bulk foods first and secure drinking water now, then start in on the other items.  Gather together with family and friends to prepare; plan on congregating together if it gets hairy.

At times this paper takes on a Christian evangelical bent.  I don't apologize for that.  If you aren't right with God, you need to get right.  All you have to do is realize that you need God in your life and ask Jesus into your heart.  Matthew 7:7-8 says:

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives; he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."

Self-sufficiency will give you a peace of mind regardless of the actuality of an emergency taking place.  You don't buy car insurance planning on getting into a wreck, but you buy it anyway for the peace of mind and the protection afforded in you do have an accident.  Use the same approach for “collapse insurance”.  You can probably do everything mentioned in this paper for the amount of money you spend on insurance in one year, and to a large extent, these are one time expenditures not re-occurring expenses.  Better safe than sorry.  But, put your trust in God.

This reminds me of a joke: A guy dies and goes to heaven and Saint Peter says:  "We have a point system to get into heaven, it takes a hundred points to get in the door, tell me about your life."  "Well", the guy says "I was a preacher for seventy years and led many hundreds of people to know Christ the Savior."  Saint Peter says "OK, that'll be 3 points."  The preacher says "I started a soup kitchen in my town and fed many homeless people every day with my own money."  "4 points" says the Saint.  By this time the preacher is getting a little nervous.  "Okay...I operated an orphanage in my home and kept dozens of children there for the last 40 years."  "Ummm, 3 points" says Saint Peter.  "Now wait a minute", explodes the preacher, "at this rate, the only way I'll get into heaven is by the Grace of God !"  "100 points!" says Peter throwing open the Pearly gates.

2 Timothy 4:7

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

to be concluded later this week, with some appendices.

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!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

I'd like to discuss some planning concerns for when the world really starts to unravel that you might have overlooked:

Quite a few authors write about situations which probably only constitute a partial collapse of society as we know it. Such situations include those where there still exists some semblance of trade or even transportation of some goods. Perhaps some vestige of government is even functioning. What if a disaster happens and we are left with even less than that.

At the risk of being criticized for being too much of a pessimist, I would suggest that a thoughtful prepper should consider planning to survive a really serious collapse of society. (TEOTWAWKI.)

First of all, without the constant assistance of society and a modern economy, most of the people in the world would die; after making a desperate effort to hold onto life  . This is not news to many but some of the ramifications of this might be. The untreated human waste caused by the unprepared  is an obvious problem. Feces carries disease and the lowly fly is a prolific carrier of many these serious diseases. Flies also like carrion and an unburied carcass is a health hazard too .  I am not a biologist but a simple study of the reproduction rate of house flies and a prediction of the biomass available to post-SHTF flies shows a good possibility of clouds of voracious flies settling on any potential food source, at least until the supply of available food drops to support a sustainable number of these pests. Luckily, the fly’s range is limited.  Certain areas may have an increase in the mosquito population and those insects are a vector for other diseases.  I would suggest fly masks for animals, bug suits for all individuals in the group and insecticide as well as plenty of bug screen for your structures, should not be overlooked. I believe fly repellent collars can be purchased for dogs.  Populations of other animals could become a threat as well. There is the already written about concern with packs of feral dogs . Could there be a potential threat to your bee hive(s) ? If you are keeping or sheltering bees to help with your crop pollination and provide honey, they may need to be protected and even fed over a particularly lengthy cold period.  Perhaps you have food storage that could be protected from rodents by a cat. Local animal predators , emboldened perhaps by reduced hunting and more scarce prey , could become a more substantial threat to livestock.  I would suggest that traditional means for dealing with some of these threats should be considered.   Use your judgment and knowledge about your area to discern other potential biological threats to your retreat which may not be obvious to the casual thinker.

Likewise, one sometimes reads how prepper groups might post a member outside the retreat to discourage refugees or potential attackers by acting sick or insane on the approach to the retreat. Won’t this just advertise that a person with these disabilities can somehow survive in this area; this at a time when groups of healthy and sane people are desperately looting anyone and anything they can find just to survive ?  What if your human scarecrow  is captured ? I would submit that hostage taking is an ancient practice that still goes on in much of the world today and care should be taken to avoid , or at least reduce ,this serious threat. 

If you are presented with enemies in a collapse situation, they are likely to be more desperate than most of us can imagine but clever and creative. In a really serious collapse, they are also likely to be ruthless. Without going into extensive detail, a study of raiding in more primitive societies should go a long way to assessing and preparing for  the general threat to any given group at a particular location. The notion that , in a serious collapse situation, simply defeating a raiding party  will stop the threat, even from that group, may be naive. Unless the particular threat to your retreat is seriously degraded, you are likely to have continued conflict from local raiders. When they are repulsed by you, where will they go to regroup ? Proximity to other people in your area must be  factored into your defense plan.  You might consider some flexibility in your defense plan to include some of your neighbors , if that is what your immediate area warrants. With some help they could contribute to the security of your area. In any event, you must deny any  foe a convenient base of operation if not a ready supply of hostages , forced labor or supplies.   For that matter, if you have the means, you might even consider stockpiling a few supplies for some of your neighbors now, or set your food production up to yield a sizeable surplus for this purpose. Relief from fundamental want may  be appreciated by your neighbors and foster cooperation among like- minded people . Necessity will encourage cooperation but a prepared group can not count on having neighbors that are equally ready for a collapse of society. Of course, especially with local interaction ,care must be taken to maintain (and periodically change) your code system and keep the essential aspects of your retreat security confidential. You may even wish to include some deception in the circumstances surrounding your charity and local support so information gained from these interactions is not exploited against you or your group at a later time.   The level of local cooperation you should participate in is a matter that will demand shrewdness and a discerning mind.

The often lamented lack of personal responsibility that exists in our society has not generally helped us select the most talented or principled  leadership. After the crisis passes, it may not be a just and competent leadership that emerges.  Incompetent leadership is nothing new to the human species, but there will be little, if any room for error in these potentially dire circumstances. I would suggest that a simple rule should be followed.. Position yourself so that you are not forced to suffer the consequences of another person’s mistakes. Little reminder need be mentioned about protecting independence. Perhaps a combination of usefulness to the community and strong security may help to protect your individual independence and the independence of your group. Also, if you are a good leader you may be exposed to danger so you might want to consider leadership succession in case something unfortunate happens. Likewise, cross training your group in your available skill sets is wise.

Remember, in a serious collapse you may be faced with an enemy that is altogether willing to accept casualties and the value most of us  now place on human life may quickly evaporate. It bears mentioning that there are large numbers of veterans with combat experience and it is possible that at least a few of them will end up arrayed against you and your group. It is worth noting that a small number of preppers think that stealing private property in these circumstances is only justifiable foraging.  Plan and train accordingly. 

 Spiritual guidance will be particularly helpful in maintaining the right balance of  independence and cooperation. When the crisis subsides, the threats to personal independence and safety may change. Reconstituting society after a catastrophic event will likely contain its own problems and there is no reason to believe evil will not be present then. 

A few survival scenarios entail an extended winter. (Such as nuclear winter, supervolcano eruption, asteroid strike etc. ) These possibilities are particularly challenging . The four horsemen of the apocalypse, war, famine, disease, and pestilence are thought to come together ; one tending to bring the others. This has often been true historically and there is no reason to discount that possibility in a survival situation. A year without summer would cause severe world wide food shortages and a longer cold period would cause extensive famine and conflict in many places in the world. Laying in a supply of food for people and animals to last through such a time is a daunting task.

It is worthy of the effort of anyone who believes that such a calamity  is more than possible.  Along with those items, cold weather gear, snow shoes, skis and sleds, as well as an extended supply of fire wood would be advised.. Such a winter could be worse than anything seen by modern humans and cause a complete break down of human society. It could be so catastrophic that the risk of large scale raiding is reduced because such groups would not be able to keep fighters in the field in such harsh conditions . Some regions have hunters who are well versed in field craft. Snipers are dangerous; take steps to deal with that threat.  Beware of smaller groups that can operate in such adverse conditions and be able to match their ability to move and fight in a frigid environment.

In these conflict situations you have the advantage of being able to prepare your ground. Map out avenues of approach to your defended area and be careful not to ignore anything that could overlook your location or provide an attacker with cover. Deny any potential enemy the use of these tactical  areas , if at all possible.  The advantage of surprise has been sought by armies from the earliest recorded time. Surprising a would be attacker will damage enemy morale. Take steps to reduce a possible marauder numerical advantage. Exhausting and harassing enemy movement is useful if you have the means to accomplish this with some degree of safety. Do not ignore intelligence gathering measures. Take steps to identify friend from foe. Include steps to identify neighbor from foe. You may not be the only self reliant group trying to defend itself in your locality.  If possible, engage would be attackers away from your retreat. You may even need the capability of pursuing a defeated foe to discourage subsequent incursions by the same or a related enemy.  There is no substitute for knowing your area intimately.

Your enemy may need to forage for food and supplies and that is a weakness that can be exploited. You may be able to starve him out of your area or he may have to divide his forces to canvass your area thoroughly and thereby give you the opportunity to defeat parts of his divided force. Traditionally raiders were slowed  when they  weighed themselves down with booty. This presents opportunity for ambush.  Defeat can be a learning  experience so be careful not to try the same tactic twice on a surviving enemy force.  

The best plan would include provision for later in the aftermath of disaster. After the thaw, watch out for the flies.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Disclaimer: Please use common sense in applying anything you read here!

In the (European) country where I live in we have a lot of cooking shows on television, and I never cease to be both shocked and amazed at seeing (some – thank God not all) professional chefs taste their exquisite creation with a spoon  and then put that spoon straight back into the pot. So, if anyone feels offended by my stating the obvious below, please don´t take it personally. For preppers/ survivalists/ people who want to be self sufficient there are of course a host of reasons to take more care of health and hygiene than a well-paid television chef, since hospitalizing all your family for food poisoning is hardly an option, especially in case the Schumer has already has ”Hit The Fan.” This article also was inspired by a debate in a prepper /survivalist forum on the dangers of reheating food.

First of all: obsessing with hygiene can be taken too far – as exemplified by the fact that “normal” exposure to dirt and germs stimulates the immune system, and that incessant hand washing can be a sign of severe psychological trauma. So that being said, we are talking “hygiene to keep you and your family healthy, not paranoid about cleanliness” here.
Some general food safety tips:

  • Put food that needs cool storage back immediately, and cool leftovers down as fast as possible! Milk warms up one degree Celsius/ two degrees Fahrenheit per minute at room temperature. Fast cooling minimizes germ growth.
  • Heat food fast! Germs and yeasts multiply at an alarming rate if you let a pot heat up on low setting (or if you allow it to cool down slowly).  Exceptions are if you work sterile, i.e. canning or decoctions.
  • Never reheat mushroom dishes, if possible also avoid reheating fish.
  • Ditto for spinach and rhubarb dishes, the oxalic acid somehow doesn´t like reheating.
  • Never feed spinach or rhubarb to babies and animals because of the oxalic acid.
  • A pinch of sugar (or maybe a tiny speck of stevia) in salty food (i.e. sauces) and a pinch of salt in sweet dishes (or bread) makes food taste better, BUT: keep salt levels very low for baby food.
  • Moderation is important, it is possible to die from carrot (or rather carrot juice) poisoning, but too little vitamin A and your eyesight (especially night vision) suffers.  For the same reason also never eat (or feed your dogs) Polar Bear liver if you get the chance, the effects I don´t even want to write about.
  • Nowadays, if you eat meat, at least stay away from liver in general since poisons land there. (And foie gras is most often a product of animal cruelty, so stay away from that too).
  • Meats and fish often carry parasites and diseases (not to mention if raw or undercooked) and can be difficult to store, whereas nuts and seeds on their own, and pulses (beans, peas, lentils) in combination with grains have roughly the same percentage of protein as meat;  so also for food safety reasons consider going vegetarian or  vegan.                                                     
  • Humans and guinea pigs are the only mammals that do not produce vitamin C on their own, so feed yourself and your guinea pigs a steady (daily) supply of pine needles, rose hips, sweet peppers, bell peppers or citrus juices. (The last: pure for you, mixed in water for your guinea pigs).

(As a vegetarian I of course do not recommend eating your guinea pigs, but they are very useful as well as friendly animals: Their social squeaking is said to keep rats away, they will mow and fertilize your lawn, and the long haired ones have useful fur that is similar to angora rabbits, although longer and thicker:)

If you reheat leftovers, use a clean pot (i.e. not the one you stored the food in overnight), cut everything into small pieces – minimum thumb thick if possible, and use a wooden ladle to move things around to get all parts of the food up to temperature FAST.

[Some deleted, for brevity.]

Aluminum pots are an absolute NO-NO –especially for acid foods. If you only have aluminum pots, please exchange these as soon as possible, same with Teflon coated frying pans.                

 The old Romans apparently went crazy from lead poisoning via their water pipes and face make up; the Mad Hatter was mad like many members of his trade in Alice´s time because of the mercury used to cure the felt for top hats. [Except in remote regions], today´s water supply contains antibiotics and hormones (i.e. from industrial meat and milk production),  so at least avoiding adding to this load seems like a very good idea.

At our home we use stainless steel pots but we use just wooden spoons in them, to avoid scratching metal particles into our food. Ceramic glass pots are very good for metal free cooking, but on the other hand, if you break one of these you have zillions of very dangerous and needle sharp glass shards to handle plus wasted food plus tons of work with wads of wet paper plus vacuum cleaning until every single glass needle is taken care of. After one such accident we now move our one remaining ceramic glass pot with ultra extreme care and put it on a thick piece of wood or fabric when hot to avoid temperature shock breakage. Another drawback of the ceramic glass pots is that germs seem to reproduce at an alarming rate in there when cooling, rendering these pots useless for storing food in. Probably old fashioned cast iron or even earthenware pots are best for everything, if you can get them. But: avoid red, orange or yellow glazes in pots (nineteen-seventies craze) since these colors contain cadmium, another metal you want to keep out of your body. Pure cast iron pots should be okay even if rusting, (especially for vegetarians since they do not get iron from blood and meat) but if you own enameled iron pots, please stop using them for food if the enamel is cracked, certainly if chips are breaking off, since eating these enamel pieces  more or less equals eating glass.

One metal that seems to be helpful against germs and for immunity is silver, here is a link that was previously presented in SurvivalBlog. This public health link indicates that you have to work very hard at it to get any kind of negative reaction to silver at all, but again, moderation is the key - just do a picture search on "blue skin colloidal silver" (if you ingest too much colloidal silver your skin really turns gray-blue, permanently), but this seems to be purely a cosmetic problem connected to intentionally ingesting large amounts, not by using silver for eating or storing food.

Both tradition and research indicate that eating off of silver is a good idea for general health and immunity, so get your inherited silver flatware out of the box and use it for every day. If you search flea markets/ Craigslist etc., look for “Sterling Silver” or a small 925 stamp somewhere on the handle, preferably not “Silver Plated” (depending on the thickness the silver layer wears off one day), and definitely not “Nickel Silver” or “German Silver” which actually mean “no silver”. Knife blades might be stainless steel, even in “real silver” flatware, but at least the spoons and forks are pure silver all through.

Another food safety issue is Bisphenol A (BPA) contained in the inner white coating in food cans and in soft plastic water bottles,  so try to buy canned food in glass instead of metal, and/or do us much of your canning at home as possible. Store filtered water in clear glass bottles, so you can use the solar disinfecting method (lying flat at least 6 hours in full sunlight).
To avoid dust, that actually can contain a surprising amount of germs, parasite eggs and other nasties like molds settling on your plates and in your cups, I would suggest keeping glasses etc.,(and even books),  behind cupboard doors or at least curtains, and mop you floors daily.

To round out this article, I should mention that I did a web search on “clean enough to be healthy, dirty enough to be happy” I found this page with some interesting recipes and further tips for home cleaning.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Here are some insights that I gained from a recent week-long medical mission trip to Nicaragua. We treated hundreds of men, women, and children living in remote villages for general medical complaints.  I envision these conditions as being similar to what many of us would see in TEOTWAWKI.

Living conditions:
Mostly, the men in these villages are subsistence farmers, picking coffee beans, or something similar.  The women stay at home and take care of the children, grandparents, and animals – chickens and pigs.  Their average income is very low, in the 10’s of dollars per month.

Their houses are really shacks made with available materials.  They were about as big as a two-car garage, some quite a bit smaller.  Many are composed of corrugated steel sheets, plastic sheeting, and some planks.  Some have adobe walls, but few are all adobe.  With many people in a small space, they are very crowded.  One family I interviewed had 11 people in the home, probably in 3 rooms.
Their cooking is done entirely over a wood stove, many indoors without chimneys.  Smoke inhalation is a constant for everyone in the house. 
Their diet consists mostly of rice and beans to eat with coffee, soda and juice to drink.  There is literally no money left after they buy wood for cooking and their food.  There was even a sad story of how a pot of beans on the stove must be guarded against theft.

Primary medical complaints:
1)       Headaches, Dizziness – from dehydration.  They know the water has parasites, so they mostly drink coffee and sodas or juices which all dehydrate at some level.
2)       Burning eyes, sore throat, coughing – from smoke inhalation all day long
3)       Muscle aches – from lots of hard manual labor, walking everywhere, carrying children all day, plus dehydration
4)       Gastritis, Heartburn, Abdominal Pain – from intestinal parasites gotten from drinking surface water and eating beans daily, and lots of coffee.
5)       Tooth Decay, Abscesses, Rotten Teeth – from not brushing/flossing and drinking mostly sodas and coffee every day.
6)       Infections requiring antibiotics – of almost every conceivable type.

NOTE:  I’m a licensed EMT.  The below lessons are intended as educational material and do not constitute medical advice inasmuch as they may be outside of the scope of my practice or coming from instructors, experience, or reading.  The lessons are, however, within the scope of my many years of life, caring for myself and my family members.  And, in case you’re wondering, I was working under the direction of a Physician's Assistant and an Nurse Practitioner.  I also mention several brand-name OTC products below.  I only use them because most people will recognize them a lot better than the chemical name of the medicine.  Please use your own good judgment on what is best for you and yours.

Lessons taken for TEOTWAWKI scenarios
1)        Have a way to obtain pure water without fire.  Bleach or Pool Shock (calcium hypochlorite)  work well and go a very long way.  At 1 tsp to treat 10 gallons of water, a gallon of bleach can treat up to 7,680 gallons, or enough water for a family of 4 for over 5 years, at a gallon per person per day.  (This is from a government web site.  Please do your own research.) 
If I could have handed out a quart of bleach to each family, it would change their lives.  Unfortunately, they cannot afford it on their low incomes.  And they can’t afford the wood to both cook food and boil water.

2)       Drink lots of clean water.  Most of us aren’t used to heavy physical labor all day, every day.  Drink as much as you want.  While working, you may sweat more, but you’ll stay cooler. 
Most of the folks I saw were dehydrated.  In one case, I had a sickly-looking pregnant woman drink as much clean water as she wanted.  About 20 minutes later, she looked way, way better, and said she felt better too.  Wish I could have given her a 55 gallon drum to take home.

3)       Avoid smoke inhalation.  This is so obvious as to sound stupid, but the Nicaraguans didn’t even think about the problems they cause themselves.  To avoid smoke, cook with fire outside, on a wood or gas stove with chimney inside, or without fire.  Gas, of course, doesn’t create smoke when burned, so has better OPSEC, but residual carbon monoxide is even more dangerous than outright smoke.  Solar ovens and solar-powered electric stoves/ovens are good choices as well.
The only remedy I could give those folks was to recommend they get themselves and their children outside and away from the smoke as much as possible, and to open their windows and doors – if their homes even have them.

4)       Muscle aches are a given when doing the daily activities that will be required in TEOTWAWKI.  Chopping, lifting, carrying, picking, bending over and so on take a toll on muscles.  A couple more pain reducing strategies include taking stretch breaks and learning to use the other side of your body.  Switch the tools to your other, non-dominate hand.  It’s uncomfortable learning a different way to do things, but you’ll be able to work longer and more comfortably.  Start practicing now when you don’t need it to get comfortable with it when you really need it. 
I recommended this to my patients.  I can only hope they will follow through with switching hands/arms/sides every so often.  I also wish I had been able to give out tubes of Ben Gay to everyone I saw.  It’s not a cure, but it sure feels good when you’re sore.  Advil/Ibuprofen will work, but it has some fairly serious intestinal side effects – mostly upset stomach and constipation – not good for those folks.  Aspirin and Tylenol (acetaminophen) will also work, but equally isn’t great for long-term use.

5)       Get a few pairs of really comfortable, sturdy work and walking shoes.  Break them in now so you won’t suffer when you need them. 
The only people I saw with good boots were the men who worked in the fields.  Many of the women wore flipflops – because that’s the only pair of shoes they owned.  And they walked on rocky roads and paths all the time!  Not good for many reasons.

6)       Have a lot of intestinal meds available.  The list of intestinal problems is long:  Diarrhea, constipation, gas, heartburn, vomiting, etc.  The effects are pretty simple:  pain, discomfort, and disability.  And it’s difficult to work when your belly hurts.  Example meds to have on hand:  heartburn – Tums or Rolaids; diarrhea – Imodium; constipation – stool softener and enema bag; vomiting – Pepto-Bismol; gas – BeanO or Tums.  I recommend having a few treatments of each type for each person in your party.

I gave these meds out to dozens of my patients for temporary relief, along with antiparasitics as a long-term solution.  You shouldn’t need antiparasitics if you are careful about purified water.  If not, you’ll need them, plus a bunch of other meds for the diseases that also come with contaminated water:  typhoid and dysentery among others.

7)       Brush and floss your teeth every day.  Brush your tongue.  Use an antiseptic mouthwash (Listerine).  Have a dental hygienist in your group.  Do everything you can to keep your teeth, tongue and mouth clean.  This is such a simple thing, but without dental care easily available, it can get out of hand quickly and the solutions aren’t good.
Many of the people we treated needed more than a few teeth to be pulled.  Some patients as young as 12 years old.  In some cases, our dentist didn’t even pull all of the teeth he could have because of the risks to the patient with no longer-term or follow-up care. 

8)       If you’re going to get antibiotics at the pet store, get a bunch of education too.  Our pharmacy was extremely well-stocked.  We had about every antibiotic you could name:  Amoxicillin, Doxycycline, Erythromycin, Penicillin, and so on.  This was a new area to me, except from personal experience.  It's a very complex topic incorporating microbiology, pharmacology, and lots of other “ologies”.  The big thing I learned is that antibiotics are specialized also.  One antibiotic will work for one thing but not touch another.  Going to the pet store and stocking up on FishMox in the belief that it’s a cure all is false hope and could cause someone to die.

Learn as much as you can about what you’re buying/getting.  If you go down this path, you’re in deep water.  The fancy medical words are indications, contraindications, effects, side effects, route, dosage and so on.  The English words are what you take it for, when you don’t take it, what it does that you want, what it does that you might not want, how you take it, how much and so on. 
My own story is that one stepson had an infection that required three different antibiotics prescriptions before he was cured.  The first antibiotic didn’t do anything.  He got hives from the second one.  The third one finally worked.

One comment:  Antibiotics are only useful for bacterial infections like pneumonia. They do nothing for viral infections like the common cold or flu.  Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to tell the difference between the two, even for doctors.  The only reason a doctor should give out antibiotics for a cold is if there is a real risk of pneumonia.  The current superbug scare we have is due at least in part to overprescription of antibiotics.  The germs that are left are resistant, as well as having mutated, rendering the current antibiotics harmless to them.

9)       Bactine and PhisoHex are a fantastic combination for superficial wounds.  While in country, a couple of teammates came to me for small wound treatment.  I had an AHA moment with Bactine.  It’s terrific in two ways:  topical pain reliever and antiseptic.  Topical (on the skin) pain relief is rare in the OTC med world, but super useful because I wanted to scrub the wounds to get rid of any dirt.  The antiseptic property is also nice to have.  Phisohex is another wonderful thing because it’s an antiseptic soap that doesn’t sting when you wash/scrub with it.  NOTE:  this is not a pain-free solution.  It hurts less.
I simply applied Bactine, waited for a while, then scrubbed with Phisohex and a few sterile gauze pads.  Then I reapplied Bactine for more pain relief.  In two cases (a big toe and forearm) I applied a Band-Aid for protection.  The other, I didn’t (head wound).

10)    Hand Sanitizer is wonderful  in a pinch, but doesn’t replace washing.  Being raised before the current germ phobia developed, I’ve never been big on hand sanitizer.  Of course, I used it in the Ambulance and Emergency department.  But I used it regularly while I was working in Nicaragua, treating dozens of people each day.  I have no idea what they might have been carrying, but I’m sure I’m not immune to it.  It’s a quick and easy dose of insurance when you’re in a hurry.  Washing with soap and water is even better. That said, I want to point out that keeping a house spotlessly sanitized and trying to keep the family in an antiseptic bubble is not good for  long-term health.  Reason being:  Our bodies develop immunity to germs through exposure to those very germs!  If you want to have the most robust immune system, go get dirty with a bunch of people!  Yes, you might get sick, but you’ll be immune when you recover, at least for a time.  This is exactly how vaccines work – exposing you to the specific germs you want immunity to.

Final note for SurvivalBlog readers:  all medical training is valuable, although difficult and time-consuming.  I started down the EMT/Paramedic path when I started seriously prepping last year.  The more I learn the more interesting and useful it is.  As one EMT I talked to said, “You never know when you’ll need it.”

JWR Adds: The SODIS method for water sterilization is ideal for impoverished regions, since the plastic bottles can be obtained free at almost any dump. If you are careful handling them, the bottles can be useful for several years.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

On the morning of August 29th, 2005 we came face to face with TEOTWAWKI in the form of Hurricane Katrina.  An estimated 92% of our community in Pascagoula, Mississippi was inundated with a storm surge of 20-30 feet and 30-55 feet sea waves.  The surge waters traveled well inland, between 6-12 miles and combined with freshwater flooding from our numerous creeks, rivers, and the runoff from the Mobile, Alabama reservoir that opened its flood gates to relieve stress on the dam.  This basically cut Jackson County in half.  Fortunately the worst of the storm hit in the morning just as it was becoming daylight or our losses of 12 souls would have been much higher had it made landfall in the dark of night.  Even though, it took almost two weeks before they found and were able to claim one of the fallen, a young child, because she was under an enormous  20-30 foot high by at least 100 feet in diameter debris pile a block up from the beach.  The devastation completely destroyed all of our basic services: electricity, communications, water, natural gas, and sewage and covered most of the town with debris piled 8 feet or higher.  The storm’s impact was such that the entire state was declared a disaster zone and it knocked out the power to over 98% of the state and damaged 100% of the states power plants.

When we were finally able to walk around and assess the situation after most of the waters receded, we counted ourselves as lucky because most of the houses in the neighborhood where we rode out the storm appeared structurally sound and there weren’t that many trees down.  Even though everyone knew things were going to be tough for a while, we didn’t count on it taking at least two weeks to restore water, another 1-2 weeks after that to restore some semblance of power and telephone services to our temporary abode.  This appeared to be the norm for most parts of town that sustained “minimal” damage.  As it was, it took over three months before it was restored in our neighborhood, not that it mattered as it was uninhabitable and eventually had to be bulldozed down but that as they say is a tale for another day.

Like most storm veterans living on the Gulf Coast, we had planned and prepared but Mother Nature has an inane way of pointing out the futility of all of mankind’s best laid plans.  Yes, we might have possibly been able to evacuate but deemed it in our best interest to hunker down with some friends and ride it out.  After all, we were staying in a well built home on some of the highest ground in town and at least a mile from the beach.  Besides, reports from other family and friends were that the roads were so congested (1-2 million evacuees from 4 states will do that don’t you know) that it was taking over 12 hours just to get as far north as Hattiesburg, a mere 95 miles north and that there wasn’t any hotel rooms available all the way up to Tennessee and even if you could find one, what would we do with our combined 10 pets?  Besides, how safe would it have been to ride out the storm on some desolate stretch of highway in a vehicle, especially with all of the tornados that Katrina spun off, 51 in total in at least 5 states with 11 of those in Mississippi alone?

So, the hatches were battened down and our storm plan was initiated.  First, was securing and inventorying our combined vital medicines, foodstuffs, pet food, drinking water, batteries, candles, grill and camp stove fuels, cleaning supplies, bleach, anti-bacterial gel, clothing, important papers and computer hard drives, tools, firearms, and cash.  Previously, all of the vehicles were gassed up along with all of the gas cans and the generator was prepped and stored high.  The ice chests, freezers and fridge were stuffed with ice and the most perishable foodstuffs were ready for immediate consumption in the event of a prolonged power outage.  The television and storm radio were tuned to the appropriate channels and the bathtubs were filled to capacity to provide general use water for cleaning and flushing.  The attic access was opened and some basic essentials like: food, water, axe, rope, flashlights, etc.  Just in case.  The outdoor surroundings were checked and a few boats in the neighborhood were identified that could potentially be used in a pinch.  All told, we had enough foodstuffs to last 6 adults and 10 animals for 2-3 weeks and at least a weeks worth of fresh drinking and cooking water as long as we were frugal.  Ah, hindsight is truly bliss now isn’t it.

During the height of the storm, when it became apparent that we would be receiving flood water into the house, everyone rushed throughout the house to empty out the lower cabinets and drawers and closet floors, placing everything as high as possible and even opening up the attic and placing more essential supplies and tools up there in case we had to seek higher ground.  Once, the homeowner and I braved the elements to go outside and unlash the next door neighbor’s small boat (they smartly evacuated early on) from its trailer and re-tied it off to keep it from sinking or floating away.  While doing this, we were obliged to add another soul to our motley crew by rescuing a man from drowning out in the street.  He was delirious and starting to suffer from hypothermia so we wrapped him up into a wool blanket and laid him up on a long dresser in the foyer.  Later, it was learned that he woke up when his head bumped against the ceiling of his bedroom and that he had to dive down and swim out of his bedroom window to safety!  He had the clothes on his back, no socks or shoes and a small empty suitcase.

We tried unsuccessfully to get a passing fire truck loaded down with EMT and rescuers to take him, in case he needed additional medical care but they said we appeared to have things under control.  Besides they were headed south into the teeth of the storm to rescue people clinging to roofs along with an apparent heart attack victim.  Later, two guys in a “commandeered” boat came by headed south but, on their return, the boat was overloaded with people they had rescued.  All total, they passed by 6 or 7 times, and each time the boat was filled to the gills with rescued souls.  Later, we learned that they had rescued over 100 people before the receding waters necessitated docking the boat in their front yard.  I’m pretty sure that that tidbit of knowledge didn’t make the media airwaves.  Of the untold hundreds of similar acts of heroism conducted during and immediately after this catastrophic event by our local emergency personnel and citizenry, I felt compelled to add it because in the end, we all need to have a little hope and faith in our fellow man.

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, it became quite apparent that we needed to re-assess our predicament and adjust accordingly.  My wife and I knew that our house that sat at a much lower elevation closer to the beach would be untenable so we gladly took our friends offer to stay with them until we could assess it later.  They were extremely fortunate in that their home, where we rode the storm out, only had 2-3 feet of water go through it and that the structure was virtually unscathed from the ravages of felled trees and flying debris which meant that at least temporarily we would have a roof over our heads and a somewhat habitable place to stay providing everyone pitched in and acted quickly to mitigate the flood damage.  This consisted of removing all floor coverings down to the slab, all of the upholstered furniture, wall sheetrock from the floor to six inches above the visible flood line, and anything else that cannot be scrubbed and taking it to the side of the road.  Next was scrapping up as much of the storm water sludge off of the floors and all heavily coated horizontal and vertical surfaces possible and depositing it at the roadside too.  Some of our precious potable water stored in large 5 gallon containers with copious amounts of bleach and general purpose disinfectant soap was used to wipe down and clean one of the bathrooms, the kitchen and dining room, and a couple of bedrooms.  It took a full 2-3 days of steady cleaning by all hands to get the house sanitized for habitability.  The surge destroyed our large reserves of fresh water in the bathtubs due to the force of the flood waters backing up through the sewage system drains.

It is vital that you sanitize every surface that could have even remotely come in contact with the flood waters because they not only contain sea water and sewage, they are also full of chemicals from industrial waste and numerous other biological and toxic substances.  In our case, there was the addition of some of the foulest smelling primordial ooze from the nearby savannahs not to mention an old medical dumpsite from a former leper colony on one of the barrier islands and numerous chemical and gas refineries.  This mire coated everything in town with inches of nasty, foul smelling and toxic ooze turning the whole city into a gigantic Petri dish rife with disease and bacteria.  It was three days before I could make the first journey out of the neighborhood to inspect our property and in those 3 days, our house was filled with every color and shape of mold that you can imagine.  It literally covered the inside of the entire house from floor to ceiling so, I cannot stress enough that the first priority in such an event is to sanitize everything.

This is also a good time to remove any large appliance that was submerged along with any other furniture and belongings that will not be repaired or restored.  Just make sure to take photos and inventory all items being tossed to the road for insurance purposes and be prepared to fight the appraisers in the event the city is able to quickly remove those items.  One of our biggest fears after the storm was that of fire because the entire city looked like one giant maze with debris piles 10-20 feet high lining every street for months after the storm.  It seems as though we went at least two months before it rained again which meant we constantly had to battle the potentially deadly dust and the oppressive sweltering heat, this is South Mississippi after all!

Fortunately, we were able to salvage the mattresses on the beds because they floated on top of the box springs, all of which was set out to thoroughly dry in the sunlight the day after the storm after being wiped down with bleach water.  Everything gets washed or wiped down with bleach water and sun dried so eventually, all of your clothes become severely faded and thread bare after time.

Temporary power and transportation was next on the agenda and even though the generator was submerged after tipping over off of the raised supports that we set it on, we were able to salvage it and get a couple of box fans and table lamps going as well as powering a couple of fans and lights for one of the next door neighbors.  If we ever have to do this again, I think suspending it from rafter eyebolts on rope or cables may be in order.  In the beginning, we only ran the generator at night because of the fuel shortage.  Because fuel was basically non-existent for the first month or so, we augmented our diminishing supply by removing the gas tanks off of the three new vehicles that “died” during the storm and filtering out the water from the gas by emptying them into a large 55 gallon drum and letting the water settle to the bottom before dipping out the gas to fill our jugs.  Make sure to place this drum outside away from the living and cooking areas but still close enough to guard against looters.  We were fortunate that my venerable 1984 Ford Bronco and 1989 Ford F-150 started right up and didn’t have any water in the oil or gas tanks.  The trannys had water in them but as our friend worked for the local Ford dealership and their main repair shop was spared from the flooding and had adequate generator backup, he was able to replace the fluids within a few days so we had transportation until we were able to replace them about six months later.  We were lucky during that time because unlike so many others, neither of these vehicles burst into flames from corroded or shorted wiring.  This was probably due to the fact that they were raised higher than normal and their cabins weren’t submerged in the flood waters.  It wasn’t until months later that I discovered that the flood water had gotten into the rear ends through a rubber vent hole, needless to say, I wound up replacing the rear end on the pickup to extends it life until we could replace it so, make sure to drain, flush, and replace with new, the fluids in the rear ends and 4x4 lockers.

An important note here about transportation is to make sure you have plenty of tire repair supplies as we must have repaired at least 20 flats that first month alone and even had to acquire another tire after we found the cast aluminum head of an old fashioned meat tenderizer imbedded in the side wall after one of our forays across town seeking supplies.

Another note on “salvaging” your vehicles is the electrical system.  A lot of folks spent enormous effort and time in drying out their cars and trucks and getting them to run to no avail as many of these same vehicles later caught fire as the electrical systems shorted out.  So, if you have to resort to this please add a fire extinguisher or two to your survival kits for such emergencies.  I had to stop two cars coming down the road within the first few months because they were on fire underneath the vehicle and the occupants didn’t know it!

The mechanic had to go back to work within a few days because his services were in high demand at the dealership as it became the main repair facility for all of the emergency vehicles.  He was their only front end specialist and in high demand because the poor road conditions were reeking havoc on those vehicles.  At any given time, there were 20 -30 vehicles with license plates from all over the country there seeking maintenance or repair of some sort for months on end.  That basically left it up to me make the twice daily trips to the county fair grounds for food, water, and ice to distribute to the folks of our old neighborhood as well as our “new” neighborhood.  I cannot stress enough the fact that you never turn anything down because whether or not you need it, someone else in the neighborhood will!  Additionally, knowing the locations of facilities rendering assistance by way of beds and hopefully hot food is vital as this will aid you immensely when you come across people wondering around aimlessly due to the trauma they experienced.  One notable experience I had was with a family of four, including two small elementary age children.  I had observed them walking around for a day or two before it dawned on me that they were still carrying the same bundles of stuff.  After stopping them, their story was one of complete despair as they had been walking the streets for the better part of a week because they didn’t have anywhere to go.  A passing National Guard truck loaded with MREs gave me the location of one such center so, I loaded them all up and of to that wonderful church made famous by Ray Steven’s squirrel song we went!  A few days later while dropping off a few more unfortunates,  I was told that one of the many charity groups was helping to relocate the family.

In the beginning, water and ice are vital to your survival and as such, must be stretched to its fullest potential.  Our wives came up with a great simple process for extending the usefulness of ice.  They set up a simple linear process using the four 100 quart Igloo ice chests that we had as the basic line with two smaller Igloo ice chest to hold any excess ice we happened to acquire.  The first chest was raised up on a sturdy chair and contained all of our foodstuffs and medicine that needed to be cooled, packed in loose ice (some ice is also placed into sealed containers to thaw as a means to augment drinking and cooking water).  To the right, sitting on the ground so that the drain plug of the first chest could drain directly into it with little effort was the second chest.  This chest served as our bathing and dish washing water.  It was sanitized with bleach because an inadvertent germ or two could be in the drained water from our hands accessing the items in the first chest.  You bathed by dipping wash clothes into the bleach water and wiping yourself clean.  Bathing was augmented by squirting GermEx with Aloe Vera directly onto a damp wash cloth and wiping oneself off.  While crude, it kept you clean, provided a refreshing tingle from the alcohol in the GermEx and aided in disinfecting any minor sores or scratches you have.  After the dishes were washed, the water from the 2nd chest was transferred to the third chest sitting to its right and then the 2nd chest was sanitized with clean bleach water making it ready for the next use.  The 3rd chest was used to our wash clothes and the 4th chest sitting to its right was used to rinse the clothes prior to hanging out on makeshift clothes lines.  The water in the 4th chest was clear water that came from sundry sources, e.g. excess ice runoff from the extra storage chests, suspect bottled water that was overheated in the sun, and later on pond water from the local park once we were informed it was safe for non-food use.  Because it was suspect, it was always adequately bleached.  After the clothes were washed, the water from the 3rd chest was used for mopping the floors and wiping off non-food areas.  The water from the 4th chest was used to rinse off everything that was washed with water from the 4th chest.  All excess water from the chests was either used to refill the bathtubs for toilet flushing water or kept in buckets in case of fire and later sprinkled throughout the yard and driveway to cut down on the dust.

Our close encounter with the Post-Apocalyptic TEOTWAWKI event named Hurricane Katrina has not only left an indelible mark upon us but has made us stronger because we survived it and has taught us a few things about ourselves and mankind in general that everyone can learn from.  Here are the 10 biggest that readily come to mind:

First and foremost, in the event you are forewarned with an approaching disaster like Hurricane Katrina, do not hesitate. Evacuate.

Second, no amount of planning can cover every contingency so be prepared to improvise.

Third, 3-7 days of supplies are completely inadequate because it can take up to 2-3 weeks before regular and consistent support from outside sources becomes available.

Fourth, everyone impacted that survives is just that, a survivor so you had better be ready to get over stupid prejudices because you either survive together or perish individually.

Fifth, you are going to have to work hard so, accept your fate and “hitch up your drawers” and get at it.  The first responders are going to need your assistance so that they can provide the aid you need.  Everything that you can do initially be that clearing roadways, sharing resources, making signs to identify streets or people in dire need, assisting neighbors, scrounging, and safeguarding will only improve your lot in the aftermath.

Sixth, maintain your vital inoculations for Tetanus, hepatitis, etc.  Get your booster shots.  Thankfully for us, the nurse in our family went over and above to seek us out and administer all of those vital inoculations.

Seventh, get your pets looked at ASAP if they are subjected to flood waters, we almost lost two of ours.  Fortunately, a dear friend that worked as a Vet tech was able to bring and administer the needed antibiotics to save their lives.

Eighth, more people die or are seriously injured after the storm than during it due to accidents while cleaning up, stress, heat exposure, microscopic critters in the surge water, disease, improperly stored or cooked food, poisonous insects and snakes, exposure to the elements, etc.  If you do not have any experience with the art of using a chainsaw to fell trees or cut them off of your house then please, seek the assistance of someone who has this knowledge!  Observe each other and don’t hesitate to seek medical assistance for even the most basic of wounds, especially if you haven’t kept up on your inoculations.

Ninth, an openly well armed citizenry tends to keep the wolves and looters at bay as they are mainly cowards seeking to prey on easy targets.  Down here after a storm, everyone just assumes that everyone is “packing” so, everyone just generally seems to be much more calm and cooperative.

Tenth, thank all those “outsiders” that show up to assist with the cleanup and rebuilding because 99% of them are there to genuinely help.  Especially show your appreciation to all of those folks manning the stationary kitchens and food trucks.  Some of the best hot meals I ever had came from the church group around the corner running a kitchen and the Red Cross and Salvation Army food trucks.

Lastly, keep the faith as it will see you through to the bitter end.  Even though it’s been almost 8 years now since that fateful day, we are still recovering from Katrina, at least economically but hey, material objects are just that, stuff, easily replaced when you get the resources should you desire to do so.  Remember, not everyone will be made financially whole after such an event but hopefully you’ll still have your health not to mention the most important asset of all, your truly good friends and family.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

With food prices soaring with no end in sight, it is extremely important to use our food purchases and harvests wisely. How we manage our kitchens and decrease food loss will become even more critical in the face of increased economic pressure that seems to be increasing at breakneck speed.  The people of this country have been blessed with such food abundance in the past that many people automatically assume the supply of food will continue to be endless in the future.  The average person has no idea where their food comes from nor how it is constructed, processed, and shipped. One of the most appalling realizations of this country’s food ignorance came while I was listening to a radio talk show host engaging a west coast “animal rights” advocate.  She was castigating all of us “animal killers” for the practice of slaughtering animals for food.  The radio host asked her if she was a vegetarian.  To my shock, she answered “No, I eat meat”.  There was a long moment of silence.  The host then asked her where she purchased the meat she consumed.  She then said glibly, “well from the store where they make it” of course!  I felt as if I had been hit with a hammer. 

This moment, and several other encounters with people who have had no idea about food production caused me to examine my own food beliefs.  I came to the conclusion that most of us take our food production way too causally. It is so easy to be wasteful and careless about our food if we don’t see the effort of others who provide nourishment to all of us.

I have always had a love of gardening, but when we moved to the Rocky Mountains I was easily frustrated with how hard it was to produce food compared to the fertile plots we had left in Ohio.  After several seasons of fighting poor soil, rocks and critters I gave up.  Then, several years ago, the Lord began prompting me to return to my gardening, food preservation, and the teaching what I call the “lost kitchen arts” concerning food management and conservation.
The first steps were to understand how to reduce waste. What has developed over time is the process of managing a “zero” waste kitchen. What do I mean by the term “zero waste”? It is a process of looking at the food you purchase, produce, and consume and find ways of managing it with producing as little waste as possible. I have been shocked at the amount of food I used to waste and why I wasted so much.
Where does your food come from?  Do you know how it is produced and who produces the products?  What are the ingredients in your food?  Do you know what the unpronounceable chemical names listed do to and for your food?  Do you know if your food is genetically modified in some manner? Do you know if your food has been safely handled in its production to keep you safe from contracting food borne illness? If these are questions you can not answer, then you need to begin educating yourself to become better informed so you can make good food choices in the future for you and your family.

Once armed with a little knowledge you can begin to control what food comes into your home and how to care for it properly.  Many of us in the “prepper” community have found that gardening is a central element to our security.  The process of learning to produce some of our own food helps us control the cost of our food and also gives us the ability to know our food has been safely handled and isn’t full of pesticides and chemicals our bodies don’t need. There are countless articles, videos, and books about food production.  Begin to practice food production even if it’s just a few pots of herbs on a windowsill.
Next we look at how we care for the food that comes into our possession.  Buy or harvest what you need, understand how to store it properly for maximum longevity in your cupboards, refrigerator, or freezer.  Many times folks take their fresh produce and shove it in the refrigerator.  By the end of the week, a good percentage of it is brown, slimy, and forgotten in the back of the fridge.  It’s then dumped into the trash, plastic bag and all.  God forbid we touch the icky mess! Wash your vegetables carefully and let most of the water drain. Then carefully pat most of the moisture off.  Things like leaf lettuce, kale, celery, head lettuce will last longer if you package them separately and store them in the crisper drawer. If you use the “ziploc” type bags, place your produce in the bags and squeeze out as much air as possible.  Oxidation is a threat to all foods and spoilage occurs rapidly.
Many times we trim the outer leaves of our vegetables or throw away the stems and peeling.  I will save these bits and pieces over a day or two being sure to keep them well refrigerated.  I then toss the lot into a pot of water and simmer till I have a vegetable stock that I strain and use for soups, stews, or add to my home canned tomato juice to make my own “V8” type of drink.  The left over well cooked material is saved in my counter top covered container to add to my compost pile. When I have a lot vegetable debris from a days worth of canning, I will take the scraps and put them in the blender with enough water to liquefy them.  I take this liquid and pour it directly into my raised beds.  The liquid drains into the soil and in a day or two the green mat than forms on the top of the dirt is dried.  I just crumble this residue into the soil.  It’s like “instant” compost!  There is no smell and will not attract flies. Even if you are living in a subdivision and have raised beds, this “composting” method will add nutrition to your soil.

If I have any bread, cracker, or cereal leftovers, I toast them slightly, let cool and then crumble in the food processor. To these crumbs I add assorted dried herbs and use for seasoned coating for meat.  At the end of each month I go through the refrigerator and pull out the extraneous jars of jellies, fruit juice, ketchup and other condiment bits and pieces and simmer them together to make flavorful dipping sauces.  Bits of hard cheese are grated and stored for use on pasta or vegetables.  I make a white sauce with butter, flour, and milk and then add all the soft cheese bits and pieces to make yummy cream sauce for vegetables or poured over baked potatoes.     

Meat must be handled with extreme care.  Today we see many cases of food borne illness due to organisms contaminating meat at some point in the production of or the processing of meat products.  It is imperative to keep meat stored cold, covered, and separated from other food while in the refrigerator. If meat touches any surface in your kitchen you must thoroughly wash the area with soap and water. I follow that with a bleach water rinse.  Wash your hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds anytime you handle meat products.  Keep all meat products separated from contact with other foods in the refrigerator to prevent cross contamination.  When there are sales on a particular meat product, I buy all the budget will allow and can it in the pressure canner. I take the fat trimmings and render them.  This fat can be repurposed for feeding the birds in the winter, making bio-fuel, or burning as a light source so I freeze the rendered fat in small portions. I also save used cooking oil that could be burned as lamp oil.

It is important to the zero waste concepts to cook only what you know you will use.  I will often cook a double batch of a meal to save fuel but have already made a plan on what to do with any leftovers.  How often have you cooked extra food and just let it grow fuzz in the refrigerator?  We’ve all done it, but if you plan ahead and immediately freeze leftovers you have saved fuel and the food.  Don’t cook more that normal portion size requires for most meals.  Not only will that habit prevent overeating but also prevents leftovers migrating to the back of the refrigerator where it will grow the next batch of bacteria. 

In my zero waste kitchen, I reuse or repurpose all containers if possible.  Glass jars with tops that can be closed with a regular canning lid are washed well and saved for storing beans, rice, or other appropriate supplies. The 2 liter soda bottles store extra water. Even used paper towels and the compressed paper egg cartons are soaked in a little water and added to my compost bin.  Of course, coffee grounds and tea bags, and egg shells go back to the soil too. Aluminum foil is washed and dried, folded and kept for a second or third use.  Plastic “Ziploc” type bags are washed and dried and reused.  The only exception to that is if I have stored meat in the bags. No sense in playing Russian Roulette with salmonella!  All other containers are rinsed and placed in the recycle bin. Cardboard boxes from cereal and the like are flattened stored in bundles for use as fire starter material. If I have too much saved then it’s easy to cart off to recycle.  I save the tubes from paper towels and stuff them with dryer lint and a little baby oil for fireplace “logs”. Get into the habit of looking at “waste” and try to imagine it in some other form. My grandson came up with the idea of using lids from canned food to make mobiles to hang near the garden to keep animals and birds out of the plants!

Look around your kitchen.  How do you use your precious food?  How do you prevent waste? You might be very surprised how much your “garbage” decreases by using some of these tricks. In the process you will become more in tune with your food and how you use it.

Lastly, but most importantly, thank God for the abundance of nutritious food available. Use it wisely now so you will be better prepared to stretch what you have in the time of need.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

I know this blog is primarily aimed at folks preparing for a long-term crisis, but I have a unique perspective on living without electricity after a regional disaster that I thought some might find informative. I live in the hills of northwestern New Jersey, and I have lived through three sustained (my definition: 4 or more days each) power outages caused by extreme weather events during the last two years. These power outages were caused, respectively, by Hurricane Irene, 19 inches of wet, heavy snow in October before the trees had lost their leaves, and Hurricane Sandy. I have learned important lessons from each power outage that I would like to share.
A wood stove and lots of firewood are necessities. I live in a county with tens of thousands of acres of forest. Today, however, most folks are too lazy to cut and process firewood. As each generation passes, fewer and fewer know how. Fortunately, I grew up on a farm and my dad always heated our home with firewood so I learned the joy of hard work and more about trees than I could begin to write here. As the temperatures plunged in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the inside temperature of homes in my neighborhood dropped to near freezing and those of us with woodstoves became havens of comfort each day for friends, children, the elderly and neighbors in need of warmth. I think anyone who doesn’t have a wood stove and 10 cords of split, stacked and dried firewood in the backyard by October is unprepared. It’s a low-technology essential that works on simple principles, it warms your home, cooks your food and dries your clothes. Get a wood stove. Trust me when I say your wife won’t complain about the mess that comes with one when it is warming your house. Get a bigger wood stove than you think you need, it will make it easier to load and you won’t have to work as hard cutting small pieces of firewood. The side benefit is that a wood stove will save you thousands in heating costs each winter and will pay for itself in short order.
Water. It seems so obvious, but even most country folk today are dependent on electricity to run their well to provide them with water. Having a generator is much more useful if it powers your well. For starters, this means you can flush your toilet, wash your hands and take a shower, things we take for granted when the electricity is running. I learned after our first extended power outage that I wanted to get a generator and a lot of gas cans to protect the venison in my freezer. After the second one I realized that I wanted a Reliance transfer switch to hook up my generator in a safe way to my electrical box so that I could provide power to my well pump. As a bonus, I could also run my freezers, a refrigerator, a few lights and outlets. But I needed water. For a longer-term crisis, I am looking into a hand pump such as the Simple Pump that has the capability to pump water by hand from my existing well. Because I believe in redundancy when it comes to water, I also picked up some high-quality water containers that hold 7 gallons of fresh potable water. You can use it for drinking, cooking, washing and filling up the toilet. There’s a stream about a mile from my house that I could drink from if I had to (I strongly discourage this unless it is a true survival situation because of water-borne illnesses found in most surface streams), and I would be glad to haul the water back home in a wheelbarrow each day if it came down to it.
A generator coupled with a transfer switch. I made this a separate category because I think it deserves special attention. I personally bought a 5,000 Watt generator that can surge to 6,250 Watts, made by Briggs and Stratton. There are myriad choices in this area so do your research, evaluate your budget, and get the most appropriate generator for your circumstance. It has performed admirably for over 100 hours and has only required minimal maintenance. For starters, it is recommended that you change the oil every 40 hours or so. You should also drain the gas out when you are done using it. No problem here, but if you don’t use the generator for six months you ought to run it for half an hour or so. This means you are bi-annually putting a little gas in, running the generator, and draining the fuel out. A model which lets you easily detach the fuel line to drain the leftover fuel out makes this chore much less of a hassle.
I suggest having a two-week supply of fuel on hand, because it is amazing how quick it runs out during a crisis. I never would I have believed that I would live to witness gas lines, gas rationing, people driving to other states to get fuel, etc. until I actually experienced it. It can happen. That being said, I believe that within two weeks after a regional disaster, supply chains will develop to get things moving around again. If they don’t, then we are talking about a situation that is truly dire and you’d better think about how to live without electricity from any source for the long haul. My generator burns a little less than 4 gallons of gas in twelve hours (I turn mine off each night), so 10 gas cans gets me there if I conserve a bit. I could get by on eight hours, but my wife immeasurably appreciates being able to open and close the refrigerator with four kids. If I have learned only one thing in thirteen years of marriage, it is that having an appreciative wife is invaluable.
I had a neighbor with very large whole-house generator that was burning over 10 gallons of gas a day, and he ran out of fuel within a few days. So bigger is not always better. I also learned that diesel fuel is more available than gasoline during these situations, so if I were to do it again, and money were not an issue, I would consider a diesel, natural gas or propane generator. I found out the hard way that having a can of carburetor cleaner and a small piece of wire is invaluable because carburetors get gummed up easily if a little gas sits in there for a few months. If this happens, you have to clean it (which is easy once you have done it once) or run your generator on partial choke all the time (which is less than ideal and may not work). Drain your gas completely when you put it away and this shouldn’t be a problem.
Food. This was actually the least of our worries. We had plenty of food on our shelves to last for months if necessary, and we didn’t really even plan it that way. I guess with four kids and one income we are just used to buying in bulk when sales hit at the local grocery store. There has been a lot written already on this subject, so I will defer to other essays on this topic.
Medical Supplies. Everyone has different needs here, but it is just good sense to keep a few extra of whatever you need around in case the pharmacy isn’t open (which it won’t be if the store doesn’t have a back-up generator).
Feminine hygiene products. Keep a few extra boxes around.
Lighting. Because we had plenty of firewood and a fireplace, we lit the fireplace each night and everyone in the family loved it, but it didn’t light up the bathrooms or the other rooms in the house. And when I went out in the dark each night to turn off the generator and bring it in the garage, a lantern came in really handy. LED lanterns that can run over 100 hours on one set of batteries are great, and are easily available on Get two of them because you need one in the bathroom and the rest of the family doesn’t have to sit in the dark while they wait for your return if you have two. I also purchased two old-fashioned kerosene lanterns and a gallon of kerosene after the last power outage. The more flashlights and batteries you have around the better when the power goes out. Those little LED book lights are nice luxuries as well when you want to settle down and read a book in the evening.
A hand crank radio. This is one item I used every day during lunch. We sat around and listened to the local AM radio station as people would call in with all sorts of useful information, such as which gas stations had gas to sell and a generator to power their pumps, which stores were open, where one could get potable water (some buildings have emergency generators), what roads were cleared of trees and now passable, and where the electrical crews were working. On top of this, listening to a radio lifts your spirits when you have no other contact with the outside world.
Relationships with your neighbors are vital. No one knows everything, and a plumber, electrician, farmer, mechanic, doctor, dentist, police officer, etc. each possess unique and valuable skills and knowledge. You can only access those skills and knowledge if they trust you before the crisis and are regularly communicating with you during the crisis. Build friendships now with your neighbors. Find out what their strengths are. Forgive those whom you have had past disagreements with, as those arguments will seem truly unimportant if the SHTF. One of the unexpected benefits of Hurricane Sandy was that I built several long-lasting friendships with neighbors as we spent two weeks cutting trees, dragging branches, splitting wood and stacking firewood. We worked together to get warm, make food, get gasoline and other supplies, take showers and watch children. And everyone in my area has give a lot of thought about surviving when the government and the utility companies cannot help you. I can honestly say it was, in some ways, a blessing.  
Cash. Try buying something when nobody in town has power and you find out real quick that cash is still better than a credit card or a debit card.  A few hundred bucks was more than enough for the short-term outages I have experienced, but a longer-term situation would require more. In a truly long-term disaster situation, actual goods that you could barter with would have the most value.
Intangibles. I would like to conclude by suggesting that maintaining a positive attitude in spite of adversity is of immense value. Being a person who smiles while working to meet daily challenges lifts the spirit of everyone you come into contact with, and your attitude will have a marked impact on children. My children actually think that power outages are something to be celebrated (no school and you get to pretend like you are living Little House on the Prairie)! Having faith helps us see the good that comes with difficulty, and gives us strength to forge ahead, no matter what.
Our world is becoming more like a Rube Goldberg machine every day. Our infrastructure and supply lines become more fragile as they become more dependent on new layers of technology. My advice to everyone is to build redundancy into every system you control, and pass on practical knowledge to the next generation. A co-worker who was not prepared for any of these circumstances suggested to me that preparing for them was wrong, that it amounted to cynically saving yourself at the expense of your neighbor. I replied that quite the opposite was true: those who are prepared are far more able to help their neighbors than those who are not, and my real-life observations actually back up this assertion. Thank you for taking the time to read this essay and God Bless!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Having a baby under normal circumstances is a great and beautiful thing, but when disaster strikes there’s going to be some issues.  Obviously in dark times one might not be able to deliver at a clean, safe hospital, or run to Walgreens in the middle of the night to get formula and diapers, or to Target to get extra pajamas for baby.   As a mom (and EMT 3 years, 8 years as a First Responder before that) I feel a certain responsibility to help others and to encourage preparedness in others.  Here are some helpful shopping tips, knowledge, and other items that are always good to have on hand for moms and babies in times of emergency. 

I live in a state where we have disasters and evacuations every year, so the concept of getting out of Dodge quick is something that we are familiar with.  As an EMT and as a Venturing Scout I have responded to and given aid to those struck by disaster many times, and in between I teach others how to be better prepared.  I know that sometimes response to emergencies can be delayed, resources get stretched thin at big disasters and you may not get help at all if your problem isn’t immediately life threatening.  This is why everyone should have a bag ready with supplies and waiting by the door readily accessible and more importantly a place to go to that is safe.  As a parent and wife I have a responsibility to protect and care for my son and husband and vice verse, this should be your priority too.   
If you have a member of your group who is pregnant and or has small children you’ll need to take extra care for them.  While pregnant women can do a lot of things, they will need help and, for certain duties, partnering up for safety.  Some light duty jobs you could consider are working the ops desk, the communications desk, KP, or watching the groups other children.  Jobs that you might have a partner for could be laundry, gardening, milking cows or goats (no horse riding if it can be avoided), feeding livestock, water hauling (with cart, don’t push to hard) or other not too strenuous work.  There are going to be some exceptions to this list as pregnancy progresses and morning sickness gets better or worsens.  For instance I couldn’t handle the smell of raw meat when I was pregnant, so I couldn’t cook certain things. 

There are also some comfort items that you can keep at the retreat for anyone who is or becomes pregnant.  Candied ginger and ginger ale are always great to help with nausea.  Saltine crackers are also good for this purpose.  Pregnant women will also need a good multivitamin with folate in it to ensure good gestational health and neural tube development in the baby.  A good stool softener (such as Colace) and extra fiber in the diet are both highly recommended and pregnant women will also need and extra 300 -350 calories a day.  Some pregnant women might become anemic and requite an Iron supplement.  There are also some things that pregnant women should avoid like cleaning the litter box, over exertion/lifting, and excessive stress.  Taking care with your words and actions can go a long way (like not saying that the pregnant woman is a burden or implying it).  Stress can adversely affect not only the mom, but also the baby.  When you are stressed your body secretes a lot of hormones that then affect the baby and put it under stress which can then affect fetal health.  All pregnant women should have regular Blood pressure and blood sugar tests throughout the pregnancy.  You will especially want to monitor for preeclampsia and diabetes.  Make sure you get a thorough medical history prior to delivery especially important are has the mother had a ultrasound and if so what was the placement of the placenta, medical issues like diabetes or preeclampsia, past pregnancies and any complications with those, and finally any signs of possible health issues with the baby.  

In times of disaster there is a great likelihood that the mortality rate will rise when it comes to deliveries and pregnancies.  So it is here that I shall list a little about miscarriage.  According to The Everything you need to know about pregnancy book, “up to 20% of all detected pregnancies miscarry before week 20.”  After week 20 your chances of miscarriage greatly decrease, but are not totally eliminated.  Sometimes miscarriages happen because of trauma to the baby and mother, but other times the baby could have genetic abnormalities.  Some bleeding does occur after implantation and is normal, but all bleeding should still be taken seriously.  If it’s bright red blood then this would be the time to seek out a professional.  If there is a doctor or midwife in the area then get the mother to them quickly.  A paramedic from the local fire department would have some training in child birth and complications and could also assist.  Signs and symptoms of a miscarriage are: Bright red bleeding in copious amounts, severe abdominal cramping, low back pain (contractions), high fever, extreme nausea and vomiting beyond morning sickness with quick onset, amniotic fluid leakage, and severe headache.  One of the first things that you can check for, before advanced help arrives, is a fetal heart rate by using a stethoscope. If it’s a good scope you should be able to hear the heart rate post week 10.

If the mother does miscarry or lose the baby after the delivery this will affect her not only physically, but mentally as well.  It doesn’t take long to fall in love with your baby, and when a woman miscarries or the baby dies post delivery she’ll go through the full spectrum of mourning plus additional guilt, doubt, and depression.  Again other members of the group should support, offer help, prayer, and counsel the mother.  Allow her and the father time for grieving.  It is also advisable to let her rest and recover so that she can deal with her loss.  Don’t let her rush off to work to avoid grief as this may compound the problem.  Grieving is a very individual thing and only that person will know how they need to deal.  Most importantly watch for depression and suicidal symptoms and get the mother professional help and medications if at all possible.
I won’t comment on the actual birthing process itself as this was well covered in Mr. Rawles' book.  Some additional helpful reading if you are interested thought, would be any Recent EMT Manual published within the last 3 to 5 years as these have a detailed chapter on field childbirth and complications.  You can find used copies on or  I would also advise taking a Emergency Medical Responder (previously First Responder) level aid course and few ambulance ride-alongs or hospital clinicals.  These will give you a lot of valuable training and experience and can make all of the difference in a bad situation.  Volunteering at your local hospital in the birth center can also provide you some valuable experience and you can gain helpful knowledge from the experienced RNs.  Above all else keep your head cool and mind calm, your most important tool is the one on your shoulders.               

Now let’s talk a bit about some supplies for baby.  As a parent you learn to budget (money, time, sanity), and prepping for an emergency is no different.  You must have a budget and plan in mind well before you head to the store.  When it comes to baby clothes a great, frugal place to buy is the second hand store.  From 25 cents to a dollar an item secondhand stores are a great place to stock up.  You can find all seasons of clothing, shoes and toys there for a fraction of the cost new.  Just use your head and watch for the quality of the items you buy.  Usually for a baby all through the toddler stages you want 6 outfits, 3 PJs, 6 pair of socks, 2 pair shoes, a light and heavy jacket, and a few hats and mittens per size (Remember little babies grow at a very exponential rate through years one and two,& go by months).  You will also want a stuffed animal or two, some pacifiers, extra sheets, and at least 5-7 warm blankets with 3-4 light ones.  Look into a decent port a crib (either foldable mesh or collapsible fixed material) a new one can cost as little as $20 new.  It is not advisable to co sleep with infants as there is a high risk of smothering.  The only time you might consider co sleeping is if you are on the run and sharing a sleeping bag, even then much caution must be taken.     

Let’s talk bathing and medication for baby.  Go to your local big box store (Costco/ Sam's Club) and get the double pack of baby body & hair soap.  This will last you two years if used conservatively.  You might also want to buy extra of this for wound cleaning, trade or charity.  As far as babies go there are some basic must haves for your kit: baby acetaminophen (Tylenol), baby Vic’s vapor rub, nasal saline, Pedialyte, band aids, Neosporin, and Baby Ora-gel for teething.  Children’s Benadryl would also be prudent to have, but check with a doctor on dosages for children under 4 years of age.  When babies are sick, these are the top fall backs, a humidifier would be nice but if the power is down you can use a few tea pots and a towel or bed sheet to make a steam tent.   

Making sure that babies stay hydrated and fed is a must.  Here are some good things to have:  lanolin ointment, a manual breast pump or if there is power a portable pump (I like Madela), in case of latching difficulties a nipple shield, nursing and sleeping bras, feeding and storage bottles, and a firm pillow for nursing.  A note on the shields, these are very handy for women who have odd shape nipples (flat tops or inverted) when babies have a hard time nursing, if you don’t use them you can always trade them.  If there is a problem nursing don’t be afraid to employ the pump and bottle feed off and on, get that sustenance and hydration in the baby.  Long term storage of liquid formula may be difficult and costly, but having even a little on hand can be handy in case something happens and mom can’t nurse (the powdered formula stores longer, but you will need a clean water source).  When babies get bigger you can use a hand grinder to make fresh baby food. 

Diapering can be a difficult topic to broach when it comes to emergencies, do we use cloth or buy bulk disposable.  I say do a bit of both.  During the first week or so while you’re waiting for the umbilical stump to fall off and getting through those first very dark and sticky poops my recommendation is disposable.  This will save you a bit of time while mom is healing up and decrease the risk of infection.  After this time I would go with cloth (disposable diapers might become hard to come by in a long term scenario), but the eventual decision will be up to you.  A note on the cleaning of cloth diapers, boil to rinse and then dry in direct sunlight if you can.  Between the sterilization in the water and the UV rays the bacteria should be killed.  You will also want to stock up on the big box store wipes, if not for baby then they work well for general hygiene needs.  My husband was deployed to Afghanistan for a year while I was pregnant with our son and one of the top 3 things he would ask for was baby wipes.  His unit was often assigned to FOBs (Forward Operating Bases for those who don’t speak Army) that were little more than flattened earth and concertina wire so he used the wipes to bathe. Disposable diapers also make for very absorbent abdominal wound pads so keep a few in your field first aid kit.  I would recommend getting the big box store double pack of diaper cream, at least 2 of them (it lasts forever & it’s good for trading). 

Let’s talk about some things we can do for Mom post partum.  Good things to have for sore mommies are tucks pads (or witch hazel and gauze), sanitary napkins, pain killers (Ibuprofen [Advil] or Acetaminophen [Tylenol] are generally considered safe but check with a doctor first; aspirin should be avoided), Epsom salts, stool softener, disposable ice packs, seat cushions, and a back brace or girdle.  Buy in bulk and you can always trade later.  When it comes to post partum pads the bulkier, cheap variety work best for this purpose (burn after use).  For moms who have had to get sewn up a sitz bath at night, ice packs, and the tucks pads/ witch hazel go a long way for relief.  The girdle will help shore up a new mom while her abdominal muscles repair acting as a back support.  Moms should ideally take a good 4-6 weeks off minimum to heal, but can perform light duty tasks during that time.  Don’t let the mom over do it and hurt herself (Been there, done that, Got the PT bill to prove it).  If you need to have a new mom up and on duty put her at a watch desk for short watches and make sure she takes a nap in between, eats, and nurses or pumps. 

Lastly I wanted to mention a few things about children and getting out of Dodge.  Kids don’t like big sudden changes, so keeping them apprised of any plans would be prudent.  If they know the plan it’s easier on them mentally and they know what’s going to happen.  You may have to leave in a hurry and leave many things behind, but don’t forget their lovie (security object, toy never seen without).  It may be the only thing they have to play with and their only comforting object if you have to leave during an emergency, so don’t forget it.  Have copies of birth certificates, updated family pictures that show you all together as a family, and any other important papers in your go bag (preferably in a waterproof box like Otterbox or Pelican).   If you become separated from your children you may need proof that they really are your kids when you find them again (as seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina).  You might consider sending copies of your papers to the family members you will be staying with if you trust them implicitly (if not then a bank safety deposit box near them could work also).  When leaving town one of the better options is to go at night and right away, don’t hesitate and don’t wait.  If possible take those back roads and avoid the highways as these will not only clog up but become targets for looters and banditos.  When driving out have an adult in the back seat with the kids ready to help them bail if it comes to that.  Above all else remember operational security and do what you have to do to protect your family.  Hopefully this knowledge will be helpful and informative for any preparedness savvy parents out there.

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.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What is MYDS? It’s not prepping, it’s not hoarding, it’s not a disease or even a mental condition and it certainly isn’t unpatriotic or terrorism.  What is it about, then? It is about being provident. Actually, MYDS stands for Make it Your Darn Self!  That is my Philosophy and Motto for 2013!

Provident means to prepare for the future.  Why?  Why take the time, the effort, or the expense to be provident?  Look around us.  Look at the world we live in.  Look at the economic and political climate.  There seems to be no rhyme or reason to anything.  Everything from the top down – From our God to the sand beneath our feet – Everything is being questioned and demonized.  Right is wrong and wrong is right.  The freedom that we once knew as children of playing and frolicking on the streets in our community only to worry about making it home before dark or when we were hungry has given way to the fear of our children playing in front of our homes.  Progressives, Agenda 21, Socialism, Communism, Failing Schools, and having to sign up on a registry to know where sex offenders and predators live just to be able to keep our kids safe.  I wonder how to keep my kids safe in these times – both physically, spiritually and educationally.  My goodness, these are scary times on our doorstep.  The moral decay of this country is an entire topic all on its’ own and one in which I won’t get into here.
The real question should be why not?  Why not take the time to make sure you and your family has a little extra.  Why not have the knowledge and resources on hand to make it through a possible job loss, a natural or manmade disaster, a terrorist attack, the collapse of our financial system.  Why not have practical skills and knowledge to endure the “what-if” scenario that weighs heavily on your mind. To every question you have there are multiple solutions.  And, as I have found, every solution leads to another question and yet another discovery.  The most basic answer I can give is to be as provident as you can possibly be and that will ONLY come through knowledge and experience.  You must find within yourself the desire to learn and to never stop asking questions.  You should learn to ask how does that work, how would I do that if I could not run down to the local big box store, how can I make this if I didn’t have a box of prepackaged food.  You don’t have to have a property that resembles Fred Sanford's home from Sanford and Son (a sit-com from my earlier days) or a pantry that would make your local big box store envious.  Instead think of what you do and what you use every day and remember the 5 W’s from elementary school.  Who, What, Why, Where, When and I’ll go ahead and add How.  How is it made, why is it done that way, where can I get it from if it’s not available commercially, who can I learn from, from when and where will I start getting my knowledge and experience base?

That is the premise behind my 2013 motto “MYDS” and being provident is a never ending process that plays directly into my motto.  The world is always changing and as the saying goes “without change there is no growth.”  I am learning to be more provident.  I read all of the prepping web sites and have spent a massive amount of time researching and more money than I care to admit on buying this book and list or that book and list to see what I can do to be more provident.  As you will learn in your journey, not everything is contained on those lists.  Don’t get me wrong, they are all very good resources and they were well worth the investments even if I only learn one thing new from it.  Being provident (most people would say prepping), has, for the most part, been a man’s specialty area.  Their department.  Beans Bullets and Band-Aids type thing.  And, most would agree that is it rightly so.  Men are our protector’s, our muscle our anchors our braun.  We love them, we cherish them and we look to them as our rock in time of need.  However, I find the majority of publications on the market, web sites and blogs today are lacking on the subject of being provident from a woman’s point of view.  Women, just as men, have a role in preparing the future needs of a family.  After many hours of research, I am often left wondering how I am going to clean my house if I can’t go to the store or can’t afford to get what I need.  How am I going to do the laundry without laundry soap if the price is too high or it’s not available?  How are my children and family going to stay clean if we can’t get our hands on what we need?  Let’s face it.  Work isn’t picking up.  People are losing jobs.  Our dollar doesn’t get us as far as it used to.  Taxes are going through the roof from all levels of government.  The price of gas, food, household cleaners, and the cost to put our children through school are going through the roof.  Honestly, it’s getting pretty darn expensive just to be able to exist these days.  How are we as wives and mothers going to continue to manage our household without breaking the bank or the ability to just run down the corner market when we run out of something?  How are we going to take care of our families in tight or hard times?
That is the key to my article and the story behind my new motto/philosophy and I want to share with you some tidbits of knowledge from a wife and mothers perspective on being a provident housekeeper. 

For starters, you have to learn how to make your own household products.  It’s simple, it’s easy, it will save you money and is something you can start doing right away with little to no investment.  Money that you could use to start stocking up on food supplies or paying down debt.  A bottle of laundry soap is expensive, but what if I told you that you could make 10 gallons for less than what you pay for one bottle of commercial laundry soap?  Even cheaper than the generic brands!  I am here to tell you that it is possible.  You don’t need special or expensive equipment.  All you need is the desire to obtain knowledge and skills that will see your family through.  Save the space in your supply area for more meaningful supplies such as seeds for growing a garden or food preservation supplies, food, first aid and all of those other items you read about.  With ingredients that you have, or can get really inexpensively, you can clean every aspect of your home.  Adding a few more ingredients to your arsenal will allow you to make personal hygiene items such as deodorant, hair cleaners and conditioners, and bath soap.

For example, Borax, Washing Soda (not baking soda), and Castile Soap in bar form will make laundry soap.  From 1 bar of grated soap, 1 cup of washing soda and a ¼ cup of borax, and water, you can make 10 gallons of laundry soap using just a pot for melting the soap on your stovetop.  You will also need two five gallon buckets.  To show you real numbers, let’s break down the cost.  In my area, a bar of Fels-Naptha castile soap costs $.97, A 76 oz. box of Borax is $3.38 and a 55 oz. box of Washing Soda is $3.24.  Keep in mind that you are only using a few ounces of each box, not the entire box to make your liquid laundry soap.  For a mere, $1.62 you can make ten gallons of laundry soap.  WOW! That is a Savings you can’t argue with.  To eliminate those expensive dryer sheets try adding ¼ cup (or less) of vinegar to your rinse cycle and in place of dryer sheets use a ball of aluminum foil.  Yes, this does really work.  The laundry soap is safe to use for the smallest of family members.  Don’t fret; you will be able to use the borax and washing soda in making many other cleaning products for around your home. 

Let’s expand on those items to include the following items: Vinegar, Apple Cider Vinegar, Lemon Juice, Baking Soda, Liquid Castile Soap, Essential Oils (not fragrance oils), Ammonia, Bleach, Cornstarch, Olive Oil (or other neutral oils) and you will have the perfect combination to make everything you need to make a smooth running household without almost never having to rely on commercial products again.  That’s right - YOU will be able to clean your floors, windows, toilets, walls and so much more.  YOU will be able to make deodorant, hair care products and bathing products.  No more spending countless hours’ couponing to get those ridiculously great deals.  I coupon too and love the thrill of getting those free to cheap deals.  With my new knowledge to make my own products, my perspective and scope of couponing has changed to buying things that I cannot make myself – razors, toothbrushes, dental floss and of course beans (unfortunately there are no coupons for bullets) and Band-Aids! Do some research and you’ll be delighted at the amount of information available to make your homemade household products.  A word to the wise, there are items above that should NEVER be mixed together.  Ammonia and bleach is just one example – The mixture is toxic and potentially deadly.  Please air on the side of caution.  Read labels, research what can be mixed and what cannot!  Do not put yourself in harm’s way over saving money.  You and your families’ safety should always come first!

Second on the list is to learn how to manage your kitchen.  By taking the time to do some research on these topics - making your own mixes and how to make meals in a jar – you will be pleased at how simple and fun it is to learn about the multitude of options for short and long term food storage.  The concept surrounding making your own mix is to make a master mix and from there you can make almost anything.  Pancakes, cake mixes, breads and so on.  Additionally, there are recipes to making your own “cream of soup” as well as gravies, drink mixes and spices, to name a few.  I found a lady on the internet that takes separate complete meals and puts them in quart sized mason jars for a total of 52 meals in a jar, or more if you desire.  It’s a provident housekeeper’s version of fast food.  Take this idea and expand with your own recipes or scour the internet for more meals in jar recipes.  While hers are made from freeze dried (and dehydrated) food, there is a plethora of web sites and forums dedicated to canning meals in a jar.  My advice here is to start off small.  Try a loaf of bread or try starting off with sampling each recipe.  What tastes good to one person may not to another.  The absolute last thing is to get into a situation where you have stocked up on x,y, & z and not like it when you could practice, practice and practice some more to find the ones you really are going to like and use!  Get crafty and try adding your own twists to the recipes.  The possibilities are limitless.
Another aspect of kitchen management you should consider is the use of paper towels and cleaning utensils (sponges, miracle erasers, etc..).  What are you going to do when you run out of paper towels or that sponge is on its’ last cleaning leg and has to go to the trash?  Invest in cloth ones!  Rags, kitchen towels and wash cloths.  I know, I know, you like your cleaning wipes.  I do too!  Except, I make my own cleaning solution with the products listed above, soak my rags in the all-purpose cleaning solution, store them in a container with a lid and voila – I have my own homemade cleaning wipes! They are dirt cheap and ready when I need them.  When I’m done, I just pop them in the washer, dry and reuse (of course, the paper towel version goes into the trash!).  This year I am going to grow what is called a loufa gourd.  From my research, you use it the same way you do any other loufa.  The plan is to initially use it for bathing purposes and when it is outlived its’ purpose for bathing it will be relegating to cleaning tasks.  When it’s done with cleaning, it goes into a compost pile after being thoroughly cleaned.
What about feminine needs?  Are you going to stock shelves upon shelves of these products?  This is another item that is growing to be very expensive, and, if I dare, a luxury item.  I believe it is time to discuss alternate means to commercial pads and tampons.  One solution is to make your own feminine pads and another solution I found is called a Diva Cup.  It is an alternate solution to tampons.  They are washable and reusable.  A concept that our use and throwaway society would probably not take to instantly even though the rest of the world has been using for some time now.  To have them as a back-up in your arsenal is what I consider to be an invaluable asset!  There are plenty of tutorials and patterns on the internet on how to make your own feminine pads.  It’s almost the same concept as cloth diapering for babies.

While on the topic of feminine needs, let’s address a rarely discussed topic and probably one of the most embarrassing and hardest to plan for and that is “The Bathroom.”  What are you going to do in a situation where there may not be power or access to toilet paper?  This has plagued me for quite some time.  There are composting toilets, outhouses and ones that incinerate your waste.  Another solution I’ve discovered is a bidet.  They are used in other countries.  In a grid down situation or an off grid situation, I don’t see why you would not be able to use them.  Especially if you are on well and septic.  You can find portable ones and ones you can attach directly to your existing toilet for about $150.  These are supposed to attach to any two-piece toilet system without any special plumbing other than attaching to your water valve.  That would eliminate the need to stock up on toilet paper.  Of course, as my husband pointed out, it may not clean everything and you’ll be left wet.  The solution here is to make washable toileting cloths.  Scour the internet for free tutorials and patterns.  Again, think about cloth diapering of babies.  It is the same concept, just used on adults instead of babies.

You should also consider showering and not only taking a shower in general, but taking a warm shower.  How are you going to get warm water?  There are many people who would disagree with me and consider this a luxury and not a priority.  In my household, I don’t agree with them! I always tell my husband that no matter what, he has to make sure we have some way of us getting a warm shower.  It is one of the best feelings at the end of a long day of hard work.  Just to be clean makes you feel normal, it improves moral and helps you get a good night’s rest, too.  Try researching solar heaters and solar showers and other forms of heating water without relying on electricity.  You’ll be amazed at the options available as well as the interesting DIY videos.

Gardening and food are two very key provident factors.  My research has led me to a few animals of choice.  In considering my animals, I wanted those which serve many purposes.  Chickens – I can get meat, eggs and manure for my compost piles.  Goats – I can get milk and milk products like cheese, goats’ meat, and goats’ milk soap.  Rabbits – Meat, fur and manure for my compost bins.  And, a donkey for my heartstrings (yes, I’m absolutely in love with donkeys, especially miniatures).  On the practical side, they are great for protecting your livestock and you can train them to pull a cart for carrying farm and other supplies.  Children will love taking rides in the buggy too. 

Aquaponics is a relatively new concept as it takes aquaculture (fish farming) and mingles it with hydroponics (growing plants in soilless media).  This is a fascinating concept as you are able to grow fish which are a great source of protein as well as grow fruits and vegetables from the byproduct of the fish and increase your food diversity. [JWR Adds: Because modern aquaponics require circulating pumps, I recommend them only for families who have large, long-term alternative power systems--typically either a PV power system with at least 20 panels or a micro-hydro power system that runs year-round.]

Some gardening techniques you may want to consider are square foot gardening, container gardening, growing dwarf varieties of fruit trees as well as the Back to Eden gardening concept.  Search your local free classified ads.  Many people do not want to harvest their fruit and nut trees and will typically offer the bounty for free or really cheap if you come and pick it from the tree.  There are always ads of people selling off “extra” for less than what you can get at the market and grocery store.  If you do not have the ability or space to garden at your present location, why not take an add out to see if there is a local farm or land owner that will lease you a small amount of space to start growing your own food?  Even if you do not have a lot of money, try bartering some of your harvest or offer your time around their farm in exchange.  Farmers always need help and you’re more likely to walk away with a ton of useful knowledge.  You are in a win-win situation!

My final piece of advice is to research essential oils and growing your own herbs.  As a mom, I worry about the access to medical care – good quality medical care.  I have been doing some in depth research in to natural healing with herbs.  Way back when my dad had to walk 5 miles to school barefooted in the snow uphill both ways, families like his mostly relied on herbs and plants to maintain their health and to help heal them.  Mother Nature has a pharmacy all her own and many of her miracles contained within are no longer practiced and almost all but lost.  Very few herbs have side effects and actually the most common complaint comes from the user not using enough to make them effective.  Let’s take lavender for example.  Lavender can be used for its antibiotic, antifungal, antiviral, and antiseptic properties as well as for its’ calming effect and it is successful in repelling fleas!  From this one herb you get all of that for cleaning, medicinal healing and for your pets too!  I love multifunction solutions such as this one!  See the trend here?  I took it from corporate America.  It’s the ol’ Do More With Less philosophy!
In closing, I hope that you will take the time to analyze what you do and use every day and then start learning about how to replicate those practices in a less than ideal situation.  As the founder of The Provident Housekeeper, it is my goal to research, develop and teach seminars that intertwine the ways of the past with the ways of today.  With just a little knowledge and a desire to DO, you can achieve anything.  Educate, Inspire, Lead and always, be Provident!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

It is human nature to approach preparedness according to gaps that we see in our plans.  Most of us make checklists (see List of Lists), have 72 hour bags (BOB), and cover the three B’s (Beans, Bullets, and Band-Aids).  We rotate food and water, learn new skills, and do anything we can to bridge the gap between our perceived lack of preparedness and what we consider as “sufficiently prepared”.  We may get so caught up in building bunkers and buying bullets that we operate in an “out of sight, out of mind” mode.  Sure, we should prepare for four-legged and two-legged predators, but what about our unseen enemies?  I’m not talking conspiracy theories here, but about microbes.  These microscopic enemies can penetrate your defenses and strike your entire group before you have time to formulate a response. 

We’ve had several wonderful articles about bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites, but I thought it would be helpful to condense some of the information I have gathered and offer some advice on how to create a defensive strategy against our smallest enemies- a Pathogen Protection Plan (PPP), if you will.  I will do my best to keep this basic.  I usually have to scroll up and down on articles with lots of terms and acronyms, so I’ll try to keep it short and memorable.  Get a pencil, just in case.

To help break up some of the cloud surrounding the microscopic world, let me give a little more background.  We will get to the interesting part soon, I promise.  Scientists use a classification system to identify organisms, using what’s called binomial nomenclature to assign them a two-part name.  Humans are Homo sapiens, and the horrible antibiotic-resistant bacteria we call MRSA is actually Staphylococcus aureus.  If these names are used at all in common parlance, they are often shortened.  Staphylococcus becomes Staph or just S.  Due to advances in genetic research, sometimes the names change as scientists discover that something they thought was similar to something else actually wasn’t.  Enterobacter sakazakii (E. sak), a dangerous microbe in the infant formula industry, was recently renamed Chronobacter sakazakii.  Different name, same bacteria.  It’s confusing, but you won’t need to worry too much about that.

For the purposes of this article, let’s refer to all of the above named disease-causing organisms as Pathogens (Greek- producers of suffering).  They all have their differences, but we can group them together as Pathogens because they have one big thing in common- you.  The earth is filled with an unbelievable number of microscopic organisms, but most of them don’t thrive inside the human body.  You’d be shocked to know how many viruses are in a milliliter of seawater, yet it’s unlikely you would get sick from any of them.  Our focus in creating a Pathogen Protection Plan (PPP) is not to create a living space devoid of microbes, but to reduce the chances of exposing ourselves to the dangerous microbes.  Some pathogens are easier to kill than others.  Most things are killed with an alcohol or bleach solution, but spore-forming microbes must be treated more harshly, typically with high heat methods.

Let’s start our PPP with the most basic of needs - water.  We know that a water filter is necessary to prevent gastroenteritis caused by Giardia lamblia or Cryptosporidium cysts.  Ceramic filters (the best on the market) have pore sizes down to 0.3 micrometers (or microns), but they are ineffective against Hepatitis A virus (often found in tainted water), with a size of 0.028 microns (approximately 1/10th of the pore size).  I don’t know offhand if silver impregnated filters are rated to “kill” viruses (viruses aren’t technically alive)-most filters say that they prevent growth of microbes when not in use.  Using unscented bleach to treat water takes the guesswork out of it.

The next item would be food.  Most of us are familiar with using a pressure canner to kill C. botulinum spores.  In the food industry, a concept known as HACCP is used to identify and minimize risks associated with ingredients that are likely to be contaminated.  HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point, and is a system originally developed for NASA’s space food.  In the home, we are taught to cook food according to a dumbed-down version of HACCP.  No mixing vegetables and raw chicken, wash your veggies, wash your hands- things like that.  HACCP gives us a more organized approach to preparing hazardous food (raw chicken, etc) that is easy to teach through SOP’s (you do have SOP’s for your group, right?).   Let’s go through the seven principles of HACCP:
1.       Conduct a Hazard Analysis- What is in the area that can contaminate the food? Raw meat, engine coolant, and metal shavings are all possible hazards.  Identify anything that could harm you if it made it into your meal.
2.       Identify Critical Control Points- What can be done to reduce/eliminate the hazard, and at what step should you do it?  Is all of your meat fresh?  Do you refrigerate it?  Do you cook meat all the way through?
3.       Establish limits for CCPs- How bad does the hazard have to be before you give up and start over?  Is that chicken fresh?  If not, does it smell “off”?  If the dog won’t eat it, it might not be safe, even after you cook it.  How long can the fridge be above normal temp before you consider the food inside “no good”?
4.       Monitoring CCPs-  How can you tell that the CCP is working?  Do you have a thermometer in the fridge?  You should!  If you like meat pink, do you check the temperature?  Temperature is the easiest way to monitor after TEOTWAWKI.  Glass thermometers are plentiful online.  Some laboratories change them yearly to maintain calibrations.  That’s how I get mine.
5.       Corrective Actions- What will you do if your CCP limits are not met?
6.       Verify- Check that the system is working properly.  The best way to do this is to have someone else prepare a hazardous meal following your SOP word for word.  If you are skeptical of the result, you have some work to do!
7.       Establish record-keeping procedures- You should have records like garden logs, weather events, and vehicle maintenance already.  When you use an ingredient that smells or looks odd, you should write it down somewhere.  If someone gets sick, write it down!  Tracking what you ate will help you identify latent food allergies (some people get migraines from certain foods) as well as problems associated with the food (was your home-grown chicken diseased?).  You don’t need to keep industrial logs- 100 kilos of x ingredient and 200 kilos of x product.  You might have something like that for inventory maintenance, but it’s not going to do much good for a Pathogen Protection Plan.

Not everything about a HACCP plan is tied to chickens.  Potato salad is often the cause of a bad day.  Potatoes contain Bacillus cereus spores, which activate upon cooking and grow if the salad is not kept cool.  The toxins they emit can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

In a situation without medical assistance, we can convert a pressure canner to act as a sterilizer for medical equipment.  There are sterilizers for sale that are designed for use on a stovetop.  Quality examples can be had at  If TEOTWAWKI comes and you don’t have a sterilizer, adding an anti-siphon tube to the vent stack will allow you to use it to sterilize surgical equipment and dressings if you’re really in a pinch.  An anti-siphon tube is a tube typically installed on pressurized gas tanks (most often CO2) that are stored horizontally.  The tube prevents liquid from coming out of the pressurized tank when we want the gas.  A quick image search will give you a diagram of what I am talking about.  We want the tube opening just above the surface of the water.  The reason for a siphon tube is that hot, dry air is a poor sterilizer, while hot steam is a great sterilizer.  Because steam is lighter than air it will move to the top of the pressure canner and exhaust out, leaving the air untouched.  The tube forces the air to move out of the canner first, leaving the steam behind to effectively sterilize items.  To remove the guesswork of a DIY system, buy a stovetop sterilizer .

A standard sterilizer cycle is 121*C (which translates to approximately 18 psi on the gauge) for 15 minutes. Pressure canners typically have a max safe operating pressure of 15psi, so it would be wise to process items for at least 30 minutes.  Because the stovetop varieties lack the special purge cycles of larger, modern steam sterilization equipment (autoclave), processing time is lengthened beyond the standard 15 minute cycle.  Follow the directions.   A supply of sterilizing pouches will allow you to sterilize medical equipment and bulk surgical dressings for storage and emergency use.  This way you won’t have to run a 30 minute cycle while someone is waiting for you to pull a bullet out.  Typical prices I have seen for the larger pouches are $15 for a pack of 200.  That’s 200 sterile cotton bandages you could make and store, just with a bolt of cotton or muslin cloth and a pack of pouches.  Put a date on these and rotate them every other year or so (again, follow the directions).  If you lay in a couple hundred dollars worth of supplies, you could have a booming SHTF business bartering sterile dressings and the like.  I would not advise bartering your bandages if you are using a DIY sterilizer.  You’re responsible for the product you market, even after a collapse.  Repackage and re-sterilize if the pouch is damaged in any way.

Another great thing about sterilizing pouches is that they have chemical indicators to let you know if sterilizing conditions were met when processed.  Keep in mind when sterilizing to not crowd your equipment.  You need ample room in the pouches and around loose items to allow the steam to circulate and contact the items.  You can’t cram the pouch full of metal instruments and expect them to come out sterile!  Do not put soiled items into the sterilizer!  Clean and disinfect them first with soap and water, then a soak in a bleach solution.  Sterilize after rinsing with clean water.  I must reiterate that this is only for a worst-case scenario.  Don’t practice medicine without a license.  Having said that, it is not illegal to prepare for an emergency in which you are unlikely to have access to professional medical care.  As always, something is better than nothing.

So you have clean water, safe food, and sterile medical equipment after the collapse, but you still have to worry about communicable (contagious) diseases.  Once you’re in your permanent location, your PPP must include methods for isolating, controlling, and removing pathogens carried by people or objects.  This may mean a “sick room” for a person who has diarrhea (you don’t know what’s causing it), with a plan for sanitizing the living quarters afterwards.  How will you handle the waste?  How will you sanitize the bedding, clothing, and other items that won’t fit or you don’t want to put in the sterilizer?  A simple way to sanitize the room would be to use a hand-pump garden sprayer with a bleach solution.  We use these at work to sanitize floors.  It’s 20 to 30 times faster than mopping with a sanitizer.  Make sure what you’re spraying won’t eat the floor if you spray it and let it dry.  Some quaternary ammonia solutions dissolve floor wax and make it gummy.  Epoxy floors are about the best I have found for chemical resistance.

You must have a plan to deal with all possible contaminants.  How will you treat someone in your group that has contracted a blood-borne pathogen (Hepatitis B,C) just before the collapse?  What will you do with surgical instruments that get covered in their blood?  What will you do with your clothes that are now covered in their blood?  How will you clean the room to prevent other patients from contracting the disease?  How will you prevent yourself from contracting the disease? You must create a method for dealing with these scenarios.  Although disposable items are not ideal, they are a quick and easy solution.  Gloves are almost entirely necessary.  Although more expensive, nitrile gloves are hypoallergenic and more resistant to puncture.  Don’t buy these from big-box stores.  Nitrile gloves made for medical or laboratory applications are thick, while consumer-grade nitrile gloves are very thin and tear easily.  Surgical masks are also a must if your group plans to conduct surgery post-collapse (I’m assuming you have someone who is trained and competent).  One word of wisdom on surgical masks- the blue masks you see on television shows will not protect you from a sick person.  Look at who is wearing them in the OR.  Not the patient.  They are designed to catch aerosols created from talking, coughing, and sneezing.  They will only protect you if the infected person is wearing them, not the other way around.  The easy rule of thumb is that if it doesn’t form an airtight seal, it doesn’t protect you from the environment. 

Another angle to consider is combat.  What happens if an enemy punches through the perimeter, is killed, and now you have to dispose of the body?  What precautions will you take to be sure you don’t catch something he may have?  Although it seems paranoid, I feel the best course of action for a group in a fortified location is to treat all outsiders as though they are contagious.  That means full coveralls, respirators, dedicated shoes, and dedicated shovels and equipment, all of which will either be kept in a designated area outside the main living quarters and away from food storage and preparation areas, or sanitized/destroyed by flame or other sufficient, non-destructive processes.  If your group adopts this method, it would be wise to designate only two people to do the disposing in order to limit the quantity of disposable/dedicated items required.  More than two people would make things faster, but the waste of protective materials increases.  It is easier (and cheaper) to use only two sets for the entire excursion, then dispose of them.

In order for a PPP to work effectively, all of your group members must have a general understanding of aseptic technique.  Let’s skip the classical definition.  This means, generally, that there is a hierarchy of cleanliness.  I would set it up as follows:
1-      Sterile – Item contains no pathogens or other foreign materials that can cause illness.  Example use -extensive surgery, dressings for 3rd degree burns.
2-      Sanitary – Item has been treated with a chemical or other process that makes it unlikely to carry pathogens. Example use- minor wounds (stitching, minor burns)
3-      Clean – Item has been cleaned to remove soil and possibly sanitized at some point.  It has been stored in a place where it is unlikely to come in contact with pathogens.  Example use- food preparation (no raw meat or eggs) and consumption.
4-      Unsanitary- Item is stored in an area thought to contain pathogens, or is used in handling objects that may contain pathogens.  Example use – gardening, preparing raw meat/eggs.  NOTE:  Although a garden shovel and an egg whisk are on two opposite ends of a traditional “dirty” spectrum and would not be used for the opposite task, we are only focusing on microbes that will certainly cause illness.  A compost-laden garden is unlikely to make you sick, even if you eat some of the dirt (I don’t advise it).
5-      Contaminated- Item is known to be used for cleaning or removing infected materials, and/or is stored in a place with other contaminated items.  Example use – burying dead outsiders, digging cat holes, sanitizing a quarantine area.

The general purpose of aseptic technique, for our discussion, is to prevent transferring a pathogen from a known or possibly contaminated object or area to an area that is unlikely to be contaminated.  This means that items higher on the list cannot be used for a task lower on the list and then re-used for an item above the first task.  If you were to use a Class 1 (sterile) item to perform a Class 3 task, you could not use the same Class 1 item for a Class 1 or 2 task without proper treatment of the item (sterilization in this case).  I find it easier to change the classes to colors, a la, white, yellow, blue, green, black, respectively.  This way, you can turn it into a game of “tag”, where when an item of one color “tags” an item of another color, the item higher on the list changes to the other color.  Whatever system works for you is best.
Hopefully this article has given you some tools to develop a plan for minimizing your risks associated with disease-causing microbes.  Stay safe, stay healthy!!

Disclaimer:  Do not perform medical procedures on yourself or others while you have access to professional medical care!  It is illegal in the US to practice medicine without a license.  The views expressed are not those of a medical professional.  You are solely responsible for the consequences of using any information contained herein.

About The Author: J.R.M. has Bachelor’s Degree in Biology/Microbiology, and several years of experience working with microbes in a laboratory environment.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

If you’re just now catching on to the need to prep, it’s not too late, but to be done effectively, it will cost you some money up front.
There are plenty of suggestions and web sites galore for the budget-challenged to prep ranging from buying a little extra each week---see the LDS shopping list for newlyweds---to hunting, fishing and foraging on state land. At the other extreme are those who can afford survivalist-consultants to build and stock extensive underground bunkers, which require the employ of a staff including farmers and Blackwater-type security. But, since no one else is, I’m going to focus on the needs of someone who needs to get up to speed fast and has enough money to cover it.  And getting up-to-speed has recently been sped up to two years of preps from six months.
Let’s get going.

Time’s Running Out

There are already sporadic shortages of various consumer products and, depending on how bad things get, there may come a time when some items aren’t available at all, especially things that come from far away. A few years ago when surveying the wreckage after the 2008 crash, a consumer-products analyst was worried about what choice the consumer would be left with as the Great Recession deepened. Yes, I know, choice will be the least of our concerns going forward, but you should stock up on what’s important to your family now while it’s still possible.
The take-away here is not that the needs of what’s left of the middle class are different from anyone else’s. The point, again, and unfortunately, is that it will take that kind of income or enough room left on credit cards to catch up to storing two years of necessities. And preferably, this should be accomplished before the November elections in the US. Our long-time friend, FerFAL, has a few insights about what to expect from mid-November (scroll down to What will Happen in the USA after the Elections.)

Everybody’s got to Eat

The shopping list below will cover bulk purchases and storage of food, water and minimal toiletries in quantities sufficient to get by for two years. You can still buy the dips when favourite items go on sale; however, I don’t think there’s enough time left to use the Mormon’s weekly shopping list that is spread out over a year.

Whether or not you buy into TEOTWAWKI mentality or not, at the very least, storms and other natural disasters can keep you running your generator for a week or a lot longer. This happened in the Northeast during last October’s freak snowstorm and happens repeatedly in other parts of the country. Oh, wait a sec; you do have a generator, don’t you? It’s at the top of 100 Things that Disappear First. You gotta have a generator. You also gotta have fuel for it, which you gotta store. If it’s gasoline, you’ll need a gasoline additive like Sta-Bil. Get the original formula for the [gasoline] generator and lawn tractor, Sta-Bil marine for your boat if you have one and Sta-Bil diesel for your Mercedes.

Talking about Mercedes, when the drought reached crisis stage in Somalia more than year ago, many Somalis---but not all---had to walk for days, weeks and sometimes a month to get to the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. One woman who didn’t have to walk was approached by reporters as she got out of a car with her kids. Her car was a Mercedes, but she didn’t have food and had to go to the refugee, camp. And why didn’t she have food; why didn’t she barter her car, cell phone or expensive wristwatch for food? Because there wasn’t any. There wasn’t any food at any price. Can it happen here? The US had a drought this year after a lousy growing season last year. The effects of these things are cumulative. So’s radiation poisoning, BTW, but we’ll get to that some other time.

Many items will end up in short supply or not be available at all. Note the Iranian diplomatic staff stocking up on consumer products (at dollar stores, mind you; times must be tough over there) while in New York to attend UN meetings. You’d think they’d have a few bucks, so I guess the items they bought were no longer available in Iran. Their currency plunging 20-30% over a day or two didn’t help either. I hope no one still thinks it can’t happen here.

Rule of Thumb

The rule of thumb has been to store six months of food, cash and anything else you need. Some think two years are safer and I do too. While you may have to increase your food budget 100-fold short term, keep in mind that this is a no-lose proposition. Anything you buy today will be more expensive tomorrow. So, as you effectively pull consumption forward, you will be average-costing down your household expenses. Even if prepping in anticipation of scarcity doesn’t grab you, blunting the effect of inflation, or a potential jobless stretch, should. I don’t see much of a downside here. Preps not used can be donated to a local food pantry for a tax deduction. If you have the extra funds, that would be a nice idea anyway.

Two Years’ Worth...

Drinking Water: This is considered the most important prep. The plastic containers water is sold in leach so you should store drinking water in glass containers. I bought gallon glass jars from: 

The Mayo Clinic recommends [a minimum of] 72 oz/day for women and 104oz/day for men [for a sedentary lifestyle]. Together, that’s about a gallon a day with enough left over to fill your cat or dog’s bowl. FreshWaterSystem’s price break for gallon jars is $4.24 for 24+. Here’s where the bucks come in. If you want to safely store drinking water for six months for two adults and a cat, that would be about 180 [one gallon] jars for $339.20; one year $678.40; and two years $1,356.80. The plastic jugs that you buy milk in are now formulated to biodegrade, but can be used to store water for bathroom use should it not be forthcoming from the faucet.

Tip: You can fine tune water purity by filtering it through a Big Berkey or other countertop water filter. If you’re looking at second homes, with prices coming down, look for something with a well. If you can dig a well where you are now, do so and install a solar pump.

Adequate Nutrition: The recommended daily calories for women* are 2,400—1,600/day depending on age and 3,000—2,000/day for men.** The easiest way to get sufficient calories and

Tip: Rice, beans and maybe a few other veggies can be made quite palatable with teriyaki or soy sauce. I bought a lifetime’s supply of Kikkoman Teriyaki Sauce at $39 a 36-bottle case, which was a bargain over grocery-store prices.
Sautéing veggies and meats in olive oil improves the taste and adds nutrients. Oil lasts several years in unopened glass bottles or metal cans; just make sure you get it in glass bottles or cans.

*A woman aged 19 to 30 years needs between 2,000 and 2,400 calories daily; 31 to 50 years 1,800 to 2,200 calories daily; those over age 51 need 1,600 to 2,200 calories daily.

Males** ages 19 to 30 need 2,400 to 3,000 calories a day, those 31 to 50 need 2,200 to 3,000, depending on level of activity. Males over age 51 need 2,000 to 2,800 calories a day.

Coffee and Tea: I don’t think it’s asking too much to include coffee and tea in a survivalist diet. carries several brands and sizes of coffee and tea including non-dairy creamer, which probably has a shelf life of infinity. Honey will last indefinitely too. Ground coffee in an unopened can will last two years or longer. Tea in bags in their unopened box or transferred to a lidded glass jar will last at least two years.

Spices and Condiments: Among common household items that store indefinitely are salt, sugar (preferably stored in glass or metal cans), honey and mayonnaise (unopened in a glass jar).
Those that last two years or more include dried or powdered garlic (2 years), dried or powdered onion (2-3 years); ground pepper (2-3 years); peppercorns (3-4 years). Here’s a good site to lookup shelf life:

Dollar-Store Spices: Prices are so much better at dollar stores that, for these items, I suggest actually shopping in a store. If you don’t want to spend the time, but are okay with spending the extra money, there are online sources. You can also buy cases of spices from the dollar store.

Pet Food: From a vet: “Generally speaking, if you buy the more expensive all-natural foods, the natural preservatives such as vitamin E used do not work as long as the preservatives used in cheaper foods. They break down. This is reflected in the best-used-by-date posted clearly on the higher-end pet foods. Dry pet foods with natural preservatives may be kept under 85 degrees sealed in a container in the original bag for about 4 months, while foods with other preservatives may be kept as much as three years if kept properly sealed up cool and dry. Just kept in the bag, I would not keep dry pet food past three months."

Dog Food:
Nutritional requirements for a dog aren’t that much different than for a human. They can be fed people food and do fine.

Cat Food:
This isn’t so for cats, however. There is a good article on the subject from Cornell’s Vet School.  In a SHTF scenario, kitty may have to make due with certain people foods. Low acid foods have a greater shelf life than those with higher acids in them. Fish and meat are low acid foods, hence, can be stored for a long time. Canned fish and meat can be stored unopened for about 2-5 years. Ask your vet about vitamin supplements.

Preppers are obsessed with toilet paper. I don’t know why, but I bow to their greater experience. Since it’s bulky, it’s a lot easier to have delivered than to buy it at the store. Here’s where I bought Ultra-Soft Charmin (the price break is at 40 rolls) at  Conservatively, budget 1.5 rolls per person, per week. That’s 78 rolls per year/one adult or 156 rolls for two adults. For two years/two people you’ll need 312 rolls or about 8 cartons @ $38.94/carton for a total of $311.52.

Tip: Toilet paper is considered to be a high-value barter item amongst the prepper cognoscenti. It also makes a nice hostess gift or Christmas stocking stuffer. Think of all those omelet brunches you’ll be invited to by backyard chicken farmers when they know you’ll show up with a roll. Not having gone through the above formula before I placed my order, I now have plenty to barter with.

Wrapping Up

If you place orders for the above items---all of which can be done online---you and your companion pets will have two years of adequate nutrition and safe hydration plus toilet paper. I’ll go into other food and toiletry items that will help maintain well being in subsequent articles.

JWR Adds: I realize that in many jurisdictions inside city limits with civic water supplies it is illegal to drill a well. But if you live in a region with a high water table and it is legal to do so, then go ahead and drill!

Regardless, you should convert your roof downspouts to fill water barrels. That water is fine as-is for gardening or toilet flushing. If you have a composition roof or a roof with treated wood shakes, you should plan to re-roof with a metal roof. Not only will it give you better fire protection, but it will also eliminate most contaminants from captured rainwater. If used for drinking, captured rainwater should be run through a good quality high volume ceramic filter such as a Big Berkey. (Available from several SurvivalBlog advertisers.)

Not all plastics leach toxins. Food grade HDPE is perfectly safe for water storage. Glass jars are not advised in earthquake country, but they are fine anywhere else. However, the cost per-gallon cost of storing water in jars is dramatically higher than using HDPE barrels, tanks, or tank totes. That is the only affordable way for most folks to set aside a large supply for dry seasons.

Friday, September 14, 2012

That was a nice submission by Tom T., but with a couple of items that aren't completely wrong but aren't entirely correct - or that can at least be interpreted incorrectly.  First,  he said, "The last way to prevent food borne illness is to cook the food to the proper temp.  Cooking to proper temperatures eliminates the threat of these harmful pathogens... Reheating to 165 degrees ensures that the bacteria are killed and the food has become safe to eat." 

Cooking food may eliminate bacteria but it doesn't destroy all bacterial toxins (the stuff that  actually makes you sick).  Staph aureus, for example, can produce a toxin that will withstand cooking and some pasteurization processes.  This means that if you store food in the temperature danger zone Tom mentioned, then even if it is cooked it might still be unsafe.

The second was a suggestion that dented cans are unsafe.  As long as a can isn't dented on a seam (top, bottom or welded side seam) it's fine.   In truth, most cans with minor dents in the areas mentioned are probably fine.  But "they" suggest discarding them, which is probably the wiser choice if there isn't decent medical care available and for children, the elderly and those who are already weakened or sick. Best, - Matt R.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

I have heard many preppers talk of the massive food supply that they have.  Some have months supply.  While others have a year plus of food.  All of this food will do no good if it isn't prepared safely.  I have been in the food industry for twenty plus years.  In that time we have all seen the news of the mass explosion of food borne illnesses.  We have seen the recalls of thousands of pounds of beef and the closure of several chains of restaurants.  In a SHTF scenario I doubt we will be living in the best of conditions and using commercial ovens and ranges.  I doubt we would even have an electric George Foreman grill.  Instead we will be cooking old school, by fire or some type of portable camping propane stove.  We could be preparing our meals in the foot hills of the mountains or some dirty ransacked dwelling that should be condemned.  Any way you slice it, no matter where we cook we must prepare our food safely.  According to the CDC every year 76 million people are infected with some type of food poisoning in the U.S. alone.  Of those 5,000 people die every year to these related symptoms.  The most affected are the young, the old and the ones with compromised immune systems.  Where do these illnesses come from? I'm glad you asked. Food borne illness comes from drinking beverages or eating food that is contaminated with bacteria, parasites or viruses.   Food borne illnesses have a variety of symptoms.  These symptoms include upset stomach, diarrhea, fever, confusion, abdominal cramps, dehydration and even death.  One or more of these symptoms could be a death sentence in a SHTF scenario.  With the lack of medications and diagnosis from a doctor you could be in serious trouble.  Imagine if you cooked a wild game bird for dinner and your entire family got ill.  Who would tend to them?  Who would continue the daily chores needed to survive?  Who will protect them from invaders?  It is not a pretty thought. The treatment to remedy most of the symptoms is to drink plenty of fluids and keep your electrolytes up and wait it out for a few days. However, sometimes dialysis or a blood transfusion is needed.  Kinda tough to do in a SHTF world unless you are a skilled doctor with access to the equipment needed. Here is a list of some of the most common types of pathogens that cause food poisoning:

Salmonella -caused by under cooked poultry or eggs.  The symptoms are abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting and nausea.
E coli-caused by under cooked meats. Symptoms are bloody diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and possible death.
Botulinum-caused by improperly canned goods, smoked or salted fish.  The symptoms are double vision, inability to swallow, inability to breath, difficulty speaking.
Vulnificus- caused by raw and undercooked shell fish. The symptoms are chills, fever and collapse.
Shigella and Staphylococcus-cause raw foods, unpasteurized milk and dairy products.  The symptoms are nausea, fever, abdominal cramping and diarrhea.
First lets talk about where food borne illness comes from.  Food borne illness comes from a variety of things.  It can occur in produce during the growing, harvesting, processing, storing, shipping or preparation.  In raw meat it can occur in the slaughter of the animal.  It can occur in eggs as well.  In fact one in every 10,000 eggs contains Salmonella.  It can also come from the contaminated fertilizer or the water that is used to grow the food.  Food can also become inedible by being left out for to long in warm temperatures. This is what we call the food danger zone.  The food danger zone is the temperature of food between 40 and 140 degrees.  In these danger zones bacteria multiplies rapidly.  In two hours you could be eating a BFD (bacteria filled dish).  The contamination is almost impossible to detect because it doesn't produce an odor nor does it change the color or texture of the food.  There are several ways to prevent this.  The first is to control the time and temperature which the food is in the danger zone temps.  If food starts to enter the danger zone try to bring the temperature down to the safe level ASAP, below 40 degrees. Second is to sanitize the area, your hands and utensils you are using. 

Bleach is a great cheap sanitizer. a single cap full can go a long way to killing harmful bacteria.  Never touch a raw product and then a cooked product. This can cause cross-contamination.  Always sanitize when switching to different food  products and utensils.  Latex or vinyl gloves are a great item to put in your bug out bag.  The last way to prevent food borne illness is to cook the food to the proper temp.  Cooking to proper temperatures eliminates the threat of these harmful pathogens.  The easiest way to test for the correct temp is a food thermometer.  These can be picked up just about anywhere for $8-$15.  I must advise that getting a non digital one would be best unless you have a stock pile of batteries for it.  Who knows how hard it could be to find batteries in the SHTF world. 

One thing about food thermometers they must be calibrated regularly, and whenever you drop them.  It is very easy to do, no tools required.  Either use the ice and water method or the boiling water method.  The ice method is the quickest and easiest.  The ice method is get a cup of room temp water and ice. Stir very well.  Just as the ice begins to melt place your thermometer in the water. the water should cover the small dimple in the rod. (that is the actual temperature reader).  Let it stand for 30 seconds or until the dial stops moving.  Your thermometer should read 32 degrees.  If it does not turn the nut at the base until it reads 32 degrees. Don't worry it comes with the tool to do it.  It is the sheath itself. The boil method is virtually the same.  Bring water to a rolling boil place the thermometer into the water for thirty seconds or until the dial stops moving.  It should read 212 degrees.  If not, then adjust the nut.  In either case be sure not to touch the container the water is in as you will get a false reading.  If you forget how to do these simple steps, the directions will be on the box of the thermometer and it literally takes 30 seconds.  Next, always reheat food to at least 165 degrees.  Reheating to 165 degrees ensures that the bacteria are killed and the food has become safe to eat.  When you are done eating place left-overs in a shallow pan and cool as quickly as possible.  Stir if it is necessary.  If a fridge or cooler is not available try using an ice cold creek.  The water will lower the temp of the food quickly.  In the food industry we use an ice bath.  This is fifty percent ice and fifty percent water.  It works rather well.   

Here is the proper cooking temps for various food products.
beef, pork and veal=160
turkey and poultry=165
eggs cook until yolk and whites are firm

Always keep raw foods separate from cooked foods.  The juices from the raw foods can contain harmful organisms that can ruin and contaminate all of your survival food.  If you do have a way to store food, store it like this from top to bottom.

1. Cooked foods
2. Fruits and vegetables
3. Fish and seafood
4. Beef and pork
5. Ground beef
6. Poultry. 

The reason it is stored like this is do to the various degrees you cook these items to make it a safe eating experience.  You can eat a med rare stake but not a med rare chicken leg.  Chicken needs to be cooked to a higher temp then beef to kill all of the organisms. If it was stored backwards chicken blood gets on the beef.  you would make your steak med rare and not kill the chicken bacteria and could get very ill.

In the event of a power outage situation keep all refrigerators and freezers closed.  A closed refrigerator has about 4 hours of cold in it.  A freezer has about 48 hours of cold if it is full.  If it is half full combine all of the food together so that it will remain colder longer.  A half full freezer only has 24 hours of coldness.   Open the doors only when necessary.  If the food reaches the danger zone either cook it or discard it.  You or your family's health is not worth the risk. If you end up scrounging for  food in a post SHTF world there are a few things to look for to ensure that what you gather is not contaminated.  Always go for the commercially packed food if it is available(as they are held to higher standards then mom and pop are).  Any canned good with broken seams, dents or leaks is ruined. Move on and don't bother.  Any crack in a jar is just as dangerous and can contain harmful bacteria.  All items that are found should be kept in it's container and immersed in a solution of bleach (2 teaspoons of chlorine bleach per quart of water) for fifteen minutes.  Make sure that the water is room temp. Regardless if the SHTF or not (I pray to god not), we must all be aware of how to prepare our meals safely and soundly. Proper sanitation,cleanliness and cooking procedures affect each and everyone of us everyday. In a TEOTWAWKI situation this is even more so. Everyday our lives and those we love depends on proper food preparation. For more info on food safety please visit They have a vast selection of information on this topic.  The statistics used here were obtained from these sites.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

It is predicted that 76 million people will die from water related diseases by the year 2020. This statistic may be a drastic underestimation if the collapse occurs before the end of the decade.
Imagine that you just used up your last pocket micro-filter, and although you have access to fresh water, you have no way to purify it. You think about starting a fire to cleanse your mucky pond water or reclaimed rainwater, but looters have sacked several outposts that you trade with in the area, and you fear smoke from a fire may draw unwanted attention to your retreat. Your family is in need of water, what do you do? Well, you may have a supply of water stored in containers from last week in your cache, but if you did not read this article you would not know that the water you stored is now only moderately cleaner than the barrel, river or lake that it came from.

It is known by virtually everyone in the United States that if you boil your water it is safe for consumption. The Clasen 2008: Microbiological Effectiveness and Cost of Disinfecting Water by Boiling in Semi-urban India, exposes this well-known fact to be true, but also discovers the downfall associated with boiling water occurs in its storage after boiling.

Clasen verifies in the field by observing pasteurization habits performed by locals, not scientists in a laboratory, that 99.9% of dangerous materials were removed from water with high fecal matter content in India. The fact that boiling water in a third world country where water quality is beyond horrible should make everyone feel a little safer about using pasteurization as a primary means of water purification, but the study further tests water which had been stored after boiling. The research published discovers that less than 60% of the stored water met the World Health Organizations standards for quality drinking water. How can this be?

The study reveals that a very high percentage of households where drinking water is first boiled that re-contamination occurs during storage and results in the consumption of polluted water. Unlike chemical treatment there is no residual treatment of the water after the water is boiled and placed in a container for storage, so bacteria re-growth is possible even with the slightest contamination. It is important to note that boiling water is by far the preferred method for treating water because when done properly it kills 100% of the pathogens. Clasen’s research highlights the importance of practicing proper water boiling habits and the need for a secondary system to provide an extra measure of safety to ensure that your drinking water is safe.

Secondary Systems of Treatment

I am a fan of learning skills that are not reliant on an open loop supply chain. I have spent the last year practicing my gardening skills, learning how to harvest fruit and vegetables, as well as seed harvesting and storage. This is a closed loop system and is infinitely viable. Much of the material that I have read on water purification focuses on technology or low-tech systems that rely on the availability of machined products. The problem with anything mechanical or technical is that eventually it will break or simply wear out, and then you are faced with the question, now what? I like to take a bottom up approach to all of my preparations. If someone says you should have a steady supply of salt and sugar, the first question I ask is how do I make my own salt and sugar?

In the short term many people will be able to use chlorine, hydrogen peroxide or other forms of chemical treatment as a secondary form of water purification after pasteurization to reduce re-contamination during storage. Even if you are lucky enough to have a ‘Big Berkey’ I would recommend treating any water that is stored, no matter what the primary system of purification is. But what happens when you run out of chlorine or hydrogen peroxide? If you live close to the coast, then salt production can easily enable an endless supply of chlorine, but unfortunately the production of hydrogen peroxide is by far more complicated and dangerous, so what do I do if I am not a mad scientist?

There is another system of water treatment that exists within a closed loop regardless of your location because it makes use of the sun’s powerful UV rays. Although the SODIS method can be used as a primary means of purification, it does not offer a 99.9% treatment capability like pasteurization. The advantage of SODIS (solar disinfecting) is that the water treated is easily stored in the same containers that are used to purify the water, which eliminates the risk of re-contamination. If you plan on using, consuming or cooking with the boiled water immediately then you are relatively safe and a secondary system is not needed. The purpose of this article is to highlight the dangers associated with water storage and provide readers with a closed loop system that ensures that the water stored after TEOTWAWKI is just as safe as water that is consumed after being boiled.


In 2009 my architecture firm began designing a portable disaster relief housing unit that could easily be deployed in response to ‘Hurricane Katrina’-type natural disasters. I began researching sustainable technologies that could be implemented in the design to give disaster survivors food, energy and fresh water in a closed loop system. Photovoltaics, natural ventilation, and the ability to grow food on the roof of the structure were all ideas that were incorporated in the design, but water purification technologies either required too much space, complicated mechanical equipment or would eventually require maintenance, and consumed large amounts of energy. After all we had to work with a 10’ x 40’ footprint for easy transportation.

As my research intensified, I began studying water purification techniques used in third world countries. There is one method of water purification that is infinite and accessible to all, the sun. The SODIS (solar water disinfection) method does not require any mechanical devices, electrical power or chemicals. All that is required is a plastic/glass bottle and some sunshine. There are tidbits of information and misinformation regarding SODIS all around the web. I have collected all of this information in hopes of compiling a definitive guide on the process.

How does SODIS work?

UV light destroys the cell structures of bacteria by interfering directly with the metabolism of the bacteria. The UV light additionally reacts with the oxygen dissolved in the water and produces oxygen free radicals and hydrogen peroxides that are believed to also damage pathogens, preventing reproduction. The solar radiation heats the water and if the temperature rises above 122 degrees Fahrenheit then the disinfection process occurs three times faster. The SODIS method has been proven to destroy diarrhea-causing organisms in polluted drinking water and laboratory experiments have shown that extremely high levels of E. coli populations 100,000 (1-3,000 is a natural maximum) per 100ml of water can be made harmless.

The UV rays can kill germs such as viruses, bacteria and parasites in as little as six hours of exposure to the sun

Bacteria are highly sensitive to UV-A radiation (wavelength 320-400nm) and are quickly killed by sunlight. This is the principal concern when storing water.
The viruses are slightly more resistant, but are also killed within the recommended 6 hours. 
Parasites are less sensitive to sunlight. While giardia cysts are rendered inactive within 6 hours, cryptosporidium cysts must be exposed to direct sunlight for at least 10 hours before they are neutralized. Amoebas do not die until the water temperature has been warmer than 50°C for over an hour.
The Process
First, you must be sure to use clean PET bottles, see the next section on bottles for more information. Fill the bottles with water and close the cap. Bottles should only be filled three-quarters of the way full and be shaken vigorously for 20-30 seconds with the cap on to increase the oxygen content of the water. After oxygenating the water, fill the bottle completely and recap. If you can read black printing on a white paper through the bottle, then the turbidity is low enough that the UV rays from the sun will be able to purify the water. For water with high turbidity use smaller diameter containers so that the sun can fully penetrate the water. If the water is very cloudy then it must be filtered before using the SODIS method, and in general I recommend always filtering water first even if you plan on boiling. The filled bottles need to be exposed to direct sunlight for at least six hours or two days under very cloudy conditions. Solar reflectors or metal roofs are preferred because they increase the amount of sunlight that infiltrates the bottle. After the water has been purified it can be stored in the plastic or glass bottles that they were sterilized in until it is time to drink or use the water. The risk of contamination is greatly minimized if the water is stored in the bottles used for solar disinfection.
Re-growth of bacteria may occur if the water is stored in the dark. Recent studies have shown that simply adding ten parts per million of hydrogen peroxide is effective in preventing the re-growth of wild Salmonella. In addition table salt is an effective agent for reducing the turbidity.

Type of Bottles:

All bottles are not created equal. Thin-walled polyethylene terephthalate, labeled PET or PETE in the US can safely be used for SODIS. These are the water bottles that are marked with a “1” recycling symbol on the bottle.
Nearly all soda bottles, including 2 liter bottles which are great for daily use can be used for SODIS. Care should be taken to minimize scratches and wearing of bottles as this reduces the efficiency of SODIS, because it prevents UV rays from passing through the plastic. Typically plastic bottles need to be replaced every 6-12 months, although if greater care is taken or glass is used then the life-cycle of the bottles is greatly increased. Glass bottles can be used and will last forever under proper care, but you must be sure that they are free of UV-blocking additives.

Additional Filtering

If additional filtering is required there are a number of means that can greatly increase the quality of drinking water. The following is a great source on SODIS and secondary means of water filtration:
Due to the abundance of sand in my region, I am biased towards the sand filter, which conveniently is the lowest tech filter of the bunch.

The PotaVida indicator: Practice Makes Perfect
The PotaVida indicator, is not required, but is a great tool to have as you hone your SODIS skills. The indicator is designed to tell you when the water has reached a safe level of drinkability by measuring the water’s exposure to solar irradiation. The PotaVida indicator is not needed for each bottle, it simply measures sun exposure and calculates based on the actual conditions when your water is purified. Get to know how long it takes on a cloudy day in February in your region for a water bottle to be exposed to enough solar radiation to be purified. Keep a journal and log the temperature, day, and the conditions of the sky. This information may save your life one day. It is important to note that this is a learning device that helps you perfect your SODIS skills. The PotaVida indicator runs on solar power, lasts for five years and the price is less than $10 per indicator.

Do Chemicals Leach from the PET bottles?
The leached organic compounds amount to less than 10% of the safe amount for drinking water as defined by the World Health Organization, and studies have shown that no other chemicals are leached into the water during the SODIS process.
If you are using glass bottles then there is no risk of any leaching.

What mistakes do new users make most often?

Use only clear bottles, do not use green or brown bottles because these bottles absorb UV-A light.
Do not use bottles that hold more than 3 liters or are greater than 4” in diameter.
Do not place bottles vertically, they must be laid horizontally. This increases the area exposed to the sunlight and reduces the effective depth of the water the light has to penetrate.
Keep the treated water in the same container, remember that we are trying to prevent re-contamination.
Do not store treated water in dark places, this encourages growth of bacteria. If limited algae growth occurs, the water is still drinkable. Algae are not harmful.
Check the turbidity, pre-filter or better yet, pasteurize your water before using SODIS.

What does SODIS not remove?

SODIS does not remove any toxic chemicals that may already be in the water, which makes it ideal for rainwater sterilization.

Closing Water is by far the most important resource and although there may be some skeptics that dismiss SODIS, it is always wise to be aware of multiple ways to purify water off the grid, and to know the pros and cons associated with each. I strongly encourage everyone to question their strategies for water purification and to become familiar with SODIS and the Readers should also familiarize themselves with the Guidelines for Drinking-Water Quality, third edition, incorporating first and second addenda, which is available as a free PDF.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I hope that what I have to say will help someone that is just getting started with their survival preparedness situation, SurvivalBlog has helped me in streamlining our preparations, and I believe in giving back some of what I have received.  I have read many different blogs and forums, and come away with the impression that most of the blogs are for the arm chair survivalist that do not try anything for themselves, but only go on what they have read or heard. is one of the few that have individuals that seem to have tried what they say they have done and shared their experiences.

My experience with a survival mind set started almost a decade ago, but only limited for a few weeks or month at most.  That all changed several years ago when I started really looking at the way our country was headed.   I will admit that I still have a long ways to go, but with God’s help, and if the world will hold together long enough, I will get to where I desire to be.  If not, then my family and I will survive with what we have on hand for a long time.


We do have enough for me and my family for at least a year, longer if we just go to two meals a day.  My youngest daughter is almost 17, and I have 4 boys that range in ages from 19 to 33, then two older daughters and their families.  You can imagine the appetite of young men so I have taken that into account.  Only one son is married and has two small children.  I have endeavored to teach my children to always be prepared for as much as possible, if only for a short time.  Again, that has changed over the last couple of years.  We live in a hurricane prone area, so it is imperative that we always have plenty of food on hand that can be eaten with little or no cooking.  I am not talking about MRE’s.  I do have two cases of MRE’s that I obtained during the last hurricane that was not eaten, but I like to store what we usually eat daily, and eat what we store. I read that on a blog and it made sense to me.

It was very difficult to get my wife onboard, but during the last hurricane a few years ago, she and my daughter went to my sister’s house because it was further away from the coast than our old house (built in 1925).  My sister and her husband had nothing to eat but a few bags of chips and some crackers, and two bottles of soda.  They did not even have matches to light the one decorative candle that was in their house.  My brother-in-law had unplugged the refrigerator before the hurricane hit so it would not be damaged from power surges.  Hence, all the food that was in the refrigerator and their freezer was ruined before it was truly needed.  When communications was restored about two days later, my wife called and talked to one of our sons.  He told her that we still had cold milk, and were eating fine.  At the time, we only kept about two months’ worth of food on hand.  It was two days later before she and my daughter were able to come home, and a month before we had electricity restored.

It was at that point that my wife fully came on board with storing extra food.  There are times that she will say “I think we have enough”, but we are still building our “lauder” as she sometimes calls it.

There have been times that we were only able to add one or two cans or a bag of rice and beans every two weeks or so, but every little bit helps.  There have even been a few times that we could not add anything, but had to use what we had stored just to make it for the week or two before we could buy something.  In those cases, we were very glad we had something to fall back on.

It doesn’t matter if you have very little at this point.  The time to start is now.  Even if you have to do as we did during our lean times with just a few cans of something or a bag of rice and/or beans.  You need to get something to hold you over during a natural disaster or the eventual TEOTWAWKI.


I have been an avid hunter all my life until the last decade or so.  Hunting leases just became too expensive for my budget.  I did try hunting the National Forest for a few years, but they are a dangerous place.  You think you are alone, and then a bullet hits a tree just above your head.  I decided that was enough of the National Forest for me.  My sons’ still hunt the National Forest on occasion, but they too are not having very good success.

Because of where we live, I had built a range in my pasture years ago.  I have taught all my children how to shoot firearms from the time they were about 4 years old.  At that age, they do not have the concept of how to aim, but they enjoyed shooting with their dad.  In my opinion, you can never be too young to learn gun safety.  As they grew, their marksmanship also improved, and the enjoyment of just shooting.  I still have the Chipmunk and the youth .22lr rifles that they learned with.  My granddaughter that is now 3 years old has been shooting with her mom, dad, and papa using that same Chipmunk.  That is the first thing she wants to do when they come to visit.

All my children now have their own .45 ACP Glock or XD .45 handguns, a 12ga. Mossberg pump shotgun, a .22 lever action rifle, and a main larger caliber rifle (MBR).  My wife can handle the .45 ACP, but prefers her 9mm Glock, and a 20 gauge youth 870 pump shotgun.  She is not into rifles yet, but I am still hoping that one day she will ask me for one.  I do have a few extra rifles that have been in the family for a long time that she might be able to handle, but I would like to get her something she will enjoy and not be afraid to shoot.  We also have several .22 LR handguns that we use for just plinking on occasion.  We try to train with the handguns and rifles at least once a month depending on the funds available for ammunition.  Ammunition can get expensive with that many shooters at one time.  I do reload all our handgun ammunition only, and replace all that we use during our practices. 

I was striving for everyone to shoot the same make/caliber/ga. to cut down on the different types of ammunition that I would have to have on hand.  I would interject here that it doesn’t matter what you decide for your family.  It is what you and your family are comfortable with.  My daughter, who is almost 17 likes the Glock, but the XD45 fits her hands better.  It is all in your size, training, desire, finances, and ability.  Do not buy cheap, since cheap will get you hurt, or killed, or will break down when you need it the most.  If you do not have the funds to get everyone their own firearm, buy quality, and each learn to use that quality firearm until you are able to purchase another.

At this point, I would like to say that you cannot go wrong by storing factory ammo for all your firearms.  I trust my reloads but do not count it as part of my stored ammunition.  I have not had a malfunction with any of the reloads that I have made, but that is not to say it will never happen.  I am only human, and could make a mistake.  I have read about various amounts of ammunition that should be stored for each firearm, but your comfort level may be different from mine.  Personally, I am trying to store at least a thousand rounds of factory ammo for each firearm that we have.  I am not quite there yet, but getting closer.  At this time I have switched my priorities again.  I am trying to build our food supply to a much larger level.  That is my number one priority so the ammunition storing will be a little less for now.  I am comfortable with what I have on hand, but not so much with our food supply.  I believe that it could be over a year to years before everything settles down again, if ever.  We also have lots of seeds for the garden.


My family has been truly blessed in that none of us have to take any type of medications.  Therefore, it has been relative easy to stock what we think we might need.  We have stocked Band-Aids and bandages of various sizes.  Antibiotic creams and anti-itch creams, and large quantities of various types of aspirin are in our stores.  I just recently purchased a blood pressure kit and a stethoscope.  You just never know when you might need this.  Along with the various salves and creams, we have items for stomach problems and for dry eyes.  We are not as far along in this area as I would like, but we need so little (right now) in this area.  We have lots of tooth brushes and tooth paste, dental floss, oral jell, emergency dental repair kits, and some mouth wash.  Not to be left out, a lot of TP, and personal things for my wife, daughter, and daughter-in-law.  Also we have some preventives.  That is all I will say about that.  Soap and shampoo will be at a premium, so we have quite a bit of that along with alcohol, peroxide, and disinfectant washes.  We have also saved any prescription antibiotics and pain killers from the past.  Most of these were for tooth ailments, and from my daughter-in-law.  Babies are always taking medications for something, so she has saved them for me.

All my family’s teeth have been taken care of, and kept up with regular cleanings and any minor dental decays have been fixed.

We also have some medications and things for small children, including dozens of cloth diapers.  The cloth diapers can be used for almost anything. 

Needless to say, we do have other things for medical and personal hygiene, but this is just to give you a rough estimate to what we have on hand for a healthy large family.  We didn’t collect all of these preparations overnight.  Everything takes time.  Just remember that you can only take one step at a time.

There are other areas that we could talk about having on hand, such as alternate power sources, heat sources, clothing, tools, retreats, children’s games, bug or ant solutions, or etc., but you may be able to only concentrate on one specific area at this time.  Start there.  Start where you are now, and do not get frustrated that it is going so slow, and you feel that you may only have a short time.  Something now for your family is better than nothing while waiting for a government that doesn’t have the resources to take care of the millions that depend on it now as proven by the Hurricane Katrina.   Your family is depending on you.

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.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

I thought this might appeal to the  "low-tech" electricity free oriented people.  Two designers got a $19,500 grant to bring the "GiraDora" into the real world. Designed from seeing the plight of those living in slums in Lima, they wanted to reduce the work load of poverty stricken people earning $4 to $10 a day.

They created this. It uses less water than washing by hand!

There is some more info here.

Respectfully, - Erik K.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

I have some thoughts on the article regarding the disposal of trash.  It was interesting and thought provoking, however I think in a situation where services were not going to come back you would find that that amount of rubbish you generate would be quite small.

You would not be bringing more “stuff” into the house as you would not be shopping and anything you did already have you would recycle as there would be no chance of getting those storage jars etc any longer.  So all those tins, jars containers etc would eventually be used in one way or another.

If you haven’t already, you should already be moving away from a disposable life, for starters it is cheaper than continually buying disposable products.  Paper plates are not a way of life here except for picnics so if you use paper plates on an every day basis I think a change is in order.  Disposable nappies are expensive and cloth nappies are not much work at all (and healthier for your baby’s bottom), washable menstrual pads just as easy (and more comfortable in my opinion).

Kitchen scraps should always be given to the chooks or the garden, you would be cooking from scratch and there would be very little on-going trash from any packaging.  Change now and purchase as little packaging as possible, if there is packaging try and recycle it, paper and cardboard in to the garden, glass jars for preserving and storage etc, if you do buy packaging make sure you can recycle it.
Repurpose items that are no longer used for the original purpose, learn to sew and fix or change the clothes you no longer want, reuse items for another reason, or just don’t buy too much in the first place, just the things you need. 

Have two uses for items you bring into the house and think about it before you buy: what is the life span of this item, can it be used for more than one purpose and can it be recycled on the property?  Don’t create rubbish to start with.

So basically, don’t buy disposable products, and make sure the packaging is recyclable, long term your rubbish would be minimal and mostly recyclable.  In a TEOTWAWKI situation there would be no more items randomly bought on impulse and anything you already had would be saved like our grandparents did.

Regards To You, - Kathryn in Australia

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I thought the article Dying and Death in a Collapse Situation, by Irish Eyes was a well written piece.  As a funeral director I thought I would add my thoughts.

The article was very well written and had good working knowledge of the death and dying process. The point that I wanted to touch on is the fact that there is a stigma that dead bodies are extremely unsanitary. They may be and should be treated as such if you were to come upon a body that died of unknown causes. However, according to Ron Hast publisher Mortuary Management Magazine, if the person died of known or natural causes they are not anymore unsanitary than they were prior to passing. I agree with these statements as well as long as we are talking about a reasonable amount of time. The body should be washed and dressed appropriately and you do not need to be wearing a hazmat suit to do it.

Burial on your own property is legal (in my region) there are rules set out by law for this to take place. In the county where I live the rules state that burial should be 100 feet from a well, spring, stream or other water source and at least 25 feet inside your property line. Graves do not need to exceed four feet in depth the six foot depth is something conjured up in the movies and modern graves are dug at a four foot depth. I think that shooting for a 3 foot depth would be adequate if hand digging.

The grave should be marked as soon as possible. A person thinks that they will always know where the grave is, but it will return to its surroundings quicker than one might think. The rules and regulations that surround death and burial vary widely by state and even county. In a TEOTWAWKI setting what must be done must be done. Just keep a good record of everything. Record grave locations, date of death, time of death, journal the facts surrounding the death.

Get in touch with your local family owned funeral home. I'm sure they would be happy to give you some knowledge base to better prepare you in the event you need to use it. God Bless. - Tango Charlie

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

An introduction of personal circumstances always seems necessary, so I’ll get that out of the way first.  My husband and I, along with our three children, moved from a moderate sized Texas town of 200,000 to a small spread out community of about 1.500.  That population of 1,500 lives in an area of about 40 square miles.  Our location, of which Mr. Rawles would not approve, is hot and dry. We are learning new ways in all areas of our lives to make this living situation work.  We and our 3 teen-aged children love our community and the new freedom that we have found here.

My husband is a man of many, many skills. A natural problem solver, he can look at most situations and fabricate some kind of solution.  Whether it is plumbing, construction, economics or world politics, he sees the situation in mechanical terms. While he can find or fabricate solutions for most construction, plumbing and solar converter problems, he can’t fix the problems that we see in the political and economic world.  So we do the next best thing.  We prepare.

I, on the other hand, am not particularly mechanically inclined.  Until I married my husband, I was a city apartment dweller with my mother and my brother.  If there was a problem, we called the apartment manager.  I’ve also always known the convenience of the city. Until this last move, I’ve never lived in a city or town without a university.  I’ve never lived without the convenience of grocery shopping at a moment’s notice. Until I met my husband, I did not garden and I’m still not that good at it.  Based on my mother’s experiences, canning was to be avoided at all costs.  Growing up, my mom and I were not in the category of the worst consumers, but we did consume our share of convenience. Compared to our friends at the time, we were down-right frugal.  Compared to what I know now, we had a long way to go before we could be called frugal.   Of all the things that I have “given up” to live where we live, convenience is what I miss most.  But, I’m not willing to move back to a town or city of any size to regain “convenience”.  My husband and I are blessed that we are of one mind about the need to prepare. We don’t take that blessing for granted, either. GOD put us in this new community for a reason and we will be here until He moves us.

While I miss conveniences like “in the mood” grocery shopping, the consistent, orderly removal of trash is a mark of civilized life that I miss very much.  Now, I realize that much of rural America still burns trash. Many have sloughs, or ditches that need filling and are filled with trash that cannot be burned, but I’ve never had any experience with this.  I’ve never separated my trash except for a few forays into recycling.   Before my husband and I moved to our current home, I could clean out the refrigerator, pick up around the yard, put the usual refuse of daily life into the trash and it was gone.  I could, twice a year like clockwork, clean out my children’s closets and make piles. One pile was trash and one was given to an organization such as Goodwill and another might be given to friends.  But wherever it went, it was out of my house and out of my life with immediacy that I never gave much thought.  And yes, we did recycle to a degree.  For whatever reason, our former town seemed to make recycling harder, not easier, so I did some, but not as much as I could have.
We arrived in our new community in December of 2010. We brought a burn barrel with us and we burned our trash and recycled what we could locally for about 3 months.  We were living in a 34 foot long trailer at the time, and we had no running water, so we used paper plates and picnic type utensils and cups.  We used a lot of water bottles. By March, our area had been a full year and a half without any measurable rain and some areas were suffering from fires, so our county instituted a burn ban.  If you are familiar with burn bans, you know that sometimes they don’t include every type of possible fire. Sometimes it is a charcoal fire burn ban, or just fireworks, or no open-pit burning. This burn ban was all inclusive. It included welding and any type of fire whether it was grilling on a gas grill or burning trash in a barrel.  So now what??  At first, I was pretty naïve about what a problem trash can be. We had no idea how long we’d be in the ban, so we started with Band-Aid solutions.  My husband used the Kubota tractor to dig/push dirt and rock into a berm and we piled our bags up against that berm. By this time, we were dry camping in our shipping container house.  Let me tell you, trash really piles up for 5 people in this situation. We had limited water by now, none running in the house, but hoses from a well outside.  I moved us away from disposable plates, etc. to dishware and cutlery as soon as I could, but we still made a lot of trash.  We quickly outgrew the berm idea and when we found our first rattlesnake with a mouse bulge, we knew that we needed a better solution.  We built an enclosure out of t-posts, cattle panel and plywood for the top and moved the trash pile.  What this gave us was an enclosure to contain the trash so that it wouldn’t spread out.  We could throw the bags in at the top and not get too close to the pile.  That was a year and half ago and I still have remnants of that pile that need to be burned.  At its largest, the current trash pit was 8 x 8 x 5.  It still has that basic outline, but it is no longer bulging at the seams. 

Another problem that we encountered in our situation was recycling.  In our area of the country, we have about 8 months of glorious weather. We can be hot during the day, but the nights cool down significantly.  We have 4 months during the summer when the heat is constant and a real challenge.   So most people live here during the 8 winter months and leave for the 4 summer months.  We don’t have many of our services, like recycling, during the summer.  And if we store recyclables during the summer and hit the recycling trailer with it when it reopens in the fall, it is too much for them to handle all at once.  Our closest town is 80 miles away and they have recycling services.  We do bag our recyclables, which at the moment, is mostly aluminum cans and metal food cans.  We have bags of them, but in order to get them to town, we’d have to take the diesel pickup rather than the more fuel efficient sedan.  So we haven’t done this yet. But, at some point, we’ll have to.  It isn’t a good solution to the problem, but we’ll do what we have to do.

A third problem that I have found is finding a home for things that I no longer use or things that no longer work and are not considered trash.   What do you do with the laptop power cord that will no longer charge the computer?  What do you do with the items that you thought would be useful in your new home, but are not? Thrift stores: We have a couple, but they really are overrun with stuff.  They consistently ask residents not to drop off any more things until they can clear out merchandise.  Garage Sale/Flea Market: also an option, but most people are looking to get rid of stuff, not buy it.  Also the organized flea market is only available in the winter months. Free cycle: Our nearest town is 80 miles away and most people won’t drive this far to get it, but it could happen.  Recycle/Re-purpose: seeing an item’s potential outside of its normal use is not one of my gifts. I rarely think outside of the box, so this is a skill that I need to develop and if you have stuff like I do, you need to develop it too.  Store items for Barter: Yes, but storage is a very big issue. We downsized our home considerably and I gave away about 2/3 of what we owned before we made the move.  But what I didn’t count on was how much room prep stores and food stores actually take.  We had only just gotten started with our preparations before we decided to move.  So before I store something that someone else may need someday, I’d like to get my own stuff organized and stored properly.  Beyond re-purposing and storing for barter, the only solution that I can think of for items like this is to bury them.  The solution before burying it is not to buy it in the first place.  I wish I’d seen that one coming.

The initial strict burn ban lasted a full year and we are still under a partial burn ban that prohibits some types of trash burning.  At the moment, we can burn trash in a barrel if it is enclosed. We put our burn barrel in our first outdoor shower that we had constructed out of cut-out shipping container walls.  In our small community, one business built a metal structure out of roofing tin.  On the roof he installed two whirligigs for exhaust.  We don’t know what he used for air intakes, but it couldn’t be that hard to figure out.  We are saving that idea for future use.  Anyway, with our small enclosure and our burn barrel, we can burn our current trash and we are making some in-roads into the stored trash. 

As I read survival articles and literature, I don’t find much space given to the disposal of trash.  I’ve shared our experiences, now I’d like to share some insights.  Not so much solutions because there is only one solution that I see.  I’d rather let you see some of the issues and then tailor your own solutions.  As I’ve hinted above, the three options for dealing with trash are: burn it, bury it, or recycle/re-purpose it.  But, the ultimate solution to the trash problem for those of us who prepare for more desperate times is to plan for it.   In a grid down or TEOTWAWKI situation where security is paramount, what are you going to do with your trash?  Just so we are clear, I am not talking about a natural disaster where you can see that normal services will resume sometime in the future.  I am talking about a grid down situation where you are completely on your own.  In this situation, your decisions might need to include OPSEC, medical concerns, hygiene, and environmental pollution.  Critter control, future sewage needs, and the logistics of being out and about around your retreat need to be addressed.  In order to plan for this, you’ve got to look at what preparations you’ve got in place.  You need to look at your location.  What food/pantry store do you have in place?  What are your security needs?  What are your sewage plans?  Identify your biggest trash challenge.   Is it diapers or paper plates?  Is it tin cans or plastic water bottles?  You can deal with it as long as you’ve identified the challenge and the solution ahead of time and then planned for it.

I think most people consider burning trash to be the best alternative in most situations.  So does your location support that decision?  Do you live in a rural area? I can imagine scenarios where you could burn trash in a city, but that means things are pretty bad.  In a rural area, you may not want anyone to know that you are still in place.  Smoke can be dealt with to a degree, but you’d be hard pressed to burn trash on a regular basis and cover up the smoke smell.  As for environmental concerns, there are not that many.  You just don’t want to burn toxic stuff that will foul your air.  For example, we have blue foam boards that we’ve used in construction.  I don’t burn these.  I believe we do need to make some accommodation for the environment.  We won’t have the EPA breathing down our necks, but we should take care of the land and air that will take care of us.  Some things don’t burn.  You will have to deal with ashes and charred debris.  Have you got somewhere to dispose of that?  You can’t burn aerosol cans or batteries, so you will have to have some alternative plans for them. 

You can bury your trash. We live in an area where the landscape will not recover from this type of intrusion.  You’d see our pit, the tracks from the Kubota tractor, our car tire tracks, whatever, for 100 years.  That is more of an environmental impact than we’d like to make right now and it isn’t very secure, but it remains an option for us long term.   For one thing, we have enough land to do it and we have earth moving equipment. I’ve read articles that recommend you have shovels or hand tools to bury your trash. I’m telling you, from experience, a shovel will not be much help long term when confronted with mounds of bagged trash.  You are going to be digging a very large hole.  If you have the equipment to dig a large hole, do you have the parts and experience to maintain and repair the equipment? You may have ditches or sloughs that run through your property.  If you dump your trash in these and then plant native grasses in and around the refuse, this could help with erosion problems.  My in-laws do this and have corrected some erosion issues on their farm land.  But, my mother-in-law is very diligent about moving grass clumps into the dump area.  Again, this is not an option for us, but you need to evaluate your own landscape.  You also have to consider the environmental impact of burying as well.  Again, we may not need to be as obsessive as the EPA has become, but we don’t want our rivers to burn either.  Consider rain runoff before you choose a spot to dig.  Consider where your well is located; consider winds, critters and future land use before you dig.

You can recycle your trash. I’m not talking about municipal recycling programs because in this scenario, there would be no municipal recycling programs. I’m talking about home-grown, common sense recycling. What can I do with the water bottles or water jugs that I’ve stored and that are now empty?  What can I do with all of the #10 cans as they are used? I’ve seen a chicken shed roof that was “shingled” with tin can lids and the walls reinforced with flattened cans.  Walls can be built with cans and filled with dirt; bottles cans be used for windows, etc., but that is only if you still need structures around your retreat.  Some items from your pantry might be done away with entirely. I found a washable “paper” towel pattern online, and let’s face it ladies, washable pads from Naturally Cozy just makes sense, doesn’t it?  While there are few op/sec or medical/hygiene issues with recycling, there are logistical issues.  Where are you going to store used items like used tin food cans or the #10 cans that we all love so much? Have you got storage for used items?  There comes a point where you just cannot use another #10 can to store nuts/bolts/thread/yarn/seed packs/ etc.  Then what?  Think about diversifying your food and pantry storage as you rotate.  I used some of my dehydrated vegetables to make soup mixes. I repackaged them in Mylar bags which store flat and can be reused until they are too small and at that point, they aren’t much trash.  I also put some mixes into gallon glass jars.  I don’t recommend this if you are not rotating your storage.  There are literally thousands of recycle ideas on the internet. You just have to look for them.  Look at your storage, see what you have the most of and then go hunt up some ideas.  Plan ahead for what you’ll need and what may be used as barter (think glass jars—you cannot have too many!)

There is no one size fits all solution to trash in a grid down TEOTWAWKI scenario except to plan, plan, and plan.  There are as many solutions to the trash problem as there are retreat solutions. Don’t put this off, however.  You may visit your retreat often. You may practice bugging out.  But, if after the weekend is over, you haul your trash to the Dumpster in town, or burn it at your retreat without thought or worry, then you haven’t done all of your homework.  Trash will be a big problem for you if you don’t plan for its disposal ahead of time.  For most of us, trash disposal is one of those things that we regularly take for granted.  Don’t.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Hi Jim,
Two SurvivalBlog posts on Friday (Discovering What We Needed in an Actual Time of Need and Hot Water, Post-SHTF) caught my attention and got me to thinking. They were similiar in the sense of discovering "needs" during a "crisis".  One (MM) was wanting a generator and other had a generator but still had needs.
But were they really needs?  Or just wants?  Both spoke of "keeping life as normal as possible" and maintaining their current lifestyle.  Both spoke of the psychological aspects (stress, crying and sanity) of dealing with changes to their accustomed routines and environments.  Wow, what are they going to do when the poo really hits the fan?  How are they going to cope? 

I visit most of the survival type sites on the Internet and have read almost all the post apocalypse books out there.  I have come to the conclusion that there are two types of preppers out there.  One side has what I consider to be a realistic view of how hard it is going to be and that life is not going to be "normal".  The other side is spending outrageous amounts of money striving to maintain their current lifestyle post poo hitting the proverbial fan. 

I worked in the wilderness survival field for a bunch of years in my younger days. I was facscinated and studied the affects of taking people out of their comfort zone and plopping them into a foreign world (wilderness setting).  People are so acculturated.  It amazed me how even the slightest change to their "normal" routine or living conditions could cause stress.  The ones that could psychologically adapt to the new environment were successful.  Those that could not adapt had a tendency to stuggle a lot.  Some even became ill (?) and needed to be evacuated.  It was just too much for them. 
My best piece of advice to people is to get real.  Hot water, clean houses, clean clothes, and plenty of light on a regular basis are actually a luxuries rather than needs.  Yes, sanitation is important but humans are not as fragile as one would think.  The human body has an amazing ability to adapt.  Some people have become so conditioned that they can become psychologically fragile if their preconceived needs are not met.  So, on to the "wants"...
I live in a small two bedroom house (1,000 sq. ft.) down by the river in a forested area in Colorado.  I didn't want to have to re-wire the utility room to handle a 220 washer and dryer so I found a work-around. 10 years ago I bought a used Danby washer and small used 110 watt dryer and they are still going strong.  The old Danby's require you to hook a hose to your faucet to get the hot or cold water.  They have another hose that takes the water away.  I throw the outlet hose in the garden to let the grey water go to good use.  I have only had mild problems with the outlet hose freezing up during the cold winter months.  A bucket of hot water poured on the outdoor outlet hose fixes that.  Since both the washer and dryer are 110 VAC they can be run off a generator. 
I too don't like the feel of stiff line-dried clothes.  I hang the clothes to dry and when they are almost dry I throw them in the dryer to soften them up.  This uses a lot less electricity and I get the softness I want. 
One way to squeeze the water out of freshly washed clothes is to use a mop bucket that has a strainer on it.  They can be found at Home Depot and Lowe's.  Squeezing the water out of a mop is the same as squeezing the water out of clothes.  You can also use a big pot strainer, like the ones used for pasta.  I have one that fits inside the "big" pot used for heating the water.  Find a lid that is smaller than the strainer pot and use it to squish the water out of your clothes.

I too have pets, lots of trees, snow, dirt and leaves. They all create messes that find their way into my house.  I have a wisk broom on the front and back porch and literally sweep my clothes off before going inside.  The other way I keep the dirt, mud and snow off my floors is by taking my shoes off by the door.  I don't wear shoes inside and it's amazing how much doesn't get tracked in as a result.  Invest in some good Thorlo socks to wear around the house. 

The non-electric, old fashioned push-pull sweeper only work marginally well.  I have more luck with a really good broom but then I don't have 2,000 sq. ft. of carpeting to deal with.  For all  the pet hair I have found that a "Stickey" works great.  They have a newer form of them that is advertised on television that let the gunk accumulated on the head to be washed off.  This makes them incredibly versitile and reuseable.  A long pole can be attached to the head that allows you stand normally while using it.  I have two Maine Coon cats and one long hair cat and they shed constantly.  I roll the "Stickey" over the carpet and furniture every couple of days to keep it to a minimum.  I have allergies and occasional asthma.  I find that I feel better if I just keep up on it.  However, in the past, when I got really really busy and couldn't get to it for a week or so, I am happy to report that I didn't die.

I have every type of alternative lighting possible.  I switched over to the battery LED lanterns in the last couple of years and swear by them.  This last year I fould a couple of the solar LED lanterns at Harbor Freight and love them.  They have 12 white LED's and have a run time of 8 hours on a full charge.  They come with all the various adaptors such as AC and the cigarette plug type.  One was around $25 and the other around $32.  They were well worth the money. 

I have used the solar showers a lot and find they work fine for my needs.  Just fill the bladder, put it in the sun for the day and you have the basics covered.  The camping world has come up with some pretty innovative and pricey hot water systems that can be found on line at some of the better stores such as Cabelas. 

I hope some of these suggestions work for those seeking the creature comforts of the world.  I can distinctly remember the wonder and appreciation for instant hot water, heat and lighting, soft beds, regular showers, etc.  I had basically spent two full years living outdoors in various wilderness settings.  When I finally "came-in" from the cold and got a real place to live I probably spent the first couple of hours turning off and on these "modern conviences".  I can clearly remember standing at the sink and turning the hot water on and off and thinking how wonderful it was.  I did the same thing with the stove and thermostat. 

After years of roughing it I found a new appreciation for these creature comforts.  I admit it, I love them as much as the next person.  My past experience taught me that they were luxuries and I could survive without them.  It just wasn't as nice and comfortable as it could be.  There is a big difference between want and need.  Staying clean and good sanitation is important but there are lots of work-arounds outside our normal everyday experience.  We've just have become so acculturated that we have forgotten how to think and exist outside the norm. 

Take care. Keep your socks and powder dry,

Friday, July 6, 2012

There has been much talk on many survival/prepper blogs about when and if our electricity goes out. Lots of speculation by folks who have experienced short power outages. My husband and I have experienced numerous, long power outages. They are very common in the remote area where we live. As we are the last house on the power line, when the power goes out we are the last to get our power restored.

Our most recent long lasting power outage was in January, when our area experienced a rare ice storm. In 17 years of living in our present home, we have witnessed only three ice storms. One minor (three-day outage, minimal damage) and one pretty big  (10-day outage and some significant damage) to the major storm we had in January. The tri-county area was completely out of power and phone (land lines as well as some cell service) and major damage to homes and properties. Our power was out for three weeks and our land line for four weeks. One can still see the effects of this storm when driving around now in the early summer. As we lay in bed at night, we could hear the trees exploding and cracking around us, it sounded like a war zone. Let me tell you, when a tree that is as big around at the base as a small car, and as tall as 100 plus feet crashes down in the forest, you are definitely aware of nature's power! It causes an incredible sound, similar to an explosion. Multiply that by hundreds of trees and you have an idea of what we listened to for several days and very long nights.

Since we live in an area with lots of wilderness – national forests on three sides of the community, there are lots of trees. During this particular storm, the freezing rains came down; followed by heavy snows that lasted for days. This all fell on top of several feet of snow already on the ground in these parts in January.

All of our power outages have taught us much more than reading about it ever could. During this last, particularly trying storm, my husband decided to keep a list of things we wish we had for future power outages. Once we prioritized our list, we were surprised to find not only how short the list was, but some of the top items we wanted, that we had never before considered, or had believed them to be already covered sufficiently.

Since we have gravity spring water, and gravity septic system, water was never an issue for us. Also we heat with wood all the time anyway, so heat was not an issue for us. We regularly practice storing extra food – for us a way of life for many years, long before the prepping craze – so food was not a big issue either. Our biggest three issues were lighting; washing clothes and cleaning our carpeted floors.

When you live in the boonies, your floors can get mighty dirty, mighty fast. When you add to that the fact that we were out using chainsaws all day long, then tracking in all the snow, mud, slush, sawdust and fir needles, our floors, and our clothing became filthy very quickly.

Since we already had the wash board, large sink and washing tubs, a way to heat water and soap to hand wash clothes with, I tackled the job a couple different times during this outage. Let me tell you, for any having dreams of quaintly washing clothing by hand and then hanging them in the gentle breezes of summer to folding all that freshly cleaned clothing, it “ain’t” like that at all!

Washing clothing by hand is extremely difficult and although I knew the clothes had at least been boiled, soaped and rinsed, they were not clean to the standards that we were accustomed to. Also, finding room to hang clothing indoors proved to be a bit of a challenge, and we have a very large home with only two adults. Once dry, the clothes were stiff and itchy and didn’t have that fresh smell you can get when using a dryer and dryer sheets, or even being able to hang them outdoors in the summer sun. I got blisters on my hands and my hands were extremely sore, for a couple days, and I am used to very hard physical work. My shoulders ached and there was water everywhere. Carrying boiling or near boiling water from the woodstove to the large kitchen sink proved to be very challenging, and at times even dangerous. During previous outages, there has typically been power “in town” so we could go to a friend’s home and wash clothes. Also my husband could take a load or two to work and wash them there (they have a washer/dryer at his work) or we could load up and drive to the “big” city (population about 8,000) about an hour away and use the Laundromat. Unfortunately all the power was out for miles. Our only option was to wash clothes by hand.

When we bought all the scrub boards, soap, and wash tubs, I guess I assumed I would just spontaneously know how to use all that stuff if we ever needed it. My first attempt was a colossal failure. The clothes smelled and didn’t look any cleaner. Out came our old Foxfire books and other simple living books that we have had for decades. After reading about how to wash clothes by hand, my second attempt was better and by the third attempt the clothes came out reasonably clean. Who knew that you were supposed to rub the soap on the actual scrub board, and not the clothes? We learned to dunk them in boiling water first, swish around with a stick (we used a broom handle). Then when cool enough to touch comfortably, but still hot enough to help with bubbles and rinsing, scrub up and down on the scrub board, rubbing extra hard where there were stains. Then squeeze as much water out as possible, and dunk into another tub of hot water. I would let them soak that second time for a while. After they had soaked, I still didn’t find them rinsed out enough, so I then rinsed them under cold running water in the big sink. Then you wring out as best you can, and hang as near to the woodstove as possible. Even with the woodstove going 24/7, it still took days for some of the heavier items to dry completely. It wasn’t a horrible experience, but can’t say as if I truly enjoyed it either! As soon as we can afford it, I am getting some better way of washing clothes. It is not a good feeling to be able to bathe ones body and then put on dirty clothing.  A generator, or James type washer would have been much better, also at the very least we need a better way to wring out the clothing. Wringing out clothes by hand is not only physically demanding, but it is nearly impossible to hand wring out jeans or blankets, they just never get completely squeezed out and then they drip all over your floors and take days to dry.

Lighting was an issue that we felt we had under control. We have numerous oil lamps, spare parts, and even one Aladdin lamp, plenty of lamp oil as well. Lots of candles and flashlights too. However, we had only one LED type, battery powered lantern. Although it gave off the best light, it still wasn’t bright enough once it was dark outside. In these parts in January, it is dark usually by about 4 p.m., which is much too early to go to sleep. We found our eyes were straining when we tried to read or play games – which is about the extent of entertainment with no power. So we walked around looking like miners with our headlamps on all the time. We learned quickly to look at the floor or ceiling when talking directly to one another after temporary blindness from lights directly to the eyes! We have determined to get more, and brighter, LED type lamps for future use. If money allowed, a generator or alternate power system would be ideal, but until then, we found we needed much brighter lighting. It is also very nice to be able to use our headlamps as we entered the house in the dark evenings to simply turn the knob and have light, rather than light a match, trim wicks, etc. Obviously lighting a match is not that hard to do. But when you are doing it day after day and dealing with wick trimming and refilling oil bases and smelling the oil all the time (as well as watching your white ceilings turn black because you didn’t trim the wicks!) it does lose it’s romance factor quickly. So the short term solution, more and brighter LED lanterns and a solar powered battery charger. Long term, we'll need generator or alternate power source.

Last on our top three was our carpeted floors. Again, we have plans (aahhh that ever elusive money!) to put laminate/wood flooring throughout the house. For now, we have most rooms in our large home covered in carpeting. Lovely, old, stained indoor/outdoor – cheap office type carpeting. Simply gorgeous! Even if it is ugly, I still want it clean. When power is not an issue, I vacuum daily. Even though there are only two of us, we do have two dogs and a cat and tracking back and forth to bring in wood make a mess. It seems that clean floors would not be that big an issue in a major event. Perhaps for many people it is not a big deal, but for me it was huge. I like my house picked up and neat. It does affect ones attitude when your environment is out of sorts. Not to mention it could be a health issue if you have asthma, allergies, or little ones that crawl around on the floor.

Since our carpets are the “flat” type carpets, one-day I attempted to sweep them, all 2,000 square feet of them. Not only was this task extremely physically taxing, but was pretty ineffective as well. Although I did manage to sweep up some of the major debris, there really wasn’t any way to sweep up the dust or tiny parts. I had huge blisters on my hands at the end of the day. It did look “better” but it was not up to the standards that I wanted.
The only solution we could think of, besides our long term plans of putting in laminate wood flooring or getting our generator or alternate energy source, is one of those old-fashioned “sweepers” like my grandma used. Haven’t found one yet, but I am sure they are still out there somewhere. We have also been told there are some battery operated light vacuums.

We managed to conquer all the issues that came up during our long power outage. Admittedly, we had a head start since water, septic and heat were not an issue. We also had some other rather big problems that I did not mention. We had to throw out all the food in our freezer that we could not eat. It was cold enough outside to keep our refrigerator food good in coolers on the porch. It was not cold enough to keep our frozen food frozen. I cannot tell you how hard it is to throw away a freezer full of food. With all the helping we were doing with neighbors as well as keeping our own road clear, there simply was not time to can up the foods in the freezer, nor did I feel entirely confident doing canning of meats on the woodstove. I know my ancestors did so, but I have always had the convenience of an electric or gas stove for such endeavors.

Another issue we had not anticipated was we had no way to bake. Our short-term solution is to find or make a metal box to place on top of the woodstove for baking and heating up food. A nice big wood cookstove, generator or gas powered stove and oven would be nice, but a lot of things would be nice if we only had the money. Barring that, we need to find ways to deal with the problems that we didn’t realize were problems until we were in the midst of a major power outage. The issues our friends described after this event varied from, “We are planning on moving back to civilization” (dumb move on their parts!) to “We are buying a generator” (great if you have the money). Most of them simply talked about what we needed to change and brainstormed about ways to make life easier in the event of another major power outage. For many, water was the main issue as they had wells with electric pumps. Second seemed to be septic systems that required electricity to be usable. One or two days of using one of the few trees left standing and doing your business in a hole in the ground (which is really hard to dig when there is several feet of snow!) is one thing. Three weeks without operating septic is another matter altogether and can pose major health risks. Lack of heat (very few folks up here have only electric heat – but there are some) caused many folks to trek to the homes of friends with wood heat. Then a few of those people found that they were running out of food as they had planned for their own needs, but not adding 2, 3, 4 extras to the mix. A few drove all the way to the large city, about two hours away, to stay in motels and several went to shelters. All the folks that used the shelters (a high school about an hour away) said they would never do that again if it could be avoided. In spite of the fact that our area is a close knit one and stealing or foul language was not an issue in the shelter, there was absolutely no privacy. One lady said, “I thought listening to my husband snore at night was annoying, try listening to several husbands snoring all night!” Seems kind of humorous, but after a very short time, exhaustion would set in as well as that feeling of total lack of privacy.  The overwhelming talk though, seemed to come around to being able to clean ones home. Maybe it isn’t a big deal to many or even most people, but for the vast majority of folks around here, it seemed to be quite the deal breaker about whether they would stay put or go stay in the city a two hour drive away, where they did have power.

Another (very pleasant) surprise was that during this outage, there was not one incident of looting, stealing, or even panic-stricken behavior that we ever heard about. People in our very small, remote community pulled together and helped one another out. However, in that large city two hours away, where we have relatives, there was chaos after only about 20 hours of power outage. Lots of looting, stealing, and just plain thuggery. One relative commented on how people in their neighborhood not only didn’t reach out to help one another, they often didn’t even help themselves, simply waiting for the city to come clean up the storm damage. One person (I am embarrassed to say a relative) actually said after this city’s rather small crisis (a windstorm, power out in much of the city for 1-to-3 days) that she was “appalled” that the city didn’t at least keep the schools open.  After all, what was she expected to do with her three children for two whole days?

This same person criticized the stores for not being “better prepared for an emergency” as they had run out of all the “good food” (I am guessing candy and sodapop) before she had a chance to get anything. It was the stores fault, she maintained, that her children were hungry and had to eat food they weren’t used to. (Probably vegetables and fruit!) Luckily, we not only experienced none of that attitude here in our remote blissfulness, but also had folks coming out of the woodwork offering to help one another. I realize not all small communities are like this, but when searching out where you’d like to raise your family, look hard at the residents before you move there.

During a crisis, keeping things as normal as possible can really help to lessen the stress. That includes being able to keep one's body, clothing and home clean. While we had plenty of food, access to clean fresh water, the ability to drain our sinks and flush our toilets, as well as stay warm – we were lacking in being able to wash clothes, clean our carpets and have good, dependable, strong lighting. We are remedying these as time and money allows. We also realized that in times past when we have lost power, many of our friends in town still had power. So we could always “borrow” their electricity for clothes washing or computers. This past January it was different, no one had power. There was one business in town that had a generator, and they offered for folks to come and wash clothes and shower there, but we never got to that point. Many did, but the ones I spoke to said it was first come first served and some waited hours for a washing machine. It was definitely a different experience when everyone for miles around is in the same boat as you.

Next time you are planning for the big SHTF episode, think about how you will clean the floors; light the rooms and wash the clothes. As with all prepping, you should certainly practice before the skill is needed.  If I had only read about and tried hand-washing clothes before I needed that skill, I could have saved myself some time and struggle. If we had gone without using our electric lights long term using our one LED lantern, we would have realized we needed lots more. And we had never really considered keeping the carpeted floors clean as being a prepping issue, now we know for us, it is a big issue.

When all of our normal routines are upset, it can help immensely to be able to stick as close to our normal diet and routine as possible, in order to stave off added stress. It was a real eye opener to have power out, long term, for miles around. We realized in talking to friends after the fact that even in this very remote, gun toting, “always prepared”, help your neighbor environment – just how ill prepared many of us are. It has been suggested by many to turn off your power for a weekend; or use your “get home” bag to hike from the city to your home. How many of us have actually done this? Maybe you should try it now, this weekend and see what your family is lacking and how you could improve, before an outside force thrusts it upon you.

In March of 2012, I was shopping at Sam’s Club doing some food prepping when a tornado struck my rural northern Kentucky community. We were asked to go to the center of the store until further notice because a tornado had been spotted in the area. After 20 minutes of nervous waiting, we were able to continue shopping. On our trip home there were several roads closed due to mobile homes being in the road as well as a tractor trailer turned over on my main route home. Seeing the destruction so close to home I started to get this sickening feeling in my stomach but I was finally able to make it home after the third route attempted. After arriving home I quickly assessed the situation and I felt very fortunate to arrive home to a basically undamaged house other than some downspouts ripped off and all my newly built greenhouse panels missing. The tornado had missed my house by approximately a quarter mile taking out the electricity to every house in sight. The house I could see from my master bedroom window was now a basement with one wall only standing on top.

I had been prepping for the last year or so and was quite anxious to see how things would turn out in my first trial run of when the SHTF. I quickly pulled the propane powered portable generator out of the basement to the transfer switch on the side of the house. I had to strap the generator to a dolly in order to move it and that took time. I think I should have invested in a wheel kit. I realized it was getting dark quick and I needed to work fast because my lighting preps were less than ideal. (I have recently purchased headlamps). I was able to hook up the generator just before it turned pitch black out and fired it up with no issues. I had wired the transfer switch into some key breakers, namely a room or two on each floor for lighting, the main refrigerator and extra refrigerator in the basement, porch lights with motion detectors and outlets in the living room for the wood stove blower. After getting the generator all set up and finding flashlights, candles and trying to get things arranged to make life as easy as possible running on the generator with only half the house powered, I sat down to relax and thought, not too bad…not that much has changed…we have electric (well at least partially), city water, food and guns. I did pretty well at this prepping thing.

The next day consisted of cleaning up the fallen trees out of the driveway and gathering up everything that wasn’t secured all over the yard and out of the tree line. There was the main path that the wind carried the majority of stuff, but things were located 360 degrees from where they started. I was surprisingly able to locate all but three of the panels from the greenhouse. The basement doors were pushed in and jammed and needed much convincing to open but I was able to get them working again without too much effort. The following day, I went to help a neighbor/friend who had completely lost his house. We worked all day cleaning up fallen trees. There was quite a crew of volunteers and that was good to see. About two days passed with no major complaints from the wife and two young kids, and then the third day came. After three days without a shower for the wife and no bath for the kids, things were starting to unravel. My wife was very irritable and frustrated with living so primitively (in her mind anyway). This was a rude awakening for me. I thought things hadn’t really changed that much other than I had to take a very fast, cold shower and carry a flashlight around or candles in certain rooms. When my wife started crying and threatened to go stay in a hotel until the electricity came back on, I suddenly realized the importance of hot water in SHTF. At first I was frustrated with her and told her how fortunate we were and that things could be a lot worse. She wasn’t so convinced that all was as great as I had thought. I contemplated running electric to the existing hot water heater and started to regret buying my [inadequate] 4000 Watt peak 3500 Watt continuous, propane powered 110V generator.

I did some brainstorming and even considered heating the water on the wood stove, but then I remembered my Dad had offered me an 110 volt AC 6 gallon capacity water heater some time ago which I couldn’t think of a use for at that time. I went and picked up the heater and did a lot of complaining to the wife about how hard it was going to be to hook up because I would need to install it downstream of my existing water heater and install 3 valves so I could bypass it when the grid power came back on. With all the cleanup and repairs in order, I didn’t feel like the water heater was a priority. But after taking a closer look, I realized that the fittings on the inlet and outlet looked familiar. I checked them using a garden hose and it fit. So after some contemplation, I decided to place the heater on my washing machine, unhook the hoses from the washer and hook the cold water to the inlet on the heater and the hot water to the outlet. Please be careful and don’t place it directly on the lid of a top loader without some kind of additional support like a piece of plywood. Remember, 1 gallon of water weighs 8.34 lbs so just the water in this tank is 50 lbs. Add the weight of the tank and you will be approaching 100 lbs. I then turned off the valve to the inlet of the existing hot water heater in the basement. I wired in a plug to the romex cable connection of the water heater and ran an extension cord to the nearest outlet powered by the generator. I will wire the washer outlet to run off the generator in the future so it can be used for this purpose. I filled the heater with water by turning on the hot water at the closest faucet and both washer hookup valves. It is very critical to make sure the heater is completely full of water before turning it on. It will burn the element out almost instantaneously if there is air in the tank. The water heater tag says 1650 Watts and the generator bogged down somewhat when the water heater kicked on along with the refrigerator, but it worked just fine. Now six gallons isn’t a lot of hot water, but I cranked the water temperature all the way up and it was enough for a quick shower and hot water for dishes was no longer a problem.

The electricity was out for a week and I burned through several tanks of propane which reminded me that I needed to increase my supply of propane. Storage is not an issue for propane luckily, unlike gas which does not store very well, which is exactly why I chose this unit. I was able to hook a garden hose to the drain of the heater and run it outside once the electric came back on. I was very careful to drain all the water and leave the valve and pressure relief valve open to let it air dry to lessen the chance of corrosion and the rotten egg smell of stagnated water the next time I need it. I then hooked the hoses back up to the washer and it was ready to go again.

The lessons learned were very valuable and it was an under pressure moment where I was able to brainstorm and come up with an easy way to have hot water. I didn’t realize the importance of hot water in an SHTF scenario. This is not a convenience item especially where women and children are involved (at least not for my family anyway). Sanity quickly disappeared with the lack of hot water for a basic shower. Now I know others may think she is spoiled and things will be much worse when the real SHTF. I agree that they could get much worse than the way my situation unfolded, but my philosophy is to take care of everything I can possibly take care of to keep life as normal as possible. When it really hits us hard, the more we can do to maintain our current lifestyles, as luxurious as they may seem in the future, the easier it will be to maintain sanity. I have to imagine how great a hot shower will feel after cutting wood all day to heat the house in the winter when it’s no longer optional to burn the wood stove, but a necessity. This method is sure going to be a lot easier than heating pots of water on the wood stove, not to mention less dangerous.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

If you are like me, you want to start preparing for TEOTWAWKI, but you have no clue where or how to begin. Even the shortest list, and list of lists, is a daunting undertaking and the expenses can stack up quickly. We thought we'd be up a creek since we had no real extra money to set aside for this project. Alas, it doesn't have to be that way! There are many things you probably have around the house that will help save or sustain life. You just have to learn to look at your possessions in a different way.

I'd be willing to bet there's tons of stuff in your house and garage that you haven't used in two years or more, and it continues to sit there. It gathers dust, gets lost and forgotten, or requires maintenance. Somehow, it manages to grow and multiply with very little effort on your part. Since I used to be a yard sale and thrift store junkie, it may have been a bit more than very little effort on my part... Apparently, I've been preparing for years and didn't know it!

I picked up a food dehydrator at a yard sale for $3, a Food Saver sealing system for $5 from a thrift store, and sheets and blankets by the bag full at $1 each. I had no idea what I was doing at the time, but I certainly do now! Obviously, I'll use the dehydrator and food saver for preserving foods, but what would I do with all those sheets and blankets that we didn't need? They're becoming camouflage. They also work well as insulation for a shipping container. They'll work on the floor of a dirt bunker, to prevent too much dust in the air as you move around. How much stuff is in your home wasting space that may also double for survival when you bug-in?
To prepare for when IT hits the fan, you must first consider reducing the amount of your possessions. This serves several purposes: first, you begin to condition yourself to living with less. The simple shock of having to turn away from your current lifestyle can be traumatic, especially for children, and they'll be learning how to cope from their parents. Gradually easing into survival mode will make the process easier for everyone involved.
Second, the income from possession liquidation helps fund survivalist equipment and supplies. Since the economy is in poor shape, second-hand items are sought after instead of purchasing new. Facebook and Craigslist are good places to list your unwanted items. There are also smart phone apps available for virtual and real yard sales. If you're really serious about liquidation, contact an auction company and conduct a “living estate sale”. They are gaining in popularity since many families are downsizing just to reduce their overhead.

Third, you'll spend less time maintaining your possessions if you have fewer of them. How long does it take to find something you know you have somewhere, or dust those collectibles? How much furniture do you have that serves no purpose other than appearances? How would you reallocate your time if you didn't have to maintain a lot of things that won't help you when it hits the fan?

Go through each room of your home, paying close attention to items you'll use in survival mode. Unwanted clothing in the right colors can be cut into strips and be used to make camouflage netting, and other parts can be used for rope and insulation. Artificial houseplants can be reused in camouflage during the spring and summer. Pillows can be reused to block air flow, insulate heated water, and protect you from sharp objects in cramped quarters. Fancy lace tablecloths can be sold and replaced with sturdy cotton sheets and blankets, being sure to choose earth tones that can also be used for camouflage if the need arises.

Radio-controlled toys can be retrofitted and reused to distract trespassers. [JWR Adds: For example, their servos can be re-purposed to set off small pyrotechnic charges. Pull-string "confetti poppers" can be very carefully disassembled to provide the friction-ignited charges.] There are tons of possibilities for these items, from recon to defensive operations. I personally love this option, and look forward to finding them at ridiculously low prices.

Those big metal drums with metal lids can be made into Faraday cages by lining the inside with Styrofoam. Instructions for these can also be found online. Small metal boxes and containers can be used for the same purpose, and metal trash cans work as well.

As repulsive as it may seem, almost anything made of natural fabric can be cut into small squares and used as toilet paper and feminine napkins. Wash and bleach after each use and they're ready to reuse when dry. What's more repulsive is the thought of going without these two very basic, and often overlooked, necessities. Most folks are of the opinion that any nearby leaf will do, or that there will be plenty of cloth laying around when IT hits the fan. There will be an increased chance of infection if the material used isn't clean and sickness will be one of our biggest enemies.

Tampons can be used to plug bullet wounds; they expand when wet. This is only temporary, and they should be replaced with a proper dressing as quickly as possible. Feminine pads can be used in trauma dressings. Any clean cotton fabrics can be reused as trauma dressings and bandages; be careful to use only natural fabrics for contact with skin and blood. A sterile layer of gauze should always be the first layer over a wound.
Unwanted paper items, such as junk mail, old bills, newspapers and magazines, can be shredded and used in making heat blocks for burning during cold weather or for cooking. Most of the heat blocks burn for twenty to thirty minutes, which is plenty of time to prepare a meal and provide heat in colder climates. Instructions for making heat blocks can be found online.

Empty water and soda bottles can be reused for dry food storage. Just drop in an oxygen absorber, and they're good to go. Empty gallon jugs can be reused as water storage. They are portable and easy to keep rotated. Unused water heaters can be reused as water storage as long as you plan to filter the water before drinking it.

Reuse a car or boat battery and jumper cables to start a fire by connecting the ends to a wad of 0000 steel wool. The steel wool will heat up and ignite tinder, such as straw or paper shreds.

Reuse a lamp by setting a cake or pie pan over the shade and turning on the lamp. The heat from the bulb will cook some foods such as canned goods and will also heat water enough to rehydrate dried foods.

If you have a rotating food storage system, my favorite is Thrive by Shelf Reliance, begin using it now if you haven't already. Incorporate it into your daily cooking habits and meal planning. Thrive is easy and economical to get started with, because you just reallocate a portion of your grocery budget to include it. When it hits the fan, the transition will be easier if you're already used to using it. Also, using and rotating your water storage on a regular basis will keep it fresh.

Thermoses and other insulated containers will be great to rehydrate foods. You can boil water in the morning and set aside enough warm water to begin to soften the day's entire food ration. Quality containers will keep foods hot for hours. Some dehydrated foods, such as Thrive, will reconstitute even with cold water, but usually take longer.

I'm torn over my books. I'm an avid reader and I love to read the same ones over and over. I know I can sell my books and make a lot of money, but I can also burn them (I hope so anyway!) and keep my family warm and fed for a while.

After taking an inventory of what you already have that can be used in survival mode, take a second inventory of what you can live without. If the process seems a bit unnecessary, imagine looters going through your possessions and scattering them about carelessly. They'll be looking for anything of value, anything that might sustain life, and anything that can be used for defensive or offensive actions. If you can beat them to it, then you're ahead of the game. You've not only been able to use your own possessions for yourself and your family, you've also thwarted potential attackers from using them against you.
You probably won't be entertaining in survival mode, so maybe you don't need that huge set of dishes, or the deluxe set of cookware. Think about which items are worth a lot of money that can be sold now and replaced with similar items that work just as well, but cost less. The money you have left over can be converted to precious metals or survivalist equipment and supplies. Think about trimming down the movie collection, as well as any other collections that take up space and require maintenance. That beautiful antique bedroom set might be better sold now than burned or looted later.

Anything you haven't worn in the last year, and anything you haven't used in the last six months should be on the chopping block. All (or most of) those things you've been saving “just in case” should eventually disappear unless they can be used for survival. Keep in mind, you aren't just looking at things you can reuse. You're also looking to reduce the amount of possessions you have in order to better prepare yourself and your family for a transition into survival mode. Even if you have to go through this process several times, cutting out more and more each time, you will still make great progress in preparing your family for a bug-in or bug-out.
Make sure the kitchen and bathrooms stay clean at all times. The last thing you want is to be trying to prepare an emergency meal when the kitchen is a mess and you're down to just emergency water. If you're bugging-in, ensure you have alternate toilet arrangements. Even though you can still flush the toilet by manually adding water to the bowl, you'll be wasting water unnecessarily. A camp potty or a bucket with a lid and bio bags work great and you can take them camping for practice.

Keep your freshwater aquariums or consider getting them if you don't have them already. The bigger, the better. They make terrific water sources and in most cases, the water is drinkable as it sits. The filtration systems balance bacteria so if the fish are alive and healthy, you can depend on the water being safe. If you're in doubt, filter, treat or boil it before using it for human consumption. Once the water level is too low for the filter to run, or if there's no electricity to power it, don't drink it without filtering or boiling it. Don't be tempted to keep aquariums without fish (smaller fish is better). The waste from the fish is what keeps the bacteria in the gravel under control, and vice versa. They depend on each other for balance. Once the power has been out for a few hours, remove the fish and filter the water as it's used.

I've been going through my home one room at a time, including closets. I'm getting rid of things we don't use and don't particularly have attachment to and moving the things we'll need to our bug-in location. I can still get to those items if I need them, and if we do bug-in, they'll already be where they're needed. By selling the non-essentials, I'm able to purchase the things we'll need for survival. My eight year old daughter is excited about the process and enjoys helping me make a camouflage cover from an old fishing net and, you guessed it, earth-toned sheets!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

In Arizona a disgruntled city employee, upset with budget cuts made in 2011, manually shut down numerous valves to a large city plant. His goal was to build up enough methane gas to blow up a quarter city block.  Luckily, two hours after shutting off the valves he surrendered with no damage to the plant, and citizens were not affected by the protest.  What if there had been damage to the plant? It is time to think about these things.  After the poo hits the fan, it keeps coming! So now the question is, what are we going to with it?

Hygiene is one of the most important elements in a survival situation, but is usually overlooked.  Food, water, and self defense are the most common items stocked up on, while most forget to think about sanitation and personal hygiene.  Haiti suffered a cholera outbreak after an earthquake in 2010 as it does not take long after a major disaster, with government agencies at a standstill, for disease to become ramped. 
There are different ways to prepare for hygiene in an emergency, as there are many variables to any given emergency. I will be covering some basic possibilities that could arise and how to prepare. I will also discuss items to stock up on and store. Most of these will be good barter.

In an ideal emergency our homes would still be standing, allowing us to bug-in; even if plumbing is not in working order. Water and sewage shut down for a short time can disrupt our lives, but this situation can easily be prepared for. First item to plan for is the toilet. Sewage can back up into the house and come through all the drains. Yuck! This can be stopped with an inflatable test ball plug. You can purchase these at your local plumbing supply, and in case of an emergency, place it in the sewage line that runs directly to your personal home to block everyone else’s brand from running into your home.  When you need to use the toilet there are disposable bags made just for this job.  One brand I like is called Double Doodie, but there are many different options.  The bag is placed over the toilet, and then the seat is placed back down and ready to use.  After use of the toilet, a bio-gel pack that comes with the bags is placed inside the bag and it solidifies waste while also masking any orders. Do not forget to store extra toilet paper at the house. I like to vacuum seal or vacuum bag my toilet paper because it keeps it clean and dry while compressing it into a much smaller package.

If you have little ones in diapers it is a good idea to store some extras, along with disposable wipes and bags to wrap up used diapers.  If some city services are still in working order and trash is picking up, then used diapers will not be an issue. However, if this service is disrupted for a time then a metal trash can and a tight fighting lid would be a good back up plan to store some stinky pampers until services return to normal. Homemade baby wipe recipes can be found on the Internet, if you would prefer to store the items to make your own.

Feminine hygiene is important also. I love my grandmother, but I do not want to have to replicate her hygiene regime. Extra tampons, sanitary napkins, and disposable bags are good to store around the house for a short term emergency.  A long term emergency is different, and takes more planning, but I will discuss that in a moment.

A shower can be lived without for a while, though I am always a bit nicer when I don’t itch and stink. There are a lot of options for a solar shower made for use in the home. Depending on what part of the country you live, and the water resources that are made available to you, there are different types of large bladder systems, or rain catch systems, that will easily heat up during the day for a hot shower at night. Since I live in Arizona these are not an option for me.  A rain catch system would only catch dust here, where water is very scarce and cannot be wasted, so I have constructed a portable solar shower.  My shower is a 2.5 gallon bucket with a lid and a handle and is spray painted black. I drilled a small hole toward the bottom, and with some simple hardware I attached a hose, a shut off valve, and a sprinkler head for a little luxury!  It is nothing fancy but gets the job done. A few hours in the sun and it is ready for a shower. I can hang it in a tree or put it on top of a fence when showering. 

In a different emergency scenario, if I am forced to leave the house, then I will take my portable toilet that I made. It is easily constructed with a five gallon bucket. Some survival companies, like Emergency Essentials, sell a snap on toilet seat that easily attaches on the top of the bucket just for this purpose.  If money is tight, a pool noodle can be fashioned as a toilet seat, with one long cut along the length of the noodle that will slide on the top of a five gallon bucket.  It is pretty comfortable. I had to break out my emergency toilet after remodeling our home with tile, and the bathrooms were off limits for a full twenty four hours.  Cough.  I was glad I had the practice, and decided that I would much rather take my toilet camping than use a portal-john or the woods. The disposable Double Doodie bags can be used with these toilets, but they will not last long if you even have them at all. The best long term solution I have found is The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins. The book explains how to store and break down human waste and use it as fertilizer for a garden by simply using two separate compost piles. The two piles are distinguished as an “active” pile and an “inactive” pile. In this scenario, more than one bucket will be needed, with lids for each bucket.  Humans waste is nitrogen, and needs to be covered after each use with a carbon, like greenery or sawdust. This will stop the odor and keep bugs away.  If you use sawdust, make sure it is from real wood, and not wood composite, as wood composite will be toxic on the garden. Once one bucket is full of waste the lid is placed on top, then the bucket is left to sit and the contents break down for at least 6 months.  Once it is initially broken down the contents are dumped into an “active” compost pile. After a year in the “active pile”, the compost can be used on the garden and becomes the “inactive pile.”

JWR Adds This Important Proviso: See the many warnings that have been posted in SurvivalBlog in the past six years about the perils of using human waste for vegetable gardens. My advice is to use it for your flower gardens but NOT your vegetable gardens. And even then, you will need to take some special precautions. These include using a dedicated shovel with its handle painted red and a bucket that is painted red. Those must be be banned from any other use!

Bugging out will change the rules for feminine hygiene a bit. For a more permanent solution, a reusable maxi pad can be used. There are many patterns on the Internet and some in my personal kit can be seen here. The pads are easily sewn together from fabric. [JWR Adds: If you don't sew, then check out our advertiser, Naturally Cozy.] One could also use a natural sponge that can be rinsed and reused. There is also a reusable tampon option. There are different brands out there, but two specific brands are The Diva Cup, and The Moon Cup. These are just reusable soft silicone cups that can be used until full, rinsed out, and re-inserted. 

In a bug out situation, toilet paper will not be applicable, and so I have constructed a soaking/dry bucket kit for washcloths that will be used as toilet paper. If the wash cloth was used and then left to dry until it was ready to be washed, then the cloth would be hard to clean and would smell.  It also would be bothersome to wash one cloth at a time. The kit works along the same idea as a diaper pail for cloth diapers.  After the cloth is used, it is placed inside a bucket with water and your choice of washing solution. Bleach, soap, or essential oils could be used to disinfect the wash cloths until the time comes to really wash all the cloths. (My favorite oil for disinfection is Purify, or Oregano oil by DoTerra.) A smaller bucket fits inside the larger bucket, and keeps all my dry cloths that are ready to be used. This way the cloths stay dry until they are needed, and everything is contained in one area.  Each member of my family has their own kit, and you can color code the cloths if you want. Maxi pads can also be kept inside the dry bucket until ready to be used, and then once fully soiled can soak in the wet bucket until fully washed.  I also store a peri-bottle in each bucket to help spray off. Any mom knows how well a peri-bottle works after having a baby. They are a wonderful part of the kit and easily found to order on the Internet. Shower curtain and rope can also be stored in the bucket to use for privacy, and can easily be strung up in a tree. Privacy curtains can be purchased online for a different option but can be expensive. Handkerchiefs should also be stored.

If young children are a part of your family dynamic, then cloth diapers will be needed for a long term solution. Cloth diapers are no longer pinned and covered with plastic loose fitting pants. There are many different options now a day. A larger pail will be needed for soaking the soiled diapers.  Bleach cannot be used to soak cloth diapers; it ruins the absorption capability of the diaper.
We cannot forget about oral hygiene either. I really like my teeth and want to be able to eat the food I have stored, and I am sure you feel the same way.  Floss, extra toothbrushes, toothpaste, and mouthwashes are important.  Couponing is a smart way to stock up on these items. I get these items for free all the time.  A cap full of hydrogen peroxide and a cap full of water make a great mouth wash; coconut oil does also. There are ways to make your own tooth paste, and recipes for that can be found on the Internet. One of my favorite ways to make my own paste is with a little bit of baking soda and essential oils.
Laundry is another aspect of hygiene. I personally believe that if I am pooping in a bucket I should not have to wash clothes, but I will. There are different portable washing machines for clothes. One brand is called the wonder wash and is hand powered. A large metal tub and a washboard is another idea and are not expensive. Your great-grandma will be proud!
Laundry detergent stores well or you can make your own. I make wonderful and inexpensive detergent by mixing:

  • 1 Cup grated Fels Naptha soap,
  • ½ Cup Washing Soda (not baking soda), and
  • ½ Cup Borax.

When human waste, trash, or Heaven forbid dead bodies are out of check; roaches, mice and all sorts of creepy crawlies will be ramped.  Diatomaceous earth is an amazing product with different uses- one being pest control.  It can be dusted all over your home or bug out location. It is safe to eat, and will get rid of any internal bugs that live in intestines. Mouse traps and bug spray will also help to keep critters at bay, and you should have some on hand in storage.

Other products to consider storing are diaper creams and an anti-itch powder like Gold Bond. I think my husband would rather have a year supply of Gold Bond than food.  Over the counter products like Monistat 7 for yeast infections is also a good idea. I am sure a box of Monistat 7 and some tampons would have some amazing bargaining power!  I am always amazed and horrified at stories of the Pioneers who gave birth while traveling. The female in the house could store a diaphragm or at least some condoms.  We also cannot forget hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol. After storing food and ammo, who wants to die from an infection that started with a blister! Don’t forget medical tape, bleach, colloidal silver, gauze, bandages, deodorant, extra soap, bleach, essential oils, and disposable gloves.  A simple cut can be deadly in an emergency but it does not have to be if you plan.

These are very simple steps to ensure that bugging in or out can be as clean and sanitary as possible.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

There’s a lot of information available on how to make water safe to drink.  That’s a good thing because water is one of the most important parts of our survival and comfort.  My goal in this article is to organize and describe some of these methods in a way that is interesting and easy to read. I have included a few internet links to more detailed step-by-step descriptions and how-to videos created by others.

Although important, I’m won’t go into all the diseases and problems that can be caused by ingesting contaminated water. Just know that there is some bad stuff out there that can make a survival situation worse than if you didn’t drink the water at all. Additionally, I understand there are differences between the terms PURIFICATION, DISINFECTION, and FILTERED. I don’t want to get into all those details in this article.  When making water safe you want to choose the most effective method with the materials available.

In all methods listed below an attempt should be made to pre-filter large contaminates before beginning the disinfection process.
I have listed some of the methods below in two different ways; a brief description and then a detailed description. 

Brief Descriptions of methods:

Boiling: Bring water to a rolling boil for at least one minute.
Distillation: Converting water into a vapor and then back into a liquid via direct or solar heat.
Commercial Filter:  A product designed and manufactured specifically for purifying water. These usually contain some type of charcoal or ceramic filter.
Chemical:  Using water purifications tablets, chlorine (bleach) and iodine.
Solar Disinfection (SODIS): Exposing water filled transparent bottles to the sun for an extended period of time.
Improvised Filter:  Using multiple layers and combinations of sand, rocks, pebbles, grass and cloth to create a filter similar to how the ground naturally filters water.

Detailed Descriptions of Methods:
Boiling: Boiling water is probably the most effective and reliable method of disinfecting water.  To make water safe to drink by boiling the water needs to be at a rolling boil for at least one minute.  Some sources may mention five or more minutes as the minimum but the extra time doesn’t provide any extra benefit and uses up more fuel.  An exception to the time for the boiling would be in high elevations where three minutes is recommended.
Ensure the container has not been previously used to store dangerous substances.  Metal containers are ideal for boiling water but other containers such as clay and plastic can be used as well.
A plastic container can also be used for boiling water.  Place the full container as close to a heat source as possible without coming into direct contact.  Keep it there until you see the water boiling for one minute.  Here’s a video from the YouTube channel Wilderness Outfitters demonstrating this method: Boiling In Plastic Bottle [JWR Adds: If you have a thermometer (ideally a floating dairy thermometer, the oft-repeated "full boil" or rolling boil" is not required to disinfect clear (filtered) water. The magic number that needs to be touched for Pasteurizing is 65º C (149º F). But if you don't have a thermometer, then bring the water briefly to just short of a boil (where the water visibly starts to churn), just to be safe.

This method is similar to how nature creates rain.  Heat transforms water into a vapor.  The vapor will condensate when it comes into contact with a solid surface or enough of it collects together until it’s too heavy to be suspended in the air.  There are several methods of making water safe via distillation. I will discuss solar distillation here.
Many survival manuals discuss creating a “Solar Still” to procure water  from the moisture in soil or green vegetation but it can also be used on existing sources of water that are suspected of being contaminated.

The typical description of a solar still describes using a depression in the ground eighteen to twenty-four inches deep and about three feet wide. Green vegetation is placed inside along the sides.  A collection container is placed on the ground in the middle and then the entire depression is covered with plastic sheeting.  Cover the sides of the sheeting with soil or other heavy objects to hold it in place and create a seal.  A small weight is placed on top of the covering directly above the collection container.  This causes the covering to drop slightly in a cone shape so that the condensed water on the underside of the plastic sheeting will pool to the center and then drip into the collection container.  You can run tubing from the collection container to the outside of the solar still and use as a straw so that you don’t have to disturb the cover when accessing the water.  Here is a video posted on the YouTube channel Desert Survival demonstrating how to build a solar still: Solar Still

Potentially unsafe water can be placed into the solar still and it will be evaporated the same way that moisture from the green vegetation would be.  You can pour the unsafe water directly into the depression or place in containers.  It’s very important to not allow any of the contaminated water to come in contact with the collections container or the covering for the depression.

[JWR Adds a Proviso: As previously mentioned in SurvivalBlog, do not use distilled water as your only source of water for drinking and cooking for an extended period, since it lacks the essential trace minerals found in spring water, well water, or tap water.]

Commercial Filter:
There are numerous types of products designed to mechanically purify water.  The technology for these is constantly changing especially as more effective and efficient methods are developed for use in impoverished areas of the world. 
They come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  Most use a ceramic filter or activated charcoal to remove contaminates.  There are pump-operated versions and some very simple straw types.

These types of filters can be expensive but their benefits would quickly outweigh the cost if they are ever needed in an emergency.  Some major benefits are time and energy do not have to be expended in gathering fuel, starting a fire or waiting on chemicals to be effective etc.
I have provided a few links below of different types of filters and how they work.  I’m not promoting any of these brands but simply directing you to them as examples of what a typical commercial filter looks like.

The following link has some examples of portable filters by one of the leading manufacturers of these devices:  Katadyn Water Filters  Here’s an explanation and demonstration of a pump filter on the YouTube channel, KatadynKP: Pump Filter 
Here is an example of a filter straw:  Aquamira Filter Straw  This link has a great demonstration posted on the YouTube channel, ShelfReliance:  Filter Straw Demonstration.

  There are a few different types of chemicals that will make water safe to drink.  Some, like purification (iodine) tablets are made specifically for camping, hiking and emergency situations.  Others, like household bleach and iodine tincture can be used safely if you know the proper ratios to use. 
When using chemicals for disinfection in a container with a lid remember to loosen the lid about 5 minutes after adding the disinfectant and allow the water to come into contact with the threads and the inside of the lid.  This will ensure no contaminates remain in those areas.

Water purification tablets are pretty straightforward.  You drop the appropriate number of tablets into a container of water (usually about a quart) and wait about 30 minutes.  The effective time will vary slightly depending on the clarity and temperature of the water.  These types of tablets were standard issue in my infantry days in the army.  They can be purchased just about anywhere camping gear is sold.  An unopened container of the tablets can be good for a few years.  Follow the directions on the label.  Here’s a great demonstration posted on the YouTube channel, eHow: Water Purification Tablets

Household bleach (chlorine) is probably the most accessible method of disinfection for a typical family since it is such a common product in our homes.  The bleach must not have additives such as scents, cleaners or be the “colorsafe” type. About 1/8th teaspoon can be added to a gallon of water.  (16 drops if you have dropper.) After stirring let it sit for at least 30 minutes.  Smell the solution to get a general idea if it was done correctly.  There should be a slight chlorine smell similar to a swimming pool.  If you do not smell the chlorine then you can repeat the procedure.  If it still does not work the second time around then the bleach is probably not effective anymore.  Bleach does not have a particular long shelf life especially after opening the container.  “MrJmfitch” created a video of the bleach technique:  Chlorine Bleach Disinfection
Iodine tincture solution is a handy item to have in your emergency kit because not only can it be used to disinfect water but it can be used in the treatment of wounds.  Caution must be used for people with sensitivity to iodine. 

It is recommended to use tincture with 2% iodine.  Add about 5-8 drops of iodine to 1 liter of water and wait at least 30 minutes.  Issues with the iodine taste of the water can be remedied by adding vitamin C after the 30 minute wait.  Here is a step-by-step guide with pictures on the web site, Instructables.  Iodine Purification

Solar Disinfection (SODIS): 
This method uses the suns UV radiation to disinfect contaminated water.  Ideally a PET made container should be used.  A typical plastic transparent water bottle would be an example of a PET made container.  Here is more information on what a PET container is: PET Containers
Completely fill the bottle with the contaminated water and expose it to at least 6 hours of direct sunlight.  If only partial sunlight is available then the time should be extend to several days.
An optional step I have read about is to agitate the container before it is completely full.  This will oxygenate the water.  Finish filling the container after oxygenating. 
This link has detailed step-by-step instructions:  SODIS Step-by-Step
Here’s a video demonstration of the SODIS method on the YouTube channel, wildernessinnovation: SODIS video

Improvised Filter: 
An improvised filter uses multiple layers of different materials to filter the water.  It’s similar to how the earth naturally filters water.  This method is certainly not the preferred method but is probably slightly better than drinking straight from the source.
Some type of container will be needed such as a bottle or a can but I’ve even seen this method demonstrated in a hole in the ground.  Filter materials that can be used for this method include dirt, grass, charcoal, cloth and coffee filters.  You will ideally need at least three different materials.  The preferred ones would be grass, charcoal and dirt.

The top of the container will need to be removed so the materials can be layered into it.  Smalls holes will are placed in the bottom of the container.  They need to be the right size to allow the water to flow through them but not allow all of the filter materials to get through.  You can start small and increase the size of the holes as needed.

The filter should have the coarsest materials on the top and bottom and as the layers get closer to the middle the finer materials are used.  For example, at the bottom of the container would be grass, then on that would be dirt, then charcoal, dirt again and then another layer of grass at the top.
This link has an easy to follow step-by-step guide on the web site Practical Primitive: Improvised Water Filter
Here is a video demonstration from the YouTube channel eHow: Improvised Water Filter Video

Remember, you always want to use the most effective method of water purification with the materials on hand.   You also need to factor in the time an energy that will be expended in the particular method you choose. In a worst case scenario there may be a chance that you have no method of ensuring water is safe to drink.  If it comes down to dying of dehydration or possibly getting sick from drinking unsafe water, drink the water.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mr. Rawles,
Some fellow bloggers and I  discuss  prepping ideas on a discussion forum. One subject that came up (pardon the pun) was sewer problems.
I am in a small town that has a sewer system. We got rid of the septic tanks and pits back in the 1980s. I was young at the time and remember being a curious kid watching the houses being plumbed into the street sewer mains, and some houses had a special valve  (called a back-flow prevention valve, or check valve) installed into the system and others didn't. I asked the workers why, and they stated that the hilly terrain could cause sewage from one house to back up into a house downhill on the sewer line. The valve was meant to stop the waste from going into the house and instead let it back up until it flowed out of the next uphill man hole cover. (The thinking was: "better in the street than in a house.") Not all houses had this valve installed. Some if considered high enough above the next uphill man hole cover, were not required to put one in. My concern is the amount of pressure it would take to lift a heavy man hole cover - the waste may instead choose to go to a shower or toilet rather than lift a heavy manhole cover that may be stuck in place.

After talking with the other bloggers, one did in fact confirm just such a case where the sewer pipe filled the vacation house with three feet of sewage. All that mess could be avoided by the installation of a relatively inexpensive back flow valve on the main sewer pipe leaving the house. I installed one in the house I recently moved into, and even though the valve cost less than $50, the additional materials and such made the project cost over a $100.  (I did the work, so having a plumber do it would cost more). It should be a one day job if the digging, cutting, plumbing, and back filling all goes well. And don't forget to put in a clean out fitting on both sides of the valve, and also put everything in a valve box so that it is easy to get to if maintenance is needed in the future.

I would hope everyone reading this had a retreat off the main sewer pipe, but that can't be. I would also think this should be very important if the towns sewer system happens to be combined with the storm drain system, which could cause some major flooding during a bad storm. Also, some systems in both flat and hilly terrain have pump stations that rely on electricity in order to get the sewage to the treatment plant. Once they run out of backup power, and if people are still flushing with stream, rain, or swimming pool water, the full brunt of sewage may be heading to a bathroom near you.

Take Care, - Solar Guy

Friday, February 24, 2012

To say we have had a mild winter here in Iowa is an understatement to say the least. That was until recently. It would be safe to say that with temperatures in the 50 degree range I have gotten a little complacent this winter. Like many who read SurvivalBlog I spend time watching the news and trying to keep an eye on the big picture. At least in this case it came at the expense of some of the details. Like everything in life I would like to remind myself as well as all my Brothers and Sisters out there that might read this that like all things in life we need to take a balanced approach.
We did have a snow storm and nature reminded us that it was still winter. I guess this would be one of those situations that Attitude made the difference in the whole day. That was something else that I think I may have forgotten. At my house we don’t prep just to survive. If all I was interested in was surviving I would not put so much time and effort into what we have done. Personally I want to survive with a life worth living.  I personally am not someone that is going to wonder through the woods with a backpack eating bugs having lost everyone and everything I love. If they are going to get to the people and pets that I love and care for then they are going to have to go through me to get there. So if those things are gone they would have had to take me out to get there. So while I’m here I might as well enjoy the life that I have.
Instead of taking the doom and gloom look at what all went wrong let’s take a positive outlook on the day and see what I was able to learn from our experience. Life is a choice. Where you are in life is a sum of the decisions you have made so you are exactly where you have chosen to be. Look at it this way: If you are now willing to make changes to your lifestyle such as giving up cable or eating out then you have made a conscious choice. You have chosen to keep things exactly the way they are. Since you are not willing to do anything different you must be happy with the way things are in your life. So let’s take a look at where the choices I have made took me for the day.
Waking up to about 4 inches of snow meant that my first duty of the morning was to get out and get rid of the snow off the driveway and sidewalks. Not a big deal. My Cub Cadet has a two stage snow blower on it and I race my neighbor to see who can do the others sidewalk first.

The first thing I notice is this has got to be the heaviest and wettest snow I can remember in a long time. As soon as you step down on the snow it instantly turns to ice on the sidewalk under your feet. This is the first time I can ever remember my machine struggling to throw the snow out of the way. I’m usually having to angle the shoot down so the snow does not go too far and end up where I don’t want it. I happily spend an hour or so removing the snow from our property and a couple of my elderly neighbors. Rats, Rick has already gotten the sidewalk. Score one for him. I’ll get him next time.

I pull the tractor back into the garage and notice that it is unusually dark inside. I thought I had turned on the lights in the garage when I went in but must not have. Well no big deal there is plenty of light coming in from the open garage door. I put the tractor away and pull my truck back in and prepare to go back into the house. Like most people I go to walk out the door and hit the automatic garage door switch and nothing happens. Click, Click, Click? I looked over and I had turned on the lights but they were not on? I guess all this heavy wet snow has taken down some of the trees in the area.

A power failure is not a huge deal. I pull the release cord on the door to disconnect it from the drive and close the door manually. Here is where our first learning experience comes into play. Don’t you just hate those? With the door being connected to an automatic garage door opener there are no operating locks on it. Being an accountant by trade I’m not the most mechanical person on the planet so I have to subscribe to the K.I.S.S. principle.  So believing in this instead of trying to do something elaborate I just grab a set of vice grips and clamp them on the rail to secure the garage. It would have been no big deal if the door had been closed when the power went out but since the side was all the way back there was no way to secure the door. A nice set of Vice-Grips on the rail worked quite well in my opinion.

At this point my vicious guard dogs decide to wake up and come downstairs and see how much of my breakfast they can talk me out of. This is where I would really suggest one of those LED head lamps if you don’t already have one. The kitchen is on the North side of the house so does not have a great deal of outside light this time of year. Having both hands free makes tasks much easier than trying to hold a light with one hand and do everything with the other. Of course there is always the hold it in your mouth and slobber all over yourself method. Personally I prefer the head lamp. Slobber all down the front of your shirt first thing in the morning seems to bring a lot of pesky questions. Or at least it does at my house.

At this point the power has been out from probably an hour and a half at my estimation. With Winter having shown up with the snow the temperature outside was far from what we had gotten used to. No big deal “I HAVE PREPS”. Quite proud of myself for having thought ahead I have a backup heat source. I have a kerosene heater out in the garage that I keep around for just such an occasion. So closely watched by my ever vigilant guard dogs we go out to the garage to get the heater and bring it into the house.

I do have to interject here that I was quite proud of myself at this point. I have read here on SurvivalBlog quite a few times that you can never have too many flashlights and the read many praises on the new LED flashlights. Having done so a while back when I was at Home Depot I saw bulk packs of them on sale and picked up several. She Who Must Be Obeyed and I then went around the house and put at least one flashlight in every room of the house. Several rooms we put a couple. Luckily for me the flashlight was right where I expected it to be and worked great.

The Dogs and I then went out and brought in the heater and wiped off the dust and checked it over for proper operation before I tried to light it. I used to use it regularly to heat the garage before having a heating system put in. Since then it has sat patiently on the shelf waiting. This is when I noticed that last time I used it I had forgotten to refill it. Not a big deal. I was prepared. I knew I had extra kerosene in the garage. I had several unopened cans that I had purchased for just such an occasion. So the dogs and I trekked back out to the garage to get some kerosene to top it off before we put it into operation. I knew the cans were unopened and therefore full. I checked on them by looking over at them to make sure they had not been damaged several times a year but had never physically touched them since I had put them off in the corner against the wall. I know they were full because I had purchased them and put them over there.
This was when I realized that Murphy's Law had not been repealed. The cans were strangely light when I went to pick them up. Almost as if they were empty. I look at the top and the seal is still in place right there where it is supposed to be. They simply can’t be empty could they? They were new when I put them there and the seal is still on top right where it was supposed to be. I shake the can and there is no slosh like there should be. No one ever told me that if you put a steel can on a cement floor that the bottom of the can will rust out. It must have happened over a long period because I never remember smelling kerosene in the garage but the bottom of the can was rusted and the cans were empty.

Well we must keep our beautiful wife warm so we go back into the house and strategically place the heater in the kitchen on the bottom floor of the house and light it. I did this because heat will radiate up. So by putting it at the bottom of the house farthest away from the stairs the heat will radiate through the bottom floor and eventually upstairs. The sun has finally come out so I open up the curtains on the south side of the house to let in as much sunlight as possible. I was surprised that within a half hour I had to go back downstairs and turn the heater off. It was starting to get way too warm upstairs.

Not knowing how long my existing kerosene still in the tank was going to last I went to plan “B”. Being a believer in "two is one and one is none", I had recently purchased a backup heat source to my backup heat source. Truthfully I had picked it up for the 5th wheel we have recently purchased and placed out our bug out location. On another trip to Home Depot I had purchased a Mr. Heater tank top heater. I had plenty of propane. All of my back up cooking is based on propane if the gas were ever to go out I had stocked up with the normal grill tanks with the adapter to fill the small tanks our camping stove uses and had a supply of tanks for our grill as well as three different 100 lb tanks to take down to the 5th wheel. We are still in the process of setting up the camper so they have not been moved down there yet. All were fully charged for just such an occasion.  With no better time to test our new heater than the present I assembled our new heater and attached it to the tank. I was amazed at the heat this thing put out and had to quickly turn it back off. I was confident that we were going to be nice and warm for as long as we would be without power.

So that gave me a few minutes to sit down and go through my checklist to see what needed to be done:

  • Shelter is in place and safe? Check
  • Water? Plenty stored and water still running check
  • Food? Well stocked for both 2 pawed and 4 pawed family members so Check
  • Everyone Safe and warm? Check
  • Light? Plenty of candles, flash lights with back well over 100 back up batteries (Sale at Bass Pro shops on back Friday), Oil Lamps with extra wicks and oil, all in place so check  

Not being the type that would be willing to leave a heater on and unattended this gave me some time to sit by the window and go over our situation and evaluate what still needed to be done and see where I had missed things. As I sat there in the a comfortable chair looking out the sliding glass door watching it start to snow again I noticed a few things. Please let me share them with you.
As I sat there in front of the window I had a sense of calm and peace flow over me. It had started to snow again fairly aggressively. I could see several neighbors loading up their cars forced to trek out into the storm looking for a warm place to go. Meanwhile I was sitting there in my chair warm and comfortable. Knowing my family was safe and warm. I didn’t have to care what the roads were like. I didn’t have to care how much it snowed. I didn’t have to care when the power came back on. For the first time in several years the house was quit. I could almost hear the house talking to me. Those subtle noises that a house makes that are always there but are hidden behind the background noise of all the gadgets of our modern life create. I had a calmness and peace that I had not felt in quite a while. The simple things in life were all taken care of because we had the foresight to prep not just for the big disaster but also for the little things.
I realized the mistakes I had made. I had gotten complacent in knowing my preps were there and had not taken the time to periodically check and make sure they were still in operational condition. Luckily I had subscribed to the "Two is one, and one is none" theory and that had saved us.
My pointed out an area I had thought of once and had completely forgotten about. As unromantic as it sounds at this point feeling so good about how well things had gone overall we forgot about the toilet. Where we live we have a high water table so the sewer system cannot be buried very deep. Because of this we have what is called a grind pit in our back yard. All the waste from the house drains down into this pit and a device in the bottom grinds up all the solids and then pumps them “UP” to the sewer system. With no power there is no pumping action and the pump would become full rather quickly if we did not monitor how much water went down the drain. Of course this is when Murphy decided to make his presence known again. I had not really worried about it too much because I had a nice Kohler generator. Well as you might guess we don’t currently have our generator. It is over being worked on by the small engine person of our Mutual Assistance Group. We are experimenting with retrofitting the generators of our group with automobile mufflers in an attempt to quite them down considerably so they will be safer to use at our bug out location in a SHTF situation. The loud roar of several generators will carry for quite a ways in that type of situation and we are attempting to lower our decibel output as much as possible. Because of this my generator is not currently available.  Not a severe problem I can always grab one from work and bring it home once the storm passes if necessary but defiantly something that I need to work on.
At this point there is only one thing left on the list to do. So I go upstairs and see my beautiful wife and my vicious guard dogs all curled up on a pile of pillows on the bed. This is a scene that would make the cat proud. My wife is comfortably reading a book basking in the sunlight coming in from the window. My lab is comfortably curled up on my pillows and my Shepherd is sprawled out across what is left of the bed.
I update my wonderful wife on our situation and my conclusions. Then I inform her the only thing we have left to do to insure our survival is work on shared bodily warmth and comfort. That this is a critical part of our survival plan. The fate of the world could depend on it.
My loving wife then looks up from her book. She looks at me with those beautiful hazel eyes. Her long beautiful hair cascading down across her shoulders and pillows. The absolute picture of loveliness. A gentle smile crosses her face only to be replaced by her tongue sticking out followed quickly by a raspberry thrown in my direction. Dejected and rejected I was banished to the couch where I had to spend the afternoon taking nap lessons from the cat.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A recent conversation prompted this article. It seems that friends in urban and suburban homes feel that there may be little hope for them in case of disaster, since they have no “retreat” set up in a rural area as a destination. This article points out similarities in all disaster preparedness, as well as possible differences in strategies and tactics to make surviving in urban and suburban locations more likely. None of these are new ideas, just slanted toward those who are urban/ suburban dwellers and that do not have a rural retreat location.

While not detailed in scope, below are several points to assist in preparedness for survival in urban/ suburban locations for those who cannot or will not choose to relocate to a rural existence.

  1. Attitude is Critical. As in rural retreating, or any other kind of survival situation, urban and suburban dwellers must adopt the attitude that surviving the bad time is an achievable goal, and whatever can be done to ensure survivability will be done. It may not involve acres of tilled soil or forests of trees, but in all except situations of total annihilation, people can survive in urban/ suburban spaces if properly prepared.
  2. Air. Three minutes without breathe-able air is a problem. Urban/suburban dwellers may find the air more polluted than the rural tribes from fallout, burning buildings, any number of hazards. Gas masks and adequate replacement filters can go a long way for personal protection, but also consider the sealing of your living space (the infamous “tape and plastic” that FEMA so indelicately told us to stock) as well as a filter and fan for incoming air to pressurize and provide air changes in a living space. Coarse filters (like bandanas or sheets) stretched over HEPA filters (second stage) with carbon absorption (third stage) can be found and assembled/ stocked now, so make a plan (actually, make 3 redundant plans) to make this happen. Think of the filter that the Apollo 13 astronauts put together to save themselves. It can be done. Even radioactive fallout will dissipate to livable levels within a couple of weeks, so if you are out of a blast zone (a typical nuclear device has a blast zone of maybe a couple miles in diameter… call that a worst case), this is not a permanent situation.
  3. Shelter. Three hours without shelter in some environments is a problem. Figure out where it would be best to shelter in place, whether that is your home (preferable, because all our preps will likely be there if we do not have a rural location already set-up), apartment, or someplace else (where we can stage and cache supplies). Urban and suburban environments place high value on “space”, so our homes and apartments will likely be our “space”. I have a friend in a major city that took the unused space in a hallway above the door frames, dropped in thick plywood attached to substantial cleats on the walls (attached to studs), and now has an “attic space” right there in her apartment. Do not become a refugee while searching for a better place, but have at least two other options for an alternative space if they become necessary. Don’t plan to live in a tent or “take to the mountains to live off the forest”. Bad idea. Apartment buildings that are 4 stories or more, and not tall enough to stick out or become outposts are good. Stay above the third floor for security (but get in shape, because that is a lot of steps, since elevators will not work). Do not become a refugee in any circumstance. Be somewhere familiar and set up a base. Clothes are included in shelter, so have some work clothes and boots that can last in a pinch, get gloves and backups, and cold/ rain gear for all. You probably already have most of the outerwear for your area.
  4. Water. Three days without water is a problem. Tarps for rainwater collection are your friend, but keep them as subdued as possible. Rainwater from roofs coming down gutters can be diverted to barrels or buckets. Keep Clorox Liquid Bleach in the laundry basket, and a couple under the sink. One gallon of bleach will treat thousands of gallons of water, making it usable. Add two drops per liter and let it sit for 30 minutes. Add more bleach if the water is cloudy. Liquid Bleach has a shelf life, but it is at least 6 months in an unopened bottle, so buy 3 or 4 bottles and be covered. One bottle of bleach may be the best dollar you ever spent. Powdered calcium hypochlorite is fine also, just takes extra steps to use it properly and will lose potency if not carefully sealed. Water needs to be located and buckets stored to transport it, or in suburbs, you can drill a “landscape watering well” with a removable manual pump-head. Urbanites, check roof drain locations and tap into them when needed. You cannot store enough water in a small apartment to last a year… for four people, that would be about 1500 gallons minimum. That is four pallets of water (40”x48”x48” tall) in those pallet-sized tanks, and it would need to be rotated if you kept it onsite. Put another way, it would take about 19 of those 80 gallon hot water tanks to hold this much water. The weight of 1,500 gallons of water weighs more than 10,400 pounds excluding the containers. Keep enough water on hand in 2 liter bottles discreetly hidden under the sink or in closets to use until you can tap into a water source. Locating water is a big deal, so start looking around now. Newer apartment buildings have fire water standpipes, some have tanks on the top floors. Figure out how to tap into those if needed. Take a plumbing class if you can’t figure out how to do a tap and run a hose and open/ close valves, but don’t actually tap it until the time is right..
  5. Food. Three weeks without food is a problem. Basic food storage for four people will take up a surprisingly small space. I do not mean the freeze-dried canned materials, nor am I talking MREs but you can certainly do both of those. I mean basic food, such as suggested in Ragnar Benson’s book, Urban Survival
    1. “5x50 pound sacks of sugar,
    2. 6x50 pound sacks of flour (or wheat to be ground into flour),
    3. 10x25 pound sacks of cleaned lentils,
    4. 10x25 pound sacks of split peas,
    5. 10x25 pound sacks of dried beans,
    6. 2x3 gallon jugs Vegetable Oil,
    7. 100 pounds of dried milk. “

All of this adds up to a pallet (40”x 48”) that is about six to seven layers tall… a total of maybe 5 feet tall, and a lot less money than you think if bought in bulk. Think of a big closet for storage, or the “apartment attic” described before. Even small apartments have closets and under beds or inside couches to place the materials. Rotate it out, of course. Now, this list of basics will allow survival with basic nutrition, but you want to do more than survive, you want to thrive, so… Many more things can be stored for long periods of time. Every trip to the store, add a couple of items and you will be amazed how quickly it accumulates. Add bagged rice, boxed pasta, all varieties of canned stuff (condensed soup, canned meat, canned tuna, canned salmon, canned butter, canned pasta sauce, canned veggies), spices, tabasco to give it all some kick. If you are hungry, the pallet of nutrition will get you and 3 other people through a year while you grow things in any available dirt, whether that is a container, on the roof, on the fire escape, in a window box, or in the flower bed. Also, urban living will support pigeon roosts on a roof or an attic or a shack out back (15 pigeons will give 2 squab per week indefinitely), maybe rabbit hutches out back or on a roof (3 does and a buck will give a 2 rabbits per week indefinitely). Traps for other assorted protein. Ponds and waterways in the city surely support at least snapping turtles which are not half bad… cut off the head, pop open the bottom shell, clean them like any animal, season the water with some spices of your choice, boil them up… tastes like chicken.. Canada geese are a poo-dropping pest now, but can be had easily in nearly every city and suburb in America with rocks or a bolo (three lengths of paracord and three weights on the ends). Learn to butcher animals quickly and efficiently, don’t be squeamish. Take a class, learn the basics. Survival and Preparedness Stores are popping up like mushrooms and offer classes in many different skills..

  1. Fuel. To cook food or to keep warm, we need long-storing fuel. Suburbanites can drop a 1000 gallon propane tank (where regulations allow), hide it, and be set for a year of cooking and house-heating using those little infrared propane heaters that do not need permanent vents or electricity.  Space is a little more difficult for apartment dwellers, but the little 25 pound propane tanks can go almost anywhere. Get a fill valve to fill the smaller tanks, and attach the infrared heaters on top and cook/ heat from them. Electricity can be provided by solar PV generators, or if you want to use precious fuel to make electricity, diesel or propane-converted generators can be pretty small anymore. Noise from these is a concern, but can be muffled or directed upwards to make them less rackety. Find the plans for the mufflers, and learn to weld at the same time. Those ubiquitous suburban golf carts make dandy electrical storage devices. Wire your genny or PV panels to them to charge, and you have deep-cycle 12 volt power to feed an inverter to get 120 VAC. You will lose some efficiency, but you can get the power that you need. Take a class, learn electricity at the same time. This is not even including wood stoves that can burn everything from newspapers to phone books to broken furniture to coal from a seam in a road-cut, asphalt from roads, 2x4’s from collapsed buildings, even wood from real trees! Venting is important, some of these things make acrid smoke, but heat is heat. If you have a rock/ brick fire ring outside for cooking, get a Dutch Oven on feet. It can make anything from bread/ biscuits to soup beans to roasts to serving as a water-bath canner. Get a bunch of matches, butane lighters, and fire-steels (they backup each other) to get the fuel burning.
  2. Medical. Same as rural retreat planning. Get yourself trained, get family trained, and get the supplies organized in multi-level a kits. Wound Care Kit, Upper Respiratory Care Kit, and Bowel Care Kit. Take that Emergency First Aid course from the Red Cross or the Survival Store. Your needs and mileage will vary, but is the same as for a rural retreat.
  3. Sanitation. Learn to process your own wastes, whether that is an outhouse privy with a bag of lime to keep it civil, or a cat-hole. I would keep as much ground clear as possible for growing things. Do not slight the way that wastes are processed. Disease springs from untreated wastes. Take care of it, get it buried if there is ground suitable for that, or burned if you want to use precious fuel.
  4. Security. You will need the same weapons in an urban/ suburban situation as well as a rural situation. These can be as simple as a .22 rifle and pistol for taking anything from the size of a rat up to the size of a bad-guy. Keep it simple, and keep a couple thousand rounds of .22 ammunition in the same place. It will only take up a space 4”x4”x4” for over 500 rounds of .22 Long Rifle, so do the math. Do not doubt the lethality of a .22 round at short distances, but have multiple backups in necessarily larger calibers if you can afford it. Consider any of the common Battle rifles (5.56/ .223 or .308) and 12 gauge shotguns (with ammunition and magazines) for as many as you can afford. Knives, we gotta have them, so get some with backups. Get a radio that runs off rechargeables, a walkie-talkie for every member (and backups). Secure the lower ladder on the fire escape for apartment dwellers. If things get bad, I doubt that the Fire departments are going to be issuing tickets for non-dropping lower ladders on our fire escapes. We don’t want visitors coming up that way.
  5. Planning Every excursion out of the shelter should be planned and staffed, with full knowledge of security, and be sure that the mission is worth the risk. Keep quiet, and keep light discipline by closing curtains and maintaining low profile. Cooking odors go a long way, keep lids on when cooking, and doors closed if possible. Keep flashlights, rechargeables and batteries, and backups. You can never have enough flashlights. Finally, find like-minded folks in your area. Visit a Survival/ Prep store and talk to the folks there, buy supplies there, and take classes there. You’ll get a lot of information and be able to cultivate friendships before trouble starts, so you can help each other when things go bad. We cannot go it alone. Strength in numbers, security in numbers.

Yes, it will be tough to survive in an urban or suburban environment, definitely harder than being 20 miles from a town in a hardened structure, well-watered, raising your own food on 40 acres with a mule, munching on your five years of stored food, and taking shifts in strategically placed LP/OPs, but it is do-able. Don’t be overwhelmed, just eat the elephant in small bites. Take classes from community colleges, Survival/ Prep Stores, Red Cross or CERT organizations.  Nearly all events are survivable, with the right mindset, training, and preparations.

Friday, February 10, 2012

It is of extreme importance in any TEOTWAWKI situation that precautions be taken to prevent contracting or spreading infectious disease. If infectious disease is contracted, it is important to be able to recognize and manage it. This article will present some infectious diseases to be aware of, how they are contracted, what measures to take to minimize the risk of infection, and what to do if you have been exposed. 

Infectious or Communicable? 
Infectious diseases are caused by microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites that invade the body. Commonly confused with communicable diseases, infectious diseases, not surprisingly, cause illness through exposure to an infectious agent, even if it cannot be spread from one person to another. Comparatively, a communicable disease is an infectious disease that can be spread from person to person. 

For example, while the common cold can be transmitted between people with little to no contact, an infectious disease such as malaria can only be transferred to a person from a vector - in this case, a mosquito. Malaria cannot, however, be transmitted from person to person and is therefore not communicable. 
Illness caused by an infectious disease pathogen can range from a minor cold, to life threatening hepatitis. The virulence of the microorganism and one’s general health typically determine the severity of the infection. Other sensitivities, such as autoimmune suppression, or pediatric or geriatric status, can be a factor in susceptibility to infection as well as the ability to overcome disease.
Infectious Diseases
The infectious diseases that pose important risks during a TEOTWAWKI situation pose serious threats not only to you and your loved one but to the community. While local circumstances and conditions can raise different risks, some infectious diseases to be aware of and prepared for include:

Influenza is a virus that causes upper respiratory infection. Spread quickly and contracted easily, the cold can knock you down for several days. With emerging mutations of the flu appearing every year, and with the expected emergence of a disastrously virulent strain, you must make an effort to prevent contagion. Prevent infection by maintaining good hand hygiene and avoiding touching your face, including rubbing your eyes.

Norovirus, [often and erroneously] called "the stomach flu,” causes severe gastrointestinal distress and, thus, results in dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhea. Influenza is caused by the influenza virus and is correctly referred to as the "flu". The flu is a serious illness can can lead to complications and death in many people with risk factors associated with certain chronic diseases or conditions. The common cold is caused by completely different viruses. Contaminated food, water and surfaces spread the virus, which are the leading cause of food poisoning.

While norovirus is typically not serious for otherwise healthy adults, in a TEOTWAWKI situation, the dehydration it causes can lead to death. Even in normal times, Norovirus can be a severe illness among those who are elderly, very young or have certain chronic conditions. Deaths have occurred because of complications that resulted from pre-existing conditions. To prevent contracting it, make sure all surfaces and hands used for food preparation are clean. Wash your hands correctly before every meal. Always. Never touch bathroom doorknobs with your bare hands. While you cannot ensure that others will do the same, limit your exposure by reducing the number of times you eat food prepared by others. If you do become infected, rehydrate soon and often. Restore electrolyte imbalance by consuming cell salts or another source of electrolytes. Provide team support to the beneficial flora in your gut by taking a supplement such as HMF powder.

Cholera is caused by a bacteria that affects the small intestine and results in severe diarrhea. Found in contaminated water and food, it typically occurs in regions under heavy distress. Ensuring clean water and sanitation are essential for preventing cholera and other water-borne diseases, such a giardia in the event of a failure of municipal water systems. In any TEOTWAWKI situation, you must be prepared and vigilant about the safety of all water you consume or use for food preparation. Learn about and be supplied for performing water purification on your own.

Staph exists on the skin of a large percentage of the population but does not necessarily pose a risk until it enters the body through a break in the skin surface. An fairly recent emergence of Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureas (MRSA) poses a life-threatening risk from the bacteria that comprise the staph group. Any staph-related infection is serious and should be avoided and quickly treated.

Hepatitis is a disease that causes inflammation of the liver. Not only can infected persons not have any signs or symptoms for years, but the pathogen can survive outside the body for days. Hepatitis A is transmitted via the fecal-oral route. Hepatitis B and C are blood-borne and both are very hearty viruses that can survive outside of the body and remain viable for quite a while. Hep A and B both can be prevented by vaccinations. Hep B and C can both be treated depending on the type of Hep B or C. (This is a simple explanation for a complex viral disease) Hep B and C is commonly transmitted through IV drug use, tattoos, and possibly sexually.

Tuberculosis is a bacterial respiratory infection spread by a patient’s sneezing or coughing. If an outbreak occurs in your area, take precautions to avoid infected persons and locations and used recommended protection for filtering respiration. In some parts of the world, the disease has mutated to resist every single antibiotic formerly used to treat it.

Salmonella can be contracted from contaminated chicken and eggs as well as from the handling of reptiles. Thoroughly wash all chicken meat and eggs before use and  safely contain all remnants and packaging. Follow the handling of chicken products and reptiles with thorough decontamination of the hands. 

Rabies is caused by a virus that can be contracted through the saliva of infected animals through a bite or scratch. Rabies has a 99.9% fatality rate. Avoid all contact with wild animals whenever possible, particularly if they are behaving oddly. If you do receive an injury from such an animal, immediately seek medical care.

Tetanus is caused by a toxin produced by Clostridium tetani. It can be contracted from a sharp surface contaminated with the tetanus bacteria that lives in the soil. While it is a common misconception that mere metal, such as a nail, is a habitat for the bacterium, reality is that the metal (or other object) must be contaminated from contact with the soil or other carrier. The average nail in your shed is not likely to pose a tetanus risk. Stepping on a nail in your garden does. Keep your tetanus vaccination current to prevent contracting this disease.

HIV is present in blood, semen and other body fluids of those infected and can be transmitted sexually (regardless of a person's sexual orientation) as well. The virus can also be transmitted from mother to child, IV drug use, or through blood transfusions. HIV can result in acquired immune deficiency syndrome, commonly known as AIDS. However, a person may not know he or she is infected and may not exhibit signs or symptoms for years. 

Routes of Entry
There are four major routes of entry for infectious disease pathogens to enter the body, including inhalation, ingestion, injection, and absorption.
Inhalation occurs with exposure to airborne pathogens, usually by coughing and sneezing. Aerosolized droplets containing pathogens can be breathed in, even if you are some distance away from the carrier.
Ingestion can happen when infected body fluids splash into your mouth. A person who is bleeding, coughing or sneezing can project pathogens this way. Eating food contaminated with salmonella or eating from contaminated surfaces or with contaminated hands can also put you at risk of infection. Don’t self-infect!
Injection can occur when the skin is punctured or cut by contaminated sharp objects. Jagged debris, nails or working with a patient’s needle equipment, such as a diabetic’s glucometer kit or  an Epi-pen used to treat anaphylaxis, can put you at risk for infection. Similarly, tetanus can be contracted through puncture by a contaminated sharp object, and rabies, lyme disease and other infectious diseases can be contracted through puncture or the breaking of the skin from an animal bite or scratch.
Absorption occurs when tissues such as the nose and eyes come in contact with a pathogen, usually through rubbing them without proper hand washing. 
Typically, communicable disease pathogens are either airborne or blood-borne. Other infectious diseases, such as tetanus and salmonella, are generally contracted without any person-to-person contact.

Airborne pathogens, quite obviously, spread through the air. Blood-borne pathogens are transmitted through contact with infected blood or other body fluids containing blood. Bloody saliva or vomit, used dressings and dry wounds can all be sources of blood-borne pathogens. Other potentially infectious materials, known as OPIM, include fluids found throughout the body, such as nasal secretions, cerebrospinal fluid, and fluid in the joints, abdomen and chest cavity. To maximize your safety, however, you must treat all body fluids as if they are infectious.

Exposure occurs through either direct contact transmission or indirect contact transmission. Direct contact transmission occurs when a person transmits a pathogen directly to another person. For example, getting infected blood in a cut on your skin can allow pathogens to infect you. Indirect contact transmission occurs from coming into contact with contaminated surfaces or objects then transferring pathogens into your body by, for example, rubbing your eyes.
Minimizing Risk
To minimize your risk of exposure to pathogens, you must take affirmative action to protect yourself. Not only should you avoid any obviously contagion-transmitting situations whenever possible, but, if you must assist in any kind of health or safety emergency, you should take precautions by practicing good hand hygiene, wearing protective equipment and treating all body fluids as if they are infectious.
Hand Hygiene
Contaminated hands are a leading cause of the contraction of infectious diseases. Hand washing and antisepsis recommendations issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should become common practice every day - don’t wait for a TEOTWAWKI scenario.
For visibly contaminated hands, wash with either plain or antimicrobial soap.
Wet your hands, then apply the amount of product recommended by the manufacturer. Vigorously rub your hands together for at least fifteen to twenty seconds, covering all surfaces. Rinse , then dry thoroughly with a disposable towel. 
Use the towel to turn the faucet off and throw the towel away.

Use an alcohol-based hand rub if your hands are not visibly soiled in order to reduce the population of pathogens on your hands. For optimum effectiveness, the sanitizer must contain at least sixty-percent alcohol. Use the amount recommended by the manufacturer, covering all surfaces, then rub your hands together until dry. For additional protection, make sure to get the product under any rings, and under and around the fingernails.

Standard Precautions
The term “standard precautions” refers to infection control practices designed to provide protection from infectious body fluids. You should employ these precautions when assisting anyone with a medical emergency or suspected infectious disease whether or not he or she appears infectious. While it is typical in emergency medial response to use gloves, gowns, masks and protective eyewear during patient care, you should, at the very minimum, use gloves.

Gloves are highly effective in preventing contamination. However, because small, undetected holes can result in exposure, you should cover any broken skin and apply alcohol rub before putting gloves on. Careless removal can also result in exposure. To correctly remove them, grip the cuff of one glove and pull it inside out and off. Slip your un-gloved thumb or a finger under the cuff of the other glove. Pull the glove inside out and off  so it contains the first glove inside it. Dispose of the gloves after one use so you don’t put anyone else at risk, then decontaminate with an alcohol rub. 

To protect your face form contamination, wear wrap-around goggles. For full protection for the eyes, nose or mouth, full-face shields may be worn. Surgical masks can also help protect the face, have the added benefit of limiting inhalation of aerosolized particles and can also be placed on a sick patient. A HEPA or N95 respirator mask have a high level of filtering protection. Remember to throw away all disposable equipment after one use.  You should also avoid eating, drinking, smoking or touching your face or eyes in any situation that poses an infection risk.

In addition, disinfect all surfaces and reusable equipment after working in the vicinity of a person who may have an infectious disease. Take each of these precautions seriously and get in the habit of using gloves, masks and goggles when working with dust or contaminants of any kind. This will help you familiarize yourself with the equipment and practiced in putting it on and removing it correctly and safely. The maintenance of an adequate immunization schedule can be an additional line of defense against many common diseases to consider.
If an Exposure Occurs
Make every effort to avoid exposure to infectious disease. If you become ill, you not only put your safety and survival at risk, you risk those in your family and community. The most powerful defense you have against contracting infectious disease is yourself. 

Nevertheless, exposures can still occur, even when you have employed vigilant efforts to prevent it. If you do become exposed, you should immediately take mitigating steps. If your clothing has become contaminated, remove it as soon as possible. Wash all contaminated skin surfaces, especially your hands, and use a disinfecting product to further minimize risk. If your mouth, nose or eyes have been contaminated, flush them with water or saline. They optimal flushing period for the eyes is twenty minutes. In the case of exposure to serious infectious diseases, you should immediately seek medical care. For example, while you can provide self care from assisting a person infected with the common cold, any possibility that you have contracted rabies, tetanus, hepatitis, tuberculosis and other serious diseases requires immediate medical attention.

Because infectious diseases can spread so quickly from person to person and through communities, you should expect any TEOTWAWKI situation to pose a threat of infectious disease. While the risks of contracting diseases such a rabies may be of minor significance, your risk of contracting infectious disease spread from person to person is much more likely. You must be extremely cautious when providing emergency care for any injured or sick person. The same can be said for travel through any location frequented by others. Public transportation, buildings with air circulation systems and public service buildings such as grocery stores and schools are ripe grounds for transmission. Minimize your time in them and be aware of the extremely high risk that other people pose, particularly in emergency situations where resources are limited. You must be self sufficient and prepared to assume responsibility for your own health as well as being willing to prevent any illness you do contract from spreading to others.

Take self-care seriously and invest the energy of prevention into your protocols for survival and the protection of others. You will usually not be able to tell whether someone is carrying an infectious disease or even what specific risks they pose.  But being knowledgeable and prepared are the best line of defense and management when faced with the risks of life-threatening disease.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Dear Mr. Rawles,
I have an indelicate question that I'd like to ask you and your readers:  In a Schumer Hits the Fan (SHTF) situation, literally, what happens to the aforementioned waste products in our sewer?  If a sewer plant loses power, does it all back up and exit through all our residential toilets connected to that pipe?  Does it back up and enter nearby streams and rivers that we would be relying on for water?  Once trapped in a backed up sewer drain, could explosive methane gas be formed to further complicate the disposal of waste and even be a danger to city dwellers - particularly those in high rise apartments?  Your thought and advice in this matter would be appreciated.  Thank you, - Rod McG.

JWR Replies: I addressed that issue in my reply to a "hunker down in the city" letter from a reader, posted in 2007. Yes, there will be a public health crisis in the cities just few days, especially if the onset is during summer months. I strongly recommend getting out of urban areas as soon as possible, in a disaster.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Recently, due to financial considerations, we decided to end our garbage collection service. It wasn't a large expense, but our budget is tighter than ever these days and with some planning we realized that it was actually a luxury, not a necessity. Besides, those of us who are preparing for the likely future of a breakdown in society shouldn't really expect to have convenient curb waste disposal services, now should we? How were you planning on handling that day when it comes? You have 500 trash bags and you're just going to stack bags of trash in some out-of-the-way corner of the barn for vermin to sort through and spread health hazards? What about sanitation? When your water service cuts off and your toilet won't flush you can pump or haul water, or maybe you have plans to dig an outhouse. Let me propose some better solutions to you.

Now, I live in a rural area, in the unincorporated area of a county and not within any city limits, so much of what I propose is applicable to my situation here and will not apply to city dwellers. You need land to be sustainable in any real sense. Over years of living a preparedness lifestyle, I have realized that in the long run preparedness blends into sustainability. I have solar and wind power, a wood stove, a biofuel vehicle, a large garden, and now a composting toilet not because I'm an extreme environmentalist, but because the less I depend on the infrastructure of society, the less it matters to me whether it's there or not. If/when “something bad happens”, I don't have to do anything special. My fuel supplies stay stocked, my food supplies are rotated constantly as part of “normal life”. If the grid goes down suddenly the extent of my panic will be to turn on the shortwave and scanner to start collecting news. However, in this article I will try to contain myself to discussing the subject at hand, which is waste management.

The first step to dealing with “waste” is mental. You need to adjust your thinking to realize that hardly anything is truly “waste”. Almost everything can be reused or recycled, and then it's not “waste” any more, it's useful. Also, on the front end the less packaging and non-recyclable items you bring into your life to begin with the less you'll have to deal with on the back end. As our family lifestyle became more sustainable over time, I was amazed at the reduction in volume of “trash” that we had. I'll now cover each disposal method in turn.

First, there is burning. Let's say you just pulled out a frozen dinner to eat, or a new product from the package. Most likely the package was either paperboard or corrugated cardboard, perhaps wrapped in plastic (we'll get to the plastic). Let's start with the obvious: paper and cardboard burn very well and fairly completely if given sufficient oxygen. In our house we have a wood stove, and I use waste paper and cardboard as kindling to light it. Now that we're in the heating season I can dispose of quite a lot of paper waste this way. Several months before heating season starts I begin stockpiling all the paper, paperboard and corrugated containers, newspapers, and non-glossy sales circulars so we will have sufficient kindling all winter long. A note to stove owners: newer catalytic stoves are picky about what you feed them. Check your owner's manual for information about burning paper, because you don't want to poison the stove catalyst. My understanding is that if you stick to non-colored paper such as office paper this should be okay even in catalytic stoves. The rest of the paper and combustible waste I burn in the burn barrel. My wood stove ash gets used to make lye, and then lye soap with, so I try to only burn clean materials without brightly colored inks or glossy paper, as these could contain undesirable chemicals. The remaining depleted ash has less potassium content but is still a useful fertilizer, so I spread it on the lawn and around trees. A side note: I once calculated the fuel value of the paperboard container of a package of macaroni and cheese. It's easy enough to weigh the empty box with a kitchen scale, and the resulting weight is pure dry carbohydrate biomass, with an energy content of 4 Calories (that is, kilocalories or 4184 J) per gram. I discovered the box had about 200 Calories of energy! If you burn the box, that's less Calories of food energy you have to consume in winter to stay warm. Think of all the extra heat you're missing, just lurking in everyday “waste” products....

Now, the old familiar burn barrel has been well known ever since shortly after the introduction of steel 55 gallon drums. It suffers from low combustion temperatures and limited oxygen, leading to dirty and incomplete combustion. I have constructed a “turbo” burn barrel with a few simple modifications. I took an old rusty open-top drum and cut a 4-inch round hole in the side just above the bottom. This is easily accomplished with a power drill and jigsaw with a metal cutting blade. Even this one improvement will go a long way toward making the barrel burn better since air can now flow in the bottom, but this wasn't all I had in mind. I then attached a length of 4-inch aluminum flexible duct, the kind that's used on clothes dryers, and a small blower motor. I had a bathroom vent-type blower left over from another project, and it handily fits onto a 4 inch flex duct. Now what you have more closely resembles a blacksmith's forge than a regular burn barrel. Of course, for true off-grid use you'd need a DC blower instead, but I have about half a dozen different ways to generate AC. For 12 VDC, I'm sure a salvaged automotive ventilation blower could be modified to fit the bill, or perhaps even a computer-style axial fan, some of the larger ones can move quite a bit of air.

Regardless of the air source, you now have a burn barrel that breathes much better and will combust materials much more completely. It's perfect for disposing of any combustible waste materials including paper and yes, most plastics. If you look at the recycling symbol found on most plastic packaging you will learn what it's made from. Here's a quick guide:

1 - PETE (polyethylene terephtalate), combustible
2 - PE-HD (high density polyethylene), combustible
3 - PVC (polyvinyl chloride), non-combustible
4 - PE-LD (low density polyethylene), combustible
5 - PP (polypropylene), combustible
6 - PS (polystyrene), combustible
7 - Other (often polycarbonate or ABS), non-combustible

Remember that plastics are made from oil. Most forms of plastic, under proper high-temperature combustion with adequate oxygen, happily just melt and burn like oil. The problems with plastics are the ones containing chlorine in the formulation somehow. This includes plastics like PVC. If these are burned, hazardous chlorine compounds are formed. If no other means of disposal is available, these plastics will have to be given the second disposal method, burial or landfilling.

I am not technically qualified to offer advice on landfilling, but US Army Field Manual 21-10, “Field Hygiene and Sanitation” does offer some guidelines. Some items will have to be landfilled, such as the ash left over from the burn barrel, and those plastics which are not safely combustible. Currently, I am still able to drive to a nearby town and pay for disposal by the pound, so right now I am not having to landfill anything.

The next disposal method I will cover after burning and burying is composting. Any organic material can and should be composted. Composting is nature's own recycling mechanism, capable of turning waste back into useful materials and neutralize a wide variety of harmful substances! A properly built compost pile will heat up to sterilizing temperatures and not only kill bacteria and other harmful organisms but also neutralize many harmful chemicals too. All kitchen scraps, yard and garden waste, dead small animals, waste oil and grease, and other organic materials should go in the compost pile. Yes, many compost experts have long advocated the “don't” list of forbidden materials in the pile, normally including things like meat, fats, and pet and human wastes. At this point let me stop and strongly advocate that you go and read “The Humanure Handbook” by Joseph Jenkins. It's available free online, or you can buy a printed copy inexpensively from the usual sources. I can't recommend this book highly enough. In it the author does a thorough job of debunking many of the compost myths. He quotes a long list of sources and research studies to prove his points. In fact, most of the book is about composting in general, not just the title topic. Please do yourself and your family a favor and read this book.

[JWR Adds an Important Caveat Lector: While some of the advice given by Jenkins in his Humanure Handbook is good, I soundly reject his assertion that "humanure" can be used in vegetable gardens in all climates and at all times of the year. Outside of the tropics, in three seasons there is simply too much risk of disease transmission. Unless all of the waste from carnivores and omnivores gets above the viability temperature for bacteria, then it is a biohazard. If you must use "humanure", then use it only for flower beds and shrubbery. And for that, be sure to use a separate, dedicated set of spades and buckets that have their handles marked with red tape. Never use those tools in your vegetable garden!]

After reading the book, I constructed a three-bin compost system similar to the one shown in the book. Each bin is about 5'x5'x4'. You start constructing a pile by laying down a foot or more of absorbent organic material as a buffer. In my case, I had numerous cubic yards of wood chips left over from other projects, so that's what I used. Then on top of that you start building your compost pile, adding to it a little at a time as materials become available. The active materials stay covered with a thick blanket of dry high-carbon materials (think hay or straw) on top to retain heat. A long-stem compost thermometer is a useful tool to tell you how your pile is doing, and within days mine had heated up over 120 degrees. Most days it hovers between 120 and 140, and this is even with the arrival of fall weather and cooler temperatures. All known gastrointestinal pathogens die within 24 hours at temperatures of 120 degrees..

This ties in naturally with my next topic, sanitation. As part of my long-term sustainability plans I have a rainwater collection system and a large cistern, but if I lose my utility water supply my quantities of water will be very limited. Even with a modern efficient toilet, flushing water is still a major demand. I had been researching for a long time to find better alternatives when I learned about the humanure handbook and got an education in composting. However, my plans for a “plan B” got accelerated when my old gravity flow septic system started having problems. I won't describe all the details, but now we are at the point where it barely works and the choices are either to dig up and replace the drain field at huge expense or decommission it. Enter “plan B”, front and center. My old farm house already had a gray water drain connected to the clothes washer, but now I have rearranged the plumbing so the kitchen sink, dishwasher, and shower drain into it as well. Thank goodness for an old pier and beam farmhouse, and a generous crawl space, that makes retrofits like this possible.  For the toilet, I constructed the "lovable loo" according to the plans in the book.  You can also buy it pre-made online if you don't like woodworking.  It uses 5 gallon buckets as the collection receptacle, but all the composting happens in the large pile in the yard where it can be done efficiently at high temperatures.  It's amazing, but just adding some dry high-carbon material to the bucket to cover after each use keeps the contents aerobic and completely stops odor, flies, and other problems traditionally associated with portable toilets and outhouses.  Sawdust, leaves, straw, newspaper, finely shredded mulch, all work perfectly well.  It just needs to be relatively dry (to offset the moisture content of what's going in the toilet) and have a high carbon/nitrogen ratio (to offset the high nitrogen content of what's going in the toilet).  What else can I say?  It works.  Read the book.

Another aspect of sanitation is feminine hygiene. Instead of stockpiling large amounts of necessary products ahead of time, we found it made more sense to just go sustainable instead. Plans are available on the internet to make your own feminine pads, but for the time involved I think it just makes more sense to buy instead. Many thanks to the folks at Naturally Cozy, we can testify to the quality of their products. That's one less thing to have to worry about. For actual washing, we have a number of options but normally choose to use the spin-type pressure hand washer from Lehman's for small amounts of soiled articles like this that you might not want to mix with your regular loads of laundry. This works for future off grid use as well, since it's hand powered. More or less the same should apply to families with young children in diapers too. It doesn't make sense to stockpile the large quantities needed, and then to have a waste disposal problem on the other end. The best way to dispose of waste is not to have it in the first place.

For large-scale clothes washing in a grid down situation, we should still be able to use our electric washer (but not dryer) since we have several ways to generate electricity. We have two generators, one truck with a beefy inverter, and a large 120 Volt AC inverter on the solar power system. Any of these should run the washer at least occasionally. We have a significant stock of detergent and a very nice clothes line. For return on dollars invested on renewable energy improvements, you can't beat the good old fashioned clothes line.

Okay, we have dealt with the combustible trash and plastics, but what about metals and glass? Currently there are recycling centers close by, and some of these materials can even put a little money back in your pocket, but in the future these will need to be dealt with differently. For aluminum, probably the best “disposal” method is melting and casting. I am not currently equipped to do this, although it is one of the next areas of preparedness/sustainability I plan to tackle. A small furnace can easily reach aluminum melting temperatures. In fact, my turbo burn barrel can probably reach aluminum melting temperatures. Hmmm, use trash to dispose of trash? Now there's an idea...

I have not seen much in the way of glass melting and casting/blowing information, but I know that people do this for a hobby so information has to be available. Reusing existing glass bottles, jars, and containers as much as possible is probably the best interim solution, but what do you do with extras, or broken pieces? Being able to turn them back into useful goods would be much better than landfilling.

After all that has been dealt with, there is still hazardous waste. Broken electronics, batteries, chemicals, and other things we don't want to mess with. For now it usually possible to turn these in at special hazardous waste collection centers, or at special “collection drives” that our local governments sponsor a few times a year. When this is no longer possible, encapsulation and storage will probably be the only option. I should also note that any very old painted wood could possibly contain lead-based paint, which should not be burned. It probably shouldn't be landfilled anywhere except in a properly designed landfill either, so if you have some, get rid of it now or you may be stuck with a problem. Computers can be parted out into components and the remaining circuit boards take up much less space. There is nearly a pound of aluminum in an average hard drive, and one or two really useful rare earth magnets.

A disclaimer: we don't live completely off grid for electricity or water. We have a 600W photovoltaic array and small wind turbine that together run a 900 Ah battery bank and Sun Frost 12 Volt DC refrigerator and SunDanzer 12V freezer. The rest of the house is on utility power. If the utility goes down, the food stays cold even without me having to start the generator. I designed the system for 12 volts instead of 24 so I can recharge the battery bank from a vehicle if necessary, or even jump start a vehicle from the constantly-charged battery bank. Likewise, we use utility water but I can throw two valves and in a matter of minutes run the house plumbing from a 10,000 gallon cistern with rain water. The pumps (two, double redundant) can be run directly from the PV system, and the water goes through 5 micron filtration and a Sterilight UV sterilization system. In other words, the grid is still “Plan A”, but I can implement “Plan B” very rapidly and have tested it.

Living off grid doesn't have to be onerous. In most cases it's more work than the convenience of living on grid, but then what do you do when the grid goes down? Besides, the work is mostly good exercise and enjoyable. I like cutting and splitting wood. I love the warm radiant heat of the wood stove. I love the security of having my own power company, my own water utility, and my own gas station. Most people just rent their lifestyle month by month, but I own mine outright. Take away either the monthly income or the infrastructure, and “plan A” ceases to work rather rapidly.

Monday, December 5, 2011

As a former soap company owner and operator, I enjoyed the article on soap making (How to Make Lye Soap, posted on November 30, 201.) However, for safety's sake, I would like to caution your readers regarding some of the statements made in the article:

1. The author’s instructions say to “Heat the water to 110° F. Add the lye to the water.” This is a dangerous suggestion. The chemical reaction caused when lye combines with water causes even room temperature water to heat up almost to the boiling point. Starting with overly-warm water could (and probably would, depending on room temperature) cause the lye solution to literally boil—a potentially catastrophic occurrence. I always use room temperature (or colder) distilled water then, after sprinkling and stirring in the lye, allow the water to cool down to between 100 and 110 before combining it with the warmed oils.

2. The author also says that the lye water can be combined with the warmed oils in a blender. Although, technically, this is true (and I’m sure there are many experienced soap makers who use a blender), the batch of soap would need to be very small to stay within the blender’s capacity while operating. Most of us have had a blender accident at one time or another by either overfilling the blender or realizing (too late) that the lid wasn’t security in place. It’s one thing to have applesauce or a milkshake sprayed around the room, but toxic and dangerous lye water spraying around your kitchen (and on you) would be a scary scene, indeed. Personally, I would never use a blender for making soap. Instead, I use a stainless steel pot and either a wooden spoon or a stick blender (make sure the blades are stainless steel) to combine the lye water and oils.

3. Your readers need to be aware that each oil requires a different amount of lye to be turned into soap (a process called saponification). Some oils require more lye than others. Too little lye for the type of oils used means that the mixture won’t turn into soap; too much lye and you’ve got a hot (overly alkaline) bar of soap that can potentially hurt the skin of the ultimate user. Here’s an example of what I mean: One pound of olive oil requires approximately 2 ounces of lye to properly saponify; however, one pound of coconut oil requires nearly 3 ounces (suggested amounts can vary depending on the amount of water used in the recipe). The problem is magnified if you are making a larger batch (and really, making soap is messy enough that you’ll want to make larger batches). When it comes to lye, one size does not fit all. Fortunately, free lye calculators are available online from a number of web sites, including Majestic Mountain Sage, Brambleberry, and SoapCalc.

Soap making can be a rewarding and creative skill to master, but I encourage anyone who is interested in making soap to learn the basics by reading a good soap making book, such as The Soapmakers Companion by Susan Miller Cavitch or Soap Maker’s Workshop: The Art and Craft of Natural Homemade Soap by Robert S. McDaniel and Katherine J. McDaniel. By the way, Robert McDaniel is a scientist who explains not only what to do when making soap, but why.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

In JWR's book "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It" , item number 11 on the Bartering and Charity List is "50 pound sacks of lime (for outhouses"). My first thought on reading this was, “Why would I barter away my precious lime?” More than just an odor eliminator, lime is a very helpful material used for countless applications in its various forms across various industries ranging from use in the production of glass to use as a calcium supplement in Tropicana brand orange juice.

My initial research was designed to discover which type of lime would be best to buy in bulk, based on its price and versatility in regard to survival needs. Ultimately my research has provided more questions than answers, more starting points for more research projects rather than full-fledged answers. However, I do believe that the common uses I have discovered at this point provide a comprehensive springboard which can serve as starting points for future research for all long-term preparation.

The most important thing to distinguish when acquiring lime is the type of lime and storage capacities based on your targeted use of the product. Besides the lime fruit, which will not be discussed in this article, “lime” generally refers to three types of limestone-derived materials: Limestone, Quicklime, and Hydrated Lime. It is important to explore the different uses of each type of lime and its availability in order to plan accordingly.

Furthermore, it is important to note that the chemicals come in different grades as recognized by the FDA: Pharmaceutical (Pharma), Food, Feed, and Industrial/Technical, with pharmaceutical and food grade being safe for human consumption.

Below are each of the common types of lime, their storage recommendations, and uses. What is not included: uses of lime (and there are many) that are outside of the normal scope of survival, such as using limestone to make glass or using hydrated lime in the petroleum refining process. If you are curious, there are abundant resources about the many uses of lime on The National Lime Association’s web site, as well as endless references throughout the Web.

I. Limestone. This is one of the cheapest forms of lime since it is generally made from crushed limestone. Calcium carbonate or calcite (CaCO3) is the primary component of limestone, though CaCO3 derived from limestone may contain pollutants and should not be used for human consumption unless specifically packaged and sold as food or pharma grade calcium carbonate, such as antacid tablets. Crushed limestone is also known as aglime or agricultural lime/limestone and garden lime and is available at most gardening centers and feed stores.
A. Dolomitic lime. Calcium magnesium carbonate: Dolomitic lime is usually also crushed limestone, but with more magnesium, so I group it here with limestone. Limestone generally has varying levels of magnesium carbonate in the form of dolomite (CaMg(CO3)2)—thus, the name Dolomitic lime or  magnesium limestone. Dolomite  has many of its own uses and could warrant its own article, though one must be careful using dolomitic lime as it is not pure dolomite and is often not food or pharma grade. Furthermore, the presence of lime may create separate complications when using dolomite for chemical reactions or consumption. Food grade dolomite can (and should) be purchased separately these purposes.
B. Storage: Aglime should be kept dry mainly because it is hard to use it when it is a sludge, and it can cake up when it dries, making it hard to use. Compositionally, water is not harmful to it, except for the fact that limestone is highly absorbent and can absorb hard metals and other substances into it. If you plan on using this lime for gardening or outhouses for an extended period, consider keeping it in a 5 gallon bucket with a lid.
C. Precautions: Limestone is generally considered chemically inert, but it is a chemical base. Aglime can cause skin irritation, redness and burning of eyes, and prolonged exposure can cause irritation of the respiratory tract. Can worsen asthma.
D. Uses: Many uses of aglime can also be mimicked by quicklime or hydrated lime, so its uses are listed under Interchangeable Uses below. As mentioned before, I am not including industrial uses for lime that may be too far out of the normal purview of survival.

II. Calcium oxide (CaO). This is a more volatile form of lime that reacts endothermically with water. It is formed by baking calcium carbonate in a kiln at temperatures between 900-1000°C (1652-1832°F). It is also known as quicklime, hot lime, or burnt lime.
            A. Storage: Quicklime needs to be stored away from all moisture in containers that themselves are moisture proof. Over time, a container may absorb some moisture, and this can cause the quicklime to either melt the container or even explode, depending on how much water has reached it. Calcium oxide is not a flammable material, but its reaction with water can cause high temperatures. It should not be stored near combustible materials.
            B. Precautions: Besides precautionary measures for storage, one should remember that quicklime is especially dangerous to animals because of its reaction with water, and it can cause chemical burns to the eyes, throat, lungs when it reacts with the body’s moisture. It has actually been used as a chemical weapon for this reason (see below).
III. Calcium hydroxide (Ca(OH)2). This is also known as hydrated lime, slaked lime, cal, and pickling lime. Cal and pickling lime are both food grade. Hydrated lime has an impressive range of use across multiple industries, including the food industry, oil and gas, metallurgy, construction, and many others. It is formed by adding water to quicklime. Food grade is fairly expensive compared to industrial grade—a 1 lb bag of pickling lime is currently $4.69 on Amazon, whereas Tractor Supply Co. sells a 50 lb bag of [non food grade] hydrated lime for $7.99.

IV. Uses (In no particular order):

  1. Blacksmithing. Quicklime is commonly used as a flux for removing impurities from steel. Hydrated lime is used to whitewash steel products to provide corrosion protection as well as lubrication.
  2. Smelting. Quicklime and hydrated lime are both used in the recovery of nonferrous ores from various other materials.
  3. Construction. Aglime is often used as an aggregate, and quicklime is a binding agent in mortars, cements, concretes, plasters, and stuccos. The type of lime required varies with the product, but each type of lime has some use in construction. Using lime goes back to ancient times of combining lime, sand, and water to make primitive masonry.
  4. Construction. Hydrated and quicklime may be used as a firming agent for wet soil to expedite construction. Quicklime in pebble form is preferred over hydrated lime, though both do work.
  5. Gardening. Use aglime as a soil sweetener to raise PH levels of soil in gardens. Some gardeners prefer dolomitic lime to regular ag lime because it also adds magnesium to the soil. Hydrated lime is more effective at raising pH levels, though it may contain less magnesium, and is generally more expensive. My dad limed a single field years ago, and it is still the greenest field and best producer on his land.
  6. Livestock. To control flies in barn areas, spread aglime on the barn floor. Hydrated lime works, too. This will also control unwanted odors. Be careful if you are using manure to fertilize your garden as the lime can make it more alkaline, though many gardens actually need it. The latent benefit is that one can both fertilize and sweeten the soil with manure that has lime mixed in already.
  7. Outhouse. To control odors in outhouses, sprinkle aglime over waste. Any of the other types work, too, though one should probably avoid combining quicklime with water needlessly. Any other offensive odors can be treated similarly.
  8. Fishing. “Liming” a pond is common in the southeastern U.S. where soil tends to be more acidic. This greatly increases the availability of nutrients and production of phytoplankton (the base of the food chain in a pond), increases the pH levels of the water and helps to stabilize fluctuations in pH levels. Hydrated lime achieves the same results, but it can kill the fish because it raises the pH levels quickly, so its use is reserved for sterilization between crops at hatcheries.
  9. Water treatment. In water purification and treatment, hydrated lime is used to adjust pH levels, as a softener, as a coagulate and flocculate, as a disinfectant, and in purification. Dolomitic lime is effective in removing silica from water in water treatment processes. The Coca Cola company is among Mississippi Lime’s clients, where it is used in the manufacturing of Coke (processing of water), although it may have other uses there, too.
  10. Instruction. Limestone was once the core component in making chalk for use on a blackboard. I am still looking for an exact recipe here, but previously chalk was made from ground limestone, whereas today it is mainly made from gypsum. In traditional chalk-making, the limestone was mixed with pigments and baked, but I have not experimented with this yet. Adding clays and oils creates pastels, which are air-dried. Chalk provides a long-term solution for brainstorming, schooling, and other instruction without having to worry about ink or graphite supplies.
  11. Heating. Quicklime is useful as a heating element in self-heating cans or foods when mixed with water. You may have seen the internet video of the hillbilly hot tub, which uses quicklime and water to heat. Calcium oxide can be used on a much larger scale if needed as emergency heating, and the byproduct is hydrated lime, which has its own uses. Smokeless/fireless heat can be very important if one is on needs to remain undetected, although there is some amount of “smoke” from the chemical reaction, which quickly dissipates. Avoid using quicklime in enclosed areas.
  12. Lighting. Quicklime may be used as a non-electric source of bright lighting. The limelight (or calcium light) was used to light stages for quite some time before electrical lighting took over. Simply put, limelight was calcium oxide heated with a hydrogen torch, which emits a bright glow. The lowest temperature required for the glow is around 1000°C or 1832°F, which can be easily achieved by a propane torch, stove, or heater.  Although not as efficient as other forms of lighting necessarily, it is at least another option to file away, especially if you already plan on using propane to cook or heat and want to set up a limelight. Calcium oxide melts at around 2572°C or 4661°F, so you have a lot of leeway between making it glow and actually melting it.
  13. Weapons. Because calcium oxide reacts endothermically with water, it can be particularly dangerous to the skin, eyes, lungs, and digestive tract. It can cause chemical burns in the throat, lungs, nose, stomach, etc. The MSDS for quicklime does not list it as a fire hazard, but it does note that its reaction with water can be hot enough to ignite combustible materials, which is one of the theories of why it may have been a key ingredient for Greek Fire. Author David Hume’s 1688 work The History of England claims quicklime was used by the English to win a critical battle against the French by positioning themselves upwind and throwing quicklime in the French’s faces. Ouch.
  14. Tanning. Hydrated lime is used for removing the hair from hides in the tanning process. It is also a key ingredient in human hair removal lotions, such as Nair. It is also used as a hair relaxer.
  15. Cooking. Cal (hydrated lime) is a critical ingredient in in making masa (corn dough) and hominy. Masa is the basis for corn tortillas and tamale dough. The process of making masa (called nixtamalizing) actually does make the corn more digestible and, therefore, more nutritious (not to mention the added calcium). As an added bonus, because of hydrated lime’s preservative properties, corn tortillas tend to keep much longer than flour tortillas.
  16. Dietary supplement. Small amounts of food grade hydrated lime are added to Tropicana orange juice to fortify it with calcium, and it is also used in baby formula. The Poison Control Center tells me that you would have to eat huge amounts of this before it would do you lethal harm. Remember, however, that it is a base, which is why it works well in orange juice to counteract the acidity of the citrus, but by itself it may cause irritation in the throat or stomach.
  17. Whitewash. Hydrated or aglime are combined with water and salt to make whitewash or lime-wash. Besides aesthetically pleasing, some claim whitewashing a roof with lime-wash for collection of rainwater helps to pre-treat it, which makes sense since lime is antimicrobial and helps in water purification. This is done in countries like Bermuda, which have no natural fresh water reservoirs and rely on rainwater for consumption.
  18. Food preservation. Hydrated lime is also called pickling lime because it can be used in pickling. Furthermore, hydrated lime has great antimicrobial/antifungal and preservative properties, which is an added reason to use it. My mother, who lives in a swampy area, is unable to use a root cellar, so she sprinkles aglime on her potatoes through the winter and has no problem with them going bad. If you utilize this method, wash the potatoes thoroughly. Hydrated lime is the active ingredient in a compound called Polikar, which is used for preserving vegetables. See more below on lime’s antimicrobial properties.
  19. Gardening. Hydrated lime is effective against many different types of insects, often killing them through contact, and it is an active ingredient in some insecticides on the market, which is why it is so effective at treating excess flies in a barnyard. Hydrated lime is an active ingredient in the Bordeaux mixture used by vineyards to fight fungus.
  20. Antimicrobial/antifungal. Lime’s antimicrobial properties can (in theory) help fight certain types of blight, although I have not found reliable documentation for this. It is boiled with sulfur to make a mange dip. A more powerful pharmaceutical grade calcium hydroxide (pH 13 instead of 12ish) is used in dentistry as a paste to treat microbes when dealing with root canals. These antimicrobial properties are one of the primary reasons why lime is effective at controlling odors.

After reviewing my own list, it is difficult to determine exactly which type of lime one should concentrate on, and I believe that stocking up on any one type should be governed by your intended use. I do believe that food grade hydrated lime is possibly the most useful of all of the types of lime since it can be consumed and still has the critical properties needed for all of its other uses, not to mention the fact that it can fulfill many of the same functions as the other types of lime. Additionally, heating hydrated lime to around 512°C (954°F) evaporates the water from it and forms calcium oxide (quicklime), so one can easily create his/her own calcium oxide if needed.

Of course, following that philosophy, one could theoretically stock up solely on aglime, bake it to create quicklime, and then combine the quicklime with water to create hydrated lime, although that whole process requires an investment in a lime kiln and other materials, and the hydrated lime would not be edible.

The most practical recommendation would be to stock up on a proportionate amount of each type relative to your intended use. Quicklime is a little harder to find these days, as it either comes in very small amounts (such as 400g) or very large amounts (several tons). You may be lucky enough to have a building materials vendor that sales it in your area, but you will probably have to make a few phone calls. The National Lime Association lists companies in each state that produce lime, and they will either sell it to you directly or point you to one of their distributors. Hydrated lime, dolomitic lime, and regular aglime can all be found easily and are fairly cheap (if not food grade)—all of them can be found for around $10/50lbs at most gardening or feed stores.

General Warnings:
For complete details on lime, its health risks, and precautionary measures, please visit the manufacturer’s site for MSDS information. I used Mississippi Lime’s MSDS for my information, as well as interviews with scientists at the FDA and in the labs at various limestone companies.

All forms of lime can cause irritation to the skin, eyes, throat, and lungs. One should take precautionary measures with all lime.

Consuming different grades of lime can have hazardous effects. There are many different potential contaminants in limestone, which realistically can vary from quarry to quarry even in the same region. These can vary greatly, but possible contaminants include lead, copper, fluoride, arsenic, cadmium, and petroleum distillates among others. Quarries near mines or areas that use hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") are also at higher risk for contaminated limestone. Remember that limestone (from which most quicklime and hydrated lime also derive) is sedimentary rock and therefore vulnerable to outside contaminants. For example, the EPA permits industrial sewage sludge to spread over farms, which could potentially leech through the soil down into the limestone, introducing cadmium as a contaminant.

That said, Mississippi Lime, which, from my own research as well as information from the National Lime Association and the company itself, is possibly the only company in the United States that produces food grade calcium hydroxide, explained to me that most lime is naturally fairly compliant with FDA regulations except one major element. In the case of the limestone they quarry, the limestone naturally conforms to all FDA requirements for traces of lead, copper, iron, and other pollutants except for fluoride, which may be present in over 100 PPM (the standard is 50 PPM). Basically, besides cleaning it better, the only difference between their agricultural grade calcium hydroxide and their food grade pickling lime is that they have removed some of the fluoride. With other quarries, the amount of pollutants is difficult to determine since they do not perform tests that measure all human toxins, although, depending on the company, they may remove heavy metals even in the agricultural grade aglime or hydrated lime. Agricultural grade does remove lead and arsenic to accepted levels.

The National Lime Association’s web site is a great starting point for any research involving lime. They were also a valuable resource for pointing me to the proper people to whom I could pose my questions.

The people at Mississippi Lime were extremely patient and helpful to me in answering specific questions about the processing of food grade lime and many of its various, diverse uses. I also spoke with various other company representatives of other lime companies, but I mainly reference my conversations with Mississippi Lime employees.

The kind scientists at the FDA were also surprisingly helpful about hazards, potential contaminants, and diseases associated with lime and answered all of my questions with expertise and competency.

The Poison Control Center provides 24/7 free information about the toxicity and dangers of the various types of lime. You can call them for all non-
emergency questions, too, so feel free to do so with any questions you may have about lime or any other product. Their answers tend to be less substantiated and scientific than the FDA, but they are easier to contact.

Brazilian Dental Journal and my brother, who is a dentist s helped me with specific uses of lime in dentistry.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

WARNING: Lye is highly caustic and will degrade organic tissue. Do not allow lye to touch your skin, breathe in the fumes or be taken internally in any way. It will cause chemical burns, permanent scarring or blindness. Do not ever combine lye with aluminum, magnesium, zinc, tin, chromium, brass or bronze. When using or making lye, always wear protective equipment including safety glasses and chemical resistant gloves, and have adequate ventilation.
Basic homemade lye soap is useful for so much more than cleaning up the language of wayward children. Grandma used to rub it on dirty stains before washing. It is very soothing to sensitive skin, since the glycerin contained in homemade soap helps to clear acne, eczema and psoriasis. It eliminates the “human scent” on hunters. When rubbed on a poison oak, ivy or sumac reaction it will cool the itching when allowed to dry. Grandma used to tie a bar in an old sock and hang it on the porch as a bug repellent, and spread the scrapings around the base of the house to repel ants, termites, snakes, spiders and roaches. It was often used as a lubricant on machinery, drawers, and hinges.
Soap was discovered in Ancient Babylon as early as 2800 BC. It is thought to have been made for the first time when grease from the cooking pot boiled over and combined with the ashes from the camp fire. Our forefathers picked up the resulting soap and found that it was a good tool to keep themselves clean. Modern soap was made in regular practice as early as 300 AD in Germany .
The Saponification process
In its simplest form, soap is made from oil or fat, water and lye. Now, we buy concentrated lye and dissolve it in water before combining it with oil, but before modern lye could be bought at the store, people would take the hardwood ashes from their cookstove, store it in an old carved out tree or wooden barrel, and then pour rainwater through it to make the lye. They would test the strength of the lye by floating an egg in it. Then they would pour the lye into the warmed fat and stir it. When the fat and lye are combined, a chemical reaction takes place. There is no lye or fat left—they are combined to make something called soap.
Store bought lye is known as Sodium Hydroxide since it has more salt than does homemade lye, which is called Potassium Hydroxide. Sodium Hydroxide makes a much harder soap than Potassium Hydroxide. To make a harder soap out of homemade lye, add ½ tsp. of table salt for each pound of fat.
Tallow (beef fat), lard (pork fat) or vegetable oils can be used as the base for soap. These fats are called triglycerides. When the triglyceride is treated with lye, it rapidly forms the ester bond and releases glycerol (glycerin), the natural byproduct of saponification. Most homemade soap contains glycerin, which is why it’s so good for the skin; many commercial operations remove it for other applications.
Making the Lye
Lye making requires hardwood ash. Hardwoods include any fruit or nut trees and any of the following:  Alder, Apple, Ash, Aspen , Beech, Birch, Cherry, Cottonwood, Dogwood, Elm, Gum, Hickory , Locust, Maple, Oak, Olive, Pear, Poplar, Rosewood, Walnut, or Willow . Softwoods are to be avoided for this function: Cedar, Spruce, Pine, Fir, Hemlock, or Cypress .
In a wooden barrel or hollow tree, drill some holes in the very bottom, then set it up on a stand to allow room below for a pot to catch the lye water. Some people make a barrel with a removable plug which they remove after letting the water sit in the ash.  Under the stand, set a wooden or glass pot to catch the drip.
In the barrel, put first a layer of gravel, then a layer of straw or dried grass. Fill up the barrel with hardwood ash. When you are ready to make the lye, pour rainwater or other soft water through the ash. The minerals in hard water will interfere with the chemical reaction between the lye and the fat. The water may take up to a few days to drain through. The spent ashes can be composted or added to the garden.
In a specified purpose soap-making pot such as cast iron, boil the lye until a fresh, in-shell egg will float on top, with about half of the egg still above the surface of the lye. If it’s too high, add more water, if it won’t float, it needs to cook down a lot more or else be poured through a new batch of ashes. The egg will need to be destroyed after use. Another test of the lye strength is to dip a bird feather in it, and if it dissolves, the lye is strong enough. Don’t test it with your finger; if it’s strong enough, it will eat off the skin.
Rendering The Fat
After the animal (beef or pork) is butchered, take the fat and skin that you set aside and fill a heavy bottomed pot. Pork is the preferred fat for soapmaking. It’s best to render it outside so as to not stink up the house. We have used a homemade propane burner on legs, with a funnel to channel the air to make the flame hotter. Something similar could be made to use with wood heat. Simmer the fat in the pot, then ladle the liquid fat out of the cooking pot. We killed a 400 lb. hog and got about 10 gallons of rendered fat.
Making Soap—The Cold Process
If using commercially produced lye, it’s possible to use a cold process, where you warm the fat and dissolve the lye in water, then add the lye water to the fat and put in a blender and mix it, then pour into a mold. The emulsification starts when it “traces” with a spoon dragged over the rippled mixture.  It has to set for 6 weeks in the mold to be properly mixed.
1 lb. Commercial Lye soap recipe
¼ c. commercially produced lye
¾ c. soft water
2 c. (1 lb.) fat
6 lb. Commercial Lye soap recipe
13 oz commercially produced lye
1 ½ pt. soft water
12 c. (6 lb.) fat
Instructions: Suit up in safety goggles, gloves and long sleeves. Start with room temperature or cooler water. [Correction by JWR.] Add the lye to the water. This will warm the water substantially. Stir well, making sure you don’t breathe in the fumes. Set the mixture aside to cool, preferably outside or in a well ventilated area.
Melt all the oils together in a lye-tolerant pan. Allow them to cool to approximately 110°F or within 5° of the lye water.
Add the lye water to the melted oils, never the oil to the lye water. Stir vigorously until “trace” occurs. This can be done in a blender if you so desire. If you are stirring by hand, it may take an hour or more for it to trace.
Pour the traced soap mixture into your molds. Cover. Cut after 3-7 days. Allow to sit for a full 6 weeks to cure and finish the saponification process.
Making Soap—The Cooked Process
It isn’t recommended to use homemade lye with the cold process. The cooked-down lye water is added to the fat and then mixed as it cooks. The reactive time is shorter, since the mixing is done in the pot instead of setting in the mold. It still needs to set for four weeks or so to harden.
1 lb. Homemade Lye soap recipe
¾ c. lye water
½ tsp. salt
2 c. fat
6 lb. Homemade Lye soap recipe
4 ½ c. lye water
1 Tbsp. salt
12 c. (6 lb.) fat
The amount of lye will vary, depending on its strength. This is a starting measurement. The old timers would mix it up and see how well it set. If it was still watery, they’d add more lye and cook it some more. If it set up too hard, they’d add more water, because they didn’t want the soap to crack.
Mix the lye water, salt and fat in the pot. They need to be about the same temperature. The mixture is then heated and stirred until the emulsification (trace) happens. The heating and stirring enables adjustment of the amount of fat or lye, but nothing should be added until it is well heated. Pour into the mold. Cover. Cut after 3-7 days. Allow to harden 4-6 weeks.
Essential oils can be added to the fats before the lye is added. You can choose your own combination. The amount of essential oils needs to be part of the total amount of fat, so the soap isn’t made soft from too much oil. Botanicals, herbs, oatmeal, citrus peels, or any other desired additives can be added after the soap traces, and then it can be poured into the mold.
No metal should be used as a soap mold. It’s best to use a flexible material such as plastic, for ease of removal. I mostly search thrift stores for old plastic storage boxes. The old-timers made wooden molds with removable bottoms. Or you can line a glass mold with plastic wrap before pouring in the soap.  
Once you’ve used homemade lye soap, you’ll never go back to the store bought stuff. It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s so much better than anything found on a store shelf.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mr. Rawles,

I wanted to stress for G.R. in Texas that refugee camp living is far worse than anything experienced at Occupy Wall Street. Those were comparatively small encampments of comparatively wealthy people (in a global perspective, I work with populations who make less than $1 a day), with largely similar ideological frameworks, in cities that provided a fair number of basic services.

I've visited several refugee camps supported by tens of millions of dollars in foreign aid and I can say that when you have more than 10,000 people together aid money is barely enough to get basic supplies out to people. Logistics break down in disheartening ways. Even in supported camps in Haiti rape by gangs of men is endemic, rats are out of control, sanitation is completely inadequate. People in these camps are hopeless and stuck without work, completely dependent on ever decreasing handouts from NGOs or money from relatives. Some of these people had good work before the quake and just lost everything, pharmacists, accountants, nurses.

I know plenty of people who hiked out of Port Au Prince after the earthquake to get to buses to other cities, largely they did better than the people who stayed. But of the roughly 500,000 that left the city in the two weeks after the quake about 200,000 returned to live in the camps when they had nowhere to go and no options for food.

I honestly suggest people make global networks of friends now that they know can rely on in times of crises to help them get back on their feet. Making these agreements reciprocal helps. I would rather take my chances starting a new life from scratch in another town or country not affected by a disaster with the help of a friend than spend a day in a true refugee camp. In a refugee camp it doesn't matter if you are skilled or trained, you are not in control of your destiny. I hope all people who plan to bug out of a location have several friendly destinations in mind to get to. Sincerely, - Peter H.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Having worked as a counselor in various positions, I have had the opportunity to view the system from many angles. What I am seeing scares me and should scare you too, not the type of fear that freezes you or drops you into a strong state of denial but the fear that motivates you to take close inventory of what is important in your life and causes you to initiate a plan to protect yourself and those you love.
I must have looked like an odd duck when I worked as a drug and alcohol counselor. My co-workers were left wing liberals and I am very conservative. While they ate their tofu products for lunch, I ate deer, rabbit, squirrel, or something I grew or collected myself (much to their horror). When I ate the eggs from my chickens, one of my co-workers exclaimed she would never eat an egg from a chicken as all her eggs come from the store; the same woman was working on an education degree to become an elementary school teacher with full intention of working in a public school setting.
I am seeing people from all walks of life fearing 2012.… as if the doctor diagnosed them with a terminal disease with a set number of months left to live. I see various types of reactions:
*Individuals in complete denial - asserting our system could never fail - believing there are too many programs to help people that are having difficulty. These individuals view the government as a parent with an endless bank account that can continually bail out its delinquent dependent children.
*Individuals trusting their pastors who tell them preparation is equivalent to a lack of faith because God is going to rapture the believers up right before anything bad happens.
*Individuals who realize that they should prepare but don’t want to make sacrifices with their current financial budget so they ignore what they see and write it all off as a y2k scare.
*Individuals at various levels of preparing and many that believe totally preparation is not necessary as imagining a world without electronics and electricity is beyond their comprehension.
*And there are those who are living their lives the way they want to now with the intention of taking by force what they need from those who have been diligent in preparing.
The best advice I could give is sit down with your loved ones and make sure that you completely understand each other and are on the same page. After a 4 year courtship with a man who claimed he wanted us to become self-sufficient, I found myself single again when he left after a series of tropical storms hit our area leaving much devastation. My property held - just had the minor inconvenience of no electricity which I saw as a time to test our resources. He left after the power came back on - with the belief he was running to a world that would never change… would always have the lights on… would always have stocked grocery stores and convenient marts full of gas. He ran to a place he felt he could live it up and experience all the things he was not going to willingly ever give up. He ran to his friends that call us “preppers” loony like those who called Noah nuts for building an ark in the dessert. The rain is coming folks. In fact… pun intended… it never really has stopped where I am at.
I have had some time to contemplate what happened to my failed relationship and it made me realize that he will not be the only one of us who runs. Some will run right into the arms of the enemy and gladly share what they know and where they came from. Some will jump off the cliff with the others when the SHTF. Some times we won’t be surprised at this and sometimes we will.
Make sure you are on the same page as your loved ones. Everyone has a special talent or ability that they can bring to the survival package. If things are not working now before anything catastrophic happens, then you can pretty much count on them not working at all if something happens. Change … dramatic changes… have the potential to bring out the worst in people. Panicked people can’t think and often do stupid things.
Also make a plan for how you are going to deal with all those who will not be in your immediate family/group but show up after the collapse. If you are a survivalist or prepper, you are noticed no matter how inconspicuous you try to be. We are noticed because we are different and there is nothing wrong with that. But that difference will be why they will be headed our way and not to their buddies who didn’t do anything to “weather the storm”. What is your plan to protect your own? How far will you go to accomplish that? Is everyone in your family and group on the same page with this? Figure this out now - because during a collapse, there are too many other pressing things you will be faced with you may not have anticipated.

I found out how panicked a community can become when the power went out for almost a week during tropical storm Irene. Panicked people have difficulty thinking as it is hard for the average person to imagine a world without electricity. Some basic things got my neighbors through the week once I explained how to use some basic items most people have around their homes already.

1. Garbage pails cleaned with some dish detergent or bleach can become great rain collectors to collector house water that runs from a gutter. This water can be used for bathing, cleaning, flushing toilets, and when filtered - using a coffee filter set in a strainer can be used for consumption. This water can also be boiled for those concerned with drinking filtered rain water.
2. Those cute solar lights that outline people’s driveways, walkways, gardens, etc make great indoor lanterns at night. They can be placed in a Mason jar or plastic bottle (stake down) and carried around the house or set on a table or shelf. The more sunlight available that day - the longer they will be lit at night. This not only saves batteries and candles but is a safe alternative that many people already own.
3. Use items thawed items in your freezer first. If food seems questionable it is still probably safe enough to be used as feed for dogs or cats if used right away. At my house - the saying is - nothing goes to waste. If we can’t eat it, either the cats, dogs, goats, ducks, or chickens can. The very little that is left over after that ends up in the composting bin for use as my medium for starting seeds in late winter for spring planting.
3. Restless adults, teenagers, or children can find entertainment in board games, cards, or story telling. Devastating storms don’t have to be devastating to families. This can be used as a bonding time without having to fight distractions from electronics, television, phones, etc.
4. Humor… humor…humor… Use it generously… Laugh. Depression is contagious …. But fortunately so is a positive attitude which is what you are going to need to recognize resources you already have around the house if you get caught with your pants down and did not prepare.
5. Toilets do not need to be flushed every time you use them. Flush them if someone has a bowel movement - all other times keep the lid down until the smell tells you it needs a flushing. This conserves a tremendous amount of water. Placed any used toilet paper in a lined garbage can to be burned later - clogged pipes or overflowed septic tanks can only make matter worse at this point.
6. Your hot water heater is a good source of water along with your pipes in your house when you run out of rain water you collected in a storm.
7. Bathing - collected rain water can be heated up with a gas stove, wood stove, or even a pot on your grill. What is really nice is the grills that have the burner attachment to them. Do NOT bring your grill into your home. That is dangerous. At our house we heated up enough water on our gas stove for each person to get cleaned up by a modified sponge bath accomplished by placing the heated water in a bucket in our bath tub. With a cup, we would scoop out just enough water to get our bodies wet and pour it on ourselves, then lather up, and use the rest of the water to rinse - if you use a cup you will use less water which means less waste and less time to heat up the amount of water needed. Since we were in the bath tub while accomplishing this the water and soap suds stayed where they belong.

I found that the things that concerned my neighbors the most (ones who had no survivalist prepping mindset) was eating, bathing, lighting at night, and ability to use toilets all of which I showed them can be accomplished with a few simple items they already have around their house.

Good luck with your prepping. Make it fun. Maintain your humor. Hug your loved ones frequently - well not so frequently they think you are completely nuts. If you are reading this blog then you are already concerned about what you see in the world and see that some changes need to be made to ensure long term survival. Give yourself a pat on the back for it - you are already ahead of the masses--even if you feel you have a long way to go in your preparations.

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.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mr. Rawles,
 Another comment on home made laundry soap. There is a difference between Sodium Carbonate and Sodium Bicarbonate and using the wrong one will make a difference in the quality/effectiveness of your product. If you are having difficulty locating Sodium Carbonate you may want to consider checking with your local swimming pool supply store. Soda Ash (sodium carbonate) is a commonly used chemical to raise the pH in swimming pools. - W.V. Willard

Mr. Rawles:
There are several easy solutions, and a few economical difficult ones. I make my laundry soap out of grated Ivory bars, Borax, generic Oxy-Clean, and baking soda. My laundry soap works way better than the store bought detergent, is cheaper, and takes less per load. There will come a day when those ingredients are not available. I'll probably then just use homemade lye soap and boil the clothes after scrubbing them on my passed down washboard.
The solution to toilet paper is to use fabric rags and re-wash them (in my homemade laundry soap). It's a fairly easy solution. I have a dispenser in my bathroom where I have big rags and little rags in two separate compartments. I have a little canister with a lid, into which I put the soiled rags. I like it better than toilet paper.
Instead of paper towels, I use fabric towels. Again, these solutions are boringly old fashioned, but amazingly foreign to our present culture.
For soap, I use old fashioned lye soap, made my yours truly. I use store bought lye at this point in time, but later, when we will be heating with wood, I will take the ashes and run rain water over them to make lye. I use the lye soap to wash my skin and my hair.
For shampoo, I use this mixture right now:
Step 1: Wet hair. Use a tiny amount of dandruff shampoo, scrub into scalp. Wash out.
Step 2: In an empty shampoo bottle, fill it up with water, and squeeze some (only 2 squeezes) of your favorite shampoo into bottle. I use generic Pantene moisturizing shampoo. Shake up. Squeeze a little bit onto your hair. Lather. Rinse.
Step 3: Take a bar of lye soap. Rub in hair. Lather. Rinse.
Step 4: In an empty conditioner bottle, fill it up with water, and squeeze some (I'm talking 2 squeezes) of your favorite conditioner into bottle. I use generic Pantene moisturizing conditioner. Shake up. Squeeze a little bit onto your hair. Lather. Rinse.
Step 5. In an empty spray bottle, put about 1/4 of bottle in vinegar, fill up with water. Spray all over your hair.
I have long, thick hair to my waist, but I use very little shampoo or conditioner. The key is to use a lot of water. The shampoo is actually damaging to your hair. All shampoos contain several strippers; that's what makes hair tangly and dry. The lye soap contains glycerine, a natural by product of the chemical change that happens in the soap making process. Glycerine is very good for hair and skin. Few store-bought soaps that I know of contain the glycerine. The vinegar is also very good for the hair. Someday I will make some vinegar. From what I read, it's fairly easy to make if you have the apples.
It is very confusing to me to understand the thinking behind the large stores of stuff (paper, etc) that people talk about having. What will happen when they run out of those stores? Why not learn to cope without them now? Is it really self-sufficiency to just go buy everything in large quantity? I don't know, maybe it works for some people, it just doesn't make sense to me. I understand that I will probably still have to buy some things, but I want to be producing or have non-perishable things for most of what I need. - Mrs. A.L.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mr. Rawles,
I read the article regarding "Beans, Bullets, Band-Aids, and Hygiene" by Jason L. I thought I would contribute our family's method of making laundry detergent. In stead of paying an exorbitant price for laundry soap, we make our own using Borax, Washing Soda, Fels-Naptha soap and hot water. This is the Duggar Family laundry soap recipe. I give proper credit to that family for the recipe, and it works great. Our clothes have a light clean scent and the monetary savings is tremendous. The simple and cheap ingredients make it very easy to store supplies to make literally thousands of gallons of laundry soap. Thanks for the great blog, as I visit it every day. - J.W. in Missouri 

Mr. Rawles:
My family’s initial solution to the toilet paper problem was simply to buy two cases every time we needed one case. This was an easy way to stock extra paper.
The house we live in now is partly constructed of poured in place fiberglass entrained concrete with # 6 rebar on 12 inch centers. Because every previous house I have ever lived in eventually became short of space, this time I constructed a separate 15 x 30 x 10 foot concrete building (walls and roof) with high security, outward opening steel doors. An internal concrete wall divides this building. Half of it houses a generator and large diesel tank. The generator portion has baffled electrically actuated steel shutters for cooling/ventilation when the generator is running and the exhaust flows through a hospital muffler exiting through the roof. The other half of this building is for storage and contains shelves, two freezers one stopping time on freeze dried food, a large refrigerator, microwave, and washer/dryer.
But back to the toilet paper. Our surplus was stacked on top of the freezers and refrigerator and by the time it reached the ceiling, we had a nice reserve. Because all things eventually reach the end (a pun of course), this nice supply of TP was deemed inadequate to meet our long term requirements. So I cast about for a better alternative to the left hand.
We stocked the following:
Product: Toilet Tissue, 1 ply, jumbo roll, 2000’/roll, 12 rolls/carton KC107223 by Kimberly Clark. Amazon price $ 65.72 from the Factory Depot
(2,000 foot/roll) x 12 rolls = 24,000 feet;
24,000 feet / (2 feet/average wipe) = 12,000 wipes;
12,000 wipes/ (1 wipe/average bowel movement every two days) = 24,000 days;
24,000 days/(365 days/year) = 65 years 8 months.
If the dedicated prepper would stock a carton of 12 of these rolls per family member, all should have happy bottoms for a nice long time.
Sincerely, - Panhandle Rancher


I'd like to comment on the article "Beans, Bullets, Band-Aids and Hygiene, by Jason L" specifically on his plans to get a Wonder Washer.  Having owned one of these for more than ten years now I'd like to point out a few things about it people need to keep in mind.  First, the Wonder Washer is small compared to most washing machines we are used to using today.  I've used it on extended camping trips in our trailer and it works well enough for small items like socks and underwear.  I have yet to be able to fit a pair of heavy pants into it though nor would I be able to clean sheets from a Queen sized bed.  It works well enough for twin or single sheets or those lightweight sleeping bag liners that are sold.  I'd suggest getting a couple of water tubs and a laundry plunger and a washboard for larger items.  If you want to have your heavy clothes dry in less than a week during the most humid times of the year (here in Colorado we get a "monsoon flow" during parts of the summer and line drying becomes close to impossible) you also want to get a wringer.

I'd also add that the small size of the Wonder Washer makes it great for infrequent washing for one or two people, but with a family of seven at this point there is no way we'd be able to keep up with any laundry other than underwear and socks anyway.  Now, just imagine having an infant and all those diapers to wash as well. - Hugh D.

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.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

As a former Boy Scout and long time minimalist, survival preparation is a natural fit for a “hobby” as I enter my thirties.  Of course this “hobby” is an important life decision, unlike how one might approach golf or poker.  The importance of this life decision really becomes clear when I think about my wife and our two little girls.  As anyone with small children will confirm, hobbies and social activities take a backseat to the needs of your toddlers.  My longtime interest in the outdoors, camping, and shooting have provided a sensible platform for a jump into the survivalist lifestyle.

As we, a young family, build our reserves of beans, bullets, and bullion (we already have a Bible), it is becoming apparent that survival with small children will prove to be quite challenging.  Developing a balanced approached to survival prep is key when considering children.  Our storable food and water supplies are modest but growing.  I have taken a deep interest in acquiring as many tools and as much information as possible to broaden my survival skills.  I am rather confident that my growing ability and stockpiled supplies could sustain my wife and I in a survival situation.  But what about the kids?  Our girls, two years old and almost four years old, are learning the value of hard work and conservation, but they’re still little kids.  The shock of a SHTF scenario would have a profound effect on the daily activities and physical/emotional needs of my beautiful dears. 

I am aware that the most important rule of survival is fulfilling the needs of yourself then worry about others.  However, one of my needs includes the fulfillment of the needs of my kids.  It must be my inner grizzly bear.  This set of circumstances presents an opportunity to apply some real-world, everyday principles of raising children to the survivalist lifestyle.  One major goal is to minimize the potential distress and disruption to the everyday lives of our girls in a survival situation.  I will not include emergency food/water storage and procurement in this plan, as those items are not kid specific.

I will begin with the dreaded D-word.  Because our youngest is not quite potty trained, diapers and baby wipes are a necessary evil in our everyday lives.  We shop at a local wholesale club store where we can use coupons and buy diapers and wipes in bulk.  Buying this way not only saves considerably on the cost, but it also encourages sustainability.  It can become quite expensive, but we like to maintain several months-worth of diapers and wipes in stock.  Baby wipes, which have an indefinite shelf life, are actually a useful item in any prepper’s pantry.  We have diapers in the next size up stocked as well (although I’d prefer she never needs them).  We also have a supply of cloth diapers that are currently used as kitchen rags, but could be pressed into service if needed.  In addition to diapers, it is important to consider the various lotions and creams that are required to maintain health in the diaper area.  We also try to maintain stocks of extra toiletries like children’s toothpaste, toothbrushes, soaps, and bubble bath.  Most of the everyday items that adults need in the bathroom are needed by children too.

Besides our storable survival food stock, we do maintain a decent supply of some favorite snacks and sweets for the kids that could be rationed in a SHTF scenario.  While their nutritional value may not be the greatest, salty snacks and sweet treats are good way to lift emotions and provide a bribery tool at dinner time (try getting a two year old to finish her broccoli without the promise of a special treat).  We also keep natural vegetable/fruit blend juice boxes on hand, which are a healthy treat that the kids love.  We plan to purchase some storable popping corn and chocolate milk drink from Mountain House or Provident Pantry to provide additional comfort food for the kids.  In addition to these food items, we are also building our stock of vitamins, supplements, and children’s medicines.  Benadryl, Motrin, and Tylenol all have products which are dosed specifically for children, and we try keep extra on hand.  Many of the vitamins and supplements we buy are in liquid form that can be added to a drink (easier than pills for kids).  We also stock extra gummi multivitamins that the kids certainly don’t mind eating a bit. 

Clothing is an aspect of survival prep that is easy to overlook as an adult.  Being in Ohio, we maintain a good selection of clothing and footwear for the different seasons we experience.  But what about children that seem to add inches at a time in their sleep?  Luckily we have two girls, so we already save all of the clothes and shoes from the older one for the younger one.  But what about an extended SHTF period of time?  I worry that the older one would be vulnerable to quickly outgrowing her clothes and shoes.  One easy and practical solution that we have taken up is purchasing these items on clearance in the off season.  It is easy to find summer clothes and shoes on clearance in the fall, and vice versa.  We have begun to buy these clearance items 1-2 sizes large for our kids.  Not only are we able to fulfill a survival prep need, but we can save money on something that we would need to purchase anyway.  Not to mention, my wife never met a clearance sale she didn’t like, so it is fun too.

We have started to take the girls on some light camping trips (in the backyard) to get them enthused and comfortable with “roughing it”.  They both have their own sleeping bags and love camping out.  While this is far from a survival situation, the girls are young and just getting into enjoying the great outdoors.  Becoming comfortable in a camp setting around a fire and in nature is an important step for the girls in learning survival skills.  This is an area that we will certainly continue to develop and expand on.

Now that we have begun to address food, clothing, and shelter, we need to look at emotional and developmental needs.  Obviously in a SHTF scenario that includes a potential bug-out, only essentials would be considered.  However, our survival prep and planning must include considerations of activities that occupy and continually develop our kids.  Due to the spoils of grandparents, aunts, and uncles, these kids have so many Chinese slave-made junk toys that we actually have to hide over half of them just to maintain order and sanity.  However, some toys are very important.  The girls cannot go to sleep without their special stuffed animals, so we actually bought backups (just incase).  These stuffed animals are cheap and simple, but very important to the emotional comfort of our kids.  We have no shortage of books, but it seems that you can never have too many.  Used book stores, garage sales, and library sales are nice places to find cheap kids books.  Back to school season is a great time to stock up on crayons, coloring books, and art supplies for cheap.  Simple things like balls, jump ropes, and bikes provide both stimulation and exercise.  We are looking to get a solar powered MP3 or CD player so the kids will be able to enjoy some of their favorite music as well.  While all of these items may be overlooked as non-essential items for survival prep, we feel that they are crucial to the sustainability of our young family in any potential disaster situation.  

Besides material items, we try to engage our kids in activities and experiences that could be applied in a survivalist lifestyle.  As we develop our gardening skills each year, the girls have taken an interest in helping in the garden.  We are also finding ways to get the girls involved and interested in helping with yard work, cooking, and other basic chores.  It sounds simple, but many of today’s children lazy, entitled, and would never survive if SHTF.  We feel that part of effective survival prep with children includes fostering a sense of work ethic and responsibility at a young age.  Developing these character traits are part of raising well rounded and well adjusted kids, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that they are also practical in a survivalist sense.

Any parent can agree that raising small children is no easy task.  Bring survivalist planning into the fold, and it can feel overwhelming.  Our family takes a balanced and common sense approach to our survival prep.  Our children deserve even greater consideration than ourselves in our planning, as they are unable to take care of or fend for themselves.  It is our responsibility as parents to provide every opportunity for the success and well being of our children, and including them in our survival prep is no exception.  Being smart about everyday purchases and expenditures is a good way to simplify survival planning for a young family. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Our family lives in an average house on an average lot near the edge of an average midwestern city.  While we have two evacuation invitations and are looking into purchasing “camping land”, our primary plan is to shelter in place.  From the very beginning, JWR’s “blinding flash of the obvious” has been the watchword in my quest for simplicity.  Limited time, space and resources have led to some streamlining that might give others a few helpful ideas.


Have you ever felt overwhelmed and intimidated by all the great gardening advice you read here on the blog?  If so, why not just try a practice garden? 
For me, gardening started when I walked in to a bookstore looking for something to read as I recovered from my upcoming cancer surgery.  I felt the Lord direct me to Steve Solomon’s Gardening When It Counts.  At the time I thought it was to facilitate better nutrition and exercise to get my strength back, but it was also my introduction to SurvivalBlog and the preparedness world.   

Not knowing anything about raising food, we decided to put in a practice garden.  A friend with a rototiller got it started, but it took all summer to dig and plant a little every day as I recovered.  The next year we started practicing Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening.  Every year we “practice” some new things, eat the mistakes and never worry about doing it the wrong way. 


As the garden evolves, discoveries and challenges lead to better design.  Here are some fun facts my garden has taught me.  The things that are harvested all at once can be in less accessible areas, but the salad fixings and herbs should be handy for daily use.  It can be hard to find the fruits under the leaves of vines; but planting vine crops next to trellises oriented north and tipped 30-45 degrees means that they’ll grow with the leaves on top and the fruit underneath.  Root crops generally grow well in clay but are hard to harvest, so put them in areas with loose soil or in deep containers.  A vegetable garden with a few flowers and a focal point is a decorative garden, so toss in a few flower seeds and use interesting discarded items as trellises or art. 

For those of us living in suburbia, aesthetics is an important part of getting along with neighbors.  If it’s ugly, it should be hidden in the back yard, but it shouldn’t get too ugly.  Fences are great for privacy, trellising and security, but can also separate you from the community.  We have opted for hedges of native and edible shrubs.  Most utilitarian gardening should be done in inconspicuous areas, and everything visible to the neighbors should be inoffensive, hopefully even attractive.  The more the neighbors garden, the more they see all gardens as things of beauty.  Sharing seeds, plants, produce and especially compliments can work wonders. 

Perennial landscaping can focus on attractive food-producing plants, and most of these can certainly be in the more public areas.  My next practice garden will be a medicinal herb garden disguised as an English cottage garden in the front yard.  We also have space between the house and evergreen foundation plantings to stack firewood so it’s out of the weather and out of sight.  Decorative features such as arbors and pergolas can also support food production.  A yard can blend in with the neighbors and still be attractive and productive.

Even the best soil needs to be renewed with compost, but it seemed so complicated that I was hesitant to try it.  There are lots of fancy expensive complicated systems out there, but the simplest and quickest method is just to compost in place.  Basically, everything organic will rot and become humus in the soil. Dig a hole.  Put organic material in it.  Cover it up.  Wait a while.  Plant something.  How simple is that?  If you give worm medication to your pets, the feces would kill worms, so don’t compost that.  If you try to compost meat or bones, the neighbor’s dog might dig it up, so you might not want to compost that either.  On the other hand, don’t most people bury dead animals, which are essentially meat and bones?  Leaves and grass clippings make great mulch throughout the garden.  As it breaks down, it becomes more compost. 

Seed saving has been thoroughly covered by others, but here is one simple idea I haven’t seen anywhere else.
Don’t you wish that annual vegetables were perennials?  Anyone with a yard can start a living seed bank.  In fact, two would be even better, one at the residence and one at the retreat location.  This garden takes on a lush but wild appearance, so select the site accordingly.  Simply plant favorite crops and don’t harvest most of them.  Enjoy a few nibbles, but leave most of it to reproduce naturally.  Choose one variety of open-pollinated seeds for each vegetable to avoid undesired crosses.  Potatoes, squash, tomatoes, carrots, parsnips, lettuce, onions, garlic, beans, peas and such will establish themselves and natural selection will finely tune the best traits for your location.  Omitting tall corn and red tomatoes will make the garden less noticeable.  Certainly, not everything will do well, but in time of need it’s good to have an additional source of nourishment and hardy seeds. 


Disposing of wastes is high on the list of concerns for a suburban prepper.  All this talk of five gallon buckets and outhouses is not very appealing.  A friend who served as a SEAL informed me that full five-gallon buckets can and do break.  They also get extremely heavy.  The neighbors might not like the looks of an outhouse, and they are not generally designed for ease of thorough cleaning.  Here is a simpler solution that I haven’t seen anyone mention. 
Simply modify indoor facilities.  Place a 5-quart ice cream pail in the toilet bowl.  (You may need to remove a little water so it doesn’t float.)  Voila, the most convenient chamber pot imaginable!  The family will be more comfortable sitting in a familiar place, and it is easy to keep sanitary.  You may want to put a little bio-friendly soap in the pail first.  It should be lined with sawdust, grass clippings or other suitable material, which will also be used to cover fecal material after each use.  Keep this in another pail next to the commode.
The odor and toxicity of solid wastes are reduced when they are not mixed with urine, so a separate pail for urine is a good idea.  This can actually be stored and used in the shower or tub, which also makes for easier maintenance.  Using a pail for this purpose is easier if one responds to the “urge” sooner rather than later.  If there is an occasional splash, the design of the shower/tub makes clean up easier. 

Hand washing can be done at the sink, almost as usual.  Large liquid laundry detergent containers with spigots can be reused wherever you need convenient hand washing.  (We keep one in the garden.)  If you want to reuse the water, just set a pail in the sink.  That water is suitable for sponge baths, cleaning the bathroom, cleaning the waste pail or all three if you’re really short on water. 

In a situation without running water, keeping the body clean would be more necessary and difficult than usual.  A solar shower designed for camping is what we have for now.  It necessitates a sturdy hook (or two) to hold the shower as high as possible.  Placing it above the tub at the opposite side from the showerhead is most convenient.  You might also want two in front of the bathroom window to warm the water on cold sunny days.  Our solar shower is heavy, awkward, hard to dry out after use, and it cannot produce significant water pressure.  It is OK for a quick wet down and rinse, but a washcloth is going to have to take the place of water pressure.  Several quick rinses throughout the day sometimes work better than waiting to scrub everything off in the evening. 

For simplicity’s sake, one multi-use cleanser is ideal.  Dawn dish soap is good for almost everything.  My hairdresser said the pH is fine for oily hair, and no one is going to shampoo hair unless it’s greasy in an extreme situation.  Dawn is used on wildlife affected by oil spills, so it is nontoxic and effective.  Using a foam soap dispenser makes a tiny bit of soap go a long way.  It’s also Okay for hand laundry, but difficult to rinse if too much is used. 

It is essential to keep the bathroom clean.  Everything from the mirror to the floor should we wiped down every day so there is no build-up of nastiness.  Empty the waste pails at least once a day.  With the small capacity and distinct odor, the pail will demand frequent attention.  Since the handles and lids are somewhat unreliable, be careful to hold each pail with one hand below and one above the pail!  Solid wastes must be buried.  Doing so near trees or shrubs may hasten decomposition, but obviously, you’re not going to bury it near the potatoes and carrots.  I make it a practice to dig a suitable ditch before the ground freezes each fall, just in case.  The waste pail should be cleaned daily.  Consider alternating two pails so one can sit in the sun to dry and disinfect.
This might seem gross when there is perfectly good city water and sewer, but it’s not a bad idea to try it out now when mistakes don’t matter. 

Food Storage

Start in the kitchen. When I first found SurvivalBlog, I started stashing packaged goods in the backs of file drawers and behind books on the shelf, wherever there was a little extra room. What a mess!  The best place to start is in the kitchen, of course. Work through each cupboard, using or tossing the things the family usually doesn’t eat.  This is also a good time to reorganize and pare down the things that aren’t needed.  With all this newfound space, it’s easy to have multiple cans or packages of what you really like.  (Are you old enough to remember the Beverly Hillbillies ads where Granny had an entire cupboard filled with Campbell’s Soup?)

Add the Pantry
If there is already a pantry next to the kitchen consider yourself blessed.  My husband had actually set up a pantry shelf at the foot of the basement stairs for extra food. (Silly me; I had thought it was unnecessary since we already had a fine kitchen.)  I started adding to his stash, sorting and resorting to make new additions fit without giving away the fact that I was building up the stores.  The point is, starting with one set of shelves in a handy place outside the kitchen keeps momentum going without overwhelming the kitchen. 
At this point, it was time to know how long this storage food would last.  There are all kinds of fancy charts and spreadsheets, but anything that complicated was not going to work for us.   A calculator was kept on hand to calculate and label the number of calories in each package.  For our family, about 8,000 calories per day is what we currently consume.  Every time 8,000 calories was added to the pantry, a hash mark went on the tally on a cardboard box on the shelf.  When food went upstairs or was purchased, the tally was adjusted.  It would have been way too complicated to calculate the food in the kitchen, so that was just considered bonus food.  This was a simple way to keep score until there was about 9 months of food in storage.
About this time I also realized that separating my storage and weekly groceries in the shopping cart meant that the food would end up pretty well sorted into the grocery bags.  That made it a lot easier to put it all away. 

Create a Cellar
The pantry at the basement stairs was becoming unmanageable, so one day my insightful husband decided we needed shelves.  That weekend we had four huge shelving units.  These was placed farther back in the basement, in the cool northeast corner.  We knew those shelves would be too heavy to move, so we left plenty of elbowroom.  It doesn’t have to be attractive, but it should be sturdy, easy to keep clean and as discrete as possible.  We placed old bookshelves full of miscellaneous basement junk back-to-back with the food storage shelves, essentially forming a wall to keep the food cellar out of the line of sight. 

If you’re reading the blog, you already know about rotation, buckets, vermin, and such, so let’s skip that.  It is important to have a simple organizational plan.  At this point a place for everything and everything in its place is not optional.  Top shelves, which were warmer, were for non-food items, and the bottom shelves have functioned marginally as a root cellar for garden vegetables.  Medical supplies were located in front at eye level.  Labeling shelves as well as buckets and boxes made it easier for the rest of the family to find what they needed.  Especially important was a handy place for markers, calculators, bucket openers, and a shopping list. 


The kitchen has never been my primary area of strength; in fact, my family calls the smoke detector the dinner bell.  That should give anyone hope.  The simple approach to preparedness has made the kitchen a slightly happier place.


Anyone who can read and follow directions can learn to can.  Butter seemed the obvious first step because it was uncomplicated, it’s not easy to produce at home and you can’t help but notice if it goes bad.  Meat was next, since it is also easy and saves a lot of money.  It would be a waste to mess around with little batches, so it seemed sensible to start with the largest pressure canner available.  Cases of mason jars were found inexpensively on Craigslist, along with a cheap dehydrator to practice drying fruits, vegetables and herbs.

Cast Iron
In preparation for an eventual woodstove or cook stove, I wanted to collect cast iron cookware.  However, when my husband’s used his dutch ovens in the campfire, everything had to be lined with foil or it would stick.  Certainly that’s not how grandma did it.  Paul Wheaton explained things wonderfully in this article on his blog.  Now cast iron is all I use, even on my electric stove.

Despite not being a great cook, it’s important to serve healthier and tastier foods.  We obtained a number of large genuine Tupperware containers for free about the time I was reading about DIY mixes on the blog.  Unfortunately, many recipes for homemade mixes are decidedly unhealthy.  I took my favorite cookie, pancake/biscuit and other recipes  and multiplied them to fill the containers.  To make it even easier, I marked 10 & 20 cups of flour on two sides and listed the ingredients and directions on the other sides.  This makes it super easy to frequently make healthy homemade foods and to prepare a new batch of the mix.  

Reading a few books on herbal benefits and remedies made me want to add some herbs to our meals.  A few seeds and a few seedlings made a good start.  Then I bought my very first bottle of alcohol, some vodka to practice making tinctures.   Cooking, teas and tinctures are definitely easy ways to start getting the benefit of herbs.   

Cook Stove

Having purchased a used Blaze Princess stove for heat, I was hoping to also cook a few things on it when it’s installed before next winter.  Then a pathetically rusty miniature cook stove turned up for $60.  It had probably been a salesman’s sample, but it works just like the full-sized model.  It’s kind of a joke to look at, but it provides an opportunity to practice using a wood cook stove in the back yard without putting a hole in the roof or smoking up the house.  Glitches that would have been disasters in the house are humorous in the back yard. 

Explaning Your Preps

No doubt about it, the preparedness lifestyle can be a bit out of place in suburbia.  Comments will be made.  A list of one-liners prepared ahead of time makes it simpler to respond truthfully without revealing too much.  Here are a few of my favorites. 

  • “We teachers sure do have odd hobbies, don’t we?”
  • “A friend teaches a unit on Little House on the Prairie, and I wanted to try this.”
  • “Organic food is important for us cancer survivors.”
  • “Think globally, act locally.”
  • “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”
  • “This lowers my carbon footprint.”  Yes, this can be said with a straight face.
  • “I’m doing my part to save the earth.”  Likewise.
  • “We’re a Scouting family; be prepared!”
  • This is my all time favorite.  “It’s for the Boy Scouts.”  My sons are Eagle Scouts, and everything I do is ultimately for them. 
  • When the guy at the bakery asks every few months what I do with all those buckets, here’s the answer.  “It’s for the Boy Scouts.  They’re great to organize food because they’re weather-proof, critter-proof, and you can sit on them.”

The very best explanation I ever gave was to our dearest friends.  When I confided my concerns and preparations, they said they used to be prepared, but now they would just come to our house.  I think I had read this response somewhere in SurvivalBlog.  “Sure, just bring a year’s worth of food, a gun and a thousand rounds.”  They’ve been prepping ever since.  In fact, last month they bought a ton of wheat and two handguns.  Having our best friends preparing with us is one of the best things in my life.

Keep It Simple
There is a lot of practicing going on at our home.  We are preparing, but in a way that fits with our life and neighborhood, because in this suburban household, we are a lot more successful when we keep it simple.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Gardens will supply a large portion of our food after TSHTF. Those who already garden know that, in many cases, additional amendments and plant foods/fertilizers are necessary for a good crop. While a compost pile will help a great deal in keeping your soil in good shape, there are many other sources for fertilizers/plant foods that will be easily accessible after TSHTF. I'll detail several of them and the manner in which to make and/or use them in this article.

The Acronym NPK stands for Nitrogen/Phosphorous/Potassium. I'll include NPK where applicable for more experienced gardeners wondering about the values.

Human Urine:
Human urine contains nitrogen, phosphates, and potassium (NPK approximately 12/1.1/3.3, varies by individual). These are the big three that plants need to grow. It is sterile when it comes out of the body as well. Urine by itself is far too concentrated to use directly on plants. It can be used directly in a compost pile (simply pour it over the top) or it can be diluted with water and used on the plants themselves. A minimum of eight parts water should be mixed with one part urine. You may need to use more water depending on your urine. I recommend testing the mixture on a small patch or single plant to insure that your mixture is not too strong.

If the urine will not be used shortly after it comes out then it should be stored in a sealable container. While it is sterile when it first comes out it will eventually allow bacterial growth if left exposed to open air. Only urine from healthy individuals should be used and if someone is in otherwise good health but on medication then their urine should not be used either. Once diluted and in the soil, bacterial growth is no longer an issue if urine from a healthy individual was used.

If you have problems with acidic soil, wood ash can be mixed into the urine/water mixture to help alleviate the acidity.

Diluted urine is a fast acting plant food.

For those who are grossed out by, or question the idea of, using urine as a plant food consider that many of the well known plant foods contain urea (although not from humans) as a component of the mix.

Bone meal:
Bone meal contains phosphates and nitrogen ( more heavy on phosphates than nitrogen, NPK approximately 4/12/0 but will vary). It can be easily made at home by one of two methods. Only use bones from animals that you know were healthy.

 The first method is to dry the bones in an open fire or an oven. First you need to boil off any remaining fat or meat, boil for about an hour to do this. Once they are completely dry from your fire or oven you crush them down to a powder, or as close as you can get. If you've gotten them dry enough they crush fairly easily.

The second method is to boil the bones for an extended period of time (in the vicinity of 24 hours is what I've been told, I've only used the first method myself). When they've boiled long enough you can simply crush them down into a mush. Allow the mush to dry if you want a powder or use as mush.

With both methods your best results will be obtained by digging the resultant bone meal into your soil.

Bone meal is a long acting, slow release type of fertilizer. Very useful used at the bottom of potato trenches or dug into the soil near fruit trees/bushes. Application rate for bone meal is approximately five pounds per fifty square feet when first preparing a garden. You can use slightly less in following seasons.

Blood Meal:
Blood meal is a heavy nitrogen source and may contain some trace phosphates and/or potassium (NPK approximately 12/0/0 to 13.5/1/1 depending on blood source). Blood meal has the alternate names of dried blood and powdered blood. The commercially available types are typically made from bovine blood although other types of blood will work as well. Only use blood from animals that you know were healthy.

Blood meal is made simply by dehydrating blood. Preferably all the way down to a powder although I've not had the patience to get it that far and normally use it while it is still relatively clumpy. This can be done in a solar dehydrator or, if you live in a very non-humid area, simply by leaving a container out with a thin layer of blood in it. The quickest way I've discovered is to use a heat safe container with a thin layer of blood in it immediately next to my cooking heat sources or on top of my fireplace insert when it is burning. Keep the blood covered and inaccessible to insects regardless of what method you use. Fair warning, this one can make a nasty smell if done indoors and the pans used may need extensive cleaning.

Blood meal is a quick acting nitrogen source and can be used in powder form (if you get it all the way dry) or mixed in with water.

Blood meal also makes a good compost pile stimulator and, if sprinkled around the perimeter of a garden, may keep some of the four-footed garden raiders at bay. Do not apply blood meal to seedlings and in a warm, most climate you'll want to use less than recommended. Application rate for blood meal is approximately five to ten pounds per hundred square feet, one application lasts up to 4 months.

Wood Ashes:
Wood ashes are a good source of potassium when dug into the soil (NPK approximately 0/1/3 but can vary widely). You do have to be careful with them though as they turn the soil more alkaline. If you live in an area with acidic soil a moderate treatment of wood ashes shouldn't be a problem. If you live in an area with more alkaline soil, you'll want to find a different potassium source.

Be sure any wood ashes you use are from trees that did not receive heavy pesticide treatments or other potentially problematic chemicals. Wood ash application rates will range depending on the ash used and the soil you are using it in. Start small and slowly work up the application amounts if you are using this.

Compost Pile:
A compost pile is pretty much a must if you are doing intensive or semi-intensive planting. Areas planted in these manners benefit from a yearly (or more frequent) addition of organic materials. The best of these would be finished compost from your own pile. I won't go into detail on creating a compost pile as that is covered in many of the gardening books out there and would cause this article to go well over submission length. I will mention a few ways to tweak your pile though.

The addition of human urine or blood meal (or even wet blood, although that is more likely to attract critters to dig in your pile) can help out your compost. If your soil is very acidic, you may want to mix some wood ashes into your pile. If your soil is alkaline you can add crushed pine bark or chopped up pine needles to add some acid into the soil.

In all cases follow the same cautions regarding health and chemicals on additions to your pile. If using pine bark or needles, be sure the tree was healthy and not recently treated with pesticides or chemicals.

There are many forms of manure that can be used on your garden. Starting with humanure (human manure). I do not recommend using this method unless you've studied up on the appropriate and safe ways to do so! If you are interested in this I suggest the book: The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure, by Joseph Jenkins.

Other types of manure that may be available to you and are good to use are: chicken manure, cow manure, horse manure, rabbit manure, etc...  You'll note that all these manures are from primarily herbivores (minus the occasional bugs taken in with a free range diet). You don't want to use manure from carnivores or scavengers as there tend to be more problems with these manures.

There are several manners in which you can use manure to increase your garden's yield and provide the necessary nutrients to your plants. The first is to compost it in your pile. If you choose this option, you'll want to add extra greens to your compost pile and add more soil to it to avoid massive nitrogen loss.

The second option is to mix it directly into the soil. Do not do this if you plan to plant the area in the next month or two. The manure affects the carbon/nitrogen ratio strongly enough when first mixed in that it can end up burning your plants. This is a good option for a fall dig-in where you mix it into the soil if you aren't planning a winter crop (or cover crop) in the area. You can mix other items you would normally compost into the soil at the same time if so desired.

A third option is Manure Tea which gets its own entry.

Manure Tea:
Manure tea is made from dried, well-aged manure and water. It can be used in several manners. You can dip the roots of plants about to be transplanted in the tea, use it to fill holes that are about to be planted, or use it to water directly on the soil around existing plants (getting the manure tea on the leaves of the plants is discouraged).

Manure tea can be made by taking five quarts of manure and three gallons of warm water. The manure should be contained in a tight mesh cloth that will allow water to seep through, burlap (or an old panty-hose leg) is recommended, that is tied shut to form a bag. Suspend the manure in the water in a five gallon bucket for three to four days, stirring daily. You can also simply suspend the manure in the water for a week without stirring. In either case the next step is to raise your manure out of the water in the cloth it was suspended in and allow it to drip back into the bucket until it stops dripping.

The manure tea should be diluted with water to about the color of a normal drinking tea when used. This is approximately one cup of the manure tea to one gallon of water. Experience will show you the exact proportions you want to use for your area. The remaining solids can be added to your compost pile or dug into an area of soil that will not be planted for a month or more.

Note: manure tea may well have a very strong odor while brewing. After you are done, you can store it in a sealable 5 gallon bucket for several seasons if it is kept in a cool place. With it sealed the odor won't get out either.

Compost Tea:
Compost tea is another option, but after TSHTF it will only be available to those who have some electricity and some basic aeration equipment. If this idea appeals to you a simple Google search for 'compost tea' will get you very clear instructions.

Grass Clippings:
Grass clippings can be used as a mulch to help maintain the moisture in your soil. Also, if dug into the very surface of the soil they will provide a nitrogen source to your plants. If used as a mulch you need to be careful to not mulch too thickly or you will end up with anaerobic decomposition (decomposition without oxygen present), a bad smell, and unhappy plants. Using clippings as a mulch will also get some nitrogen into the soil but not as quickly as digging them in.

Trace Elements:
There are quite a few trace elements (AKA micro-nutrients) needed by plants. One simple amendment covers quite a few of them as well as providing growth regulators and natural hormones that function like plant vitamins. Kelpmeal is a little expensive but well worth using. Since this will most likely not be available in a crisis (unless you happen to live near a place kelp can be harvested) it can be stocked up on in advance. It is a little pricey but well worth it to have for your garden.

Kelpmeal can be worked directly into the soil or, for a more sparing (on the kelp) approach, it can be applied as a foliar spray (meaning it gets sprayed on the leaves). Foliar feeding with kelp tea needs to be done about every two weeks but if you mix the kelp into the soil you can normally just do so once at the beginning of the season.

Kelpmeal is a component in complete organic fertilizer (COF) as described by Steve Solomon in his book “Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times” but can also be used on its own or with the other amendments/fertilizers listed in this article. You can easily store two fifty pound bags in a thirty-one gallon galvanized steel garbage can with a snug fitting lid.

For existing gardens that have been worked for a season or more, one pound of kelpmeal per one hundred square feet should be more than adequate to dig in. You may want to double or even triple this amount if it is a new garden area being prepared. Kelpmeal can be dug in to just the actual rows/raised beds/hills being planted but there are some advantages to digging it in to your entire garden area if you have enough of it.

Seed Meal:
Seed meal is another component in COF from Steve Solomon's book. It is a slow release nitrogen amendment that is mixed into the soil. I mention it here because it is a byproduct of making vegetable oil and if you make your own then you can use the remnants left behind as a garden amendment. It can also be stored, with two fifty pound bags easily fitting into a thirty-one gallon galvanized garbage can with a  snug lid. The most commonly used seed meals you might have access to after TSHTF are soy meal, cottonseed meal, sunflower meal, and canola seed meal (rapeseed).

Other Options:
If you raise rabbits, chickens, or worms (vermiculture) many of the kitchen scraps you'd normally use in your compost pile can go to them and they will, in turn, produce manure or worm castings (worm manure). Worm castings can be dug straight into the soil shortly before planting. As mentioned before manures from other livestock should normally be composted or dug into the soil months before planting. Use caution with manure from different animals as the NPK and carbon/nitrogen ration of the manure ranges greatly depending on the animal it is from and what it has been fed. A trial and error method is best when using manures, keeping in mind that too little might stunt your plant some but too much can kill it.

I'll close by again recommending Steve Solomon’s book “Gardening When It Counts”. The book details gardening with minimal amendments and, albeit briefly, deals with survival gardening. I've found it to be a very good resource for gardening on a regular basis and the skills I've developed by using it will be invaluable in a SHTF scenario. - Tom From Colorado

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Hi Jim,
I feel compelled to offer a contrary view with regard to diapering for prepping families.  In preparing for survival situations, I believe that disposable diapers offer a number of distinct advantages over reusable diapers.  
To qualify myself, I will tell you that I am a father of three young kids, and have changed hundreds of disposable diapers.  I am also a mechanical engineer who works for one of the largest diaper manufacturers.  In my work, I have seen all kinds of diapers (disposable and reusable) from all over the world.  But my points are grounded in simple common sense.  

1.) In an emergency where you cannot wash clothes, reusable diapers are not feasible.   It seems that many proponents of reusable diapers are preparing for a single scenario: a long-term grid-down situation, where their family has taken to a kind of organized country living that assumes an abundance of clean water, the availability of wash stations, and time for regular laundry.  While this is one possible scenario, it certainly does not encompass the full range of situations for which we should prepare.  I can imagine dozens of survival scenarios where a family does not have the water, the equipment, or the time to wash and dry diapers.  Think about the images from the emergencies that we have seen lately in the news.  We see people who are running from danger, searching for family members, seeking medical attention, and begging for food and water.  We do not see people who are pressing ahead with wash day, despite disaster all around them. 
2.) Without your electric washer and dryer, reusable diapers are potentially unsanitary.   What kills the bacteria and viruses in your laundry?  It is not soap and water.  It is not the agitation from the washer or the tumbling in the dryer.  Only three things can (and do) kill the bugs: an adequate amount of bleach, very hot water (at least 140-150 degrees), and time in the dryer on high.  Which of these things will be available in an emergency?  The power is out, so you are drying on the line.  Maybe you have some bleach, but you can’t use it on your dark clothes and camo.  Are you willing to do a separate bleach load, just for the diapers?  What happens when you run out of bleach?  Or, are you going to boil water for every load of diaper laundry?  That’s a lot of work, and at the required temperature you’ll burn yourself if you are washing by hand.  If you have reusable diapers, the gross truth is that every time you do the wash (unless you bleach or boil) you’ll simply be concocting a stew of fecal matter that will spread bacteria onto your washing equipment and into your other laundry.  Obviously, this greatly increases the potential for sickness and infections.   

3.) Disposable diapers are a predictable choice; easy to size, buy, store, use, and resell.   Compared with reusables, disposables are offered in more sizes with more variations.  Disposable diapers are remarkably consistent in size from brand to brand while there can be tremendous variation in fit among reusables.  Looking at baby growth charts, in a matter of minutes, you can accurately estimate how many of each size disposable diaper you will likely need, until your child is potty trained.  Available everywhere, disposables have a shelf life of many years.  Name brand disposable diapers are high quality and quite effective at containing your baby’s mess.  Store brand diapers vary in quality, but some can be pretty good.  Some reusables work reasonably well, but some do not.  By and large, they are simply not as well engineered as disposables.  For disposable diapers that you do not use, there will always be a demand, so you can easily resell them or give them away as you see fit.

4.) Many disposable diapers are quite durable and somewhat reusable.   For sanitary reasons, always immediately change a diaper that has feces in it.  Also, for a baby with a rash or skin irritation, change whenever a diaper is wet.  However, outside of these two situations, changing frequency can be much more flexible.  For a diaper with urine only, on a baby with healthy skin, when to change is a choice, made by the caregiver, for comfort, convenience, and cost considerations.  In a survival type situation, a caregiver may wish to wring every last bit of use out of each disposable diaper.  With this view, it is instructive to know about some diaper practices in less developed countries. 

In some countries, caregivers will only change a disposable diaper when the baby has a bowel movement.  Most disposable diapers can effectively hold at least three large urine gushes, and only leak after the core is completely swollen.  Some caregivers extend the life of their diapers by adding absorbent material (e.g. newspaper) on top of the cores.  Some caregivers reuse their disposable diaper by cutting out the used core, and adding more absorbent material.  This is a bit tricky, but if the core is removed without damaging the outer cover, the chassis of the diaper can often be used several times before failing.  With some disposables, it is even possible to wash the chassis a couple of times, before it falls apart.  (Never attempt to wash a disposable with the absorbent material still attached, it will make a huge mess!)  While these practices may not appeal to our quick and convenient lifestyles, they are real possibilities for us to consider, if faced with scarce resources in an emergency.          

Now, to be fair, disposables are not cheap, and they do require storage space.  (I won’t get into a discussion of comparative environmental impact, except to say that, in an honest evaluation, there’s not much difference between disposables and reusables.)  However, in light of the advantages described above – especially in an emergency – if you can afford them, I would strongly encourage family preppers to stock up on disposable diapers (and wipes!) as part of their preparedness planning.  At the very least, by buying them now, you can avoid some cost increases from inflation.    

Like any other tool or system, learn the diapers that you plan to use in an emergency.   Diapering is a bit of a skill.  And choosing the right diaper for your baby takes some trial and error.  If you are using disposables today, don’t simply buy a stack of cloth squares and some safety pins, and think that you are prepared to survive in the diaper department.  Like any tool or system, if they don’t fit or if you don’t know how to use them, then you are not properly prepared.  At the very least, try out your survival diapers (whatever kind they are), verify that they can work for your baby, and learn how to use them.  That’s the least that we can as responsible parents.

JWR Replies: Rather than looking at this as a point of contention, I can see plusses for both approaches under differing circumstances. Obviously for a short-term bug-out situation, disposable diapers make a lot of sense. But in a long term grid-down situation, there simply won't be disposable diapers available, at any price.So it is wise to stock up on cloth diapers, washable bottom clean-up rags, and bleach.

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.

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.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Be prepared. This is the core logic of the survivalist movement. We work to be prepared for a variety of situations, from the common natural disaster to outbreaks of disease to TEOTWAWKI. We conduct thorough research, create organized lists and plans, shop while scrutinizing the fine print, test the products we buy, and then carefully store it all away for possible use in the future. A great deal of control and independence is involved. These steps we take to prepare, at a minimum, provide us with a sense of comfort and security. They can also save lives in an emergency.
But what if the worst happens and we find ourselves without vital supplies? It’s the potentially nightmarish scenario of any survivalist, and it can happen at any time. Some would call it a cruel twist of fate for those of us who have taken the time to prepare to suddenly be without. But it’s a very real possibility we must consider in order to ensure our survival in a time of chaos.

Why would you, as a survivalist, suddenly find yourself without supplies?

1. Looters. We’ve seen it repeatedly throughout history in disaster-stricken parts of the world. People take advantage of a society without rule of law. At first the majority of looters will fall on chain stores and businesses because they’re easy to access and literally advertise exactly what they hold. But as supplies dwindle and desperation increases, people will begin robbing one another of their very means to survive. Don’t fall under the false belief that if you have a gun for security then you’re protected from robbery. Some thieves will rely more on stealth than violence and come quietly in the night, leaving you to awaken to empty storage space and bare cupboards.
2. Damage. In the case of natural disasters such as floods, fires, earthquakes, and tornadoes, all or a portion of your supplies may be rendered useless. Your supplies may also be victim to random gunfire in a society without rule of law (an unseen hole in a water tank, for example) or damaged in your haste to bug out. Perhaps you failed to test a portion of your supplies and in the process of assembly, you break a vital piece of equipment. There are countless ways for supplies to be irreparably damaged in an emergency.
3. Inefficiency. Even with testing directly after purchase, there are times when supplies simply don’t work efficiently enough for their purpose and we’re forced to abandon them. Such can be the case with hot plates and camp stoves, battery-powered appliances, and anything else which requires energy to perform. Perhaps it’s been five or ten years since testing and the efficiency has dwindled enough for the batteries, fuel, or heat to be put to better and more efficient use elsewhere.
4. Breakdown. Breakdown can occur to brand new supplies without a reason why, or due to long-term use years into TEOTWAWKI. This is especially permanent when dealing with electronics and machinery. Hand-crank radios, two-way radios, generators, solar-powered lights, fueled stoves, water purifiers . . . eventually they won’t perform anymore. While we might have the skill to repair items like clothing, bicycles, and roof leaks, few people have the knowledge and tools necessary to repair broken down technology.
5. Charity. Most survivalists take charity into consideration when stocking up on supplies, and as they well should. But what if you’ve helped as many people as you planned for, and people in dire need of your help just keep on coming? This isn’t a question you can answer now, as you aren’t presently staring into the eyes of a starving pregnant woman and her toddler on your doorstep. Just know that there’s the possibility your supplies will be used by more people than you originally anticipated.
6. Duration. Few people who prepare for emergencies, even survivalists, will have enough of every kind of essential item to last five, ten, or twenty years into a societal breakdown. The severity of a situation could increase this problem as far as wounded people and medical supplies, outdoor heat and drinking water, strenuous labor and food, and threat and ammunition. Supplies will run out.
7. Budgets. It costs quite a bit of money to stock up on emergency supplies and to restock expired supplies. Survivalists can only stock up as their budgets allow and don’t typically buy everything they need at once. The pitfall of this necessary pacing is that disasters don’t wait for us to be ready. We all have wish lists. We could only be halfway through them when we find ourselves in the midst of TEOTWAWKI.
8. Oversight. You may overlook something. Right out of the gate there may be something you need that you just don’t have. For example, perhaps you failed to take lumber into consideration and your house becomes damaged. Maybe it’s something even more vital than lumber. All the lists in the world can’t prepare you for this moment, as it will be a shock. But no matter how many times you slap yourself on the forehead for forgetting a particular item, it doesn’t change the fact that you now must go without.

There are other reasons why you may suddenly find yourself without supplies. Perhaps you don’t know how to assemble a survival item no matter how hard you try, such as a four-person tent. Maybe you don’t properly clean your supplies and they become too dirty to use over time, such as a particulate water filter. The lack of one item may cause a chain reaction which makes other supplies useless, such as a safe key and a safe with a gun in it. There are limitless reasons why just having supplies in your possession isn’t enough to survive.

Now that the comfort and security of having supplies is all but gone, allow me to replace it with the knowledge that you can, in fact, survive without them. Supplies are a luxury which make our time during an emergency much more bearable, but luckily for the general populace, they aren’t one hundred percent necessary.

How would you survive with no supplies?

Water: Let’s take a brief look at survival with no stored water and no specific water treatment for purifying water.

If water is still coming out of the tap and the emergency situation hasn’t given you cause to question its quality, you must begin collection immediately, as it could be turned off at any time. Fill the bathtub, all kitchen glasses and bowls, heavy duty boxes lined with garbage bags, the washing machine (just be sure to turn it off when it’s full), anything and everything that can hold water. You can even fill garbage cans for non-potable wash water or plant irrigation. Even if you find out afterwards that the water isn’t deemed safe to drink, depending on the situation it may be non-toxic enough for bathing, or at the very least, useful for flushing the toilet. Cover the filled containers with plastic wrap if you intend to drink it in the future.

If water isn’t coming out of the tap, there are still several places to find clean water in your home and the homes of others. One of the most abundant sources is the standard water heater tank, which may hold anywhere from 25 to 60 gallons of water. To access the water, first turn off power to the tank. This could be a gas valve on the tank or a circuit breaker in a panel depending on your set up. Next, close the valve on the pipe which fills the water tank so that no (possibly contaminated) water can flow into it. Now: there’s a valve near the bottom of the tank where the water can drain. Turn on a hot water knob all the way at a faucet in the house so the water in the tank can drain through the valve at the bottom. If there’s dirt in the water you collect, let the water sit so the dirt settles to the bottom and collect water from the top to drink.

Collecting rainwater is an option for people who live in moist climates, as is collecting ice to melt with body heat for those who live in cold climates. For those who live in hot climates, making use of condensation is a viable option, as the necessary supplies are those found in the average garage. A type of solar still can be created by digging a cone-shaped hole with a diameter of three meters in a sunny spot, placing a clean collection container in the center of the hole, and covering the entire hole with plastic sheeting. Anchor the edges and place a rock in the center of the plastic sheeting just over the collection container. The inverted plastic cone should be deep enough that the condensed water runs down the plastic and into the container, but not quite touching the sides of the hole.

In extreme situations you may also drink your own urine. Urine is around 95% water and five percent non-toxic waste products. To safely drink your own urine, you must be free of bladder health problems, such as urinary tract infections (UTI)s). It’s also best to drink it along with another source of water if possible because of the high sodium content. To drink your own urine, you must first urinate for several seconds to clear the bacteria from the urethra before you begin collection for drinking. You must also drink it immediately; otherwise bacteria will begin to accumulate.

Other sources of water include fruit, certain canned goods like vegetables and tuna, ice cubes, water from your pipes, and even the water in your toilet tank (not the bowl) if you have the means to boil it.

It is important to remember that most water can be used more than once, such as for washing clothes and then again for flushing the toilet. You should also reduce the amount of water your body requires by staying out of the sun and limiting physical activity when possible. But however resourceful or conservative you are with water, nearly all sources of water will eventually run dry. It will then become necessary to move on and seek out new sources in order to survive.

No Stored Water (Review):

  • If water is still coming out of the tap, fill anything and everything with water.
  • The water heater tank is a prime place to find 25 to 60 gallons of water.
  • Make use of your climate by collecting water from outside.
  • Drinking your own urine can be an emergency source of water.
  • Use your own resourcefulness to think about where more water could be.
  • Conserve and recycle the water you have.

Food: Let’s take a brief look at survivalism with no stored food and no specific means to hunt, fish, or grow food.

It’s possible to live for at least three weeks without food. Possible, but not realistic. Going so long without food wouldn’t present a problem if we were in the physical condition of our ancestors, but most people today aren’t healthy enough for such a long fast. The strain on the heart would prove too much for those who are obese and would threaten the lives of those who are overweight. When you also factor in how many people are diabetic, having underlying health problems, and are on medications, we’re talking about hundreds of millions of people who simply can’t fast safely.

Luckily there are several alternatives to going hungry, and one of the best is foraging. There’s a great variety of edible plants, berries, and roots hiding in plain sight and edible raw or cooked. Take the ever so common Dandelion, for example. Every part of the Dandelion is edible, from the yellow flower to the leaves (young, small leaves taste better) to the roots. Earthworms are another source of food, and full of protein. Depending on where you live, you may also have access to Cattails which have edible roots year round, the pine needles of pine trees, the leaves of Plantains, or live (not beached) seaweed.

It’s worth researching now what other edible plants are found in your part of the world in case you need to depend on them as a source of food. Here’s a great link for knowledge on how to test a plant you aren’t sure is edible in a time of survival:

Berries are another nutritious survival food, although before you dive in, there are some general rules you should know. If the berries are yellow, white, or green, then you should most likely stay away from them. About half of all red berries are edible, and dark colored berries are edible nine times out of ten. Most of us remember picking berries when we were children and can easily spot blackberries, raspberries, huckleberries, salmon berries, and other types of berries. The down side to berries is that they’re seasonal and one of the most easily recognized wild foods, which means in a TEOTWAWKI situation, they may be incredibly scarce.

One of the means to obtain food some people may overlook is teaming up with people who have food to feed you in exchange for work. Most likely the work will be hard labor and the food will be carefully rationed. However, working for food will be much safer than being caught stealing it in a world without courts and juries. Furthermore, working in a group provides benefits which go beyond food, such as protection, companionship, a wider range of knowledge and skills, and a greater chance of long-term survival.

No Stored Food (Review):

  • Food isn’t as vital as water. Healthy people can fast for up to three weeks.
  • There are edible plants all around us. Take time to research those around you.
  • Berries are a nutritious addition to any plant-and-root-based diet.
  • Working for food may be a practical option during TEOTWAWKI.

Keeping Warm and Staying Cool
Let’s take a brief look at survival with no means to start a fire and no air conditioning.

Warmth is a vital part of survival. Any emergency which causes a power outage could make staying warm difficult. All long term emergencies will eventually result in loss of power, or at the very least, the need to conserve power sources.

Depending on the emergency, you may need to dry off before donning dry, warm clothing. Clothing that will wick moisture away from your body and dry quickly, such as nylon or polyester, is best for a first layer. Most people who have these fabrics on hand will have them in the form of workout clothing for the gym. For bad outdoor weather, wool stays warm even when wet. Put on as many layers as you need and keep in mind that people can lose up to 75% of heat through their head. So on with those winter caps!

Moving around is an effective way to keep warm and if you’re short on supplies during an emergency, you will be doing plenty of it. But there are several ways in which exerting yourself too much could be dangerous. Aside from expending energy you may not have enough food to restore and injuring yourself due to exhaustion, you may begin to sweat and then get chilled when you stop to rest. Pay attention to your comfort level and peel off layers if you need to. The key is to be warm, but also dry.

Seal off one room of your house, preferably the smallest one. If you live in a two-story home, remember that heat rises and an upstairs room may be easier to keep warm.
Create a “fort” about the size and shape of an igloo, where the heat from your family is trapped in the small dome you’ve created. Blankets draped across chairs will work for the inner shell. Crumpled newspaper or pieces of cardboard should be piled on top and around the shelter for a dense layer of insulation. Crumpled printer paper and posters would also work. The outer shell of the shelter should be as impermeable as possible to keep the heat in and the cold out. It can be created using standard garbage bags, even saran wrap or tin foil, and tape. Don’t forget to seal off the sides. Make sure there are plenty of blankets left to insulate the floor of the shelter.

To keep warm throughout the night, have your family to sleep in this shelter parallel to one another so that body heat is shared. You can take turns sleeping on the outside ends if there are more than two of you.

Keeping cool can also be a life-saving survival skill. It can lessen the amount of water required by your body and keep you from developing heat exhaustion, or worse, heat stroke.
Wearing shorts and a tank top (or simply going without clothing as this may be TEOTWAWKI after all) is a good start to keeping cool. If you’re outside, be sure to protect yourself with sunscreen and be careful to keep the integrity of your skin intact. The best place to be inside is in the lowest room of your house. You can also be outside in the shade, relaxing in the breeze. It’s important to drink water whenever you’re thirsty (if you can) so you don’t become dehydrated. Drenching a scarf in second-use water and then tying it around your neck is an effective way to cool off quickly. Last, who could forget those fold-up manual fans? With a little thought and resourcefulness, you’ll come to find that there are many ways to keep cool without air conditioning.

Keeping Warm and Staying Cool (Review):

  • Layer your clothing and keep your head covered.
  • Move around, but stay dry.
  • Create an insulated igloo shelter in which to sleep with your family.
  • When wearing little clothing, protect your skin.
  • Stay in the shade when possible.
  • Drink as much water as possible.

Keeping Conditions Sanitary: Let’s take a brief look at survivalism with no basic toiletries, showers, trash service, or toilets.

Hygiene is something many of us take for granted. We don’t think twice as we wash our face, brush our teeth, take a shower, or put on clean clothing. We also take for granted how lack of good hygiene can make us sick. Here are some ways to stay clean and sanitary with what you already have in the house.

The Basics:
There are several basic rules worthy of review, as we tend to disregard them when we have plenty of hygienic supplies at our disposal. First and foremost, keep your bacteria-covered hands away from your head. Don’t rub or pick your nose, wipe your eyes, pick at your teeth, lick your fingers, or put your fingers in your ears. Second, don’t handle food or drinking water directly with your hands; instead, use clean winter or Nitrile gloves. Finally, cover your coughs and sneezes with the crook of your elbow. The only thing more annoying than being sneezed on is developing a disabling cold that leads to life-threatening pneumonia.

brushing your teeth with no toothpaste is nearly as effective as with toothpaste. Don’t attempt to use sugar or salt to clean your teeth as this may irritate your gums and wear away the enamel, but you may use baking soda if you have it on hand.

First and foremost, know that you won’t be bathing everyday. Twice a week, at most, is how often you’ll be bathing. The easiest way to get “clean” is to collect water from a nearby lake or river and scrub away even if you don’t have soap. The reason you want to collect water for scrubbing down instead of simply jumping in is because you don’t want to contaminate the water source, dirty as it may already appear. When you’ve finished with the water, use it a second time to wash your clothes and then a third time to flush your toilet. If you aren’t located near a water source, you may need to use some of the water you’ve collected from the water tank.

Any soap can be used to wash clothing. Even if you have no soap, dunking the clothes and rubbing them against each other will be sufficient enough to further dirty the water. The clothing you can expect to wash regularly include the undergarments: bras, boxers, underwear, socks, and tank tops. All other clothing will be of secondary concern and only washed once in a while. I recommend buckets if you have them, as the tub only allows for washing and not rinsing. Once the clothes are washed, simply wring them of excess water and hang them out to dry.

If you have a septic tank that isn’t full, you may continue to flush the toilet for “number two” simply by pouring a bucket of water into it. Be aware that sewage lines may be damaged in an emergency, in which case your best bet is a shovel. Be sure your pit is at least a football field away from any water source and located in the lowest spot in your area. The deeper the better. Place a board or sturdy plastic lid over the pit so that no one falls into it. A plastic tarp over everything is a good idea if you live in a rainy climate. Cover each waste deposit with some dirt to discourage mosquitoes from breeding in the pit, and don’t allow water to pool in the bottom. You may run out of toilet paper, but leaves, newspaper, and small disposable rags will work fine. Do not flush these items as they may permanently clog the toilet. Dispose of them in a deep pit far from any water supply.

Trash: The best option for dealing with trash is to have as little as possible. Think before throwing any item away. Could you use it for anything else? You’ll need to burn or bury the trash you have. If you don’t have the means to build a fire, that’s alright. Pick up a shovel, a pick, even a metal rake. Allowing trash to accumulate is inviting germs and sickness into your living space. Depending on where you live, you may also be inviting wild animals. Get rid of your garbage as soon as possible.

Cleanliness: Even if you keep your space as clean as possible, eventually you will be faced with the need to abolish bacteria you can’t see. Modern day cleaning products are convenient, but they aren’t they only solution for killing germs. The Provident Living web site is a wonderful resource, where they explain how you can use common household items to create an effective cleaning solution. You can condense these recipes to the amount of water you have on hand.

Keeping Conditions Sanitary (Review):

  • Keep your bacteria-covered hands away from your head.
  • Soap isn’t always necessary. Scrubbing is.
  • Keep waste and trash disposal far and low from any water source.
  • Household items can be mixed to create cleaning solutions.

As you can see, there are many ways you can survive without disaster-specific supplies. It would be much more difficult and you would encounter more hardships such as sickness, weight loss, and stress, but you could survive. It’s just a matter of being intelligent and resourceful.

So if TEOTWAWKI or another emergency comes to pass and you’re standing there without a portion of those supplies you held so dear, don’t think about tomorrow. Keep your mind focused on today and the puzzles (not problems) that need solving right now. Make a list, mentally or otherwise, of all the items you have access to and/or around you. Think about how you can use a combination of them to solve your puzzle. With the right attitude and rational, logical thinking, you can survive no matter how many traditional supplies you don’t have.

Friday, May 27, 2011


While I enjoyed the article written by Jason A., there were minor points that stuck out to me. As a professional chef who has completed numerous food safety courses, many of them the same that health inspectors must take to be certified, Jason's list of final food temperatures and cooking suggestions were a good start, but had some potentially precarious recommendations.

Washing fruits and vegetables will rarely remove all the pesticides and bacteria, unless you use a food sanitizing liquid such as bleach water, which you may or may not have in such a situation. Washing removes any exterior contaminants, such as dirt, mud, rocks, etc. However, picking from a polluted field and washing the produce will do you no good and could seriously injure or kill you. Washing is still a good habit to use, but it cannot remove everything dangerous. Inspect the source or field first, if possible.

For meat temperatures, cooking "at" any temperature is relatively unimportant. Cooking "to" a final internal meat temperature is the important number. Obviously, cooking at 140 degrees will not allow you to reach an internal temperature of 165. Cooking at virtually any temperature higher than the desired final temperature will. The bottom line is, for any meat (beef, chicken, fish, etc) in a questionable situation, the final minimum internal temperature for safe consumption is 165 degrees, according to the USDA. The meat may finish with a grayish color, but some meats begin and end gray at virtually any temperature, depending upon the animal's diet. However, it is relevant to know that a 165 degree internal temperature is sometimes overkill. Whole pieces of meat (not including chicken) that have not been ground are generally quite safe at 145 degrees, according to the USDA's recently updated guidelines from a couple of days ago.

Ground meats are another set of rules. E-coli is killed at 155 degrees, and is the final minimum temperature for any ground meat, other than chicken.

Chicken is yet another different story. Optimally, a 165 degree internal temperature, ground or whole, taken at the bone, is the safest way to go. If you do not have a thermometer, cooking the meat "until juices run clear" is a reasonably safe bet.  It was done that way for quite some time prior to thermometer usage. However, it is not always a safe alternative because any one person's definition of "clear" can vary vastly to another person's.  Also, waiting for a clear juice depends upon whether there are bones in the chicken.  Chicken bones can cause juices to run pink until a much higher temperature, even though the chicken is cooked.

Fish also has its own set of guidelines. Again, in a questionable situation, cook until completely opaque and preferably 145 degrees. Granted, in almost every case this will resort in very dry fish, but better dry than you being sick or dead. The term "flakey" is a little too vague unfortunately. Each fish has a different internal muscle structure and will become flaky at different final temperatures, if at all.

Hopefully this can educate folks out there. These are temperatures that are listed by the USDA as safety minimums. There are numerous other temperatures for "degrees of doneness," such as rare, medium rare, etc. Those are an entirely different article, though. - David B.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

As the saying goes “preventive medicine is the best medicine”, this can be said for many aspects in life. Why wait until something happens to fix it? Why not perform proper maintenance procedures so you don’t have to fix it? Frankly, before I became a prepper, I’ve always found this approach to be best. It can save you time, money, frustration. Even if something is going to break no matter what, with preventive procedures, you can sometimes see it coming, therefore fixing or changing a part. From a prepper’s perspective, preventive measures are a necessity. The U.S. military puts an emphasis on Preventive Maintenance Checks and Services (PMCS). Throughout the rest of this essay, all preventative measures will be termed PMCS.

Preventive Maintenance

When it comes to machinery, PMCS must take place. The last thing you need when disaster strikes is to hop in your bug out vehicle and realize you’re low on fuel and the battery is dead. When it comes to vehicles, generators, freezers, or anything that is a complicated system, you need to perform PMCS and keep a record of it. When it comes to vehicles, whether tractors, cars, pickups or SUVs, you can keep the record book with the vehicle. For items such as generators or tools, keep them in a filing cabinet for easy tracking. Some items that should be checked include:s
Oils/lube, Fuels, Filters
Belts, Batteries, Fuses
Plugs (spark or glow), Tires/wheels, Specialty tools
Check your owner’s manual or with the original company to find out when you should perform PMCS, with what specific parts, and where to find all of the proper parts and tools. When it comes to tools, they also need PMCS. Visually inspect all parts for cracks, tears, bends, or partial pieces. Simple tools such as a hammer will not help you if the head is ready to break off of the handle. Remember to sharpen blades and teeth, oil moving parts, and always clean and dry your tools to prevent rust.

Preventive Medicine

Once the SHTF, making appointments to see you doctor are probably not going to happen. Even if you have a medical professional in your group, some supplies will not be available. Those supplies that are available will eventually run out.

Dentistry: I personally am one of the worst when it comes to taking care of my teeth and gums. I’ve also paid for it. Brushing your teeth is not enough. You should brush your teeth first thing in the morning, in the afternoon, and before bed. Flossing needs to be a part of your brushing routine. Full flossing of every space should be done in the evening, prior to brushing. After flossing, use a mouthwash so you don’t push anything back into spaces, and then brush. Throughout the day most people have snacks. After eating, use dental soft picks. These can be purchased fairly cheap and are found at many stores.

Lifestyle: TEOTWAWKI or not, a healthy lifestyle should be sought. You don’t have to be a gym junkie either. Sports are a great way to get some exercise. Some prefer hiking or bicycling. The point is to be active and flexible. However, bulking up like Arnold doesn’t do you much good if you’re eating steaks and burgers, then finish it off with a smoke. While the science of nutrition is difficult to understand, there are some basics that make it easy. Check out to help plan better meals. This shouldn’t need to be said, but I’ll say it anyway: drop your bad habits! Tobacco is the big one, but anything else that you can’t handle in moderation. This could be alcohol, caffeine, or sweets.

Medicine: Take care of any health concerns now. Lifestyle changes can change some of these issues. Diabetes type 2 and high cholesterol are a few of the conditions that could be managed better, or even resolved, by lifestyle changes. For medical concerns that can’t be resolved be lifestyle changes should be looked at before it’s too late. If you’ve been putting off a surgery, you just might have to live with your current condition if the SHTF today. Make sure that you are updated on all of your medications and have a stockpile. If you have any sort of condition that requires an apparatus such as canes or braces make sure that you have extras or extra pieces. Most of us will be doing quite a bit of work outside. Have a good supply of lip balm, sunscreen, insect repellant, and foot powder. If you’re sunburned or have blisters on your feet, this makes survival rough. These are simple steps that you can take.

Sanitation: This section is extremely important for people that bug out somewhere where there is no house. This could be out in the woods or on someone’s property. The first is on defecation. One simple idea is the cat hole. The cat hole is good for on the move or for one person for no more than one day. Dig a hole 12 inches in diameter and 6-7 inches deep. Do your business in hole and cover it with the dirt that was removed. This is also helpful for OPSEC being that if it was out in the open, you may give away your location. If you plan to stick around a spot for one to three days, use a straddle trench. Dig out a rectangular area 1 foot wide, 4 feet long, and 3 feet deep. After use, cover the excrement only. Once the trench is filled to 6 inches below the ground, cover the rest with the remaining dirt. One trench is good for up to 25 people. I wouldn’t recommend a burnout barrel latrine unless you are in a large camp with security. Basically, somewhere where everyone knows you are there anyway. This consists of a wooden bench with a hole in it over the top of a metal barrel cut in half. All openings must be covered so vermin cannot get in. Once the barrel is half way filled, drag it out from the enclosure and at least 10 feet away. Add 3 inches of a fuel mixture containing one part gas and four parts diesel. Set on fire and monitor. Once all of the waste is gone, clean and sanitize the barrel and return it to the enclosure. When it comes to urination, this needs to be put into the ground as well. For males, dig out an area 4 feet wide, 4 feet long and 4 feet deep. Place metal tubes 8 inches into the pit and fill with stones and gravel. Place funnels on the tops of these tubes to be used as urinals. For females, construct the same pit but instead of pipes, use a barrel. Place it 8 inches into the pit with gravel underneath and around it. Place a wooden seat on top of the barrel.

For other liquid wastes such as bath water and dishwater, dig out another area that is 4 feet wide, 4 feet long, and 4 feet deep. Place a barrel with a perforated bottom 6 inches into the pit. Then dig out four trenches from the pit starting at one foot deep and ending at 2 feet deep. They need to be 6 feet long and one foot wide. Fill all of this with gravel. When it comes to trash, I don’t like the idea of burning. It is an announcement to people of where you are and what you may have. I also imagine that many people will be recycling and reusing heavily thus reducing the amount of trash produced. Start off with a pit that is 8x8x8 feet. As you dump your trash in, make sure to cover it with at least 6 inches of dirt. This will cover smells and hopefully deter vermin. Always make sure that all of your areas are clearly marked for present and past areas. You do not want to dig in an area that is filled with trash or excrement. Guidelines for latrines are 50 feet away from living/sleeping areas, 100 feet from water sources, and 300 feet from food storage/preparation areas. For garbage areas they need to be 100 feet from food storage/preparation areas and water sources. Always make sure that these areas drain away from water sources, on level ground, and well above water tables.

Food: Getting food poisoning is no fun. I’ve had it a few times. Always be aware of what you are eating. Just because something looks like a food you know, it may not be. It may also be poisonous. Wash all fruits and vegetables before consumption. Even if you are going to cook them, there could be critters or dirt on them. They may have pesticides as well. When it comes to meats here are some guidelines on cooking temperatures: beef, lamb, and goat needs to be 170 degrees in the center or until uniformly brown. Pork needs to be cooked at 165 degrees and until no longer pink. Poultry should be cooked at 170 degrees or until juices run clear. Fish needs to be cooked until 140 degrees or until it is flakey. Rabbits and squirrels should be cooked at 180 degrees. Cats and dogs? I’m hoping I won’t ever have to find out.

Water: If you aren’t lucky enough to have a filtration system there are some basic techniques that will make your water safe to drink. First up is boiling. Pass the water through a filter or fabric in order to get rid of sediment. Bring the water to a roaring boil for one minute. Once cooled, it is safe to drink. You can also use bleach. Use 8 drops per gallon if the water is mostly clear. If the water is mostly cloudy, use 16 drops of bleach. Once again, make sure to pass it through some sort of material as a filter first. Also, look at where you are getting water. If you come across two ponds and one of them have algae, mosquitoes and other wildlife that is probably the safe one. It’s the water source that has no life that should raise a red flag.

Preventive Measures
Security: Don’t wait until the SHTF to come up with a security plan. Start one now. Find out where certain positions will be and what weapons are needed. Figure out how you are going to set up your schedules.

Land: Every year property owners cut back their grass and trees and bushes because fire season is coming. This is something that should always be taken care of. Fires can happen any time of year. Look at your land and figure out where you are going to situate things. If you are going to put in more gardens or a trash pit after the SHTF, figure out where those places need to be now. Go so far as clearing those areas.

Investments: The US could face an economic collapse tomorrow, or in ten years. No one knows when it is coming but we all know that it will come. There is a lot to be said for investing in tangibles and stocking up on food and fuel. For preppers that are younger and are not already financially secure, food and fuel isn’t enough if you’re renting an apartment with no BOL and TEOTWAWKI is still fifty years out. I would first recommend getting a college education and a secure job. Learn how to make investments. The stock market may not be the greatest place to invest, but talk around to others that are knowledgeable and ask for advice.

Family and Friends: I had talked to my wife about prepping and to no surprise she thought I was crazy…at first. I approached her slowly and gradually showed her all of the problems in the world and how they could pan out. Then I introduced her to the scary thought of the “bad men.” She is the one who keeps asking me when I’m going to take her out shooting again. She wanted a garden in this year so she could practice. She came around. Make sure that you get your immediate family on track. When everything is falling apart around you, you do not want this to be the time to start talking prepping. Get your kids involved in prepping activities such as fishing, hunting, gardening, canning, and sewing. Also be aware that there are some people that will think you are nuts no matter what. These same people could be a danger to you before and during TEOTWAWKI. Make mental notes of who these people are and make sure to not talk “prep” with them.

Preventive actions are much like prepping. You are preparing for the worst, but making the best of it right now.

Friday, May 13, 2011

We are preppers. I love reading the prep/survival books. There’s so much information out there and so many people involved in prepping now, there’s just no reason to not do it! We learned from experience that you can never be over prepared. Since 2004 I’ve learned how to store food for the long term, how to filter water (okay, I’ll give credit to my Berkey on that one), I’ve learned about bug out bags and how to build a fire with a flint, but what I learned the most from was living for more than two weeks without electricity after hurricanes Frances, Jeanne and Wilma. Even though we were only thinking hurricane preparedness then, we were still leaps and bounds beyond most of our neighbors.

The obvious things that one can’t miss are non perishable food and water. You’d be surprised how many people wait until a hurricane warning to stock up on these basics. Once a hurricane is within 3 days of hitting, the stores get crazy and empty out. Shopping during that time is no longer an option for us, we’re prepared far in advance. The only food I can see getting right before a storm is bread (although we stock up and freeze bread when it’s on sale) and fresh fruits and veggies. When a warning is issued water is the first to go, then canned soups, tuna, Spam, etc. Let me tell you folks, eating soup when its 98 degrees with 98 percent humidity is not appetizing. We have to think about what we’d normally eat and work with that. I stock up on canned meats and fruits and veggies.  We have an extra freezer stocked with meat. Unfortunately, during Hurricane Frances the storm lingered for 3 days over our area. We could not run the generator during the storm. The power went out immediately and all of our meat was lost by the time the storm passed. So stocking up the fridge and freezer’s a great idea but in the end you could lose it all. We regularly eat tortillas of all kinds, so I have a stock of masa and a tortilla press. Tortillas can be cooked on a skillet over a grill in no time at all. Speaking of the grill, we have at least four ways of cooking outside and only two of those require gas. We have many propane tanks (I’m not even going to tell you how many, it’s almost embarrassing!).  But we also have a charcoal grill and a fire pit, with wood stocked up for fuel if needed. The wood needs to be covered or brought in during a storm so it doesn’t get soaked or blown away.

So food and water, obvious, but how to live without electricity? Well folks, that’s where the rubber meets the road. The everyday little things soon become a chore. Take brushing your teeth for instance. When no water comes out of the faucet it’s a little more complicated. Not only is there no running water, but because we are on city sewer (and remember, no electricity) only minimal waste can go down the drain. Basically because whatever you put down the drain could potentially come back into the home once the power goes back on. This happened to several neighbors, but not us.  The water that we store is not just for drinking. After a storm we take a 5 gallon bucket and fill it, halfway or so, cover it and put it on the back porch. This is where we get water to brush our teeth and wash ourselves. All the dirty water is poured into a corner of the yard.

We did allow for toileting inside but only flushing when necessary. Again water is needed for flushing and you can see our supply dwindling as I type. Washing not only ourselves but dishes also needed to be done outside. We set up a table and again a 5 gallon bucket of water for our outdoor wash area. We used a lot of paper and plastic but some things still needed to be cleaned (pans, pots, etc). Whenever possible I used just cold water, soap and bleach, but with very grimy stuff we’d boil water on the grill and wash dishes in that. I added bleach to every wash load just to keep the germs minimal. That’s just breakfast folks. Now, I’m going to admit, after a few days my husband hooked the generator up to the water pump and we were able to bathe and have water from the outside faucet but it’s very hard water, normally used for irrigation only. It’s not potable but can be used for bathing and washing. Again, it had to be done outside which was fine because we actually have an outside shower.  Only cold water though. We were able to have a little warm water by hooking up a hose to the faucet and laying it on the roof. The heat from the sun warmed what was in the hose. It was good for a quick shower and I do mean quick.

A normal day was extremely hot and humid, we were inundated with biting flies and mosquitoes and we were typically dirty and very tired. Having decent screens on the windows was crucial as they were open all of the time.  Bug spray helped but it made us feel dirty and grimy.  I was not up on hand washing clothes at that time and the laundry pile was a nightmare. If I have to go through it again I would do things differently. I’d have two 5-gallon buckets, one for washing, one for rinsing and a hand washer. They look something like a plunger and are sufficient for hand washing shorts, underwear and tank tops. I’d also re-wear whatever possible so not to create so many dirty clothes. Now you may be wondering why we didn’t just hook up the generator to help take the edge off of the misery. We actually had the generator hooked up most of the time. It ran the fridge/freezer and a window air conditioner at night. Generators are great but they’re expensive to run and it’s important to be of the mindset that you may be entirely without electricity. Even the gas stations took several weeks to get up and running.

Being that the inside of the house was miserable, we spent a lot of time on our porch. It’s actually more of a deck, with privacy fencing surrounding us but no roof. My genius husband rigged a shade screen from material we had stored. That worked for giving us a shady area in which to clean and eat but it didn’t help with the bugs. I now have two mosquito nets stored away. If we have to do this again my husband can surely hang those to give us a protected area.

In the end we made it. My neighbors made fun of me when I washed our dishes outside but when the power came back on sewage didn’t back up into our house. We both missed a lot of work but managed to feed our family of four (my husband, myself, young teen daughter and a handicapped adult) and keep us clean and entertained. We played games at night before it got too dark. Bedtime came early. I put cute bandanas in our hair to keep it back and my daughter loved that. We put stickers on ourselves so as we tanned up (in the sun much more than usual) we had silly designs all over. We had a stash of special snack foods and kept our spirits up by joking around and not taking everything so seriously. When the power came back on after the first storm we had been over two weeks living primitively. I have to admit, I cried.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

One thing to be said of modern life, you generally wind up living where the work is. Money can be very good, for example, when you're working as a government contractor in the Washington, DC area, so that's a plus. The bad side of this lifestyle, though, is that you're planted squarely in Megalopolis, with guaranteed chaos and congestion during any catastrophic event, severely hindering your ability to get home from work or to evacuate the area.  Those who commute into cities or live in high population areas can relate, as evidenced by what normally might be a 1-hour commute quickly morphing into a 3-to-7 hour odyssey during inclement weather or traffic accidents.  On 9/11/01 the DC commuters went through H*ll getting home that evening, even though no roads, services, or power infrastructure were compromised.   Living or commuting within a Megalopolis will challenge your ability to be truly prepared for those unpleasant events life can throw at you from time to time.

This article focuses on preparedness in Megalopolis. Long-term survival in Megalopolis is not addressed as that is an entirely separate can of worms, and the crystal ball of the future isn’t looking good.  Instead, what you can do now before something bad happens is begin preparation for you and your family.

I detest the term “Bug-Out Bag.” I really can’t explain why the term seems so creepy to me, but one thing for sure, you should always keep one handy when you live in an over-developed area like DC. Most of us have to work to pay the bills, and should something happen while you're at the office you'll need a few basics close at hand to help you both deal with it and hopefully to be able to get safely home. Keep in mind that this bag is designed to get you from work to home (that’s where you have the stuff you can’t carry on your back) and nothing more; it doesn't pack a three day supply of food, for example. To that end, each vehicle has a small day pack stashed inside, packing a pair of comfortable and broken-in walking shoes / boots, a 100 ounce water reservoir (filled), a lightweight Gore-Tex jacket, a change of socks, and a few power bars. Each car has a GPS, a head lamp set, and a good detail map of the city. Depending on the situation, I'm prepared to abandon my vehicle and then walk out of the city in order to get to home and safety. Note that caveat… depending on the situation. Some situations may dictate that I stay where I am, seeking shelter at the workplace, while others will indicate heading home. Staying abreast of the news is critical, and being able to think clearly during an emerging situation without acting rashly is going to go a long way toward putting you on a course of action that may save your life.

Now, “bugging out” has taken on a life of its own. AirSofters talk excitedly about having a bug out bag for when the zombies come. I'm a bit more jaded, and after having lived in DC, I have a real appreciation for just how many people are actually in this city, and how absolutely impassable the roads leaving it can become. What to do? Be decisive. If the situation warrants, then get out. Don't concern yourself with “what will the boss say?” Keep your fuel tank at least half-full, all the time... just consider the ½ line to be the same as Empty, and fill your tank frequently. A two gallon can in the trunk will just about always get you home, should you need. When you do bolt from work, drive carefully but quickly and directly as long as possible, until the roadways become impassable. That's when it is time to ditch the car and hike home. Mark the location on the GPS and make a written note of the location. Put the GPS and any other loose gear you've got in the pack and move out towards home. Stay off the highways, but don't go overland unless you know the area well. Stay to yourself, move continually, and work your way directly toward home. If you're a recreational hiker, you'll make it in good order. If you're out of shape, it will be harder, but keep a good attitude and you'll be fine.

Congratulations – you've made it home in one piece. The degree to which you've prepared for the event causing you to leave work and maybe even vehicle behind will determine the extent to which you'll resemble a healthy and productive person in six months. If your goods are put up with some forethought and careful planning, your family will be in good shape in the days to come. So, more is better, right? Maybe. One big consideration (and limitation) to your preparedness planning is cost. If you're serious, plan on spending $200 or $300 per month on preparations; in a surprisingly short time you'll be in much better shape than you'd imagine. The important thing is that you begin. Failure to attend to some basics, like having the ability to get home from work, can be costly. Other basics include water, food and shelter. Are you squared away?

Before rushing headlong into a stockpiling frenzy, the basic question to first answer is, “what are my goals? For what kind of scenarios do I want to be prepared? Does my pathetically small Megalopolis apartment/townhouse/condo support these goals?” Now is the time for truly honest answers, answers that must be devoid of emotion or delusion. The answer regarding scenarios can range from a simple cessation of public utility service (nobody at work, decrepit infrastructure, or who knows why), to anthrax attacks and dirty bombs. In DC and some other major cities, just about anything is possible, even probable given time. Understanding the situation, which includes your resource base, and what issues you can reasonably expect to overcome will help greatly in how you should prepare.

My tolerance for problems is pretty high, as is that of my wife. We're both retired military, enjoy hiking and other outdoor activities, and are generally speaking able to contend with just about anything that might come along. That said, DC is one huge target, so the worst-case scenario is well within the range of the possible. But the worst-case isn't really very likely, is it? What kinds of events are more probable? Again, my crystal ball for fortune-telling is rather foggy, but I did live on a Caribbean island for six years that had hurricanes passing by rather frequently.  Every time they came it was the same; the supermarkets were stripped bare by an unprepared and nervous populace in the last hours before landfall.  The same thing happens in my part of Megalopolis prior to a major snowstorm. I can picture lots of events that might cause a serious breakdown in economy, public infrastructure, or security; it doesn't take a creative imagination, but the end result is always the same – there is no longer any food on the shelves at the grocery. Batteries are non-existent. Plastic sheeting? Gone. Bottled water? You're dreaming. People may not even necessarily be fleeing Megalopolis, but we can't get basic foodstuffs or supplies anymore. I happen to live in a townhouse, so there isn't a lot of space for bulk goods, but where there is a will, there is a way.

We found that a sensible approach, scaled over time and as your budget allows, is the best way to go. While working in DC pays well, the bills and mortgage are very high, so our budget for contingencies isn't big. Effectively, we took our time to plan our purchases and ways to stock groceries and other items such as an emergency hand-crank radio, extra batteries, and water filters.

Water is of course a major concern. What if the electric goes out for an extended period? Will the city use generators to keep the pumping stations running? I think not. Luckily we live only a few hundred yards from a five or six acre lake, and I can fetch water manually if needed. Here's the plan: first line of defense is water storage, and to that end we plan on using a “Water Bob.” Picture a bathtub-sized water bag. That's essentially what this 20 dollar product is: a 100-gallon storage bladder that goes inside your bathtub, completely sealed up so dust and other contaminants don't befoul the water.  Hopefully we can fill ours with city water before the services stop, but regardless we'll then keep it topped off with lake water that has been purified with a homemade filter system.

If water does not originate from a municipal source that is fully-functioning, you should consider it suspect, which means filtration to the degree necessary that it will not harm you. I've set up a normal double bucket filtration system using a very popular brand of filter that is made of a very finely porous black ceramic.  Their filtration is so good they are actually considered water purifiers rather than simple filters.

When I go to get water at the lake I can use either a red wagon to haul four five-gallon buckets, or my Army surplus ALICE Large rucksack to carry one. Central to the process is a high-efficiency hand-operated water pump that allows me to fill a bucket in about 30 seconds, and with a strainer-equipped 15' intake hose and 3' of outlet with which to fill the buckets, I can accomplish the whole operation quickly and without unnecessarily exposing myself too much, lest thirst folk who've not planned ahead take undue interest in my process.   To minimize any potential unpleasantness, I'll be planning on getting water at about three in the morning. No sense in advertising a capability when you don't have to, right?  Regarding having a strainer on the water pump, this does one very good thing for you: a strainer with a mesh of 500 or higher will go a very long way in taking most of the solid particulates out of your water before you run it through the black filters at home.  By first taking the majority of the solid “floaters” in the water, your black filters at home can be cleaned much less frequently, and the flow rate of the water through the system is kept high. We recently purchased three pairs of filters, so that should hold us for a good while, but as time goes by, I'll be adding a few more to the stash. On the market now is a nice screw-on top for 5 gallon buckets. All of the buckets in use for water are sporting them, as trying to open and close the old-style bucket lids, even with a bucket wrench, is trying.

Research is your best weapon, knowledge your best tool. I winnowed out the hysterical and actually uninformed chaff in the basic set of survival literature, and quickly realized that long-term food storage solutions are not only feasible, but pretty easy, too. Without going into the “how to do it” details, as that info is readily accessible, we began packing lots of beans, rice and pasta, purchased in bulk and on sale, into heavyweight gallon-sized mylar bags from the LDS store. With both a small vacuum pump and oxygen absorbing packets I made rock-solid, oxygen-poor packages labeled with magic marker that stacked neatly into big plastic tubs you can get at the home improvement box store. As the mylar bags themselves are good so long as they're not punctured, intent here is to protect them from accidental damage and to keep them all together. Once packed up, each tub weighs in at about 150 pounds, so find their long-term storage spot and leave it alone. In my case that spot is underneath the stairs on the ground floor where they are cool, dry, dark, and out of the way... just the thing for long-term storage.

After putting up what I reckoned to be about six months of vacuum-packed dry foods, I started to augment it with cases of canned goods: chicken, no-bean chili, corned beef and other high-calorie foods, along with chocolates (mini York Peppermint patties, already individually mylar packed), sugar, freeze-dried coffee, tea bags, spices, salt, etc. My thinking about food developed along these lines: I can't buy any at the grocery, but we've got stocks of plain but wholesome food at home. Over time I'll lose weight, but will still be eating after six months or so. My neighbors won't.

Cooking is the difficult part of the equation, and to be frank I do not have it quite figured out yet. We have an electric range at home, and a natural gas fireplace. Both of those utilities are expected to fail in a bad situation. Our first fallback is a trusty old double burner Coleman gas stove, along with a few of the big propane tanks to fuel it. To make gas consumption go more slowly, I've picked up a couple cases of Army surplus MRE heaters... just add a few ounces of water and a chemical reaction makes enough heat to warm an entrée wrapped inside a Baggie. At least 60 pounds of charcoal in the tool shed is available in small quantities to cook in the BBQ grill, and I've got saws for acquiring wood from the small set of woods that are bordering the rear of the property. If things get very, very bad... we just had hardwood floors installed in about half the house. That oak will burn hot and nearly smoke-free, but it will cost a large expenditure of work to remove the wood flooring.

Waste disposal is never a pleasant topic, but in the case of preparedness, it isn't one you can dismiss. During grubby times it is a very good thing to have a septic tank rather than a sanitary sewer connection, as eventually the city's pumping and lift stations will stop working. The sewers will be backed up, and then you're in a fix. If you've got a septic tank, though, you can continue to flush the toilet long after city water stops flowing by using 5 gallon buckets of water. Without a sewer, though, you're very much limited in your choices. You can dig and maintain a slit trench in the yard (get your shovel before bad times), or you can invest (heavily) in a waterless composting toilet.

I've mentioned maintaining a slit trench after the water supply stops. The ability to do this assumes you have a good supply of hand tools.  All maintenance tasks will continue, but the power tools won't be available anymore, so having a selection of tools and even better knowing how to use them is a crucial piece of being prepared. Bench stock (screws, nails, nuts & bolts, wire, various cordage) should be already on-hand. Put fire extinguishers in each major room of the house. Also, try to avoid buying the really cheap discount tools that are likely to break, letting you down when they're most needed.  Instead try to acquire a decent kit that contains most of the basics including a hand drill, auger, wrenches, pry bar, crow bar, sledge, shovel, hack saw, rip saw, crosscut saw, a good ax, machete, cold chisels, etc. The more the better, but remember that tools are very heavy. You' can't take them with you... if you're staying at home then yes, more is better. If the situation dictates that you must evacuate and mobilize, then you'll need to take a very long and hard look at what tools should remain on your packing list, and which get cut. For those who remain at home, consider stocking some materials to board up the house, should looters, gangs of thugs, and predators roam the area.

Talking about thugs... I really don't have too much to say about this topic. I believe in preparedness, and I'm retired military guy. Guns have always been in my life, and they are still there. I am well-trained, and have what I need to get by, but I'm not a walking armory, either. If you want protection, but are unfamiliar with them then you should seek competent instruction now. Get a decent quality revolver that is .38 caliber or larger, and practice.  Keep a large amount of ammunition stored with it, enough so that you may defend your family and property if necessary.  Consider a shotgun and/or a rifle, too. If you get them, then [get qualified training and] practice, as having weapons you can't safely handle is a danger for all around you. My last comment on weapons is that they should be kept private. Don't advertise them. Don't display them, or talk about them, either. But if you must pull one out, be fully prepared to use it as a part of the Use of Force Continuum in the defense of yourself or your family.

Any preparations you may have completed could prove useless if they are not actually practiced. We all dislike fire drills, but we all accept the need for them, recognizing that without actually having conducted the drills we really don't know what issues might arise in the event of an actual emergency. Drills not only identify shortcomings in our plans, they help identify the strengths, too. Don't fail to complete your preparations by failing to plan, inventory, test, or practice on the equipment and supplies you've so carefully put away for bad times.

In wrapping up, I just want to recommend to all who may read this that if you've not begun any preparation for contending with emergencies in Megalopolis, then you should. People are indeed like cattle, and when they begin to stampede, you'll find yourself in a very dire situation if you did not prepare in advance. For those readers who have taken steps to protect their families, congratulations. You're already on the road, but note that you should never "be done" with your preparations. There is always food to rotate, batteries to test, filters to add, moldering toilets to save for, tools to clean, sort, or buy, and plans to review. But hey, you've already started on that task, right?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hello James,  
I read the recent article on survival for apartment dwellers and I hate to burst a bubble but a major factor was left out: SANITATION. It's incredible domino effect is truly mind boggling!   Back in 1999 I was involved in writing a white paper for the government on the effects caused by no running water.   I am afraid I know what I am talking about and it's not a pretty picture.  In 1998 in Auckland, New Zealand there was a lengthy power failure that in turn led to several days without water and what happened after three days will blow your mind.  

People in general are not smart. Rather than try and conserve or make a plan once the water stopped flowing, they would flush their toilets. Without power from the force of water pressure the tank doesn't refill. The domino effect is not only gross but staggering, what human beings that have never lived beyond modern conveniences will do is unimaginable.   What I researched and wrote about blew my own mind...when people were actually confronted with such a situation, they went where ever they could - they filled the toilet, the toilet tank, the tub, the shower, the sink - when the bathrooms became uninhabitable, they went in corners, boxes, bags, closets...most however left by the time they were using the tub. Guess how long that took? That's right, the three days!   In such a structure (high up in a condo), if you do all the right things, in no way will that protect you from all those around you who did not. If anyone lives above you, remember, the pipes are clogged and the stuff is (figuratively) looking to escape out cracks and openings which means their "stuff" comes in though the ceiling of your place.  

Reality check: If you're prepared and they're not, where do you think they go for food and water? Are you going to shoot them all? Are you really a killer? That's what it will take and if any form of police shows up who do you think they are going to take away, never to be seen again?   Truth is, for all you people who think you can maintain in you present homes that are located in cities and suburbs will be at constant war, an out come I'm not sure would be worthy of surviving for, an outcome where projections say only 10% survive...  

James, I just touched the surface of what I wrote about as I no longer have the papers, this was from memory. Imagine if you can, what I just described was happening in one condo complex - now multiply by the number of just apartments and condos in your area. Remember how these buildings have managers right? Wrong. They are the first to go! You will be on your own. And I haven't even discussed the methane problem!  

The biggest problem in all these worse case scenarios is that they only know so much that they are capable of writing about to claim as a worse case - when in fact and in true reality the worse case scenarios are always incomprehensible, case in point today is what is happening in Japan. What was once thought of as sci-fi is now being considered as possible in both discoveries and disasters.   Well, take care - Dave B. 

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sometimes I ponder what it means to be a woman in our society of hyper-consumption.  If you watch television or read today’s women’s magazines, you are led to believe that the activities most preferred by a woman are shopping, poisoning her nails, getting her hair yanked around in a salon, zapping packaged foods in the microwave, and ingesting a concoction of prescription drugs to stay sane through it all.

I tried some of these things in the past.  Each time, I was left with an utterly unfulfilled feeling and thinking, “There has to be more to being a woman than this!”  I stopped reading women’s magazines about 11 years ago and stopped watching television about five years ago.  With both of these moves, my life has changed dramatically.  I have been able to focus on the true meaning of being a woman, not the image fed to me by advertisers.  In the process, I have acquired a set of traditional womanly arts that I will never lose.  I began acquiring these skills first while living in a condo and have expanded my skills set here on my ½ acre suburban plot.

Many of these traditional womanly arts are also necessary skills during periods of austerity, and have been used by generations of women and mothers before us.  I practice them for the feeling of fulfillment I get from them, knowing that I am taking good care of my family and my land in the most healthful way.  When TSHTF, it will be necessary for us women to go back to our roots doing what our bodies, minds and hearts were designed to do.  Our primary function is to be selfless and nurture our families in a mindful way.  Succumbing to pressures from advertisers to be selfish and to consume their products does not achieve this and holds us back on so many levels.  Why spend $20 getting our nails done when we could use that money to buy a used book and a video on knitting or sewing?  Why spend $150 on getting our hair yanked around when that money could be spent more wisely on a whole library of books on gardening?  It is time to invest in ourselves as women in a real way.  Learning these womanly arts now will prove to be priceless and will help our families stay healthy when TEOTWAWKI occurs.  It will be necessary for a woman to be a “Jill-of-all-trades” and those trades do not include pushing a shopping cart, parallel parking an SUV, or operating a television remote. 

These are by no means an exhaustive list of traditional womanly arts, but they are what I love to do the most and what I have found – as a mother and wife - to be most valuable in my household:

  • Cold-process soap-making:  This is an art that has been in my family for generations.  Both of my grandmothers and the generations before them practiced this traditional womanly art.  It skipped a generation with my own mother, but I am happy to say that I have nearly mastered this skill and will pass it on to my own two daughters.  This type of soap-making involves mixing fats and lye under strict temperature conditions to produce soap.  Soaps sold today in stores are chock-full of petrochemicals, unpronounceable ingredients and fragrance additives.    Making soap at home allows me to create cost-effective, healthful bars of soap from real fats that won’t poison my family.  It is a great way to use up some of the less-desirable cuts of lard from a slaughtered pig too.  For anyone interested in learning cold-process soapmaking, I like Anne Watson's book Simple Soapmaking

  • Raising poultry for eggs and meat: I have been raising chickens for eggs and meat for awhile now, without needing any help from my husband, which frees him up to do other things.  Chickens and other poultry are simple for a woman to handle by herself, as they are relatively easy to herd and carry when necessary (unlike larger livestock like pigs, goats and cows).  They provide two very dense sources of protein: eggs and meat.  Slaughtering chickens is a task a woman can do alone as well.  I am deeply satisfied by raising healthy poultry for my family’s consumption.  I have pretty good carpentry skills, so I have been able to build coops to house my chickens, which has saved us a lot of money in that department as well (no need for a handyman or expensive pre-built coops).  YouTube is a great resource for any woman looking to learn more about this skill.  I particularly like all of Virginia farmer Joel Salatin’s videos.  He is a self-proclaimed Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist and his philosophy will intrigue you and get you thinking.  This video will get you started (and maybe even hooked on Joel Salatin!): 

  • Knitting: I find this activity to be much more relaxing and productive in the evening than watching television.   It is a better example to set for my daughters than watching television as well.  Whenever I pull out my knitting needles, my 4-year-old daughter sits right next to me with hers and pretends to knit something.  When she gets older and her dexterity is good, I will teach her this valuable, productive skill.  There are tons of videos on YouTube for beginning as well as experienced knitters.  I find a video to be much more helpful than a book when learning a new knitting skill. I really like the Cyberseams series on YouTube
  • Sewing:  Learning to sew clothes is time better spent than aimlessly wandering aisles in clothing stores and swiping credit cards.  When I produce clothes for myself and my family, I have created an heirloom that can be passed down to the next generation.  Who does that with store-bought clothes made in Chinese sweatshops?  As women, knowing how to sew also allows us to repair our worn clothing, giving it new life.  It gives our clothes meaning and allows us to express our womanly desire to craft with our hands.  I love the pieces of clothing that my mother sewed for me as a young girl, and I still have them at-the-ready for when my oldest daughter can fit into them.    Again, YouTube is a great resource to learn this skill.  A good place to start is the Puking Pastilles Learn to Sew 101 series.

  • Elbow-grease cleaning: I prefer to use good, honest elbow grease to clean my home rather than purchasing packaged, designer cleaning supplies that are toxic to my family and my earth.  A woman only needs a few ingredients to have a clean home: baking soda, vinegar, lemon essential oil, borax, soap (home-made of course!) and water.  An added benefit of this is that there is no longer a need to go shopping for a certain specialty product when it runs out.  I just buy all of my basic cleaning ingredients in bulk maybe once or twice a year.  The homemade product I use most in my household is a simple mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle.  I use this to clean most of the surfaces in my home.  Advertisers want you to believe that you need a separate product for each surface of your home.  You don’t.  A great resource for both basic and fancier recipes is Annie Berthold- Bond's Better Basics for the Home.
  • Making personal care products:  This is one area in our household where we save a lot of money compared to conventional households.  I spend literally pennies and a few minutes making a whole tub of body lotion that is safe for all of us to use, even my infant daughter.  I cannot express in words how much more fulfilling it is to craft a high-quality, chemical-free batch of sunscreen in my kitchen than it is to hop into the car to buy a little tube for $12.  I do not feel cheated; instead, I feel like a goddess.  You need not spend $3 a tube for lip balm when you can make it for 3 cents.  I also make all of the deodorant, diaper rash cream, baby massage oils and hair treatments in our household.  I estimate that we have saved thousands of dollars over the years from my learning this womanly art.  Annie Bertholdt-Bond’s Better Basics for the Home is a great resource in this area, as well.
     For fancier recipes in this area, you can try Stephanie Tourle's Organic Body Care Recipes.

  • Edible gardening:  I know so many women who love to garden, but unfortunately their efforts are wasted on non-productive plants like roses and lilacs.  All that effort put towards a highly productive edible garden would be time much better spent.  It is in our DNA as women to nourish our families, and what better way than with edible gardening?  Learning this womanly skill now will prove invaluable in a SHTF situation and provides literally endless fulfillment.  I recommend The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Edward Smith.
    I get nearly all of my heirloom  and/or open-pollinated seeds from Baker Creek.
    For information on time-saving and work-saving perennial vegetable gardening, I highly recommend Perennial Vegetables by Eric Toensmeier.

  • Baking/cooking from scratch:  this is a skill that is strongly associated with women.  Unfortunately, in today’s hyper-consumer culture, this skill has been reduced to hopping in the car, buying a bag or box from the freezer section, and zapping it in the microwave.  I dare say that a loaf of bread baking in the oven or a slowly simmering soup made with ingredients from the garden and the coop give the home a warm coziness that is not achieved with supermarket microwaveable junk foods.  It is yet another fulfilling activity for women and can be easily passed on to future generations.  When TEOTWAWKI comes, it will be essential to be able to make use of whatever is on hand when there are no more fully-stocked grocery store shelves.  Using simple ingredients to make nutritious, delicious meals is a key skill for any woman interested in traditional arts.  I recommend Alice Waters’The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution. I also love Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats.

  • Natural/herbal healing:  learning which medicinal herbs to use to heal sicknesses in our families is a traditional womanly art that has been practiced by mothers for generations.  Unfortunately, it skipped my mother’s generation because of the onslaught of prescription drugs manufactured by big pharma in the last 50 years.  Sitting bedside, healing and nursing the sick is part of our genetic makeup as women.  Knowing the basics of herbal healing and when to quarantine is of utmost importance and should be part of our instincts.  This is an important skill to learn now, before a crisis situation occurs, as it takes much time to develop the confidence and knowledge to be able to apply it in a practical way.  I am by no means an expert in this vast field of ancient medicine and am constantly learning, but I find this area tremendously useful and fulfilling as a mother.  I recommend Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine: The Definitive Home Reference Guide.

  • Lastly and perhaps the most important of all womanly skills is teaching.  In order to preserve these womanly arts for future generations, it is of utmost importance for a woman to include her daughters, nieces and/or young friends in all of these activities such that they become a way-of-life from an early age.  I have no doubt that the future holds much more austerity than what we know now.  We humans are using resources too quickly and we are not replenishing them.  Our current way of life in the U.S. is not sustainable for even another 20 years.  Teaching our daughters these skills now, while they are young and while resources are still abundant, will ensure that they have the capacity to care for their families in the hard times awaiting us. 

For good reading on the philosophy of homemaking, I recommend Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture by grass-fed cattle farmer Shannon Hayes.
While not specifically aimed at women, this book dives deeply into the fulfillment that traditional domesticity offers, and it aims to drive people away from the consumerist lifestyle into a more satisfying life of production.  I believe women of all walks of life can benefit greatly from this type of reading.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I have always been fascinated with history and might have become a history teacher if there had been any possibility of making substantial money at it.  Growing up in the 1950s and ‘1960s in rural Texas the lessons of the U.S. “Great Depression” were still fresh in the memories of my family, so our frequent family get gatherings produced many stories from those days, some of which were “not so good old days”. 

I want to relate some of this story for the benefit of those preparing for possible future, harder times:

There was no money.  For a few years before 1920 Grandpa Robert had been a successful cotton farmer and had put away his profits in the local First National Bank.  But after boll weevils hit Texas, the soil was depleted and cotton prices plunged, he had to move on to other pursuits.  My uncles often said the only time they ever saw Grandpa cry was when the bank went bust during the run of 1929.  He had been standing in a long line of farmers and townspeople for several hours before the announcement was made that the bank was finished.  On the other hand, I believe the bank still held a partially unpaid loan on his 87-acre farm which he and Grandma had bought in 1914 for $500.  LESSON: Be flexible, and don’t count on the bank.

It was actually Grandma who made the deal for the farm, as when they looked at it only a quarter of a mile from their rented farm, Grandpa said it was too expensive, and he would not borrow the additional money to buy it.  But Grandma knew the potential the land possessed.  So after Grandpa left for a long day in the fields, Grandma walked back to the owner’s house and cut the deal.   When Grandpa came home that night, he was surprised, but pleased at the same time.  LESSON: A woman’s intuition and business savvy is a valuable asset.

I am not sure how, but the bank did not foreclose on that farm during the lean years and Grandpa at least paid the taxes religiously.  Grandpa always said, “If you pick up all the pecans each year, you can at least pay your taxes.”  And if the money was not plentiful, what the family had went to pay their obligations. The bank president reportedly told him, “Robert, just do the best you can.”  And he did.  LESSON: Be careful to preserve and conserve every resource.

The family of 9, with 5 boys and 2 girls was flexible if anything.  When the railroad started buying coal from a small mining operation in the town 4 miles away, they found that the miners needed props and caps to keep the shafts open.  The woods in their bottomland became the source of materials for a small new industry: sturdy young willow trees, cut to order, became prop timbers, and flat sections of cottonwood trees, cut like cedar shakes were the caps.  These were delivered by wagon and mules and later with their used Model T dump truck. Unfortunate in the early 1930s the railroad converted from coal to oil fired locomotives and the prop and cap business ended.  LESSON: Find out what others need and provide it.  But don’t count on it lasting forever.

Grandpa always had two teams of mules as well a few working horses.  These were critical to plowing, cultivating, and harvesting as well as other pulling chores.  When the dirt road into town got wet, and the nearby clay hill was impossible for the automobiles to climb, the boys were always ready to give a pull with a team of mules, day or night.  LESSON: Animal power multiplies human power and sometimes is better than mechanical power.

Their bottomland held another treasure: sand and gravel.  Grandpa and his brother had a conveniently located sand pit, near a road and could dig sand and gravel by shovel.   They could deliver it to most any construction site in the county.  When one of my uncles wanted to go to college, Grandpa traded sand and gravel to the local college for tuition, instead of cash.  The college used the sand and gravel to build a rock wall around the football field so they could enforce admission fees at the games.  You see, Texas football has always been a popular sport and the college knew it was losing a lot of revenue by letting the fans stand outside and watch thru the wire fence.   LESSON: Think outside the box; when possible find ways to barter for what you really need.

Corn was always a staple crop for the family, the first among several important plantings.  Down in the fertile bottomland a harvest of the dried ears of corn were said to be able to fill a whole wagon with the produce from only one row of corn.  The corn was carefully stored away in the corn crib and used as needed all year long.  One of my uncles was often designated to periodically pull out some corn, shell it in the hand-cranked sheller, and then sack it up in two equal bags.  The bags were lashed together by rope and thrown over the rear of the mule.  Then he rode the mule into town to have the corn ground into meal at the store.  The miller kept a portion for his trouble, and my uncle rode the mule back home with the corn meal.  This corn became the basis for a week or more of meals of cornbread and beans, the main fare for the whole family.  Sweet corn could also be cooked, then cut off the cob and dehydrated in the sun in a day or two.  Stored completely dry in canning jars, when reconstituted and cooked it was a delicious treat.  LESSON:  Corn can keep you alive; it must be the first among survival grains.
Grandma must have been an efficiency genius.  She always had a pot of beans on the back of the stove.   Unlike many of their city cousins, the family seemed to always have enough food to get by.  The relatives from the bigger towns would come out to the farm on weekends to visit, eat and to stock up on the abundance.  LESSON: You can survive indefinitely on cornbread and beans, and if you have food, your relatives will want to visit often!

Christian charity was always a part of our family values, and it was particularly applicable to any extended family in need.  No passing stranger was refused a meal. And in a couple of instances young men in their teens with no family stayed on for a year or two, working, eating and sleeping like one of the brothers.  LESSON:  Alliances and charity are okay, but everybody must work.

| My uncles were good hunters always seeming to know which woods contained a few squirrels, an opossum or raccoon; additionally they always seemed to know when certain landowners were away from their property.  The family joke was that a boy would be given one cartridge for the single shot .22 caliber rifle, and the family would be disappointed if he came home with anything less than two squirrels.  My dad knew how to get a squirrel out of a hollow in a tree by climbing the tree and using a length of barbed wire stuck in the hole and rotated around and around.  The hunters from town always gave him a nickel or a dime for climbing the tree to help them get their squirrel.  LESSON:  Hunting is a skill that must be developed, but there are other ways to get game besides shooting it.

Canning was an important skill practiced anytime there was excess.  The garden produced large quantities of beans, peaches, and other fruits and vegetables.  The dug storm cellar just outside the back door was always packed with jars of fruit preserves, jellies, jams, and vegetables.  When the wild plums on a nearby place became ripe, the neighbors sent word that the joint harvest could begin.  Half gallon canning jars were helpful when feeding a family of 9 or 10.  Canning a batch of 50 or more jars (quart and half gallon) of each commodity was not uncommon. Used sparingly it could last until spring. LESSON: Use all food sources available and think big if you have a lot of mouths to feed.     

Things were different back then.  When times were hard they just “made do with what you had” and or did without.  Shoes were for school and church only.  When possible barefoot was the order of the day.  After shoes were well used, they were re-heeled and re-soled.  Family members handed down clothes and shoes to younger members as a matter of course.  Without electricity kerosene lanterns had to suffice.  Fire wood had to be kept split and dry.  Kindling was critical.  A smoke house was essential for preserving pork.  Butchering hogs was almost always in November and December.   Apple butter made in the fall can last all winter in 1 gallon crock jars.   And it tastes great on bread, toast, hot cakes, buckwheat cakes, etc.  Unlike regular flour pancakes, making buckwheat cakes requires a bit of yeast. But once it is started, more buckwheat flour can be added daily and the yeast will keep multiplying.   LESSON:  Make do and work hard.

Baths were for Saturday so you would be clean for church.  Outside showers were standard as long as the weather permitted.  Well water was for drinking so a swim in the nearby stock pond or down in the creek often substituted for a real bath.  Fishing was an important skill essential for providing supplements for much needed protein and vitamins.  An outhouse was standard for the family with both white and red corn cobs being carefully conserved to use in place of toilet paper.   LESSON:  Living well does not have to mean living in convenience and luxury. 

Nobody wants to return to the challenging times of a hundred years ago, but living the survival life is a challenge that can be mastered.  To be prepared we must study, practice and preserve the knowledge used by our predecessors and be willing to innovate, working and praying constantly. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

I spent three years working through college as part of several emergency response teams dealing with hazardous materials (Hazmat) containment and cleanup.  There are simple lessons that can help prepare for various emergencies and materials that might be encountered.  This is not a do-it-yourself type of endeavor nor is it safe unless you are properly trained, equipped and monitored.  Safety is most important and your responsibility: Never put yourself or others in danger when a substance or environment is unknown or dangerous.  Take basic precautions and obtain all information about any potentially dangerous materials you may encounter or store as part of your preparations.  Some of my experiences have given me a lot to consider in my emergency preparations and hopefully will be of interest to others.  

Almost any material you might store or encounter around you will have a data sheet available providing details on each substance, their health risks, precautions, and basic instructions on how to deal with it.  These Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are also available online for free.  As part of your personal or family preparation, create a list of all potentially hazardous materials and gather their MSDS.  Study them.  Businesses must have MSDS on hand ready access and display placards of other regulated materials.  Become familiar with those materials you will likely encounter.  It is also worthwhile to collect MSDS for materials manufactured in your area that you might encounter in an emergency.  

Another important step is to do a site assessment of your home or site, to determine what potential hazardous materials are around.  Some suggestions may include old mining sites (especially in the western US), railroad tracks, highways or interstates, old manufacturing sites, steel mills, regional chemical plants, power lines, and especially pipelines.  All of these pose risk of chemical spills or contamination and should be considered.  Each county will have records as will the BLM or even the EPA to help you determine any possible risk.  Often I was called on to assist law enforcement when unknown chemicals were discovered along highways or in public places – often with drug paraphernalia.  Any main highway or roadway that connects large populations will have drug or other harmful chemicals discarded at rest areas, parking lots, or on-ramps.  

A simple list of personal protective equipment (PPE) can go a long way for basic hazmat needs.  These should include latex gloves, heavy PVC gloves, PVC boots (preferably with steel toes and shanks), Tyvek coveralls, and of course duct tape.  Eye, face, and skin protection such as safety glasses, goggles, or splash shields are good to have on-hand.  90% of our professional hazmat PPE consisted of these items.  The Tyvek suits are readily available, and I recommend getting the ones with booties on them.  Duct tape works well to reinforce knees and other locations from tearing easily.  The Tyvek was adequate for all dry materials we worked with, and a coverall jumpsuit can be found on eBay for about $7 each.  

If you have the need or availability, a good heavy PVC coverall and full-face respirator are also valuable for more difficult hazmat situations.  The PVC coverall works well for oil or petroleum materials.  For dirty cleanup we would wear latex gloves taped and sealed to a Tyvek suit, then put on the PVC coverall and heavy gloves and boots.  Again we would use duct tape to seal our gloves and boots to the PVC suit.  The hood of the PVC suit was also sealed with duct tape to our respirator or air mask during difficult or dirty work.  Our respirators of choice were full-faced masks by MSA which used dual filter canisters, and are easily available from mine safety sources.  The most common cartridges used for these masks were “Combination Cartridges” that were used for Organic vapors, Acid gases, and particulates.  Petroleum products, acids, and any wet materials required the PVC protection in our work.    

Full-face masks are common on eBay for under $100, and cartridges run about $5 each.  Whenever PPE is used to clean up materials, always dispose of the PPE with the hazardous material – never reuse contaminated PPE!   Mine tailings with heavy metal contamination is an invisible risk.  A friend was renting and trying to purchase a beautiful piece of property with a large shop on it and later discovered that a small manufacturer had used the site for casting lead bullets.  Most of the site was contaminated with lead in various forms to depths of up to 3 feet deep.  This posed significant risk to his plans for a garden and young children.  Many cleanup sites in the western US I’ve worked on consisted of replacing all exposed dirt and topsoil with several feet of ‘clean’ dirt.  Most of the contamination of these sites was capped by simply covering the bad dirt with a foot of clean soil.  When performing cleanup of heavy metal or mine tailings, we typically did not require protective breathing gear such as respirators if we could keep dust under control with water spray.  Our PPE was simply Tyvek suits to keep dirt contamination off our clothes.   Many counties will provide testing options for your soil, and if you find information that leads you to believe there may be a hazardous material, it would be best to document your findings and seek some lab testing.  With conclusive results you can then work to address or evacuate the area of concern well before your plans depend on the location.

I spent several months cleaning up radioactive materials at a Manhattan Project site – including contaminated dirt, cinder block walls, and underground pipes.  Our PPE was the Tyvek jump suits and respirators when needed.  Most of the time we did not require the respirators when the dust and dirt could be adequately suppressed by water spray.  We were constantly monitored by safety personnel with Geiger counters and air monitors, so this may be a tricky situation to call in a personal situation.  One day we were called outside to a grassy lawn that tested for low-level radiation.  The day was warm and sunny, so we kept a spray hose on the dirt as we loaded our wheelbarrow which kept the dust down, allowing us to work without respirators.  As we dug deeper, the soil became more and more radioactive.  After we had dug two feet, the Geiger counter was “lighting up” and we nervously put on our masks even though there was no dust.  Then, my shovel struck something and I reached into the hole, pulling out a very radioactive asbestos tile.  I was very glad to have my mask on!  A whole pile of these tiles had been buried out in the yard of this government campus, years earlier.  

Asbestos is another material we wore Tyvek suits with respirators to clean up in various buildings and ships.  Whenever asbestos is encountered, always vacate the area and allow professionals to deal with this material.  It is not safe nor is it legal to clean up on your own.  If you may encounter it, especially in older buildings, get more information on what to look for so you are aware of it.  It is best not to disturb it at all.   Acids are another hazmat you might encounter – especially if you have vehicle batteries around in your inventory.  While often not requiring breathing protection, eye, face, and skin protection are important.  If you have batteries, solvents, citric acid (for food preserving) I’d also recommend keeping baking soda and water near by.  Make sure you know what you need and have it close.  For most typical acids the soda and water will adequately neutralize any spills.  Another suggestion is to buy some simple PH test strips from a pool or hot tub supply store.  These strips are great for a quick check to see if acid is leaking or has been neutralized.  

Another common hazmat category would be explosives.  Gunpowder is usually stable and safe when stored properly.  I’ve responded to several sites where old Tovex or “Minerite” sticks were discovered.  Tovex is a modern replacement of dynamite and is much more stable and safe than dynamite.  Numerous federal, state, and county permits are required to transport this material, so engagement with appropriate authorities is necessary.  Ammonium nitrate (AN) is the main ingredient in most varieties of Tovex. It is still commonly available in agriculture or mining.  One response I participated in was for a semi-truck which was hauling a load of AN when it crashed into a mountain stream in a winding, mountainous canyon.  The trailer split open, spilling most of the AN load into the swift water.  The AN settled in pockets of thick, pink paste at the bottom of the river.  We used a vacuum truck to extricate the AN from the river bottom where we could.  It was easy to handle but sticky.  Since it is a fertilizer, our cleanup was not for safety but for the cosmetics of the fishing stream.  The recovered AN was interned at the local landfill.  When the trailer was removed from the river, we wiped the AN off with thick absorbent pads, which resembled thick paper towels of cotton.  These absorbent pads also worked well with oils and petroleum materials.  I’d recommend keeping a bundle of these pads available for an emergency as they are handy for many uses.  

Water reactants are a very dangerous and scary material to deal with in an emergency, and any risk or exposure to them should be identified well before it starts to rain.  Water reactants are chemicals that react to water itself, often very violently.  Though not common, they are serious and should never be dealt with except by professionals.  Indulge me in one story that may not have direct value to emergency prep which is vivid in my memory.   Late one night we got a call from the local fire department of a fire at a small chemical plant.  The firefighters, upon entering the building, discovered a large quantity of old, crystallized picric acid – very explosive with water or mechanical vibrations (i.e. shock).  The firefighters backed out, called us, and then performed fire suppression while we carefully carried the containers out to the police bomb trailer for later disposal.  As we were removing the acid, we noticed one of the burning walls had a small, hidden room with several weapons inside.  In less than 15 minutes, we had BATF agents escorting us and the firemen as we finished removing the acid and began removing the guns, cocaine, and other ‘evidence’ while the building burned around us.  That was a really exciting night for a young college student!  Apparently the ATF was already watching the place, and the cache of hidden guns was enough for them to pursue it further.   

If you have explosive materials such as gun powder, fuels, or fertilizers in your area, one suggestion would be to protect those materials with sandbags and concrete blocks.  Do not stack materials on the hazmat materials, but form blast walls in layers that will give protection in the event of a detonation.  Fuel vapors are very dangerous and will travel so learn of and take precautions.  It is beyond the scope of this discussion to give details, but take the time to ensure you are safe and legal.   Liquid mercury is another hazmat material we ran across often in my work.  Though not common it is still around in most communities and should be handled with minimal exposure.  Mercury vapor is the most serious threat.  Vaporized mercury can enter through your lungs and collect in your blood.  In our cleanup we used special vacuums with HEPA filters to keep vapor out of the air and always wore respirators with appropriate filters.  

We were called one day to a large warehouse where someone had shipped a quart jar full of liquid mercury.  The jar had broken, spilling material all over the shipping van, the parking lot, and pools were spread throughout the inside of the warehouse.  Our PPE was Tyvek suits, respirators, and heavy PVC boots and gloves.  We entered the warehouse (where work was continuing as normal) and found a young woman trying to help the company by using a common shop-vac, standing in the pools in her tennis shoes trying to vacuum up the mercury.  We had our masks on and quickly shut off the shop-vac, which was spraying mercury vapor into the air, and sent the young woman to the hospital.  I never heard about what happened with the young woman.  

Pipeline accidents seem to becoming more common in the news.  Please be well aware of any pipelines in your area of interest.  Neighborhoods are crisscrossed with gas lines in many residential areas.  One summer while removing neighborhood yards because of heavy metal contamination from an area steel mill, we found many houses where the gas lines were not buried sufficiently or where the gas company said they were buried.  We dug many of the gas lines up with our backhoe, and after a while provided our own first response to a cut gas line.  Most new gas lines are plastic “poly” line of 1 to 2” in diameter, and when cut by a backhoe blade, we would simply bend the broken end of the pipe over itself, crimping the end shut.  Then with duct tape or bailing wire we would tie the pipe end to itself, keeping the leak crimped closed on its own while we evacuated the home and waited for the gas company to respond.   In an emergency break, crimping the line will save valuable time and risk to the area.  If we couldn’t get a good crimp, or those times when the gas pipe was older metal, we got everyone evacuated a safe distance as soon as possible.  

Besides pipelines, railroad tracks are one of my personal concerns.  Many of my Hazmat calls were to respond to railroad accidents throughout the western states, and any railroad accident is a serious accident.  It is amazing the amount and variety of chemicals that are shipped daily around the US.  In the event of a railroad crash, toxic gases could be released and force evacuations.  Evacuation routes themselves are often affected by the crash.  The local environment and groundwater can also be at risk.  The good news regarding a railroad issue is that they typically are responded to quickly and effectively because any closure to the track line can cause serious financial losses.   Two coal trains collided in the canyon of a western state.  Fortunately no one was hurt.  Two of the engines derailed (along with many empty coal cars) and their diesel tanks ruptured, posing a threat to the water supply of 50,000 people.  The clay soil sealed the fuel tanks where they sat, giving the railroad time to repair and open the tracks.  Finally, two cranes hoisted the engines up, allowing us to capture and remove the fuel before it could get to the water supply.  My personal feeling is to stay 25 miles (and upwind) from track lines, and check on possible impacts a spill of any type might pose.  

Sometimes even a harmless spill of corn in a railroad incident can have dangerous effects.  In the remote mountains of Montana several cars of feed corn were derailed.  No other dangerous materials were on the train, so our response ended quickly.  About a week later, however, the feed corn had gone sour and attracted two black bears, which became quite attached to their lucky stash of sour mash and caused some problems with the cleanup crew and locals.  I was told that the Fish and Game Department had to intervene for the work to complete.   Petroleum spills are the hazmat materials most people will be exposed to.  Most of these items are extremely and violently explosive in gaseous form, so any potential risk of gas you must get away!  This goes without saying but is worth stressing again.  For most heavy weight oil spills, we would use Tyvek suits underneath an outer PVC suit, with gloves and boots.  Having several large bags of absorbent clay granules (Kitty Litter is great) is very helpful, as are the absorbent pads mentioned previously.  I’d also suggest some industrial strength citric cleaner that is readily available and works great to clean up.  Some times we’d be called to clean up drums of vegetable oil, and other times it would be 90-weight petroleum oils.  All of them were easy to clean up in warm weather, but thickened up in colder weather and required a lot of scraping.  Another suggestion if you have large quantities of heavier oil is to place several feet of gravel underneath.  In the event of a spill the gravel holds the oil well, easing the cleanup effort.   Hydrocarbons also pose an explosive risk when temperatures and vapor / oxygen levels are at sufficient levels.  Most of our cleanup equipment was specialized for explosive environments, including sealed light sources and brass hand-tools to eliminate spark sources.   

Many gas stations or places where vehicles are frequently located can become contaminated with even small amounts of hydrocarbons.  When these oils get into the soil, they can contaminate the ground and groundwater badly.  As the groundwater travels along streams, or as the water table rises or falls in the soil, these oils are spread upwards and downwards as they ride on the top of the water, contaminating many feet of soil when “pushed” up.  It is worth considering this as you evaluate your location in proximity to gasoline sources.   One job was running test wells at a heavily contaminated gas station.  Several buried gas tanks had leaked for years, contaminating the soil for many yards around the gas station itself.  As part of our work to monitor the cleanup, we had several test wells dug in the area and were pumping ground water out into large tanks where we could test the water for the amount of hydrocarbons present in each well.  All of the test water was contaminated and had to be treated before we could dispose of it.  

Our water treatment for this contaminated water consisted of three 55-gallon drums full of “activated” charcoal plumbed in-series together and gravity fed out of the holding tanks.  Activated charcoal is very porous or powdered to give it a high surface area for exposure.  The gasoline tainted water simply ran out of the tanks, into the top of the first barrel, out of the bottom of the first barrel into the top of the second barrel, and so forth.  Finally, when it emerged from the last barrel it ran out into the street.  We continually monitored the exiting water for any signs of contamination.  All of the water – even the last few gallons from the tank were “clean enough to drink” after running through the charcoal.  We processed more than 12,000 gallons through those three drums.  I was really impressed with the ability of the charcoal to cleanup the gasoline.  I don’t recall what amount of gas was originally in the water.  This experience has been great food for thought over the years.  

Industrial sites have a wide variety of solvents and hazardous chemicals.  Food processing sites also have a fair share of dangerous materials, including ammonia and acids.  Late one evening a coolant line busted at a frozen seafood warehouse leaking ammonia throughout the freezer area.  Much of the downtown city block around the warehouse was evacuated for more than two days while we cleaned up the spill.  Ammonia is a very powerful material and surprisingly difficult to deal with.  All seafood and ice in the warehouse was contaminated by the strong gas and had to be thrown out.  Less than 100 gallons was spilled, but contaminated more than 80,000 square feet of storage and hundreds of tons of food, not to mention all the other buildings around the vicinity.  While using steam cleaners in our efforts, our respirator cartridges would quickly fill and clog up with the steam if we weren’t careful so keep in mind the environment breathing PPE will be used in.  

One last story to share that hopefully will help someone else avoid a painful lesson.  One emergency response I was called into was to clean out a hotel room where a couple of drug fiends had taken an undercover police officer hostage in a bust-gone-bad.  Long story short- a lot of teargas was used to resolve the situation.  So much tear gas that when we entered the room, gas droplets pooled up at our feet in the carpet.  The room had to be gutted, and when the cleanup was over we were told to dispose of all of our PPE – including our respirators.  I was quite fond of my closest facial friend, and thought I would try cleaning it off instead.  The lesson I learned was that water does not wash off tear gas – it just spreads it… all over the rest of the mask.  Putting on a contaminated mask is not pleasant except to the others working with you to get a good laugh out of.  Lesson learned and I got rid of my old mask for a new, cleaner friend.   Decontamination (Decon) of equipment and yourself after a cleanup incident is as important as containment of the original spill.  Take time to plan out your exit strategy and ensure your PPE does not spread the contaminant outside of the containment area.  We used travel trailers with front and rear exit doors to allow us to Decon at one end of the trailer, shower inside, and exit the rear of the trailer in the clean zone of the site.  All work was done in pairs with multiple support people monitoring us at various distances.  While we did occasionally run out of supplied air and some minor injuries, I never encountered any other serious situations because of the redundancy and attentive care. 

Only one incident of contamination is worth noting that required first aid.  I was inside 10,000 gallon tanks cleaning them for old Chromic acid contamination.  Again, because of the steam, I was required to frequently exit the tank for my respirator cartridges to be replaced.  While having my cartridges replaced, the acid slurry was deep enough to enter the top of my boot through the duct tape seal as I knelt at the tank's opening.  I immediately noticed the irritation and quickly exited the tanks and PPE, quickly washing my leg in clean water that was on-hand for just such a situation.  My injuries were minimal and required very little first aid, because of the planning and quick action.  

Finally, the most important suggestion I can make to someone regarding Hazmat cleanup is don’t do it!  Don’t mess with any of these materials, and if you believe you have discovered something potentially dangerous, get everyone away and notify authorities.  In many situations we have may have no choice but to do something this may give you something to think about for your own preparations.  As professionals we had extensive training, re-training, safety monitoring, regular blood work to monitor for exposure, and more training.  The best way to deal with hazmat materials is bug-out and get to a safer location.  That will keep you safe, and that will keep you legal.  Hopefully some of these ideas and experiences I’ve shared will help you do both.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Good Morning;
My wife and I were once again looking at our list of to-do’s in our quest to prepare. I was looking at the list and noticed she wanted to find a wash tub that we could bathe in. Fortunately we live about one hundred feet from a year round creek and water will not be a issue. I started looking around  the house and my eyes fell on the woodstove and the 2.5 gallon water tank on the side. Now that water gets very warm obviously and I thought ok well that solves the hot water problem. Well, wait a minute. That is only 2.5 gallons out of about 10. Dang! I asked her why we couldn’t use the regular bathtub and she said “What if there is no water and it would be a lot of work to haul water back and forth”. Well that’s reasonable. So as I was taking a shower the next day I looked up and I got my one idea a year. I went out to the trailer that holds all my camping equipment. I grabbed our Solar Shower and filled it up and then placed it by the woodstove. It heated up within an hour to a temperature that was good for showers. I thought to myself that worked well. I then went into the attic space and reinforced the ceiling above the bathtub. I mounted a 4x4 post to the rafters and then placed a large eyehook into the 4x4. The eyehook extends down about 5 inches from the ceiling.  I placed the bag on the hook and it worked great. I bought three 2.5 gallon bag showers and then three 5 gallon bag showers. With those on hand, we will have no problem with bathing now.     Thanks, - David W.

JWR Replies: Solar shower bags are a very good suggestion. FWIW, when I spent some time in a small back-country hunting cabin that had spring-fed running water but that didn't have hot water coils in the stove, I simply put every large pot and kettle on the stove and heated them to near a boil. Then I positioned a large wash bucket (aka "gut bucket") next to the stove. I decided to use it right there rather than back in the bathroom, to minimize the distance that I would be carrying containers of scalding hot water. The air temperature was also more comfortable, close to the stove! By starting with a couple of gallons of cold water in the gut bucket and adding the hot water, I was able to achieve perfect bathtub temperature. A crouching position seemed to work best. (A 60 gallon galvanized stock tank would have been more comfortable, but I was "making do.") After each bath, I used a 25-foot garden hose the siphon the water out the front door, and down hill a short distance. That way I didn't have to bail out the tub and carry any buckets or pans.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Many US military personal who serve on an isolated duty station, in effect live off grid.  For example I was in the U.S. Coast Guard and stationed at Cape Sarichef, Alaska for a year. [It is at the end of Unimak Island.]          

We had three large Caterpillar generators.  We got our water from a reservoir that was filled from mountain runoff.  I would go the reservoir when needed and start a small hand pull pump (during the winter could take almost 30 minutes to get started.) This would pump the water along a buried pipe line, with evenly spaced vents (to let the air out).  

We had a fuel farm.  Our heating was via two #2 diesel fueled boilers.  All heating equipment and almost all the vehicles ran on diesel fuel. We got our water pressure from a 5,000 gallon water tank on a hill above the station.

There was a septic tank and dispersal field.  Which seemed to work just fine in the bitterly cold winter, which surprised me.  We got most of our supplies via a Coast Guard C-130 once a month.  We had a runway constructed of volcanic ash and stone.  There was also a World War II runway about a two-hour drive away.  

If we were to have gotten stuck there with no re-supply we would have been in trouble for heat once the diesel ran out.  There are no trees on that island.  We had an incinerator and a dump for anything that could not be burned.  

The only way on or off the island was by air plane or helicopter.  Other than having some way to provide heat in the winter that would be the perfect place to live.  There were caribou, moose, whistle pigs [groundhogs], red foxes, seals, and a pack of feral Alaskan huskies. There were brown bears there, too.  

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I have read many of the stories on survival blog but have yet to read a one from someone on a very tight budget. That leaves those of us with tiny incomes at a disadvantage and feeling vulnerable. For about two years I have had a small voice inside me telling me to fill my storehouses with food for the coming famine. As a Christian and minister I believe that voice is God and He wants His people to be ready. Although Many Christians think we are crazy and don’t believe they should have to worry about storing foods for times of famine because they are sure God will provide for them. One pastor told me that God wasn’t telling her to prepare so someone else must be going to prepare their food for them. I pray she is right but felt God had me pass on the information to her.

My husband and I are both disabled and live on a modest $20,000 a year. Late last year we moved out of our double-wide mobile home and let one of our sons take over the payments and move in. We moved to the other end of the two acre property to care for my husband's parents who both have COPD. He does all the driving to get them to their many appointments as well as takes care of their home and property. We live in a 16x20 shop building that we are slowly turning into a cottage. We have put in a bathroom with sink and toilet but need a little more room to put in the tub and shower. We are planning a tiny kitchen this spring and a built-in porch for extra storage. We gave away most of everything we had to make this move. Now we understand more of why we felt so strong about getting out from under the payments of the double wide.

When we lived in the mobile home we had nothing left for food or groceries each month. We were lucky to be able to buy our meds. Of course we are still spending a lot each month on things for the cottage and still have to watch our pennies. The crazy thing is that we did have chickens, goats and pigs to breed and sell. Unfortunately my husband got sick with an intestinal parasite that was eating away at his insides. The health department told us that most people don’t realize they have this until it is too late and they die. We traded our animals for an RV that is worth three times more than the animals were. We are planning to add some chickens this spring though. We had more animals than we could afford to feed through the winter before. We know to be careful to not let that happen again.

We started working on the existing root cellar when we had a couple of warm days. It is small and very wet with a sheet metal door that wouldn’t hold up to a big storm if we needed it to. We cleared the cement roof and plan to seal it and the build a shed on top of it for extra storage. We plan to use as much used materials as we can to keep costs down. We have to clean out all the old jars of food with rusty tops and clean, dry and seal the inside to get it ready for new shelving and stored home canned food from the garden as well as from the grocery and club store.  Once we finish that, we are planning to find someone to dig out a new storm shelter beside it. We are sure there is a neighbor that will charge a minimal fee to dig it for us. We also have one that plows our garden at no charge.

We plan to have the new shelter dug much deeper and as large as we can get away with in the place it is. After much research into earth bag building and other inexpensive types of building materials, we settled on cinder block walls with double thickness and with plenty of inside walls to help hold up a foot of concrete of roof on top of it. After our research, we found that the price of the cinder blocks was much more affordable than any of the other materials we looked at. We will seal up the concrete walls, floor, and roof to help keep it dry and tight inside. Before we back fill all the dirt on top and around our new constructed cellar, we will place thick plastic around the walls and roof as an extra moisture barrier. We are looking at the possibility of building an underground home here instead of just a shelter from the storms. With the heat waves we had last summer, we feel that it will be much easier to keep cool than the above ground cottage we are in now.

We will make two ways to enter and leave the new cellar, with both of them hidden to keep us safer in times of social upheaval since we live just outside the city limits. Inside the new shelter we will build plenty of bunks for the family that will join us when the time is at hand. None of which is very far away. In each bunk we will place egg crate mattress toppers with bedding sealed in space bags until they are needed. The bathroom will have a shower and at least two porta potties for back-up. We already have one. We hope to actually put in a septic system below the bathroom so we can use RV toilets when we can afford to add them. We plan to make a kitchen area as well as a living area and large pantry. We will also add a battery room for when we can add solar power. In this room we hope to have a place for freezers and a fridge that will run off of a low circuit. Not sure yet if this is possible. [JWR Adds: See the SurvivalBlog archives--search on "phototvoltaic" for details.] We did find some affordable solar power kits on This was awesome news for us get before we even start the building.

Our large pantry will house plenty of food as well as medicine and wipes for washing up. We will also stock up on plenty of seeds for replanting the garden as soon as it is feasible. Although we would sell this place when his parents are gone and find a retreat that is more secluded, we feel that getting started now is very important. If we sell later, it will be worth more money that will help pay for what is needed for the new location. We never know how much time we will have to rebuild if we sell out. We don’t want to be caught without a place to keep us from harms way if the worst case scenario should actually happen.  We plan to do a lot of fishing this year so we can have lots of fish in the freezer. We are working on a couple ways of double sealing frozen products to keep them from getting freezer burnt and make them last longer.

We are planning to check out our locale army surplus store and see what is available to add to our preparedness. We have no guns or ammo as yet, and don’t know when or how we can add the grinders, expensive water filters or the solar power we will need. We do have a large construction grade gas generator that has come in handy when the power was down for an ice storm in 2009. We were prepared to use it again this year but so far haven’t needed it. We do have our eyes on a propane generator but the price is so far out of our reach. We at least can put in the wiring for solar electricity while we are building. I would love to have the plans to build the stationary bike charger though. If anyone wants to send them along to the blog for all who want to use it. We like having something to look at as we read plans for putting something together though. If there are any resources out there, please let us know.

We have already started on the food storage and will need to find a cool dry place for the five gallon buckets to be stored soon. We are also considering a couple other places on the property to place small cement block dry storage areas for extra food storage. We want to add some how-to books to our library on home canning, animal husbandry, storing food and water safely, and anything else we feel will be useful in any situation when we need to supply our own food completely, in the event that we can’t buy it. We are interested in special growing lights and are thinking about putting in an extra room for this.  

In a pinch, we can sell the motor home and some gold jewelry for the more expensive things we need. We are hoping to have some extra veggies to sell this year as well for a little extra cash. We are also looking into buying some produce and reselling at a fair market value for extra cash and to help others who can’t afford grocery store prices with inflation. Thanks to the person who wrote about buying from produce sources and reselling, we feel this will be a big help to us and any customers we can bring in.

In preparation for the coming hard times, we are also losing weight and doing what we can to eat healthier so we can be more physically fit. We have made some very important lifestyle changes in the last few months and have endured some jabs from family members about living in a shed and such. If they only knew what was coming!  After talking with our sons here and there, we have actually seen that they are more receptive because of the changes in the weather affecting our food supply. My mother has been ready for this for some time. People who watch the news and see what is actually going on the world can see that change is coming. Even if all that is ever affected is the weather going crazy and affecting our food supply, then at least we will be ready for that. However, this is not all that I expect to see happen in our very near future.

Another thing I find that is relevant to this blog and feel that your subscribers would want to know, is that many of the Christians we know have had visions and dreams of the coming famine and destruction of our country. I have not met one that can put a time on this happening, but believe we can look at God's word as guidance to help us get prepared for what is coming, no matter when it arrives. My own visions have been of devastating destruction throughout the United States. Famine and sickness abound in those that survive. Many Christians don’t understand the need for being prepared since they plan to be "raptured" or taken care of by God Himself. If you are a Christian and are reading this, I pray you will see this as a warning from God to be prepared before it is too late and food is too high to afford, or it is completely removed from our grasp. It is important to trust that God will help you in your time of need, but you also need to be listening when He is speaking to you--even if He is speaking through someone else. Pray about what your hearing or seeing instead of letting religion keep you from being prepared for the famine that is coming our way very soon. We can all see clearly the signs of the times and know in our hearts that something big is coming our way. Be ready.

Survival is bred into many of us, but at the same time, others have to learn it. My husband and I grew up working in the family gardens and raising chickens and other stock. We have a leg up compared to some. Of course we are looking forward to learning to can food from the garden this year as well as learn to safely dry foods and pack them in a way they will stay fresh for at least a year’s time. We also are planning to work on water tanks that will be just under the surface to collect rainwater which will have pipes that run down to the bathroom and kitchen as needed. We will also look into different methods of filtering the water to make it drinkable and usable for cooking.

As yet we haven’t planned to put any gas tanks underground but are trying to at least keep our tank filled in case there is a shortage sooner that we expect. We get great gas mileage in our older car and will pay it off this year and that will give us a couple hundred dollars extra each month to work with. We will be ready for TEOTWAWKI no matter when it comes. I pray others begin to open their eyes to what is happening around the world and how it will affect us. In doing so, they will then see the need to have extra food on hand for those times when the store shelves are empty and no food can be bought. I pray they also see the same need for water storage as well as medicines and other necessities.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dear Sir,
After reading A Tale of Two Hurricanes by N.D., I thought I would share some lessons that my family and I learned from Hurricane Ike. First off, I became turned onto the prepping mindset about a year and a half ago. I have been trying to get my father thinking in this mindset and he recently read "One Second After" by William R. Forstchen which seems to have truly sparked something inside him. I plan to let him read my copy of your novel "Patriots" as well.

Well we live in the “country” northwest of Houston. Most people remembered all the hoopla about hurricane Rita and how that turned out to be nothing but an inconvenience and a stress headache. All of our neighbors had no thoughts of evacuating and getting stuck in the traffic from Houston, they just stocked up on a few provisions and called it good. My family did the same thing. We got a couple of cases of water but not much else. We have always had a well stocked pantry with what I believe to be a month or two of food at full rations so there wasn’t any worry of starving.

We prepped our property for the high winds by borrowing some sheets of plywood from a neighbor to cover our windows to protect them from flying debris. Dad used the storm as an excuse to cut down some trees that he had wanted to get rid of. We took out a very large one that could have removed half of our house including my bedroom if it were to come down during the storm. Then we cleaned everything out from under the stairs so we could cram in there in case there was a significant threat of a tornado hitting us. (Stairs are usually the most framed part of a house and thus the most structurally sound place to be in case of a tornado, in less you have a basement.) We were “all set” for what was sure to be a disappointing storm.

Hurricane Ike made landfall on Galveston Island at a little past 2 a.m. on September 13th, 2008 as a strong category 2. In most cases a category 2 hurricane would not be considered too bad for someone who has gone thru some of the weaker storms like Rita. However Ike was different. Looking at the radar, it seemed to take up most of the Gulf and had a strong eye. The storm didn’t really hit us until the early morning hours but the eye came within 9 miles of our house. I woke many times to lightning and the roof creaking. That morning the sky had a greenish color and the wind was still blowing the rain almost sideways. A quick look outside revealed about a dozen trees had blown over or lost large limbs. Our entire neighborhood was without power.

 After the storm calmed down, we went out for a drive to survey the damage in our community. Every one of our neighbors had trees down and almost half of them had some sort of roof damage. There were trees that had taken out the power lines and fallen unto the roads making them impassable. Luckily there were some good samaritans out with their chainsaws clearing the roads enough so cars could pass one at a time. The entire town was without power and the gas station up the road had the covers blown off of the pumps and had sustained damage.
Living without power was not too bad for us. We just pulled out the Coleman stove and lantern from my Boy Scout days and got to work clearing the damage. My Mom however was not very happy. Even though it was much cooler than it usually was at that time of year, the 80 degrees, humidity, and the lack of power and communication with the outside world was more than she wanted to stand. After the first night she took off to my older sister’s house about an hour inland to stay with her. She came back the following day to bring us a little 1,500 watt Honda generator and about 5 gallons of gas. The generator had just enough power and fuel to keep the contents of our refrigerator cool.

My dad sent me out with four 5-gallon gas cans and told me to find someplace to fill them up. I drove my truck to the next town and found that the grocery store’s gas station had gas but even more importantly they had power. Most gas stations had thousands of gallons but no way to get it out of the underground tanks. There was a line on every pump about 50 cars long when I arrived. It took three hours for me to make it up to the pump where there was police officers posted to obviously keep everything in order.  Lucky there was not a ration in place so I was able to fill up all the cans and my truck. As I left the lines were around 200 cars long and things were beginning to get tense as pumps shut down [due to depleted tanks] from such rapid use. I passed several other gas stations on my way home and they were rationing gas to 5 or 10 gallons with just as many cars lined up. When I finally made it back home Dad wanted me to take his truck and get it filled up too, but I told him it was too dangerous and we would have to just make do with what we had, which was about 60 gallons combining what was in the cars and cans. The following day, Mom came back from my sisters with more fuel, a new generator, and a window A/C unit which she bought. The generator is a 5000 watt 7,500 peak brand name with a pull start. It has a 220 volt plug and two 110 volt plugs. Dad and I cut the main breaker so we wouldn’t back feed into the power grid and then took some wires from a 220 volt extension cord and crudely shoved them into the electric dryer socket. We couldn’t run the central air conditioning but we could run the window unit mom had bought (which of course went in her room), the refrigerator, and the lights as normal. We just had to be mindful of how many things we could turn on at once. The generator was locked to the house with a heavy chain and padlock and we always turned it off before night. When there is no power for miles around, a running generator at night is like a “come steal me!” sign.

Another problem that was arising about this time in the neighborhood was human waste. Our neighborhood is remote and everybody has about 5 acres. Because of this we do not have city sewer but instead an aerated sprinkler system. Without power the pump can’t spray the treated liquid waste and the tanks become full in 2-3 days. Toilets begin to back up and smell occurs. For us, everything was fine once the generator was going. We did have to go to some neighbors houses to do some emergency electrical re-wiring so they could get their septic systems working.

Our street was without power for more than 12 days. Part of the problem was a power line went down in the woods behind us and since that line only serviced five houses it was not at the top of the priority list. Luckily we never lost water although we were extra cautious and made sure to boil it before consuming.

Lessons learned from all this:

  1. If it is going to be a big hurricane, then evacuate early. It isn’t worth all the trouble if you can leave in time and trust your neighbors to watch your property, but take your papers and valuables with you.
  2. Have a working generator. We now have ours and had a proper hookup installed by an electrician after it was all over. Make sure to run your generator bi-annually and store it for long-term storage following your user’s guide. For us, that is running it dry with stabilized gas in it.
  3. Have plenty of fuel beforehand. We keep our cans filled with Sta-bil gas and rotate them regularly.
  4. Of course be prepared with all of your usual preps. Food, water, first-aid, etc.
  5. With a hurricane, it is very important to protect your house from damage as much as possible. Cover windows, brace large doors like the garage doors, remove trees close to the house, and remove anything in your yard that could become a flying object.
  6. Have a pump system designed to get gas out of underground tanks. There was just a recent post about how to make your own in the blog. You might be able to let your local gas station owner use it in exchange for some fuel. It’s a win-win. He can still sell fuel and you can get what you need.

I think the most important thing to remember during a disaster like this one is to be courteous and helpful to your neighbors. Get to know your neighbors beforehand and pull together after to clean-up and make repairs. Ike brought all of us on our street closer together. This country is threatened by many different types of natural and manmade disasters, but with a hurricane you know it is coming. Get prepared.

Monday, January 31, 2011

How much did the average home owner in the United States pay for utilities last month?  Last Year?  How much will they pay for utilities by the time they pay off their mortgage?  If they averaged $250 per month in utilities, which is below the national average of “$264.33 per month” (Statistic quoted by White Fence) the answer is shocking.  With the average home loan lasting 30 years, without taking into consideration rising costs, utilities would be $90,000!  For that amount of money this homeowner could put one child through a four year-degree at a very nice university.  What if I could explain how to build a home that would have little or no utility costs and cost the same or less to build as a conventional home?  I think that everyone should consider living in a growing architectural design called an Earthship because it will provide housing to live sustainably with no utility bills, ever.

There is an Earthship community where people live and work on their own property; and share labor and food with each other.  “Stacked up in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Taos, New Mexico, is a community of ‘Earthship’ houses, a pioneer of the Rural Earthship Alternative Community Habitat (R.E.A.C.H.) concept.  Earthships incorporate walls made of discarded vehicle tires, rammed earth and concrete, systems for recycling water and waste, solar technology, and a design that reflects the local adobe vernacular. Designed by architect Michael Reynolds (who lives in the one at the top), they are almost entirely self-sufficient in energy” (2010, Martin Bond).  Whatever a household does not grow or raise themselves they trade with another households that do; back and forth until everyone in the community has everything they need.  Communities such as this one are popping up all over the world. 
Earthship homes are designed to be self contained living units with the construction being out of various recycled materials.  The load-bearing walls are made of counter-stacked, earth-packed, used tires much like a brick wall, only much wider.  “The major structural building component of the Earthship is recycled automobile tires filled with compacted earth to form a rammed earth brick encased in steel belted rubber. This brick and the resulting (load) bearing walls it forms are virtually indestructible” (2010, Earthship Biotecture 1).  These tires can usually be acquired free from local tire companies because the companies have to pay to have them removed so they will happily give them away, ultimately saving them money.  Aluminum soda or beer cans can be acquired free and are used as bricks for interior, non-load bearing walls.  Glass wine or liquor bottles are cut with a wet-saw and placed end-to-end inside non-load bearing walls.  This allows light to shine through, creating beautiful kaleidoscope effects inside the home.  Once the home is complete, the owner can immediately start growing their own food and raising their own meat to supply themselves with the basic sustenance of life.  Because the building will supply the owner with clean drinking water, electricity and comfortable temperature control, there is no need for exterior supplied utilities.  This means the owner has no bills to speak of except the occasional trip to the grocery store for what the Earthship itself cannot provide the owner and propane for backup hot water generation.

Earthships also provide their owners with the three basic needs in life; shelter, food and water.  Additionally, they can provide income if wanted.  If everyone in the United States lived in an Earthship, this country would no longer be dependent on food and fossil fuels imported from all over the world, or huge water and waste treatment plants, run by the government.  This would also eliminate huge corporations controlling public utilities and deciding how much they want the populous to pay for their basic essentials of life.
Earthships are normally built on the downhill slope of a south facing hill but this is not a necessity; a level plot is sufficient.  The “hill” design is so the main structure of the home is underground, keeping it cool in the summer and warm in the winter; and the southern face of the home is almost completely made of windows.   These south facing windows allow the sun to heat the walls and floors.  This keeps the temperature in the home comfortable during the winter time when the sun is low in the sky as well as bringing in natural light for the plant life year around.  The average temperature in an Earthship is 70 degrees, year-round.  This temperature is controlled by the occupant through various means built-in at the time of construction.  Vent tubes placed inside of the uphill section of the construction near the floor bring in air from behind and above the home; the air cools as it passes through the earth.  Skylight vents in the ceiling also allow hot air to escape upwards and bring in cool air from the front of the house through windows that open.  This cools the home during the summer and also allows various insects to enter the greenhouse area and pollinate the plant life.  Closing these vents during the winter eliminates this cooling effect allowing the sun to warm the home.  This is an extremely efficient form of heating and cooling, requiring no outside power whatsoever. 
Earthships also supply their owners with an abundant amount of fresh water from rainfall, even in very arid climates.  The water collected is then used four times.  Runoff from rain collects in a cistern where it is cycles through a copper pipe to keep bacteria from growing.  When the inhabitant requires water, it is run through a filtration system to make it cleaner than most municipal water supplies.  “Earthship Biotecture has created a board that contains a series of filters and a pump that does this.  They call it the Water Organization Module” (2010, Earthship Biotecture 2).   The first use of the water is for various household duties including drinking, cooking, washing dishes, and taking showers.  This converts clean water into gray water.  Gray water is then recycled the second time by being pumped into the in-home garden where it feeds the plants that will feed the inhabitants.  This is completely safe because no human waste has been introduced into the soil.  Once the water settles down at the low end of the planter system, it is then pumped to a holding tank where it waits to be recycled for the third time to fill the toilets.  Water used to flush the toilets is now considered black water.  The black water is pumped outside where it collects into one of two types of water treatment areas.  The most common is an ordinary septic tank.  Bacteria in the septic tank break down the human waste and the leftover liquid is fed into the ground through a leach field.  “The septic tank contains baffles that prevent any scum that floats to the surface and sludge that settles to the bottom from passing out of the tank. The gases that are generated vent to the atmosphere via the plumbing vent system. From the septic tank, the segregated and relatively clear liquid flows into a small distribution box where it is then metered out to several perforated pipes” (2010, 

This type of single-home sewage treatment is used worldwide in areas not connected to sewer systems.  The other type of black water treatment is a self-contained flower garden where the black water feeds into a large area of plants, not suitable for human consumption completing the fourth phase of recycling.  This area is completely sealed so no sewage can leak into the surrounding ground and water table.  These plants soak up the water and treat it through natural processes of bacteria and decay.  Animals can eat this grass, bee’s can pollinate the flowers and these animals can be used for food and the bees, of course, produce honey.  This is completely natural as the black water being recycled through the earth and then through the plants, makes it safe for the animals to eat the plants, and ultimately, humans to eat the animals.  Human food cannot be produced this way, because our digestive system does not break down waste as well as the animals digestive system does. 

Sunlight and wind are utilized through photovoltaic panels and wind generators to produce the electricity needed to power the home.  A bank of 12 volt batteries are used to store the electricity produced by these sources and the home mainly runs on fixtures and appliances designed to run on direct current or DC.  An inverter converts the DC into alternating current (AC) for appliances that require AC.  To send power through power lines over long distances requires AC; that is why alternating current is the world standard.  DC is actually much more efficient when power is not required to travel long distances.  Modern Earthships have all the amenities of any home built from conventional means including large screen televisions and high speed Internet.  Propane can also be used for refrigeration or an alternate hot water source.

It takes approximately one-year for the food growth cycle to become established and the home owner accustomed to it.  Once these factors are in harmony with each other; the balance of food production versus use, the owner will incur very minimal monthly food costs.  Earthship inhabitants can teach these methods of living to their children who can either choose to live in their parents Earthship or build one of their own.  The entire process is self-sustaining and continually replenishing itself; thus an Earthship could provide all the basic needs of an entire family.

The cost comparison from conventional home construction and Earthship construction can vary from much lower to much higher than conventional construction depending on how much the owner wants to put into their Earthship.  Earthship architecture keeps the up front cost of construction to a bare minimum because most of the structural materials are either free or very cheap.  Some owners have even built Earthships with no mortgage after completion.  Those building Earthships can rack up expense very quickly with the purchase of the water treatment units and the power generation systems.  Most builders of Earthships choose to save money by building their own wind generators and solar panels, whereas others purchase top-of-the-line, most expensive components saving time and workload. 

When one considers how much money an average homeowner will spend in utilities throughout the length of their mortgage, I believe that everyone should consider building an Earthship.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have no bills to speak of?  Earthships are self-sustaining and for this reason are fast becoming a more main stream option, attracting people from all walks of life.  Imagine never paying utilities, well into your retirement age.  My wife and I are looking for land to build our own Earthship, you should consider joining us.

References and Illustrations:

Blue Rock Station.
Earthship Biotecture 1.
Earthship Biotecture 2.

Home Quotient. “Food Production”
Home Quotient. “Windows”

Low Carbon Trust. “Photovoltaic & Solar Hot Water”

Specialist Stock. (Specialist Stock photo by Martin Bond used with special
permission via e-mail.)

The Open End. “Phoenix Bath”

The Practical Environmentalist. “Earthship Walls”

Monday, December 27, 2010


The question of how much toilet paper one must store is an important issue indeed.  One thing I feel that is often overlooked, and that some readers can personally attest to is that the method of “doing your duty” can play a role in how much paper is required.  I currently live in mainland China , and have for some time now.  The venerable “squatty potty” is much cleaner for the user and therefore easier on the supply of precious paper.  We have three children and as a whole, China does not supply paper in its restrooms, so I know how much paper we have with us and how much we need daily.  Squatting, like all skills, takes some practice.  Cement blocks on either side of our western “seat” may help also.  This, unfortunately, is worth consideration.             

I must also add that increasing dietary fiber is also important to reducing paper usage.  At least that has been my experience, not that anyone wanted to know.  - Jonboy in Hangzhou


The notion of needing endless cases of toilet paper in a SHTF scenario is a bit far fetched when considering the alternatives to TP that is practiced around the world.

In Asia, toilet paper is only needed sparingly as the use of a bidet sprayer is common.

I am not talking about the French separate toilet looking thing, but rather the simple sprayer that is tied into a T fitting at the water pipe that supplies water to your toilet.

The sprayers come in many colors and styles, some plastic, some fancy chrome. All however do the same thing, they spray water.

To use one, you simply lean forward and hold the sprayer behind you. Direct the spray towards your dirty parts. The force of the water will clean you 100% better than paper any day. After finished use a bit of TP to dry off. If you do it right, you will not spray water on anything but your rear. Water should not splash on your back or the floor or shoes etc.

For added cleanliness and to fight off sweat rashes in hot climates; after you clean yourself with water, apply some liquid soap to your hand and use with water to complete the job.

To clear up common misconceptions about this method, you do not touch feces with your fingers (unless you are doing it wrong with the sprayer in the first place or using the water bottle/dipper bucket method which is something else entirely)

For female use, the principle works as well. Most women in Asia wash themselves with soap and water in this manner every time they use the toilet.

Many Americans are squeamish about this method, however every American I know who has been in Asia for a decent period of time; has been converted to this method. Ask yourself this: Would I clean my dishes with wads of dry tissue paper and expect them to be clean? Of course not. So why should a part of your body that gets far dirtier be cleaned this way? You can also ask yourself, why do you wash yourself in the shower but not on the toilet?

Good hygiene is important in our day to day lives. Good hygiene in a SHTF scenario will save your life. - B.M.


The letter about the challenge of storing enough toilet paper overlooked an important point: The diameter of a roll of toilet paper (and thus the volume of space it takes up) is not the most important consideration when stocking up--what matters most is how many sheets (and thus the total surface area) are available per roll. Some time ago I realized that rolls of the bulk packages of Member's Mark toilet paper from Sam's Club seemed to be depleted rather quickly at my house, and upon further examination, I realized that although the paper was rather thick, there were only 200 individual sheets per roll. So I made a point during my next trip to Sam's Club to see what other brands of toilet paper were on sale. And what I found really surprised me.

At that time, a 36-roll multipack of Member's Mark toilet paper was $14.98, or 41.6 cents per roll, while a 40-roll case of POM toilet paper was 18.88 for 40 rolls, or 47.2 cents per roll. However, the POM had 450 sheets per roll--more than twice as many as the Member's Mark toilet paper--but the POM was not as thick (although in my opinion still very comfortable) so I got more than twice as much toilet paper surface area for approximately the same volume of storage space. If your readers find that their toilet paper supply diminishes more rapidly than they expect, they should probably see how many sheets they are getting per roll. I essentially doubled how long each roll of toilet paper lasts at my house simply by looking at how many sheets I'm actually getting and then switching brands accordingly.

On another note, I've seen comments on a couple different preparedness forums suggesting that to save on paper usage, people should use something akin to a bidet. But what these well-intentioned people don't stop to think about is that in a grid-down situation, water will be a vital and possibly hard-to-come-by resource. I'll take toilet paper any day over chronic thirst because I used my last potable water for something other than drinking.

Merry CHRISTmas and happy new year to you and Avalanche Lily, Jim. God bless, - Chad

Mr Rawles,
Thanks again for publishing SurvivalBlog. Rarely a day goes by that I do not learn something from the posts here. In response to D.D.L.'s "Paper or Plastic" letter, I admire D.D.L.'s out-of-the-box thinking with regards to hygiene, but I wonder what will be done with the wash water (hopefully not being dumped in a river or stream!)

While recently traveling in rural India & Nepal, I was forced to come to grips with the fact that people there simply have *no* toilet paper, and learned to do as the locals do. Here's their solution:

An "Eastern Toilet", as they call it, or "squat toilet", consists of a hole in the ground (if indoors, often a porcelain fixture), a bucket, and a plastic mug with a handle, called a "dipper". The bucket is kept full of water, either by carrying your own in, or by way of a faucet. When you're done with your business, you hold the dipper in your right hand, fill it from the bucket, reach behind you, and simultaneously with your left hand reach between your legs. Pouring water from the dipper over your left hand, you splash a little upwards (like a bidet), and, continuing to pour the water out, use your left hand to clean the dirty area. The dipper and your right hand should never come in contact with anything dirty. Refill the dipper as needed until everything is clean, and use the same water to flush the toilet (if it's an indoor toilet).

It must be pointed out that good hand washing practices with soap are to avoid spreading disease when using this method. Some stockpiled hand sanitizer might not be a bad idea, either. Incidentally, this method is also the reason why it is considered a grave insult to touch anyone or eat with your left hand in the Muslim & Hindu world.

The downside to this method is that it does not work well with a western toilet; a squat toilet is much cleaner, but much harder on the knees for people not used to them. - Adam W.


After reading the article, Paper or Plastic? -- That is the Question, by D.D.L., I was re-inspired to bring up this issue that I have been meaning to write about for a long time.

My wife is from the Philippines and very few people there use toilet paper. Most actually think of it as being unsanitary. Instead they prefer to use the "Tabo", which is essentially just a small bucket that you fill up with water.

The Vu. has this description: "Called the tabo in the Philippines but known by other names in South Asia, this system is basically a jug of water, filled in a bucket or barrel or from the tap. The user raises up slightly from the toilet seat and pours water towards the small of the back where the space between the butt cheeks is. The water naturally flows down and over the skin and washes the area.  In practice, although rarely talked about, the user usually puts soap on his or her fingers and washes the butt, just like everyone does in the shower and then rinses with the tabo. Of course this means touching the unclean substance in question (poo) but the hand is using soap and water so with practice it ends up clean when all is over. In the Philippines, bathrooms are wet, meaning there is usually a floor drain and a faucet on the wall, which is used to fill the vessel. The tabo is difficult for lifelong wipers to accept, but it does remove all traces of waste and associated bacteria, so should not be criticized. Anyone with a sink within arm’s reach of the toilet, and a plastic jug or jar, can try the tabo right now, with nothing to install. In rural areas, the tabo is also used for outdoor, full body bathing."

As I told my wife, we should stock up on toilet paper, but only for bartering purposes. We'll wait a good 2-4 weeks before starting to barter the toilet paper because by then most people will have ran out and will become very desperate. I would suggest that all Survivalblog readers obtain a tabo and practice using it. For my wife and I, it only takes one tabo full of water but we are well experienced. Beginners should first practice with a 5 gallon pail of water so they will be able to refill their tabo.

Since I grew up on toilet paper it was quite a shock for me to experience the tabo when I was in the Philippines. After learning the tabo method, I had to agree that the affected area is much cleaner after using a tabo. I would recommend that beginners try to hold the tabo in one hand while splashing water towards their rear end while somewhat slowly letting the water drain from the tabo (no need to touch the area during this first rinsing). After doing this with the first tabo (note that by now you haven't touched any poo), I would add a little bit of soap in the hand that did the splashing and then use a second filling of the tabo to then wash the area. You may need to use more water to rinse, but this should usually be enough to clean the area. If not then you will need to work on your technique.

The other interesting thing in the Philippines is that they use small, bowl only, one-piece toilets and I frankly like them better as well because they require less water to flush. For urine you just fill up one tabo [with water] and flush it down the toilet. For poo, you may need to use a gallon or so to get it all down. See this article for a picture.

Here is another article about Tabo technique.

So I should ask, why rely on storing years of toilet paper when you should be storing or learning how to make soap? - KJP

Friday, December 24, 2010

It’s one or two years after an EMP attack and you are safely tucked away in your retreat somewhere in the middle of nowhere.  Your storage foods have mostly been used and your high tech electronics is useless.   The really bad stuff is mostly past.  Now it’s try to stay fed and alive and pray that civilization as you know it is coming back.  You’re going to have to work your environment to live.  Ever wonder what life might be like?  What would it really be like to have no running water, electricity, sewer, newspaper or Internet?  No supermarket or fire department close at hand?

I have a good imagination but I decided to talk to someone who would know first hand what it was like: my mother.  She grew up on a homestead in the middle of Montana during the 1920s and 1930s.  It was a two room Cottonwood cabin with the nearest neighbor three miles away.  She was oldest at 9, so she was in charge of her brother and sister.  This was her reality; I feel there are lessons here for the rest of us.

There was a Majestic stove that used wood and coal.  The first person up at four thirty A.M., usually her father, would start the fire for breakfast.  It was a comforting start to the day but your feet would get cold when you got out of bed. 

A crosscut saw and axe was used to cut wood for the stove and after that experience, you got pretty stingy with the firewood because you know what it takes to replace it.  The old timers say that it warms you when you cut it, when you split it, and again when you burn it.  The homes that were typical on homesteads and ranches of the era were smaller with lower ceilings than modern houses just so they could be heated easier.  The saw and axe were not tools to try hurrying with.  You set a steady pace and maintained it.  A man in a hurry with an axe may loose some toes or worse.  One side effect of the saw and axe use is that you are continuously hungry and will consume a huge amount of food.
Lights in the cabin were old fashioned kerosene lamps.  It was the kid’s job to trim the wicks, clean the chimneys and refill the reservoirs. 

The privy was downhill from the house next to the corral and there was no toilet paper.  Old newspaper, catalogs or magazines were used and in the summer a pan of barely warm water was there for hygiene.  During a dark night, blizzard, or brown out from a dust storm, you followed the corral poles-no flashlights.

There were two springs close to the house that ran clear, clean, and cold water.  The one right next to it was a “soft” water spring.  It was great for washing clothes and felt smooth, almost slick, on your skin.  If you drank from it, it would clean you out just as effectively as it cleaned clothes.  Not all clean water is equal.

The second spring was a half mile from the cabin and it was cold, clear, and tasted wonderful.  The spring itself was deep - an eight foot corral pole never hit bottom- and flowed through the year.  It was from here that the kids would fill two barrels on a heavy duty sled with water for the house and the animals.  They would lead the old white horse that was hitched to the sledge back to the buildings and distribute the water for people and animals.  In the summer, they made two trips in the morning and maybe a third in the evening.  In the winter, one trip in the morning and one in the evening.  They did this alone.

Breakfast was a big meal because they’re going to be working hard.  Usually there would be homemade sausage, eggs and either cornmeal mush or oatmeal.  More food was prepared than what was going to be eaten right then.  The extra food was left on the table under a dish towel and eaten as wanted during the day.  When evening meal was cooked, any leftovers were reheated.  The oatmeal or the mush was sliced and fried for supper.  It was served with butter, syrup, honey or molasses. 

The homemade sausage was from a quarter or half a hog.  The grinder was a small kitchen grinder that clamped on the edge of a table and everybody took turns cranking.  When all the hog had been ground, the sausage mix was added and kneaded in by hand.  Then it was immediately fried into patties.  The patties were placed, layer by layer, into a stone crock and covered with the rendered sausage grease.   The patties were reheated as needed.  The grease was used for gravies as well as re-cooking the patties.  Occasionally a fresh slice of bread would be slathered with a layer of sausage grease and a large slice of fresh onion would top it off for quick sandwich.  Nothing was wasted.
Some of their protein came from dried fish or beef.  Usually this had to be soaked to remove the excess salt or lye.  Then it was boiled.  Leftovers would go into hash, fish patties, or potato cakes.

Beans?  There was almost always a pot of beans on the stove in the winter time.
Chickens and a couple of milk cows provided needed food to balance the larder.  They could not have supported a growing family without these two resources.
The kitchen garden ran mostly to root crops.  Onion, turnip, rutabaga, potato and radishes grew under chicken wire.  Rhubarb was canned for use as a winter tonic to stave off scurvy.  Lettuce, corn, and other above ground crops suffered from deer, rats, and gumbo clay soil. Surprisingly, cabbage did well.  The winter squash didn’t do much, only 2 or 3 gourds.  Grasshoppers were controlled by the chickens and turkeys.  There was endless hoeing.

Washing clothes required heating water on the stove, pouring it into three galvanized wash tubs-one for the homemade lye soap and scrub board, the other two for rinsing.  Clothes were rinsed and wrung out by hand, then hung on a wire to dry in the air.  Your hands became red and raw, your arms and shoulders sore beyond belief by the end of the wash.  Wet clothing, especially wool, is heavy and the gray scum from the soap was hard to get out of the clothes.

Personal baths were in a galvanized wash tub screened by a sheet.  In the winter it was difficult to haul, heat and handle the water so baths weren’t done often.  Most people would do sponge baths. 

Everybody worked including the kids.  There were always more chores to be done than time in the day.  It wasn’t just this one family; it was the neighbors as well.  You were judged first and foremost by your work ethic and then your honesty.  This was critical because if you were found wanting in either department, the extra jobs that might pay cash money, a quarter of beef, hog or mutton would not be available.  Further, the cooperation with your neighbors was the only assurance that if you needed help, you would get help.  Nobody in the community could get by strictly on their own.  A few tried.  When they left, nobody missed them.
You didn’t have to like someone to cooperate and work with him or her.

Several times a year people would get together for organized activities: barn raising, butcher bee, harvest, roofing, dance, or picnics.  There were lots of picnics, usually in a creek bottom with cottonwoods for shade or sometimes at the church.  Always, the women would have tables groaning with food, full coffee pots and, if they were lucky, maybe some lemonade. (Lemons were expensive and scarce)  After the work (even for picnics, there was usually a project to be done first) came the socializing.  Many times people would bring bedding and sleep out overnight, returning home the next day.

A half dozen families would get together for a butcher bee in the cold days of late fall.  Cows were slaughtered first, then pigs, mutton, and finally chickens.  Blood from some of the animals was collected in milk pails, kept warm on a stove to halt coagulation and salt added.  Then it was canned for later use in blood dumplings, sausage or pudding.  The hides were salted for later tanning; the feathers from the fowl were held for cleaning and used in pillows or mattresses.  The skinned quarters of the animals would be dipped into cold salt brine and hung to finish cooling out so they could be taken home safely for processing.  Nothing went to waste.

The most feared occurrence in the area was fire.  If it got started, it wasn’t going out until it burned itself out.  People could and did loose everything.
The most used weapon was the .22 single shot Winchester with .22 shorts.  It was used to take the heads off pheasant, quail, rabbit and ducks.  If you held low, the low powered round didn’t tear up the meat.  The shooters, usually the kids, quickly learned sight picture and trigger control although they never heard those terms.  If you took five rounds of ammunition, you better bring back the ammunition or a critter for the pot for each round expended. It was also a lot quieter and less expensive [in those days] than the .22 Long Rifle cartridges.

If you are trying to maintain a low profile, the odor of freshly baked bread can be detected in excess of three miles on a calm day.  Especially by kids.
Twice a year the cabin was emptied of everything.  The walls, floors, and ceilings were scrubbed with lye soap and a bristle brush.  All the belongings were also cleaned before they came back into the house.  This was pest control and it was needed until DDT became available.  Bedbugs, lice, ticks and other creepy crawlies were a fact of life and were controlled by brute force.  Failure to do so left you in misery and maybe ill.

Foods were stored in bug proof containers.  The most popular was fifteen pound metal coffee cans with tight lids.  These were for day to day use in the kitchen.  (I still have one. It’s a family heirloom.)  The next were barrels to hold the bulk foods like flour, sugar, corn meal, and rice.  Everything was sealed or the vermin would get to it.  There was always at least one, preferably two, months of food on hand.  If the fall cash allowed, they would stock up for the entire winter before the first snowfall.

The closest thing to a cooler was a metal box in the kitchen floor.  It had a very tight lid and was used to store milk, eggs and butter for a day or two. Butter was heavily salted on the outside to keep it from going rancid or melting.  Buttermilk, cottage cheese and regular cheese was made from raw milk after collecting for a day or two.  The box was relatively cool in the summer and did not freeze in the winter.

Mice and rats love humanity because we keep our environment warm and tend to be sloppy with food they like.  Snakes love rats and mice so they were always around.  If the kids were going to play outside, they would police the area with a hoe and a shovel.  After killing and disposing of the rattlesnakes- there was always at least one-then they could play for a while in reasonable safety.

The mice and rats were controlled by traps, rocks from sling shots, cats and coyotes.  The cats had a hard and usually short life because of the coyotes.  The coyotes were barely controlled and seemed to be able to smell firearms at a distance.  There were people who hunted the never-ending numbers for the bounty.

After chores were done, kid’s active imagination was used in their play.  They didn’t have a lot of toys.  There were a couple of dolls for the girls, a pocket knife and some marbles for the boy, and a whole lot of empty to fill.  Their father’s beef calves were pretty gentle by the time they were sold at market - the kids rode them regularly.  (Not a much fat on those calves but a lot of muscle.)  They would look for arrow heads, lizards, and wild flowers.  Chokecherry, buffalo berry, gooseberry and currants were picked for jelly and syrups.  Sometimes the kids made chokecherry wine.

On a hot summer day in the afternoon, the shade on the east side of the house was treasured and the east wind, if it came, even more so.
Adults hated hailstorms because of the destruction, kids loved them because they could collect the hail and make ice cream.
Childbirth was usually handled at a neighbor’s house with a midwife if you were lucky.  If you got sick you were treated with ginger tea, honey, chicken soup or sulphur and molasses.  Castor oil was used regularly as well.  Wounds were cleaned with soap and disinfected with whisky.  Mustard based poultices were often used for a variety of ills.  Turpentine, mustard and lard was one that was applied to the chest for pneumonia or a hacking cough.

Contact with the outside world was an occasional trip to town for supplies using a wagon and team.  A battery operated radio was used very sparingly in the evenings.  A rechargeable car battery was used for power.  School was a six mile walk one way and you brought your own lunch.  One school teacher regularly put potatoes on the stove to bake and shared them with the kids.  She was very well thought of by the kids and the parents.

These people were used to a limited amount of social interaction.  They were used to no television, radio, or outside entertainment. They were used to having only three or four books.  A fiddler or guitar player for a picnic or a dance was a wonderful thing to be enjoyed.  Church was a social occasion as well as religious.
The church ladies and their butter and egg money allowed most rural churches to be built and to prosper.  The men were required to do the heavy work but the ladies made it come together.  The civilizing of the west sprang from these roots.  Some of those ladies had spines of steel.  They needed it.

That’s a partial story of the homestead years.  People were very independent, stubborn and strong but still needed the community and access to the technology of the outside world for salt, sugar, flour, spices, chicken feed, cloth, kerosene for the lights and of course, coffee. There are many more things I could list.  Could they have found an alternative if something was unavailable?  Maybe.  How would you get salt or nitrates in Montana without importing?  Does anyone know how to make kerosene?  Coffee would be valued like gold.  Roasted grain or chicory just didn’t cut it.

I don’t want to discourage people trying to prepare but rather to point out that generalized and practical knowledge along with a cooperative community is still needed for long term survival. Whatever shortcomings you may have, if you are part of a community, it is much more likely to be covered.  The described community in this article was at least twenty to thirty miles across and included many farms and ranches as well as the town.  Who your neighbors are, what type of people they are, and your relationship to them is one of the more important things to consider.

Were there fights, disagreements and other unpleasantness?  Absolutely.  Some of it was handled by neighbors, a minister or the sheriff.  Some bad feelings lasted a lifetime.  There were some people that were really bad by any standard and they were either the sheriff’s problem or they got sorted out by one of their prospective victims.
These homesteaders had a rough life but they felt they had a great life and their way of life was shared by everyone they knew.  They never went hungry, had great daylong picnics with the neighbors, and knew everyone personally within twenty miles.  Every bit of pleasure or joy was treasured like a jewel since it was usually found in a sea of hard work.  They worked hard, played hard and loved well.  In our cushy life, we have many more “things” and “conveniences” than they ever did, but we lack the connection they had with their environment and community. 

The biggest concern for our future: What happens if an event such as a solar flare, EMP, or a plague takes our society farther back than the early 1900s by wiping out our technology base.  Consider the relatively bucolic scene just described and then add in some true post-apocalyptic hard cases.  Some of the science fiction stories suddenly get much more realistic and scary.  A comment out of a Star Trek scene comes to mind “In the fight between good and evil, good must be very, very good.”
Consider what kind of supplies might not be available at any cost just because there is no longer a manufacturing base or because there is no supply chain.  In the 1900s they had the railroads as a lifeline from the industrial east.
How long would it take us to rebuild the tools for recovery to the early 1900 levels?

One of the greatest advantages we have is access to a huge amount of information about our world, how things work and everything in our lives. We need to be smart enough to learn/understand as much as possible and store references for all the rest.  Some of us don’t sleep well at night as we are well aware of how fragile our society and technological infrastructure is.  Trying to live the homesteader’s life would be very painful for most of us.  I would prefer not to.  I hope and pray it doesn’t ever come to that.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dear Mr. Rawles,
I am a physician in Iowa and have read SurvivalBlog and many books related to survival including yours. In general there are many good thoughts and insights in the Blog. History predicts the future and some facts of history seem to have been overlooked by many survivalists. Many predict that in a long term situation, those left would be in an 1880s situation.

In Iowa, most counties had a peak population in the 1880 census. Most counties in Iowa have lost population every census since then (1940 was generally flat) this means that the land could support more people if individuals and society were prepared. Furthermore, if society were to collapse there would be trillions of calories of food in dent corn, soybeans and livestock which farmers would gladly exchange for anything useful. This would help bridge the gap in food production. This situation is common throughout the midwest. I would argue that west of the Mississippi is just as good as west of the Missouri River. Iowa does not have any very large cities and there are limited bridges over the Mississippi. Note what happened over the Mississippi River Bridge after Katrina where local law enforcement prevented refugees from crossing the river.

Many point out that in the north, if TEOTWAWKI were to happen in the winter, most would freeze, not starve. This is probably fairly certain outcome. Economic panics seem to develop in the Fall, meaning the winter would be a fairly likely time for an economic collapse to occur. Preparing to heat your house or remote location without power is fairly easy. This would limit the Golden Horde as many would freeze in place and limit the distance traveled of those that do leave. This would lower the effective population density of the north.

A study of the history of medicine came to a conclusion that it was not until the 1930s in which a person was probably helped more than harmed by seeing a physician. Antibiotics were the main reason for this. Other studies indicate that plumbers have saved more people than physicians by improving sanitation. I am not certain about the second statement but the point is valid. Sanitation needs to be a prime concern, mostly with respect to clean water. Prevention of a disease is better than treating it. Infections could be treated fairly well with a few antibiotics which have a long shelf life. Most human to human only infections are viruses and since nearly everyone is now vaccinated to most of these, and travel would be limited, these should not be a big problem for many years post TEOTWAWKI. Most bacteria are not specific to humans and antibiotics would be worth their weight in gold. Although any antibiotic would be valuable post TEOTWAWKI, Doxycycline should be included in any pharmacy. It would be effective against tick borne infections as well as Brucellosis from infected meat and milk, chlamydia and malaria. Some of these are bacteria that are inside the host cells and other antibiotics would not be helpful and the bodies immune system is not good at fighting them. I relearned this by an infection that I received while backpacking for three days. I am normally very careful to check for ticks every evening after being outside. But while backpacking, this was not done as I was tired and did not remove all my clothing. After returning to civilization I noticed a lesion that ultimately turned out after becoming very ill to be Tularemia (this was in Wyoming). There are several more common similar diseases Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted fever being the most common. As people would be outside more and personal hygiene would suffer these infections would be common. These infections become chronic or fatal. Most other infections would be fought successfully by your immune system, an appropriate antibiotic would be helpful but often not needed. I do not have great advice as to how stockpile antibiotics. Physicians would probably be more comfortable giving these as prescriptions than narcotic pain killers. I do not know anything about veterinary medications. Although narcotics may be nice and valuable post TEOTWAWKI, they are unlikely to be life saving.

One pain killer that would be very life saving post TEOTWAWKI and has a long shelf life is aspirin. This should be the first stocked drug. If you have a heart attack and you take an aspirin you cut the risk of dying in half. Do not take it if bleeding is an issue so after in injury it may not be a good option.

If you really think that narcotics are important, remember that opium, the mother of all narcotics was and still is made from poppies grown in temperate climates. I do not know what is legal but you can by poppy seeds to eat or plant. In case you do not take my advice and buy aspirin when it is cheap and legal, you can try making it from willow bark.

The first medical book someone should get is the Merck Manual which covers nearly everything. It is written for professionals but is easy to read. Many of the treatments may not be an option post-TEOTWAWKI but it is mostly based on science. Remember that until the 1930s most people were harmed more by medicine than helped. Most survivalist related, back to nature, talk of old treatments that are not effective. There is a lot of concern about people taking chronic medicines, not able to get more medicines. About half of these would not be needed as they are directly or indirectly related to overeating or smoking which would be self correcting so worry about other things.

The other area of medicine that made a big difference in life expectancy is obstetrics. Until the early 20th century, men outlived men because of child birth. Until recently the advise to women was to not gain more than 26 pounds. This was based a on pre-C section study from Germany which would be very important post-TEOTWAWKI. Folic Acid and iron supplements are important in early and late pregnancy. Iron supplements should last forever. In the Middle Ages, a iron nail was placed in an apple for a day before a pregnant woman was to eat it. Folic acid has an unknown shelf life but of course is provided by vegetables.

If a women has previously had a C-section and needs to deliver in a less than modern health system, a vaginal delivery [VBAC] would almost certainly be better that doing a repeat C-section in a less than ideal situation. There are no good easy options as to how to deal with a failure to deliver naturally post TEOTWAWKI. If you have figured out clean water, food, heat, security and sanitation, study obstetrics. The first vitamin deficiency noted by sailors on a diet without fresh food was scurvy, from Vitamin C deficiency. Vitamin C is found mostly in fruits and some vegetables. Apples have been the traditional source of Vitamin C in Europe and North America in the winter because of their long shelf life. Pure Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin C, has an shelf life of many decades. GNC and other nutrition stores sell this.

Salt was extremely valuable before the modern era. In some areas gold and salt were of equal weight value. Ancient salt mines in Europe have evidence of many thousands of years of use and traded goods from many hundreds of miles away. You can grow everything your body needs, but not salt. It is cheap now and if you keep it dry never spoils. Get table salt with iodine to prevent goiters if you live in an area with low iodine concentrations. The Non radioactive iodine in it may also be important if radioactive iodine finds its way to your location. Salt blocks for livestock may be an okay long term option for livestock and humans. Salt for water conditioners does not have iodine but would be useful most of the time.

Another historical fact that seems to have slipped past preppers is that Thomas Edison developed the iron-nickel battery for electric vehicles. Some of these have been running 100 years. I have ordered one but do not yet have experience with them. It seems that with solar panels and a iron-nickel battery system your children will always have power. These do not freeze, making them especially good for remote northern locations.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Letter Re: Cleanliness--Maximize Your Productivity and Protect Your Investment

Please remind your readers that there are two bars of soap that you should always keep a good supply stocked:

The first is Lava hand soap. Lava bar soap will lather up even in cold salt water - so then there are no excuses that you can't "clean up".

The second bar of soap is Fels-Naptha laundry soap. Fels-Naptha bar soap is so very important because it will lift urushiol from the skin when you get into a poison patch and keeps it suspended long enough to wash it from your skin and clothes too. You will find it in the laundry detergent isle of your local grocery store.

Due to my dog always getting into everything to "check it out" I never know when she has been into the poison oak, so I bath with it regularly to prevent outbreaks of poison oak on my skin. A web search on "uses for Fels-Naptha soap" will give you many uses that most of us never even thought of.

From the top of a wind swept ridge, - Tim P.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Mr. Rawles,

I'd like to respond to the Cleanliness article by P. J. W.. The author recommended "lather (with anti-bacterial soap)." Readers should be aware of how unnecessary anti-bacterial soap is and how it's loaded with negative side effects. Although anti-bacterial soap is best at reducing bacteria during hand washing, the use of non-antibacterial soap and water alone are most effective at removing viruses. See this YouTube clip.

Also see this Mercola article. (You may need to register to read, though registration is free.)

Studies have shown that people who use antibacterial soaps and cleansers can often develop a cough, runny nose, sore throat, fever, vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms just as often as people who use regular soaps.

Part of the reason for this is because most of these symptoms are actually caused by viruses, which antibacterial soaps can’t kill.

But even for symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea, which may be caused by bacteria, those who used regular soaps still had no greater risk than those who used antibacterial products.

So, antibacterial soaps are completely unnecessary for the purpose of washing away bacteria.

But there’s more.

They can actually cause far more harm than good by promoting the development of resistant bacteria.

Yes, many scientists now fear that the widespread use of antibacterial soaps and various disinfecting products may be contributing to the rise in "superbugs," bacteria that are resistant to modern medicines.

The antimicrobial triclosan, for example, is known to promote the growth of resistant bacteria.

Even the American Medical Association (AMA) does not recommend antibacterial soaps for this very reason.

Additionally, many traditional medical circles now accept the hygiene hypothesis, which centers on the idea that children need to be exposed to some bacteria in early childhood in order to strengthen their immune systems. Children who are not exposed to common bacteria (which are wiped out by antibacterial soap), may become more prone to allergies and asthma as they grow.

But aside from that, the active ingredient in many antibacterial products, such as triclosan, can be hazardous in and of itself as well.

and see this article on toxicity.

The antibacterial agent triclosan, commonly used in certain soaps, is starting to appear in consumer products ranging from socks to toothpaste.

But research shows that under normal household conditions triclosan can react with chlorinated water to produce chloroform, a likely carcinogen.

An initial 2005 study showed that, in the laboratory, pure triclosan reacts with free chlorine to produce chloroform. More recently, follow-up studies on 16 products found that household goods containing triclosan produced either chloroform or other chlorinated byproducts.

In some soaps, the triclosan degraded within one minute of exposure to chlorinated water at temperatures used for household cleaning. Regards, - Erik M.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Your preps are complete, your house is bomb proof, you run on alternative energy, and you are on the top of a mountain surrounded by a moat… Who can defeat you? Yourself! It doesn’t matter how extensively you have prepped, how secure your retreat is, or how well you are prepared for a TEOTWAWKI situation, if you let it all fall apart from the inside! So what are some simple things that you can do to set yourself up for success?

We’ve all heard the proverb “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” and most of us have heard the expression “Don’t poop where you eat!” Well both of those statements couldn’t have more value than in a survival situation. Your health will ultimately determine your survival… weather you can digest certain foods, survive a gunshot wound to the arm, make it through a bout with diarrhea, the list goes on. So why would you invest so much time and consideration into planning and prepping, if you aren’t willing to secure your investment? Now by all means I am not talking about the sterility of a neurosurgery room, or to live in a “bubble”, but there are a few simple steps to take, things that we do every day (or at least should) that will set us up for success.

Basic sanitation.
Showers, baths, and hand-washing is extremely important when dealing with field situations. You have heard it your whole life, from your mother, to the school nurse, to the signs at your place of business saying to wash hands before returning to work. Washing your hands is possibly the single most important thing to preventing the spread of common illnesses. Rinse, lather (with anti-bacterial soap) rinse. It’s really that simple. Plus, nobody feels like using their valuable medical supplies to treat a cold that could have been prevented (and that’s what this is… preventative medicine!) Showers and bathing are also important. You need to keep your body clean, and your pores open and breathing. You don’t want to get fungal or bacterial infections growing. Those are a nightmare and can easily spread.

Food sanitation and preparation.
Obviously water needs to be sterilized, and there are a billion ways to do it, so I’m not going in to that… But let’s talk about food sanitation. How many people do you see on family holidays, or large gatherings that have a meat thermometer checking temperatures? That’s what I thought. A simple two dollar tool can save you a ton of time battling food poisoning, which can be fatal if you don’t have the right resources to deal with it. Buy a food thermometer. Additionally, ensure your foods are protected from disease transferring creatures such as roaches, mice, rats, etc. Keep your food surfaces clean and sanitary. You probably have bleach stored for various things, well this is one you will want it for. Dilute it into a spray bottle, and use it to clean your kitchen area. Once again, food poisoning, salmonella, e-coli, etc can be awfully hard to treat without proper medical facilities.

Living areas.
Ever wonder why your mother said your room looked like a landfill? Because it is so dirty, things can grow, rodents can hide, and it can become a potential trip/fall hazard. Simple organization and cleanliness will save you some headaches. Plus, designate a place for meals, and do not have the “bag of Cheetos in the bed syndrome.” You are just asking for rodents to come in. Additionally, clean your living areas with cleaning solution, and keep the dust to a minimum to combat allergens. Have dust masks handy. Also, keep outlets clear and clean, and power cords untangled and organized. You don’t want to create a fire hazard and burn down all of your precious resources! Air filters for your air conditioning systems (if running alternate energy) or replacement screen material for your windows to ensure that bugs don’t fly in during those warmer summer months are a necessity to keep your air flow clean.

This is where we refer to the quote above. Keep your bathroom sanitary! If using an interior bathroom, ensure it is cleaned thoroughly, and stocked with anti-bacterial soap. Wash your hands after using it, and for the men out there, watch your aim! Do your part to help keep the area clean. Use an appropriate amount of toiletries to get the job done. Avoid clogging the toilet, and forcing interaction with bodily waste. If using an outdoor latrine, ensure steps are taken to keep the odor down, and to keep flies to a minimum. Ensure there are chemicals in the tank, or you have the facility far enough away so as not to contaminate a water supply. If you are using a composting toilet (indoors or out) ensure you are using personal protective equipment (PPE) when you move the waste to a garden. Fecal matter has long been used as a lethal poison for a reason. It is deadly.

Medical waste and sterilization.
Obviously, your tools and equipment when it comes to medical matters need to be sterile. That is a point that doesn’t need stating. But what to do after you use it, and what do you do about where you use it? Whether it is a common cold, an accidental knife or axe wound, or a carefully placed gunshot wound, you need to sterilize the environment you work in, not just for the patient, but for everyone else as well.  Nobody wants to treat a patient only to find out that they got everyone else sick by not practicing good hygiene. Obviously wash hands before and after contact with a patient. A patient recovering from an injury already has a weakened immune system from treating its own wound. You do not want to contaminate someone with additional impurities that the body will have to fight off. Also, clean up medical waste after treatment, and dispose of it separately from other garbage. Ensure gloves are worn and a mask is worn if contagious material is around. Then take the waste to a remote location and incineration is generally your best bet. You don’t want to let the medical waste sit and fester in a garbage can.

Rodent Control.
Rodents carry diseases, and diseases kill people! Don’t let rodents ruin your storage and cause problems! First, store your foods in airtight containers, and keep them above the floor. Ensure they are in containers that mice can’t freely chew through. If a rodent finds that it can eat something, it will continue to come back. If it starves, it will look elsewhere… Ants, roaches, mice, rats, raccoons, and opossums all pose potential problems. The best defense is a good offense when it comes to rodents. Place traps, keep areas clean, and keep them from getting what they want!

In a TEOTWAWKI scenario, the lovely neighborhood Friday trash pick-up isn’t going to happen. You will still accumulate garbage, and you need somewhere to put it. So a couple questions will come to mind at first… Did I stock up on trash bags? Do I have appropriately sealed containers so as not to let rodents in, or worse, bears! But seriously, no one thinks about garbage when they are putting their preps together. Another thing that comes to mind is security. Can you safely burn your refuse without putting a signal out to the world that your area is inhabited? If you can, great, but if not, you may have to consider other means. For natural, organic material, composting will undoubtedly be your best bet. It will fertilize your garden, and limit refuse piling up in your castle. Another idea may be to burn cardboard and paper in a woodstove. Smaller, and less of a signal, the woodstove will burn cardboard and paper, and give your home a byproduct in heat. Plastic bottles and metal cans can be sterilized and reused. in-house recycling is always a good option.

In summary, keep your work areas neat and orderly, clean up as you go. Don’t create any unnecessary risks by leaving trash and clutter around. Keep your areas free of rodents, and ensure you sterilize what you can when you can. There is no need to combat half of the illnesses you face every year if you can prevent it. Also, when you practice these simple cleanliness steps in good times, it will be a lot easier to implement them when SHTF. And cleanliness is everyone’ responsibility! It’s simple to teach kids common steps to clean living, plus they will have fun when they see something they do contribute to the success of the household. Remember that this is Preventative medicine! You do these things to prevent something bad from happening. A couple good references are the Army FM 21-10 (Field Sanitation), the Center For Disease Control, and the American Red Cross. Good luck, stay clean, and happy hunting!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I left the city earlier this year, and have settled in on property that my grandmother bought 70 years ago. I work from home, in the arts, doing publicity, proofreading, and copy-editing. I have a very quiet life, very private, a few good friends, a deep knowledge of the region. I rarely go more than five miles from home.

The world frightens me much more than it did when I was younger and stronger and living in the big scary city. Havoc, it seems, has already been cried, and it’s not out of the question that the dogs of war will be let slip in Times Square. About six months ago, I began stockpiling. It’s been quite a journey. My emphasis has been on canned goods, dehydrated and freeze-dried food, and first-aid supplies.

And I haven’t told anyone about this except my son.

So, here I am, lady of a certain age, on my own, my only family 100 miles away, my closest neighbor is a man I don’t actually like very much (although he has, if you hold his feet to the fire, a certain grudging and oddly unpleasant generosity of spirit). I never expected I’d spend my golden years alone, but it’s not so bad, come to find out. There’s a lot worse things can happen to a girl than not having a husband. I’d prefer they didn’t happen to me, which brings me to the subject at hand.

Content as I am, I find I want to live a good while longer. I didn’t need a lot of convincing, but there are some good, scary scenarios depicting what it’ll like for those who don’t make any preparations. The movie “Testament” is extremely distressing. So are “The Day After ,” “The Road ,” and “Children of Men.” I don’t have a bug-out bag: I’m not going anywhere. I’m too old, and I can’t think of a place I’d rather be. And besides, I expect people will be bugging out to my place.

My little home has always been a weekend retreat—I own about an acre on a quaternary road. The house is on a wooded hill overlooking a 50+ acre lake on which there are only a half-dozen other houses, and it can’t be seen from the road when the trees are in leaf; it’s not terribly conspicuous even in the winter. It very unlikely it will get flooded. Occasionally in the springtime, at very high water, the little access lane—is there such a thing as a quinternary road?—will be covered with up to three feet of water. I found out a few years back that I was the only person who knew how to get into and out of our little enclave when the lane is under water.

The far shore of the lake is part of a conservation easement on which can be found the remains of the local limestone mining industry, which went belly-up before the Civil War. There’s another lake about a mile back in the woods, and several mines.

My brother and I explored those mines, or caves, as we called them, and, when I was a youngling, I entertained TEOTWAWKI fantasies of hiding out there, finding true love while keeping civilization alive. The caves are unsuitable as retreat locations, for a number of reasons, but my little house is not. It’s my redoubt, where I plan to live out my days and where I will hunker down if the worse—or even something only moderately bad—comes to the worst.

One of the most annoying phrases to come out of the New Age, that lavish font of faux philosophy, mock wisdom, and do-it-yourself religion, is that "God doesn't give you anything that you can't handle." I can handle a lot, but my feeling is that, whether God gives it to me or not, there are plenty of things I couldn’t handle. [JWR Adds: That phrase is a derivation, and a corruption of 1 Corinthians 10:13: "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." That verse is about temptation, not physical trials,] Nuclear war, for instance. Nor am I arrogant enough to think I could handle the death of a child. The problem is with the verb: “handle” is trivial, the kind of action taken in ad copy, which is, come to think of it, what a lot of that jejune new-age nonsense actually is. I’ll stick with King David and St. Paul, thanks. And I’ll allow as how “handling” is not the action you’ll want to take when faced with catastrophe of the apocalyptic sort.

My focus recently has been water. I always thought I could count on the lake as a sure supply of water, albeit water that would have to be filtered and purified six ways from Sunday. After reading Paul Erlich’s book The Cold and the Dark: The World After Nuclear War, however, I understand that not only can surface water be contaminated by other than organic means, i.e. radioactive fallout, it is likely, in the event of a nuclear war and subsequent Ragnarök, to be frozen.

There are two wells on the property. The original well is about 70 feet deep, and when I was a child there was a hand pump (and an outhouse). My father modernized the house in the 60s, getting rid of the outhouse, installing electric baseboard heaters and running water, and putting an electric pump on the well. That well went dry in the parched summer of 2002, and I had a new, 400-foot well put in. I’m in the midst of arranging for a hand pump for the old well. (It has filled up again and is perfectly functional. It’ll only cost a couple-three hundred dollars, as the water is quite close to the surface.)

There’s also a pretty constant supply of water in the basement of the house. This has always been a nuisance that called for a sump pump, but now I’m beginning to think I need to collect it in a cistern.

I’ve begun to think about security, too. As I said, I’ve told no one about my preparations, other than my son. I’m on good terms with my immediate neighbors, known all of them for many years. But this is private, and I have told no one.

The woods across the lake are somewhat accessible, although the resort that has title to the land installed, a few years back, some substantial fences (think, Arbeit Macht Frei) at key access points. The lake itself has a public landing where fisherman occasionally put in. I’m not too worried about hordes of refugees from the city, I’m far enough off the beaten path, but local people who haven’t fished that lake for years are likely to remember it and show up for water and dinner and laundry and who-knows-what else. Up until five or six years ago I always had a Doberman or two. Now I’m thinking I should dog up again, but I’m thinking Rottweiler. More intimidating but actually gentler, their less exigent exercise demands more suited to a woman of my years.

Here are the other preparations I’ve made so far:

  • Many, many kerosene/oil lamps, both the table variety and the “railroad” kind that swing from a handle; lots of spare wicks, many gallons of oil. I got these lamps years ago, when my life was very different, when I used to entertain rather a lot. I hung them from hooks in the trees, and they lit up the paths and woods around my house, quite a magical effect. I use them instead of a flashlight when I need to go out at night.
  • Books, for reference and to replace what I’m used to finding on the Web. Joy of Cooking is simply indispensable. I don’t know a lot about Irma Rombauer and Marion Becker, but their magnum opus evokes a solid, Midwestern, roll-up-your-sleeves-ladies pioneering spirit. I’ve had a copy since 1976, and have gone through several editions. The recipes themselves range from down-home to haute—Christmas cookies, pâté de foie gras, chicken and dumplings, apricot soufflée, anything you need, it’s here. There are instructions for the field dressing of game (“Find and take hold of the large intestine as near as possible to the already loosened anus...”), stuffing a boar’s head (...a gloriously glazed and garnished presentation, so gird up your loins and prepare to receive a hero’s reward...”), tapping a maple (“Hammer the spout in gently but firmly so as not to split the bark, which will cause a leaky tap hole.”), and beating eggs (“The French dote on copper.”).  A more recent acquisition has been a volume published by The Success Companies in 1908 called Household Discoveries & Mrs. Curtis’s Cook Book. If you anticipate living a lifestyle that doesn’t depend on the internal combustion engine, you’ll want this book. It’s long out of print, of course, but you can find it on the Web. My copy is in excellent shape. It’s full of hints and procedures, recipes and advice. The recipes should be taken with a grain of salt, as it were, but I’ve always been fairly liberal in the interpretation of quantities and oven temperatures, myself. There are substantial disquisitions on laundry, care of the teeth, nursing the sick, household hygiene (“Never throw dishwater from the kitchen door.”), childcare, household and garden pests, preserving and canning, and much more. Things like using slippery elm bark to preserve animal fat and oil; fireproofing and waterproofing; preserving fresh meat for several days with sour milk, vinegar, charcoal, or borax; the fireless cooker; Favorite Meals In Famous Houses; etc. Household Discoveries & Mrs. Curtis’s Cook Book is chock-full of vital information and vastly entertaining with it.
  • Speaking of entertainment, I have many books, as well as board games, decks of cards, and vocal music. I don’t know how many people can actually read music anymore, but I have hymnals and books of vocal arrangements of pop songs, folk songs, and madrigals. Find your own favorites at
  • Blackout curtains from Wal-Mart ($11.99 per panel). These will serve as insulation and as security, keeping light indoors and the house invisible at night. I’ve put self-adhesive Velcro along the window frames and sewn it up the sides of the curtains.
  • My 12-gauge pump-action Mossberg. A five-shooter. I have 10 boxes of shells and pick up a couple or three more every time I go to Wal-Mart.
  • Peppermint oil to keep the mice away, and steel wool to plug up holes where they can get in. Mousetraps for the stubborn ones. Fly-bait powder and flypaper. Flea bombs. Insect repellent (at a deep discount this time of year). I also have hornet bombs that shoot a powerful spray 25 feet.
  • I expect one or another of my gentleman callers will be coming by. Helpless as they seem to be, one of them can dig the sanitary pit and another the cistern in the basement. And of course my son, who’s not at all helpless but who’s not made any preparations and who will, he’s told me, hop on his bike and cycle up here from the city. He can do it, too. He bicycled across the country, solo, in 2001. All the way from here to there and back again. Granted, he’s nine years older, now. But he’s quite fit and just as stubborn as I am. In any case, there’s an advantage to preserving any niceties we can, so I’ve laid in a supply of disposable razors and a shaving kit by Burma-Shave with mug, soap, and brush.
  • For currency, I’m putting aside cash, $10 a week or so. I don’t make a lot of money, so it’s slow going, but I have a substantial collection of sterling silver, from the days when the family was flush. It’s quite valuable, but I need to find how barterable these knives, spoons, pickle forks, and gravy ladles really would be after TEOTWAWKI.

Now, as to what I plan to do in the coming months: goats. I’m made arrangements to get two Nigerian dwarfs in the spring. I can milk ‘em, I can ‘eat em, although someone else might have to slaughter them for me. They’ll nibble on my fingers and keep the lawn mowed. I’ll have to fence in my tiny acre before they arrive, but that’s fine, a little electric barrier (with a solar charger) between me and the rest of the world. It won’t keep the rest of the world out, but it will make them stop and hello-the-house or at least get my attention with their cursing and give me time to grab the twelve-gauge before they’re across the yard and into my stuff.

And ducks. They’ll like the lake.

Over the winter I’m planning how to sequester my supplies. There’s a good-sized dead space where the kitchen backs up to the stairs. It has shelves, and could be easily masked with a false wall of sheet rock and molding, all of which can be held in place with Velcro. (I’m a great believer in Velcro.)

Music is important to me. What I need is a solar charger for the iPod, which is loaded at all times with the Desert Island play list, not as important as keeping gas in the car, but up there. It would be nice to have a working computer, including my music library, whether or not the Internet survives the apocalypse. I have the solar charger from the VW Jetta (turbo-diesel, thanks for asking) with a cigarette lighter male half. GoalÆ has an Anderson-to-female cigarette lighter adaptor that’ll power the amplifier for $6.99 plus shipping. I think. Internet and blogosphere talk of such items gets, usually by the second paragraph, into geek talk that goes straight over my head like a 787. There’s a bit of head-scratching involved in studying up on these power sources and applications. For instance, when I do web search on “female cigarette lighter” I tend to get web sites of Chinese manufacturers of elegant combustion devices designed to be held by dainty hands. Obviously these are of no use to me as I stopped smoking some twelve years back and left daintiness behind sometime later.

Grates from the oven and the Weber grill will do for cooking on the fire pit I have out back, but I’ll be wanting a wood-burning camp or military stove, preferably one that will heat the house, as well. There are such available, and I expect I’ll get one in the spring. I have a good selection of cast-iron cookware, heavy for a lady to lift but useful for pre-industrial cooking situations. I’d like to put in a fireplace insert to heat the house.

What have I learned, making these preparations? I’ve learned that stubbornness and leverage are as important as brute strength. And that it’s not at all painful to buy a little at a time; whenever I shop for groceries I pick up a few more cans of fruit or vegetables, a few more rolled bandages. And I’ve learned that it’s important while making all these preparations to  maintain at least the semblance of a normal life. Normal now is not what it was.

I look at what I’ve done, all by myself, and I’m kind of amazed. I’m not finished with my preparations, not by a long shot. But if the hammer fell tomorrow I would feel, if not safe, at least not destitute by the altered standards of destitution that would obtain in such a development. I’ll have told no one, but I’ll have enough to share if Polite Society comes calling.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Good morning Mr. Rawles,
In regards to the "Family Preparedness: How to Protect Your Infant Child", I just wanted to comment that wool diaper covers need to be washed less often, do not smell at all and two is all you need. Plus, they are just more comfortable for infants than plastic, no matter how cute or functional. They also breathe better and keep baby warm even when wet, which is important if you are changing less often than usual.

Mother-Ease diapers are handy - no folding, no velcro, and they are one-size fits all. You can also buy doublers that make it good for a night time diaper.

Rice paper diaper liners are excellent for just pulling away waste from the diapers and then you can throw that away, hopefully reducing waste removal on your diaper itself - less washing.

Slings are more useful than carriers, even for larger children. They can be used as ground cloths, blankets, handkerchiefs, sun shades etc, which a carrier just cannot do. See the Maya Wrap.

Thanks! - Kerry

Friday, July 30, 2010

Introductory biographical note: The author is 64 years old, father of nine children, BSAE Aeronautical Engineering, Ex-Army Infantry Training Officer (1970-1974), former Gym Trainer (1996-1997), Firefighter and EMT training and certification (2009-2010), Real Estate Broker/Owner

Phase I
I began realizing my vulnerability in 1998-1999, when Y2K-induced turmoil was a potential real possibility. I began, in all haste to find and prepare for the possible disaster that might come when the clock struck 12:00 midnight and 2000 would ring in. My first step was to find enough land that would be secure enough for my family and to design a place we could live and that would handle any disaster, whether it was of nature, man-made or God directed. My requirements were simple. It needed to have relatively high elevation (1,500ft+ above sea level), close enough to a populated city , but rural enough to not easily be found, basically within a 1 hour drive. Secluded, but not to isolated, and not to far removed from all civilization, but yet be sparsely populated and hard to find. It had to have access to running water and have soil to grow crops. 
I found a piece of property that was nearly 50 acres on the top of a ridge line, that was part of a 1,000 acre tract, with only 15 other property owners, with tracts ranging from 15 acres to 200 acres. The 1,000 acres was gated with one main, electrically operated secured gate leading in and a permanently locked gate leading out for emergencies only. The community had two 400 ft wells, with creeks running through the 1,000 acres and touching my tract. One of the wells was at the bottom of my property and had a 5 h.p. pump. The well was on a timer and delivered water to multiple tanks at different locations on the three highest elevations. Gravity feed then brought the water to the 15 property owners. I purchased an 8kw mobile generator, for standby power, to run the pump, if we were to loose electricity for any long period of time. The owner of the 200 acre tract reserved his for hunting and kept it seeded, to attract deer, rabbit, bear & turkey. The developer of the 1,000 acres paved the main road coming up to about 1,500 feet and then graveled from there to all the tracts ranging from 500 ft to 2,500 ft. My parcel sits at about 2,200 ft. ASL. All of the tracts are heavily wooded with hardwoods as well as evergreens.

My next step was to design and start construction of an impregnable home (fortress) that would withstand any disaster within the constraints of my budget. My plan was to dig into the mountain such that only one side would be open and dirt would surround the other three sides up to 12’. Because time was a factor, I knew I could only get the basement part completed before the New Year would ring in. This meant my roof would be the floor of the home that I would need to finish someday in the future, if the world was still around after Y2K.

I sent my floor plans to the engineering department of a nearby university and asked for help.
The dimensions I gave them were to be 37’X 52’ split lengthwise by a 12’ separation wall 12” thick of poured reinforced concrete surrounded by 12’ walls of the same. To handle the load of a semi-truck driving over my roof, they told me I needed  8” of poured concrete, reinforced with rebar, 10” on center and 6 by 6 [heavy] wire mesh. I added an 8’ wide X 5’ high fireplace on the open side of the basement with large racks for grilling my kill. The basement floor was 4” poured concrete that I ran one inch polyurethane tubing 4’ apart throughout the basement floor, which ran into a plenum in the base of the fireplace and back to a recirculating pump and holding tank. In addition, valving was added to reroute the heated water into the hot water system of the house. A small, electric hot water heater was added to the system capable of running from standard 120 VAC as second water heater capable running at 12VDC from solar panels via deep cycle storage batteries I purchased (4) 2’X 6‘ solar panels with frame, and a windmill.
Prior to having the roof poured I dropped in a 500 gal urethane water tank built into a frame that raised the tank from 6’ to the roof. This would allow me for gravity feed system in the basement.. I constructed two fiberglass shower stalls for two bathrooms, a work/mechanical room, two bedrooms and a kitchen on one side of the divided wall. Two metal framed doors secured this area from the large living room that is between the divided wall and the outside open wall. There are two metal doors exiting the basement. One is through a stairwell to the roof (future floor of the main house) and the other through the open side.
I also decided to add one additional piece for security, as well as escape. At the back of the basement going into the mountain I put in a 30’ X 10’ cleaned out metal fuel tank (25,000 gal to be exact). This is what I called my Survival Tank. I found the tank at a scrap metal yard out in the boonies and had a local welder cut one end out and put in a double hinged door secured by 1” X 1” sliding bars that were lockable with the largest master locks I could find. On the top of one end of the tank I had him cut out a 3’ X 3’ square and ran 4 walls, 6’ up with a latchable top, secured from the inside, as well as a metal ladder to go from the floor to the top of the latch. I then had a floor frame put in that was 30” from the bottom of the tank and added 2’ x 6” wood removable flooring. This is where I store all of the 5 gal urethane storage buckets.  From the 2”x 6” floor I built metal shelving with 2”x 6” wood shelves to the roof of the tank. That left me with about an 8’ walkway front to rear down the center of the tank. The hard part was getting the tank up the last 500’ vertical 30 degree incline to the homesite. For this I had to find the largest wrecker in the state. We had to winch the tank up the 500’ and then drop it in the ground before we poured the 12” back wall around it, leaving the welded doors as the entry from the basement to the tank. The tank was now about 4’ underground, with the escape hatch protruding above the surface. A few years later, after Y2K became a no- event, I enlarged my floor plan above the basement and added an additional 1,000sq ft and poured concrete over the entire area where the tank was buried. With all this, an oversized septic system and drain field needed to be designed. I have since changed the design of the house to have a castle look that is an additional 26’ above the basement, using split face block that is reinforced with rebar and filled with concrete. Other things that have been done are the purchase and installation of an inverter system, solar array and windmill. I have a 600 gal gas tank and 1,000 gal propane tank. I have an extra 5kva generator which has been converted to be a dual-fuel system, i.e. gas/propane. After nine years I have the walls up from the basement roof and hope to have a metal/concrete roof put on before 2012, for what I hope is also a non-event.

Phase II
This is really a continuation of Phase I, but it is the process of preparing the list of lists and then accumulating the items necessary to insure a plan A, B & C and in some areas a plan D.

  1. CACHES- I keep most of my equipment& supplies that I cannot easily replace or want to safeguard the most, in the Survival Tank. But I have also build special caches for firearms and ammo that I can bury in different locations, if for any reason any of my residences become compromised. I did this by taking 8” X 5’ sections of PVC pipe and capping each end. They are waterproof, can hold two rifles, hand guns and ammo each and can easily be buried and retrieved.
  2. EMERGENCY LIGHTING- Purchased wall-mounted LED kits that can easily be mounted above telephone jacks, thus utilizing the 2nd pair of phone wires on a 12VDC circuit wired to a single automobile battery with a small solar panel for emergency lighting.
  3. EXERCISE/MILLING/12VDC GENERATOR- I purchased a Country Living Mill and then found an exercise bike. I also mounted both the mill and a 12VDC automobile generator, pre-1975, to a board with a 12 VDC battery. I can generate 12 VDC power for my emergency lighting  or charge up the car battery or grind wheat into flour, while getting in our daily exercise.
  4. TRANSPORTATION- Purchased a customized  ’71 & ’74 4WD Chevy Blazers on the internet. The ’71 was customized for brush firefighting and the ’74 was customized as a dual fuel
  5. GARDENING- I have just applied for a subsidy grant, and received it, from a program launched in December 2009 by the Department of Agriculture, whereby I will be reimbursed up to $3,300 for materials to construct up to 2,175 sf of high tunnels for growing crops. A high tunnel or hoop house are miniature greenhouses without all the fancy bells and whistles The grants are being awarded to 38 states for the purpose of extending the growing seasons of food crops and most families can qualify if they have a small tract of land to put them on. Last month I had a bob-cat grade out about a half acre and will start planting in the fall for a early spring harvest.
  6. FOOD- Thousands of  rations of  MREs. Freeze-dried , dehydrated and raw wheat, rice, sugar, honey etc.


Mistakes I have made:


  1. I put 2-8’x10’ sectioned windows on the open side of the basement. Twice I have had ATV renegades break in, through the windows, even through the metal-doored tank, cutting the locks and thereby taking my guns and ammo and trying to hot wire my dirt bike.  I have since then boarded up the windows and put larger Master locks on the doors. I have found that there is almost nowhere safe from a dirt bike or ATV. A security system is my next step. Booby traps are illegal in most jurisdictions.
  2. Metal tanks, underground, will sweat, making large pools of water in the bottom of the tank. It is difficult to control the temperature, but since I installed dehumidifiers, everything stays dry and cool. Dampness accelerates the deterioration of metal cans making them rust from both inside and outside the can.  Mold or mildew starts to take over everything from bedding, to books to any type of paper products and boxes will fall apart over time Dampness also invites rodents you do not want, as well as insects, so use plenty of rat bait and seal up all possible points of entry. I also fog the place every time I leave.
  3. If you are going to build an oversize fireplace make sure you find someone who knows how to calculate the ratio of the flu and damper.
  4. When building a basement underground, be sure you study up on removing water from the walls created by hydrostatic pressure and have a good wall and below floor drainage system.


  1. Rotation of Food- MREs do last more than 10 years [at temperatures under 60 degrees], with a few exceptions such as high oil content foods which begin to deteriorate. Fruits break down and start to ferment or just go bad.


  1. I'm not yet sure how to handle long term supply of female monthly needs or what to substitute when supplies run out. [JWR Adds: I've had several readers enthusiastically recommend washable fabric sanitary pads. Patterns for making your own are available on-line. Or if you'd rather have someone else do the repetitive sewing work, then I recommend a small, family-owned business called Naturally Cozy. From all reports, their pads are very comfortable and made to last.]

Don’t run out of money, because your eyes are bigger than your wallet or borrowing power is.

My Belief System

For those who believe, have repented and have chosen to follow in his teachings, he has promised eternal life. Although all things are in God’s hand, and it has been ordained as to the end and how and when it will happen, as Christians, we have a responsibility to God, our families, our church and our fellow man to be prepared both spiritually and materially. We may choose that “God will provide”, “ What is meant to be, will be” or “God helps those who help themselves” attitude. Through out the Bible, God gave direction, through his word, directly and indirectly to be prepared at all times.

Most agree on at least the distinction that we live in an unprecedented time in History. Before us, cities, kingdoms and nations have been destroyed by God or God has removed his hand and blessings and they have been destroyed or have destroyed themselves. God has, through his mercy, given guidance and direction for us to be prepared for his second coming. He has warned us of upcoming famine, destruction and the wrath that will be unleashed upon the earth before Jesus Christ returns. [We've also been warned of] the possibility, if not the absolute certainty, of some form of collapse in our system, as we know it. This may come in a variety of forms - flu pandemic, economic depression, or an EMP attack, all of which are likely scenarios. Regardless of the form, the result will be very similar and our concerns are as well: How do we protect ourselves and our families and provide a living? While stocking up on beans, bullets, and band-aids is the initial response, further preparation encourages us to find a defensible, as well as productive retreat. But then what? So you have your retreat (or not), you’ve stocked up on seeds and a food mill, and “the event” actually comes. Are you prepared to provide for yourself when the food runs out or if society never returns to “normal”?

Although it may be difficult to learn and find the time for, the ability to provide for yourself provides incredible rewards. If we should need to return to a less technologically “advanced” society, many people will not have the knowledge, skills, and determination to do so. A few forward-thinkers will. Which do you want to be?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

One question comes to mind, does his basement have a restroom, or is he relying on a honey bucket? Also, how does he intend to deal with cooking odors [both good and bad?] Might be a huge tip off in a SHTF situation. Thanks, - Greg L.

Most of us have furnaces, A/C and hot water heaters in our basements, and they require seasonal maintenance by outside contractors. The description from Jeff W. sounds like he may have restricted access to these devices (180 degree turn at the bottom of the steps), or they're not in the basement...

How did Jeff W. overcome this problem? - Dave in Missouri

Hi Jim,
I just had to respond to this piece. There are three glaring omissions that will turn this place into a nightmare in short order. The first is air circulation. Without an air exchange system, there will be CO2 build up that will make the place unbearable and dangerous. Cooking will be out of the question. The second problem is waste management. In a month, the smell will be bad, the flies worse and the prospect of disease a reality. It would take a power source to run a pump to push sewage into an existing system. The final problem is likely to be moisture. Even if rain does not actually run into a basement, moisture is a reality in underground living. Best wishes, - Kathy Harrison (author of Just in Case: How To Be Self-sufficient When The Unexpected Happens)

JWR Replies: The challenges mentioned are significant, but not insurmountable. A fairly small DC "muffin" fan that is powered by an alternative power system battery bank can provide plenty of outside air, but of course you'll need a corresponding size outlet. Ideally, a more sophisticated DC and hand-powered air pump (with a HEPA filter for NBC events) should be added, as your budget allows.

See my lengthy response to a 2007 letter in the SurvivalBlog archives for some recommendations on minimizing cooking odors.

Depending on your water table and time of year, and manual sump pump, or one powered by an alternative power system battery bank would be appropriate.

For most family shelters, I recommend getting a Luggable Loo Portable Toilet. These toilet seats fit on a standard 5 or 6 gallon HDPE bucket. Depending on how many people you will have in your shelter, and the expected duration, you'll need to lay in a corresponding supply of additional buckets with lids. (The inexpensive non-food grade buckets from places like Home Depot work fine.) For planning purposes, keep in mind that the accumulated volume of urine will be greater than the volume of fecal matter and toilet paper. When each bucket becomes nearly full, move the toilet seat to a new bucket, and tightly seal a lid on the full one. To cut down on odors, keep a sack of powdered lime available, to sprinkle over the feces, immediately after each use. The lime you'll need is the calcium hypochlorite type, a.k.a. Ca(ClO)2, which is made from chlorinated slaked lime. this is available from many feed stores and farm/ranch co-op stores.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

James Wesley,
Mrs. C.J. had some excellent ideas in her article, and I'd like to add a couple of suggestions about laundry/cleaning supplies. Since we have a septic system, I'm always mindful of the substances we're putting into the ground. The Internet is a great source of recipes for homemade cleaners of all types, using ingredients that are a lot cheaper and safer than the store-bought items.

For example, I use a few drops of tea tree oil (an antibiotic) and a squirt of Ivory Liquid in a spray bottle, add water, and have a great all-purpose cleaner for the kitchen and bathroom. If something needs a little scrubbing I use baking soda. For laundry detergent, blend together 1 cup of Borax, 1 cup of washing soda (not baking soda), and 1/2 bar of Fels Naptha soap, or any white soap. I use a food processor but the soap could be hand grated and mixed with the powders. Use only 1-2 tablespoons per load. I'm also experimenting with making my own creams and lotions, candles, etc. It's fun and saves money!

Thank you for all that you do, and to everyone in the SurvivalBlog community for their help. Sincerely, - Barbara in Tennessee

Friday, April 30, 2010

In a TEOTWAWKI situation hygiene is going to become very important. As an E.R. Nurse I see hygiene problems everyday. I can’t begin to describe the things that I have seen… and I probably have post-traumatic stress disorder, as a result. Do you know that homeless alcoholics care very little about their personal hygiene?? A few years ago I learned a nice lesson on personal hygiene that I wanted to pass on. It may not be a new idea to some but I think it would be very useful to a lot of people who haven’t considered hygiene/showering post-SHTF

Ten years ago while going to nursing school I stumbled on an outstanding deal on 20 acres in Northern Arizona with a run down travel trailer on it. Being a poor college student I couldn’t afford rent and the land payment so I gave up the apartment and started an 18-month adventure. The trailer was full of mouse poop, had no running water, no electricity and no septic system. I learned a lot fast…

One of the problems that I faced was how to bathe. Initially I heated water on a propane camp stove in a large pot and took a sponge bath. It worked okay at best but I longed for a hot shower. While stumbling around in a home improvement store I came upon an idea. They had all these hand pump 1-to-2 gallon multipurpose household sprayers. I thought they might work better then the “sponge job” that I was currently doing. While trying to decide which one to purchase one of the 2 gallon sized sprayers stated it came with a showerhead nozzle. I bought it and it and to this day it was one of the best $20 purchases I ever made.

Showering with a multipurpose sprayer was not that difficult at all. I still used the propane camp stove to heat the water in a large pot. Once the water reached a nice temp I poured it into the sprayer. Pumped it up to pressure and hung it from the existing showerhead in the trailer bathroom. I didn’t have septic so the bath water dumped into a hole under the trailer. The gray water never became a problem since I was only using 1-2 gallons of water. I took a “military shower” that consisted of wetting down, soaping up and then rinsing off. Most days a single gallon of water was all that was needed. On days when I was really filthy or needed a special treat I used two gallons.

I recently tried to locate another multipurpose sprayer with a showerhead attachment and only found one site online carrying it. I found the original company that made my sprayer (the RL Flo-Master Sprayer) but could not find the showing attachment listed on their site. I believe that the showerhead attachment made all the difference between the standard spray nozzle and a real shower experience.  Not willing to give up yet I contacted the original company and found that the attachment is still available. I just ordered 10 of them. Don’t quote me but I bet the attachment would work on other brands of multipurpose sprayers. Below is the contact information and I hope this article was helpful.

Poly Shower Head Nozzle
Part # 952-361
$2.00/each plus shipping

RL Flo-Master
P.O. Box 289
Lowell, MI 49331
Phone # 1-800-253-4642
Fax # 1-800-968-3555

JWR Adds: These sprayers can also be useful for NBC decontamination. Oh, and of course, never use a sprayer that has been previously used for herbicides, pesticides, or other chemicals, for showering!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hi James,

Since I returned from Haiti, I have given a lot of thought about the field sanitation problems that would occur when the Golden Horde after a disaster starts entering an area to set up camps. I live in a pretty remote area that would be attractive to people leaving larger communities. This area is one where hunting and winter snowmobiling is popular.

What can be envisioned is people who can make it this far, who are familiar with the few water resources, and the limited game would probably wind up. There is also a national wildlife preserve nearby that would be attractive to people desiring to live off of the bounty of nature, and of course forget about any Federal laws protecting that preserve. A group of ham radio operators in the region are also concerned. Some are prepared and fully expecting a disaster, We are planning in advance because we know there will be some form of disaster eventually. Lets face it: Words like, Indonesia, Katrina, Haiti, and Chile should really keep people in the preparedness mode. Disasters happen!

Personally, I have become very focused on field sanitation the past couple of weeks. I believe that having some extra shovels, picks, digging bars around, and making up some basic booklets or fliers on how and where to dig latrines will be in my preparedness larder. I fully expect when something happens here that I should expect what could become a health problem to be created by people, who have no idea how to survive, and thrive in the out door environment.

The Boy Scouts program isn't as popular as is was 50 years ago. Most people in today's society are totally unprepared on how to properly be safe and sanitary in the outdoor environment, unless there is a plastic Porta-potty parked there to use. And somehow magically gets pumped out and cleaned every few days by the person who has the nastiest job in the country, who by no mistake is pretty well paid by their employers to take on such a job.

Methinks it to be very prudent to take on an extra responsibility, to have extra preparations for this eventuality. To ensure that disease doesn't become something that could and would cause extreme discomfort and even death to wipe out a community.

I know I am not in the best place for a Rawlesian retreat, but this is where the Lord planted me. He did it for a reason, always does. I believe facing this in a prepared and focused way will possibly prevent a second disaster, Like the one we will soon see raising its ugly head in a few more weeks in Haiti, and has already started unfortunately.

Latrines are something that has been neglected in the camps in Haiti, They will not be neglected where I live, if I have anything to say and can do about it. I am also going to start building some portaloos out of five gallon bucket, and buying some seats to attach to the portaloos, filling them with toilet paper (TP) and handy wipes, baby wipes. etc just to have on hand for this possible event. They will be part of my charitable offerings to those people I would encounter in my area of operations (AO).

Something to remember when digging a latrine, is to always keep it a minimum of 100 feet away from any wells, or surface water sources. They should be at least three feed deep, a foot wide, and four feet long to accommodate about ten people. they should have a shovel there to use in order to pitch in a little dirt after each use. When the latrine has only about 18 inches of depth left, then it should be filled in, and a fresh one dug for another cycle of use.

In the Army, our units built plywood four holers with toilet seats installed. the units were hinged and latched so that they could fold up and could be used over again, they had rigging on the sides so four men could pick them up with two long poles, and move them easily to the next location. Since I was in the Signal Corps, we had females in the units too. thus two units for each company were made. I think that having separate men's and women's latrines will be very necessary, along with privacy screening made out of tarps.

Keep in mind that people will congregate, for safety and community. Being a loner isn't practical or prudent. So if your in an area like me, if possible think ahead, and have a plan ahead of time. Thus, when the problem raises it's ugly head, all of the possibilities are addressed.

There are military field sanitation manuals available online. Extract the pages that would be thought most useful in your situations and make some basic copies. Then place them in a large plastic bag and keep them available in your preparedness larder.

Portaloos are fairly cheap and easy to build, a bottle of bleach and a toilet brush would also be a good addition for them too.
These can be useful for people living in tents, they are easy to transport to a latrine and cleaned out for further use. the cleaning is fairly easy. To fasten the toilet seat on for easy removal, install two long 1/4-20 bolts with washers and nuts holding the bolts in place with the ends pointed out. Install the seat using large flat washers and wing nuts. It will make it easier to remove the seat for transport, emptying ,and cleaning. Storing the cleaning supplies and TP inside the unit with the standard bucket cover is more convenient. Home Depot has orange [non-food grade] HDPE buckets available fairly inexpensively. I think a trip there or other similar store one can purchase everything needed to outfit a portaloo for about thirty dollars or so. Blessings and peace of mind in preparedness. - Dave M. in Oregon (A Blessings For Obedience World Missionary Radio volunteer)

Saturday, March 6, 2010


Concerning the lack of sanitation at some Haiti evacuation camps: Porta-john [chemical toilets] are nice, but must be pumped out, cleaned and refilled regularly in order to remain usable. A simple solution I have used on the farm is to cut out the bottom of the john's holding tank. Then we dig a hole and position the outhouse over the hole. As it is used, we occasionally throw a little lime or wood ash into the hole to control smell and bugs. The outhouse is on skids and is easy to move by hand, so when the hole is half full, we pull the john aside, dig a new hole and use the dirt to refill the "used" hole. When we have repositioned the outhouse over the new hole, we heap the remaining dirt around the outside edges of the building for more smell and insect control and to keep out ground water. Thus we have an always ready, clean and private facility for when the need arises.

I suggest that readers call their local porta-john rental companies. The suppliers in my area often have ones in need of slight repair available for purchase, at low cost. A non-chemical using, easy to move and clean outhouse would make a very nice, and most helpful, addition to

Friday, March 5, 2010

I thought that you and your family might be encouraged by the following: There was an extraordinary occurrence in Haiti on February 17th. Here is a blog entry with a YouTube link about a nationally declared three days of fasting and prayer in Haiti. Amazing grace.

The final sentence in the entry is the most sobering:

"The only sadness that I feel today is for our nation. While a nation that has long been under Satan's domination is turning to God with total commitment, our nation, founded on Godly values, has rejected God and is rapidly trying to forget that His name even exists. Let us pray for revival." - Sheila M.

Hi James,
Its been a while. I just spent eight days in Haiti building a radio station in Crois des Bouquets. We were working with a church and pastor I have worked with before. He had about thirty Haitian people who lost everything in his home, plus 10 Americans, three on our radio team, and an evangelistic team out of Florida.

Our team went in with tent, MREs and Mountain House food. a water filter plus all of our necessities. fortunately we didn't need our food but donated it to the house hold to aid others. We left our tents, sleeping bags, and air mattresses behind and told the Pastor to give them to people he knew who really needed it.

We got a radio message from the states inquiring about an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp who had been sent aid
by a ministry in Indiana. Apparently they had not received their aid yet. We checked and thought we had the right IDP camp. They had not had anything to eat or water in over a week.

My first thought being an old army sergeant was: "Where are the privies?" There were no sanitation pits dug, and people were relieving themselves out in the open. This was just about three miles from the airport at the river bridge. There were two large tent cities in the same location with absolutely no sanitation facilities.

I talked with the leader of one camp and ask why they had no latrines dug. They had absolutely nothing to dig a hole with. I told him that if they didn't do something immediately about the problem, that disease would go through that camp in short order, and could wipe them all out. I told him I would get a pick and some shovels. I did so the next day.

On the following day we were leaving and the camp had a team out digging privies. Praise the Lord.
James, and readers, there was at that time absolutely nothing being done about sanitation in the camps. The U.S. Army was really concerned about this issue, but their hands were tied. There were no NGOs addressing the problem either. It is a major issue with the medical people I met.

I did see about ten brand new porta Johns at the IDP camp across the street from the presidential palace. But there was no one using them. I'm sure they were put there for the news nosies, just for the cameras. I know in the next month there will be a second disaster developing, and there already is in one camp. (I got word from a person that I trust and that is in the know, that a large TB outbreak had already occurred in one of the IDP camps.

The Haiti government is very inept and un prepared for any disaster. the UN, USAID, UNICEF, Red Curse, et cetera are all just having meetings and doing very little to help the situation.

All I saw when I was there was Christian ministries getting the job done. I know the Samaritan's Purse, Operation Blessing, Friend Ships, Catholic Relief, Mennonites, Baptists, et cetera are in there getting their hands dirty and getting the job done.

I would just say in closing that the first thing after a disaster strikes, and people are having to camp out, or go into a camp is to dig a suitable latrine, and make some effort to keep clean. One of the first things that our servicemen in all of our services learn in basic training is field sanitation. If our military were turned loose to help I know full well they would go in there and help provide some form of field sanitation.

I do have to say the Christians are pulling together in Haiti, and people are turning to Christ by the thousands.
Blessings, - Dave M. (A Blessings For Obedience World Missionary Radio volunteer)

Mr. Rawles,

I thought I'd drop a note having been in Haiti from the day after the quake to a couple weeks ago, and having run an ongoing program there for a few years now. I wanted to comment on the issue of rioting in Haiti versus. Chile. I think the core issue was that people in each country were faced with different immediate challenges.

In Haiti, like many other developing countries lacking Chile's level of building codes and construction standards, Port Au Prince was extremely vulnerable to a quake. Because the quake hit only a few miles from Port Au Prince you had complete destruction of entire zones of the city, with entire blocks where 4/5 of the buildings just collapsed. As a result the death toll was 220,000 people.

The immediate job for a large percentage of the city became how do I dig through these buildings to rescue those 220,000 people or at least recover the bodies. The self organized work crews were pretty incredible. For much of the rest of the population the immediate task became how do I find my family and find shelter. Most of those alive were in front of completely destroyed houses (1.5 million homeless) Even when looking for a few immediate resources because so much was destroyed people were salvaging collapse sites more often than looting.

In addition the atmosphere was somber and surreal, the work crews pulling out bodies everywhere in the city and piling them, the people crying for help, the surgery taking place on the street. I would say that everybody I spoke to who emerged from that situation left with a truly profound sorrow in their hearts. Missing a day or two of food was pretty secondary for most people. Many Haitians have dealt with food insecurity and hunger before, that wasn't as much of an immediate issue. Even for aid workers it was hard to even remember to eat much less worry about it.

Outside Port Au Prince people were largely just melancholy, it is a small country, everybody had somebody who died, everything was shut down, you couldn't get money from banks or buy food in stores for a week, yet there weren't people in the streets till the very end of that, and even then it was just some organized marches in front of the banks for them to re-open. Within four days in Port Au Prince many of the aid services started emerging and food and water started to become more readily available. Within 6 days some money transfer services started opening in the rest of the country and commerce started again.

Thankfully in Chile, outside of the terrible devastation in the Tsunami zone, comparatively many of the structures in the earthquake zone stood. So the challenges faced were different. The people seen on television looting seem more concerned about scarce resources than trying to dig out their trapped friends and family out of the rubble. With a death toll under 1,000 so far the number of people who are directly missing people or who came back to find their home collapsed on their family must be much lower. Which leaves more people concerned about "Where do I get food, where do I get water" than "How do I dig these people out, dear god there are so many people dead, everywhere"

I think in the end the Chilean people will look back on this tragedy and realize how prepared they were as a nation, that they had put the standards in place to keep their buildings standing and they will take that to heart in preparing on a personal level. I am hopeful things will calm and they will find the strength to rebuild.

For the readers who want to know how to prepare for seismic situations let me offer 3 bits of gear advice, always have a full unbreakable water bottle on you, always carry a whistle, and always keep a respirator (even if just an n-95 mask in a pocket, you would not comprehend the toxic cloud that is created when a city collapses, it was like 9-11 everywhere). Beyond that if you are in a developing country in a seismic area with poor cement block construction (lots of parts of Peru, Guatemala, Thailand, Dominican Republic, India, Pakistan, etc) in older style buildings try to sleep near an exit to an open courtyard, try to stay in one story buildings, stay away from adobe. The safest bet is to try to stay in modern hotels, the big chains force proper construction techniques. If the quake hits get out and watch for falling hazards. Many prayers that the readers of this blog never have to face anything like what people are facing in Chile or Haiti. Sincerely, - Peter H.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Having been a small municipal water system operator in Upstate New York, I have some experience with basic water treatment. The link provided in " Chris in West Virginia's" article is sound in regard to using Sodium dichloro-s-triazinetrione. One would want to use a test kit to measure residual chlorine in the water and maintain the level between 0.3 and 1ppm after initial treatment. To treat water, chlorine is added until the level is at least 0.5ppm after an one hour contact time. It is critical that the chlorine have time to interact with the water and some method of stirring the water during treatment must be employed. Once the water has had time to interact with the chlorine, there will be levels of combined chlorine in the form of chlorides and "free" residual chlorine. Presence of residual chlorine indicates that the water is saturated enough with chlorine that any microbes/contaminants present will continue to be oxidized.

Having clean, filtered water to work with is important as bacteria and other nasties can adhere to microscopic particles in the water making chlorine treatment difficult. There is not a particular specification for the size of particles; however, a bit of research into water treatment will reveal that municipal authorities typically use a flocculant to cause microscopic particles to congeal and sink to the bottom of a clarification basin. They use this method to quickly clarify water. In a survival situation, a good gravity filter for dirty water could be employed prior to chlorination to ensure that most, if not all contaminants are removed from the water. After treatment, the water should be kept still and siphoned from the containing vessel to ensure that any remaining contaminants settle to the bottom of the container. Also, the chlorine level of the water should be maintained at all times to ensure continuous protection.

These methods of water treatment are for surface water as well water typically does not support bacteria growth if the well is in continuous use; however, during a survival situation, treatment of well water is recommended. The need to filter well water prior to treatment is not as important unless debris is drawn up from the well or the well is open to surface contamination.

It is worth mentioning that it is very difficult to remove giardia cysts from contaminated water. To be sure that these parasites are removed, the water must be boiled to kill the cysts or filtered to less than 1micron to remove the cysts. Chlorine does not have any significant effect on giardia cysts. Giardia can be present in the fecal matter of dogs, cats, beavers, cows, and sheep. Infection with giardia causes "beaver fever" in humans.

Also, one should note that ingesting water with chlorine levels above 4ppm can do damage to the digestive system up to the point of death depending on the level of chlorine ingested; therefore it is absolutely critical to be able to test the level of chlorine present in the water before drinking!!

Anyone curious about studying water treatment more in depth can visit for some very good self-training and reference materials on all levels of water treatment.

Regards, - Drew in Thailand


Dear James,

I have only just rediscovered your blog last night and I am now soaking it up like a sponge.

I’d like to be the “someone with a chemistry degree” to respond to our brother in Christ, Chris’ information regarding use of pool chemicals for drinking water treatment, notably Sodium dichloro-s-triazinetrione. I am a degree qualified chemical engineer who has spent most of the past 15 years in selling industrial chemicals including for water treatment. One of my recent activities was packaging pool and spa chemicals.

The chemical name sodium dichloro-s-triazinetrione is also known as isocyanuric acid. Details of this chemical may be found at this link and at Wikipedia.

It is particularly effective as a water treatment chemical for sterilizing purposes due to its high effective chlorine % (typically >50%) and ease of use due to its powdered or tablet form; when compared with other chlorine sterilizing agents such as sodium or calcium hypochlorite. The other advantage of the powdered isocyanuric acid is that it remains stable over long periods of time provided that the powder is not exposed to moisture or excessive heat. The liquid hypochlorite solutions will lose their activity over any long period of time even when stored in closed drums simply by converting back to chlorine gas and caustic soda. Powdered calcium hypochlorite does not have this same problem provided it is also protected from heat, light and moisture. Liquid sodium hypochlorite (e.g. Clorox) has only 5.7% available chlorine, so more is required per gallon of water treated.

The toxicity of the isocyanuric acid is not 100% known though it is generally thought to be of low toxicity. This link gives details of toxicity studies completed to date .

Having packaged the product in its finely powdered form, one thing is clear – do not breath the dust as it will cause all kinds of acute (short term, intense) respiratory (breathing) problems. It literally feels like the air is being sucked out of your lungs.

There’s no doubt that the isocyanuric acid is more effective compared to hypochlorite in terms of gallons of water treated per pound of chemical used. I also know that the isocyanuric acid is way more expensive per pound to purchase – at least at the wholesale level. My preference would be to stick with hypochlorite since it’s a little safer to handle, more readily available (not every town has a pool and spa supply but almost every town has a supplier of Clorox brand bleach) and more well researched in terms of toxicity. I’m also concerned whenever I see chemical compounds that have “cyan” and “uric” as part of the chemical structure. Under the right conditions this chemical could break down to form hydrogen cyanide (HCN) as a decomposition product – toxic to humans as well as microbes in water.

It should also be noted that any individual or entity manufacturing or repackaging chemicals for sterilization or disinfection purposes must be registered with the [US] Federal EPA as a pesticide manufacturer. Retail pool and spa outlets would be exempt from this requirement as they are retailing products that should already comply with this. Consum