Self-Sufficiency Category

Thursday, April 17, 2014

This article is not about practical survival skills; it's quite the opposite. It is a pre-collapse idea only and will disappear post-SHTF. Why this is useful information is that it's an idea that may let you make the leap to living at your retreat full-time sooner and help you make ends meet while other income sources are developed. It is a plan for your home-based business, requiring no start up capital, and it's a job for which you are already hired. You won't have to leave the house to work or to get paid. There is actually no selling either.

I, like many of you, am a stay-at-home mom. My husband works full time outside of the home and also works side jobs when he can. We took JWR's advice about diversifying our income, and in addition to taking care of the household, raising children, gardening, and so on, I have a small home-based business. We are savers and are able to meet all of our needs with these income sources. However, there are still a few times a year when it seems like there is too much month left at the end of the money. There are also times when you just need to buy something that is bigger than the monthly budget allows. I started looking around for ways to bring in a few extra dollars, but it was hard with the schedule of a mother, as well as seasonal chores. When part-time jobs were available locally and seasonally (which is not often), they often had many applicants or strict hours, which precluded me. We weren't looking for a lot extra, just enough that we could start to build up a bigger emergency fund and have a more ambitious purchasing plan than we had for items needed.

After a long time of searching, I came across Amazon's Mechanical Turk ( . This was exactly what we were looking for, and it's probably what you are looking for also. As I came to realize, it is a prepper's best friend.

What is it? Amazon's Mechanical Turk (“Mturk” for short) is a company started by Amazon in 2005 as a way to weed out duplicate pages on its website. It has since grown. It is not a “get rich quick” scheme or anything like that. Far from it. It is a web-based network of workers and employers. Requesters/employers post a "Human Intelligence Task" (“HIT” for short) on the Mturk website. In a nutshell, these are things a living, breathing human must do that computers are not capable of. Workers complete the task, and the employer approves or rejects the task. If it is approved, you get paid for it. Simple enough, right? Let's dig a little deeper.

First the legal stuff. For U.S. workers, you need to be eligible to work in the U.S. They send a 1099 tax form out at the end of the year for your wages, and you are responsible for any taxes owed on it. Remember, you are a real employee doing real work, so you owe real taxes. You are considered a contractor.

Sign up is simple. You can sign up with your existing Amazon account information, but they will require a SSN or tax identification number and a few other things. You submit the application, it is reviewed within 48 hours, and you are ready to start to work.

What kind of work can you do? There are roughly 500,000 open HIT's on MTurk at any given time. There is a huge variety of work to do. Some are psychology surveys for graduate students. Some are marketing research, like do you prefer packaging “A” or packaging “B”. There are audio transcriptions to be completed. Some ask you to record yourself saying certain words or phrases. (Think language learning CD's. Someone has to read all those phrases in German.) Some ask you to classify a product into a category that you would use to search for it. Others want you to beta test a website and provide feedback, or write a short article for something. Others have you searching for certain terms on Google and then reporting the rankings and what major city you are near. Most are simple; some are more complex. I was a tad skeptical at first, but these are real, honest jobs. Each has its own payment and time frame to be completed. How many of these HITs are open to you depends on your ratings and qualifications.

MTurk has a very interesting "feedback" system, and it pays to do good, quality work. (Like any job, when does it not pay to do well?) Each HIT you accept is tracked, and you are ranked in certain categories. These categories include:

  • Total HITs accepted– how many you agreed to work on,
  • Total HITs submitted– how many you completed within the time frame allotted,
  • Total HITs returned– HITs you accept but return to allow someone else to do,
  • HITs abandoned– HITs you accepted but didn't complete in the time frame and didn't return,
  • HITs approved– how many of your HITs get accepted by the employer, and
  • HITs rejected– how many of your HITs get rejected by employers.

Employers can put certain requirements on jobs, such as total hits approved equaling more than 1000 or HIT approval rate is 95% or higher. As a general rule, the more restrictive the qualifications, the better the pay. I like this system much better than something like an eBay style system, where it can be manipulated. MTurk ratings provide a much clearer and honest picture of what each worker does.

In addition to the ratings above, you can also obtain “qualifications”. There are currently a little over 13,000 different qualifications that you can receive. These are granted by the employers. Some require a test, while others do not. As an example, one of the transcription companies has a sample transcription job as a test. You complete it and submit it. Your score is your rating and will qualify you for future transcription jobs. Others are confidentiality statements. Again, the more restrictive the qualification (i.e., can you speak Finnish fluently), the higher the pay.

Speaking of pay, I'm sure by this point you are wondering what the pay is and how it works. Honestly, it depends on the job. Some jobs, like rating jokes (yes, it's a real job) pay a penny a joke. Others, like development of a web page or transcription of an hour-long audio (also both real jobs) pay $40.00. The majority that are available to newer workers pay between $0.05 and $2.00.

In order for you to get paid, you need to sign up for an Amazon Payments account. It is Amazon's version of PayPal. An employer prepays Mturk for the work to be done and deposits the money into its account with Amazon Payments. When you complete a HIT, it gets sent to the employer to approve or reject. The default setting for employers is to auto approve completed hits after seven days. They can change this to a maximum of 30 days, meaning it could feasibly take up to 30 days to get paid for the job. Most approve HITs within a few days. Once your HIT is submitted and the employer approves it, that amount is transferred to your account. Amazon gets their cut by charging the employer a small fee per job. This fee is paid by the employer, not you. Amazon holds all funds for the first ten days of a new account. Once you have money in your Amazon Payments account, you can spend it directly and immediately on Amazon (how convenient for them!) or have it deposited into a bank account. Bank accounts must be linked like they are through PayPal. Once they are verified, transfers typically take two to three days to show up. We have a separate account we opened up specifically for PayPal, so we used this one. With the abundance of free checking accounts out there, I highly recommend opening up one specifically for this and/or PayPal.

When I got my email saying my application had been accepted, I couldn't wait to begin. I excitedly told my husband all about it and set aside an hour one day to see how much money I could make. My first job was to write a 50 word answer to a debate question. Easy enough. That paid $0.15. My second job was a marketing research survey for packaging for a new cracker. That paid $1.00. In the first hour of work, I made a little over $8.00. Initially, I was frustrated. I applied one hour of my time, and I only made a little over minimum wage. Not to sound conceited, but my time is worth more than minimum wage.

Later that night, after the house had gone to bed, I sat down to give it another try. This is when the beauty of it hit me, and why I realized it was so prepper-friendly. I had gone about it wrong earlier by sitting down for an hour straight. Here was a job that I could do 24 hours a day, when it was convenient for me. I could do it five-minute HIT by five-minute HIT, if I wanted. I could spend 15 minutes in the morning, doing it while coffee brewed, and 15 minutes before bed. I could miss a week if I wanted to. I could truly do it at my own schedule. If I had to can vegetables that day and couldn't get to any HITs, it didn't matter. Likewise, if we got snowed in, I could do HITs all day.

Also, I could do it all at home in bed if I wanted. All you need is a computer and an Internet connection for the HITs, and honestly, some could be done on a smart phone. It is truly an all season, 24 hour a day, work at home, direct deposited job, with work available on demand. The application process is strictly determining if you are eligible, not having to go through a selection process. Whether home is an apartment in the city or a retreat in Montana, as long as there is Internet, you can do it. Most of the HITs do not contain video or images, so dial-up should work for it as well. You could even do it at the library computer if you are limited by that.

I settled on a goal of $5 a day. In pieces of time here and there, I tried to make my goal each day. Some days took five HITs. Other days it took 20 HITs to meet my goal. On a few days, I only made $1.50, while others I made $10. At the end of the first 30 days though (honestly only 26 days, since I didn't work on Sundays) I had beat my goal and made $180. This is not a huge amount but is very respectable. This represents many things– eight or nine ounces of silver, a new .22 rifle, an extra trip or two to the grocery store, or an extra car or credit card payment. This did not require me to change anything that I was doing. I took advantage of some “down” time I had to be productive. When you think about this over a year, you are looking at roughly $1800. I know of very few homesteads that could not use an extra $1800. If you are on a super strict budget and started to use Mturk, you could buy two PTR91s or an ounce and half of gold after a year with no changes to your income. We decided to wait until we reached $240 in the account to withdraw anything. $20 went in an envelope for our tax liability. (You don't want to forget to set that aside!) $20 went for a donation to charity. $100 went to savings for a rainy day, and $100 went to our purchasing plan. We withdraw the money when the account reached this amount for ease of budgeting, rather than making a monthly withdrawal. As stated above, it showed up in our account three days after making the transfer online. The couple that told me about Mturk each has their own account. Hers goes to buy Christmas and birthday presents, and his goes to buy new guns.

Some people are able to make a modest living strictly off of Mturk. In the event of a job loss, I think it could help hold you over till a new job was found. If you had two adults doing it, you could make even more money. I think it is a huge blessing for prepper families who are rural and don't have part-time jobs available nearby or where work is only available seasonally. You can even do it on a bus or train commute. It may be the extra income stream needed to make the move to your retreat full-time. It could really help the self-esteem of a disabled or older family member and allow them to enjoy a way to still contribute. If you are in the unlucky position of having a spouse that does not support prepping, it may be a good way to go about a purchasing plan without disagreements over budgeting. The possibilities are endless.

Here are a few final thoughts on the matter. Like anything, there are some bad apples. Amazon tries to run a tight ship, but with 500,000 HITs, some things slip through. Amazon hosts the site but is not responsible for content. It is up to workers and employers to police it. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. If a 30-second survey pays $50, it's probably not real. If anything asks you to download software to complete the HIT, don't do it. This is a violation of HIT rules and should be reported to Amazon. There is a small amount of adult content on some Mturk HITs. Some are things like reviewing flagged images or surveys about sexual habits. These are very clearly marked on the listing page, and as such, are easily avoided. Even HITs that MAY contain adult material are very clearly labeled for easy avoidance, so you will not accidentally stumble across them. People try to use computer programs to complete HITs, so many HITs have test/reliability questions built in to them to ensure a live human is completing the job, such as “If you are reading this question, please select item 4” or something of the sort. Read all instructions. Do good work. It pays. Employers can and will give you a bonus above and beyond the stated amount for quality work. I did a HIT that was to beta test a website. I had an issue with one portion of the page. Rather than just point out the issue, I included my ideas for fixing and improving it. In addition to the $0.80 the job paid, I was given a bonus of $1.00. Good work also leads to future work. Employers will email you directly with a link for new HITs when you have done quality work. Capitalism is alive and well, with workers going after high-paying jobs and employers rewarding good workers.

I hope you try Mturk. It is a very friendly, easy way to make actual money from home and is available on demand to all. My husband's French grandmother was very fond of the saying "Petit à petit, l'oiseau fait son nid." It translates to "little by little, the bird builds it nest". We are continuing to build our nest, one HIT at a time.

God Bless!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

You'd think an old lady would learn. Going through old papers and files the other day in my attempt to clear out clutter and be organized, I came across the file containing receipts and all sorts of paperwork that reflected our experience with the May 3rd, 1999 tornado that went through southwest Oklahoma City and Moore, Oklahoma. I shook my head thinking, "What did I learn from this?"

Allow me to provide some detail of that experience. First of all, I was home alone with four dogs....big dogs. These were dogs that didn't get along well with each other. Two had kennels outdoors, while two lived indoors. My husband was at work. I'd gotten home from work, started laundry, and prepared a simple dinner for myself. I sat down to watch TV and keep up with the local weather, as it had been predicted that we were to have severe storms that evening. I ate a bit while the weather dominated the TV. I became concerned and started thinking about what I should do. I stopped my meal and went outside to move the two dogs from the back yard to their crates in the garage. Once inside the garage, I thought, "This isn't enough protection for these guys." So I piled plywood on top and around their crates. Then I piled carpet pieces on top of that.

Back inside the house, I started looking around while I listened to the weatherman. "What do I do now?" "Where do we go?" I called my husband at work. He told me, "Ah Honey, these things always peter out. Give it a rest. I got to get back to work." Off the phone, I started walking quickly around the house, closing blinds and closing doors. Then I took the other two dogs into my bed room. I pulled the mattress off the bed toward the wall to make a cover for us. I gathered my purse and cell phone. Then I climbed under the mattress and pulled the two dogs in with me. I heard the weatherman say, "You cannot survive this tornado above ground." The TV stopped and the lights went out. I called my daughter just to hear her voice as the tornado approached. I could hear the "train" coming. It's just like I have always heard people say– a big freight train coming right at you. But the sound of all the debris flying and hitting our house muffled the "train" sound. It was deafening. And then it all stopped. Quiet. Eerie. I was afraid to see and know what had happened, but I crawled out from under the mattress and was happy to see the ceiling was still intact above me. I went to the bedroom window and raised the blinds. Total devastation. All the neighbors behind us were gone. All I saw was piles of debris. Our backyard was heaped high with debris.

I opened the bedroom door and walked slowly through the house looking and amazed that all was intact. As I got to the dining room, I could see the blinds were damaged and some glass was on the floor with brick pieces and some splintered wood. I tried to open the back door, but the debris pile stopped the door from opening. I walked through the living room to the front hall. I tried to open the front door, but once again the debris pile had it closed tight. So I went through the hall to the garage where I saw the ceiling collapsing, but the dogs were okay. I opened the side door and got outside. Then I push and shoved open the gate and started climbing over the debris making my way to the front yard. Total devastation is all I saw. It was like a bomb had gone off. Neighbors were coming out of their houses and some were coming out of the rubble of what was left of their houses. We checked on each other, and then we just stood there looking at the spectacle of it all.

I looked down the street, and I saw my daughter climbing over debris and making her way toward the house. She was living about 30 minutes away while going to college. Shortly after she arrived my husband came driving and bouncing up over the piles of timber and debris in his old 1976 Chevy pickup. He came to a stop on what had been our lovely green front lawn, now covered with debris. When he got out of the truck, all four tires on the old truck finally went flat from all the nails they'd encountered. I said, "I told you." Words a husband never enjoys hearing from his wife but gave me great pleasure at that moment.

It took us months and months to repair our house, and it was not damaged nearly as badly as some around us. We had opinions about what spared our home, while the houses on both sides of ours were totaled by their insurance companies. We had replaced our windows the year before with very good windows and had them insulated well all around. We had a fairly new garage door that was insulated and tight. I don't know if closing all the blinds and the interior doors made a difference but I like to think so.

Within the few months following that tornado, we had a flat top cellar put in our garage floor. I wouldn't like to be in Oklahoma without one.

Fast forward to May 20 of 2013. I went to the cellar, while my husband watched that tornado move east to Moore, Oklahoma. Even neighbors joined me this time. Then later in May we had another close call, and the neighbors came again. We spent more time in the cellar that night but not before I handed my husband my large pasta pot as I went to the garage. I asked him to please put it on his head if he went outside.

This year, we're getting prepared. In 1999 we were without electricity and gas for about 10 days. Last year we were without electricity for about four days. I have a gas grill and a gas burner. I can cook. We have plenty of food, water, candles, flashlights, and we always stay ahead on pet food and toilet paper. I still go through my ritual of closing blinds and doors. I've added to that ritual: moving the pets to the cellar, grabbing the BOB, and stacking up the outdoor furniture but not necessarily in that order.

My biggest fear is this when we come out of the cellar (I use "we" hoping to get the husband into the cellar), it's all gone or worse we are trapped in the cellar for many hours. Now we have the means to work our way out, and our cellar is registered with the city. So, one way or the other we will get out, but it could take time. The kids better come looking for us or their inheritance might be reconsidered.

Recently, I took photos of everything in and out of our house– all of our personal property. I put all those photos on a CD, and I put that CD in our safe deposit box. Along with that are all important papers and all the receipts for everything we own. I've learned from the experience of others that insurance companies are sticklers for proof of ownership when a claim is made.

So, I've been putting together my "survival in the cellar" provisions. We have two cats and one dog now. Yes, they go to the cellar with me. Here is my list of provisions: pillow, blanket, extra clothes, first aid kit, some toiletries, snacks, water, potty bucket, toilet paper, cat food, dog food, kitty litter and pan, weather radio, batteries, flashlights, more batteries, leather gloves, a tarp, bungee cords, a crow bar, and some tools. I also have a map of Oklahoma. Sometimes the weatherman calls out names of towns that either I have never heard of or I have no idea of where they are in relation to where I am in my cozy cellar. I've also thrown in a couple of towels for the husband who might decide he's had enough of looking at the tornado and wants to be sure he keeps his head.

These will stay in the cellar throughout the storm season, which in Oklahoma is year round. I have a BOB by the garage door and ready to grab in addition. I sing in the choir now "Be prepared." I am a firm believer in being ready and having a mindset that anything can happen and probably is more likely to happen when one is not prepared. If my husband says, "Ah Honey, it will peter out" I will hope he's put that pasta pot on his head, while I'm snug in my cellar.

Please be safe as the spring storms approach. Take precautions. Don't try to outrun tornadoes in a vehicle. Assess your surroundings, and do not wait until the last minute to seek shelter. The weatherman on your local TV channel usually knows what he or she is talking about, and they give you ample warning. Last minute precautions are not usually successful with tornadoes. Be ready.

Friday, April 4, 2014

I am probably your less than common prepper. I'm a working mom who lives in the suburbs of a mid-sized city and has a husband who just barely tolerates my prepping. Luckily for me, a lot of the prepping skills and lifestyle choices just come naturally for him; we just don't call it prepping! I don't know where exactly my prepping started, but I remember at nine years of age packing a bag with clothes and food for both my brother and me "just in case" Mom decided to finally take off from the abusive boyfriend. At the age of 12, that bag finally came in handy as we fled the house never to look back with only the contents of MY bag in hand.

I continued to quietly prep as a teenager and young adult, getting more serious as I started my career and fiercely as I had my first child. Today, I have a three year old son and another one due in just a couple of months. Let me tell you, I fully understand where the momma bear syndrome name comes from! There is nothing that will get in the way of me protecting my little family.

The how-to of Beans, Bullets, and Band-aids has been done over many times. I wanted to give some basic, practical advice from what I've learned so far on how to prep with little children. It was something I searched for as a first time mom and struggled to find. I couldn't relate to a lot of the information I found, while still living in the constraints of suburban life and working full time. The little I could find was often very simple or focused on food preparation, storage, and cooking. I wasn't the stay at home and home schooling mom. I learned a ton over the past few years as a new mom, and I am continuously evolving and building up the uniqueness of my preps to make them fit my young family and me. The things I've included are by no means the right answer for everyone, but they work for us. I hope that what I'll share might give a new family a jumpstart on some ideas of where to start.


We have a pretty typical food storage set up for a prepper. We have about a year's worth put away for the three of us, a growing garden, and are working on building up the stores with the fourth addition to the crew joining us soon. The thing is, none of my fancy dried food or raw veggies are going to do my littlest one any good. I breastfed my first and plan to with this one. This is the most important part of prepping with an infant, but it isn't a fail safe. You never know if something were to happen to you, or if you might have unexpected issues with supply due to poor health/nutrition. I always keep several months worth of formula on hand for my little one (LO). Similac for Supplementation is what I have in my cupboard, as it is has the best record for breastfed kids tolerating it, but there are lots of options here. You may want to buy only a small amount at first, until you know for sure your infant will tolerate what you've purchased, especially if money is an issue. I chose to stock up and then would have changed brands if I needed. I didn't give my son any formula until my supply and our routines were well established. At about two months we started giving him two or three bottles per week of formula. I would pump during those times, and my husband would feed him. It reassured me that we had a bottle system that worked for him and that he would tolerate the formula we had chosen just in case it was ever needed it. We keep mostly powdered formula on hand, but I do have a few cases of the liquid formula in individual bottles. If we ever have water issues for a few days or are on the move, it is super easy to use. You can also buy a few disposable, individually wrapped nipples that fit straight on those bottles. The makers of Similac (Abbott Nutrition) sell those in large boxes on their website, or you can purchase a few of the NUK brand at Walgreens. They both fit the premixed liquid bottles. I always have two formula bottles and disposable nipples in my diaper bag, just in case! We ended up not using most of the formula we had stored, but I made sure I donated it all prior to expiration to a local women and children's shelter, so it didn't go to waste. I'm working on rebuilding my stores now, but between now and when my son was off formula we always had one or two cans on hand just in case. It is something that could always come in handy for a needy family or be bartered later.

We also stock up a good amount of commercial baby food. I wish I had the time and energy to always make my kid's baby food, but honestly as a commuting, working mom there just isn't enough time! We make baby food on the weekends and freeze some especially in the summer as produce is abundant. We do, however, also use and stock up a good amount of commercial baby food. We buy both the traditional baby jars and the newer style pouches. The pouches are great for travel. They don't break or pop open, and no spoon is required. I can feed them right from it. Another cool product we keep in our emergency car bag is dried baby food in single serve pouches. It's super light and literally just needs added water. NurturMe is the brand we've used and keep stashed in our various bags.

We keep about three months worth of baby food on hand, figuring between that, formula, and breastfeeding we can get a little one to the point that they can eat what we are eating. Again, buying extra is a great chance to be prepared and eventually provide some charitable support if it is not used.


Cloth diapers are going to be the way to go for a long-term SHTF scenario, but disposables have their place! My kid's daycare doesn't support cloth diapers, so we use disposable during the week. We use cloth on the weekends, or when home during vacations. It saves waste and gets us all used to using them. My husband thinks my diaper supply is possible the most insane of all of the stockpiles I have! I always had a few boxes of every size stocked up and even before we were expecting this one we had one of each of the smaller sizes around. I stock up when my Target has a great sale, so I am also saving money by only buying at the best prices. I also have a good supply of cloth diapers and inserts around as well. I've got some cloth pocket diapers with inserts and some all in ones. They both work, and are truly a matter of preference. You can find a ton of used cloth diapers online, at local cloth diaper stores, or at thrift shops if you start looking. That is a great way to beef up your supply without spending a fortune, especially if you don't use them all the time like me.

While some might disagree I find disposables to be a great short-term solution for when the SHTF. I might not want to be doing wash every day right away or be hanging things out to dry in the middle of winter. I would recommend having both options available, depending on what your needs are or stress level is at the moment. Disposables will be key, if you are ever on the move or traveling. I also think diapers of either kind could be a great bartering item. I know so many families that literally run out of diapers before they make another run! I know if I had to figure out what to do 6+ times per day with my little one's bottom, I would give anything to find something that would work.


Small children grow sooo fast! You need so many sizes to stay head of them. We were lucky enough to get hand-me-downs from cousins, so we took all of the sizes that they had from the start. That got us a good base of clothes to start with up to size 5T. We live pretty far north, so winter clothes were a gap in our supplies. I always keep a sharp eye on the clearance sections at the end of each winter to stock up on future sizes. I try to stay at least 4-5 sizes ahead of my son. He is in 3T now, so we have up to boys sizes 6-8 in bins. My daughter isn't here yet, but we have a few things in each size up to 4T for her, in addition to her brother's old clothes. When we stock pile those larger sizes, I go for variety and quality versus quantity. I could have 15 cheap t-shirts for $2 a piece, but that isn't going to do my son as much good as the $30 2-piece fleece underwear to keep him warm in the winter. For the more expensive items, don't worry about having something in every size! I tend to buy them in every other size. We have a nice warm (clearance!) coat for him in sizes 2T, 4T, 6, and 8. You don't want them drowning in things, but a coat one size too big isn't going to kill him. Sometimes we end up buying the actual size he is in when the time comes, but if I didn't have that chance he would be ok with what we have. We use this philosophy for coats, snow pants, thermals, and more expensive wool pants or clothes. For shoes and boots, I usually will stock up whole sizes versus having every single half size on hand. I do buy half sizes when the time comes if needed, but again whole sizes save space and work for us. For the rest of their clothes we buy each size and work to have the following in every size four short sleeve t-shirts, four long sleeve t-shirts, four pairs of pants (two jeans or other strong material and two pair of comfy, warm sweat pants), two pairs of shorts, two or three hooded sweatshirts or light coats, six to eight pairs of socks, two pairs of footed pajamas, eight to ten onesies or underwear/undershirts, depending on his age. These are key, because they can add warmth if needed or be worn alone in the heat. They can also protect your outer clothes at times from the fun diaper malfunctions that can pop up.


All I have to say here is get used to baby wearing!!! The only things you need to think about differently is that if you are ever on the move, you need a way to keep your baby safe and close. We have several strollers and wagons at the house, but if I ever had to walk through a crowd or area I was uncertain about I would want my baby right up next to me with my hands free. We currently own four different baby carriers that all serve a different purpose; three are must-haves for me. We have the k'tan, which is a soft wrap-style carrier great for newborns. Even if I don't plan to use it on a given day, mine will always be in my diaper bag just in case. It is pretty light and rolls up relatively small. The second is the Ergo carrier. This one will probably get the most use and longevity for families. It works well starting at about six months through two years, depending on the size of your child. It is very comfortable for the parent and baby/child, and it also has a small pocket. My son was a pretty big kid all along, so we ended up also purchasing the BOBA carrier 4G. It is much better suited for toddlers. We used this for him from around the time he was 18 months until almost 3. We only used it, as he got older, at the airport or would attach it to our daypack while hiking, in case he got really tired. It distributes weight shockingly well. I found it worked at the older ages better than my Ergo. I am a very petite female, but I could carry my 36 lb two year old on my back, with another pack on my front during a whole day of travel. Even though we haven't used it in awhile, it is always in our trunk. If we ever got stuck somewhere and had to walk a long way, I would use it in a heartbeat. My husband was a fan of both the Ergo and the Boba carrier. They were able to fit both of us well, even though we are about a foot apart in height. The k'tan is less adjustable, and he felt a little too "girly", so I just used that the first few months myself. I did mention we owned a fourth carrier– the Deuter Kid Comfort III. This one is truly a backpacking carrier. It provides great structure for kids about 9 months-4 years old, but it is pretty big. My husband used it a few times each summer on long day hikes and liked that it felt very secure. It can carry a TON of weight and by far has the most storage pocket room of any carrier. I like having it, but it is too big to always have near me or in the car, so I consider it the most expendable of the four carriers. I also found my son, plus the weight of the pack, became too heavy pretty quickly.


Your typical First Aid Kit recommendations won't touch on all of your needs as a parent. My husband and I are both pharmacists, so we have a pretty extensive medical supply stocked up. I made a list below of some things you'll want to make sure you have on hand. Again, children's medications could have huge barter potential! As a side note, buy the generic forms of medications when you can. There is NO reason to buy the brand names, and you will save so much money you can reallocate to other things. We also buy both liquid and chewable options when available. The chewable options are much easier to keep packed in our “get home” bags and in the car. You could crush the right dose for a small child, if needed. Being an expectant mom also has a few things of its own to consider. I plan to give birth at a center with a midwife, but if that can't happen my husband and I are prepared. I included a few notes on major topics below.

  • Children's Pain Medications: Keep children's ibuprofen and Tylenol on hand. Don't worry about having both infant and children's formulations on hand; just stick to the children's strength and adjust the doses as needed. This is great for stocking up and also better for medication safety as well. You are less likely to mix up dosages with only one form in the house. Check with your doctor to get exact dosages and a copy of those great dosing cheat sheets. A good rule of thumb to remember for both ibuprofen and Tylenol is to give your child 10mg per kg of weight. That falls in the middle of both dosing ranges. You'll have to convert your child's weight from pounds to kg by dividing by 2.2 and then use this to get to your mg dosage. At this point you will have to check the packaging you have to ensure you covert that to the right liquid amount, based on the strength of the product. I recommend practicing this math now, especially if you aren't familiar, and comparing to the recommended dose given by your doctor or pharmacist. You can also walk into any pharmacy and ask the pharmacist to walk you through the dosage equation.
  • Allergy medications: We keep a few different types on hand including Benadryl (diphenhydramine) for severe allergy reactions and Zyrtec (cetirizine) for more routine seasonal allergies. Both can be used in kids six months of age and older with direction from your doctor. Claritin (loratadine) is a fine choice as well, I just seem to find cetirizine works better for my son.
  • Digestive aids: Keep gas drops (simethicone) and Tums around for your kids. These are about the only things you can regularly use in young kids. They should not take Pepto Bismol unless it is the kid's version, which is just calcium carbonate (like Tums) anyways.
  • Diaper Rash: Keep a large supply of a barrier ointment, such as Aquaphor or any brand rash cream on hand. They are all similar and work as a matter of preference. This will be important to use proactively in situations where you might not be able to change your infant's diaper as often or they could have loose stools as a result of diet changes. Also keep a few tubes of clotrimazole and lots of baking soda around. Many diapers rashes are due to acidic stool that comes with diarrhea. A bath in baking soda and water does wonders to off-set that. Just add about ½-1 cup baking soda to a whole bath. Clotrimazole can be found in the foot care aisle of any pharmacy; it is the same stuff you can use on athletes foot. Fungal infections can set in quickly with diaper rashes and this stuff works quickly when that happens. There is high likelihood it is fungal problem, if the rash isn't responding to your treatment and you see a clearly-defined circular areas of a red raised rash with smaller lesions separated from the main area of rash.
  • Asthma Medications: If you are lucky enough to have a young child with asthma, like me, make sure you don't rely only on your nebulizer. If you don't have power, you'll be out of luck! In addition to our nebulizer, we keep several albuterol and steroid inhalers in the house to be used with a spacer and facemask. The facemasks come as small as infant sized. While the nebulizer is easier to use when they are young, we've had good success using the metered dose inhalers with spacers/masks when traveling and had no issues. Our doctor was always great about helping us have both on hand just in case. Luckily my son's case is pretty mild, but we also have a bottle of an oral steroid (prednisolone) just in case things get out of control.
  • Prenatal/Postnatal Care Vitamins: I keep at least a year supply of prenatal vitamins on hand, as well as extra iron and vitamin D. These are key both during and after pregnancy, especially if you are breastfeeding and don't have the best diet. The iron will be key if you have more bleeding post partum than normal and don't have medical care available. Extra vitamin D and iron are also important for breastfeed babies. Talk with your doctor now about if you should supplement your own dosage or keep newborn drops on hand.
  • Emergency Birth Kits: Even before we were expecting this baby, we had one of these on hand. You can find lots of great midwife supply sites online that have these prepackaged. I purchased a decent one for about $45. It is no replacement for trained medical care, but in an emergency it has everything needed to help with the very basics of a home birth. Just a few of the things included are large sterile pads to cover the birthing area, gloves, cord clamps, and scalpel. We also added a dose of vitamin K and erythromycin eye drops, for immediately after birth, that we got from our current midwife.
  • Pads: I'm not great about always using reusable pads each month, but I have a large stock of them with plenty of post partum sized pads. I also keep at least about six months ahead on disposable female monthly supplies. I have all varieties. I consider these great barter items. You'll want a good stock of all types of these!
  • Labor/Birthing Books: Make sure you have a few different references on hand. These are great to read before labor, in general, to be more prepared, but they will be essential if you end up having to go it alone or are ever with someone else in that situation. I read all of these primarily myself and then pick out specific sections for my husband to read that are most helpful. We also talk about what I've read and learned to help put it to memory. A couple of books I recommend having on hand are “Spiritual Midwifery” by Ina May Gaskin, and “Varney's Midwifery”.
  • Entertainment: While it is important we all have things to occupy our minds and spirit in a long-term grid down situation, it is even more important for little ones. I keep a box hidden in the basement with lots of small toys and treats for them. A few things my son loves that are relatively inexpensive include matchbox cars, the small coloring packs found in the dollar spot at Target (crayons, stickers, and book all in one), temporary tattoos, and small Lego guys and vehicles. It is amazing how much fun he gets out of a new car that costs me 89 cents! I also keep a large stock of arts and craft supplies. Most can be obtained pretty cheap from Walmart or Michael's. Keep and eye out for sales around and right after the “back to school” season. You can get crayons, markers, and such for almost pennies. Don't forget things to celebrate birthdays and other holidays. We keep a few rolls of streamers, birthday candles, balloons, and gift bags stashed away. A $1 bag of balloons blown up without helium provided four toddlers more entertainment at my son's birthday party than any fancy toy did! Having a little fun with your kids in a stressful situation will go along way for everyone's mental well-being.

I have by no means perfected prepping with or without small ones, but I hope that some of the things I've learned along the way might help someone else get started on their own journey!

Friday, March 21, 2014

If and when the end of civilized life as we know it arrives, there will be a period lasting from months to years before your community stops collapsing and develops a stable local economy. During this time, the agreed exchange of goods and services between residents is clearly preferable to looting and theft, but successful transactions will not be easy without a widely accepted replacement for money. People may still have cash, credit cards, and checks, but without a central government these are unlikely to be seen as a good exchange for essentials like food, clothes, fuel, or services. A local currency will eventually appear in each economic region, but until it does how can one replace money?

This is a significant question. There's nothing wrong with the old standby of gold and ammunition for long-term preservation of value, but in realistic situations both are hard to use. Someone who doesn't know you may ask themselves, “Is this a real gold coin or a convincing forgery? Will this apparently new ammunition actually work when my life depends on it?” You may find yourself thinking, “Do I want to hand over something like my gold coin, which I know is of real and ever-increasing value, for four old car batteries (or whatever). Will the 9mm ammunition I hand to this person for a box of corned beef today be used to take it back by force tomorrow?” What is needed for day-to-day commerce after collapse are items unlikely to inspire fear, uncertainty, and doubt. This means using things that could have been sitting around your house, that could have been found, or that could have been traded to you. In other words, they are things that are familiar and useful and whose condition and post-collapse value are immediately clear to both parties.

Let's look more closely at value. Perceptions of an object's value will change immediately and then more gradually over time after collapse. Many things that are cheap and common now will become more attractive when they are unobtainable. Former middle class professionals will be spending their days repairing clothes and houses, catching pests, trying to live without power or supermarkets, scrounging food, watching out for bad guys, and walking rather than driving. Every household will need to become self sufficient in a very short time. Perceived value will also change as a crisis persists. Some items that are of marginal trading power immediately after a collapse, when people will still have limited household supplies, will increase the longer the crisis persists. Candles are one example. Think through the stages of a crisis as you choose, acquire, and use your barter goods. Buy plenty of candles, but put them at the back of the cupboard.

The value of what you have for barter will also change depending on local events, the weather, and the season. If someone comes into the community with a trunk full of looted nylon cord and starts to barter it for food, the value of your own cord stock will drop as a result. (This is inflation in its monetary sense.) However, once that stock of cord is used up in a few weeks' time, your own supply will start to rise in value. Being aware of the current state of supply and demand means you know to push something to the back of the store cupboard with the candles for a while.

Finally, perceptions of an item's value also depend on where your community is situated. If you live in a northern state with cold winters that adds barter value to matches and candles (for half of the year at least). A rural community offers more opportunities for trapping and hunting, and increases the barter value of arrows and airgun pellets. The residents of an urban community, on the other hand, will look for street maps at all times of year.

Barter v. Trading

This article is about identifying, stocking, and using the post collapse equivalent of a pocket full of dollar bills. It should be enough that if someone is trading eggs or socks you can buy a pair without having to run back to the house, but not so much that if someone robs you at gunpoint, you've lost a major part of your savings. That's barter.

I define trading being qualitatively different, because it involves much higher-value items. Trading involves some psychology on both sides, similar to buying a car or a house, as opposed to daily shopping. Also, it is less likely you will know the other person or people involved. Trading is the subject of another article, because you don't want to have a reputation for doing it (or, more precisely, doing it for a living). Professional traders have always been distrusted, even by those they know. House flippers, car salesmen, and traditional horse dealers are good examples. However, if you continually trade goods (services are different and safer, because the buyer has a stake in keeping you alive and happy), you'll also have to deal with people you don't know. This is a temptation for the opportunists among them to follow you home. You might drive them off with gunfire, maybe wound a few, but the rest will still be out there, and you and yours have to leave the house eventually.

In a situation where a simple flesh wound, without professional medical attention, will kill you, it doesn't pay to make anyone mad or envious. So rather than trading, you want to barter. Not only that, but after a social collapse it's safest to appear as unprepared and panicked as everyone else. If there's a food handout, be screaming and scrambling in the crowd with everyone else; this may not help your self-esteem, but you don't want to be the nail that's sticking up by not appearing as desperate as your neighbors. Ask around for stuff you already have, and make it sound genuine. If a few good people actually do give you something, take it and remember them.

Barter and donate. Use stockpiled items to gain that most valuable of assets in troubled times– goodwill. Give a few small items to people you know to strengthen the bond between you in the same way that buying them a beer would do now. Always be fair, and throw in something free like news and advice; there will be plenty of both needed after collapse. With any luck, you will be seeing and working with them again as you both rebuild your community.

The Qualities of Barter Goods

Let's start by looking at the kind of items that people are most likely to accept in exchange for small amounts of food, fuel, or time. Note that we're not talking about axes, chickens, or cans of gas, but portable items you can carry unobtrusively, in case you see something useful for possible exchange. Suitable barter goods will be:

  1. Cheap to buy now but will increase in value after collapse because they are not made or replaceable locally.
  2. Stable over a few years in cool dry storage.
  3. Provably in good condition at the time of trading by demonstration.
  4. Portable and robust; made out of durable materials like stainless steel.
  5. Usable by the recipient for further exchange or original purpose.
  6. Widely acceptable and recognizable; hard to counterfeit.
  7. Not so expensive per indivisible unit (like guns) that it is hard to make a fair trade.
  8. Impossible to use against you (unlike large caliber ammunition).
  9. Unlikely to arouse suspicion that you are a hoarder, a trader, or unusually well-prepared.
  10. Usable by you in ordinary life so that they can be rotated like any other stockpiled item
  11. Preferably packed in original containers to increase their perceived value, condition, and safety.
  12. Those containers, if reusable, will add to the value. Don't forget to point this out as part of their value. This includes resealable bottles and boxes in glass, plastic, and metal.

Many things fit these requirements, and most can be found on a Saturday morning visit to Costco or IKEA's household department. If there is a choice, don't skimp on quality. A brand name item, even if it's functionally the same as a Chinese knockoff half the price, will have more sales appeal for the same weight and volume. There's going to be a lot of scavenged trash around, and it's worth pointing this out. Underline this by having examples that look perfect with the original labels and stickers on them.

Examples of Durable Barter Goods:

  1. Precision airgun pellets and hunting arrows; slingshots and slingshot ammunition.
  2. Candles and waterproof matches.
  3. Small notebooks with pencils, eraser tops, and a small sharpener.
  4. Resealable waterproof containers such as ZipLok bags, Tupperware, and small Mason jars.
  5. Fishing line, which can be used for many things besides fishing, and galvanized wire.
  6. Waterproof duct tape. Choose dark neutral colors such as green or gray, not black, white, or orange.
  7. Bicycle and bike chain repair kits; sewing kits; first aid kits.
  8. Plumbing and irrigation repair items such as hose clips, extenders, and plastic valves. Keep them on the display cards.
  9. Stainless steel screws in common sizes; keep to Philips (cross) or slot head versions. If they come in snap-top, plastic containers so much the better. Also strong hooks, bolts, and padlocks.
  10. Small, good-quality, pocket knives or multipurpose tools with can/bottle openers.
  11. Small adjustable wrenches and stainless digging tools/camping knives.
  12. Camping and travel supplies, like vacuum-packed space blankets and collapsible water containers.
  13. LED flashlights, both battery and squeeze dynamo powered.
  14. Fifty-foot lengths of nylon or para cord with the ends heat sealed so they don't fray, carabiners, small books of knots.
  15. Salt and sugar; cubes are better than loose sugar as they can't be extended with fillers like plaster. You need to keep both salt and sugar dry, of course.
  16. Plastic-covered local street and regional maps or map books; colored chalk for marking buildings and routes. Small compasses with measuring features (the Silva range is recommended).
  17. Travel bars of soap and small bottles of rubbing alcohol, which is easy to prove it's genuine with a sniff.
  18. Lightweight industrial type fixings, such as long zip ties and tie-down straps.
  19. 12-volt electrical system components and light bulbs, particularly long lasting and durable LEDs.
  20. Paperback survival and repair guides; to add value supply them with waterproof bags.

If possible get a piece of printed paper like store handouts you can hand out with items such as pocket knives and tools. These will be no cost to you when you buy, but they will increase the perceived value and quality of the item at trade time. Think like a salesman. Keep your trade goods clean and dry, taking particular note of the packaging and labels. Condition is a big part of the perception of value.

Examples of (Eventually) Perishable Barter Goods:

  1. Bite-size candy bars, like those sold in big bags at Hallowe'en. They're much cheaper after the event, like most seasonal items, so use trick or treaters each years as a resource to turn over your old stock, and then replenish it cheaply the next day. Don't worry, year-old candy is fine.
  2. Checkout favorites, like beef jerky sticks and salty snacks.
  3. Spirits, such as whiskey or tequila; small plastic bottles are best (not miniatures, though: too much of the weight is glass). Be prepared for the buyer to crack the seal and take a sample, but they should only do so after the deal is agreed, as a cracked seal significantly reduces trading value. Make a point of sticking around to be sure they're happy, and point out that the bottle has value after it's empty.
  4. Long dated AA-size packed batteries; you may need to prove their condition at the point of sale, so the packs that include a charge tester are ideal.
  5. Nutritionally useless but psychologically attractive foods, like instant coffee and cocoa.
  6. Slingshot elastic bands.

Unsuitable Candidates for Barter Goods:

  1. .22LR or any other type of ammunition. It's a bad idea to trade ammunition or components with anyone, particularly anyone you don't know well or who doesn't have a stake in the community.
  2. Medicines, which can't be proven they are what they look like. They're always worth more to you than anyone else, as you know how old they are and that they are genuine.
  3. Seeds. As is the case with medicines, you can't prove they will grow or indeed are what you claim at the point of sale. They will have little barter value and in any case you need them for your own use.
  4. Pepper spray. Unless you're dealing with someone you know, that's just asking for it to be used on you immediately when you hand it over. Also, you shouldn't reduce defensive stocks.
  5. Cigarettes. They go stale, they're expensive, and if you don't smoke you can't turn the stock over. If you do, then you're not increasing your survival chances any.
  6. Any kind of food. There isn't anything you will need more, and equally you don't want to advertise you have more than you need to others, whether outside or inside your community.

To repeat the last item: Never give away durable food. Offering to trade food makes clear that you have more than you need, and this makes you an immediate target. You don't want starving people following you home, and it goes without saying that you should never trade anywhere near where you live but far enough away that you can lose, or at least identify, people following you. I make an exception for bite-size candy bars or snack foods, as those are unlikely to be hoarded in large quantities, except by those reading this article. You can always say you found them in a vending machine and can't eat them because you're diabetic, or allergic to peanuts and have no more medicine. (Be sure to research and practice that story well before you need it, if you plan on using it.)

It's never a good idea to keep your supplies in one place, either in your house or on your person while walking around. Think of how you behave in a dodgy neighborhood right now. Do you pay for a newspaper by peeling a bill off a thick wad? Of course not. After a collapse every neighborhood will be dodgy, with no police or medical services to call during or after a violent incident. So keep small collections of stuff around your person in pockets, jacket lining, backpack divisions, and so forth. If someone in your household is skilled in sewing and tailoring, get them to make secret compartments in your clothes and bags. Develop a leisurely technique of feeling around for items as if you only have a couple of them with you; keep people from seeing in your bag as you pull stuff out. Again, practice this before going out, and like a gambler going to a risky game, don't take more than you can afford to lose.

Before you start to barter find out as much as you can about what the other person might want, without being too obvious about it. The reason is that you don't want to bring out all of your stock, one thing after another, to find something tempting to them; the more you can keep out of sight the better. Not only does running through your stock show you're carrying a range of useful items (to others as well as the person you're bartering with), but it implies commitment to the deal and lowers your bargaining position. Keep it loose, ask questions even after you've figured out what will trigger a deal, and then as you're leaving saym "Oh, by the way, you might be interested in this ..." and bring it out. When you do, don't just put it on the nearest horizontal surface. Look around for a place worthy of it, brush an imaginary speck of dust off the item, and put it down carefully. Celebrate the product, as I was told to do when being trained to show items in my retail days. The more respect you show it, the more value the potential purchaser will imply to it. (At least, that's the theory.)

Don't Take Out the Trash

You don't even need to spend money to collect some possible barter items, as some trash now will have value after collapse. If there is space, and you anticipate staying put for a while after things go bad, think before you throw that weekly armload of containers in the trash. Empty wine bottles with corks will have value, as will clean screw top plastic bottles, pill bottles, screw top jars, spray bottles, small metal containers, egg cartons, and resealable plastic bags. Just like a stockpile of food, build it up to a reasonable amount and then start turning it over, replacing odd shapes and sizes with uniform types, changing damaged examples for perfect ones, swapping damp-susceptible items, like paper pulp egg containers for plastic. Choose items that pack efficiently, such as bottles with parallel walls that can stack on their sides without slipping. Some containers can be stored inside others, others can stack.

There is a kind of can opener that cuts round the top seam of the can, leaving it with no sharp edges and as as a metal container with a close-fitting top. If you buy one (or several) of these, then the cans in your stockpile can be recycled as useful containers. Deep drawn aluminum cans with an inset base will also stack securely. OXO makes a side cutting can opener– the Good Grips Smooth Edge Can Opener– that sells for around twenty dollars and has received rave reviews on Amazon. Buy one (or a dozen).

What Will Eventually Replace Barter?

Saved recyclables may have another value after collapse, and that's when your community's economy has stabilized to the point where it needs paper money. Perhaps with no power and certainly with little access to advanced printing technology, your town will need something else to serve the same purpose as paper currency but with the same qualities, including that:

  1. It can't realistically be copied with current technology,
  2. It's lightweight and easily recognizable, and
  3. Each element can be individually identified (if only with a hand-written number in permanent ink).

There is a simple and obvious answer– old magazines or newspapers. If you have several hundred identical printed magazines then they can be the basis of a simple currency. The older the better, in fact, as you can be all the more sure no-one else has any of the same issue in their house or corner store.

The lower right hand quarter of page 21 of a magazine, for example (no matter what the subject) can no more be copied in a survival economy than a hundred dollar bill, and it fulfills the same requirements, with the advantage that you personally own the entire stock and as a result become part-time banker for your community.

Perhaps that quarter page represents four hours of someone's time, two shotgun shells, or a chicken. It can be redeemed for such, if the bill holder demands it from you, but the trick of banking is make sure that few or none actually do. The bills are more valuable as an exchange medium. If more are needed you then use the upper right corner of page 21, and you've just doubled the money supply, but be careful of the inflationary effect. If a lower denomination is needed, use page 25 for one quarter the value of parts of page 21. Glue examples to a noticeboard in the middle of town for reference.

This is how banks work right now, and this is also how, when the time is right, you can help move your community away from barter, with the bonus that such currency is of no use or value to anyone outside the group that mutually agrees to accept it.

Research and Practice

This short article can only skim the surface of barter in the post-collapse economy. It's up to you to take this as far and in what directions you choose. One way is to read about similar situations elsewhere or in the past. What did people do to survive in Germany after 1945, in the Central African Republic during its numerous civil wars, and in the United States during the depression years? What kind of barter systems appeared and survived?

Look at documentaries about very poor communities in the U.S. and overseas. What discarded pieces of packaging do they reuse, and what do they use them for?

Read and think about post-collapse novels, particularly the slower, older, community-centered classics such as “Lucifer's Hammer” and “Alas Babylon”. Most contemporary novels and indeed all movies are too short, too broad-brush, and too action-oriented to provide the detailed scenario needed for thought experiments like this. However, a serious novel will fill your mind with a richly-detailed community that you can re-purpose by imagining yourself in it and then reviewing strategies for survival, based on your own situation. Think about trade goods as you walk around Home Depot, IKEA, or Office Max, or any large store. What is cheap and plentiful today that may be valuable and unobtainable after collapse? You might think everything, but remember the requirements listed above. Viable trade goods are not as easy to identify as you might think.

Read or view a few videos on salesmanship, and practice haggling at common locations like flea markets and secondhand stores. The essence of bartering is that there is less pressure to make a good deal as there is less at stake on both sides; flea markets are a good way to experience this. It's a quick and informal transaction with little pressure. To experience the other side of the transaction (selling rather than buying), hold regular yard sales. These both clear space for your supplies as well as give you the chance to practice bargaining.

Those who fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

This piece is a much needed wake up for prepper families that think it is okay for Dad, Mom, Son, Daughter or someone else to do everything...alone.

This warning goes both ways, as I know plenty of men who "go it alone" because that is the way they want it. They haven't figured out that young man/lady in the house, watching TV or hanging out with his friends, is capable of much more and needs to earn the confidence that practice gives.

If your older children or parents, or your neighbor down the road is counting on you to help them, you are truly going to have to lean on your spouse and kids more to help you. Plus, in a long term situation, you are going to have to stand firm and move them in with you, rather than expend time and fuel, putting yourself in harms way all the while.

I'm not harping on about the individuals described in this fine piece of information. I see this first hand where I live. It's selfishness on a fathers part to not have his children do what they are capable of doing. One needs to only think about how much they must impart to a young mind before they go into the world on their own and then think about the "what if" situation that happens when a dad dies before the job of raising the young is completed. Be very careful to not raise children that are so self-centered they aren't out there helping you, and that truly is what it is.

Experience is the best prep you can give them, not a notebook, an electronic toy, or a generator to run their TV's. Rethink gifts in this light, and perhaps when the bad weather or bad times come, your children will have proper gear and fewer distractions.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The intensity and length of this winter's coldness reminds me of a survival disaster that happened to me during one particularly frigid and frightening winter in the Adirondacks at our wilderness homestead.

Back in the 1970s, I had moved my family away from hectic, urban living to the peaceful and beautiful Adirondack area of upstate New York. One summer I happily foraged and harvested many wild edibles I found all around me. I gathered enough nutritious bounty that summer to prepare and can 420 mason and atlas jars of food in the form of pickles, wild berry jams and jellies, cattail inner piths, milkweed buds, and other edibles that were suitable for canning. I had already collected that many jars for that purpose, so all I needed to get were new lids. When I was done with that process I stored the jars in my handy, insulated, 9 foot refrigerator pit that we had dug on our property. That many jars filled the entire storehouse. I calculated that between those cans and additional wild foods I'd harvested, dried, and stored, we'd have an ample supply of food to last us through the winter and into spring. By then it would be time to harvest the early wild edible leaves, buds and blossoms that would herald the arrival of new wild food--my favorite time of the year.

Alas, I learned a difficult but vital lesson that winter. And that is, when you live in the wild and are not near a grocery store, you had better create and maintain multiple stores of long-lasting food. (And of course, free wild food would be my first such choice.)

Imagine my terror and despair when, after a particularly intense January blizzard in -20 to -30 degree Fahrenheit temperatures, I dug out to my refrigerator pit only to find that nearly all of those carefully-prepared and stored jars had exploded from the severe cold! I was heartbroken and very afraid. As I pondered the mess, that just two days ago had been a wealth of nourishing food, the thought came into my mind that I would have to do what the Algonquin Indians did when they were desperate for food in very harsh winters; they became tree bark eaters. In fact, the name Adirondack is a derivation of a negative word that the Algonquin's neighbors (the Iroquois) used that means "bark-eater."

I did not care that it was a negative term. All I cared about was that I was able to recall it when I needed it, and that the innermost part of the birch bark is what you can scrape off to have a powdery kind of substance that is very nutritious.

That winter day, I mentally rolled up my sleeves, surveyed the immediate area where a number of branches had been blown down by the storm, and found a birch branch. I cut into the reddish inner bark, scraped until I had some powder, made myself some birch bark tea, and sipped it slowly. Making a tea out of a wild plant and drinking it slowly is not only refreshing, but is also one of the essential steps I developed to help me determine if a wild food is okay to consume or not. Over time and through much experience, I worked out my "Rules of Foraging", and I followed them rigorously throughout my foraging life.

Those rules are based on years of trial and error, as I tested the various wild plants I came upon and added the acceptable ones to our diet and to my ever-expanding list of “forageables”. The "Rules of Foraging" are provided at the end of this article, and in my wild food books and my DVD. I knew, when I left the woods and set out to teach the skills of the forager, that the essence of getting to know a potential wild edible plant would have to be boiled down to a procedure that anyone could apply. I was also very aware that the single most important bit of advice I could impart was how to safely eat the bounty that is wild food. The rules are as complete as I could make them, so feel free to copy and use them for yourself, and supply them to anyone who has the wild food adventure spirit!

Because winter vagaries are the norm in New England, where I grew up, I did have an idea about the environmental challenges of winter living. However, that first winter of living fully in the wilderness had its own unique set of circumstances, as did the following winters that I lived away from civilization. Some additional wild food tips on winter survival that I discovered are these: In case you were wondering about whether any leaves that get blown off during winter storms might be edible, my experience is that they are not. I found a black mold on winter leaves in the snow, so do not consider them a food source in winter. The next tip is that if you have any apple trees in your vicinity, chances are that there may still be some frozen right on the branches that you can pull off and eat when they defrost in your home, or you could dig beneath the trees and find frozen apples there. The same would be true for berries on bushes or that have fallen to the ground.

It's kind of amazing what you can come up with when your survival depends on it, and I was very fortunate that our family chose a location where we did have access to land where many naturally growing plants could be harvested all year long. This next tip is something you do before winter happens, and that is to memorize each of the edible plants and trees in your area so that when their leaves are gone and other identifying characteristics are under snow, you'll know where and what they are and can forage from them. You could also make this a warm weather game to play with your children before winter comes, so they will feel empowered by their edible plant and tree identification when it is winter. There are any number of ways to interest and involve children to learn the survival value of wild edibles they can find right nearby.

One thing to know about another edible tree– the pine tree– is that when you are foraging in the cold and need nourishment, and you know there is a pine tree nearby, get some needles from the tree, wash them in the snow, and twist the needles to get the pine juice from them. It really helps to pep you up a bit.

Birch tree twigs are similarly beneficial in that chewing on them is not only satisfying to the taste but also is a good workout for your teeth! So that first winter I discovered birch tea and chewing twigs, and I wanted to increase my options to include birch flour. The first birch inner bark piece I brought home was from a large branch and that bark was very hard. I knew I would not be able to grind it into flour with my little non-electric, cast iron meat grinder, so I went back outside and found a younger, thinner branch.

The curl of that inner bark reminded me of cinnamon stick rolls that come from the inner bark of the cinnamon tree, and that birch inner bark was easier to cut into and peel out the inner layer. That bark piece I was able to further slice into long slivers that I could grind (and grind, and grind), and I was finally able to produce a kind of coarse flour that I used for baking. At that time I wasn't able to get the flour as fine as I would have liked, but nowadays you can get really sturdy grinders to do the job. I recommend that you have at least one that can operate without electricity as part of your survival arsenal.

One other reason I thought of the birch tree as my first tree-foraging attempt is because that tree, as well as the willow tree, have parts that have can be isolated to become the active ingredient in aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid, which Bayer has marketed so successfully). So, I knew that I would get a double benefit from the winter birch– food and medicine. Since birch has that medicinal quality, you'll want to combine birch flour with other flours when you are baking with it. Birch sap is also another food source from that tree, but since it takes gallons of birch sap to boil down into a little bit of syrup, that turned out not to be as viable as tapping maples for their syrup.

As a note here, over the years I learned quite a lot about harvesting various useful and edible parts of trees to the point where I had so much information to share that I wrote a book about it. That book is “Eat the TREES!”, and it includes a wealth of details, stories, and specifics on identifying, harvesting, and storing tree parts. For example, I learned that pine inner bark can also be ground into flour, but that it has an intense flavor, so you would want to combine it with other flours to make it taste better. I experimented with the various flours that I created from edible trees and plants, and I came up with some good combinations. In the Wild Food Recipes section of “The Essential Wild Food Survival Guide”, I discuss which wild plants make good flours, and there are many recipes in that book that include wild flours.

While that first winter was a true survival challenge, it did show me how valuable trees can be when you really have a hunger situation in the dead of winter and not many other food options. I was very fortunate that during the previous summer and into fall I'd had the foresight to dry a good quantity of various wild edibles that grew freely nearby. These included lamb's quarters, amaranth, clover, and others of the plants I discuss in my materials that are found on my website–

The wild plant, amaranth, in addition to being very plentiful, is a particularly excellent wild food and makes such a good flour that today you can find it in many food stores. It is also listed as one of the recommended flours in gluten-free recipes. My first attempts at amaranth flour were coarser than current commercial, finely-ground flour, and they use amaranth seeds while I used the entire plant. I used to pour out my dried amaranth parts into a pillowcase, pound it into a powder and store it in glass jars. At the time, in the wilderness, it was wonderful to have that nutritious food on hand.

I want to mention specifically here, because it's very important, that if you are going to store any wild food, you have to be sure to get it bone dry– crinkly dry. It is possible to dry wild food over a fire as long as you string the food up high enough! You can string up your plants to dry around the house (sometimes my rooms looked like a forest!), and in warm weather I would place my tray of edibles in the car to dry beneath the back window. And if you are considering building a solar food dehydrator for your food drying needs, my son Eric has compiled an informative and entertaining .pdf course on that topic, which you can find on our website. The reason I stress the drying aspect regarding wild food is because I had some instances of mold growing on my stored, wild food, and I had to get rid of it. Such a waste. You do not want to think you have food available, and then find out you didn't dry it well enough before storing it.

With thorough drying and storing procedures, it is possible for wild food to keep for many years, and still retain the nutritional value. I still maintain pounds of dried amaranth, both leaves and grain tops, for possible survival use, and I can tell you that I have even now dried pine needles, mints, balsam leaves, curly dock, and others that I gathered and dried carefully 38 years ago. It is a real treat to have flour that you made from various wild plants, but that flour lasts generally only about six months, while the sustainability of adequately dried plant parts is measured in many years.

The spring that arrived after that harrowing winter was probably the most eagerly awaited of my life. As the weather started to warm enough for the beech trees to bud, I gathered tree tips and buds and brought them home to put into stews, stir-fries, and salads. I also gathered the buds and tips of pine, balsam, and oak trees that had begun to grow but then froze when the weather turned colder again. I knew they wouldn't be continuing their growth and that there would be plenty more, so I gathered to my heart's content and added them to my food ingredients. I also revisited the birch trees and gathered some spring inner bark, which is kind of buttery and much easier to harvest and grind. And then as spring got underway for real, I was able to go about my usual harvesting routine for the early spring wild plant parts, and on into the rest of the harvesting season that would continue until the snow fell again.

I can assure you, I was much better prepared for my next winter in the Adirondacks!

About The Author:

Linda Runyon is the editor of the “Of The Field” website and the author of many wild plant books and instructional materials.


These rules are for your own protection when investigating plants that are new to you. If followed closely, they will protect you in the field.

  1. DO NOT collect plants closer than 200 feet from a car path or contaminated area.
  2. NEVER collect from areas sprayed with herbicides, pesticides, or other chemicals.
  3. DO NOT collect plants with RED STEMS, or red striations or stripes.
  4. ALWAYS BE FAMILIAR with all dangerous plants in YOUR area of collection.
  5. POSITIVELY IDENTIFY all plants you intend to use for food.
  6. Take a piece off the plant and roll between your fingers. SNIFF CAREFULLY. Does it smell like something you would eat? If it doesn't, DISCARD IMMEDIATELY. If it does, go to rule 7.
  7. Take another piece off the plant and roll until juicy. RUB the tiny piece on your gum above your teeth.
  8. WAIT 20 minutes.
  9. DOES YOUR GUM ITCH, BURN, TINGLE, SWELL, OR STING? If no reaction occurs, go on to rule 10.
  10. Take another piece of the plant and put in a teacup. Add boiling water and steep for 5 minutes. SIP SLOWLY for 20 more minutes. WATCH FOR NAUSEA, BURNING, or DISCOMFORT. If no reaction occurs, you may ingest a small amount.
  11. WAIT ANOTHER 20 MINUTES and watch for any reaction.
  12. Keep all samples AWAY from children or pets.
  13. Store all seeds and bulbs AWAY from children and pets.
  14. Teach children to keep all plants AWAY from their mouths, and DO NOT ALLOW children to chew or suck nectar from any unknown plants.
  15. AVOID smoke from burning plants. Smoke may irritate the eyes or cause allergic reactions QUICKLY.
  16. BE AWARE of your neighbor's habits with chemicals, pesticides, and herbicides.
  17. BEWARE: heating or boiling doesn't always destroy toxicity.

DISCLAIMER: This is information about wild food. The editors of SurvivalBlog and the author make no claims as to the correctness, safety, or usability of the data. The information contained herein is intended to be an educational tool for gathering and cooking wild plants. The information presented is for use as a supplement to a healthy, well-rounded lifestyle. The nutritional requirements of individuals may vary greatly; therefore the author and publisher take no responsibility for an individual using and ingesting wild plants. All data is to be used at your own risk. Using the above Rules of Foraging greatly helps to reduce that risk, but they are not fool-proof.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The author has certainly learned good lessons from his storage experiences, but there are lots more lessons to be learned, like how to put to new use items that can no longer be used/eaten. Specifically, the big jug of soya oil. In itself, soya oil, is no longer a healthy alternative, but it does make excellent lamp oil, whether rancid or fresh. Label it for oil lamp use only, and you've saved the cost of some commercial lamp oil. Another lesson is that any sort of plastic container will never store for any length of time. Air leaks through the plastic, e.g. the fruit cups. Always repack newly purchased contents into glass jars or mylar bags with oxygen absorbers and/or vacuum sealers. - G.L.

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HJL and JWR, I thought I would mention after reading this submission that the author said they threw away several gallons of cooking oil that had expired. That made me cringe a little, as I am as adverse to waste as the author mentions. However, I also understand the need to downsize when moving, but that oil, even though was not safe for consumption, could still be used. I know that various paints are oil-based, and it could have been used to thin it out. Also some generators and motors can be converted to use an oil drip or even just selling it or donating to someone who has a biodiesel vehicle could have used it. I've even seen homemade lamps for sale at a local Farmers Market that can use cooking oil for a fuel. They were a bit stinky but in a pinch as a light source, necessity can be the mother of invention. Food for thought: Keep up the good work. - A.W.

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I would like to respond to Northern Prep.'s letter . I really enjoy articles about food storage because it's one of my passion's as well as part of my faith ( LDS) . Please, please , please don't freak out over those silly dates on canned goods . As a long time past volunteer at my local food bank we enjoyed our lunch hour as volunteer staff on expired food . The food bank themselves would not give away the expired food but we as volunteers would be free to have at it . It was a daily competition on who could find and eat the most expired food . I know, we were young and it was a game to us . The most expired food we ate was Campbell's Tomato Bisque soup 16 years past expiration date ! And yes it was a little off so a couple of shots of Tabasco and it was yummy . What is more important is the integrity of the cans the food was in . Any rust or bulging or if it didn't suck air when opening we would pitch it out . Keep the cans cooler like in a basement and it will double the shelf life. There is a great scene in the movie 'The Road' when the father and son find the bunker underground. The place is packed with canned goods . All those canned goods were at least 12 years old . Yet father and son dined quit well on them . Don't let corporate America convince you to throw away good food. There is a difference from peak of freshness foods and life sustaining foods . We need to change our focus to the latter. Use your nose and good common sense and enjoy good food. - M.H.

HJL Adds: One of my most painful moments was when I helped a friend who had lost a job. We had just begun to prep and I took about half of my stored foods and gave to their family. These were foods that we were regularly eating out of. A few months later, my friend took me aside and discretely told me that he'd had to throw most of it away because it was a couple of months past it's expiration date and he wanted me to check my pantry. I really felt like crying. Expiration dates (with few exceptions, mostly regarding medicines) are for legal or marketing purposes.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

This is the story of my family's experience during the ice storm that hit the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA) of South Carolina and Georgia. My family and a network of friends, who live in the area, are reasonably prepared for any problems that may come our way with food and water storage, shelter, generators, et cetera. When the "ice hit the fan" in our area, we had a very real test of our preps that lasted five days, and some families were still without power seven days later.

First, a little background on our area. The Central Savannah River Area (CSRA) is the area surrounding Augusta, GA. We are approximately 120 miles inland from Charleston, SC, so the area has little impact from hurricanes, other than heavy rains and some wind. We are far enough south that we may get a dusting of snow once a year. Residents here can frequently go without a coat on Christmas Day due to mild temperatures. People from other parts of the country joke about how a half-inch of snow can shut down a southern city, while northern states function relatively normally after a foot of snow. The fact that so little snow or ice can shut down a southern city is due to the lack of heavy equipment to clear streets and the lack of driving experience in snow or ice. Also, utility lines are on poles rather than underground. This allows ice to build up on the lines and ice laden trees to fall on them. On the other hand, residents of this area can tolerate 100 degree temperatures in the summer much easier than northerners typically can. The area is a mix of small cities, towns, and rural property; it is also heavily wooded throughout with many tall pine trees. There is more on this later.

My family has been actively prepping for over five years, and we felt we were adequately prepared for whatever might be thrown at us. We have food storage, water storage and filtration capabilities, medical preps, alternative cooking methods, and more, so we are in pretty good shape. We have also been able to get many other family members and friends involved in prepping along with monthly information sharing sessions to help build community and teach various skills.

The weather reports were forecasting a very severe ice storm. This forecast was put out three to four days before the storm rolled in, so there was plenty of time for people to make the necessary preparations for being without services for up to a week. There were a number of people that tried to minimize the potential of the storm and still others that were oblivious and had no plans for anything. Over the weekend before the storm, I split and stacked firewood on the covered porch to supply us for a few days.

On Tuesday, February 11, 2014, the freezing rain began falling around noon. The roads steadily began to get slick, and the slush was accumulating quickly. At around 8:00am on Wednesday, our power went out. Luckily, I had scheduled vacation for the week and didn't have to worry about being called in to work. When we awoke on Wednesday morning, there was a significant layer of ice on everything, and the ice was beginning to accumulate on the trees and utility lines. I initially got the 5500 watt generator out and ran extension cords to the freezer and two refrigerators. I also set up a power strip to power the Internet and charge cell phones and iPads. We used our wood stove to heat the house with no problem. We keep solar walkway lights outside all the time, so when it got dark we brought them inside for lighting. This is a great, safe source of light. We have grandchildren that are toddlers, and we can give a one year old one of these lights with no risk. I do have a few oil lamps, but I wasn't willing to take the risk with little ones climbing around.

The result of the ice building up on the trees was lots of broken limbs and sagging trees. Pine trees tend to bend when they have ice on them until they snap half way up. These broken trees fall and break utility lines, damage houses and other buildings, and also block roads and driveways. While checking on my parents, who live a few miles away, and running errands to get gas for the generator and large bags of ice, I felt the need to check on some neighbors that are older and have some disabilities. When I called them, they happened to be wondering how they were going to get their generator out of their crawlspace and set it up. When I went to help them, my truck could not make it up their icy driveway, and a number of trees were blocking the drive. I had to walk up to their house, which was over a quarter mile in the woods. I was able to get them set up and taken care of shortly. That afternoon, after we had our household taken care of, my wife and I cleared the fallen and sagging trees and limbs from over a mile of road between our house and our daughter's house, so she would be able to get to us if her power went out. That evening, I remembered I had a twist-lock 220 volt plug for the generator but never made up a cord to tie it into the house breaker panel. After finding the proper wire, I was able to turn off the main disconnect for our electrical service to isolate our house and hook the generator into a spare breaker on the panel to supply power to the house more efficiently. I also taped off the main disconnect to prevent anyone from mistakenly turning it on and back-feeding the local grid and injuring someone. CAUTION: THIS IS POTENTIALLY VERY DANGEROUS AND SHOULD ONLY BE DONE WITH DIRECTION FROM AN ELECTRICIAN! THE PROPER WAY TO DO THIS IS THROUGH THE USE OF A TRANSFER SWITCH. By tying the generator into the breaker panel, I was able to supply power to our well pump and water heater. It also helped prevent a lot of tensions from bored family members, since we could then watch TV. Since I had things running relatively smoothly at my house, I was able to check on other older neighbors. My ATV with a small trailer was a huge asset. I was able to easily navigate the fallen trees and icy roads and driveways to get to them. On this trip, I took my chainsaw and a first aid kit. One neighbor's driveway was completely blocked by fallen trees. On the ATV, I was able to drive through the trees on either side to get around them. Since I had the chainsaw, I cleared the trees on my way back out. Each of them had wood stoves for heat, and they were basically fine, except for a lack of news from the outside world to know what was going on. One neighbor ran out of firewood, and we had to take firewood to him from our supply a few times. Another neighbor needed ice. Luckily, I had more than enough of both.

My parents lost power around the same time we did, but they don't have a generator. They prep as much as they can on their fixed income and had a kerosene heater with ten gallons of kerosene and a Coleman camp stove with four one-pound cylinders of gas. They have some food storage and keep plenty of flashlights, candles, and oil lamps handy. Their solar walkway lights were brought inside for lighting, also. Due to the lack of power, they had no TV or Internet access. My mother had a battery-powered Eton shortwave radio on hand for news, but the radio was complicated and took some time to tune onto a station that carried news. They were able to cook on the camp stove on the porch and even heat water for instant coffee on the kerosene heater. They chose to stay at their home for the duration of the outage to keep an eye on their property.

We developed a routine after a few days and had relatively normal life during the outage. On Friday, there was a 4.1 earthquake about 30 miles north of us in South Carolina. We felt the "wave" pass through the house. This startled many area residents, who were already stressed from the weather, since earthquakes are uncommon in this area. There was no damage from the earthquake.

Power was restored to our area Sunday morning around 10:00 a.m. after just over four days without electricity. Some residents of the area didn't get service restored until Tuesday, February 18.

Lessons learned from the event:

Electricity. Even though I had a generator, I only had about ten gallons of gasoline on hand. The generator used about four gallons in 12 hours, while under load. Luckily, I was able to go to a local gas station that had electricity to refuel. If the outage had been more widespread or long-term, my fuel stores would not have lasted very long. I will be developing greater fuel storage to be able to handle a longer duration outage. I will also be researching multi-fuel adapters for the generator to allow it to be fueled by LP gas tanks also, since LP gas is much safer to store than gasoline. Even though I had the necessary plug to connect my generator to my home, I didn't have a connecting wire made up, and I had never tested my idea before. The generator also had to be set up on the front side of the house. This allowed it to be seen by everyone driving by. I will be making arrangements to be able to connect the generator out of sight and to deflect some of the noise, including buying an aftermarket muffler for the generator. I also learned through trial and error what devices could run at the same time and not overload the generator. I provided constant power to the freezer, refrigerators, and electronics. In addition to this, I could alternate between powering the well pump, water heater, hair dryer, or a toaster. The generator did not like the microwave at all! I also had a few circuit breakers fail as a result of the power fluctuations, so I will keep spare breakers of various sizes on hand. The solar walkway lights were very helpful. They were placed around the house to provide light to move around at night, and the grandchildren love them.

A friend has a large, solar power system installed on his house. The snow and ice built up on the panels, which were mounted on the second-story roof, and prevented them from charging his battery bank. The battery bank was able to supply power for two days without sunlight. When the batteries got down to 36%, they had to climb onto the icy roof to clear the ice from the panels. Having a safety anchor system installed ahead of time would allow this to be done in a safe manner with the proper equipment. He also found that the circuits in his kitchen were not tied to the inverter. He had to run extension cords from other parts of the house to power small appliances in the kitchen.

I know a few homesteading families who regularly hold emergency drills in which the husband will turn off the main breaker without warning for the weekend. They then require their family members to adapt to the adverse conditions. They fared relatively well also since they have had this experience many times before.

My sister's family commonly plays board games and card games, and this was a great way to pass the time and have entertainment without power.

Medical. A couple we know had some medical difficulties due to the power outage. The wife has to sleep with a CPAP, and the husband recently had foot surgery and has a WoundVac pump on his foot. They had no way to charge it for a few days. Either of these issues could have proven to be fatal, if the event lasted longer. They will now be acquiring alternate power sources for these devices. During the ice storm that hit our area in 2004, one family had to call 911 when their child suddenly needed a breathing treatment, and they had no power. An inverter for their car or booster pack used for jump-starting a car could have easily kept this situation from becoming an emergency.

I kept a first aid kit with me when using the chainsaw and checking on neighbors. The local emergency services were stressed to their limits. If someone had a severe injury, they could have easily died while waiting for assistance. I also made sure to have someone with me as a safety while away from my yard clearing debris with the chainsaw. If I had a branch fall on me while I was working down the road, who knows how long it would take for someone to come looking for me, if they even knew where I was. One friend did have a branch weighing over one hundred pounds fall out of a tree and knocked him out. Luckily, he had a friend with him who was able to get the branch off of him and treat his injuries.

Water. We had plenty of bottled water on hand for drinking and numerous 2-liter soda bottles of water stored around the house for utility water. The soda bottles of water were easy to move and also to give to other families that had no water or water containers to fill. If electricity from the generator had been unavailable and the event lasted long enough, more water would have been necessary, since my well pump requires electricity. Area residents on public water systems had water initially. However, after a few days the water in the water towers ran out, and thousands of homes had no water at all. This could have led to many health and sanitation problems for a lot of people. I have a number of plastic water drums, but I never did anything with them. I am going to set up a greater water storage system with them, so I have the water on hand, instead of rushing to collect water ahead of an outage.

Shelter. We had no problems with our house, but many people had trees or tree limbs crash through their roof under the weight of the ice. I keep some building materials on hand for emergency repairs, but if the large oak tree near the house had fallen over I would have had major problems. Tree limbs near my house have been trimmed back, and I will be removing trees that could possibly hit the house, especially pines.

Transportation. The ATV and utility trailer were extremely useful. It allowed me to access where driveways and roads were blocked and to carry supplies to them. It uses very little fuel also. I have a winch for the ATV, but never mounted it. This would have been helpful when moving downed trees.

Heat. My wood stove was a blessing. It heated a 2,500 square foot house easily and with no electricity. Keeping a large amount of firewood on hand was critical, not only for my family but also to be able to help others. My shortcoming is not having a dry place to store all of my firewood. The freezing rain lasted for a few days; the only dry wood I had was what I cut in preparing before the storm and what I was able to cover with a tarp. In four days, I used almost all of my dry firewood. A large woodshed is now a priority. During the outage, my parents' kerosene heater set off the smoke alarm. They found it was due to soot buildup under the top lid. Later, they found the heater would hardly burn, and there was a strong smell of kerosene. They found the wick had burned down and needed to be replaced. Luckily, they had a spare wick on hand. The instructions and YouTube were VERY helpful for this task. We learned the importance of having spare wicks and instructions for changing them. It would be wise to practice this under normal conditions, rather than when the heater is vital to survival.

Cooking. The generator was unable to supply power for the stove or oven. We have Coleman camp stoves that use liquid fuel and gas cylinders. We also have our gas grill with a dozen 20-pound tanks. We could cook for a long time on this. Having multiple camp stoves on hand would allow us to have redundancy and also be able to loan them out to friends that don't have a way to cook. A problem that was encountered was not having a covered cooking area. I have a covered porch, but my parents didn't. This could have been a problem if the rain and cold temps had been non-stop. A gazebo-type structure with a way to block the wind would have been nice to have, so we wouldn't have to get wet when cooking and also so the house wouldn't catch fire in the event of an accident.

Information. Due to my location, I have to use cell-based Internet. Luckily the cell system operated fine throughout the event. Having access to YouTube on my phone and iPad was an awesome resource for how-to's on various tasks. The generator provided power for charging laptops, iPads, and cell phones. I do have a BioLite stove, which can charge small electronics that are charged through a USB cable, as a backup. Many other people lost Internet access when the power to the land-line phone system failed. The lack of phone, TV, and Internet service led to lots of boredom and withdrawals from the constant connectivity we all have normally. Those who did have Internet were able to share lots of information, especially through Facebook. I realize the OPSEC risks of using social media, but the ability to shoot information, questions, or requests for assistance to a large number of people instantly was a great help. We were able to quickly check the status of friends and family or where various resources were available, such as fuel, food, or equipment. I wouldn't totally discount this information resource. My parents had the shortwave radio, but they weren't familiar with its operation and which radio stations would likely have news. They will be getting a simple AM/FM radio. Our network of prepper families in the area is working on a Ham radio network for communications, in case all other systems fail.

Human behavior. After a few days of adverse conditions and the disruption of the normal routine, many people began to show signs of stress, such as anger, agitation, depression, and short tempers. I began to get exhausted on the fifth day of hard, physical labor. I was glad to be able to go back to my normal work on Monday, to get some rest. In a longer-term event, we would have to pace ourselves. A friend that lives in town noticed lots of young people wandering about at all hours that normally didn't do so. At times, they appeared to be scoping out potential theft targets. People from outside the area came into town with truckloads of generators for sale. The problem was that they were selling $400 generators for $1,600. Once local law enforcement found out about the scammers, they ran them out of town, due to a lack of business licenses. Another phenomenon I noticed was, when the power went out, many people refused to leave their homes and go stay with family and friends that did have heat and the ability to cook. This was the situation, even when some houses were near freezing temperatures at night. This not only put them in danger of hypothermia or other illness, it prevented them from consolidating resources with other households, which would have made all of them much more comfortable and decreased the individual workloads. I am curious how long they would "tough it out" in a long-term or permanent event.

Other lessons. I quickly found out I was lacking in my cardiovascular fitness level. Branches that are covered with ice weigh three to four times as much as normal. This will quickly wear you out; it did me. Imagine if this was a permanent event, and we also had to be tactically ready in addition to various tasks that had to be performed around your homestead. My shoulder now has an over-use injury, due to many hours of chainsaw use and pulling on debris. By the fourth and fifth days, I was starting to get "tired and stupid", and accidents were much more likely. A lighter chainsaw for cutting smaller branches would have made the work much easier. I also had two chainsaws quit and was down to one working chainsaw by the end of the week. I did have the opportunity to train other family members in how to start and connect the generator and how to use the chainsaw in case I was unable to. I was the only one in the family that had durable rain gear and work boots. If I had needed more help with clearing debris while the freezing rain was falling, no one else would have been able to help effectively. As a result, we will be acquiring rain gear, boots, work gloves, and work clothes like BDU's for everyone in the family. I also need to get a few pairs of chainsaw chaps to prevent serious injuries from the chainsaw. Headlamps were invaluable. They allowed for working hands-free after dark and moving about the house easily. I keep spare batteries of all sizes on hand, and I would like to have even more stored in case of a long-term event.

I will be putting together a procedure manual with pictures for various tasks. This will cover starting the generator and plugging it into the breaker box, using a chainsaw, starting a fire, using the camp stove, et cetera. I found that if something happened to me and I was unable to help or communicate, my family would be in quite a jam.

The primary lesson I learned from this experience was that I am glad I have been seriously prepping for years. This allowed my family to live a relatively normal life during this event. My preparedness level also allowed me to be a blessing to friends, since they had not prepared in the least and needed help. I do not know everything, and I am not a "super-prepper" that is prepared for anything that comes my way. I try my best and am trying to pass on the things I learned when the ice hit the fan in our community.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

I have to disagree with T.S.' conclusion where Ham radios are concerned.

The days of 40-pound or more base station radios is long gone. Even the backpack type radios from the Korean and Vietnam era that many preppers seem to be so fond of are large, bulky, and inefficient by today's standards.

There are many lightweight, portable solutions beyond that of the typical HT (handi-talkie). Take the Yaesu FT817ND, for example;it has multiple power options, is super lightweight, can easily fit into a cargo pocket and doubles as a general coverage/shorthand receiver.

If someone is versed in Morse Code the options absolutely explode. From simple transmitters small enough to be housed in a tuna can or even a small altoids tin. To full blown packet station using a raspberry pi, low power screen, a few small batteries and a keyboard.

For me, any communication solution that doesn't include HAM radio is incomplete.

On a side note, there is software/app called Serval for android phones that allows the phones to work independently of cell towers through the use of peer to peer mesh networking. This offers another communication solution in a grid down/emergency situation. (I am not affiliated with the Serval project in any way.) - B.I.

o o o

Please be aware that safeties, slide, and magazine releases vary by manufacturer. Thinking that they are standardized could lead to a hazardous situation. - D.A.

Hugh Replies: Both of these responses have good information in them. Be aware that, like many of the articles published here, the authors are not writing generic how-tos, but are writing with a specific scenario in mind. In this particular case, T.S. was writing for his family with the equipment that they had on hand. In order for you to apply his writings to you, you must make the appropriate changes and substitutions for your beliefs, supplies, and knowledge levels.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

I have a story to tell you. A couple of weeks ago, YouTube decided to suggest in my sidebar that I view a video of Oprah flashing "satanic" eyes. I took the bait. Lo and behold, Oprah closed her eyes and weird snake-like eyes appeared on her eyelids. I spent the next week wondering if there was a chance that Oprah was possessed.

Then, a few days ago, I came across another snake-eye video. This time, it was of Justin Bieber in court. Bieber blinked, and the eyes appeared instead of his usual eyes, AFTER he blinked and not on the lids. There was a link to another video; I watched that too. Jim Carrey and Steve Carell were the possessed/aliens this time. Only THIS time, instead of their eyelids showing the eyes or their whole eye changing, there was a subtle reptilian narrowing of their corneas. Strangely enough, it happened the exact same way for both of them.

You would think, if Hollywood stars were possessed or aliens, the aliens would all have the same subtle shift of the eyes. Instead, each video clip showed a slightly different change. In one, it was on the lids. In another, it was a normal blink, followed by a change in the whole eye. In another, slightly narrowed corneas, like a cat or reptile. All right. Suppose each alien shows the change differently. Why, then, did Jim Carrey and Steve Carell shift the exact same way?

The answer is obvious and simple. Each video is different because each video shows someone else's idea of what a reptilian or demonic shift would look like. They're probably catering to all the people who think that "reptilians" have taken over positions of power in our country. Each video has different eyes, because each was altered to look "demonic" or "reptilian" by a different person. We can debate who that editing person is or when it happened to the videos. Maybe there's someone at the TV station having a joke at the expense of their boss. The point is, they WERE altered, because they're all different. Put another way, we know that, at the very least, two out of those three videos are lies. (And yet, if the third isn't a lie, if they actually are reptilians, why would people have to make fake videos? Why not just post the real ones?)

Somebody out there, no, more than one somebody, wants you to be afraid. They want us to be afraid. Maybe they're just having fun with their little hoax. Maybe it's more sinister. The point is not just that videos can lie; we all know that. The point is this: Warnings are not always made with the best of intentions. Warnings might just be made by sick people who want to cause panic.

The devil isn't in the Hollywood stars. It's in the people who shout "fire" in a crowded movie theater when there is no fire. It's in the rioters and looters who scream that the government, the aliens, or the demons are out to get us and cause stampedes that crush people to death. If you ever look in THEIR eyes, you probably won't see slits, but you will see evil.

That doesn't mean we should never go on YouTube, or we need to avoid conspiracy blogs completely. The truth is out there. We just have to look really hard to find it. Don't be afraid to believe theories like that. Or rather, do not fear to examine them. Eventually, if you look hard enough, the truth will come out. Certainly, do fear the damage the theories can do if enough people believe them and if YOU believe them, and they're not true.

One of the worst things that can happen is that a completely sane person will be labeled as "insane" and put in the hospital against their will. Believe me; this has happened. I've been in the hospital, and I met someone in there who merely said that someone had poisoned her. With no history of mental illness that I know of, she just thought someone had poisoned her, and she got thrown in the crazy house against her will. I myself explained about a previous mental illness diagnosis in the course of seeking medical treatment, then explained how I thought my medications for that condition had interacted with something else and caused internal bleeding. The first time, when I had the actual internal bleeding (and accompanying blood instead of poop), and an extremely bad stomachache, I got treated. When I went back for a minute to explain how I thought it had happened, i.e. what had interacted with the medications to "poison" me, I got thrown in the psych ward. I'm telling you, never mention “poison” in a New York City hospital. It's like saying "bomb" at an airport.

When I was in there, one of the worst things I saw is that some of the people weren't a "danger"; they were just acting strangely. Now, if one day you become convinced that all of Hollywood is composed of reptilian aliens, don't you think YOU would act a little strangely, maybe start screaming and panicking? Just pray something like that never happens to you in New York City. The scariest thing is that they can hold you there in that psychiatric institution, indefinitely, if they– at least two doctors in NYC (though it's different in other places)– think you're a danger to yourself or others. They can hold you for 72 hours even without the doctors, and will sometimes hold you longer, if you don't know your rights and insist on them, or if the courthouse takes a week or two to hold your hearing, as happened to me. Look up "involuntary commitment," for more information. Now, if the doctors are paranoid enough to institutionalize any person who mentions poison in the hospital, don't you think they'd maybe entertain the thought that someone who thought Hollywood was populated by reptilians would be crazy enough to, oh, go kill those reptilians? What if it's some reasonable, sane person, who might not believe in reptilians, but believes something like it, simply because enough people have said it to them?

That's not all. After all, theories like that won't just get you labeled as crazy. Not only could people lock you up if you ever voice them. If you tell someone, it will make them that much less likely to believe that you know what you're talking about, about prepping, and the fact that they should be prepared, and everything else. If they think you're doing it to protect yourself from the reptilians, they're not going to want to do it themselves. So, when the dollar crashes, they'll be outta luck. However, if you don't tell anyone, how will you know how crazy you sound? Bouncing ideas off of someone else is sometimes the only way we can reasonably expect to NOT go crazy. So we can't be afraid of telling other people what we think. We just have to be careful WHO we choose to trust with our innermost thoughts. If you heard "Brake!", and it saved you from a car crash, it's perfectly fine to tell your wife. But don't extrapolate and tell your doctor you're hearing voices.

These are some rules for ferreting out the truth. Take them or leave them; I am, after all, "mentally ill." I've also learned a thing or two.

First, liars lie, and most of those who tell the truth are not afraid of the truth. Hence, truth-tellers are not afraid to tell you what the liars say, and then refute it with the truth. Liars, however, will not tell you what the other side says, will not refute it, and will instead only tell "their" version of events. How many political races have you seen (most notably the last few presidential elections) where somebody just repeated a lie again and again, hoping people would believe them, no matter how many times the news station or their opponent proved that what they were saying wasn't true? Those liars never, ever mentioned what the other side was saying. When people tell the truth, they do say what the other side is saying. They're not afraid of people examining the issue because they know, or hope, that the truth will win out. The one who's not lying is not afraid of the truth; he's trying to PROVE the truth, which involves refuting a lie. The liar is trying to HIDE the truth, which involves not bringing it up if nobody else does. See how it works? Liars fear the truth, so much so that they avoid even mentioning it, if possible. Imagine, for a minute, what would happen to a conspiracy blog that published all the mainstream news critiques of the “theory of the day”. Most of the conspiracy theories would collapse. Imagine, for a minute, that those reptilian video posters wrote a critique explaining away the differences between their videos. Do you think they would do such a thing? Why wasn't I afraid to post about what they said, even if I don't believe it? Because I could prove it wasn't true.

Here's another rule: You should take the time to think; liars won't want you to. When trying to figure out if something is true, do a search on the people who say it. See if they're reputable. I've stopped myself from clicking on a number of spam emails that way. Another rule for ferreting out spam, or false testimonials: Liars may say they've been covered by CNN or NBC, but do they link to the originals, on the CNN website, or give you the web address for it? Do they facilitate your research or just say you should trust them? Spam may say it's from AOL or your credit card company, and you need to send them this information or that information NOW. If you're cautious and educated, you'll know that the real company will never ask you for that information. You'll also notice that the fakes' logos look a little funny, and their grammar is poor. You also shouldn't be afraid to call the company to find out if it's real. My father almost sent his credit card information to a spammer, but I told him to check if the email really was from PayPal. Think about what spammers, or phishers, are doing for a minute. They want something from you, and they say that something terrible will happen if you don't give it immediately. Liars, spammers, evildoers sometimes try to make you afraid, and they make you think you need to act NOW, in the hopes that you'll be irrational because of that fear. They hope you'll be irrational enough to believe them and do what they say, without checking them out. Always ask yourself what's the worst that could happen if I take the time to check this out? Are they trying too hard to scare me and not let me think?

Yet, do not be afraid to be afraid. If people weren't afraid, they wouldn't have fled from Hurricane Katrina's wrath, and thousands more would have died. When a legitimate person or group of people, like each news channel in your area, says to fear, then go ahead and panic a little. Do what they tell you. When economist after economist says the dollar's going to crash, well, maybe it's time to stash a little Bitcoin, save your gold, and gather together things you might want to trade. When some obscure website says it's time to panic, do a little research, especially if they're asking you for anything like money or personal information...or if they mention reptilians.

Monday, March 3, 2014


As always, thank you for the survival blog. It is a wonderful resource.

I remember seeing a link or list of American made products, but I can't find it on the site. I'm starting tool boxes for my young children for either DIY home projects or for survival on the homestead after the SHTF. Do you have any suggestions for quality American made tool boxes and hand tools? Thanks - JR

HJL Replies: JWR posted a list of companies that sell American made gear and tools last year. If our readers are aware of any others, we would be happy to add them to the list.

Sunday, February 23, 2014


My fiance and I really appreciate the work that you do at We are Reformers who are trying to figure out our strategy as I speak. We live in British Columbia and were looking to South America, but realize that maybe being in English-speaking remote BC would be a better idea. I am a horse/farm girl. He has always been a city boy. I know the meaning of hard work, and I am taking everything sometimes too seriously. (I think I over focus.)

I am actually just reading Jim's novel Founders.

At any rate, I thought that on your list of lists there needs to be another tab or additions on the home tab. (Well, I will be adding these to my list of lists anyway.)

  • Music (guitar and sheet music) and flutes. A piano is always a good thing, if one is really stationary.
  • Homemade paints (milk paint) and paint brushes.
  • Homemade Ink and papermaking.
  • Knitting needles and knitting books and wool.
  • Candle-making equipment and supplies.

I suppose these are less important than say food, but these things sweeten life. They are also good barter items and useful when there is no electricity.

You (JWR) are right; we have about 80-90 times around the sun. May we use our time wisely. Thanks - KLW

HJL Replies: You are doing exactly what is intended with the “List of Lists”. It would be impossible to create a list that fits everyone, and the one provided by JWR on is intended to get you started. Most of the items are common items that nearly everyone needs, but there will be items that you don't need. You should remove those from your copy of the list. You should add items that are important to you. For myself, a guitar would be bulky and worthless, since the only instrument I can play is the radio. Certain members of my family might suggest differently though. Everyone needs to customize that list with exactly what fits their lifestyle and needs.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dear Editor,

I find myself often not knowing what skills I should have. As a former Boy Scout, I have thought about getting a stack of the merit badge pamphlets, but which ones should I get? I think this website may be of interest to some of your readers, especially those interested in the Newbie section. It is a list of all the requirements for each Boy Scout merit badge, and each one includes a bibliography for those requirements. Sincerely, - S.K.

HJL Replies: The Boy Scout merit badge pamphlets are a good place to start, but you should be careful. The point of merit badges is to introduce the boys to possible careers and/or skills that are traditional to Boy Scouts. They are not designed to be used alone as a comprehensive guide. Rather, they are designed to give the boy a general idea about that particular skill in concert with a person who is supposed to be an expert in the skill. The teaching comes from the expert. The guide merely helps the expert teach the skills as well as list the requirements necessary for the badge. However, your idea of using the bibliography may lead you to excellent material.

Friday, February 7, 2014

We have all heard the stories of the panicked rush on grocery stores by the unprepared masses at the onset of an emergency. Within a matter of a few hours even a so-called superstore can be picked clean of all worthwhile supplies. We all accept this as an inevitability when the SHTF, and this is why we prepare. Many may not know, however, that even after the shelves at the local store are bare there are still more resources that I believe will become available after TEOTWAWKI.

As soon as I was old enough to work I started bagging groceries at the local family-owned grocery store where my father worked. That store had a stock room with almost as much floor space as the front of the store, including a large walk-in cooler and freezer. The stock room and cold storage areas were always filled to the brim. We only got a delivery truck once or twice a week, and the truck generally had to travel a great distance from its origin to get to us. Several years later, the owners of that grocery store sold it to a larger chain. The new owners promptly closed the store for major remodeling. When we returned to work several months later, we employees were amazed by the changes that had been made. The floor space in the front of the store had been greatly expanded at the expense of the stock rooms. Now the back of the store consisted of a narrow hallway with only enough room for a few pallets of promotional or sale items and the cold storage areas had been greatly reduced as well. We soon found out that instead of one or two trucks a week, we received multiple trucks a day. The pallets that were unloaded were staged in the back hallway and almost immediately taken to the front to be stocked on the shelves. Gone were the days of checking in the back room for a customer request, because there was literally nothing in the back room! In the past, at the onset of one of the major winter storms that are common to the area, our store had plenty of products to sell to the panicked and unprepared for days, maybe even a week. Now, anything useful was gone in a few hours from the shelves with nowhere to resupply from. When the storm would hit, sometimes the store would be closed for days because the trucks could not safely make the trip to bring more food and supplies.

In the present, I work at a job in the transportation and logistics field that I have been at for almost a decade. One of the customers we service is the very same grocery chain that so drastically overhauled my hometown “mom and pop” grocer so many years before. Unfortunately, the trend towards the dependence of constant resupply versus stored, back-room stock that I first experienced at a young age is now the industry standard. Every large grocer, supercenter, retail outlet, and big box hardware chain store depend on multiple daily deliveries in order to keep the shelves stocked and the doors open. The trucks no longer travel cross country to grocery stores with their products, delivering once or twice a week. They come locally from massive centralized distribution centers (DCs) delivering multiple times a day. Working in my current career made me realize just how fragile this system of "just in time" delivery is. Any SHTF situation, from the highly likely scenario (such as inclement weather or a natural disaster) to more devastating events (such as an EMP or Marshall law), can and will disrupt the delivery cycle we have all come to depend upon. When the excrement hits the air conditioning, the store shelves will empty quickly without daily resupply and panic will ensue.

This short history lesson on my working life and supply chain tutorial may be insightful to some, but what does this have to do with preparedness and survival? The answer is the aforementioned DCs. These DCs have become the nation's stockroom, each providing product support to hundreds of stores. Through my current career, I have been fortunate enough to be allowed to tour some of these DCs and have been blown away by many of them. The vast amount of provisions from canned goods, perishables, toiletries, and building supplies all housed under one roof would exceed any prepper's wildest dreams.

When the SHTF, I am by no means advocating anyone run out and start looting their local Piggly Wiggly distribution center. I am also not advocating relying on the availability of any product, good, or service after the grid goes down. I believe that when things finally go south, the situation will initially be pretty terrible. Food will run out, water will stop flowing, and people will start dying. The people who have prepared will survive during this time off of their stored provisions, their self sufficiency, and their knowledge and skills. We would all like to be totally self sufficient, but not all of us are as prepared as we would like to be, for various reasons. When we are forced to live off our provisions, even the totally prepared will realize there are things they overlooked in their preparations. Finally, some supplies are simply not renewable. Eventually the terrible times will pass and the survivors will look toward rebuilding. At this time, I foresee the DCs as the new trading posts of America, akin to the ones of frontier days.

No doubt after the dust settles, panicked buying and thieves will have cleaned out the most obvious places containing supplies. But I believe many distribution centers will remain intact. Many DCs are located away from major population centers due to zoning laws and the need for a lot of real estate to facilitate large buildings and both semi truck and railroad access. Another way DCs will stay secure is anonymity. Many DCs have ambiguous names and signage that do not obviously state to the casual onlooker what the buildings contain. Most DCs are neutral colors and windowless, blending in like the gray man of the architectural world. Everyone knows where their local grocery or hardware stores are located, but not many can tell you where the distribution centers for those stores are at. By nature of the millions of dollars of inventory they contain, many DCs are very secure buildings that are not easily accessed by unauthorized people. Most have multiple sets of steel doors that must be opened before entering the warehouse proper. Many are surrounded by tall fences topped with razor wire. Some even have natural or geographical obstacles that make them inaccessible to even the most determined thief. During a hurricane several years ago, a DC my company services went so far as to block entrances with semi trailers to deter looting in case the area was devastated. Even though most DCs house product intended for stores owned by national chains, many distribution centers themselves are locally owned and operated. If widespread panic broke out, it would be safe to assume that many of the local owners of these well-stocked DCs would be present to protect their property and livelihood. This owner protection further insures the survival of many DCs and availability of assets for rebuilding after TEOTWAWKI.

I am fortunate enough to know where many distribution centers are located due to my career. Without working in the logistics industry, most would not possess this knowledge off hand or would have incomplete knowledge of distribution centers in their area. Even after almost ten years in logistics I am still often surprised to find new DCs in my area that I didn't even know existed. There are many ways to find DCs in your area, with one of the simplest being to pay attention to the semi trucks. Where are the long haul sleeper trucks delivering to and where are the short haul daycab trucks picking up at? Keep track of the company names on the trucks you see. If you see a lot of the same company, it could mean there is a DC in your area. Also, listen to the CB radio on the trucker channels. Besides the often colorful and humorous stories you will hear, many truck drivers will talk to each other about where they are going, where they have been, and what they are hauling. If you suspect you have found a DC location, scan the channels on your CB during their business hours. Many still use a base station within the facility to call trucks in and out of the doors and to talk to local drivers. I have learned a lot over the years by listening to CB chatter. There are also several online resources that can be used in order to locate DCs and determine what they warehouse. MacRAE's Bluebook is free and has listings of industrial warehouses and manufacturers across the country. Other websites like Manta and Cortera have many businesses listed in their directories and provide basic information for free, while more detailed descriptions are available via subscription. One of my favorites is Leonard's Guide. It has a pretty good warehouse directory for free that is searchable by geographical location. Listings describe what the facility specializes in and provide direct links to contact information for most warehouses and DCs. Leonard's Guide has a more extensive directory available online for a fee. They also publish this directory annually, and while comprehensive and useful, it is a little pricey and may be outside of most people's budget. For a more affordable print directory, National Provisioner magazine usually puts out an annual Plant Operations Issue. While not as complete as the print version of Leonard's Guide, it would be better than nothing when the world has to do without the Internet and electricity.

Watching the trucks in your area, listening to the CB, and searching online will probably provide you with information on many DCs you might have never known existed. Once you have this information compiled, it is time to go through it and extract what will be useful to you. There are a few places that should be avoided after the SHTF. The first and foremost are cold storages and freezers. While most cold storages and freezers have engine rooms with large backup generators, they are totally reliant on grid power to maintain the frigid temperatures inside for any duration of time. After a week, at best, the generators would run out of fuel and anything inside would begin to rot. The amount of disease from bacteria and vermin from a place like this would facilitate giving it a wide berth. The only possible exception to this rule would be one of the few natural cold storages located in several places around the nation. These cold storages are underground in the space left behind from limestone quarries. They can naturally maintain temperatures as low as 60 degrees Fahrenheit and use up to 70 percent less electricity to cool down to cold storage and freezer levels. While unlikely that they could be maintained for any significant amount of time, it is possible they could be powered by renewable sources of energy. Another place that might initially seem promising would be manufacturers. However, as retailers shed their stock rooms, manufacturers did away with warehousing area. Many manufacturers my company deals with literally load right off of the line into trucks that leave straight for a DC when full. They have so little storage space that if a truck doesn't show up on time it can present a major problem as there is nowhere to go with the product produced. There are many types of DCs that are valuable to know and are quite common across the nation. The most abundant of these are dry grocery DCs. These are a must to know about as they generally have a wide mix of products including food, water, toiletries, and household products. Another common DC houses the products of building supply stores. These contain many valuable building supplies and tools that would be useful for rebuilding society. Beverage supply DCs are also good to know. While these may be looted initially by criminals looking for the alcohol many of them warehouse, most have vast stores of bottled water that could be left untouched. Further research in your specific location will reveal less common places that may hold items of value when the lights go out for good.

After going through and locating the distributions centers of value in your area, it is time to organize the information you have extracted. The maps I keep in my bug out bag (BOB), with my stored supplies, and at my emergency bug out location all are marked with the locations of the DCs in my area. Along with that, I keep laminated index cards bearing information specific to each DC/location (such as what they warehouse, who the owners and managers are, contact information, and what the building looks like.) It would also be a good idea to try to drive by these locations and take a quick picture to include with your laminated index cards. These facilities are often non-descript, and it may be a loved one that is not familiar with the facility using the information you gathered. It is also a good idea to keep track of DCs that are near your bug out location and along the route to it.

So the house of cards comes crashing down, but you are prepared. You get you and yours to somewhere safe. You have the supplies, the knowledge, and the skills to stay fed, warm, healthy, and secure. From a distance you watch the world burn. When the fire goes out it is up to you to help the world rebuild. And maybe by now you have a few less beans, bullets, and band-aids than you did before. The six nearly identical superstores in your old town are nothing now but hollow, burnt-out shells. You can faintly make out the shape of the Home Depot you used to frequent in the pile of rubble that takes its place now. Even the convenience stores have been picked clean. This is when the knowledge of the near-by DCs comes in handy. All of the junk silver you acquired, the case of bourbon you set aside, the now desirable skill sets you have learned can be bartered for supplies you now know you need, supplies you have run out of, and supplies to start rebuilding. These DCs will be one of the cornerstones providing the survivors of TEOTWAWKI the necessary tools and supplies to not only continue to survive, but to start to thrive again.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Many people are intimidated by the idea of becoming more self-sufficient or preparing for disaster because of the misconception that you have to live in the country or at least have a bug-out location in order to do so. This simply isn't true. There are many things urban or suburban dwellers can do to improve their chances of surviving or even thriving in the event of a disaster when leaving is not an option. A little thoughtful preparation can prevent you and your loved ones from becoming victims in an unstable situation, even if you live in the city and don't have a lot of room to spare.

Here are nine ways you can make yourself more self-sufficient; less dependent on frequent trips to the grocery store; able to take care of injuries and illnesses in an emergency; and defend yourself, your family, and your property. Even if you can only do a couple of these things right now, you'll still be ahead of the game while you work toward implementing the others:

  1. Invest in a water filter. My family uses a Big Berkey every day. (I am not affiliated with them in any way.) I run our tap water through it to purify and make it taste better, and it couldn't be easier to use. Do some shopping to find a water filter that fits your budget and your space. It is critical in a disaster to have clean water. This cannot be stressed enough. You will need it for drinking, washing, and cooking. So, invest in the best one you can afford because cases of bottled water will not be enough, even if you have the space to store them.
  2. Build an emergency medical kit. When someone in the family is sick, do you have to run to the corner pharmacy for pain reliever or cough medicine? Someday, that might not be possible. Over-the-counter medications are easy to buy, have relatively long shelf lives, and don't take up much storage space. Watch for sales and make use of preferred-customer programs to save on the ones you are likely to use for colds/flu, coughs, fever, stomach problems, and allergies. You'll need plenty of bandages in all sizes as well as rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and antibiotic ointment for cuts and such. Add a few Ace bandages and ice packs for sprains and muscle/joint injuries, and don't forget to include hand sanitizer and soap. Again, if the grid goes down, sanitation instantly becomes a priority. When you can obtain extra prescription medications for chronic conditions, do so and make sure you keep an eye on their expiration dates to ensure their effectiveness when they are needed. A well-stocked medical kit, rather than a huge stockpile of food, may be the one thing that saves your life.
  3. Keep a few hens. Yes, real chickens. Backyard Chickens is a great site for more information about keeping urban hens. Check your local ordinances if you live in a city. Many do not allow roosters, which is not a problem unless you want chicks, and some communities require a certain size yard. Hens are easier to care for than a dog and will reward you with fresh, nutritious eggs with minimal work. The only real concern is predators-- dogs, cats, raccoons. They will need a safe home, but there are numerous ways you can house them. You can make your chicken coop as attractive as you wish. Healthy hens will lay almost every day, so if you have four of them you may get two dozen eggs a week. If that's too many for your family, sell a few eggs to friends and family. Then, use the money to buy your chicken feed; your happy hens will be supporting themselves. In a worst case scenario where you cannot leave your house or all the grocery stores are sold out, you will have a source of protein in the form of eggs or the hens themselves. They also produce great fertilizer for your garden, which brings us to gardening.
  4. Grow some vegetables and/or fruits. You don't have to have an actual garden plot; just a few plants in pots will serve you well. You can grow sweet onions, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, herbs, and berries; grow whatever your family eats. Your produce will be more flavorful and nutritious than any you can buy at a supermarket and you can be sure that it is chemical-free. What do you do with your extra produce, which you are certain to have? Give it to friends or family; barter with it; or preserve it by drying, freezing, or canning. A single cucumber plant can yield several quarts of pickles in a season, even after eating many of them fresh. Just a couple of tomato plants can ensure a freezer full for the winter. The only vegetables that can't really be preserved and therefore must be eaten fresh are lettuces. Still, they can be grown almost year-round in most areas in order to never be without fresh salad greens.
  5. Learn to can. It's really quite simple and very rewarding to preserve your own food in jars. First, you absolutely must get the Ball "Blue Book", which is usually right alongside the canning jars in your local mega-mart. Your grandmother probably has an old copy of it somewhere. It's pretty much the authority on home canning and breaks it all down into simple, easy-to-follow instructions for you. You will need a canner (the big pot you process the jars in) and jars with two-piece lids, commonly called "mason jars". Boiling-water canners are about $20 and will enable you to can ONLY acidic foods such as pickles, jams, fruits, etc. To can foods that have a higher pH such as potatoes, corn, beans, and carrots, you will need a pressure canner. Pressure canners are a bit more expensive, but it is worth noting that you can use a pressure canner to preserve any type of food since it can also be used to can acidic foods in place of a boiling water canner. Jars are usually less than $10 per dozen so there is minimal investment for the return you'll get. Don't be intimidated; it's a great feeling to look in your pantry and see shelves of pretty jars of food you "put up" yourself.
  6. Get a stand-alone freezer. This can be a big investment or a small one, depending on what size you want and how much you can afford to spend. The idea is to freeze as much food as you can when it is on sale or in season so you can eat it year-round. The National Center for Home Food Preservation ( has a great site that will tell you how to freeze just about anything from meats to fruits. You can also keep extra grain or flour in your freezer to prolong its shelf life and keep it safe from insects and rodents. A well-stocked freezer will enable you to eat for weeks without a single trip to the supermarket and, in the event of power loss, a full freezer will maintain its temperature rather well (unlike a refrigerator), as long as is not opened too frequently.
  7. Learn to bake bread. Don't let anyone tell you that baking bread is hard. That's just nonsense. Millions of illiterate peasants have been doing it for ages! Bread is simple and satisfying and, in a worst-case scenario, you could feed your family on little more. Bread and a few small slices of meat, cheese, or an egg makes a sandwich. Bread with some veggies and some melted cheese is pizza. The shortest bread recipes tend to be the best and only contain flour, water, sugar (or honey), salt, and yeast-- all things you should keep in your house at all times. Variations are endless and simple: to make the bread softer, replace the water with milk and add a tablespoon of oil. You an add some chopped garlic or nuts and cinnamon. Do whatever you like, but do it! Bake several loaves once a month and freeze them, or make fresh sandwich buns every week. Do whatever works for you. A word of caution, though; bbread baking can be addictive.
  8. Purchase at least one firearm and get comfortable using it. Imagine being the only person on your block who has food in a disaster. Imagine being the only house with potable water. You will need to defend yourself and your family. If you are not comfortable around guns, then get comfortable. You can be sure the guys that are willing to steal from you are. Buy ammunition every chance you get, too.
  9. Homeschool your children. I realize this may be a big step for some, but consider that in the event of a disaster (whether natural or mad-made), you will want your children with you. If you have to relocate unexpectedly, school will not be a problem. They can continue their studies wherever you find yourselves. Of course, the most compelling reason to homeschool, in my opinion, is so that you can cultivate in your children the knowledge, principles, and values that are important to you while you take full responsibility for their education. You don't have to enumerate all the problems with our public school system to understand that responsible parents are better equipped to educate their own children than those government-run institutions that resemble prisons more than schools. I live in a state that is very homeschool-friendly; resources are readily available and it's not difficult to find other homeschooling families. However, if homeschooling is less common where you live, I recommend exploring the Internet for inspiration and ideas, if you are unsure about homeschooling. It is a lifestyle change, but one that is immensely rewarding and will give your family a degree of independence that will be an advantage in an unstable world.

Like so much in life, being prepared is more of a way of thinking than anything else. Anyone can do it, regardless of where they live. You don't need land in the country or vast storage space - you can survive a disaster right in the middle of a city, if you are adequately prepared.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I was born into a family of preppers.  My grandparents were all farmers and lived through the Great Depression in the Midwest.   My parents both grew up on farms and came from large families.  While my folks would not label themselves today as preppers, they would consider themselves as independent and self-reliable.  In order to understand my journey as a prepper, you have to go back a few years.  Early into my parents’ marriage, my dad just got out of the navy and worked in various cities and towns, from Texas to Minnesota.  The largest town we lived in was Minneapolis, but usually we lived in towns with a population of around 100,000 people.  As the family grew, there was a desire for my parents to move to an acreage, to get a large farmhouse, and to raise some animals.  By the early 1980s they were able to purchase an acreage that was homesteaded in the late 1800s and was located in rural South Dakota.  It was about 8 acres, had a barn, chicken coop, and two-story house.  It was located at least 20 miles from any town over 1,000 people.  The acreage was situated on a high water table, so we had an outdoor well and had a sand point well for the water in the house.   

After my parents purchased the property, they bought a milk cow, laying hens, some sheep, and a dog.  My mom planted a large garden (roughly 30 yards by 10 yards) with a variety of vegetables.  She canned the extras and created a pantry with shelving all the way to the ceiling with the many jars.  All my siblings helped in the process, hauling up the vegetables to the house and cutting them up.  Many of our neighbors grew large sections of sweet corn, so we would usually eat corn most days in the summer and then would have a few days devoted to freezing the extra corn (sometimes two pickup loads).  My parents went from having a small chest freezer when they were first married to purchasing two large, used chest freezers (these were about 6 feet long).  These came in handy when they began butchering their own cows, pigs, and chickens.  It was not too long until their freezers and pantry were full of meat and vegetables.

In order to save money on clothing, we would wear hand-me-down clothing, and my mom sewed/repaired our clothes to make them last as long as possible.  We attended public school and even in by the late 1980’s and early 1990s, I can remember being bullied because we did not wear “cool” clothes, have neat electronic gadgets,  or bring homemade things for show-n-tell/holiday time instead of from a store.  I remember these bullies using various names to me and my siblings, ranging from being a loser and hick, to poor and worthless.

It was this time in school that I vowed that I was going to get a great job, make a lot of money and show these classmates just how wrong they were.  I vowed that I was going to study hard so I could be the first in my family and go to college.  I wanted to get as far as possible from the rural life.  The summers would especially motivate me to study hard and change my future.  It was during the summers that I spent much of the time on my grandparent’s farm, getting up at 5:00 am, picking rock, milking cows, pulling weeds out of the fields, fixing machinery, putting up hay, and doing other chores until late in the evening.  By the end of the summer I would be even more motivated to move away and was left with a motivation to do well when school started up again in the fall. 

I excelled in school and did end up going to college.  My parents were unable to financially provide for me to go to college, so I did work-study, took out student loans, and worked as a resident assistant to pay for my dorm room.  The motivation from the summers at my grandparent’s farm was still fresh in my mind and I graduated four years later.  I did well in college and ended up going straight to graduate school, this time even further away from my parents.  I enjoyed the college life, much preferring the academic pursuits as compared with my previous manual labor on the farm.

It was then that my “average” life began - the life that I had always wanted.  I got married, graduated again and got a great job.  With both me and my wife working, we were making great money.  We had accrued over $70,000 in student loans, but where happy to pay just the minimum monthly payment.  We enjoyed eating out many times a week and spent a lot towards “entertainment” each month.  We bought a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom condo; a new car; and took a trip to Disney World.  Things were good. 

Then my best friend, a man in his twenties with a young family died of cancer.  It shook me up and made me reevaluate all aspects of my life.  It was then that things started to change for me.  We had a young daughter at the time and made a decision that one of us would stay home with her.  My wife quit her full-time job and went to a very part-time position (a few days a month).  In addition, my parents gave us tickets to a live Dave Ramsey event and we decided to get “gazelle intense”, getting on a budget and paying down our debts.  Even with our income going down greatly, it still felt like we had more money than ever.  Less than two years later we had to push “hold” on our debt pay-off, as we had a son.  My wife did not work at all that year, and our son had a difficult beginning, so our medical bills were pretty high.  Being a father to a son, I thought a lot about my role as provider and protector, as well as the legacy that I wanted to leave for my family.  It felt that I was a long way from where I grew up in terms of my lifestyle.  Life was fast-paced, we lived in the city, we went to the grocery store near our house a few times a week, and we even had all our yard/maintenance taken care of thorough our homeowner's association (HOA.)  But I could feel a yearning that there was something missing. And thus began my return trip home!

It was with two young kids that we decided to move back closer to my family.  The decision did not happen overnight, but rather over 18 months and a lot of prayer.  The housing market bubble had popped and we lost about $25,000 on our place but we packed up and moved anyway.  We found a two-bedroom apartment in our new town, only about 25 minutes from my parent’s acreage.  We decided that we wanted life to slow down and get back the skills that generations of my family had all known.  In order to do this with only one income we got creative on how to save money.  We began couponing, collecting the weekend newspapers on Monday from the motel just a few blocks from our place.  We sold our car for a used minivan.  I went to my parent’s acreage and helped butcher chickens like when I was a kid – my folks were grateful to have us back and to be helping so they gave us 30 chickens for our freezer (we acquired to small chest freezers that we have in our garage).  I helped my uncle butcher four large pigs, and like my parents, he appreciated the extra help, thanking me by getting me about 50 pounds of ground pork.  We used the envelope system for our budget and paid cash for our purchases.  We got a used food dehydrator at a garage sale for $5 and began to use it.  We tried our hand at canning and did a few small batches with various foods.  We made our own laundry detergent, baked our own bread, and tried to drive our vehicles less.  With these small changes, we currently have our monthly food budget at under $250 for our family of four.  We are proud to say that our student loans are down to about $4,500 and we don’t have any car payments or credit card debt!  We even have our $1,000 emergency fund and within a few months hope to have the remainder of our debt paid off.  We then hope to save for a house, maybe even an acreage just like my folks. 

Since moving back closer to my family, I have devoted myself to learning about new skills.  I have always enjoyed reading, so I naturally began to follow blogs and read books on how to be self-reliant and how to save money.  Much to my surprise, most of the books and blogs I was learning the most from were from a group of folks called preppers.   While I do follow multiple blogs now, I do have to say that it is SurvivalBlog is my favorite.  Not only has it helped me to stretch my dollar for food, I have acquired so many new skills that I now don’t know how I lived without them.  I feel that I am now a better provider and protector for my family.  I like that our house now has a medical kit, a bug-out-bag that we can grab at a moment’s notice and enough food to last us for at least 3 to 6 months.  I enjoy how there is a focus in SurvivalBlog about family and the importance on building relationships.  I feel equipped that even with all the negative news on television, my family is going to be okay, as we are going to be prepared.    

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I just wanted to throw this out there for general information. This past Saturday my neighbor was cutting some trees with his chainsaw. Not long after he started he was over to my house asking to borrow one of my chainsaws because he got his hung up in the tree.

I grabbed one of my three saw and went over to help him out. I figured he got his hung up I did not wish him to hang up mine also. After we got his cut out, I mentioned to him if he had a spare bar and chain for the saw, he could have very easily removed the drive engine from the bar and chain put on his spare and continued cutting. He was lucky I was at home and had a saw. I know when many people with chainsaws prepare. They pick up spare chains, oil, bar oil and such but hopefully they think ahead and also pick up a spare bar or two. - Tom in Virginia

JWR Replies: Having a spare bar (or better yet two) and a half dozen spare chains is indeed important. In addition those rare pinched bar situations, keep in mind that bars can get bent, chain guide grooves can get distorted, and tip rollers can wear out. (Or burn out, if you forget to check your bar lube oil reservoir consistently.) If you run a saw a lot, at some point you will need to bolt on a spare bar.

If and when you ever do have to extricate a bar that has been pinched, it calls for great caution. A bar is usually pinched when a tree is in a precarious position-often when a tree has a rotten core, so the trunk has shifted in a unexpected way. So use extreme caution. and work only from a side where the tree won't fall. Also, if you need to cut out a pinched bar, work very slowly and exactingly, to make room for plastic or hardwood felling wedges. You should have at least three felling wedges. And of course never use steel wedges for felling! When making a cut toward a pinched bar, go slowly and conservatively, or you will end up with two destroyed chains and two destroyed bars and the potential to throw shrapnel. Again, your goal is to make room for a wedge that you'll drive in enough to free the bar. Lastly and most importantly: Never fell trees when it is windy and be sure to keep you eyes up very frequently, watching for any signs of the tree tilting, so that you can make a hasty exit. Leave yourself a couple of clear escape paths and if need be, drop your saw to speed your escape. The saw is replaceable, but you are not.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Location is the most important thing to consider when developing a plan for long-term habitation in a TEOTWAWKI setting. Of primary concern are Community, Safety, Water, Food, Sustainability, and Natural Resources. It is absolutely imperative to find a locale with a well or fresh water spring. You will need fertile ground that is within distance of easy irrigation. The safest places will be those that are away from major highways and population centers; however, these small rural communities are typically suspicious of outsiders. You will need certain natural resources available as well to guarantee you are not reliant on trading or the good will of your neighbors to survive.

My plan involves getting back to the family farm in East Texas and away from the chaos that is going to ensue in the Dallas-Fort Worth area where I currently live. I have multiple routes highlighted on maps to get to my destination with detours marked for crossing major highways along the route. I have insured that I have enough fuel to reach my destination along with enough of a buffer in case I spend an extended period of time in traffic or want to help a stranded motorist who is out of fuel. I will never take main roads like an Interstate unless I am 100% sure that I am leaving ahead of the horde and even then I know that it is a risky proposition because those are the routes that will either fall under tight government control, or more likely, will have “survival of the fittest areas” where those who are not prepared prey on those who have anything of worth. I have all of my survival gear and supplies staged in specific areas to allow for rapid loading and a timely departure. My SUV has a roof rack, trailer hitch cargo carrier and enough space to carry my wife, kids, and all of my necessary supplies along with the family picture albums.

In selecting a location for your retreat there are several considerations to take into account. First, Who are your neighbors going to be? It is all well and good to select a remote location in a farming community to set up your retreat but these communities are typically very close knit and do not trust or welcome outsiders quickly. You should insure that you have a solid relationship with at least one and preferably multiple families in the area you have chosen so you can integrate seamlessly into the community. You will have to bring skills or goods that will enable you to be accepted in the community as an equal in the long-term survival quotient. Expect that you will have to pitch in and work hard with the rest of the community in one of several areas like food production, land and home maintenance, as well as security. Just because you bring enough food for yourself does not mean that you will be able to opt-out of the hard work necessary to support an agrarian community. If you are accepted into the community there will be plenty of people who will be willing to show you how to do any number of things since areas like this tend to have numerous older individuals who will have grown up as subsistence farmers. These people will be familiar with making clothes, caring for livestock, gardening, canning, trapping, hunting, and fixing just about anything with some bailing twine and duct tape. Just do not expect that you will be able to show up in a rural community with a truckload of gear and convince them that you will be an asset. Even in a community that you have someone to vouch for you expect to spend at least a year proving that you can be a worthwhile addition to their group.

Second, you need to consider how safe is the location you desire. You will want to be away from highways that will have any traffic. An excellent choice is a Farm to Market Road at least one to two miles away from the nearest highway. Most houses have been built close to the road and this is not an ideal situation since you will want to have a location that is not obviously inhabited if there is traffic on your road. Try to find a location that is out of sight and hearing, don’t want someone walking by to hear you chopping firewood, and close to where your garden will be located to maximize your ability to keep your home and garden safe with the minimum amount of security resources.

Third, you need to find land that will be able to support the members of your family for an extended period of time. Things to consider when choosing a location are: fresh water and arable land. Is there a source of unpolluted, fresh water on the property that can be accessed by digging a well? Is there a stream on the property that can have water diverted for gardening irrigation? Is there a pond on the property that can be stocked with fish? Are there trees on the property that will keep you supplied with firewood and lumber for building? You will need a clean source of water that you have easy access to that can keep your family supplied with a sufficient amount water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, and washing.  Also, take into consideration the number of livestock that you will need and check with the local agriculture office to see the recommended acreage per cow, horse, etc… If you can find a location with a creek on the property it will be very advantageous in keeping your livestock watered and your garden irrigated. When you go to lay out your garden choose land that is downhill from the water source so your irrigation channel will be fed without additional effort. Another advantage of a running water source is the ability to build a dam to create a pond. Having a pond for raising fish and as a large storage location for water in case of drought could be vital to your survival. Not only are trees useful for the firewood and building supplies that can be taken from them but it is also an excellent buffer to shield your home and garden from the sight of people that might pass by. Wild game also tends to be more plentiful in forested areas and that will supplement your fish, livestock and garden. Trapping small game is an excellent source of daily meat and will not require extensive time spent on hunting or drying large game meat, so make sure that you have traps to lay out on game trails.

Fourth, dedicate some time to retrofitting your home to the standards that were in use before electricity, running water, and central heat and air conditioning came along. This means building an outhouse downhill in the direction your well water is flowing and far enough down that the bacteria will not enter the ground water that flows into the well. You will want large windows with screens to capture any breeze during the summer months and shutters to cover the windows in the winter months to preserve as much heat as possible. If possible, it would be ideal to have a windmill that can be used to charge a battery bank to provide power to convenience appliances and perhaps to power an exhaust fan that will keep your house cooler in the summer months. My philosophy is that if having one of a certain item is good having two is even better. Spare parts for your important machinery will pay for itself many times over. An enclosed wood-burning firebox will help you to use your firewood judiciously while still heating your home. Since propane is very inexpensive it would be a great idea to buy a very large propane tank and get it filled so you can add a nozzle to recharge cooking and lantern tanks for yourself and as a trade good. A root cellar is perfect for storing food and other temperature sensitive items in a cool location. Since you will need to have a steady supply of vegetables you might want to build a greenhouse to supplement your canned vegetables from your garden with fresh vegetables. It will also allow you grow other plants that may not be suited to your location. This will enable you to grow exotics that other people are unprepared to grow like tea, coffee, or cocoa, which will give you little tastes of luxuries that will dwindle quickly. Also, consider growing medicinal plants that can replace the current dependence on prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

These are some of the main points that you will need to consider in choosing and preparing your retreat. This is by no means a complete list of what will be needed but it is intended to get you thinking about more than just the stuff you will need to buy but how to create a place with as many comforts as can be provided with the limited resources that will be available. There are so many things that need to be prepared for a long-term survival situation you could write a book about it.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Dear SurvivalBloggers:
For all who are called to the American Redoubt: Secure your food and preserve your freedom of action!

If you don't have a place to grow your own healthy food, support those who do. Go in for shares. Help them every way you can. Growing all your own food now may not be economically viable, but secure sources of food are your lifeline in the future. Our goal should be not only to survive, but to thrive!

My brother and I were born and raised in the American Redoubt and grew up living the life of “preppers” and “survivalists” out of financial and environmental necessity. We did not realize our lifestyle was unusual until going off on scholarships to boarding school on the east coast and college in the south. In these uncertain times, we have come back home to our wild mountains, to make the preparations that need to be made. As our father, New Ordinance, says, “I want to turn the lights back on. As I see it, we are here not only to survive the approaching vicissitudes but to preserve the ‘arts of civilization’ and pass the torch to the next generation so that a new civilization can emerge from the detritus of the old to fulfill the original promise and destiny of America.” (From “The Secret Weapon,” Copyright © 2012 New Ordinance)

Speaking as a member of my generation, this is a daunting responsibility. How does one take that first step in the fabled journey of a thousand miles? Our family has begun with the foundation of all civilizations, a reliable food supply. “Food is the sine qua non of all weapons, for he who controls the food supply controls the fate of nations and individuals…. Come what may, a long-term food supply allows the development of the resistance and foments new strategies that are outside the control mechanism. We play our own game, not the adversary's game.” (From “The Secret Weapon,” Copyright © 2012 New Ordinance)

We have been engaged in small scale agriculture for a number of years, searching for crops and agricultural methods that can feed communities across the American Redoubt without a descent into subsistence farming and feudal agriculture. Corn is the easiest grain to cultivate and harvest by hand, easier by far than the cereal grains. Our family has discovered this from real, personal experience. In a world of increasing gluten intolerance and fatal health consequences, corn is also one of the best alternatives for gluten intolerant preppers, like myself and my father. But almost all strains of corn have been contaminated by the genetically engineered Franken-corn that dominates the bread-basket of America. All, that is, except Painted Mountain Corn. What is Painted Mountain Corn?

Simply put, it’s a corn that grows where no other corn can survive. Bred to withstand the harsh climate and short growing season of southwestern Montana, we’ve found that it’s the only corn that will grow and reliably produce at elevations above 5,000 feet in the northern Rocky Mountains. Bred from a variety of semi-extinct western Indian corns, Painted Mountain Corn represents a gene pool with 1,000 years of selection for reliable production in the arid and nutrient-poor soils of the western United States. It is high in anti-oxidants and soft starches and has been tested with protein as high as 13%, which is comparable to hard red winter wheat.

Painted Mountain Corn is GMO-free, open pollinated, and non-hybrid, so you can save your own seed. It is the life’s work of Dave Christensen and the Seed We Need project. Consider giving a donation to his work.

Our family discovered Painted Mountain Corn three years ago and realized that this is the perfect grain for small-scale, independent farmers in the American Redoubt. However, the seed is expensive and difficult to find, and the few seed companies who carry it have very limited supplies and sell out quickly. That is what led us to start growing our family’s crop for seed, and to begin what we call The Painted Mountain Corn Project.

The Painted Mountain Corn Project has two goals. First, to spread Painted Mountain Corn across the inter-mountain west. Second, to feed the American Redoubt.

Grow your own organic GMO-free corn as a basic component of your food storage program, an annual component of your daily food consumption plan and as a source of income in sharing the seed with your neighbors and your community.

Disclosure: We are a small family Painted Mountain Corn seed business, growing and selling the seed online and at gun shows across Montana. We have a small supply of Painted Mountain Corn seed still available for planting this spring. While we love and grow Painted Mountain Corn, we have no affiliation or endorsement from Dave Christensen or the Seed We Need project.

For more about our family and our experiences with small scale grain raising in the American Redoubt, visit our web site.

- Chief (A 23 year-old female physicist, farmer and writer)

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My family is from the former Yugoslavia and it had been a family tradition to go back and visit the homeland of my grandparents. Unfortunately for me, by the time I could go, my father had passed and I found only one cousin willing to do it again. As luck would have it, it was the summer of 2000 and I thought the war had been long over. It was only recently I discovered that the horror continued right up until just before my arrival there.
After a short stopover in Frankfurt, we boarded a smaller plane to Zagreb. The flight was beautiful, the scenery, breathtaking.
I thought about the stories I was told about this place. My family were farmers there, and I was excited to experience the way of life that used to sustain them. I wanted to see the animals, horses, pigs, cows, chickens, the fields of vegetables, and how they did it all. I had heard about how they would slaughter the pigs, then salt and smoke them, and I really wanted to know how. I don't know if you've had them, but Yugoslavians are famous for their cabbage rolls. I wanted to know how to make the sour cabbage, and how they did all this for ages without refrigeration. I was fascinated with the idea of being self sustaining off the grid, and how they managed even after the war.

We rented a van to get to the tiny village of Covac near the larger city of Okucane. I was surprised at the military presence there still, there were checkpoints with armed guards asking to see your passport. Luckily most of them spoke English and didn't actually seem that concerned with us. We must have went through three before getting to our destination.

Arriving in Covac, it was like nothing I had ever seen. One gravel road, off of another gravel road, one small store at the corner. There were maybe 40 houses altogether, surrounded by fields and farther back, forests. At one time this place was beautiful. Now, unreal. Most of the houses had been destroyed and abandoned. Some had walls missing, bullet holes marred the surface of the concrete, trees even growing where the roof once was. The town pavilion that once held meetings, dances and parties was reduced to rubble. We pulled into the gravel driveway of the house we would be staying at. 

Our hosts came out to greet us, a young lady and her elderly mother. The house was small by western standards, a concrete square with a kitchen, bedroom and cold room. The kitchen had a table and chairs, a woodstove and small counter, and a laundry line all lit with a single bulb hanging from the ceiling. The bedroom held two single beds, and a dresser with a television with rabbit ears atop, again all illuminated with a single bulb. The cold room was farthest away from the woodstove, just a concrete room with shelving on all sides which interestingly doubled as the room to bathe in. The outhouse was about 40 feet away, past the open well, unlit of course. My cousin told me a story about using the outhouse while a chicken pecked her from below, I guess that's when they closed it off at the back. Regardless, I still had some anxiety about using the outhouse at night. The well was open, like the ones you see in old fairytales, with a roof and a bucket on a rope. Looking down into the water, I counted four frogs swimming around down there. I hoped they boiled the water before drinking. They didn't. Meals usually consisted of smoked, salted meats, sausage or bacon, eggs, fresh vegetables like tomato and onion, bread and soups.

I remembered my Grandmother telling me about picking beans in the fields, and moving the livestock from the forests to graze, and back to the barn. Looking out at the fields, there was nothing but weeds. The only livestock in the town was some chickens and a cow. I asked what happened, the stories I was told and the place I was in seemed vastly different. When the war came here people fled and later were forced out or had their homes destroyed or taken over. Most of the younger people never returned leaving a town of mostly elderly. There was no one to do the hard work involved in farming here, and no one could afford the start up costs again even if they could. At one time this land was self sufficient, the people were happy and free, now barren, a way of life lost. I wanted to walk in the fields that sustained my family for generations, I was told I was not allowed. Not allowed? Apparently it had not yet been cleared of land mines so it would be an enormous risk. I still can't believe that a tiny village, so far away from a small town had been hit so hard in this conflict. I recall a story from my Grandmother about her family hiding from the Nazis back in the war. That happened here, at least twice people were murdered in war, here, on this tiny strip of houses, seemingly in the middle of nowhere.

We went to visit other relatives in nearby Gredjane, I had hoped they fared better, they didn't. My Grandfather's brother and his wife lived in a small brick house, the size of a shed. The four of us couldn't all be inside at once it was so small. It held a single bed, a woodstove, and a table and chairs. Nothing here was refrigerated, they had no electricity, not even a light. The towns people came by to say hello. Once again I was surprised at the age of the people who remained here. It amazed me that the elderly people chose to stay or come back while the youth took to the cities and stayed there. Leaving that place, it would be the last time I would see my relatives again. My Grandfather's brother died two years ago, six months after my Grandfather.

Back in Covac, it was bath day. My gracious hosts had to heat buckets of well water on the woodstove for me. I bathed in the cold room, in a plastic bucket a foot deep, two feet across. It wasn't pretty, but it did the job. I had to get used to brushing my teeth outside, and just spitting on the grass. I had never done laundry by hand, that wasn't so bad. All in all, life there seemed so quiet, peaceful. It was actually hard for me to sleep at night, I wasn't used to it being so dark, and so quiet. There were no streetlights, no traffic sounds, not even the familiar sound of dogs barking.

They did have a small garden close to the house. They grew potatoes, onions, carrots, cabbages, tomatoes and beans. Since the summer was ending we did get to help with some of the harvest. At this time, they didn't pull out all of the root vegetables, just some for the cold room to use, and some for next years' planting. We put the seed potatoes in a hole near the house. It was full of hay, we placed the potatoes and onions inside then covered them with hay and buried it. The cabbage was harvested, washed and placed in large tubs with brine, enough to just cover them.The tubs were stored in the cold room, then covered with fabric, a wood plank, and weighed down with a brick. Unfortunately my stay was not long enough for me to try them once the process was complete. I must say, although delicious when cooked up, the smell of them fermenting was a little harsh.

I did not have the opportunity to see any meat processing but I was told how it was done. Once ready, the meat was salted, and then smoked in smokehouses. This would occur in the fall so the meat was then hung in the attic which vented the woodstove smoke in one end and out the other. This would continue the smoking process thus preserving the meat longer for later use. After my visit, the smell of a wood fire always reminds me of my trip, and the taste of homemade smoked bacon.

Three weeks had gone by so fast, even here where there were no distractions in daily living. On the long ride home I had a lot to think about. I believe the one thing that made the deepest impression was the fact that this village, so remote, and so small was so deeply affected in their own TEOTWAWKI. I had just assumed that in almost any situation fleeing the cities is always plan A, this trip taught me otherwise. I believe we need to be careful in creating a plan for disaster that is sort of one size fits all. In this situation, in this civil war, the resources in the city were better. Those left in the country were completely alone in a horrific time and to this day, many of their stories remain untold.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Introductory Disclaimer: Many ideas expressed within this article may not be legal in all jurisdictions.  Items covered and methods discussed are strictly theoretical in nature unless otherwise stated.

Many people have a love of fishing.  Take a pole, and maybe a youngster, down to the shore, or a dock, baiting up, casting out, and waiting for a bite.  It’s a great time to just sit, talk, and enjoy nature.  Right?
Not after TEOTWAWKI!  There will not be many ‘restful’ days, or nights for that matter.  Our group has a saying that: “Sportsman-ship goes out the window when Survival-ship comes in the door.”  Catching as many fish as you can properly make use of with a minimum of effort will become the rule.  It is wasteful to catch more of any game than you can make use of.  If you can dry and/or smoke ten pounds of fish per day don’t go out and catch a hundred pounds unless you have the means to keep the unprocessed fish from spoiling.
Looking back at the Native Americans and their ways is a good place to start. In the Columbia River Drainage they fished with both nets and spears.  They still do, where the white man hasn’t messed up the stream flow.
Let’s discuss several methods of catching many fish.  Gigging, Netting, Bow Fishing and Trot Lining.


Gigging involves using a device that resembles a spear with two or more points.  A quick search online for “fishing gigs” will show the full range of styles that have been used and are in use today.
Using a fishing gig generally requires being able to see the fish you are hunting, getting close enough to reach it with the gig, and doing all that in a stealthy enough manner that you do not spook the target.  Another method involves finding a spot that fish are known to pass, setting up and waiting for the fish to come to you.  Again, you must be ready to strike at the proper moment.  You may miss the first few times.  There is a trick of optics called ‘parallax’ that we will discuss in depth a little later on.  A fish is not where it seems to be and the gigger must learn about and adjust for this before many fish are gigged.


The net has been used down through the centuries and has evolved into very sophisticated ‘fishing systems’ used on all modern fishing vessels.  In this paper we are talking about a simple net you weave yourself and use up close and personal.  Go online and do a search for fishing net making.  You will find the size and shapes of the shuttles that are used, and the one very basic knot that creates all good nets.  Generally you need to decide where you are going to use the net before you begin to build it.  If it is a stream situation, then determine the width and maximum depth at the place you will be fishing.  If I were to make one, I would generally make a net that is one and a half times the width of the water and twice as deep as the water.  The size of the net openings is determined by the size of the fish you wish to catch.  For instance, if you are going out to catch all the fish you can regardless of size, then a net made with a mesh opening of 1 inch would probably be good.  If, however, you only want to catch large fish [say, for splitting and smoking] then a net mesh size that will allow the smaller fish to escape and keep only the larger fish then you want to make a mesh size commensurate with the fish size.

EXAMPLE: We have a large annual run of German Browns every fall in a small creek off a large reservoir. The larger fish can be well over ten pounds.  The creek is about thirty feet wide and 5 to 6 feet deep (at a spot that would work for netting).  Personally [If I were going to net this creek which of course I am not since it is not legal], my net would be about forty to fifty feet long and ten to twelve feet tall.  One note to remember, a 4” mesh net takes ¼ as many knots as a 1” mesh.  When you multiply that out to the total size of your net you might come to the decision to make a course net first.  Maybe you should/could make just a small one to keep the deer out of your garden, before you tackle a really fine net.

One word of caution.  You will read many articles and, in fact talk to many people who will write or speak of making a ‘gill net’.  I see the word tossed about as if it were the only net to make or use. A gill net is a very sophisticated fishing tool that is sized precisely to the size fish you are going to take.  Fish too small can swim right through it.  Fish too large will run into it and go away.  Only the ‘right’ sized fish will be able to poke its head nearly through the primary netting to the extent the much smaller gill strands of the net will catch behind the fish’s gills and hold it securely until harvested.  I will not say you cannot make one.  I will say I would never invest the time and precious materials needed in making and then maintaining a gill net.

Bow Fishing

Anyone who has used a target bow, a hunting bow, or a sophisticated archery competition bow might want to consider its’ use in the area of fish harvesting, provided of course that it is legal in your area.  For many summers when I was a kid I would take my trusty long bow, attach an old spinning reel below the grip with electricians tape.  I would take an old, damaged but pretty much still straight target arrow shaft, drill a small hole through the metal tip just about as far back on the ferrule as I could and still be on the metal.  I would drill the hole so a 1½ to 2 inch finishing nail would fit loosely.  The head end of the finish nail plus about a ½ inch would be bent 90 degrees? and hammered flat enough that I could attach a small fishing swivel-snap to it through a very small hole I drilled in the flattened nail head.  I would then slide the nail point through hole in my shaft.  The pointy end would now be bent about 45 degrees?, such that the swivel-snap and the point would both be pointed up the shaft.  Attach some old about 30 lb monofilament or braided line to the swivel-snap and wind about 50 feet onto the reel.
When I went fishing I would nock the arrow, open the bail on the reel and I was ready to fish.  Carp were always in season [and legal at the time to hunt with bows].  Upon spotting a likely candidate I would draw my bow and loose the arrow.  If I struck the fish I would play it on the spinning reel.  When I landed the fish all I had to do was make certain the barb went completely through the fish.  Then a light pull on the shaft would flip the barb/swivel-snap/nail over so it was pointed down the shaft.  Then the arrow could be withdrawn with minimum damage to the flesh of the fish, and no damage to the arrow.  I could be back to fishing in under two minutes once I had landed the fish.

The tricky part is learning to compensate for the parallax that occurs when you look into water at an angle. [The natural tendency is to aim too high, so if in doubt, hold low.] All I can say is, you will get lots of fish just as soon as you figure the angle out.  The variables include 1) the angle you are looking into the water at, and 2) the depth of the fish in the water.  Each shot requires a fresh mental computation.

Trot Lining

Simply stated, a trot line is nothing more than a long line with many hooks.  However, there is a little more to it than that. 
Not having lived in the southern states where trot lining for catfish is nearly akin to a religion, I’ll just share the simple way I was taught up in the Pacific Northwest.  In the 1960s I had what I consider to be a real honor to know a gentleman in the State of Washington I will call ‘Bob Ford’.  Bob was an octopus fisherman.  He was on a scientific register back east somewhere and he supplied octopus parts for many science research projects.  Bob ran three trot lines.  As I recall two of the lines were 1,000 feet long and the big one was 1,500 feet long.  They were set in the shelter of Dungeness Spit in areas where he knew the bottoms to be sandy and free of snags.  Bob would go out every day and ‘pull’ his lines.  He would start by going to his marker buoy and hauling up the 75 to 100 feet of anchor line that anchored the trot line against the tides.  He had a roller assembly on the forward, port gunwale where he placed the line as he pulled it.  When he got to the anchor he would move it over the pulley and keep on pulling on the trot line. About every fifty feet or so was a cedar box that was about twelve inches square and four feet long.  One of the twelve by twelve inch ends was open.  Each trap was on about a five foot tag line off the main trot line.  He would pull each box up to see if it held an octopus.  Then he would pull again to the next box.  Now you might say one person pulling well over 3,500 feet of wet, soggy line festooned with a bunch of heavy anchors and water logged cedar boxes every day, and sometimes twice a day, is a little hard to believe.  Well he did it.  He did it every day for over twenty years.  I knew him when I was the Keeper of a nearby Lighthouse.  At the time Bob was in his ‘younger’ eighties as he put it.  Nobody, not even the young loggers in the area, ever challenged him to arm wrestling!!  Every Friday morning the Oriental market buyers would come over from Seattle to bid on any ‘extra’s’ Bob had caught.

So, how does this story fit in?  Well, if you want to be a successful trot liner you need to follow every one of the rules that old Bob taught me.  1) You need a bottom that is free of snags, 2) you have to attach your hooks to the trot line in such a way that the main line will not get tangled and broken, 3) you need to put each hook on the end of a short leader, and 4) fish with the right bait.  Old Bob’s ‘bait’ was the cedar box.  You see, octopi like darkness.  They feed at night, but when the sun comes up they look for a cave to hide in.  Well, in our area there must have been a real cave shortage because the octopi would crawl into the cedar ‘caves’ and defend it all the time it was being hauled to the surface.  A really large octopus would even fight him when he tried to get them out of ‘their cave’.  In your case you too have to use ‘the right bait’.  Yours will probably be something you know the local fish like to eat.  In our area I am well stocked up with many flavors of ‘Power bait™’.  It stores well and the fish around me don’t seem to care if it’s five or six years old.  My mainline is 100 pound test braided synthetic line.  Every six feet there is about a ½ to 1 inch dropper knot tied in the main line. 
For each dropper there is about an eighteen inch, 20 pound monofilament leader with a swivel-snap [see my aforemention of bow fishing] on the dropper end and a #6 or #8 2x treble hook snelled onto the business end of the leader. (You may want to use a different hook and system for your local area.)  A short study on the web will teach you the dropper knot and how to snell a hook.  I direct you there because Mr. Rawles properly frowns on pictures or drawings as some readers have trouble downloading them.

The leaders are all carried in a bucket. They are all pre-baited and placed in the bucket with a little water over them so they don’t dry out.  Each end of the mainline has an anchor on it and an anchor line that goes to the surface.  I frown on marker buoys as too many people might see them from too far away.  A small piece of driftwood three or four feet long works just fine as an anchor line float and has a much lower profile.
I put down one anchor and begin to pay out the main line.  Each time I come to a dropper knot I snap on a swivel snap with its’ leader and pre-baited hook.  When I get to the far end I set my second anchor, anchor line, and marker buoy.  You should always put a marker buoy on each end so if one marker buoy gets loose or damaged you can go to the other end and not lose your trot line.
Depending upon your situation you may need to place small weights every so far to keep the line where you want it.  Many cat fishers set their lines in the evening and pull them in the morning

As I stated earlier: You have an obligation to get food and keep your family fed.  But, you have an equally important obligation of not taking more than you can make use of at any one time.  So, I recommend you start small until you get an idea of what a ‘normal’ catch might be.  One method to do this is to only put a swivel, leader, hook and bait on every second or third dropper while you are ‘testing the waters’.
As a side issue, we like crawfish.  They supply some of the nutrients our other foods might be otherwise lacking.  We have a stash of crawdad traps picked up for peanuts at garage sales.  Anything you can open, close, and punch holes in will make a bait can.  Why not make use of the fish offal, I think that’s the word.  I call them fish guts.  Use them to bait a few crawdad traps.  If you get more ‘dads’ than you can eat at one time [a rare occurrence at our house!] they can up great with a water bath canner and a little vinegar and pickling spice.

Disclaimer: Many thoughts expressed here may not be legal in some or all jurisdictions.  Consult your state's fishing and trapping regulations! Items covered and methods discussed are strictly theoretical in nature unless otherwise stated. - CentOre
(CentOre is a loosely connected group of people in the Oregon High Desert interested in improving our existing skills, and learning new skills that will enhance our odds when it hits.)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

If I am to survive TEOTWAWKI, then I intend to live in a style to which I’ve become accustomed.  That is, I intend to continue enjoying music, sweets, wine, cups of hot tea in the winter, stories, plays, and humor.  I plan to keep my pets around.  I hope to do so with the full participation of my family, however it evolves over time.

I began working on maintaining this style almost 20 years ago, when we moved to a hobby farm in one of those “fly-over” states that has good soil and low population.  The farm is capable of providing the basics.  It is highly unlikely I will have to evacuate this area.  The farm has a well with potable water, in addition to multiple natural springs, and we have enough buildings to shelter equipment, family, and livestock.

When we bought this place, it was a small, row-cropped mess, with massive erosion problems.  We had scores of weeds and very little wildlife.  Of the weeds we had, few were edible, even by the standards of Euell Gibbons (as described in his classic book Stalking The Wild Asparagus.)  Although we had cattails, have you ever tried eating them?  They may sustain life, but the bulbs are by no means great cuisine by my standards.  I can’t speak personally to their use as a substitute for flour, though that may taste better than the bulbs. 

Each year I’ve worked to prevent erosion, improve the soil (with compost), and increase both plant and wildlife diversity.  After 20 years, my efforts have improved the arability of the land, decreased the erosion, and greatly diversified wildlife (especially reptiles, amphibians, and birds).

I began by planting an orchard big enough to feed my family, several other families, and roaming wildlife.  This orchard has peach, pear, apple, and plum trees.  I also planted a number of grapevines and berry bushes.  And, of course, our vegetable garden is full of heirloom varieties from which we save seed from season to season.  (I obtained the heirloom seeds, berry plants, grapevines, and orchard saplings through membership with Seed Savers Exchange, based in Decorah, Iowa.)

Then I researched wild foods native to the area (or escaped from human plantings and spread wild through the area) that taste better than cattails.  Based on that research, I collected seeds, rootings, and/or saplings (with permission from neighbors, if appropriate) and planted them on our land.  Among the wild foods I now have producing food are wild grapes, raspberries, wild plums, black walnuts, asparagus, and ground cherries.  Best of all, birds, squirrels, and other animals help spread these wild foods even more widely than I planted them.  I sometimes come upon non-poisonous wild foods, such as morel mushrooms in the spring, when I’m really lucky.  I have yet to figure out how to reproduce these where and when I want them to appear, but I’m grateful when they do show up.

All of the food varieties I grow are disease resistant, so I don’t have to use any chemicals on them.  I compost any plant trimmings, leaves, and food waste as fertilizer.  The resulting produce provides nutritious food.  But just getting enough to eat is not my idea of style.  That’s just staying alive. Style involves other things, such as sweets for my sweet tooth and wine with my dinner, and a lovely cup of hot tea in the winter.  For my sweet tooth, I have fruits, berries, and maple sugar.  Any of the fruits can be made into wine (as can the dandelions (the yellow flower only) that grow rampant). 

At the same time, I planted some 2 foot high sugar maple saplings—lots of them.  Like all types of maple trees, sugar maples can be used to produce maple sugar (the sugar maple sap is just higher in natural sugar content).  Now, 20 years later, some spiles (whittled from non-poisonous tree shoots), a bit and brace to bore holes in the trees, buckets to collect sap, and a fire of deadwood with a kettle over it are ready to reduce sap during the spring run.  (If you try this, be aware that you get only about 1 part syrup from 40 parts sap.  You should also know that this must be an outdoor operation, as the moisture resulting from reducing the sap to syrup will strip your wallpaper faster than any commercial product on the market!)  So now I have a natural sweetener for my natural sweet tooth.  And every year the trees send forth “helicopter”-like seeds that produce more sugar maples.

As for the hot tea I crave in the winter, I collect and dry raspberry leaves during the spring, just as the flowers begin to bud out.  I am careful not to strip any cane of all its leaves, but instead take a few from each plant.  I dry the leaves thoroughly (currently using an electric dehydrator, but the back window of a car sitting in the sun works quickly, too).  Then, when winter comes, I place 3 dehydrated leaves in 8 ounces of boiling water and let it steep for 5 to ten minutes.  I currently collect rose hips to make tea as well, but roses are rather fussy plants that sometimes require fungal control.  I don’t count on the rose hips to survive “the end of the world.”

One additional consideration is that the food, wine, tea, and sugar I produce can serve as a good basis for barter with neighbors.  Since you never know what you might need in the future, it seems optimal to have items to barter to fulfill those needs.

I also started my homeschooled children playing instruments from the age of five on.  We play all kinds of music and I collect books of music and lyrics of all types.  None of our instruments require power (other than lung and tongue, or finger power) to play, and together we can raise a joyful noise.  Some of the instruments are quite portable (such as the trumpet, flute, and harmonica), while others are stuck in place (my grand piano).  So another part of my style will continue uninterrupted—music whenever and however I want to play it or listen to it.  ([The famous polar explorer] Shackleton knew this when equipping his expedition to the Arctic, so I paid heed to his advice.)

As another part of homeschooling, I encouraged my kids (and myself) to memorize poetry, plays, and stories.  We spent long hours writing poetry, plays, and stories.  In addition to our original works, I built up an extensive library of useful non-fiction, and enjoyable fiction.  So the part of me that absolutely loves to relax with a good story can continue to do so—whether that story is oral, printed, or composed on the spot.

My whole family also practices creative arts for enjoyment.  One daughter knits and draws.  One paints, weaves, and embroiders.  I sew and dabble in a little bit of everything.  These arts can be useful (those cattails I don’t like to eat can be woven into nice rush-type seats for chairs), but they can also define the difference between enjoyment and drudgery in day-to-day life.  And while none of us has done significant pottery making, our piece of land even has a “red clay spot” (as identified on USDA soil survey maps).  This clay could potentially be used to produce pottery.

Now, this part may seem too girlish, but I like a place that doesn’t smell too awful.  Earlier settlers considered this when building the old farmhouse we live in.  So, while I’ve got a 5-gallon bucket, fitted with a toilet seat and kitty litter for the short survival times (such as tornado weather), I also have small lilac groves just to the northwest and just to the southeast of the house.  These are ideal settings for any future outhouses (the northwest to be used in warm weather, when winds prevail from the south and east, and the southeast to be used in cold weather, when winds prevail from the north and west).

Even my pets (a very important component of my lifestyle) have a place at the end of the world.  One dog, well over 100 pounds, is built perfectly as a draft animal.  He is already trained to harness and is learning to pull loads of deadwood from the pastures.  (We have frequent wind and ice storms, so dead wood is a seemingly endless commodity on our place.  I use handsaws to cut it up.)

Another dog, a mere 30-pounder, patrols the border of our land continuously.  Nothing gets past his attention.  And quite recently, he realized I’m starting to suffer some hearing loss.  He decided (all on his own) to be my “hearing ear” dog and alerts me to visitors, mail delivery, and the game animals (deer, geese, turkeys, pheasants, and rabbits) that pass through our place.  Our cats work to keep down the rodent population in our buildings and the garden.  And my hens provide eggs…until they provide stew meat.
As for other protein sources, we have a lot of available wildlife.  We have bow and arrows for hunting, and traps for smaller prey (up to the size of groundhogs).

Lastly, I’ve worked hard to instill a sense of humor and play into my children.  We try to find the humor in everything that happens to us (even if we need some distance before we can do so).  Then we re-tell the story, enact the story as a play, or otherwise make the humor stay alive.  For without humor, what’s the point of going on?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I may be a little late to the party, but I have spent a considerable time lately worrying about what to do if this economy of ours crashes.  I started thinking about what I would do if TSHTF. I had no answer. I have read about lot of peoples concern over solar flares, and 2012 scenarios, and while they may happen, I am more convinced of the coming collapse of the dollar and the global economy. I think this is much more of a probability and certainly less speculative that the other fears---at least at the moment. So, rather than let my already damaged IRA drift further down the road to worthlessness, I decided to bite the bullet and pull money out to secure a retreat for my entire family. It will be a place we can go to in any type of disaster. I paid the taxes and penalties like a good American, and set out to find a place to go. I also put a large sum of money into hard assets (gold and silver). I will call for delivery of it on the first sign of trouble. The rest I have left alone for the moment. I set some criteria for what the retreat would have to have. Fresh water, the ability to heat without power, the ability to grow a large garden, the ability to harvest game, and a place to house 10 people. I had to do this all for less than $100,000.

I found a newly renovated 1,950 square foot home, on seven acres, with a fresh water spring, a seasonal pond, wood stove, no central air or heat, two acres of cleared land, five acres of deer infested cedars, a lake close enough to fish, a 30 x 30 barn and a 10 x 30 - three-horse stable. The property is half a tank of gas from where I currently live. I have taken a sample of the spring and will have it tested this week. My son will be moving into the home soon and we will begin to get it set up. There are some things I know we need to do, and I can use any advice anyone has to move us to the point of self sufficiency. I have bought a couple years worth of heirloom seed for the garden. I have am ATV we can use to till the garden spot. I need to get power to the barn while we have it because we will need to build storage capacity for food and supplies in the barn. I have all the woodworking tools I need to do this. I imagine I will need to cut some cedars for posts so we can fence off the garden. Right now the deer walk through the yard every morning right past where the garden will go. I plan on setting up a perch on the upper level of the barn so when the time comes for surveillance of the home and property, we can do it from there. The barn will give us full view of the home and road leading to it. It sits about 100 yards from the home. We’ll also build a wood rack big enough to hold a cord of wood. In the meantime we need to get started with gathering emergency supplies like food, first aid/medical, canning supplies for when we harvest the garden etc. So, if the Republicans can mouth off some debt reduction rhetoric, and buy me some time to get a first garden harvest in, we will have food, water and shelter covered by fall of next year.

We will also have time to get our survival supplies stored up which will shorten the time we need to be ready. I have put together a list of critical items I will need to haul out of my current residence if I have to bug out on short notice. I am hoping that a lot of it can be relocated soon. These items include my lawn tractor, 4 wheeler, tools, guns and ammo, (except the ones I will keep for my travel to the retreat), all my hunting and fishing supplies, and the like. I have a 12 foot trailer so it will probably take a couple of preliminary trips to move all the things I want to move ahead of time. That will leave me with enough room in our two vehicles and the trailer to bug out with the remaining essentials I really can’t move early. But like I said, if the rhetoric from Washington will just settle the markets for a little longer we should be okay. If not I will just have to re-prioritize. As for whatever is left behind, we’ll just need to learn to live without it. I have a list of survival stuff to gather/purchase and have begun getting it together. It includes food, food processing equipment, a portable solar generator, water filtration, fuel storage, some security and personal protection items, medical supplies etc. I have learned a lot from this blog. Keep the posts coming and I’ll take whatever advice you all have. - Paul F.

JWR Replies: Congratulations for having the courage to cash out and buy a retreat.

My advice on precious metals is simple and hasn't changed in more than a decade: Buy precious metals only after getting your beans, bullets, and Band-Aids squared away. And then when you do buy, purchase only physical precious metals that you keep very well hidden at home. Bonded vault storage and Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) and other promises of future delivery are just promises, and modern history is replete with broken promises. Take immediate delivery!

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.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

As our population continues to increase and expand, the small towns are now big towns, the rural outskirts of town are vibrant mini-metroplexes and quaint little mountain towns are growing communities. With this progression of population and expansion of where we are choosing to live, the fusing of nature and your home is becoming an everyday occurrence. Drive through your neighborhood and you will see the cute little bunny rabbits sitting in the corners of the lawns. How many bird feeders and birdbaths do you see with a songbird sitting on the edge watching you drive by? Watch for the grandpa sitting on the front porch with his granddaughter holding a few slices of white bread, rolling them into small doughy balls, and letting his granddaughter throw them to the two cute squirrels that seem to get closer and closer to eating from her hand every day. You are now passing the community pond; in the center there is a fountain launching a perfect flower shaped cascade of water into the air. Take your focus off of the fountain and see how many ducks and geese have made the small pond into their home. Wait until it cools down a little and drive by this pond again. This time as you drive by you see that same older man with his granddaughter, they are feeding those same doughy balls of white bread to the ducks and geese, but you also notice the tackle box and the fishing pole with a line in the water.

Now you are home and you are ready to go inside when your neighbor, who is outside mowing his lawn, shuts off the engine and calls your name. You respond with a “hello” as you meet him halfway. He proceeds to tell you about his morning walk with his dog. He saw a coyote and he offers up some neighborly advice. He tells you to be careful because he has heard of small dogs being taken from backyards by these coyotes. You drift off into imagination land and snicker to yourself as you think of life without your wife’s yappy little ankle-biter of a dog. Jokingly you tell your neighbor “maybe I will start letting my wife’s dog into the backyard more often.” You both laugh as you part ways.

You are now sitting reading bedtime stories to your children as you hear a familiar sound. First, you hear your trash cans crash to the ground, followed by one of them rolling down the driveway. All this commotion has the neighbor’s dog across the street barking up a storm. You know from past experience that this barking will last for a while until the owner makes his way to his screen door. A “shut up!” rings across the lawn as your neighbor tries to quiet his dog. You are cleaning up the scattered trash from the driveway and lawn because those annoying raccoons have gone after your leftovers again.

This neighborhood is your average neighborhood. I live here and you live here. Your parents live in a similar neighborhood that you visit every Sunday afternoon. We are surrounded by Mother Nature’s little critters, the larger animals that hunt those critters and the waterfowl, like geese, that you curse every time you wash off the gifts they left in your driveway. Take a minute to think back to your childhood. You are peering from behind the rosebush as the unsuspecting squirrel scavenges the front yard for little morsels of food. You explode from behind the bush and are in hot pursuit of this squirrel. Either you got dumber or the squirrel got smarter because it became harder and harder to get the jump on him. Now that you are older you do the same thing; you are now constantly trying to rid your yard of these animals that cause you extra work.

You now have become the home engineer trying to figure out a way to keep the squirrel from eating all the birdseed and how to keep the geese from using your driveway as a porta-potty. Also you have avoided planting particular flowers and plants because you don’t want to deal with rabbits feeding on them. It is time to break these habits. Stop for a second and think about how much wildlife lives around your home. This is an opportunity for you to provide yourself with a food source in the event of “The End of the World as We Know It”. Do practical things now that will help you if you are faced with the need to provide your family with food.

Animals are creatures of habit; time and time again they will return to the places where they know there is food and water. You see it in the neighborhood pond. The geese and ducks use it as a place to stop on their way south. You have seen them year after year. The squirrel knows you have a well-stocked bird feeder, so he stops by once a day to fill up. You always see the rabbits in the same yard because that home owner happened to plant the flowers that those rabbits like to eat. And, of course you feel as if that pesky raccoon only enjoys going after your trash cans, but you have many neighbors who feel that the raccoon only comes after their leftovers. The fact of the matter is not that you have one giant glutton of a raccoon that makes his rounds to every trashcan; it’s that you have more raccoons in your neighborhood than you would have thought.

Imagine that you are actually in the situation of a huge catastrophe. You have hunkered down in your house for the long haul. However, a lot of your neighbors have vacated in the hopes to find help. You have done your best to prepare but are wondering how long you have to make your supplies last. Will it be a month? Will it be six months? Or, will it be longer? Should you start rationing the food to your family? What will you do if you run out of food or water before things turn around? Now imagine being able to substitute and supplement your stash of food with fresh meat. How much longer would your stash of food last if you were able to supplement it with other things? How much could you add to your stash if you were able to dry and preserve some of the things you were able to harvest?
How do we accomplish this?
Here are some practical tips you can do today that will help you tomorrow:

  • Install bird feeders and bird baths in your front and back yard, but more importantly than installing them is keeping them well-stocked with food and water. Birds aren’t looking for a place to hang out; they are looking for a place to eat. If you provide a consistent supply of these things you will quickly see a regular group of birds starting to visit.
  • Install platform feeders on your fences and on your trees. Keep these well-stocked with some sort of birdseed or feed, and you will start to see regular squirrel visitors to your yards and trees. They will learn that they can always come there for food.
  • Instead of throwing out that half loaf of stale bread take the time to sit on your porch and feed the geese. Also, go to the pond that is close by and feed the geese and ducks. When you make that trip to the pond take extra bread and maybe some frozen corn. Pick a spot on the pond that you have easy access to the water’s edge, and that the water is somewhat shallow. At least once a week visit this same spot and put some bread pieces, corn, or some other type of food source into the water. The fish will quickly start to frequent this area of the pond. After a while at any point you should be able to walk to this area of the pond and see a few fish hanging out looking for a quick meal. How easy would it to be to just take a net and scoop up one of these fish.
  • Buy a small pail or use an old coffee can, and when you clean up after dinner, instead of throwing your scraps into your trashcan put them into this can. When you set your trash cans out put this can near them. You will soon learn that your trash cans will not be knocked over as much. The raccoons will be happy to take the easy food source found in your small can of scraps rather than working to get into the trashcan. Doing this will provide raccoon visitors, and possibly other scavenger visitors to your home on a regular basis.
  • Take the time to ask your neighbors what plants they have had that the rabbits keep eating. Now take that knowledge and do some gardening. Within a few months you will see rabbits at your home regularly to do some feeding.

Yes, this will take some time and effort on your part, and a small bump in your weekly grocery bill. You will also have to incorporate this into your existing plans to build up a stash of survival food and water. You will need to have enough supplies of bird feed, squirrel food, food for the fish and scraps of food for the raccoons to continue to keep them coming back. This plan of action will do you no good if at the point you need to utilize it you run out of the items that you used to keep the animals coming to your home. But in the long run it could be a life saver.

In the event of a major catastrophe not only will resources for humans be depleted, but the resources that these animals rely on will become depleted as well. You can take advantage of this situation by creating a habitat in your own front and back yard that animals will know they can visit for food.

Now go back to that thought of actually being in this survival situation. You are able to turn your six month supply of food into a year supply of food because of your ability to supplement it with fresh items. Would you feel a little better about your situation if you were provided with this extra source of food?

I personally live in a urban environment, and the plans that I have laid out are specifically geared towards those of us who do live in your average urban city neighborhood. Some special considerations to this plan of action will have to be considered if you live in more of a rural region. Those of you who live in bear country surely already know that you have to be very careful in the ways that you store food and garbage as to not attract bears to the outside or inside of your home. For those of you who live on a larger piece of land you will have the ability to garden not only to grow things for your family, but you will be able to grow items specifically to attract animals to your area. You know your surroundings better than I do, so tailor your plans specifically to your own needs and your surroundings.

In closing: If you are willing to add this to your routine of chores around the house you can get the gratification of seeing a food source visit your home every day and the thought of having to survive becomes little less intimidating.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Editor's Note: The following letter, suggested by a SurvivalBlog reader, is reprinted with permission of Backwoods Home magazine--which was one of my favorite print publications, even a decade before they became SurvivalBlog advertiser.

Dear Jackie,
I have to disagree with your Ask Jackie column answer to Joe Leonetti's questions about getting started in self-sufficient living in Issue #124 (July/Aug 2010). They missed all the most important points that a "city" person would have to master first. Here are my own suggestions:

Joe, forget thinking "self-sufficient" and start thinking "frugal;" if you have the consume-and-spend mindset so prevalent today you'll need to do this anyway to prepare for retirement. The excellent news is, many things you'll need to know no matter where you live can be learned and practiced right in the middle of town, and little by little. For instance:

*Start by preparing all food and beverage at home­then with no frozen foods­then from scratch­then from storage foods (e.g. canned goods)­ then with only a stove (no microwave, other gadgets)­then without refrigeration (for ingredients or leftovers). If you're an average urbanite, you'll save a boatload of money that will help you to...

*Get out of debt completely. Debt is a chain that will imprison you to your current job forever. It may be the single most common reason why people fail at a simplified lifestyle change. Pay as you go with cash, use credit cards only for car breakdowns and other emergencies, and pay the plastic off every month. And speaking of cars...

*Trade your late-model, banker's-dream for a used, great-condition vehicle that will serve you well on rougher roads (my advice: one without a computer "brain" where everything goes when it goes) and start learning to maintain and repair it yourself. This is a rough lesson but your vehicle is your only lifeline in remote living and doing work yourself will save you more money than almost any other single thing. A car repair class (or full course at your local community college) will also teach you what tools and equipment you'll need. Then get the car totally paid off. While this is in progress, start learning how to...

*Live without electricity, unlimited running water and central heating. Practice washing laundry, dishes and yourself using very limited quantities of water; use only electronics that have solar chargers; get up with the sun, go to bed when it's dark, use a flashlight or battery lantern in between. You'll also find that you need to adjust many household choices to accommodate the new regime­the type of clothes you wear, wearing them more than one day, your soaps, your hairstyle, and a whole lot more. You'll also need a wooden drying rack, a charming rustic decorator touch for any contemporary condo. Boy, will you ever feel sorry for yourself at times, but once you get good at it, it's also very empowering. And very soon you'll figure out that...

*You won't adapt to everything, so find out what is crucial to continuing and then keep going. Concentrate on paring down your present lifestyle to as little expense, as little stuff and as little time as possible, and then it's all forward progress. You can also whittle transportation expenses if you investigate public transportation, or...

*Get a durable pair of walking shoes, a big backpack (used) and create a sturdy, homemade wheeled wire shopping cart, maybe even a bike and bike cart. These things may be your lifeline if the car goes kerflooey one time too many. Do shopping on foot or by bike several times a week, in all kinds of weather; you'll be out in it anyway if you build or garden in a remote area. And speaking of which...

*Now that you're outside more, start practicing being comfortable inside with no central heating. Turn the thermostat down to 60 and wear long underwear, warm vests, heavy socks, hats, and gloves inside the house. Heavy bedclothes are good here, too, especially a rectangular sleeping bag zipped open for use as a comforter. Scout out every thrift store in your county and find these gems there; if your present lifestyle permits, you'll need a good selection of warm clothes if you...

*Purchase a used, self-contained (bed, toilet, kitchen) travel trailer or camper and learn your skills­carpentry, wiring, plumbing, gas piping, whatever­restoring it. You can use this for living in when you first move onto your rural land­that's where the warm clothes come in. When it's ready, take it out camping frequently for practice. As you sit in the silence, you will also realize that...

*Urban areas have lots of entertainment, but rural areas do not have sports stadiums, multiplex theaters, opera halls, megastores, even chain video rental places. You can't work all the time and you must learn to entertain yourself in other ways; with solar chargers you can still watch a DVD (for free, no less) obtained from...

*Your regional library that participates in an inter-library loan system, without which you won't consider moving to the area anyway. Get over any attitudes about libraries being for students and go apply for your card. Then order every book they have on camping, outdoor living, bike repair, cooking from scratch, wood-stove use and the basic design and construction of small homes. Libraries also stock popular DVDs and CDs, magazines and newspapers, and may have public-use computers as well as free wireless access for your own laptop. College libraries may be open to public use as well, and their inventory might include a selection of more specialized periodicals geared to their high-tech classes. Your taxes are paying for it, so you might as well get your money's worth.

*Lastly, you stated that with your background it would be very easy for you to get into teaching. Begin now getting the proper certification and begin job hunting for weekend or evening teaching spots; it may be harder to break into the field than you anticipated, and if you ever suddenly need new employment, nothing works in your favor like an established track record.

*Now, are you still with me, Joe? Have you thrown down the magazine and run away screaming yet? The majority of these lifestyle-changes can be done even if you're presently living in a high-rise condo with a view of Manhattan. Bear in mind, the very best hedge against future money troubles is the ability to live well on very little. Think ahead to retirement (just how much will you collect on Social Security?) and start planning now for a total lifestyle that is exactly what fits you and sustainable well into the years ahead. - Liz C. in Washington

(Reproduced with permission of Backwoods Home magazine from Issue 125, Sept./Oct., 2010.)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

For many years I have been working towards self-reliance. I like to use the older term self-reliant simply because I feel “survivalist” doesn’t describe the lifestyle properly. I don’t intend to just “survive” but “thrive” – would that make me a “thrivalist?” Yes, I know that was a bit corny. In all seriousness, let’s assume you are an average Joe living in perilous times. What I have to say is speaking to a revelation I have had over the recent years based on my over confidence and belief that somehow I was different than the average Joe just because I know the big one is coming.

My History:
Before getting to the point of my article let me flash back to the beginning of my journey. My official introduction to the concept of survivalism was done unknowingly by a friend and group of survivalists that were preparing for Y2K. I was invited to come out to a friend of a friend’s cabin on acreage in Southern Georgia where we were going to “camp out” for the weekend. Before the weekend, my friend called and said “by the way, bring a holster for your handgun, and a sling for your favorite rifle, a backpack with essentials, a good pair of boots, plus anything else that could be carried on a hike.” I didn’t quite understand the request but of course complied figuring we were simply going to hike too our campsite.

Immediately upon my arrival I was overwhelmed and excited with what I saw. Throughout the property were small cabins being constructed by individual members of the group along with bulk storage areas for fuel, food, ammunition, and other essentials. Again, this whole concept was very new to me though it seemed to strike a cord in my inner being as something that was necessary and logical considering my concern for Y2K. I followed my friend as we made our way to where our campsite would be and a long the way I heard several conversations discussing weapons types, plus and minuses, creating group standards, food storage, and so on. Of course all of these conversations seemed odd to me at the time yet captivating.

The moment everything settled everyone began discussing practicing a patrol. Immediately everyone around began forming up two columns (apparently something they had done before). Having been in ROTC throughout high school I immediately followed suit. A gentleman took charge and then proceeded to instruct us that we were going to perform a practice patrol of the surrounding land and that each column of the formation would be independent squads. We then moved out as a group and individuals from each squad volunteered to be squad leaders and forward scouts. After we were well out of camp the squad leaders led their squads around a predetermined patrol path utilizing forward scouts and practicing noise discipline along with hand signals. At this point I felt like a complete fish out of water to say the least – and was thinking “what in the heck has my friend gotten me into!?”

As the patrol continued, I did my best to comply with my fellow squad members. I had a limited knowledge of hand signals so I was at least able to keep in step with my squad for the most part. Several points a long the way the forward scout would stop the squad to listen – after being satisfied there were no threats we continued our patrol. We stayed off of most trails and pushed our way through the thick Southern Georgia swamps. The patrols were mostly uneventful but exciting. I was fascinated with the whole concept of this exercise and felt energized though we hiked with weighted packs through tough terrain and over significant distances. We returned from the patrol and discussed as a group the issues, weaknesses and strengths of our different packs, slings, harnesses, and various tactical equipment. The weekend itself continued at this tempo with several more “hikes” as we called them and intense conversations about the possibility of disaster this coming Y2K pursued. I met some very interesting folks and maintained several of those relationships even till this day.

After Y2K came and went without the slightest indication of catastrophe the group slowly broke apart and no longer met and personally my interests in the subject dwindled but not entirely. I continued my interests in shooting and somewhat frequently made it to the range with my friends and still had several conversations on the subject but really did not formulate or act on any concrete plans.

Life happened and other things took priority. I met my wonderful and present day wife and have been blessed with five children. Our lives were that of a typical family with not the best priorities but I would say better than average. We led a fairly frugal life but a comfortable one. Several years ago, the same friend that introduced me to the “group” back in 1999 recommended I grab the novel "Patriots" by James Rawles and “give it a read.” The moment I began reading the book I couldn’t put it down. Immediately I was consumed with the aspect of survival laid out in a way I never really conceived though I had experienced different aspects of it, but never congruently. My interests were reinvigorated and I began to consume more information on the topic resulting in research and many more conversations with different friends.

As a father of three at the time, my concept of survival changed significantly. I now had a wonderful wife and three children (with more on the way). I didn’t want to just “survive” but to thrive in post-catastrophe. I felt it is my responsibility as a father and husband to make sure my family had the best possible life. Fortunately, my wife is and was always very intelligent and open to the concept. Slowly we talked about the prudence of being prepared as a family. I remember initially feeling almost powerless at the task ahead. We had a fairly large family and no real resources to throw at the problem.

Shortly there after we were met with financial hardship when I took a significant loss in work. I lost a major client while retaining some smaller clients causing a huge deficit in our income versus expenses. This went on for 18 months. We lost just about everything including our home. The sense of depression was significant and further amplified by the concern of a coming catastrophe. Then everything changed. We reached a point where after serious soul searching we knew we didn’t want to embark on the typical American life represented as nothing but shallow consumerism. We wanted self reliance not just for our own family security but for the wholesomeness it would bring to our children. Life no longer became about shallow possessions but about meaningful content and the pursuit of happiness by our achievements.

With God’s grace, work came our way again almost like God had waited for us to learn this lesson before he gave us another chance. My wife and I spent two years looking for land that was both remote yet still close to family in our native home of Florida. We finally found the right community and area of Florida where self reliance was still a way of life, most people kept gardens, and agriculture and ranching is still the line share of business. Our credit was destroyed from our previous hardship so we had to use cash for everything. It seemed at every step of the way God provided opportunity and a means assuming of course we were open to it. We are by no means a perfect family but our path was indeed more wholesome and proper this time round.

A Revelation

Again, I began to formulate self reliance and survival in to our plans. After much thought and discussion with my wife we felt having a food supply of not just of stored food but active production was critical. With that in mind we have labored the past year turning our virgin land in to a farm and ranch using self sufficient methods of farming and ranching modeled after Joel Salatin and others in the Polyculture movement. Most TEOTWAWKI scenarios suggest a grid down situation where fuel and byproducts of fuel such as fertilizers and pesticides would become scarce – though that being the case most “typical survival plans” utilize fuel, pesticides, and fertilizers stored in bulk to support their eventual plans of gardens and food production. One really has to ask the question “is this sustainable?”

I find the concept of supplying a remote retreat where there is no current food production, to where one would “Bug Out” and survive whilst planting a garden for long term survival to be flawed and likely resulting in disaster. For the past year my wife and I have had the benefit of an income, hardware stores, the Internet, and many other things that would not be available post-catastrophe to help us achieve self reliance. We are no where near the point of producing at least 20% of our nutritional requirements. Sure there is a wealth of knowledge on farming and raising animals for food in books and on the Internet but the common-sense “every day stuff” is not spelled out, nor could it be grasped without actually doing it. Not only will the thousands of survivalists turned farmers learn food production from the school of “Hard Knocks” they will also be under constant threat of starvation when their food stores are exhausted, let alone the other stresses, including defending the retreat.

Let me create the proper image of the “average survivalist plan”. Let’s say you have 24 months of food stored up and of course every gadget imaginable. Six months have now passed and you decide it’s time to start on your farming endeavor. Lest we not forget you have a full time job of retreat security. Imagine working stressful 8 to 12 hours days 365 days a year and then coming home to work on your homesteading projects – I can tell you from experience it is hard to muster the energy today even though I am just into my 30s. Getting the picture? Most of us have great reasons why we shouldn’t begin this phase of our survival/self reliance plans now but are you really willing to bet your life on your first-timer’s success?

It isn’t until you begin planting a garden do you realize the seeds you bought are not optimized for your agriculture zone or even simple infrastructure items like near by water sources for irrigation, compost bins, and garden fencing to keep the critters out are in place let alone the right tools. Sure you may have gotten a handy list of these items but invariably it was written by someone that lives in an entirely different agricultural zone, soil conditions, and garden pests all together. Do you have a true understanding of the time investment to get these infrastructures items in place? How long to mature your compost and sources of nitrogen and carbon to feed your piles? Or even the proper garden spot that has ample sunlight. Oh - you need to remove a few trees to make room for your garden – got tools for that too? Each job will dovetail into other jobs you may not have even anticipated, let alone the tools and supplies you never realized were necessary. Ask any homesteader how long it took to get up and running – I can guarantee you most will tell long stories highlighted by serious trial and error over years of work and effort. Each homestead is different; there is no one universal method to success.

Especially if you plan to grow without pesticides and fertilizers – like an artist it takes much practice to master the conditions in your area to be a consistent grower. Imagine the stress you would feel having your first season crops fail or produce very little. Do you even know what plants are indigenous to your retreat area? Remember – simply observing your large local farms is poor indication of this. They typically practice monocultural growing methods which are highly dependent on farming equipment and copious quantities of pesticides and fertilizers – all things you will eventually deplete. You really need to research what grows locally without much help from bug protection and soil augmentation. You really should adjust your diet to reflect not only seasonal foods but indigenous foods of your retreat area. Otherwise, most folks will simply try and fail to grow things they like to eat now, regardless of season and feasibility.

Another example of a lesson learned that could easily result in devastation of your group’s food supply would be predators – the four legged variety. Do you have traps available for capturing predators like fox, coyotes, raccoons, or possums? A good meat bird (non-broiler) or egg layer takes a long time to raise – imagine losing half your flock in one night! Not long ago my wife and I awoke to a massacre of our chickens. The strange thing was there was no sign of the chickens in the form of body parts or feathers just simply they were gone. The only evidence was a small hole dug in to the coop. We have two German Shepherds that slept only 150 ft. from the chickens and they didn’t even stir other than a few random barks that evening. Only after many nights of sleeping in the dining area where we had a view of the chickens did we finally catch a glimpse of the predator – a fox. I had my Ruger 10/22 ready but the fox was too sly and on top of that I couldn’t make out his silhouette in the pre-dawn hours for a good shot. This brought forth the realization I need night sites or a good scope to shoot in low light conditions. It took three separate occasions before I managed to get a good shot and bag our predator. Imagine if we had depended on this flock of chicken for our egg and meat requirements and the possible ramifications of its loss--ranging in seriousness from inconvenient to starvation!

On the subject of chickens, how do you plan to raise them? Do you realize most modern chicken breeds have had their broodiness bread out of them making you almost entirely dependent on incubation to hatch eggs? Do you have an incubator and a means of powering it for the incubation period of anywhere from 21 to 28 days? What about a heat source for your newly hatched chicks, ducklings and poults while they grow in their feathers and can maintain their own body heat? What about the source of your eggs and chickens in the first place? What’s the likelihood you would be able to come about them without having to make dangerous hikes far from the retreat to locate and obtain them through barter? Personally, I would prefer to let a broody hen do the work of hatching and raising chicks but this is something you don’t just do since finding good broody hens is at best hit and miss these days. [JWR Adds: For broodiness, we've had the most success with Bantam hens. Bantams lay small eggs, but they don't object to sitting much larger fostered eggs.] As you can see this will take time to master – time is invaluable when the clock never stops ticking on your food supply.

I know – homesteading and self-reliance just isn’t exciting and sexy to the average survivalists. Typically, our focus is on tactics, guns, and exciting conversations on possible scenarios that may or may not come to pass. As survivalist we normally are avid researches to the point we neglect to really practice or act on the mountains of information we have read or debated. Do you believe that some how you will be exempt from the newbie mistakes of most homesteaders and farmers? Do you realize the convenience of a hardware store or even a quick Internet search will not be there to assist you?

As survivalist, have we not accepted the principle of self-reliance and independence from a system that we all believe may/will eventually fail us? Do you live in denial of this lesson based on the actions of your every day life? If you truly believe we are living unsustainable lives and this world is on a crash course to a catastrophic end then perhaps you should consider changing your own life now?

A Second Wave of MZBs

My greatest fear should the Schumer hit the fan is that well-armed survivalists who are ill-prepared in the food production capability will become the “Second Wave” of Mutant Zombie Bikers (MZBs). They will threaten those who survived the first 6, 12 to 24 months of chaos. We all know too well how desperation will lead even the best of men. Let alone desperate men that are well armed, trained, and experienced. It is my hope by exposing these potential flaws in common survival planning that I will protect my family and others from a deadly Second Wave attack or at least decrease its intensity.

Possible Solutions

So what to do? Unfortunately the answer is not all that easy. If you are planning to but out to a remote retreat you may want to consider finding one close enough to allow frequent trips for building infrastructure while the hardware stores are still open, doing test plantings to determine what really grows best while the Internet is still up to research your results.

As we begun our own homestead these have been the things of our focus:

1) A reliable water supply capable of operating with out grid or petroleum power machinery. [JWR Adds: Nothing beats gravity-fed Spring water.]

2) Chicken, goat, and other small livestock shelters.

3) Construction of fencing for pastures, paddocks, and gardens.

4) Compost piles and other soil enrichment

5) Support buildings for harvest and animal processing

6) Storage areas for harvested plants and animals

7) Planting of orchards [vineyards, berry patches] and other plants that takes time to mature

This is just a very general list to get started. We have had a year to work on this “grid-up” with help from friends and family with no fear of MZBs and we have hardly made a dent! Can you tell me without hesitation that you could plan every aspect of this operation in advance, in just one trip to the hardware store, years before needing it, without having done it before? Sure, the human spirit is very capable when under pressure but unlike our Savior you will not be making wine out of water.

I doubt even the most experienced farmers and ranchers placed on virgin land would have immediate success. Sure the pioneers were able to do it but they had the benefit of everyday knowledge learned firsthand or that was passed down by the generation of pioneers and farmers before them. Common man is completely out of touch of these once generally known survival skills and therefore will be subject to a learning curve.

If it is absolutely not in the cards to be near or live on your retreat then I would strongly suggest you consider a 3 to 5 year food supply to give you enough time to establish your future homestead. I can guarantee that you will not have all of the required tools, skills, and supplies therefore the ability to adapt, substitute, and use what is at hand will become the rule of the day.

Let me jump back to what I said in the beginning about thriving instead of surviving. If you truly believe in self reliance and the prudence of preparedness then why not act with your principles and embark on what you feel to be necessary and wholesome? Make the life change and increase your odds of survival by living it now and not later.

Another option to consider if you have formed a group is to allow the most capable member(s) of the group with the most flexibility to live on the retreat property and where they will engage in daily infrastructure improvement/homesteading activities. If local work or income is not an option, then perhaps a small monthly donation from all group members would subsidize members manning the retreat. In the mean time group members could make frequent trips to the future retreat to assist in major infrastructure projects, plantings, and harvests of crops. This would even allow the opportunity of animals to be kept at the retreat. Think about the benefits of stored food costs that could be saved by actively growing your own as a group? You could also establish your pastures and raise meat cattle to provide a source of fresh meat for the group and sell the excess to processors as another means of revenue generation. The same could be done with chicken, goats, and so on. Make this an investment that will pay for itself in what it generates for the group. There is no reason a retreat needs to be a liability constantly requiring capital to maintain. If you are successful at this then you know without doubt not only will you have a secure retreat but a productive one capable of supplying your group of its basic needs. Besides, wasn’t this the reasons for homesteads in the first place?

A third option is to find a self-reliant minded homesteader that is looking to find others to populate their homestead turned retreat should catastrophe happen. At least in this case you have a viable farm / homestead with active and a history of successful production. Nothing is more critical than the long term aspect of survival. If you are literally just making ends meat and simply survive versus thriving then how do you intend to come to the aid of others and participate in the rebuilding of our communities?

I understand these may not seem like realistic options. But they still do not change the reality of the situation and the points I bring to the table. I fear most have severely under estimated their long term plans and have only focused on short term survival. Survivalism is really self reliance in the sense of traditional homesteaders and the Patriot farmers who founded this nation. It is time to reject today’s shallow society and embark on true substance filled journeys bound to bring true happiness and fulfillment.

A lot of folks will read this and either take it for what it is which is “my real life experience and revelations on the matter” or they will discard it for more interesting topics on survival while ignoring the elephant in the room. Don’t be the latter, take a serious look at your plans. Boilerplate survivalism is not the answer – to be honest it is more like consumerism. You will have to analyze your personal situation and take the proper steps to experience first hand what your challenges will be. Don’t take my advice or anyone else’s for that matter. Go do it yourself and graduate from the school of “Hard Knocks” before TSHTF and while you still have the luxury of failing.

Monday, August 23, 2010

I believe that in a severe crisis, most of the problems are going to have to be solved at the local level. State and federal government are too big and dependent on technology to survive a severe crisis once the grid drops and all services start to erode. Local governments, too, are ill prepared to assume this crushing responsibility, but they are much more resilient because their scope of control is smaller. Most of them have never even considered what they would do.

This article is a discussion piece to stimulate thought on the subject of small community recovery after TEOTWAWKI. I hope it will also be useful as a rough blueprint or checklist for local community leaders, or at least a starting point for a comprehensive plan. I wrote it from the perspective of a fictional town mayor. Most of the issues I mention apply to many levels of local government and law enforcement. I realize that A mayor never acts alone or has absolute power. They have a lot of people helping and advising them. I am hoping you will help yours make and implement the right decisions and that this paper will help in some small way.

Before I start spouting off about what I think will occur, I need to tell you who I am. I am a retired Army Electronic Warfare and Signals Intelligence Warrant Officer. I spent over a decade working on Army planning staffs at various levels, and was a professional action officer on the USAREUR DCSINT planning staff for more than four years. I got the rare opportunity to see many failed states and regional crisis and how people, communities and economies react. But I have never held any office in local government. Also, unfortunately, I am not a wizard who can see into the future. The following are my own conclusions and suggestions drawn from my own experiences. I may be wildly wrong, or overlooking factors that seem obvious to you, especially if you have a lot of experience in local government. So, take this for what it's worth. Hopefully, it will provide a basis for discussion and planning and generate a dialog. I am hoping to hear corrections and other ideas. I am never insulted by disagreement, so if you see things differently, I would be very happy to hear it.

First, we need to define what kind of crisis I am talking about. I am talking about a large scale disaster of some kind that effects a huge geographical region and forces local communities to solve their own problems and precludes getting help from outside. I am talking about an event that would cause a complete failure of basic services such as finance (banking) or the electrical grid and prevent the Government from repairing it quickly enough to prevent a general cascading breakdown of other services. I will use a major EMP event as my example because that would be just about a worst case event. Some of what I say will be applicable to regional or short term events, but some of it won't.

I believe that most communities are doomed. Many American and European communities are artificial constructs entirely dependent on modern society to keep them running. You can tell if your town cannot survive by looking at the population density, arable land, water supplies and other resources. If your community is in a desert and trucks in all their water, you can't possibly survive long term. If your whole population is suburban or urban and you have no working farms or farmable land, then you are doomed. Sorry. If you live in a doomed community, I don't know what to tell you. For this article, I am assuming a smallish town with a good water supply and a lot of working farms that don't require electric irrigation. Even a perfectly situated town will have huge problems and may not survive a major EMP event. Anything less than perfection is going to require superhuman effort, no mistakes and a large touch of luck.

Somebody has to take charge quickly:
Anarchy is the dirtiest word in the English language and should be avoided at all costs. Whenever I see some teenager wearing a T-shirt espousing anarchy, I get a strong urge to show him a little anarchy by beating him up and ripping it off his back..and then ask him if he still thinks Anarchy is "cool". I have seen chaos and virtual anarchy up close and I was frankly astonished at the depravity of mankind. Without law and order of some kind, the strong will take from the weak. The cruel will torture and kill wantonly. Rule of law is essential to any progress or recovery. I am writing this in the firm belief that when our society crashes, some communities will maintain order and some vestige of humanity. That's going to require a delicate balancing act because the two concepts are not mutually reinforcing and can be at odds with each other. Communities are going to have to make some very hard choices if they are to maintain order and survive. Lets hope they can maintain their humanity and Christian values while they are doing this.

Let's imagine that you are the mayor of a small town when this horrible event occurs. The lights go out, most cars don't work, and personal battery powered electronics malfunction. How quickly would most small town mayors realize it was EMP? I am guessing that most of them will figure it out within minutes or hours. There are enough smart folks around to advise them even if they are not knowledgeable. So what are your actions going to be?

What are your resources? The town owns some land and some buildings, some vehicles and maybe some utility equipment. But by far, your biggest asset is a limited amount of capital in the form of authority and good will. You represent a body of voters, which gives you more legal legitimacy than anyone else. You have a police force of some kind and the authority to spend money on behalf of the government...sort of. Your authority is real, but it's based on some fairly fragile cornerstones. Some of them may not exist anymore. The monetary system may be completely wrecked. You may not be able to pay anyone for anything. The Federal and State Governments are both out of communications and may not exist anymore. Any indecision or misstep on your part could destroy your authority, leaving nothing in it's place.

What, exactly is your authority? Where does it overlap with county or other governments? What gives you the authority to maintain order? Impose martial law? Appoint armed deputies, Set up roadblocks? Commandeer fuel and food stocks? The Army NCO academy teaches that there are five types of power that an individual can wield. You will need to use all of them.

a. Legal: You have limited direct "Command authority" in a military sense. Unless you have a body of laws to back you up, you can't lean on your command authority too much. Check on this, but your town is unlikely to have bylaws giving you much power in an emergency. Instead, you have to assume that you possess Delegated authority. You are the representative of both State and Federal government and have to assume their roles and responsibilities until you can re-establish a chain of command. In the absence of orders or directives, you are free to "assume" responsibility and authority. At least that's a good legal theory and may be enough. If this were ever tested in court, it might not be upheld, but by that time, the crisis will be over, right? Everything you do is "Legal" until you are overruled by a court...or ousted by a mob of your constituents. Your real authority is your mandate from the people. It rests on your ability to make sound decisions and convince others that you are doing all the right things. That buys you more authority in a crisis than all the documents ever printed.

b. Coercive: Unfortunately, brute force is always a factor. As long as you maintain control over the police force or sheriff's department, you have authority. You must gain firm control of your police and public employees first, before you try to do anything else. Without them, your authority can be dissolved by a few hot-heads with weapons. You are going to be forced to make some very unpopular decisions and part of your community is going to be extremely angry with you. Get your troops in place first or you won't keep your authority long. You must also be very careful not to abuse this authority or let your troops abuse it. A good way to do this is to immediately beef up your police force with out of work, solid citizens. You can take on a fairly large number of deputies from the community. That gives the community a sense of ownership in the police and helps prevent excesses.

c. Reward: You will initially have almost no ability to reward anyone. If the finance system is gone, you have nothing to trade for goods and services. You will need to change this immediately by setting up some kind of economy for your town. (This topic is covered below). If you don't lick this problem immediately, your police and city employees are going to stop showing up for work very quickly. They have to feed and protect their families somehow.

d. Charisma: Unfortunately, (or fortunately perhaps) personal charisma and magnetism are much more important than we like to admit. If you can sway a crowd or argue persuasively, it doesn't matter if you are right or wrong. This sword cuts both ways, of course. You are going to have to face very charismatic personalities around town and persuade them to go along with you, or at least stay neutral. You need to gain the immediate support of community and church leaders. Figure out who can cause you political trouble and approach them to get them on your side or otherwise neutralize them, or you will be facing a "minority party" that will eventually oust you.

A good tool for dealing with dissension is to trap your opponents into stating a preferred way to resolve some problem and then enlist them to oversee it. There are a lot of ways to "skin a cat". Let them try their way if it can work. Pull them into your administration. Remember, you are all on the same team at some level. Find that level and stay on it. I believe that in a crisis, everyone has a tendency to follow anyone with a firm voice and the appearance of a plan. Just be sure you have a good plan and you will keep dissension to a minimum.

e. Expert: Knowledge is power. Anyone with unique and useful knowledge has value and power. It's much easier to sway an audience if you have a degree in the topic or an acknowledged expert in your corner. You should surround yourself with experts. When a new problem arises and an expert or two are identified, pull them into your circle of advisers. Doing this not only makes you a better leader with better decisions, it gives all of your followers the sense that you are open to suggestions and good ideas from any quarter.

So, you take charge quickly and start issuing orders. What are those orders?You have a lot of things to worry about, and all of them are urgent and critically important. The following is my list of issues that you need to address immediately and some suggestions on how to address them. Local conditions, laws, resources and public opinions are variables that effect how you must react. Think it out in the context of your local conditions and try to at least have a tentative plan to put forward immediately. The venue for putting forth your agenda should be as transparent as possible, either a public meeting or a written decree or order. That way, everyone not only knows your decisions, they know the reasoning behind them. If you can get consensus from a town meeting before you put out an emergency decree, you will have less trouble,but some of these issues require immediate action.

1. Communications:
Without communications, you are powerless. You must be able to communicate with your police department and other public service folks, the people of the town, the county seat, the State, and lots of others. Unfortunately, a big EMP event will wipe out electronic communications in a blink and leave you isolated, just when you need to be at the center of activity. There are a couple of things you can do to mitigate this if you plan ahead, but you are still going to have to somehow establish some kind of communications with your neighboring towns and other polities...and hopefully higher echelons of government.

If you can store some short range radio equipment and maybe some old-school TA-312 or TA-1 type telephones in a Faraday cage, they will be worth their weight in gold. Even a few old telephones (and wire) can enable you to keep in touch with the town down the road, or your own guard posts. Another thing to add to your Faraday cage is a couple of battery-powered shortwave receivers. These will allow you to catch long range HF broadcasts from working stations possibly overseas. Shortwave may be your most reliable source of news. A ham radio rig, if it survives, might be very useful too.

If you don't have working radios, think back to a time when radio and even telephone didn't exist. Our founding fathers didn't have those luxuries and still managed. The solution is a central, easy to find headquarters, official written communications, and messengers. You will need plenty of paper, (with your office letterhead if possible), envelopes and some kind of official seal you can use. You might even consider a wax seal, like they used in the 18th century, but a notary seal (or something similar) with your signature over the top will look a lot more official than a blank paper. You will also need carbon paper or a working copier, but probably won't have them.

Small communities in the past used church bells, beacon lights, gongs, bugles, whistles, sirens and flags to communicate locally. These methods require some planning, but they still work.

Public notice boards were a major tool of government in the days before electricity. Designate a board outside city hall or somewhere convenient and section it off into five sections (or more if you wish). Post public policies and directives in one section and "good advice" such as water purification procedures in another. A third section of the notice board should contain a calendar or event log to keep people advised on upcoming events. (Also, you should somehow let people know what day it is). A fourth section of the board can contain news items picked up on the shortwave or from other communities.

The fifth [and very large] section should be made open to the public. Remember, they have no reliable communications means and may need to link up with missing relatives or communicate privately with other community members. A board is a good way to do this and can substitute for a public mail service. Set up a drop box for personal messages (controlled by someone at city hall or at the post office or whatever) and maintain a list of people with "refugee mail" on the public notice board. That way, if someone wants to send a letter or something to anyone else, they drop an envelope in the drop box and write the addressee's name (and a date) on the public board. When the addressee picks up his mail, he crosses his name off the list. Any person traveling to a nearby town can carry mail to that town.

You may need to regulate your public notice board by requiring people to date their notices and limit the time something can remain posted. Otherwise, the public board will quickly get out of hand, no matter how big it is. Try not to get too draconian. Allow people to post anything they want (subject to whatever constraints make sense to the town). Your board may be the best and only information service most people have.

You should also expect to do a lot of face to face meetings with crowds and individuals. Consider setting up a weekly town meeting where you can put out orders and public service information in person and invite discussion. Town meetings used to be a great source of entertainment and gave everyone a chance to blow off some steam about things that bothered them. When electronics fail,You will need to be able to do a lot of business face-to-face. If you move your headquarters to an easily accessible area, like downtown main-street, or near a marketplace, everything may be easier. Unfortunately, messengers and face to face conversations require working transportation of some kind (as discussed below).

2. Building an emergency economy
You are going to have to set up some kind of economy to replace the crashed finance system. You are not going to be able to rebuild the crashed economy, but will have to build an entirely new system, almost from scratch. If you get this one wrong, everything else will fall apart very quickly. This is a huge undertaking, but it must be done quickly. You simply cannot use the existing financial system or hope to rebuild it. About 4/5ths of your town will need food and most of the town's food will be owned by a very few individuals or controlled by a store manager in the case of a corporate chain store. If you allow the market to "work itself out", these few store managers or individuals will suddenly control all the wealth and be able to charge people anything they see fit...or withhold critical resources as the whim takes them. Some people will have nothing of value in the new economy [except their labor]. How will these people buy what they need? "Money" is not the fiat currency we are used to dealing with. It is something of value exchanged for something else of value. Any finance system has to be able to allow people to exchange what they need for what they have or it will fail. In this example, the likely results might be a riot and immediate looting.

Mitigation: None possible? I don't know how you can prepare your town for a total financial crash. If anyone has a suggestion, I would love to hear it.

We might as well deal with this topic right away. Are you going to try to have a strictly capitalist system? If so, a lot of people who don't currently have exactly what they need, or anything that happens to be valued in your new economy, are going to die. (More likely, they are going to revolt and try to take the resources they need.) A free market is a wonderful thing, but it requires time, security and communication to form. You won't have any of these. People who don't have food won't wait long enough for you to form a fully functional free market system, which could take months or years. Without perceived equitable distribution of "wealth" in the form of whatever your community members need, you will have violence and mayhem very quickly. A free market capitalist trade system will never get a chance to form without a precursor system to hold it up until it gets established.

In my humble opinion (after seeing many different monetary systems over the years) there is no alternative to adding a very large socialist component to a post-collapse emergency economy. If you don't strictly regulate critical resources, they will not be distributed equitably and many people will needlessly suffer and perhaps die. Even if that's okay with you, consider what you would do in their shoes. Would you watch your family starve while there was food on the shelves down at the Wal-Mart? Not very likely. You might decide to gather some like-minded folks up and storm the Wal-Mart. If the police try to stop you, what will you do? You will fight to the death because there is no valid alternative. For that matter, the police force may be leading the charge. What are you planning to pay them with? Patriotism? Whoever controls the food and other scarce resources controls the reins of power. It simply cannot be left in the hands of random individuals.

To avoid total anarchy in a societal collapse, you will need to form a centrally controlled economy in the short term, designed to equitably re-distribute and manage critical resources. You will need to slowly build a free market as you are able, but trying to do it immediately will undermine everything you must accomplish during the crisis.

In order to form a centralized economy or even pay for the services the town is going to desperately need, you need to gain control of most of the "publicly available" critical shortage resources and use them as your basis of wealth. Scarce resources are the basis for a currency system. At a very basic level, Food is cash. Once you have a warehouse of food under your tight control, you can pay for labor and other commodities and resources with that food. A better system might be to pay for labor and services with "ration cards". That ration card entitles them to eat a single meal at a community soup kitchen, or entitles them to a set amount of grain or other commodity on demand from the town warehouse. In essence anyone needing community resources "works for the community" and gets to eat at the mess hall...and earns a little surplus to use for other necessities. This arrangement will also give you a huge manpower pool to work with almost immediately. You may find that you will need most of them.

Avoid giving "handouts" to anyone. You need everyone to work as hard as they can. You need them to use their incentive. Handouts that compete with the local economy are counterproductive and destroy human dignity.

Without machinery, manpower is your biggest resource. Cherish each unemployed citizen. Make them work for their pay and use them to build capital for the future (see below), food production, military duties, messenger services, trash collection or anything else that needs doing. Remember, these are not freeloaders, they are solid citizens who want to work and feel like they are part of a larger effort. Don't worry about having so many people on "welfare". Most of them will get to be self sufficient as fast as they are able. Pay them a slight surplus and they will feel that they are working toward something and not living hand to mouth. You may find that they invest the surplus and build your free market economy for you.

If you let private citizens keep their food and fuel and other scarce resources and only confiscate and control corporate or "large retail or wholesale stocks" (explained below), any citizen with resources can also hire help at roughly the same rates you are paying, which helps the whole community and drives down demand for public stockpiles. (You have established a minimum wage of 1 ration card per hour). Everything else could be bartered using food or the town ration cards as currency. If you establish a set value for your ration cards and a safe marketplace in town (perhaps even a market day, where other communities can join in the trading), you have the beginnings of a free market with as little pain as possible and almost no stink of socialism. Since food is established as the gold standard, you also add incentive to immediately start farming, hunting, and otherwise adding to the public larder.

So where do you get the resources you are going to control? I am not talking about collecting up everyone's food and gasoline. That would be an economic disaster in the long term. People need to feel secure in their property rights or they won't be willing to invest in the future. And you need a lot of private investment to get your community through the crisis. You will need to collect taxes later, but not until there is a harvest or something to collect.

You have to be careful which resources you initially confiscate and only gather large retail or wholesale stocks meant for re-sale. Anything owned by an individual for his own use is his property and must not be touched. Any critical and scarce commodity owned strictly for resale should be confiscated for the common good and held by the community. Make sure you provide a receipt to any owners you can locate or at least keep records of what is taken. This will allow much easier accounting if someone ever tries to rebuild the old

Our free enterprise system has provided the opportunity for some families and even individuals to amass huge fortunes. It also allowed groups of individuals to "incorporate" to form legal entities that own vast resources. In normal times, this is an overall goodness that generates wealth and (at least in theory) raises everyone's standard of living. In normal times, an individual is free to own thousands of acres of land and all the minerals under it. He is allowed to farm it, bulldoze it, burn it, deny it's use to others or use it pretty much any way he wants. It's almost certain that critical resources in your community are "owned" by a corporation or private investor. In theory, a single individual can legally "own" all the arable land in a community and prevent anyone from farming it, even if they are starving.

In an emergency, I feel that this cannot and must not be allowed. Moral imperatives and common sense must prevail over law in some rare cases and this is one of those cases. Private property for use by the individual is morally different from corporate property or privately owned property that is held for the "wealth" it generates. If someone "owns" something and has no intention of ever using it himself (or even seeing it), he cannot morally control it in an emergency. I believe that corporations are legal fictions that have exactly as much validity as the rest of our complex finance system. When the dollar crashes and all the banks close, (IMHO) they cease to exist in a moral sense.

Any corporate or investment property belongs to the state in an emergency. Did that sentence scare you? It does me. But I believe it will come to pass. The state has the ultimate responsibility to answer to the people and has legal power over all corporate entities. The government's charter (by constitution and a huge jurisprudence system) is to provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare. In normal times, this is best accomplished by jealously guarding a clearly documented body of property rights for individuals and corporations. But this is not a universal law of nature. If corporate interests collide with public welfare needs, the government has the right and the responsibility to negate corporate or individual rights for the common good.

As mayor of a community, you are going to have to make some hard choices and convince others that you are right. One of these choices might be to confiscate corporate property and redistribute it as needed for the common good. That specifically includes local merchants who hold stockpiles of needed resources meant for resale, such as gas station and grocery store owners. The whole retail system with it's complex accounting and "ownership" laws are part of a finance system that no longer exists after a severe EMP event. You (and your community) need to sit down and determine a whole new set of ownership rules. I urge you to think hard about this and perhaps appoint someone wise and respected to arbitrate individual cases. Farmable land owned by a absentee landlord is easy; he's not there and owns it only as an investment, therefore it now belongs to the community. Large corporate holdings, like the stock of a chain department store are easy matters. That corporation is dead and gone and the goods now belong to the community. A large Agra-business hog farm is easy, confiscate the hogs and their feed. But what about a silo of corn owned by a Co-op of local farmers? What about a local farmer with 1,000 acres of standing corn clearly meant for commercial sale? What about a rancher with 100 head of cattle? You really have to be careful where you draw the line between private ownership and "retail goods", but draw it you must. Your new government is going to need a lot of capital to survive the tribulations coming.

3. Transportation and fuel
Your police and city vehicles may not work after an EMP event. In my opinion, the testing of EMP effects on vehicles outlined in the congressional EMP report "2008 Critical National Infrastructures Report" was flawed. Their simulator was only capable of generating 50kv EMP and only generated a E1 event, not the (perhaps) more damaging E3 wave. The cars were tested only until they exhibited a fault of some kind and then the testing was halted. Many of the vehicles showed some kind of failure or "faults" at lower voltages, but were never subjected to high voltage EMP, yet the conclusion includes these cars as having survived with no permanent damage.

Also, there is no reason to assume that 50kv is the upper limit in a real world HEMP event, it was simply the limit of the test gear available. I believe the test gear used was strongly influenced by the Master's degree thesis by Louis W. Seiler, Jr., "A Calculational Model for High Altitude EMP, report ADA009208". That thesis, while brilliant, computes E1 gamma burst for the peak EMP at ground zero for a burst above the magnetic equator, where the Earth's magnetic field is far weaker than it is at high latitudes (nearer the poles). Further North or South, the magnetic field lines converge (increasing the magnetic field strength). It's generally accepted that the peak EMP is almost directly proportional to the power of the Earth's magnetic field. That means that real world voltages in real world equipment may easily exceed 50kv. In fact we have some evidence of this. The Soviet above-ground warhead test #184 produced ground zero EMP intensity estimated by Soviet scientists at 350 kV. Also, remember that the cars used in the commission's testing were older cars build between 1986 and 2002. Have cars gotten more EMP resistant since then? No. My conclusion is simple. A lot of cars may not survive a real world event.

If a lot of vehicles survive, fuel stocks may be depleted almost immediately unless you take steps to protect them. I know this sounds draconian, but the police force and emergency vehicles should have priority for fuel and the only way to assure this is to implement some kind of rationing plan immediately. Fuel stocks are a public resource owned by private citizens. Once they are gone, your community may never get any more. This is a case where you are going to have to exercise some emergency powers and appropriate property from private citizens. If possible, you should "pay" for the fuel immediately. If you cannot, at least make sure you give the rightful owner a receipt so you can pay him back later if someone manages to re-build the economy.

Keep your town's vehicles in good shape and look into storing them inside a shielded garage when off duty. Being indoors may prevent some of the damage. If you are able to afford it, buy a reserve fuel supply for the police department. I don't know how much this would cost for a specific town, or how much fuel it should hold, but if you could somehow talk the town into the merits of a municipal reserve to last even a few weeks, it might someday prove very useful. If you bought two tanks, sized to last the police department a month or less, you wouldn't have any extra expense for fuel additives. You could rotate your fuel.

As distasteful as this is to Americans, I can't see any alternative likely to work. You need to seize and ration all bulk stocks of gasoline, Diesel, propane, fuel oil, coal and other fuels used or held by the town. The town will desperately need these fuels for heating, emergency services and agriculture. You may also be forced to confiscate privately owned vehicles if yours are damaged or you need specialty vehicles (like fuel tankers, for instance). You need to work out a method of doing this without stealing. Any time you confiscate resources from any private citizen, you need to somehow reimburse them as fairly as possible. A better approach may be to exclusively hire them as the driver and let them retain ownership.

Your town may also have a stream of refugees pouring through or past it from a nearby city. This is a very bad situation that has to be dealt with immediately. If they have access to your town's fuel stocks, they will drain every drop in a day or two. This may need to be your first order in an emergency. Every hour you delay may be critical. (Refugees are discussed below).

Another distasteful, yet lucrative opportunity you may have is to confiscate fuel (and other resources) from passing highway traffic. Whether you call this piracy or taxation, If trucks are still moving on the big highways, they may contain resources your town really needs to survive. I am not suggesting that this is a moral or desirable option, but someone in your community is bound to bring it up. Think out your position in advance and be ready to argue your point. Personally, I believe that any interference in long range commerce or transportation is detrimental to all of society and also undermines the very laws that prop up your own authority. No matter what you call it, the act of a government stealing is a slippery slope.

4. Water and sewage

Modern towns are very wasteful of water, but can't survive without it for more than a few days. Most people have never thought about how to purify water or deal with waste. If you don't do something quickly, a lot of your citizens are going to start defecating outdoors and many of your citizens are going to drink unsafe water. The results will be catastrophic in terms of public health.

Your town may be in good shape, but probably not. You will want to get some expert advice on this immediately. Many towns rely on pumped water, often from towers in or near the town. If so, you have a few days until the tanks run dry. You will need to figure out a way to keep this system going if you can. You still need to add chlorine and get the water high enough to maintain water pressure. If the machinery for doing this is broken, you need to set a crew working on water immediately.

Some towns won't be able to keep their water flowing and will have to use extreme measures to provide water for their people and deal with wastes. You may have to haul water to a central point and purify it manually, or even set up public latrines and wash points. Without ready supplies of water, most private residences are going to be uninhabitable in the long run. The folks with homes you cannot supply may need to move closer to your water point.

Talk to your water providers now and get them thinking about it so they can come up with options for you. Ask them to do a formal assessment of your town's situation and resources and suggest mitigation strategies for emergencies. What do they need to manually run their system during a power outage? If they can't run manually, you might consider buying a backup generator to run pumps and machinery. (Make sure you budget for a good Faraday cage to protect this generator and keep it disconnected and keep all cables inside the cage until needed). You may need to stockpile fuel or extra chemicals or buy extra equipment that can be run manually. If your town can't afford any of this, You may need to buy some mobile water tanks for the town. Any of these preparations could be very useful during a whole range of situations and natural disasters.

These will depend on your town's system. But you need to keep your eye on the ball. You need to provide at least a gallon of water per resident every day, just to keep them alive. You will need much more than that to keep them healthy in the long run. You also need to tell the community how to get pure water and warn them against drinking or using tainted water. Is your area dependent on irrigation agriculture? You will need to figure out how to supply that water too.

5. Solid waste disposal and burial of dead.
Without fuel, trash collection and burial can be very laborious. These problems would be a lot simpler if everyone lived within easy walking distance of town, but unfortunately this is almost never the case in the US. You may need to solve this by distributing simple instructions on how to do it using old-school techniques. Old homesteaders had an outhouse to deal with sewage, a compost pile to deal with organic waste and a burn barrel (or fireplace) to get rid of burnables. Anything else, they threw in the "trash pile" out back. (The solid trash pile for non-rotting, non-burnable trash was often a used outhouse cesspool, which was then covered over with dirt). On the bright side, municipal rubbish volumes are going to diminish and be replaced mostly with compost-able plant waste. Anything that can be recycled and reused, like old cardboard boxes will be treasured and kept. Our throw-away society will be over.

Burial and funeral services used to be handled very locally at the neighborhood church or even on your own property. Embalming and cremation are modern innovations that will be too expensive to maintain. [JWR Adds: The only exceptions will be in heavily-timbered regions or in coastal communities that are in driftwood deposition zones. There, perhaps there will be plentiful firewood for use in outdoor cremation pyres.] You will need your medical people to oversee and recommend procedures for burial. Make sure they consult the church leaders or you may make problems for yourself.

Actions: Check with a local doctor and have him recommend procedures for waste disposal. Find a way to distribute them and encourage people to follow the procedures by explaining why.

6. Food. (Short term provisioning)
This is going to be a real problem. You need to provide some minimum of calories and nutrition for all your citizens until the community can grow (and the free market can distribute) all the food needed by the community. This is going to be a tall order. Most people don't store a substantial amount of food in their homes and will quickly be dependent on town stocks. Most of the food in most communities is owned by very few people or corporations.

The only way you are going to save a substantial percentage of your population over the short term is to gain control of and ration most of the food centrally. You are going to have to locate and safeguard as much food as possible. you will need to establish a warehouse of some sort and guard it well. Pre-historic villages and other primitive cultures always locate their food stocks in the center of their living space to ensure it is guarded. This might be a wise choice. You may be able to use a church, school or other public building close to the town center for this purpose. If that building also has a substantial kitchen and cafeteria that you can get working again, it will save a lot of transportation problems.

Don't be shocked if your town is forced to fight some other town to keep the food you stockpile. Historically, when food gets scarce, communities fight and take what they need. Be ready for this behavior. I would station my police force inside my granary, in the center of town if possible.

Sources of food you can confiscate or otherwise control:

a. Department stores and food stores: Large food stores are the most obvious place to look for food. They will not last long whether you confiscate the food or not. People are going to either buy or loot everything in a matter of days or even hours. Unfortunately retail stores don't maintain much stock these days. If it's not on the shelves, it's probably not in the back room either. With modern stocking practices, nobody maintains a well-stocked warehouse on site anymore. The non-refrigerated foods should all be salvageable, but if you hurry, you might be able to make use of much of the frozen foods and fresh produce or even salt some away using other preservation techniques before it goes bad.

b. Co-ops and large commercial farms: These may have livestock and large amounts of feed grain and other dried foods on hand. Whoever manages these establishments are also probably experts at food preservation, storage and a whole range of agricultural issues. Seek them out and get their input and help to secure their food. You want to avoid spoilage and loss as much as possible and these people can help. Hire them. You may need to keep the grain right where it's at (and guard it) or provide power (if possible) to dry out the grain or you may need to provide manpower to manually harvest crops. Listen to your experts.

c. Feed stores: Most animals in your community are going to have to be slaughtered during the first year. Save as much edible feed as possible for human consumption. Most feed mixes are good for humans to eat. Even the big bags of dog food should be preserved. You will probably need them. They are mostly grain and if ground into flour and thoroughly cooked, all of them are safe to eat. Alfalfa pellets and other "non-human-food" products may be used to feed livestock.

d. Pet stores. Bird seed is nothing but grain and oil seeds. Most pet foods are edible and should be saved for human consumption. The issue of what to do with pets is going to be a hard one, but logic dictates that the community refrain from using up useful food stocks on animals unless they add substantially to the local economy. However, keep in mind that people get very emotional about their pets. If you try to get people to give up their animals, they may lynch you. (Your commissary should sell the pet foods, just like they do people food. If the pet owners work hard enough to support their animals, you should not try to get heavy handed. Any other approach will put you at odds with part of your population.)

e. Regional distribution centers: If you are fortunate enough to have one or more of these in your reach, you should act immediately to secure them. These centers typically have very substantial stocks of food on hand. Unfortunately, much of this food requires refrigeration and will go bad very quickly. The centers with dried and canned goods will be in big demand very quickly, so you need to dispatch work parties (with lots of trucks) as quickly as you can organize them.

f. Standing commercial crops: Depending on the season, one of the first tasks you need to tackle may be to help farmers with their harvest or planting or other tasks. Modern farms are only manageable with the aid of heavy machinery. Without this machinery, even routine tasks are not possible. Without combines, farmers couldn't possibly complete their own harvests. Without security of some kind, their crops may never make it to maturity. Refugees would strip them bare without your help. You can strike a deal with farmers to bring in their crops and help in return for some kind of payment in kind or a cut of their crop and others in the area. (Remember, most farmers are mono-crop farmers with little use for 60 tons of corn with no market). They may be more interested in what you can provide in the form of machinery, power or labor. Talk to them, explain your situation and strike a deal that benefits both of you.

g. Lakes and rivers: Fishing resources are very limited, but important sources of food in many areas if you can protect them. You need to prevent poachers from destroying their production capacity by over-fishing (maybe with dynamite) or polluting water resources.

h. Bakeries and food processing plants: Processing plants usually have very limited stocks of food on hand, but may have quite a lot depending on what they are making. They may also have usable machinery that can be converted to use.

i. Colleges, Libraries and bookstores. These don't contain food, but they contain knowledge about foraging for wild plants. You may be able to extend your resources by sending out forage parties to collect locally growing wild resources. If you get lucky, you might be able to gather a large harvest of acorns or maple seed or some other highly prolific food species. Appoint someone (maybe a survivalist or old hippie) as "wild food forager" and cross your fingers.

Things to watch for are large grain mills and industrial cooking equipment. You may also find water pumps, power generation equipment, specialized vehicles, lathes, mills, presses and other industrial tools. If you can repair the EMP damage, power them and get them working, they can speed the recovery of your community and really enhance your economy.

Actions: Appoint a good commissary officer. Someone is going to have to oversee collection, storage and disbursement of not only food supplies but fuel, tools, fertilizers, seeds and other resources. Your commissary officer needs to be a very smart, honest person and he or she will need a fairly large staff. They are going to have broad powers, so find somebody that is morally good. Whoever you appoint needs excellent people skills and the meticulous attention to detail of a banker. This same person is really in charge of your whole economy and will probably be in charge of printing currency if you use it. A bank manager might be a good choice. If you have political opposition in the community, this is an excellent place to put them if they are up to the job. Once they are "holding the baby" they will be on your side and won't be able to accuse you of any misbehavior.

7. Heat and shelter:
When winter hits, you may be faced with a grave heating fuel shortage. People staying in private homes may not have access to heating fuel at all. The town council is probably going to have some number of refugees to care for and they require heat too. Your community may use oil, gas, wood or something else for heating and each of them pose their own problems. You will need to think this issue out in the context of your own community situation and come up with some kind of solution. The most efficient solution, of course is to co-locate everyone in a few larger buildings and heat them at 65-68 degrees. Setting up a shelter has it's own problems, but it's easier than trying to heat 500 single family shelters. The public shelter model of setting up in a big gymnasium can work, but it provides a very efficient vector for respiratory and other diseases. If you can provide each family (or multiple families) with a classroom or office room of their own, they will be much more comfortable and resistant to diseases.

Providing a warm place to sleep may be all you can manage. Some homes are going to be difficult or impossible to heat once the power grid goes down and the oil trucks stop delivery. You should make every effort to conserve liquid fuels that will be needed for spring planting and emergency machinery.

Mitigation: Location specific. You may be able to encourage your citizens to switch over to an alternate fuel source (like wood, if your community has a lot of forests nearby). Stockpiling fuel for the town may be a good idea if you can afford it, but this is a temporary solution. Look around your town for some suitable shelter buildings and food storage facilities and check out their heating and ventilation equipment. You may be able to improve your chosen buildings or buy alternate heating systems for them within your budget constraints. Laying in a large supply of cots and blankets is a good idea.

Actions: You should immediately set up a shelter and cafeteria of some kind after the emergency. Schools are probably your best choice for this. You will probably have homeless almost from the start, so you need to get this done quickly. Home fires are bound to be more common and some people who live too far from town will need to move closer to the cafeteria. The more people you can get to move into your shelter, the easier it will be to heat. (Each human radiates roughly the same heat as a 100 watt light bulb. It adds up fast.) Make things easy on yourself and appoint someone competent (a school principal for instance) to administer your lodging and cafeteria. The principal already has a staff dependent on the city payroll. You will probably have to feed your teachers and school staff anyway, so hire them to administer your shelters. Administration of a shelter is a big, frustrating job, so make sure you appoint someone level headed to oversee this effort.

8. Security and public order:
Whatever your town's current situation, you will probably need to greatly expand your security forces. In fact you will probably need an Army. During normal times, your town doesn't have it's own foreign policy or the need to defend itself. With a general society collapse, that changes. Your town will need the ability to fight off raiders or even other communities.

a. Some of your own civilian population is going to get unruly. Even a small percentage acting up can overwhelm your current police force. You need some way to punish them and bring them in line. Jails are inefficient and expensive and not very effective at curbing bad behavior. I suggest a simpler system of corporal punishment (whipping or caning) and for serious infractions or repeat offenders, expulsion from the community. Find a judge or other competent person to set up a simple system of justice that fits your circumstances, take a vote at a town meeting to get public buy-in and then appoint someone to run it. Your police force should be distanced from both judgment and punishment. Judgment and punishment should be accomplished by a different group, perhaps a randomly selected jury or something equally simple and fair.

b. You are going to have additional requirements for officers (or someone) to act as "messengers" to put out policies and community information. Without electronic communications, much more of your business has to be done in person.

c. You are almost certain to have extensive guard duty requirements. You will need to provide point security for foodstocks, livestock, roadblocks and critical resources like fuel, power generation, etc. Your uniformed police force is too valuable to bog down with these security positions. You need to hire out of work locals to augment them with a reliable guard force. (I recommend handing this responsibility over to your military...see below).

d. You may need to put a 24 hour presence at roadblocks or traffic control points to divert refugees away from your town. (see below for a discussion of refugees).

e. You may face a threat from outside polities. If so, you will need an Army or you will be destroyed. You may have to mobilize the entire population to fend off other communities. (see below for a discussion of inter-community politics.)

Your security forces are your "face" to the community. They will represent the town and embody your decisions and authority. You need to keep a tight reign on your police forces or some of them are going to be tempted to take unwarranted liberties and abuse their authority.

One of your first actions should probably be to call your security forces and emergency responders together and reaffirm your covenant with them. You need to reassure them that they are still going to be paid and their families taken care of. You need to get buy-in from them and make them feel they are part of something important and bigger than mere survival. Let them know your plans and your thoughts as clearly as possible so they can represent you well. You should also let them know that you will tolerate no misbehavior. They are your knights and have to act the part.

You should also set up some kind of "military" arm to deal with extraordinary requirements. Call it a militia or a town guard or whatever you want. In essence it's an army. If you have any doubts about the loyalty of your police chief or sheriff, the military arm should report directly to you or one of your representatives rather than falling under the police. All of your authority rests on the shoulders of your security forces, so you can't tolerate any dissension in the ranks or misbehavior. Choose someone loyal and skilled with a military background and good people skills to head up your military. Hopefully you have a retired officer or senior NCO available. Whoever it is will have to be able to effectively give orders to perhaps hundreds of people in an emergency, so choose someone charismatic and smart. He will also need an excellent grasp of tactics and the ability to plan for small scale military operations. Let your military commander hire his own personnel, arm and train them and instruct your commissary and police force to assist him in anyway possible.

Your military commander's first task will be to do some kind of terrain analysis and COA products to determine how to defend the community and try to predict future issues. His second task will be to build an effective military force. It should probably be a small offensive force backed up by a larger irregular militia comprising most of the town. He will need to set up some kind of training program and be able to pay people to participate. Military training is hard work, so don't expect anyone to take it seriously or work at it if you are not paying them. You can put your military commander in charge of all the guard duty requirements to assist the police as well as messenger duties.

9. Foreign relations and refugees:
Every community is going to face the same challenges you have. I expect most of them will fail and fragment. I also expect a huge outpouring of refugees from every city in the USA. City based communities have huge challenges that small towns won't. They have limited options and maintaining order will be desperately hard, perhaps impossible. Every community and group of people are going to face terrible, unsolvable provisioning problems. The ugly truth is, most citizens of the USA are going to starve to death after a society crash. It's simple arithmetic. There will not be enough food for everyone to live. Even if most of them last through a whole season until the first harvest, there is no chance that the first [post-collapse] harvest is going to be bountiful enough to sustain everyone.

The following is going to read like science fiction [a la Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank], but I call em like I see 'em. If anyone can find a flaw in my analysis, then please tell me about it. I believe you can expect large polities to attempt to take resources from smaller ones. If you are the mayor of a city with 100,000 or more people, you have no other choice. During normal times, the countryside (agrarian areas) produce all the food consumed by cities. Once the provisions stop arriving, your city is going to starve very quickly unless you can procure more. Your normal sources of supply are perhaps a thousand miles distant and might as well be on the moon. Your actual chances of sustaining your population long term are zero. If you are a smart leader, you will attempt to save most of your people by sending them to other communities that have more food and water. If you are not so smart, you will attempt to take what you need to keep going from the surrounding countryside and small nearby communities. The best a small community can hope for is that all the large polities (cities) nearby will fail and fragment quickly. If they don't the small communities may be forced to take in refugees or surrender food stocks to support the cities. Either way, the city people are mostly doomed, but if this occurs, so are the small communities.

A medium sized city could potentially muster an enormous army. I am not saying every city is going to manage the level of cohesion, organization and discipline needed to do this, but it's at least a possibility in some cases, especially for cities that have a military base nearby. You also need to consider smaller polities like boroughs or neighborhoods or even church congregations making demands on your community. How will you react when the mayor of a nearby town or city asks you for provisions?

Another probable development I expect to see is the "professional army". Groups may attempt to provision themselves by threatening small communities and extorting "protection" from them. This is another layer of taxation you probably can't afford, but if you choose not to pay, you must be prepared to fight. Think about it and make sure you discuss your concerns with your security leadership so they can form plans.

You can also expect to see a large stream of refugees pouring out of heavily populated areas. If they have vehicles, they will move outward from the cities along major roadways until they can't get more fuel and then stop. If the finance systems are still working, this refugee stream may burn up most of the available liquid fuel in the USA in a few days. If your community lies on a major line of drift, you can expect to have many thousands of thirsty, hungry refugees knocking at your door hoping for a handout. These are going to be US citizens, mothers and fathers, sons, daughters, and grandparents who are desperate and begging. If begging stops working, they will get hostile and dangerous. Maybe very dangerous.

I know this is a very disagreeable topic, but almost every refugee is doomed and you are powerless to change that fact. Think it out carefully and you will see that you simply cannot feed everyone. You are going to have to prevent refugees from consuming your community resources or you will perish with them. You need to stop the stream of refugees from entering your community. Once they are inside your community, they will exponentially harder to deal with. Effectively killing someone by evicting them from your town while looking them in the eye and listening to them beg is going to be hard to do. If you get soft hearted and let too many stay, you will be condemning your community to slow death by starvation. Discuss this topic with your community leaders, especially your security leadership and make them see that there are no alternatives to a strict quarantine. You need to have a plan and execute it immediately or you may be overwhelmed within hours.

One final note on turning back refugees: Do it as far from town as you can. The refugees are going to be truly pitiful and seeing this level of misery will cause your community a lot of pain and distention. You need very hard men to man your line and you need to be careful to leave the refugees another place to go. Don't block a major road. Instead, block a turn-off. It's okay to be as humane as possible and provide water at the roadblock, but you simply cannot afford to give away food or medical supplies. The only people you can let into your town are town residents. All others will have to continue down the road. The men on your roadblock are going to crack up fast, so rotate them often and watch them. This will be the most traumatic thing they have ever had to do.

10. Long term provisioning:
You need to appoint someone to oversee food production. This should probably be completely separate from your commissary department. You need someone with expertise in farming and more specifically, small scale gardening. They need to organize and assist everyone in the community with planting their own gardens and teaching such basic topics as drying, pickling and canning produce. They will also have to oversee a lot of coordination to grow and harvest grain crops and figure out the most efficient ways to store surplus.

Mitigation: Heirloom seeds and fertilizers are going to be in very short supply. If you can somehow trick (or talk) your town into stocking up on these, perhaps as part of a 4-H or school project, your town will be much better off. If you have any say in public plantings for parks or landscapes, try to plant as many food bearing plants as possible. An apple tree is just as attractive as a pine or elm and produces fruit every year.

Actions: Every piece of arable land in the community needs to be planted with something edible ASAP. Without power machinery, this is going to be a real challenge. Every lawn and every empty lot should be dug up and worked in order to build soils, even if it's not planting time. Working leaf litter and plant materials into the plots needs to begin almost immediately. The "Garden Czar" will probably take up the lion's share of the spare manpower in the town just planting city owned lots. He will need to procure hand tools by the hundreds and garden seed, both of which may be in short supply. The tools can be loaned or rented to citizens as needed for their own plots and the seed will need to be rationed out carefully until a stock of good seed can be built up.

The town's citizens may have no horticultural knowledge or gardening skills and will likely not be conditioned for long hours of manual labor. The sooner they start getting their hands dirty the better. Try to hire some skilled gardeners to assist and advise your citizens with their own plots. Building a surplus and a working economy depends directly on their success at working small private gardens.

You may need to pass some resolutions about gardening to prevent land from sitting idle. You can't afford a scrap of idle land as long as you have any seeds left to put in the ground.

11. Building a manufacturing capacity. At some point, equipment and tools will begin to break down. Before that time, you need to establish a manufacturing base that can support your community.

You will eventually need a machine shop capable of founding, forging and machining metal parts and tools. You may need this immediately to repair critical equipment for pumping water or grinding grain et cetera A simple blacksmith shop will be needed to create plows and simple hand tools like hoes and scythes that you are likely to need. You may also need a small foundry and machine shop to create replacement parts for critical machinery. Keep a lookout for likely skilled individuals and hire them to build the town a metal working capability. [JWR Adds: As science fiction writer S.M. Stirling aptly pointed out in his Dies the Fire novel series, leaf springs from abandoned cars and trucks make ideal steel stock that can be used to re-forge into crossbows, plows, small hand tools, knives, and even swords. Leaf springs should be very plentiful for at least one or two generations in a truly post-collapse society.]

You should have someone begin building hand plows and other animal and human powered agricultural tools ASAP. You will need as many as your metal shop can manufacture and I guarantee you will be able to trade surplus plows to other towns within a few months.

You will eventually need to replace or repair clothing. You will have a long grace period while you go through existing stocks from department stores, but within a few years, you will need new fabrics. Appoint someone to worry about fabric production. How do you build a loom? In less than four years, you are going to need a source of fiber and a fabric production capability, especially in cold climates.

Other manufacturing capabilities may be needed as you go along. You may wish to set up a pottery shop or produce adobe brick for building materials or set up a sawmill for lumber and firewood. Brainstorm this with your staff or at a town meeting.

12. Preserving:
A lot of irreplaceable things are going to be destroyed or lost if you don't make some kind of effort to preserve them.

a. Animals: A lot of people are going to be very hungry. Most of them are going to die. I expect most species of large animals in the USA and Europe, including livestock, to be slaughtered for food until they are scarce or even extinct. Think ahead. You are going to need draft animals desperately in a few months. You simply must preserve as many animals capable of filling this role as possible. Dogs are peerless burglar alarms. Cats keep vermin numbers down. Once all the chickens are gone, where are you going to get eggs and poultry? Saving even a small breeding stock of all the useful animals in your community is going to be hard when people are literally starving to death all around you.

Actions: You are going to have to put livestock under guard or they won't last long. Someone will poach them. Any private farmer trying to keep livestock is going to find out just how sneaky hungry humans can be. Someone also needs to start training your working animals immediately. It takes time to produce a working plow team out of average untrained cows or horses.

b. Knowledge: If you don't take steps to prevent it, people will burn most of the books in your town for fuel. I recommend keeping your library open for business. Your town or local school libraries may turn out to be very important for both entertainment and reference.

c. Records: You need to secure public and as many private records as possible. Without them, repairing our current culture will be much more difficult. Birth records, tax records, bank records etc. All of these may have
tremendous value in the future.

d. Art and historical treasures: If your town has any, you should safeguard national treasures for future generations. The very fact that you are making this effort will send a powerful message to your citizens.

13. Medical:
Your existing health-care facilities and drug supplies need to be safeguarded quickly. You will have a very limited stockpile of opiates and other painkillers and mind altering drugs that will be very attractive to some
criminal (or simply addicted) elements of society. Every pharmacy and clinic in town should be carefully confiscated and put under guard. Don't forget the pet hospitals and veterinarian clinics. Appoint a doctor or pharmacist to oversee this effort and support them with whatever resources they require (if you can). Some drugs require refrigeration and may not be salvageable if they are ever warmed.

Hire as many doctors and nurses as possible and set up a public health clinic near the town center. Have them take charge of public health and start an outreach program for self help and public sanitation. If your town has vaccines available, you will probably want to use them up quickly before they go bad. Your community may be able to avoid a lot of misery and casualties if you organize your health care.

Have someone in your manufacturing base or commissary department work with them to replace or recycle medical supplies. Something as simple as a building wood-fired autoclave might be beyond the capability of your health care folks but easy for your artisans.

Also, hire as many pharmacists, chemists and any other scientists you can find. You probably won't have too many of these once they are all accounted for. If you have a few, don't be afraid of tasking them to do some very difficult tasks for you. They are very intelligent folks and can perform miracles if you challenge them. Challenge them to set up a lab and try to synthesize antibiotics, or opiates. Or challenge them to figure out how to improve agriculture in your town or synthesize liquid fuel for your vehicles, or explosives. They may surprise you with spectacular results. These folks are valuable property, so try not to use them as unskilled farm hands or guards. The same goes for engineers. Give them challenging work and have them tackle real problems.

I recognize that most of us are not mayors. We are probably not the ones who will be called on to shoulder the numbing responsibilities of command during a crisis. I really wouldn't care for that job, even in peacetime. When the balloon goes up, it will be hardest on the leaders. Your mayor and police chief will need help. As a prepper, you are in a position to provide that help. How many of the jobs that I mentioned above could you competently fill? I implore you to help them. Having you available as adviser (and commissary officer or military leader, experienced gardener, metal smith etc) could literally make the difference between life and death. Your efforts could make a huge difference to a lot of people.

If your community has any chance at all to survive, those odds will increase exponentially if your leaders have a well thought out plan and make good decisions. Community leaders will need to make timely decisions on a host of issues they have never considered and have the conviction to act ruthlessly. You, as a prepper, have the advantage of thinking about it ahead of time and working out all the details in your mind. That and the skills you have learned can allow you to make a real difference. Will you step up to the plate and try to save your whole community? It seems like a superhuman job and daunting for a mere human. But if anyone can do it, maybe it's you.

Win or go down swinging, - J.I.R.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

As a member of the architectural profession, I am acutely aware of the multitude of sustainable issues emerging within our own society and the civilized world in general.  Urban homesteading is beginning to emerge because many people are beginning to come to the realization that there could be a major economic crash, Natural disaster, etc that could result in a disruption or failure in our food distribution chain emerging as directly applicable to many concerns facing many preppers regarding any failure or crises resulting in a disruption or collapse of the food distribution chain. But, urban homesteading is not the same as preparing for a crash or fall of civilized society.  Urban homesteaders openly farm and garden with marginal concern for crop or property security, but their approach rivals that of some intensive commercial operations and so do their results and unless you’re truly going to be happy living off an immensely deep larder, you better have another plan. 

Homesteading has proven to offer that and it also provides ample opportunity and direct experience at farm life skills, and the rewards of self confidence and self reliance associated with taking control of part of one’s life by being responsible for putting high quality food directly on one’s table, which is something you reap the benefits of almost immediately.

The biggest security concern for the homesteader is the open manner (and inevitably so) in which they often practice these skills amidst a large population surrounding them.  A successful homestead will make itself a beacon to those that are unprepared, and make them highly vulnerable to those that loot and raid, regardless of their reasons why. 

Beyond direct criminal activity, the largest threat to civil suburban social fabric is the failure of municipal utilities and the breakdown of food and water supply, both of which can be implemented locally, but only in so far as localized security permits.  The context of the over-all situation will be the determining factor in assessing when and if to implement those projects and is the key to being able to homestead openly in suburbia. 

For homesteading to be an effective strategy in suburbia, local and regional security will have to be addressed, which is out of this purview of this article.   Until that has been established, alternative methods of survival must be implemented, which will be the focus of this article- what to do in the meantime.     

The Suburban Homestead- Homesteading in insecure times
The ultimate goal of the homestead is that it be self sufficient, meaning that you’re able to grow or raise all the food you and your family need on your own plot.  Clearly in a highly hostile environment only marginal homesteading should be taking place openly, as in these times security is the primary focus, consequently you should be living off of stored supplies, but that doesn’t mean that aspects of homesteading cannot be done covertly and securely.  The more out of sight and less labor intensive the better.  In fact, consolidating your homestead efforts to within the home itself must be considered an absolute prudent security measure, especially that of livestock production. 

Something to Cluck About
In basic terms it is unlikely that anyone will be able to grow vegetable crops indoors to fulfill all their nutritional needs, as raising livestock can.  Therefore covert livestock farming inside of your residence should be your primary focus in planning and developing.   

From a nutritional perspective in a homestead environment little surpasses the nutritional value per square foot and time to raise of that of a chicken.  First it’s a food source people are familiar with and like.   It is also relatively small, easily managed, simply housed, has a short growth cycle (about 4 months) and provides a dual source of food; eggs and meat, whose feed can be readily stored in bulk.  A typical laying hen can produce over 200 eggs per year, with each egg providing about 155 calories each, with 12g protein and 10g fat.  That’s real world protein and fat, not third world protein and fat found in corn and beans.  And unlike vegetable crops do not need a tremendous amount of sunlight, space nor water to reach its nutritional potential. 

To understand my emphatic emphasis on chicken, review two studies done on nutrition; the 1944 Ancel Keys Starvation Diet Study in comparison to 1970 Yudkin Low-carbohydrate diet.  In each, the test subjects ate about the same nutritional level, 1,500-1,600 kcal per day, but with differing levels of macronutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates) combinations, which were almost polar opposite of each other, but both were calorically at levels normally considered semi-starvational.  The major difference between them was that in Keys study (high carb, low fat diet) the subjects showed clear signs of being starved, obsessed on food constantly, were excessively lethargic and some developed dangerous psychological disorders to the point of self injury.  In Yudkin’s study (low-carb, high-fat diet) the subjects ate unweighed, unmeasured, unrestricted meals and suffered none of the ill-effects prevalent in Key’s subjects and were considered to be in good health.  The difference was in the volume of fat consumed.  Finding a replenish able source of high quality fat will be essential in a survival situation, as you just can’t get enough from a vegetable sources on a calorie restricted diet. 

In simple terms, moving from a standard American diet, to a strict calorie restricted vegetarian diet is going to make some people crazy and suffer the debilitating effects of a vastly modified diet.  I know I would be one of them- you may be too; just ask yourself does becoming a vegetarian on a calorie restricted diet ‘seem’ appealing to you?  I’m planning accordingly and that means chicken is going on the dinner plate and on the homestead in a significant way, to the point that the gardening efforts are in support of this primary food source, in the terms of chicken feed and then to my supplemental nutritional needs.

Bathtub Chicken
One of the most accommodating spaces to immediately transform into a covert farming space is any spare bathroom, which has a bathtub or shower.  These spaces by their original nature are designed to provide protection against moisture, provide natural light and ventilation, have surface materials designed to be washed down and are fairly durable, which sounds awfully like good (small) livestock farm space to me.  They are also rooms that hold the least amount of personal clutter and storage. 

An ideal application for this space is that of a battery chicken coop (a series of stacked cages) over the bathtub.  Within this volume it is possible to design a variety of coops for meat, egg and chick production in a highly intensive and sanitary manner.   A combination of 10 laying hens (eggs production), coop space for a cock, a trio of hens (chick production), hatchery for the chicks and broiler grow out space for 16 broilers (meat production), would produce approximately 5 eggs a day and a broiler chicken in a pot each week. 

While the family garage may ultimately serve as a better location for this operation, I doubt most garages are in a state of current use that would allow for immediate transformation into chicken production and the fact that most operational homesteads only operate with a single cock and a trio of hens and thus would be putting the coop before the chickens. This though, should be your ambition, as at that point you will be able to produce all the caloric nutrient needs of your family right in the garage.  It is unlikely though that you will need the volume of a two car garage to do so, and it is for this reason that I recommend that the chicken coop be isolated (finished and self enclosed) to the rest of the garage, leaving the free space for storage or other uses.

In all likelihood, if you live in a suburb that zoning does not allow livestock to be housed there, you can locate a nearby live poultry merchant and purchase the chicken and ‘temporarily’ house them at your residence- ‘for consumption’, if you feel times are getting shaky.  For those that are less risk adverse, have been known to openly violate zoning ordinances and to farm poultry until they are directly warned by authorities not to.  In most cases, they do so in the open will little consideration at doing so covertly, often with little or no hassle from neighbors or authorities.  The key to this is to be low-key about your activities, dutiful in maintaining sanitation practices, and respectful of your neighbors regarding positioning of the chicken coops and the scale and size of the operation.                  

The Achilles Heel of Chicken   
Chicken feed is inexpensive and can be stored in bulk, but the Achilles heel to this is you’ll eventually run out of stored feed and you’ll have to grow it or specifically find adequate substitutes and ideally those that don’t appear like a food source for people.  One of my favorite is a maggotry (a form of carcass composting) because it’s almost unheard of in the western hemisphere and solves multiple issues of waste disposal and pest eradication, while contributing greatly to feed supplementation.    

Maggotry in particular will be a benefit as it is a direct protein food source and  consists of little more than a bait bucket of rotting meat (spoiled vegetables, dead animals, chicken entrails- that’s you’ve butchered, etc ) that entices the neighboring fly population to spray their eggs on.  By stacking one bucket with a large screened bottom and containing the bait inside, onto another you’ve created the basic system.  When the eggs hatch and the maggots have fully fed and desire to pupate they tend to burrow into the ground, and in this case, will travel to the bucket below. 

A nice addition to this system is including a fly trap.  By cutting the top 1/3 of a 5-gallon water bottle off and inverting it back into the remaining bottle and duct taping it in place, you then can place this whole contraption on top of the maggot bucket.  After the parent flies have sprayed the bait with their eggs, they have a tendency to always go from a dark space (the bait bucket) towards light (the water bottle).  Once inside the water bottle they will not normally go back into the bait bin (due to the inverted funnel) and thus end up dying in the water bottle, awaiting collection.  In essence it’s a form of fly population control and breeding restriction combined.                 

The maggotry can be as open or covert an operation as you wish (clearly an outdoor operation).  The beauty of it is that it doesn’t have to be a continuous operation though.  In fact, limiting it, I’ve found to have many benefits, the first is that the general foul smell is limited to a brief period and limited area and second that my ‘supply’ of rot is able to accumulate to a sizable portion prior to utilization for a larger maggot harvest.  A production run may only last a little over a  week, as that is typically the length of time for flies to find the rot, mate, lay eggs and for the maggots to grow to nearly full sized larvae.  The maggots can be fed immediately to the chickens or the surplus maggots can then be stored by blanching and drying until needed.  No refrigeration is required.

As a side note, the same smell of decay that attracted the flies will attract other animals and rodents as well.  Capturing them and integrating them into the rot bait rotation is relatively self sustaining process.  Keep in mind that rodent populations boom normally in the wake of catastrophic events.  Reducing their population is always a wise task, and integrating them into your food supply system even better one.  While I’m sure that I could consume the occasional raccoon, possum, rat or mouse I’d rather utilize them as rot bait, so that isn’t a delicacy I ever have to try.

[JWR Adds: Needless to say, consult your local ordinances before considering establishing a maggotry. If cycled properly, no flies will hatch and fly out of your maggotry. The life cycle is interrupted and a "full kill" (typically by incineration) is done before each fly hatch, and a new maggot batch is started. I must preemptively state that before you write to complain about this gentleman's maggotry suggestion keep in mind that this advice is given with the assumption that proper cycling and properly-timed full kills are accomplished.]

Container Gardening
One of the fastest ways to transform your home into a homestead is by containerized gardening.  Stocking up on several bags of peat, top soil, manure, potting mix etc, takes up surprising little room in a storage shed, is rather inexpensive and will be on hand and ready when you are, as are a large number of commercial nursery pots, their associative carrying trays and watering pans. 

The benefits of container gardening are multi-fold from a growing stand point; a strong measure of control over soil conditions (pre-purchased potting soil), vastly reduces the risk of plant diseases, pests, weed control, water usage, plant management ability, tight space utilization, transportability of the plants, extendibility of the grow out season (move them indoors) and requires a minimal amount of specialized tools and equipment, typically only a few hand tools.   As importantly, almost all ages and sexes can participate, not just strong bodied farm hands (think delegation). 

The most important benefit is that they can be started, indoors and away from prying eyes and moved about as needed, indoors or out.  This will be critical until regional security stabilizes.  

Nursery trays stacked up vertically on racks, in book case fashion, or in nursery bleachers takes up little room and the majority of your starter crops can get all the sunlight they need from a few windows.  Utilizing the same principals seedling grow pots will take up more volume, but by selecting crops that would minimize grow out volume, will produce more plants per window space.  In this regard small root vegetable crops like garlic, carrots and onions are an excellent choice, as are leafy greens. 

It will be important to divide window allocation between plant nursery operations, seedling grow out space, and high value plant grow out space (plants that would attract attention outdoors, like tomatoes.   One of the major benefits of having a plant nursery and seedling grow out system established is that new seedlings can immediately replace harvested outdoor vegetables and a system of rapid successive planting can be enacted, but also by having crops in succession you don’t noticeably transform a given area, by leaving freshly turned soil or by having a mass planting, thus calling attention to it.

Into the Open
 The majority of the outdoor crops should be small, low profile and lacking readily identifiable silhouettes and are nutritionally dense; root vegetables, such as potatoes, garlic, onions and carrots, are ideal which also can be readily grown in quantities throughout a suburban yard without drawing attention, and when harvested can be combined to make nourishing soups, stews and stocks or dried for storage.  The planting of these crops should avoid neat rows, regular patterns or formal concentrations.  They should be grown in the same manner and spaces that weeds would emerge from; along the side of the house, fence lines, shrub lines, former flower beds, pots etc…  basically anywhere they would be concealed and not looking like a crop.

In this regard, potatoes should make up the bulk of your root crop as it will be the largest producer and nutritionally dense food source and can be started indoors and transported outdoors after the seedlings have grown to about a foot in size.  Medium trash cans and open top barrels work well as containers for potatoes, but various methods should be employed so as not to call attention to the uniformity of cultivation, and hide the fact that it is a crop.    

For the most part, the large open expanses of lawn will have to go fallow, until localized security measures are reasonably in place, and is why I would stay away from planting grain crops, as they take up a tremendous amount of space, are difficult to conceal and are immediately recognizable as acts of cultivation, which will draw further scrutiny and unwanted attention.  I would also refrain from utilizing any portion of the front or side yards that are visible from the street.  Even if the plants are well camouflaged and positioned, you can still tip off their location or more importantly your efforts by showcasing your labor efforts- people with no food, don’t normally carry watering cans about.   

The Value of Good Herbs
A shadowing relationship to any garden crop is the inclusion of culinary herbs and spices that will enhance the flavors and seasoning of the staple foods.  Planning for, and doing so in appreciable volume will make the difference between choking down a meal and actually enjoying the nutritional value, especially if it’s a frequently reoccurring element.

Most people would not recognize growing herbs, as a valued food source, so in a time of crisis these can be grown rather openly and in volume, as long as they are situated to appear as weed over growth, to which many readily appear.  By mix planting root vegetables and herbs together it is possible to break up the massing of any single crop and effectively camouflage the overall activity.  Furthermore having large single groupings of Rosemary, Thyme, Marjoram, Sage, Oregano, Cilantro and Parsley, clustered in recesses, nooks, corners etc, will appear as major weed outcroppings and will likely go undetected. 

it sounds sad, but you can really learn something of value by observing the worst kept yard in your neighborhood, where at the fringes of maintenance weeds encroach and start to work at the seams of what’s being ignored.  The key is to learn and to apply those elements intentionally with food sources.    

Minimizing the Transition
The emphasis of the Homestead Movement is adopting a sustainable, self-sufficient lifestyle and by combining that with some of the best elements of the Survivalist movement you have an integrated life style that you can enjoy the benefits today and live a very similar one in times of deep drama.  Planning a homestead for survival is vastly more complicated than just growing food or setting up a garden, it requires a real understanding of the context in which you may have to survive.  Anticipating what that context is to be like, evaluating what you have at your disposal and understanding how those elements could work for you, will leave you in a vastly better position to not only survive, but thrive.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I just found your blog and want to thank you and all the like minded individuals who post to it. I have never thought of myself as a "survivor" or as most on here seem to prefer, "prepper". I just always thought of myself as a collector of knowledge much to my wife’s annoyance. I can’t help it, I just like to learn different things.

For one of the most recent "hobbies" I’ve been researching and learning about Quality Deer Management (QDM). I don’t know if this has been brought up before now, I’m still going through the archives, but I see where this would be a benefit to preppers.

In QDM, the goal is to assist Whitetail deer reach their maximum potential. This involves everything from harvesting does, passing on young bucks, removing predators, planting food plots, creating watering and mineral sites, creating sanctuaries and enhancing natural food sources.

In helping the deer, you also help turkeys, quail, rabbits, hogs and many other game and non-game animals and birds. How this would help a prepper is obvious.

Removing predators increases game species plus puts meat in the pot.

Planting food plots pull more game onto the property plus some of the food plots are edible by humans.

Creating watering sites gives the prepper additional water sources and possible fishing sites.

Mineral sites pull more game onto the property.

Sanctuaries would be great places for long term caches.

Enhancing natural food sources increases the amount and quality of foraged foods.

One other benefit to the prepper is it gives them a cover story to tell the neighbors as to why all the enhancements to the property.

A great source of information on QDM is the official Quality Deer Management Association’s web site.

That’s my pre-1983 penny’s worth for now but got a question for you and your readers.

Thanks - Okie in Muskogee

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hello Jim:
For supper tonight we are having a meal made with ingredients that I gathered from our place, with the exception of the meat which was purchased. I put a smoked ham hock in the crock pot over night. I also soaked some leather breeches (dried green beans) and some horticultural beans over night. These were added to the crock pot this morning along with a couple of hands full of ramps that I had dug yesterday and a couple of hands full of dandelion greens that Abigail had picked last week. Lastly some red potatoes from our garden last year were added.

Abigail will make some of her most excellent corn bread (made from Bloody Butcher corn that we raised) to go along with the meat and greens. The point of this short note is that I feel that people should make every effort to get out of the habit of eating out of the box (yes pun intended) and start now to look at some self sufficient ways of feeding themselves. Eating high quality tasty meals, I might add.

I would also like to put a plug in for one of our favorite training facilities. The faculty at Tactical Defense Institute (TDI) have been training citizens, swat teams, and military on their 186 acre campus for 15 years. Located in southern Ohio, John Benner and his crew conduct classes almost year round. Abigail and I have been able to attend almost half of the classes available and plan to take 3 more this year. If anyone is planning on doing any training TDI is right up there with the top training facilities in the nation. This is not just my opinion but many others. Last year SWAT magazine did an article about one of the carbine classes that we were taking. We have even run into some fellow preppers at some of the classes. We truly a great time and a real learning experience.

Yours truly, - John & Abigail Adams

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Today there seems to be any number of reasons for the average American to turn the corner towards preparedness and being self-reliant.  Back in 1993, I would have been able to give you just as many reasons based on my observations through the 1980s.  Not surprisingly there are twice as many reasons for the average man to not start around that corner.  The reasons I have heard the most include the cost factor and objections to living so primitively.  Simply put: today's average American is too poor and soft to endure hardships like camping, physical labor, and no TV.  These were the same objections we had to overcome and did.

My wife and I woke up one day in 1993 and realized that our children (ages 2-10-10-12) were being raised by godless leftists in the government schools and on television.  We muddled through the rest of the school year and tossed out the television.  Instead, Renee quit her job to homeschool all of our boys. This was decided over several weeks and Renee had some doubts as to her ability, but in the end she made the commitment and I committed to supporting her as best I could. We chose to use the A Beka books for most of the curriculum. Having made this decision, it was about a year later that we realized the taxes we were paying went to very few services we used.   This started me down the path of finding a rural home with lower taxes and more opportunity to raise animals and a garden. We had envisioned a log home on a mountainside sloping to a meadow with a river running through. Right about then I lost my job.  It had been our plan to make these changes with the money I had from my income in the building industry but losing the job certainly put a damper on the plans.

Not wanting to continue with the old ways, we pushed forward. As it happened, I lost my job in the spring of 1993. That summer we sold almost everything we owned at the local flea market. Sometimes we were just exchanging things. A lawnmower for a grain mill, a bedroom set for a rifle, but for the most part we saved as much as we could. Selling the house didn't bring any real money to the table and what we did have was soon spent on a used school bus ($1,500) that was going to carry us all west to our promised land.  I rigged a tow bar behind our bus for our Jeep and one day in the fall with four boys, two dogs, and less than $3,000 we headed west.

I could write a chapter on our adventure/nightmare traveling but I’ll save that for another time. With less than $500 left, we ended up in northern Arizona in early January 1994. We had picked up a GP Medium tent with an arctic liner and set it up for the first time during a snow storm at a campsite in the national forest. Seeing a concrete picnic table at one site, it was my thought that we should place the tent over the table so we could have the comfort of the table inside. Seemed like a good idea to me. After directing the boys at holding the tent posts for about an hour we finally had the tent set up. My notion of enjoying the table was soon lost when Renee pointed out that the cold concrete table and benches just sucked the heat right out of us as we sat.  Live and learn.

We learned fast and within a few months, my boys and I could set up a GP Medium with liner and two woodstoves quicker than a company of soldiers. Staying in the national forest (with a 14-day maximum stay) saved us what little money we had left. It also helped that we had more privacy in the forest. It turned out that we always seemed to have a crowd gather around when we set up camp. The GP Medium tent is 16’ x 32’ in size and I guess seeing a man and four boys set it up was worth watching. After the work was done and the stoves were burning we’d often have someone knocking at the door post. Sometimes it was another survivalist living in the forest looking for a home cooked meal and sometimes it was just the curious having never seen a tent that big. 

One day while in the forest at a camp we had just set up. I told Renee that I was headed into the woods to do my business. I found a spot over a small hill and a stand of boulders from the site. It was private enough and there was a nice view of a small canyon just another 20 feet away. I was in the position with my paper and trowel in the ready, just enjoying the beauty of the canyon and forest. As I was there I got the strange feeling I was being watched. It really bothered me to the point I had to start scanning the surrounding area to see who was there.  As I looked across the canyon I saw a large timber wolf standing still and staring right at me.  I quickly jumped up and pulled up my jeans, turning just in time to see the wolf jump off the edge of the canyon and head towards me. Leaving my paper and trowel behind as I leapt over the stand of boulders, I saw the wolf crest my side of the canyon and knew it would be on me in an instant. Not turning back again I ran into our camp yelling, “Wolf! Wolf! Get my gun!”  Renee was at the tent door with my GP100 as I reached her. I grabbed the gun and turned expecting to see the wolf, but there was nothing. Once Renee and the boys stopped laughing at my adventure I vowed not to leave camp again without my sidearm.  Later, a ranger came by our camp to log our stay. I asked him about the wolf and was told he was a regular to that part of the forest and wouldn’t hurt anyone. Right.

Renee was the first to find work and I took up keeping the camp, cooking meals, schooling the boys, and seeking a place to start our home. 
It didn't take long to find affordable land in Arizona. The boys and I hiked for many miles on an old ranch land until we found a 50-acre place in the middle of an old 60,000 acre ranch. It was a bit larger than a ¼ mile square and had several good house sites. Further, it was "for sale by owner" and I was able to negotiate a "delayed settlement", "owner financing", and the "right to occupy".
This allowed us to set up camp on the property and save enough money to make the down payment in four months. Not having to deal with breaking camp every two weeks was a great feeling. The boys got extra freedom to wander and I could put in more permanent fixtures at our camp. We soon sold the bus and bought an old pickup truck along with a trailer for hauling water to our property.
Renee continued working while I kept up with the boys and started planning our house. Once we settled on the property, I started cutting the best looking junipers for the post foundation of our cabin.  I had found a solid outcrop of rock just below a cow path along one of the hillsides near the center of the land.  I dug down only a few inches to expose the rock that would support the cabin. Not having to dig any farther down than that, I placed the chainsaw cut juniper tree posts right down on the rock and started the house. Almost every weekend the boys and I spent searching for materials for the ranch cabin.
For the most part we used what we could off the land in timber and stone and paid cash for the rest. We were lucky to have found a saw mill close by. It was an old mill and the owner knew what he was doing. He sold us all the rough-cut ponderosa pine we could haul at a time.  

Once under roof we began our search for a woodstove. This was one of my biggest concerns. Renee had given me specific details on what was acceptable after many burned fingers and smoking pot holders. The stoves we had been using in the tent were the standard GI issue stoves. When they burned they burned hot, sometimes cherry red.  They were also not an airtight stove that would keep a fire all night unattended. And while they were relatively affordable, the stove we now needed was always expensive.  One day while in the big city 75 miles away from our ranch, I noticed a metal recycling scrap yard. High on a pile of iron was the stove I had been looking for! It was a Timberland Double Door with a large flat top surface suitable for cooking on! This was God looking out for Renee (or me). I was ready to drop a large sum of money on this right there. To my surprise, they only wanted the going rate of scrap iron per pound (less the weight of the fire bricks) for the perfect stove.  We later added a kitchen addition to the cabin with a standing pilot propane oven but the Timberland stayed on as the primary heat source for the home.

While building we used the water trailer as our water storage as well. Once the cabin was finished Renee hinted that she wanted running water in the kitchen sink. Being off grid with no well I had to come up with a workable solution.  We bought a 2,500 gallon water tank at a ranch supply store. Placing this tank on the hill where the bottom was above the height of the kitchen faucet I ran 2” pipe off the tank to the outside wall of the kitchen.  This gave us excellent water pressure to the faucet entirely gravity flow. Hot water for showers and dishes was heated by both the woodstove and the kitchen propane stove. Later, we added a propane instant water heater to the system.

Showers were accomplished in a shower house we built off the cabin. A wood decked walkway off the rear led to a small building with deck floors and a hook at the ceiling. At first we had a canvas military water bag with a large daisy shower head. The heated water was carried out and poured into the bag. We could take as long a shower as two gallons of hot water would allow. 

Being "off-grid" meant that, aside from the chainsaw, the boys and I were using only hand tools to build our home.  We could not afford solar power or generators until much later and for the most part we lived as early Americans did. We worked during the day, slept at night, used oil lamps when needed, heated with a woodstove, and had an outhouse for you know what. The only real luxuries we enjoyed those first years were a propane grill and our portable radio.  For nighttime entertainment as a family we listened to the AM radio shows. The boys enjoyed listening to KFI out of Los Angeles and their Radio Classics like The Shadow and The Jack Benny Show. During the day we hunted, killed rattlesnakes, and searched for arrowheads.

At one point Renee quit working and took up running the ranch while I worked locally where ever I could. Renee started a small garden that kept us in tomatoes and peppers to cook up with the average 18 eggs a day that our 24 chickens gave us. Her 30 goats supplied enough milk for everyone and all the cheese we could eat.

As the money came in we added on and upgraded and eventually got to solar panels and a generator. We even had one of the first satellite uplinks for Internet connection from our off-grid ranch.
It should be said that our sons are all men now. Two of them still live out west after going to local universities and the oldest is now out of the US Army, having gone to West Point. Our choices were not always the right choice but they were ours to own. I am proud of the job my wife did homeschooling our sons and while three of them do not actively live a survivalist’s life, they all know how to.

We are still survivalists. We sold our ranch and moved back east several years ago after staying out west for about 14 years. It became clear to us that water is everything for survival and the west has too many water issues. The ranch sold quickly to a California family looking to get out of their situation and into a better life. The lessons we learned have made us stronger and more ready to take on what's coming. The funds from the sale of our ranch bought us a 100-acre mountain farm sloping to a meadow with a river running through. Renee and our youngest son helped finish a modest cabin with solar power, and as soon as I can I'll be building that log home we had envisioned.

Friday, April 2, 2010

I always assumed that I would relax when I retired from my life’s vocation. I have now retired from working; however, there is no relaxation. As I absorb the news of the day my other life long avocation, family survival preparedness, continues to plague my mind. The current probability of a societal collapse looms ever closer.

I am sure everyone concerned about their family’s safety understands the problems in America . I have been preparing for over 50 years to self sufficient that my family, including children and grand children, would have the ability to survive hard time and hunger.

However, something has happened the last few years that is going mostly unrecognized by family survivalist and all other patriots for that matter. The game has changed! The rules of preparedness are being radically altered, it is imperative to understand the course change. America has shifted from a legal nation to an empire (check your law dictionary).

It is true that my family has been relatively successful over the years in family survival preparedness. We met or surpassed the survival goals set 40 years ago. Suddenly, in the past few years, the game rules have changed causing a change in thinking and direction of survival planning.

We purchased an 1,100-acre ranch (very inexpensively), located on the high desert of the southwest region of the US in 1978. It has a small stream through it and a several hundred gallon per hour spring on the canyon wall. It was ideal for the purpose of survival. I took a full year off work and relocated the family from the city. It was an exciting time of our lives. We lived in a tent at first, until we had built something more substantial in which to live.

My wife had some funny female idea that the babies should take a bath every day; I can still see, in my mind, my 4 and 5 year old girls carrying their little buckets of water from the stream to heat over an open fire so they could meet Mother’s requirement of cleanliness. In the beginning, we washed clothes in an open washtub with water heated over an open fire.

Slowly, we built up a comfortable home that was self-sustaining; it was an evolutionary process that occupied several years. I first placed several 50-gallon barrels on the canyon wall and by mid afternoon, there was ample very hot water for bathing and washing clothes.

The spring was diverted into a six-inch pipe, by the time it dropped a few hundred feet down the canyon wall, we had 140-psi water pressure. We irrigate an entire acre at one time with a ‘big bird’ sprinkler. Of course, that really made the big house livable, once you get water under pressure it is a whole new world for the family.

There were several years of experimenting with water turbines for electricity, however, the cost of installation and maintenance soon become obvious, and that was abandoned in favor a 5 kilowatt motor generator. That became the standby for washing clothes and charging batteries in the winter. Of course, the most efficient rig is a diesel motor generator but that too is expensive in upfront cost and long-term maintenance. A propane driven generator is great to have also, but the escalating cost of propane has proven the old standby gas motor generator proves the most efficient.

Now, under the new rules of survival the possibility of gas, diesel, and propane disappearing is high, so we must think sideways. If you can get the water under a little pressure you can improvise a ‘home grown’ water turbine generator rigged from a purchase ‘Pelton’ wheel and truck alternators. It works well, but requires a lot of attention and the alternator wears down rapidly. Design the system where you can change that component easily.

Over the years, we built up a large solar system that provides the power for the house. In addition, satellite television has become the rage. That is a real blessing for the family. Then we developed the satellite Internet, which expanded our educational and information horizons tremendously. Out here, on the desert solar power is the best way to go, however, the weak link is the batteries. They are expensive and require a lot of attention.

That leaves wind power. Actually, it was not a hard decision; wind is not a player on the desert. But perhaps you will be in a more advantageous location. Wind is good, but it is also very expensive up front and wind turbines have to be maintained continually.

We have several fruit trees matured and producing. We have built up several acres of garden area.

Without the distractions of the city we immediately began home schooling all the children. It was the best thing that every happened. The children did not have to fight their way to and from public school. There were no drugs or teachers unions demanding more money and less work.

I ran out of money at the end of the first year, as expected, so it was time to go back to work. I encountered instant rebellion; no one wanted to return to the city. We had a house with all the amenities of a city home. The result was that I went back to work in the city alone, the family remained on the desert ranch. That was a wonderful decision.

Analytically speaking it was a good project, even the home schooling went well. One on my younger sons is now almost through medical school. We, of course, would never cater to the AMA doctrines but still we needed a doctor in the family so he is becoming a doctor to get AMA teaching plus natural healing concepts. Another son is about half way through his bachelor’s degree, I expect him to become a computer scientist and follow in his father footsteps.

All the children are successful hard workers, attributable to living and working away from the corruption of the city. As far as education goes, I cannot imagine any parent turning their precious children over to such a corrupt system, one that will most certainly turn them into ‘functional illiterates’.

The children are grown now and I have a bevy of grandchildren wanting to go the ranch. And, that brings us to the immediate problem. We did what we did because of our desire to be free and raise our children outside the non-Christian society of the cities. I always had in the back of my mind the possibility of a survival crisis of some sort, however, I was able to function in society as it stood and stands to this point.

I have always been a student of history and eschatology and, believe me; something has changed in our country and society almost overnight. I will not bore you with details of the analysis but please be assured we are the verge of national crash that is going to rival the Roman Empire crash. It is going to happen! Do not believe me, take the time to study and read, your conclusion will most assuredly be the same as mine.

With that in mind, may I make a few suggestion learned from many years of playing this survival games. I think it will surprise some of you.

This crisis is going to be far too severe and to long to get through on your food storage alone. Whoa, does that shock you? Study and think about it for a few moments. It is true you must have as much food storage as possible, but that will not be enough! You will not be able to store enough food to get through the upcoming holocaust. You must have non-hybrid seeds stored away. They will be worth their weight in gold and you will need them to feed your family. You must have enough hard storage to survive a year or so until you can get a family garden going.

I will go so far as to say this, right now, this year start a family garden. If you live in a home, dig up the yard and learn how to grow a garden. If you do not have dirt immediately available, find a spot. Talk to your neighbors, look to you community for a garden spot. If you are close enough to the country, go find a farmer and cut a garden deal. The important thing is to put some seeds in the ground. Growing food in an acquired education and you are going to need to know how to feed your family when your food supply is gone.

Start educating yourself, stay current on news. The people that intend to destroy this country are becoming very arrogant, they sense victory is near. Turn off your sports television, put down your can of beer and learn to read the news, they are telling us in advance, what they are going to do.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Chemistry.  Say the word, and the average survivalist might cringe.  It brings up memories of a boring teacher in high school, or images of mad scientist lab with all sorts of beakers and tubes and glassware or long complicated formulas with strange symbols.

In reality, chemistry can help every survivalist have an ace up their sleeve. It’s just a matter of knowing a few tricks of the trade.  You don’t have to know how to build a rifle to fire it well, or how to run a large farm to have a garden.  It’s a matter of fundamentals, of simple things right there in front of your eyes.

Safety Proviso: This information is provided for educational purposes only.  While this information is scientifically sound, any experimentation with chemicals is dangerous. Any attempt to use this information is at your own risk and I take no liability or responsibility for your actions.

There has been talk in SurvivalBlog and in books about some aspects of this idea from articles about stills and making your own drinking alcohol to biodiesel.  You can read about soap making, and learn about lye.  But, what is left out is, where are you going to get the materials to do these things?  All of these articles presume a level of social collapse or destruction to put you or your group on a high self sufficiency level, not a 2 weeks and we get back to normal production situation, but do not take the next step to help the average survivalist find what they need.

For the purpose of this article, I create the following scenario:  You and your group have emerged from the initial danger period.  The looters have for the most part been driven off, gone away, died off, or are not a high level threat.  But, there will be no normal level of resupply or production for any foreseeable future if at all.  And while stores have been looted, there may still be a number of valuable items to look for, if you know what they are and what you can do with them and it is assumed you don’t have any of these items on hand.  Now is the time for a forage party to head out.

The first thing to look for is the “tools“ of the trade, starting with a still. A still is key for making drinking alcohol, along with its use in distilling water.  You can find plans for all types in many survival articles and books, but for this purpose I will keep it as simple as I can, literally.  Yes, a standard #10 juice can opened in the traditional manner by a “church key” leaving a triangular opening on each side.  Next you need a number of items that if you find them, take as many as you can carry.  First is a metal tube.  You’ll find one, if no place else, in any electric percolator in any looted store.  No one would take one of those.  Next is a little trickier.  You need a candy thermometer. Odds are no looter wanted one of them and you’ll find it in your housewares section of a number of store chains.  Now, look for rubber tubing with the inside diameter to fit over the metal tube. This you can find at the auto section or an auto supply store.  Do NOT use them from any vehicle as they have carried in them poisonous materials.  Lastly, you need a child’s toy plastic bucket, or if nothing like that can be found, the bottom of an empty bleach bottle.

Assembly is easy.  Place whatever is to be distilled inside the can. (Picking up a few funnels along the way wouldn’t hurt any.)  Cut the metal tube to a 2 inch piece. Put the rubber tubing over 1 inch of the tubing.  Place in the other triangular opening so that the rubber tubing seals it also.  Now, the placement of the candy thermometer will vary with the type.  If it is a spike/dial version, plug the one triangular opening with a cork, or piece of doubled rubber tubing, and stick the thermometer directly through the can lid. If it is a board mounted type, remove it from the board, insert through a 1 inch piece of the rubber tubing and place in the triangular opening so that you can see the 200 degree mark.  If you are using a gallon bleach bottle, cut the bottle at the point where the neck meets the bottom.  Save the top part; it also is useful as a large funnel. With either container, make an x cut in the side about ¼ inch from the bottom a little smaller than the outside diameter of your rubber hose. With one end of the rubber hose attached to the can, push the other end through from the inside; the hose will seal the hole. Coil the rest of the hose in the container. Add water for cooling.  The water need not be drinkable.  Put the can over your heat source, be it a grill, a wood fire, or a camp stove burner.  Plan on making different stills for different purposes, as some will be for items you will consume, such as water or drinking alcohol, others will be for poisonous, but useful items.

In the pet supply section, look for an air stone used in aquariums. It is a short tube that leads into a porous stone end.  Take any plastic tubing and connections there are.  If you find any coffee filters--the ones used in the coffee makers--buy as many as you can, as well as any Pyrex measuring cups and glass bowls you can get. And from the hardware or automotive section, try to find a pair of goggles or a face shield.

While there are even more items to be found for your “lab“, these will do for the purposes of what you are about to make.

As it has been written about in numerous places, you can make your own alcohol. But fermenting a “mash” out of various scrap items and yeast takes practice. While you are getting the hang of it, you need not go without.  Even if you and your group don’t drink, alcohol has many other uses from medicinal to trade goods and is an ingredient in biodiesel also.  So then, where to get it?
The looters would have stripped any liquor from any bar, or store. But, if you go to your dollar type discount store and check out the back storage area, odds are you will find a case or two of cheap mouthwash which is about 20% drinking alcohol (40 proof give or take). This means a pint (16oz) is about 3 oz of somewhere near 180 proof. Add that 3 oz to 5 oz of water and you have 8 oz of somewhere near 60-70 proof.  If you use a quart of cheap mouthwash, you can get a pint.  Remember this is “meatball” chemistry; we don’t try for anything near lab standards. 

But, how do you get it? Ah, to the still! Add the mouthwash, and place over the heat source. The trick here is to get the mouthwash to about 200 degrees F., so the raw alcohol evaporates but not 212 degrees, so the water does not . Depending on your heat source, this can be done a number of ways, usually using blocks or bricks to get the right level.  Use a measuring cup on the other end to receive the fluid and stop when you get near 3 oz. for the pint and 6 oz per quart. (Add 10 oz of water for the 6 oz)

Now in soap making, you’ll find lye mentioned. It is also an ingredient in biodiesel making. So then, how to get it?

The first place to look is in the drain cleaner area of the stores and look for cans marked LYE.  Wear rubber gloves in case the cans or containers have been broken open as lye will severely burn the skin.  But, if for some reason you can’t find any lye, you can revert back to the pioneer days.  Take wood ash, place in a non metal bucket or your bottom of the bleach bottle after you first make your x like for the still, and place a short 2 inch piece of rubber tubing in it.  Then pour 2 quarts of water, clear but not necessarily drinkable, in from the top.  Use a plastic bucket to receive the fluid that comes out.  This will be lye, so treat it with respect!

Even this method has its limits, as there may not be that much wood ash available after the first two or three productions.  What then??  Well it’s time to go “shopping” to your nearest building supply center.  What you are looking for is lime, also known as slaked lime or hydrated lime.  You will find it in as large as 50 lbs bags, and I doubt any looter would have touched it.  If none is there, you can use quicklime.  Then it’s off to your various stores, especial your dollar type discount store.  What you are looking for is plain washing soda (Sodium Carbonate or Sodium Bicarbonate).  There are a number of store brands along with the familiar name brands.  Look around now so will recognize it later.  Take all you can find.

With your rubber gloves, and your goggles or face shield on, you are ready to mix the ingredients.  If you use quicklime, you have to mix it with an equal part of water first.   BE CAREFUL! This mix gives off a fair amount of heat.  Mix the lime and washing soda together with an equal amount of water, example 1 cup lime or quicklime in water + 1 cup washing soda + 2 cups water (1 cup if you have used the quicklime/ water mix) in a large 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup.  Heat slightly while stirring.  Once the lime, washing soda, and water are well mixed, there will be created a liquid (Lye) and a solid (Calcium Carbonate).  Using an empty, clean plastic milk jug and a funnel lined with a coffee filter, slowly pour the mix in.  The filter paper will trap the solid, which you can let dry and store in any glass jar with a lid.  Using this method on a large scale you can get a lot more yield than by wood ash.

Last, but never least, is liquid bleach.  For a time it will be generally plentiful and available, but what then?  Once more we go “shopping” for the two items we need.  The first is sold under the trade name Saniflush, and can be found almost in every store in the drain cleaner section.  There are others also that can be used, but you can spot this one right off.  Next is a variety of powdered bleaches or pool chemicals that have chlorine in them.  With your rubber gloves on, mix one cup Saniflush in an equal amount of water in a 2 cup Pyrex measuring cup.  BE CAREFUL, this also heats up.  Pour it into a clean plastic milk jug.  Get a cork from an old wine bottle, clean it and make a hole in it for a plastic tube.  You can use the tube from a plastic eye dropper with the dropper end cut off.  Then, take your rubber hose and add to one end your air stone, and put the other on the plastic tube.  Place the air stone end into a small plastic tub.  Put into the tub a mix of 9 parts water to 1 part lye.  Now, carefully crush the pool tablets into a fine powder, or use already powdered bleach and with a clean funnel add one cup to the Saniflush mix.  QUICKLY cork the jug as the chlorine gas is immediately released!  The gas will bubble up into the lye water creating bleach.  As this is “meatball “ chemistry, it will be a lot stronger that your regular store bleach.

Now you have some “building blocks“ to play with.  With your lye, you can now make soap if you have the animal fat.  You can also experiment with a form of biodiesel with the lye, alcohol and old cooking oils.  Then, there is an important item you can make easily.  Take one part bleach and one part alcohol and simmer in an open container, such as an old pot.  No cover will be needed but be careful of the fumes.  This should be done in the open or with plenty of ventilation.  Let it heat until you can see some small surface stirring, but do NOT let it boil. Continue for 5 minutes.  The result is Chloroform, valuable in many emergency medical situations.

In summation, there are many usable items overlooked in the survival area because of the belief that you have to be a chemist to know, use or make them. While there are many articles on homemade explosives, there are fewer on non-weapon improvised chemical uses.  Used C and D batteries, for example, can provide a number of valuable chemicals.  For those of you who would like to learn more, I refer you to The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments, a book written for an 8th grade level reader, now out of print, but available as a download on eBay and other sources.

It has been said, your mind is your primary weapon for survival; feed it with basic useful knowledge.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I’m fairly new to SurvivalBlog but now it’s an every day read. I wanted to write and share my own journey of preparedness with you and your readers. After living with three and a half million people for about 22 years, a move to the country was long over due. I made the decision to get out of the city back in 1999, when I starting to take things a bit more seriously with all of the talk about Y2K. I was really hoping that something would have happened back then so I could test my skills at being prepared for it. I fear that those skills will be tested in the not too distant future none-the-less. Like you, I grew up in the age of bomb shelters and the threat of nuclear attack. My father was a member of the Civil Defense and I remember a small book that he gave me that showed how to build a fallout shelter in your basement. I always wished he would have done that but it never happened. What a great little fort that would have made for me and my brother, more on that later.

Anyway, I have wanted to live in the mountains since I was 12 years old so I headed out to the Rockies in search of a good bug out spot. I found just the right spot out in the middle of nowhere, 36 acres off a dirt road with the nearest Wal-Mart on the other side of the mountain range. It took another 5 or 6 years to actually be able to make the move. I was fortunate enough to start dating a like minded gal before the move and the minute we started talking about bug out bags and storing food, I knew I found myself a winner. We sold most of my furniture and put my home up for sale and were finally able to make the big move to our retreat property and start getting things situated.

Since we settled down we have been able to stock up on about two years worth of food, medical supplies, gasoline and diesel etc. To date we’ve put up about a ½ ton of wheat and a ½ a ton of corn, beans and rice. More than enough for us and enough to share with those that haven’t or couldn’t do it on their own. I love making things from scratch, so owning a welding and fabricating business has been a huge blessing as we are able to make most anything right here in the shop. And those things don’t necessarily have to be made from metal. We’ve been able to fabricate everything from a well water retrieval bucket made of pvc to our own colloidal silver generator to our bio diesel processing set-up. We converted an old exercise bike into a pedal powered grain grinder and I’ve made a lead melting pot so we can pour our own ammo and start loading it once we set up a loader. We have made a solar oven, solar air heaters for the roof of the shop and will be putting together a solar hot water heater real soon.

The shop has a small lathe, mill, drill press, cutting torch set up, MIG, TIG, Arc, and Plasma machines with two generators, sheet metal bender, notcher, roller, English Wheel and a ton of various hand tools. The hand tools will be a real important part of the operation when there is no more power from the grid and the gas for the generators runs out. We’ll be putting together a Faraday shielded box for some of our electronics in case of an EMP. In this box we will store a spare computer set up, radios, walkie talkies and anything with a circuit board that we don’t want to do without. Granted, the Internet may become a thing of the past but we have a lot of valuable information stored on hard drives and discs, we’re talking thousands of pages of info, and if we have a working computer, then we can access that info when needed.

Speaking of information, our survival library is currently at over 75 books, so at least some of our information is accessible without a computer. A few of the books and magazines that I would personally recommend would be “Dare To Prepare” by Holly Deyo, "The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It” by John Seymour, The Foxfire Book Series and The Mother Earth News magazine.

Every library should have books on gardening, first aid, holistic medicines and any skills that you might consider learning. It could be hunting or fishing or re-loading ammo or carpentry, canning, raising livestock or whatever peaks your interest. ‘Never stop learning’ is a good motto to hold on to. We try to learn something new every day. And this blog is a great way to do that.

We’ve been able to put in a huge garden, two greenhouses and I take a deer right off the land each year to put in the freezer. Moving here really has been a dream come true. Many of our friends here in the mountains feel the same way as we do about what the future holds and it amazes us as to how many people are getting ready for what’s to come. And yet we only discuss it with a select few from our church.

We have always felt that this was our bug out retreat since we left the hordes, but lately we’ve been wondering what we would do if we had to bug out of here. So, as soon as the ground thaws this spring, we start the next big project, an underground bunker. Dug into the side of our mountain, it will be made out of cinder blocks with the roof made out of ½” thick channel iron, since we just happen to have a bunch of that laying around. Then the entire thing will be buried under about 2 or 3’ of soil and will have two steel doors and even a periscope that I’ve made out of two 90-degree fittings and a couple of mirrors that we found at the hobby store. That way we will at least have a small view of the outside world if we have to hunker down for an extended period of time. Our biggest problem will be concealing everything with the proper camouflage, the tube that the periscope will be housed in, a solar panel to help keep the battery charged, a wire antenna for a radio and one of the steel doors will all be outside of the shelter. I‘m enjoying the other posts on this site of other shelters and would like to see more folks write in with their ideas. There are some pretty talented folks on this site.

My father has been a Ham for as long as I can remember and before too long I will be getting my Ham radio license and that will be another big asset for this whole effort. We’ll even try to install a transceiver in the shelter so we can keep in touch with the outside world.

I’ve read quite a bit on this site about obtaining skills for when TSHTF and couldn’t agree more. One of the first things I did when we got settled in was to join the local Search & Rescue team and Volunteer fire dept. and not long ago I got involved in a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). The training that I’ve received from each of these has been invaluable. Skills like wilderness first aid, CPR, rock climbing, rope rescue techniques, evacuation, firefighting, use of radio and much more. It takes a lot of personal time but I urge others to make the commitment and learn as much as they can. Being involved in these organizations might also give us a heads up with some advanced information and that could come in real handy.

Another thing we’ve done here is to load up a number of six gallon buckets with all sorts of items that we might need if we had to evacuate the house for some reason. These buckets hold some emergency supplies like food, bottled water, meds, blankets, tarps, rope, fire starters, gloves, socks, knife, flashlight, spare batteries and a small Sterno stove to heat water with. It’s amazing how much stuff you can cram into a six gallon bucket if you do it right. These buckets are buried strategically throughout the property. We keep the locations handy so we can get to the nearest bucket, dig it up and at least have some supplies to work with. In each bucket taped to the lids are the locations of the other buckets. Chances are pretty slim that anyone would find any of the caches by accident, being that all the buckets are buried on our own property and well camouflaged. All of the containers have a good seal around the lid to prevent moisture from getting in and when we bury them we have a piece of plywood cut in a circle that is an inch or two larger in diameter than the bucket. This helps keep the dirt off the lids when we need to dig them up. Each bucket is buried only a few inches below ground level and we stash a small garden shovel nearby underneath a rock, bush or by a tree trunk to make it easier to get the buckets out in a hurry.

As far as transportation goes, we have a gas powered pick up, a diesel pickup and a 1970s-vintage Jeep that has no [microprocessor] electronics in it that would be affected by an EMP. We burn vegetable oil in the diesel during the summer months, the harsh winters here make it a bit too thick to use, even with the additives we put in to help thin it out. I would also suggest that you get a good bike for each family member, know how to tune it up, know what the most common items are that would break and how to repair them. Have the right tools to carry on the bike and know how to use them. Here in the mountains we are a long way from anything and someday a bicycle might be the fastest way to get there. But in a big pinch there is always foot power. You obviously need to have good packs that fit well and a couple of comfortable pairs of hiking boots. You also need to maintain good physical health if you plan on hoofing a lot.

We try to teach others to be prepared as well. Not necessarily for TEOTWAWKI kind of thing but for the more common ‘what if’ scenarios like bad weather, power outages etc. We feel that if we can get our family members to consider those scenarios then they will be able to use that knowledge in case things really do hit the fan. It’s pretty frustrating knowing that my loved ones will not leave the big city and are pretty clueless as to how to survive when things take a turn for the worse. All we can do is pray for them and hope that they get a clue before it’s too late.

I know some readers will be thinking that we have it made being able to have a retreat, vehicles and a business that allows us to fabricate most of the things we need. Much of the emergency items we have were purchased from yard sales and thrift stores. We also barter for a lot of items and services. No doubt we’ve been blessed but it was not easy in any sense of the word. When we first got here we lived in an old camper with no water, shower or toilet for 14 months. We started out with a bucket for a toilet until we could get a port-a-potty hauled in. That was reason for celebration! It took about a year to get our place built and has been an ongoing struggle the whole time. But it has all been worth it. Being out in the middle of nowhere, we had no idea how we would make a living. It took about two more years to make a name for ourselves in the fabricating business. But word of mouth is the best advertisement in tight knit localities like this. We depended on miracles almost every month (and still do) when we didn’t know where the money was going to come from to pay the mortgage. It was a big leap of faith moving here but that’s what we were led to do. That leads me to one more item to mention before I close and that is faith in God. As many others have stressed, getting yourself right with God is the most important thing you can do. Faith has brought us this far and we continue to build our faith as things start to look darker and darker by the day. Pray for each other for knowledge, provision, wisdom and discernment and that we’re on the other side of the fan when it finally hits!!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Dear Jim,
I'm very sorry to hear about your recent loss! God Bless!

Thank you for all the work you put into your survival blog to get the much needed word out! It is much appreciated! My wife and I live in the mountains of Western Oregon and the following is one of the defensive strategies we use that may be of interest to your readers.

A good defense from mobs for a couple living alone is bee hives. A hive of bees tipped over will attack anything that moves within 50' to 100' of the hive day or night. (maybe further) We set hives along the driveway into our house and inside of the deer fence around our house which encloses about a half acre.

At night you can extend your bees attack area by placing electric lights some distance from the hives. The bees will always fly toward the light. The lights should be individual bulbs which can be turned on to illuminate a certain area. Only light up the area where the bees are needed.

Bees are very good for blockading roads or driveways. They are very persistent. You will need bee equipment to avoid being stung: bee suit, hat, veil, gloves and boots. And you will need the bee suit to put the hives back together.

Bee hives can easily be tipped over with a rope or wire attached around the top, if they are close enough to the house or defensive position. For longer distances a piece of heavy sheet metal can be leaned against a hive and shot into with a high powered rifle. (Being careful not to destroy the hive boxes.)

Bees normally begin flying when the temperature reaches 54 degrees F. At lower temperatures they soon drop dead. Bees will fly in any temperature if their hive is tipped over but the lower the degrees the more bees you will lose. In a survival situation bees will provide you with honey and a good non-lethal defense.

You will need to study beekeeping which is very interesting. Bees can live and forage in almost any environment. The bees will also pollinate your survival garden and orchard and increase yields by 30 to 50%.

Every survivalist should be a beekeeper... for the honey and for defense... and for the fun of it. - Pete in Oregon

Saturday, November 7, 2009

So you’re convinced that the free ride is over, that things are getting worse, and when the worst happens, you want to be prepared. But you have a problem—you don’t have a lot of money for prepping and day to day living. Maybe you only make minimum wage. Maybe you make a little more than that, but you’ve got a lot of bills. Maybe you live on a fixed income, or have irregular self-employment. Regardless, don’t assume because you can’t afford expensive classes or pricey gear that WTSHTF, you’ll be unable to fend for yourself and your family. My husband and I make less than $10,000 (I’m disabled, he’s self-employed) a year, but we’ve already got a good start on skills, tools, and storage, have plans to expand, and it wasn’t difficult at all. Being on a low or fixed income can help you with a survival mindset, because you’re already used to making do with little, or having to get creative with what you have. You just have to expand what you have, a little at a time, and, before you know it, you’ve got a pretty good cache of supplies and abilities that can help you and yours no matter what comes down the pike.

Skill acquisition can be one of the easiest and cheapest things you can do to help yourself if you’re low on money. Ask family members, especially older ones, and if they could teach you these skills. Family with military backgrounds can be invaluable resources. After I found a Girl Scout survival camp wanting, I talked to my Air Force dad, and he gave me some of his old survival manuals. Friends are also good to ask for help learning things, and sometimes you can trade what you know for what you want to know. I’ve taught friends of mine simple things like gardening and cooking, in return for training in such things as knife sharpening, hand to hand combat, or camp cookery.

If you’re visually oriented, the Internet can be one of the cheapest ways to learn new skills. There are tons of things out there online that are free for the asking. Through various web sites, I’ve learned to make soap in a blender and on the stove, make apple butter, picked up free crochet and knit patterns, gotten gardening tips, and gotten advice on animal care, for a start. Plug in what you’re interested in learning into your favorite search engine and take off. It’s good to check out more than one site for certain skills, as a hedge against errors, and to expand your repertoire.

Books are another great way to teach yourself things, and you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars at the local chain bookstore, either. Check out your favorite online preparation sites and see what books they recommend, and make a list. Then hike down to your local library and see what they carry. Inter-Library Loan (ILL) can help you find books that your local city/county library system doesn’t carry. Some libraries provide this free, others charge extremely low fees (our local system charges a dollar per request, and you can request multiple books at one time). This way, you can see what books have the information you’re looking for, and which ones you would like to own. Even a book that you don’t like might help you glean some information that sends you on your way.

After checking out books at the library, you might find that there are some books you just have to own yourself, but you don’t want to pay out full price for them either. Used bookstores can be a Godsend here—I’ve managed to pick up the useful Foxfire series at local used booksellers for a quarter of the current cover prices. Auction sites such as eBay frequently sell books that are hard to find other places, and sometimes you can get whole lots of books in extremely good deals. Online book dealers often have sections for ordering used copies. I’ve used’s used services to get books like The Encyclopedia of Country Living for less than ten dollars. Talk to friends and see if you can swap books with them, and there are great places online where you can swap books all over the world for only shipping.

If you’re one of those people who learn best by doing, there are a lot of places where you can learn skills for cheap or free. A lot of my survival skills I learned from seven years in Girl Scouts, which sounds funny, but because of Scouts, when the major ice storm hit a few years ago and knocked out our power for almost two weeks, I was able to keep my husband and I fed with hot meals because I remembered how to make a hobo stove out of a coffee can with tin snips and a bottle opener. Other things I learned: how to chop wood, how to make an emergency shelter, and how to identify edible plants, and that’s just for starters. Offer to volunteer for your local Boy or Girl Scouts, or, if you have a child in Scouts, look through their manuals or ask them to teach you what they’re learning. This also works for children who are taking classes home economics or shop classes.

Your local county extension society, which connects people in your county with the latest information from your state land-grant university can be a great resource. Many people are familiar with the Master Gardener program they run, which trains people on every aspect of horticulture, so they can work as volunteers to the gardening public. Ask about scholarships to the training classes. Our local Master Gardener program usually costs $150, but when I asked if I could pay in installments, they gave me a full scholarship. County extension programs also help out farmers, administer county 4-H programs, and have a whole home economics department. That division at my local county extension gives out free handouts on many topics like budgeting and food preservation, and sells copies of the latest edition of Ball’s Blue Book of Food Preserving. Some extension societies also offer a Master Food Preserve program, which is administered much like the Master Gardener program.

Many churches offer programs that could help you learn skills for free or cheap. Most people know that the Church of Latter Day Saints helps people get together a food storage program, so ask your Mormon friends for help, or contact the Relief Society of your local Mormon ward for more information. The LDS [Provident Living] web site also has free links to information on preparation and food storage. Other churches have similar programs. A local Catholic Worker house in a city near me grows fruits and vegetables for the poor and homeless, and they are always asking for volunteers to learn how to care for the plants, in exchange for some of the produce. Again, ask around religious groups in your area, or scan the religion section of your local Sunday paper to get ideas.
Here’s a secret about learning survival skills—well before the economy tanks, the bomb is dropped, or what have you, you will start saving money. Learning to garden has helped my family eat better for less, learning to can has kept our pantry full in tight times, learning to make soap has helped us stay clean and healthy, and learning to sew, knit and crochet has kept my family warm and looking good. The money you save with your skills can be reinvested in learning more skills, or, as we’ll get to next, getting tools and supplies.

Tools and supplies for preparation can be an Achilles’ heel if you don’t have a lot of money to spare, but if you’re willing to look around in places you might not usually go, you’d be surprised at what you can find and for how little. Get an idea, first, of what you would like, again, make a list, and ask around. My mother in law gave me a sewing machine she wasn’t using when she heard I was learning to quilt. When I mentioned to one friend I was looking for yarn for knitting and crocheting, he said his grandmother had some she didn’t use anymore, and came over with three enormous boxes full of yarn, from wool to crochet thread to specialty yarns that retail for almost ten dollars a skein. When a neighbor moves, ask if you can have what they don’t want. One of our neighbors, before they left town, gave me a nice cast iron skillet that had just been taking up kitchen space. I was astounded when I checked online and found out that it was worth $80!

Garage sales can help you score fantastic deals. I got two huge cartons of canning jars and rings in many different sizes for $5, just two blocks from my house. I’ve also gotten embroidery hoops, sewing supplies, and out of print books just to name a few. Churches often have annual rummage sales that can be the place you find that one of a kind item that’s been eluding you. I’d searched three years for a used bread bucket (a metal container with a hand crank and a hook that kneads bread), and found one at a local church for $7. You can often dicker at garage sales, so if you see your dream item, but don’t quite have enough cash on hand, give it a whirl!

FreeCycle is a fantastic program online which matches people who have things to give away to people who are looking for free things. Go to their web site, which will direct you to your local program, and, through the mailing list, see what people are offering, and offer things yourself. For the price of bus fare or gas, I’ve gotten art supplies, kitchen helpers, and even more books for the taking.
Let friends and family know about some of the things you’re looking for and request them as holiday gifts. When I decided I wanted to learn canning, I asked my husband for a water-bath canning starter kit as an anniversary present. He thought it was odd, but after three years, he really appreciates the jams, jellies, pickles, and salsas! If people aren’t quite sure what to get you, tell them you’ll gladly accept gift certificates from a local or online store. And don’t hesitate to put items on a gift registry for large events—sure, people thought it was odd when my husband and I asked for archery supplies for our wedding, but they knew it’d be more useful than, say, a lemon zester!

Online auction sites can be a good resource for tools and supplies, but I recommend you research what you’re looking for, ask the seller questions, and don’t hesitate to complain about problems quickly to get replacements and/or refunds. I’m still kicking myself over a pressure canner I bought on eBay that I didn’t touch for months. By the time I learned that it didn’t work, it was far too late to contact the seller to complain or get a refund. However, I’ve gotten canning jars and rings in quantity on auction sites for a fraction of what I’d pay brand new, so just be careful.

Don’t be afraid to step outside of the usual places for tools and supplies. Army surplus stores can be heaven, especially for camping and survival supplies. Dollar stores can sometimes turn up with the most interesting things. One of our local dollar stores got a shipment of lamp oil in, and we stocked up on several bottles. One place that has turned out to have hidden gems for us is ethnic stores and supermarkets. I picked up a great grain mill at a local Hispanic market for $30, and it works great on wheat. We’ve also got our eye on some cast iron cookware at the local Asian supermarket.

If you look around, one of the best places overall to get tools and supplies are resale shops that sell items that were rejected from megastores because of damaged packaging or one item was damaged in a lot. Resale shops nearby have landed us great things, like 11 jelly jars with new lids and bands for $1, or a high quality four-man tent for $20. The best deal we’ve gotten so far was a food dehydrator that was brand new but didn’t have a box or a manual, for $25. Three minutes online and I’d downloaded and printed off the manual and several recipes, and it’s the best $25 I’ve ever spent.

Food supplies for stockpiling can be had for the cheap in many places. Dollar stores that carry canned food have been a great place for us to stock up. Off-brand stores are another wonderful place to get loads of canned goods. Even large chain supermarkets can have great deals on their store brands. Warehouse stores can be a good place for bulk-buying staples that are far cheaper than little individual packages. When I saw how cheap flour was in 25 pound bags at Sam’s Club compared to the grocery store, we started buying them and keeping it in a plastic bucket by the kitchen. While membership fees at these places can be high, go in with friends like we have and you can have a year of bulk-buying for maybe $5 apiece. Again, ethnic stores can be a bonanza for cheap staples. After seeing the price of 50 pounds sacks of rice at an Asian supermarket, we’ve got another plastic bucket filled to the brim with rice.

Some people might shy away from storing food if they don’t have a lot of room, but if you’re willing to think outside the box, you’d be surprised at what you can put away where. Part of my linen closet houses reused 2-liter pop bottles with an emergency water supply. The space under beds is frequently wasted space that can hold several cases of canned goods. You can even turn some of your storage into cheap décor—one book on home storage I read showed that you can stack up a few boxes of cans, cover it with cloth remnants or an old sheet and voila! You now have an end table.
When I first felt led to prepare for TEOTWAWKI, I was worried that our very low income would hamper preparations. But one thing that many people who have little have had to learn is something that we all need to learn: prioritizing, making the most of what you have to get what matters most. Many people spend out thousands of dollars a year for habits of a moment when they could be storing up skills and supplies to last them the rest of their lives. If it is important enough to you, you’ll make the necessary adjustments and start looking around for what you can get and learn.

Changing your habits and being open to learning new things not only changes you, it can change the ones around you. While my husband and I make very little compared to a lot of our friends, we are frequently the ones they turn to when layoffs hit or disasters strike. They’ve started taking notes, and many have asked us to pass on what we’ve learned, so they, too, can be prepared. Should things go south for whatever reason, perhaps our cheapest but greatest resource will be a group of friends that have many skills and supplies that can enable all of us to survive, come what may.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mr. Editor,:
If one was truly going to "Prepare to Garden Like Your Life Depends on It" I would never rely 100% on organic farming unless it was as a last resort Personally I wouldn't rely on it anymore then compost and manure, if it was free and available (Do you deliver?)

I work in agriculture and during growing season, I see organic crop failures, and these are professional farmers. Could you afford to loose 25-80% of your crop, or how about 100 percent?
Organic growers are operating at a huge disadvantage using "organic pesticides" with many that just don't work. Sure, some will knock the problem down for a short while, then you will be back where you started, as all the eggs hatch out again.

If you have ever had problems with: Whitefly, Thrips, or Spidermites just too name a few, then you will know exactly what I mean. Commercial growers feed the world, and turn out crop after crop with reliable results using the correct amounts of pesticides and fertilizers, shouldn't you be doing the same? After all, your life might depend on it right?

Ok back to work, Now lets see... Who was it that had fertilizer and Malathion on sale? And I need... - Barry

JWR Replies: In my estimation, the best course is lies in the middle ground: Get experience with both gardening techniques. If we ever have a dreaded multi-generational TEOTWAWKI, then experience with organic gardening will be invaluable. In the short term, it also has some health benefits, and amending the soil naturally is a good thing, even if you decide to use pesticides. I agree that after the Schumer hits the fan, crop yield will trump all other considerations, since there will suddenly be a lot of hungry folks to feed, without any conveniently-stocked supermarket shelves. Even devoted organic gardeners should store some pesticides! But don't overlook the possibility of a worst-case situation that could go on, and on, and on, and we find that all available pesticides and chemical fertilizers are expended and irreplaceable. Again: Get experience with both techniques.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I am a retired Marine Corps officer and Naval Aviator (jets and helicopters), commercial airplane and helicopter pilot, and most recently, an aircraft operations manager for a Federal agency.

I graduated from numerous military schools, including the U.S. Army Airborne (“jump”) School, U.S. Navy Divers School, Army helicopter, and Navy advanced jet schools. In addition, I have attended military “survival” courses whose primary focus was generally short-term survival off the land, escape from capture, and recovery from remote areas.  Like most Marine officers, I attended The Basic School, an 8-month school (only five during the Vietnam era – my case), which is still designed to produce a second lieutenant who is trained and motivated to lead a 35-40 man platoon of Marines in combat.  This course covers everything from field sanitation to squad and platoon tactics, artillery and other ordnance delivery, communications, reconnaissance, intelligence, firearms training, and much more.   Later, I attended the Marine Amphibious Warfare School and the Command and Staff College, both follow-on schools and centered upon the academic study of tactics and strategy as they applied to the missions of the Marine Corps.  I flew helicopters offshore in the Gulf of Mexico and across the U.S. I found out first hand how thoroughly corrupted is the federal bureaucracy and the government, in general.  Not a pleasant experience. I’d rather have been flying. I have bachelor's and master's degrees.

As a result, my wife of forty years and I seem to have been moving endlessly from place-to-place.  Nevertheless, I have tried in each place to do what I could to maintain a level of self-sufficiency for my family that varied greatly with locations and personal finances. My intention here is to try to share some of the less-than-perfect ways that I have tried to accomplish that end. 

Only in the last few years, primarily as a result of the political and fiscal situation in the U.S., have I begun reading some of the huge amounts of literature about how one can prepare for serious long-term off-the-grid survival.  I have found that the preparation required to be ready for that contingency seems to be endless.  I do not want to talk about all of those preparations.  Others have done so very well, and besides, I’m not there, yet.  What I would like to do is to talk to those, perhaps like me, who are not true survivalists in the commonly referred-to sense, but who are genuinely concerned about the future of this country, and might desire, like me, to begin to prepare. Perhaps my elementary and simplistic efforts might be of help to someone else who is beginning to think about the subject of preparedness.  There are many scenarios that might require this, but the two that I am thinking most about are economic collapse and electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack. I’m building small Faraday boxes, but not doing much else for EMP.

My thinking on begins with my own estimation of the basic problems:  shelter, water, food, fuel, and security.  I view these as the most critical needs, whether living in a tent or other outdoor shelter or here in our rural home in West Virginia. Here I have and often take for granted what I have -- shelter, well water, a small stream, a pond, a rain barrel; canned, dried, frozen, and freeze-dried foods; fuel for the generator and portable stoves, kerosene heater and lanterns; factory-made and reloaded ammunition for any one of several firearms.  Edible plant books. Gardening books. Encyclopedia of Country Living-type books. Reloading books. Hunting books. Tracking books. A few novels devoted to the “what ifs” of the future, including Jim Rawles' excellent "Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse", for example.  Books to fill an entire bookcase.  The Boy Scout Field Book sits right there next to the military survival manuals, as do Tom Brown's Field Guides, the The Foxfire Book series, a canning book, field medical books, and quite a few others.

Those are the basic things about which I think. I have been thinking about them for quite a while, in fact, longer than I even realized.  Perhaps I’ve been thinking about them ever since I was a young lad.   For example, my very first “survival book” was the Boy Scout Field Book, the original of which I still have (circa late-1950s edition). It is still a great reference if one is looking for an all-in-one manual for starting fires, making simple shelters, recognizing game tracks, tying knots, and much more.  I note that it is still available on (It’s probably been scrubbed to favor the politically correct, but don’t know [JWR Adds: Yes, I can confirm that unfortunately it has been made politically correct--with the traditional woodcraft skills showing any injury to innocent and defenseless trees duly expunged. So I advise searching for pre-1970 editions!] ) One does not necessarily need the SAS Survival Handbook or the U.S. Army survival manual. I have them and have read them. They do cover security problems, but then don’t cover other topics.  Alas, there appear to be no “perfect” manuals, and the Boy Scout Field Book is no exception.  But it’s not a bad beginning. And so I was beginning the journey even before I knew that I was. 

I think that my first education in “survival” came at about fourteen. That’s when I first shot a .30-06, an old [Model 19]03 Springfield. It pretty much rattled my cage.  Mostly, my older brother and I used to track and shoot small animals in the deep woods of Missouri as youngsters.  We were “issued” ten rounds of .22 LR ammo by our father, a retired USAF pilot, to be used in a bolt action, single shot, .22 rifle with open sights.  One would be surprised what that meager handful of loose ammunition could do for one’s choice of shots, one’s ability to be patient in waiting for the shot, and for one’s great satisfaction at having brought home six or eight squirrels for the cooking pot, having used just those ten rounds – and sometimes, but not often, less.  My point is that the knowledge of firearms is, in my view, basic to the notion of preparedness and in surviving in the wild. And it need not be exotic or overly complicated in nature.  One can surely attend modern schools that will teach one to double-tap a cardboard target or silhouette at seven yards with a semi-auto pistol, as well as basic and advanced tactical rifle courses, but very basic survival skill with a rifle can be had without much cost if one is committed to learning the skill and if one disciplines oneself. Start with only one round, and work up from there.  As Col. Jeff Cooper used to say, “Only hits count.”  In a purely off-the-grid survival scenario, I can envision that .22 LR rounds would be very precious, indeed.

Consequently, and even though I own handguns and rifles that will shoot .45 ACP, .44 Magnum/.44 Special, .357 Magnum/.38 Special, .380 ACP, .223, .25-06, .270, 7mm-08, .308, .7.62x39, .30-30, .30-06, and .45-70/.457 WWG Magnum (a wildcat), I shoot a .22 rifle and pistol more than all of the others, combined, and normally at least twice a week. And I’m hoarding them, as well as shooting them.  I have the capability to reload all the calibers (except .22 LR/Magnum, of course) above, as well as shotgun ammo in 12 and 20 gauge. I wasn’t really thinking of “survival” when deciding to do this about twenty years ago, but was interested only in having the capability to shoot more, and to do it more cheaply. Yet it appears that much of that ammo could be used for barter. I had never even considered this until reading some of the recent “survival novels.”

My apologies.  I’ve wandered into the weeds here, as I could do forever on my favorite subject.  Suffice it to say that whatever firearm one chooses – and make no mistake, one is necessary in my opinion -- there are all kinds of reasons to choose one over the other, depending on the situation and the person. One must endeavor to shoot it well. Owning a firearm is of almost no consequence, at all, unless it is properly employed.  Personally, I prefer a M1911 .45 ACP pistol and a 7.62 M1A SOCOM, while my wife is comfortable with the milder .38 [S&W] revolver and 20 gauge. pump shotgun.  I won’t even begin to get into the debate over .223 vs .308 and 9mm vs. .45 ACP.  Suffice it to say that in Vietnam I had the opportunity to see the effects of all of these, and I chose for my own security the .308 and .45 ACP.

Having got my favorite subject out of the way, I’ll talk about one that is likely even more important.  Water.  It is amazing how complicated this can be, and how many choices one has to solve this problem.  I have not yet solved it.  I have put up a rain barrel, and plan to get a couple more.  It’s amazing how rapidly a 55 gallon barrel will fill in even a moderate thunderstorm.  I got mine from Aaron’s Rain Barrels. I’ve camo-painted the first one to make it recede into the bushes that surround it.  

We have a very shallow stream down the hill that I need to dam so that it keeps only about a foot-or-two deep pool for gathering some water. It flows into a large pond, of which we own half (The owner of neighboring property owns the other half.).  But that’s over a hundred-yard trek downhill with empty buckets, and the same distance uphill with full ones.  Now, while that is okay for a backup, in my thinking, because I’m going on 63 years, I prefer to have something closer.  So my next “big” purchase will be a Simple Pump that allows one to drop a pump and pipe though one’s existing well casing down to below water level and extract water by means of a hand pump or DC motor attached to a battery which, in turn, will connect to a solar panel.  This is much, much cheaper than a Solar Jack.  At $1,200 for the hand pump capability (I’ll add on the DC and solar later), it’s a bargain, for me. See:  
I’m not recommending it for anyone, yet, as I haven’t got one. It has plenty of good reviews, and I’m willing to try it.  My apologies, but I am just talking about how I, for one, intend to solve my “water problem.” 

I’ve also started collecting clear plastic soda bottles for use in Solar Disinfection (SODIS), see;  I’ve set up a rack for putting out the bottles in a sunny place.  Again, that’s a backup, but I’ll use it.

I have bought three different water filtering devices, the best of which is the Swiss-made, all-stainless Katadyn Pocket Microfilter.  It works wonders in that shallow stream and pond down the hill.. [JWR Adds: The same Katadyn filter model is available from several SurvivalBlog advertisers. They deserve your patronage first, folks!]

With the exception of the Simple Pump, these solutions are relatively cheap and effective, if not producers of great volume.  So far, they are what I’ve come up with.

I won’t go much into the food problem. It isn’t quite as complicated as the water problem.  I’ve either got to have it [stored], grow it, or kill it.  I’ve started storing all kinds of Mountain House freeze dried #10 cans (with expiration date dates in 2034), two-serving meals from Mountain House (expiration dates circa 2016), and numerous grocery store-type canned foods (expiration a couple years), in addition to dried beans, rice, Bisquick (sealed in plastic bags with desiccant inside), salt, sugar (Domino, which are sold in one-pound plastic tubs), olives, peanuts, wheat, etc.  Basically hit-or-miss, so far.  I need to get this “food problem” organized and do it right.  But it’s a start.  I think we’ve got only about a 60-day supply now, for two.

I’ve got two Coleman two-burner stoves.  One is a butane stove, and the other a dual fuel (white gas or unleaded gas), as well as several small backpacking stoves, the best of which is a MSR Whisperlite International, which uses virtually all fuel (unleaded, white gas, kerosene, diesel, and maybe even corn oil).   I was heavily into backpacking when we were stationed in Hawaii in the late 1970s, and still have all the gear.  After having one knee replacement and hedging doing another, I’ll not be backpacking if I can help it.  Nevertheless, I have two bug-out bags with essentials in them, ready to hit the trail if need be.  I’ve saved up and bought two good Wiggy's bags and a couple of his poncho liners.

Concerning backpacking stuff, I can recommend a book that I read back then called The Complete Walker, by Colin Fletcher. I haven’t read it in at least a decade, but its import is such that I remember much of it.  He emphasizes simplicity in gear.  That is to say, don’t pack a tent if you can get by with a tent fly – which you cannot in cold weather. I’ve still got my old three-season tent, but am saving up for a four-season. And he emphasizes: don’t worry about pounds – worry about ounces.  That is to say, if one is packing tea bags, remove the labels from the bags.  Ounces.  Remove all packaging material unless it is absolutely necessary (usually never). Don’t carry a “mess kit,” nor a knife, fork and spoon set.  A spoon will do (I’ve done it) along with a pocket knife. Now I have so many knives of so many types that I can’t remember them.  Personally, I’d go for a multi-tool.  But it’s heavy.  I never used to carry a weapon while backpacking.  Of course, it was (and is) illegal in Hawaii, but I think one would be remiss in not doing so today.  There was so much good advice in that book that helped me in the USMC, if nothing more than when packing my helicopter before a mission, or a car, trailer, or truck to move across the country.  “Think ounces, not pounds.”  I always think about Mr. Fletcher’s advice when I pack.

Anyway, I think I’ve got the camping stove angle covered in spades.  That is, until the fuel runs out.  Same goes for kerosene heater and lanterns (5).  My plan is to pull out our pellet stove and replace it with a free-standing wood stove.  Pellets are nice, but they must be bought, and the price is getting exorbitant, according to my pocket book.  They likely will be non-existent in a crunch. 

I connected a 12,000 Watt/50amp gasoline generator when we moved into this house nine years ago, as I have with every house in which we’ve lived for the last two decades.  I’ve got it wired through a transfer box to the circuit-breaker panel, a job that I did myself. It works, and it’s safe.  The main reasons for having this were to run the 220V[olt AC] well water pump and to run the refrigerator and our free-standing freezer during power outages.  But I’ve got it wired, anyway, to nearly every circuit in the house, except the other 220V appliances – water heater and heat pump.  It is somewhat selectable. That is to say that I can choose which circuits I want to power by engaging or disengaging the switches on the transfer box.  The problem is that it uses gasoline. So in a long-term outage it would soon become useless.  I’ve had the propane gas company come out to estimate what it would cost to get a dedicated 100 gal propane tank for the generator.  It would be about $500, but then, in addition to the 50+ gallons of gasoline, butane tanks, and white gas that I keep stored in a separate outbuilding, it would make a great explosion when hit with a tracer round.

Which brings me to the subject of security.  We live in a split-level home on about ten acres of forest.  The property is surrounded by other similar-sized properties of seemingly like-minded individuals.  I gleamed this because everyone out here shoots.  The sweet sound of gunfire can be heard at times in a full circle.  West Virginia, at least, has still got its priorities straight in this regard.  But I digress. This is a frame house with half of it below ground in front, but framed in back, which faces the forest.  The forest, itself, is a maze of downed pine trees blown over by the wind, interspersed with small saplings, vines and low brush.  Not a likely avenue of approach for anyone but the most determined.  For those who are determined, the downed trees would make excellent cover and concealment.  So I have a security problem to solve there, as well as at the front. 

I’ve started buying rolls of barbed wire and baling wire.  Unfortunately, I do not have access to dynamite, which we used to be able to buy in a hardware store in the 1960s.  We used it back then to blow stumps while clearing the land for our house.  I am thinking of buying a bunch of used railroad ties to build cover in the back; I’ve thought also of bricks and sandbags.  Problem is we’re reaching the point in all of this where the house would begin to look like a fortress, of sorts, to all but the most ignorant observers.  So there’s a line here concerning security versus “normalcy” that I must cross sooner or later.  Inasmuch as my wife is a few years older than I and is on constant medications, I’m afraid that finding a retreat (if we could even afford one) would be out of the question, as access to doctors, hospital and pharmacy are a necessity. Nevertheless I’ve got the bags packed and gear ready to throw into the pickup (Toyota 4x4 – like to have one of those older model American trucks, but I think they are getting rare, at least around here.  And what there are will likely go to the Cash for Clunkers Program….grumble, grumble. What will they think of next?).

So it looks to me as if we are here for the duration of the crisis, or sooner, if they try to take the guns from my cold, dead hands.  Speaking of, I still have to build a cache or two for guns and ammo and a few other necessities. 

And since I’ve more-or-less made that decision (here for the duration), I’ve thought of organizing the apparently gun-loving neighbors.  I’ve begun to buy walkie-talkies, if not field phones and commo wire.  I’ve got solar panels and several batteries (need to get a mega deep cell or two, however) to run the small battery chargers and the CB radio. My shortwave is up and running.

I will have to wait to talk to the neighbors, whom I rarely see, much less know.  I can just imagine the words that would come out of their mouths if I were to mention to them the notion of forming a security “company” and establishing a perimeter.  “That old retired Marine down the road is nuts!”

So that’s what I’ve got to say.  I do hope it at least stimulates some thought for those who are starting out trying to prepare, as I am.  All of this shows me that one “problem” in this “survival” business leads to several more, and they in turn lead to even more problems.  Lots to do. So I’m glad I’m retired.  I’ve got time to think about it.  If I were rich, I could do a lot more and likely in a far away place, but as it is, we do with what we have.   I have to use the lessons taught to every Marine:  Improvise, Adapt, Overcome.  

Long Live America.  Keep the Faith. - “Two Dogs”, Col. USMCR (ret.) in West Virginia

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dear Mr. Rawles:
I have been following several good reader contributions including “Bug Out At the Last Minute” arguments versus those who consider “Early Relocation” and most recently “A Multiple Family Retreat—Lessons Learned the Hard Way” in regards to the most expeditious and efficient way to set up a self-sufficient retreat. While I understand that some folks are just simply unable to make a full time commitment in setting up a retreat, I also know that there are many—while there are still the comforts of life available (television, readily available food and gasoline)—that are unwilling to make the sacrifice necessary to prepare for any pending manmade or natural disaster(this include members of my extended family who are living what they consider the “good life” but I am sure will be on our doorstep WTSHTF) From my family’s experience, if one is not practicing what they preach…i.e. actually learning by trial and error and doing what one plans to do when the time come, then no matter how much one has prepared—stocking food supplies, buying “Seeds in a Can”, or planning to bug out with everything but the kitchen sink—then there will most certainly be a very steep learning curve to be had. Believe me, my husband and I have made many mistakes, but because we are also willing to sacrifice, after five years have reached the level of preparedness WTSHTF! In fact, it is best to get to a prepared lifestyle so WTSHTF, such events are just a mere bump in the road for your family.

With my parents we purchased 110 acres of fertile land, with two running streams, a spring, and two ponds 100 miles away from the nearest “Metro Mess”. There are several vibrant and viable little towns within driving or even walking distance for that matter. These towns are very close knit and some would call them “clannish” because everyone seems to be related to everyone else. We bought the land 10 years ago, but starting living on it full time 5 years ago.

Most people would think this is the perfect setup. We think it is, however, please allow me the opportunity to expand on what I mean “Practicing what you preach” because our journey to where we are today did not come by just planning, but by doing.

1. The Land - Pros: Good land, sandy loam, available water. Cons: Just as the veggies like the soil, so do the weeds! If we do not pull weeds everyday, they seem to come back double within the week. Additionally, despite all the attractive pictures on the veggie packets and promises that they will grow, I have learned what will grow in my particular location and what will not grow. Although we live in zone 7, in my particular location it is not uncommon to have a late hard killing freeze the end of April. I still have fruit trees, but lost all of the fruit this year. I also know what types of vegetables will grow and which ones will not. This was not learned by planning to do it in the future when it is necessary, but over a trial and error five-year period. Is this a process that one wants to learn when one really needs it, or instead by practicing what you intend to do, so that you are up to speed when the time comes as disaster strikes? It means having on hand all the tools and supplies needed, and this was only learned by doing before hand.

2. The Livestock - Pros: A ready food source or beasts of burden. Cons: They are reliant on you for their well being. Chickens get eaten by varmints or neighbors dogs if one is not careful, animals need daily care—whether from you, or someone else if you are away for a time—they get sick and hurt, get into a neighbor’s pasture, etc. If you plan to eat chickens for example, then you must learn how to kill them and dress them properly. Believe me, all these things are not something one needs to learn when it is truly necessary, but is only learned by doing before hand.

3. The Farmstead and accompanying equipment—Pros: This goes without saying. Cons: If one is not a handyman, or DIY, then learn anyway you can! Metal roofs blow off, water well pumps stop working, trees fall on things that they are not supposed to, wild fires and floods, etc. It is just not a matter of “Calling someone” to fix these things because out in rural areas, it is assumed that everyone knows how to take care of these things. One can only know what tools they will need for their particular situation by practicing and experimenting—remember an electric dehydrator for preserving food, or a wide screen tv will not be useful when there is no electricity. Our family got rid of cable/satellite tv (no time to watch it other than a rental movie every once in a while) but, we still have satellite Internet service—the best source for alternative news like SurvivalBlog. I am learning to can with a pressure cooker and preserve food that we grow. All these things are learned by doing.

4. The Job—My husband and I both had jobs in the city when we bought our land. Before we moved from the Metro Mess, we scaled back and paid off as much debt as possible, and saved as much as possible. When we finally moved to our land we commuted to our jobs for three years, 1,000 miles a week. That meant going to bed promptly at 9 p.m. in order to get up at 3:30 to feed the animals and be on the road by 5 a.m. for our 200 mile round-trip trek. My husband retired to work on the farm full time, and as soon as I was able, I found a teaching job in one of the small towns. I taught for two years in this position, but now our homestead is able to generate enough income, plus what we have saved, for me to resign my teaching position. Is this difficult to do? Yes, it takes sacrifice and ignoring the naysayers who may think that you are a little crazy. But again, sacrifice is only gained by doing.

5. The Local People—The only way to get to know the locals is by living amongst them. I do not mean this in a negative way by any means. I have heard many other new homesteaders complain that the locals are tough nuts to crack, and in our situation, everyone is related to everyone else, so of course there is some suspicion to any newcomer. However, the only way that you can become a successful member of a community is by doing and being there. Of course expect hostility WTSHTF and you just “show up” We became part of the community by worshiping at the local church, teaching Sunday school, joining civil organizations, enrolling our children in the schools, etc. When a church member broke his back in a fall, we were there helping his wife with the farm chores. When a massive wild fire rolled through the area this spring, we were there helping evacuate horses. Of course they will talk about you…this is just a fact of life in a small town…however, the church was full when my brother—who nobody knew because he lived out of state—died and was buried in the church cemetery…all of our friends who had become our family were there for US. This did not happen overnight, but by the nurturing relationships and sacrifice…turn off the boob tube and get to know your neighbors. Also, it is through the locals that we know how to butcher and garden, as well as get things like milk and grains. I can also defend myself and our property because a retired police officer gave us the proper training. We have a pretty good barter system going, and again, this did not happen by planning, but by doing.

Now, as I stated earlier, I know that there are many people out there that do not have a choice, and are doing the best that they can to prepare and I pray for you. However, I also know that there are just as many people who are unwilling to work hard and sacrifice so when the time comes, they will be scrambling to get themselves in a better plan, and with possible dire results. Please, if at all possible, try to get to your ultimate retreat before you really need it. Learn not by planning, but by doing and Practicing What You Preach! God Bless, - SHM

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I have been a follower of your blog for a couple of years now and find it to be the best source of self-sufficiency information on the Web. You and your readers have provided me with a wealth of information that would have otherwise taken a lifetime to research on my own. –and for that, I thank you and all those who took the time to contribute.

While the plethora of advice handed out on a daily basis is extremely helpful, the one thing that I have found to be sparse is the first hand accounts of failure. A wise mentor once told me that no one learns from “trial and right,” and he was correct, the best way to learn is by “trial and error.” Unfortunately, I have had my fill of error lately.

Thus, I thought I would share all the things that went wrong over the past year and a half as my family attempted to develop a retreat for a bug out location in the country (we live in the city) with two other families. I hope this helps others who may find themselves in a similar situation.

The main problems encountered:

1. Although the adults agreed to the general goal of developing a self-sufficient retreat and the various components that would be required to sufficiently make the property a true bug out location, each had different ideas on the sense of urgency, priorities, responsibilities, and methods of doing things. This resulted in a tremendous waste of time and resources; numerous projects started, but never finished, or simply not done well. Failures outnumbered successes 10:1.

2. The young adult children of one family did not contribute and were allowed to not contribute. When the parents were confronted, they reassured us, “we will talk to them.” The “talk” never happened. This led to a significant level of resentment by the children of the other two families.

3. Dogs of one family were poorly trained and supervised. The owners did nothing to remedy the problems encountered. These dogs dug up fresh plantings on several occasions and set us back an entire season. Much worse, when the gate to the chicken coup was not shut properly one day, the chickens got out and the dogs killed most of them just when they were beginning to lay well. This set us back eight months.

4. Two families did not live at the retreat full time and were only able to tend to the property and garden on weekends. We learned the hard way that there is simply not enough hours in a week to work full time, raise children, and tend to a second property on weekends. The result was severe burn out by those of us living in the city, and a one year backlog on projects for our city homes. Life doesn’t stop just because you decide to develop a retreat.

5. Only one family took firearms seriously, taking all of the advice one can read on your blog and not only taking professional training, but practicing on a regular basis to master each and every firearm by every member of the family. Another family bought a shotgun and a box of ammo, which was promptly parked in a closet, and the third family has yet to get around to it. The main issue here is that these latter two are not the folks I want watching my back in a SHTF scenario.

6. One family thought they could “buy survival.” When the going got tough, they would offer to pay for equipment and supplies instead of showing up and getting their hands dirty. This is also the family that sincerely believes that having all the stuff (solar oven, camp washer, propane stove, cases of Mountain House[long term storage food], Berkey water filter, etc.) means they are prepared. This resulted in resentment by the two families that did most of the hard labor.

7. Only one of the families actually accumulated two years worth of food & supplies (the agreed upon goal for each family), the other two families have six months or less. This was the last straw for me as it became apparent that the other families expected to survive off the one, if they ran out.

By now you can guess which of the families described is mine. After a year and a half of spending each and every weekend in the dirt, working from sun up to sun down, we just up and quit being part of the retreat a couple of weeks ago. No amount of discussion and compromise could rectify the problems we encountered, and I have no words for the extreme frustration we felt and still feel. It has been a real learning experience as these other families are not strangers; we have been close friends for over 20 years.

Our investment of sweat, time, and money yielded us with only the experience of our trials, and we are right back where we started from, living in the city with a very small garden, wondering what to do next.

In hindsight, we should have:

1. Developed a project plan that listed all of the projects, broken down by tasks, assigned priorities, and most importantly, had sufficient resources allocated to them.

2. Defined up front who does what, when & how, and who pays for what. It should also include consequences for failure to live up to expectations.

3. Agreed upon a code of conduct with everyone pledging to uphold it. Even to the point of having everyone sign a symbolic contract.

4. Had a formal schedule with built in breaks (rotating weekends off or something).

5. Had everyone on the same page as to the sense of urgency. Nothing gets done if everyone has different ideas of how important what you’re doing is.

Lastly, the most important lesson learned. Preparedness doesn’t come in a box. It comes from hard work, from getting your hands dirty, and teaching yourself new skills. There’s a lot of trial and error and the important thing is to not give up even when everyone around you is letting you down. Preparedness comes from time. Time learning and practicing. While this experience has been a complete failure, at least we learned what not to do as we plan out our next attempt.

Thank the Lord that my family still believes in me and what we need to do. Wish us luck. - KJ

Monday, July 20, 2009

One of my readers sent me this news item from southwestern England: Announcing the Release of ‘Can Totnes and District Feed Itself?. That got me thinking. Perhaps they can feed themselves. But if things fall apart, how can they feed the Golden Horde from Bristol, Bournemouth, Plymouth, Poole, Gloucester, Cheltenham, Bath, Exeter, Swindon, Torbay, and the other cities of southern England? And let's not forget greater London. Most of those city dwellers will want to head for "the countryside", but how many urban refugees can the small towns absorb?

Parenthetically, I'll mention that the Rawles family name originated from southwest England, not too far from Totnes. (Well, actually a bit farther west, in eastern Cornwall.) My progenitor left England around 1700, in part because he considered it "crowded." That was when the nation's population was under 6 million people. It is now more than 51 million. (To give American readers a sense of scale: That is roughly the combined population of California and New York, but all shoehorned into an area the size of the state of Alabama. Yikes! That does not provide a great prospect for self-sufficiency--especially if sans grid power. I wonder what my John William Rawles would have thought about the modern-day self-sufficiency conjecture in Devonshire? He'd probably advise being on a tall ship on the next tide.

There are several thousand SurvivalBlog readers in England. My advice for any of you that are genuinely concerned about preparedness and self-sufficiency: Take the Gap. As I've just illustrated, the demographics are against you. The climate is also against you. (It is a cold, wet climate.) The gun and knife laws are increasingly against you. So face it: Your chances of surviving a grid-down collapse are quite slim in England. If anything, the nation is a prime candidate for a tremendous die-off, possibly to pre-1700 level population levels. (That would be a self-sufficient population level!)

Even if you live way out near the Brecon Beacons or in the Yorkshire Dales and have James Herriott's family for your next door neighbors, there just isn't enough "countryside" to go around. In a true "worst case", every town and village will get mobbed by the yobs. My advice is straightforward and perhaps a bit blunt: You should emigrate to a lightly-populated corner of the United States, New Zealand, or perhaps Belize, as soon as possible. By doing so, you'll dramatically increase your family's chances of survival, and you'll also enjoy greater personal liberty.

The Peak Oil crowd--both in the US and in the UK--is well-intentioned, intelligent, and articulate. It is also sadly predominated by folks that are hopelessly naive. It is all well and good to talk about farmer's markets, sustainable agriculture, green technology, and kumbaya. But we live in the real world, where if the lights go out, it won't take too long for people to get hungry and start hunting two-legged big game. And in England, where there are few guns, and the few there are predominantly owned illegally by gangsters rather han legally owned by the good folk. So the self-defense equation will come down to nothing but brute force. Take my advice and take the gap!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

For those who are planning to wash clothes in case of power outage or loss of delivered water I have two suggestions.

First is the wringer to get excess water out of washed clothes. Use an industrial mop wringer, such as the kind available through Lowe's stores. It is made of heavy duty industrial plastic, and, of course, is dual use. Wring out your mops or your clothes. It is less expensive than a traditional roller type wringer.

Second, for washing clothes in small batches you might consider a foot moved (adapted to hand crank on rollers) drum cement mixer of the kind marketed by Sportsman's Guide. It is made of poly plastic and is easily cleaned. Once again, it is a dual use item. Mix your cement (60 lb. sack capable) or in an emergency use it as a clothes washer. Due to its tight seal it could also be used as a storage container if need be, instead of a five gallon bucket. If you choose, you could get multiple buckets for storage use and then after the manure hits the spreader, when the drums are empty, use them as barter items.

One final item: Sealable plastic drums with removable tops of the 55 gallon variety are a good way to store sacks of cement and keep them dry until they are needed. Bag each cement sack in heavy duty plastic bags before storage, as a "just in case", so that if one bursts it does not make a mess. Plastic drums used for soap --like that used by car washes (or auto dealers)--can sometimes be purchased fairly cheaply from the car wash owner. (They have a return fee to the distributor of between $10 and $20.) These type of drums have two small caps in the top and are easily cleaned and reused to collect runoff water for gardening, toilet flushing, or could be adapted for use as mini-septic tanks with exit holes drilled on one third of a side (properly called vaults) or cut a hole in the bottom, install a toilet seat and use it for an outhouse (but don't forget to cut out the top and set it on a base layer of large gravel prior to use).

Just a few thoughts for the "adapt, reuse and recycle" minded. - Bob W., in West Virginia

Influenza Pandemic Update:

1918 & 2009 H1N1 Similarities Confirm Recombination "...the growing list of similarities between 2009 pandemic H1N1 and 1918 pandemic H1N1 continues to cause concern."

UK: Swine Flu Vaccine to be Cleared After 5-Day Trial
(How can they eliminate the risk of pathogenicity so quickly? Your Editor is dubious.)

WHO Says Health Workers Priority for H1N1 Swine Flu Vaccine

Thursday, July 9, 2009

In descending order of frequency, the 78 readers that responded to my latest survey recommended the following non-fiction books on preparedness, self-sufficiency, and practical skills:

The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery (Far and away the most often-mentioned book. This book is an absolute "must" for every well-prepared family!)

The Foxfire Book series (in 11 volumes, but IMHO, the first five are the best)

Holy Bible

Where There Is No Dentist by Murray Dickson

"Rawles on Retreats and Relocation"

Making the Best of Basics: Family Preparedness Handbook by James Talmage Stevens

The "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course

Crisis Preparedness Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Home Storage and Physical Survival by Jack A. Spigarelli

Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times by Steve Solomon

Tappan on Survival by Mel Tappan

Boston's Gun Bible by Boston T. Party

Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth

Survival Guns by Mel Tappan

Boy Scouts Handbook: The First Edition, 1911 (Most readers recommend getting pre-1970 editions.)

All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew

When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency by Matthew Stein 

Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills, Third Edition by Abigail R. Gehring

Preparedness Now!: An Emergency Survival Guide (Expanded and Revised Edition) by Aton Edwards

Putting Food By by Janet Greene

First Aid (American Red Cross Handbook) Responding To Emergencies

Making the Best of Basics: Family Preparedness Handbook by James Talmage Stevens

Nuclear War Survival Skills by Cresson H. Kearney (Available for free download.)

Cookin' with Home Storage by Vicki Tate

SAS Survival Handbookby John "Lofty" Wiseman

Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables by Mike Bubel

Outdoor Survival Skills by Larry Dean Olsen

Stocking Up: The Third Edition of America's Classic Preserving Guide by Carol Hupping

The American Boy's Handybook of Camp Lore and Woodcraft

Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook by Peggy Layton

98.6 Degrees: The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive by Cody Lundin

Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth

Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life by Neil Strauss

Five Acres and Independence: A Handbook for Small Farm Management by Maurice G. Kains

Essential Bushcraft by Ray Mears

The Survivor book series by Kurt Saxon. Many are out of print in hard copy, but they are all available on DVD. Here, I must issue a caveat lector ("reader beware"): Mr. Saxon has some very controversial views that I do not agree with. Among other things he is a eugenicist.

How to Stay Alive in the Woods by Bradford Angier

The New Organic Grower by Eliot Coleman

Tom Brown Jr.'s series of books, especially:

Tom Brown's Field Guide to Wilderness Survival

Tom Brown's Field Guide to Nature Observation and Tracking

Tom Brown's Guide to Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants (Field Guide)  

Total Resistance by H. von Dach

Ditch Medicine: Advanced Field Procedures For Emergencies by Hugh Coffee

Living Well on Practically Nothing by Ed Romney

The Secure Home by Joel Skousen

Outdoor Survival Skills by Larry Dean Olsen

When All Hell Breaks Loose: Stuff You Need To Survive When Disaster Strikesby Cody Lundin

The Last Hundred Yards: The NCO's Contribution to Warfareby John Poole.

Camping & Wilderness Survival: The Ultimate Outdoors Book by Paul Tawrell

Engineer Field Data (US Army FM 5-34) --Available online free of charge, with registration, but I recommend getting a hard copy. preferably with the heavy-duty plastic binding.

Great Livin' in Grubby Times by Don Paul

Just in Case by Kathy Harrison

Nuclear War Survival Skills by Cresson H. Kearney (Available for free download.)

How to Survive Anything, Anywhere: A Handbook of Survival Skills for Every Scenario and Environment by Chris McNab

Storey's Basic Country Skills: A Practical Guide to Self-Reliance by John & Martha Storey

Adventure Medical Kits A Comprehensive Guide to Wilderness & Travel Medicineby Eric A. Weiss, M.D.

Rodale's Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: The Indispensable Green Resource for Every Gardener  

Special Operations Forces Medical Handbook (superceded the very out-of-date ST 31-91B)

Wilderness Medicine, 5th Edition by Paul S. Auerbach

Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Longby Elliot Coleman

Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills, Third Edition by Abigail R. Gehring

Government By Emergency by Dr. Gary North

The Weed Cookbook: Naturally Nutritious - Yours Free for the Taking! by Adrienne Crowhurst

The Modern Survival Retreat by Ragnar Benson

Last of the Mountain Men by Harold Peterson

Primitive Wilderness Living & Survival Skills: Naked into the Wilderness by John McPherson

LDS Preparedness Manual, edited by Christopher M. Parrett

The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century by James H. Kunstler

Principles of Personal Defense - Revised Edition by Jeff Cooper.

Survival Poaching by Ragnar Benson

The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses by Eliot Coleman

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

In a recent phone conversation with one of my consulting clients, I was asked why I placed such a large emphasis on living in the country, at a relatively self-sufficient retreat. I've already discussed at length the security advantages of isolation from major population centers in the blog, but I realized that I've never fully articulated the importance of self-sufficiency, at a fundamental level.

In a societal collapse, where you are in "You're on Your Own" (YOYO) mode, it will be very important to be a net producer of water, food, and energy. This will mean the difference between being someone that is comfortable and well fed, and someone that is shivering, hungry, and thirsty, in the dark.

If you were to create computer models of a typical suburban home as compared to a small farm, they would probably present two very different pictures:

A typical suburban home is an energy pit. It generates hardly energy other than a bit of garden waste that could be used as compost, or fuel. A farm house on acreage, in contrast, can often be a net producer, especially if the farm includes a wood lot. (Standing timber that is suitable for use as firewood.) Properties with near-surface geothermal heat, coal seams, or natural gas wells are scarce, but not unheard of. I've helped several of my clients find such properties. For some further food for thought, see this article by Lester Brown over at The Oil Drum web site: The Oil Intensity of Food

A typical suburban home is a food pit. Just picture how many bags of groceries you tote home each week, month, and year. Compare than with the net volume of food produced by a small farm, or the meat produced by ranch. (For the latter, a ranch that is large enough to produce its own hay and grain is ideal.)

A typical suburban home is also a water pit, dependent on utility-piped water. But with a spring, or with well water and a photovoltaic or wind-powered pump, you can be a water exporter--charitably providing surplus water to your neighbors.

There are are of course some work-arounds for these limitations, such as installing photovoltaic power systems and rainwater catchments cisterns. But it is nearly impossible for a family to be a net producer of water, food, and energy, when living on just a small city lot.

Consider the inherent limitations of life on a "postage stamp" lot:

Limited acreage means that your house will always be a net importer of home heating fuel. Unless you live on acreage where you have a wood lot for firewood, you'll end up on the wrong side of the production-consumption equation. Photovoltaics are practical for lighting and running some appliances, but the big energy loads like space heating, hot water, and kitchen range cooking exceed what PV panels can produce, unless you are a millionaire. Yes, there are substitute energy sources, but most of those--such as propane-but those-are also "imported." Hmm... Perhaps it is worth the extra time and effort to find a retreat property that has a natural gas well, a coal seam or that is in a geothermal zone. At least buy a property with a wood lot, so you can heat your home and water with firewood.

Limited acreage and a location inside limits usually means restrictions on raising livestock. You might find a property that has been exempted or "grandfathered", but without the room required to grow animal feed crops, you will still be a net importer. (You will be forced to buy hay and grain, rather than grow it yourself.)

In many jurisdictions, it is illegal to have a private water well in a neighborhood that is served by a public water utility. This usually has more to do with maintaining a monopoly, rather than any genuine worries about a public health issue. There are of course exceptions, such as older houses with wells, that pre-dated the advent of a water utility. In many jurisdictions, the owners of these wells benefit from grandfather clauses. If buying such a property, make sure that the grandfather clause exemption is transferable. (Otherwise, you will have to cap the water well.)

One of the great ironies of urbanized life in modern-day America is that there has been a great inversion. In 1909, it was dirt poor farmers that lived on acreage, while wealthy people lived on city lots. But now, in 2009, owning acreage is something that most people only dream of, for retirement. In the more populous coastal states, the price per acre of land that is within commuting distance of high-paying jobs has been driven up to astronomical prices.

Have you ever stopped to think why there are large Victorian-style houses falling into disrepair in some Inner City ghettos? This is because at one time, those neighborhoods are where rich people lived. They were nice, safe neighborhoods, and were conveniently close to work, shopping, and schools. But times (and neighborhoods) change. These days, most of the wealthy have long-since moved to suburbs or to the country.

If you decide that you must stay in the suburbs, then I recommend that you at least relocate to a stout masonry house that is on the largest lot that you can afford. When you search through real estate listings, some key phrases to watch for are "creek", "grandfathered", "mature fruit trees" (or "orchard"), "secluded", and "well water." Another key word to watch for is "adjoins". It is advantageous to own a property that adjoins park land.

As I've often written, I recommend moving to a house on acreage in the country--that is if you can afford it, and your work and family situations allow it. But I'll close with one admonition: Don't bite off more than you can chew. There is no point on living on acreage if you have a large mortgage, and no working capital remaining to build up the infrastructure for genuine self-sufficiency. In fact, that would be "the worst of both worlds", since you would have higher commuting costs, a bigger mortgage, and perhaps even a bigger annual tax bill. Owning non-productive land may be worse than owning no land at all.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

This article could also be titled: "How to Convince Friends and Family to Prepare for Economic Collapse." One of the greatest problems for the prepper is getting family and friends on board without alienating them or terrifying them into inaction. With this article, I hope to use my experience to show you how to gently and persuasively warn friends and family about the coming economic crisis. I have used this approach with several people and found it to be successful.

I am writing this article now because I believe that now is the time to approach your sheeple about prepping if you have not done so already. More and more people are noticing that something is wrong with our economy, and many of them are probably ready to hear about preparedness, but only if you approach them from the right direction. My goal is to help you find a good approach.

Why should you listen to me? Well, in my previous job, I was a corporate educator at a large mortgage bank. I learned two things from that job: how to watch my income spiral down into oblivion along with the entire mortgage industry, and how to explain complex concepts in simple ways. You don’t need my help to watch your income spiral into oblivion, so instead I will teach you how to explain complex concepts.

Before we get started, let’s emphasize a few basic rules that educators follow. I will elaborate on these rules in this article, and then I will show you how to put them into practice.

Three Basic Rules of Persuasion
Rule 1: Take it slow.
Rule 2: Keep it simple and sane (KISS).
Rule 3: Relate it back to their lives.

Now let's expand these concepts a little bit.

Are you sure that you want to have this conversation? There are schools of thought that say you should never mention your preps to anyone. Think this through carefully; otherwise you may have 45 family members knocking on your door next winter. I considered this before mentioning it to anyone; however, I don't think life is worth living if everyone I love dies, especially if I could have warned them. Besides, my nearest relative lives a five hour drive away from me. They'll have a long walk to pester me.

Define your audience. Think ahead and focus your efforts on the most level-headed, trustworthy, "solid" people that you know. This has several purposes. First of all, such people are more likely to listen to you and believe you. Secondly, other people will trust that person; once you persuade them,so they can subsequently persuade two or three other people.

Establish essential concepts and build on them. That's how adults learn. You see it in this very article; I have given you three simple rules and now I am expanding on them.

Don't expect too much, too fast. Remember, that some folks' idea of "preparing" is to buy an extra six-pack on Saturday because the liquor stores are closed on Sundays. Take it easy; my experience is that prepping is a daunting task to most people and if you give them too much information you will spook them. Once they're spooked, it's hard to get them to listen at all.

Climb down from the crazy tree. No, I am not saying that you are crazy for being a prepper. I am saying that most people think that preppers are crazy. Your goal here is to persuade and convince. I would never have convinced my auntie successfully if I had mentioned my gas masks or my plans for a fallout shelter. Keeping your mouth shut about these things is also good OPSEC. Your goal is to sound just a little bit more prepared than them: "Terry and I bought a few cans extra cans of Spaghetti-Os last week..."

Keep language plain and simple. Imagine that you're explaining all this to a 12-year-old. Use simple words and concepts. Adults learn better that way. Complicated language makes them feel threatened, and they tune it out.

Keep concepts plain and simple, too. The novice trainer’s most common mistake is to dump a bunch of information on the learner and believe that “since they heard it, they know it.” That’s not how adults learn. We learn through repetition of basic concepts.

Relate it to their life, not yours. Imagine that you go on two blind dates. The first person talks about themselves non-stop all through dinner. You can barely get a word in edgewise. The second person engages you in interesting conversation and hangs on your every word. Which person do you call back?

You call back the person that talks with you, not at you. The same is true in persuasion. You are telling them these things because you love them. Listen closely to how they respond, like the loving person that you are.

Use concrete examples that matter to them. Which of these two approaches is more captivating?
“A loaf of bread might cost you $20 next fall.”


“The Federal Reserve was established in 1913, as the central banking authority of the United States. The Federal Reserve is a monopolistic cartel of bankers, and they established a new kind of currency called fiat currency, which is unconstitutional. Now, fiat currency is basically just paper backed up by law. It doesn’t mean anything…”

Obviously, the short sentence that relates to their life is better than the ten-minute history lecture on something they barely understand and don’t care about.

Now Let’s Practice.
With these rules in mind, practice a typical conversation. I have provided a script below, but in reality you don’t want a one-sided script; you want a conversation. Talk with them, not at them.

Also, notice that each part of the conversation is related to one of our three rules.

Rule 1: START SLOW...

Start with Pleasantries. (This establishes a sense of ease and rapport.) "Hi Aunt Bea, it's been awhile since we talked. Yes, Terry and I are doing well. We went hiking last weekend and really enjoyed it. How are things in Mayberry?"

Explain why you are calling them. (This gets their attention and prepares them for what's next.) "I'm calling you because I have something serious to talk about, and I know you're level-headed and you're likely to listen to me."

Establish your credibility. (Adults want to know why they are listening to you. Who are you, anyway?) "As you know, I was laid off from that big mortgage bank awhile back, and when the bank started having trouble I started paying really close attention to the financial blogs. I've been reading them for awhile..."

Establish the credibility of your sources. "... and I've been starting to see some news leak into the mainstream financial press, such as Yahoo Finance..." (This is true.)

Rule 2: KISS...
Explain the problem. Keep it simple and keep your language sane.
"A lot of credible sources are saying that there may be rapid inflation starting this fall. Nobody knows for sure, but it could be a little or it could be very high.It might take $100 just buy a loaf of bread. There are also rumors of a possible bank holiday this fall. The phrase 'bank holiday' is really a misnomer. It's when they close the banks for a few days or a few weeks, and you can't withdraw cash to buy food and pay bills. They might do it if they needed to fix a problem with the banking system. This is harder to confirm than the inflation, but I think it's wise to prepare for the possibility."

Let’s analyze the above paragraph using our KISS rule.
I kept it to two main points. There are a million things to prepare for; you need to decide what the most convincing, urgent, easily-prepped-for problem is and stick to it. I chose economic collapse because it’s in the news right now, and it gets people’s attention.
I kept my language approachable, and when there was a new term I explained it simply. I didn’t mention any off-the-wall theories or rants about the Federal Reserve. The bank holiday is a rumor but well within the realm of possibility; but I emphasize that the inflation is NOT a rumor. It is a credible possibility being discussed in mainstream financial publications.
I didn't just say "There's going to be an economic collapse." I gave them a concrete example (the $100 bread loaf) that would relate to their lives. And speaking of relating it to their lives…

Rule 3: RELATE...
Suggest some ways to prepare. "There are things you can do to prepare for this, Aunt Bea, and it doesn't have to be really complicated. You can take some money out of the bank, and that's good to have on hand anyway in case of emergencies like earthquakes. I recommend keeping about a month's worth of cash on hand, if you can. You can also buy some of those old quarters and dimes... you know, from before 1965, when they used to make them out of silver. [Take a little time here to explain why junk silver is good in times of inflation. Rawles has some great articles. Also explain that it can be purchased at local coin shops, and explain the current cost.] And of course, since food will get more expensive later, it might not hurt to buy a little extra food now."

Take a moment to consider: Why would you start by talking about cash, then talk about silver, then talk about food?
First of all, these are all simple, non-threatening recommendations that anyone can follow. You want to start with the easiest step and go from there. Let's go back to our three rules:
Start slow by talking about the cash first, because everyone knows how to get money from the bank.
Talk about silver next, because you can emphasize that they can keep it simple and spend just a few dollars, if they want. (In other words, right now they can buy one silver dime for about $1.50.) If you explain it well, this idea is unthreatening and easy to do. It's also "more sane" than telling them to buy gold because many people are familiar with the old silver coins.
Mention the food last because to some people in your audience, stocking up on food immediately rings the “crazy survivalist” bell. It's good to put it in context of a wise financial decision related to the other steps they’re taking.

Ask them to talk to their family. This relates the whole conversation back to their lives. It makes them feel less alone, and it impresses on them that we're all in this together, etc. It's also the charitable thing to do. The more people that prepare, the better. I have also used this moment to ask them to help me persuade others (my mom, my grandparents, etc) since two voices are more credible than one.

Thank them. This lightens up the conversation and makes it sane. "Thanks for listening to me about this. I'm sorry to bring up all this gloom and doom. I just really care about you guys."

Continue the conversation according to your audience. Tailor your spiel to the person you’re talking to. Think back to the three rules that I mentioned earlier (slow; KISS; relate). Below are profiles of three of my favorite aunties. How would you apply those rules to your conversation with them?

Auntie A is threatened by the idea of prepping. She will barely talk about it.

Auntie B says she has a gun, and she also says she wants to start a garden.

Auntie C lives in a big, dangerous city and she will not move (cannot afford to and has lived there all her life). However, she is otherwise on board and even excited that someone finally mentioned it, and she’d like to read some online articles. She’s worried about her antiques business in this economy.

Take a moment to think about your approach, and then read on to learn how I approached each of my aunties.

With Auntie A, I took it slow. I will be lucky if she will buy a week's worth of spaghetti; I didn't push her any further than the script above. I moved on to talk about the weather or whatever. I can always talk to her about it again later.

With Auntie B, I followed the KISS rule. I suggested getting a little extra ammo for her gun and enough seeds for her garden. These are simple things that she can do tomorrow, and they’re not that scary. I did not say outright that ammo and seeds will be unavailable after the collapse, because that sounds insane.

With Auntie C, I related it back to her life. Since she's web-savvy, I pointed her to a web site that discusses prepping to live in the city during an economic collapse (FerFAL's web site). (To “keep it sane” I mentioned that his site is "geared toward American survivalists" and “I don’t like reading it because it’s scary” but "if you can get past all that, it's worth looking at.") Because she mentioned that her antiques business will probably not prosper, I also pointed her to posts about how people make money in the city in hard times

In conclusion...

This can be the only conversation you have with your loved ones, or it can be the first in a series. However you approach it, remember these proverbs:
"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink." and, "A prophet has no honor in his own country."

In other words, no matter how simply and gently you explain the coming collapse, there will be some that prepare and some that won't. You don't have any control over that. Your only duty is to try to gently persuade them in a way that they can understand.

Final quiz: What are the three basic rules of persuasion?

The Memsahib Adds: Before approaching a relative or friend with the topic of preparedness, consider: Is there some aspect of prepping that would fulfill one of their long-held desires, or perhaps even a childhood fantasy? Have they always wanted to own a horse? Be a master chef? Live like a Native American? Live off the land like a Mountain Man? Be a doctor? Be an herbal medicinalist? Be an explorer? Be a teacher? Own a large acreage? Be a park ranger? Sail the seven seas? Be a philanthropist? Be a missionary? There are aspects of preparedness that can fit into all of these desires. So, in effect, you can make prepping fun and fulfilling for them. When I was growing up, I always loved baby lambs and wanted to own sheep. I was also disappointed that I didn't grow up on a farm, as my mother had. (I was raised in the suburbs.) Our path to preparedness was a great excuse to buy some acreage, and raise a flock of sheep. This led to buying spinning wheels and a loom, learning how to card, spin and dye wool, learning how to knit, how to felt wool, raising angora rabbits, and raising angora goats. This in turn eventually led to us getting dairy goats, and later a dairy cow. So all of this fulfilled a childhood fantasy of having my own farm. Thus, prepping felt rewarding, and in no way did I feel threatened or did it seem like I was living under a dark storm cloud. When I served my first loaf of bread that I had made with eggs from my chickens, and wheat that I had sown and later hand-ground, the rooster in our barnyard couldn't crow any louder than I could! My grandmother would have been proud of me. Talk about heavy gravitas, when bringing such loaves to a church potluck! (But even just brining muffins with berries that you grew yourself, or picked out in the wild can give the same sense of accomplishment.) It was much the same for me when I finished making my first sweater with wool from sheep that I had helped deliver. I had shorn the wool, carded it, dyed it, spun it and knitted it--bringing the sweater all to its final form. What a lot of work, but what great fun!

My favorite way to introduce this topic to other women is through teaching "heritage crafts". The homemaking skills of our pioneer ancestors are something that most women--even city women--can relate to. Whether it is canning, gardening, small livestock, sewing, cooking, baking, knitting, leather-working, candle making, soap-making , et cetera. I have done all of these, and and have enjoyed passing on these skills to neighbors, friends, and even my nieces and nephews. Perhaps your local church, 4H club, scout troop, PTA, homeschooling club, or public school would be open to having you teach a class or put on a demonstration.

I found that the more I learned about one preparedness topic, the more that I wanted to learn about related topics. For example, when I was raising rabbits, it was fun learning how many different ways I could prepare rabbit meat dishes. And when I was dairying, it was fun to branch out into making yogurt, soft cheese, and milk soap. With God's providential guiding hand, your friends will each find a special preparedness niche, that will benefit their families, and in turn get them excited about many more aspects of preparedness.

A note to husbands, fathers, brothers, and uncles: Please do not alienate your female friends and relatives from preparedness by "assigning" them a prepping specialty. Instead, let them pick their own, to suit their particular disposition and interests. By letting women choose our own areas of expertise, it gives us the feeling of being in control of our lives in an uncertain world. Encourage and nurture their interests, but don't dictate them!

Part of getting prepared is recognizing the fact that some aspects of preparedness are more "fun" than others. And, correspondingly, what constitutes "fun" for one individual is not necessarily considered fun by another. How many men wouldn't blink an eye at buying a $700 SIG or a $1,500 FAL, but get anxious about "the expense" when they see their wives looking through a Louet or LeClerc catalog? What is needed is a well-rounded approach to gathering logistics, tools, and skills. There is much more to preparedness than just "guns and groceries." Get prepared, but don't obsess over all the gloom-n-doom "what ifs?" You should instead take a well-rounded approach that will provide a family with educational activities and lots of fun, all while actively learning, preparing, and cross-training. One way to ease your spouse into a preparedness mindset is by encouraging her to get involved with a the local fiber guild, 4H club, or farmer's market co-op.

Tall Sally is absolutely right about going slowly. Get your friends and relatives into preparedness one small step at a time. Encourage them to get prepared, by playing off of their pre-existing interests, fantasies, and hobbies.

Friday, June 19, 2009

I know that I have seen posts about deep water wells, but when I search I really don't see that many applicable posts. I am looking at a property where water [static level] is about 400 feet down. In a "grid-up" scenario, this isn't really a problem, but I am looking for "grid-down" options for using a well at this depth. Not knowing much about the specifics of wells, I am not having much luck searching with Google, either. Would you be able to cover some deep well basics and some options for grid down/solar/backup pumping, specifically for deep wells?

Thanks so much for the blog. I have been an avid reader (pretty much daily) for two years and have several copies of your book to loan out to friends. - John C.

JWR Replies: As per your request, here are a few deep well basics:

Solar and wind power are the best solutions for deep wells in a grid-down collapse. If you live in an area with reliable winds, a windmill used in conjunction with a large gravity-fed tank or cistern, is relatively inexpensive and trouble-free. Photovoltaics are getting less expensive with each passing year, but system complexity is an issue, especially with systems that use a battery bank. (To maintain water pressure during hours of darkness, you will either need to store water in a gravity-fed cistern, or you will need a battery bank, so that you can operate your well pump. )

Deep wells can be pumped with submersible AC pumps, but not submersible DC pumps. This is because the "line loss" (voltage drop) in DC cabling is tremendous. Even with fat, heavy gauge DC cables, if you start out with 24 Volts DC (VDC) at your battery bank, you will likely be down to just two or three volts at 400 feet! Given that sad fact, there are two good solutions:

1.) Use a DC-to-AC inverter top-side, and run AC cabling down the well shaft to an AC well pump. (Note: Many of these pumps require 220 VAC, so you will either have to use a much more expensive 220-capable inverter, or replace the pump with a 120 VAC model. (You may be an electrical neophyte, and asking "What type of pump do I have?" Take a quick look at your AC circuit breaker box. If the breaker labeled "Well Pump" is a pair of breakers that are ganged-together with a wire loop so that they'll be actuated simultaneously, then the chances are 99% that you have a 220 VAC pump.)


2.) Install a jack ("cricket") type pump or a windmill to actuate the sucker rod pump cylinder. Traditionally, sucker rods were made from hardwoods such as white ash. More recently they've been made with metal or fiberglass. Even with ash wood, their service life is measured in decades. The pump cylinders are made of brass and will last many decades. However, the pump leathers will eventually wear out, so you should consider buying a couple of spare sets and storing them someplace safe from mice and moisture/mold. Unfortunately changing all of the leathers on a down-hole sucker-rod actuated pump means yanking the entire sucker rod and then the weight of all 400 feet of your service line. That is a lot of weight, requiring a heavy duty hoist and of course all the usual "mind your head, fingers and toes" safety precautions and protective gear. Lifting a 1-1/2" or 2" diameter 400 foot long pipe is no problem for a pump company, but it would be a challenge for a typical rural family working with an improvised hoist. I recommend that you watch your pump company man carefully as he installs the pump in your well for the first time. You will notice that the crucial piece required is the flange that catches the pipe unions on each 20+ foot long section of service line pipe as they are raised or lowered in the well casing.

I've previously owned a jack type pump, and in my experience I found them problematic. I would much rather use an AC submersible pump.

Shallow wells (say, 50 feet or less) can be pumped with a DC submersible pump. I generally advise my consulting clients to "hang" both an AC pump and and a DC pump, one above the other in the same well casing, for the sake of versatility an redundancy.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Getting any dairy animals is a very big commitment. However, I believe that they are a valuable part of your livestock preparedness. Even more importantly I believe goats are the best dairy animals for the survivalist.

Here are my reasons to recommend goats over cows for a survival situation:

1. A dairy goat is about one fifth the cost of a dairy cow.

2. Five goats can be fed one the same amount it takes to feed one cow.

3. If your your one cow dies you are out of luck. But the odds of losing all your goats is small.

4. Goats browse rather than graze and can make use of a wider variety of forage.

5. Goats are easier to handle

6. Because of their smaller size, goats are less likely to cause injuries or damage fences. Getting stepped on by a goat is trivial. Getting stepped on by a cow is not.

The downside is that it will take more time to milk five goats than to milk one cow. You'll have to get five animals in and out of the stanchion, Wash five udders, milk five does (female goats), strip five udders, etc. But I really believe that the benefits of having the insurance of multiple dairy animals far outweighs the extra effort.

The main drawback is that the cream does not separate readily in goats milk so that you will not be able to skim the cream off. And therefore you will not be able to make butter. On the other hand, goat milk is much easier to digest, and many people who cannot drink cow's milk can drink goats milk. And of course you can use goat's milk to make yogurt, cream cheese, hard cheese, and ice cream, as well as use it in recipes just like cows milk.

As I mentioned earlier dairy animals are a big commitment. This is because they are traditionally milked twice a day, at the same time every day. Perhaps your current schedule doesn't allow for this? There are ways to get around this and still being prepared. You could for instance milk in the morning but let the kids nurse during the day. You could also have a small herd that you do not milk at all, but instead just let them raise offspring until your family needs the milk. Or maybe have a small herd but don't even breed them until TEOTWAWKI. (Needless to say, they will not produce milk if they do not give birth.).

For greater detail on raising goats, I recommend the book: Storey's Guide to Raising Dairy Goats: Breeds, Care, Dairyingby JD Belanger.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

While we all dream that perfect place in the country it is important to emphasize how much that can be accomplished on a small city lot. My home sits on about 6,000 square feet of land, a small suburban house in a cookie-cutter neighborhood . The house and garage and drive way take up about half of the lot . Of what's left, I'm slowly converting the ornamental landscape to organic food production. My current garden consists of 48 tomato plants (4 varieties) 2 beds of sweet corn, 2 rows of cucumbers staggered 2 month s apart for continuous harvest, 2 similar rows of pole beans, one row of lima beans, 30 sweet pepper plants, 6 pumpkins, 12 winter squash, 12 summer squash , 6 cantaloupes , 4 peach trees, 2 nectarine trees , 2 pear trees , 2 apple trees, and one fig. In addition, numerous herbs –(basil , dill, rosemary, sage, and thyme) and 4 artichoke plants . Could easily plant enough onions and garlic to last us all year and I plan to do so as I add beds.

Last year I grew enough popcorn to last two years. Next year I plan on a large bed of dent corn for corn meal. Am still experimenting with winter crops but peas, beets, carrots, and kale all do well and I'm anxious to see how many potatoes I can get from 100 square feet.

I figure that I' ll pull about $2,000 worth of food from the garden this year and that ’it is going to increase because I still have about 1,000 square feet of ornamental beds and lawn to tear out and plant and the fruit trees are still young . Over the past 8 years I've spent less than $1,000 for tools and equipment: two spades (one all metal for my heavy clay soil) , a Mantis tiller, metal fencing stakes for pole beans, tomato e s, and cucumbers ( they last forever, much better than wood) , various clippers, twine, a bit of organic fertilizer , and the bare-root fruit trees . This year I've spent less than $25 ( seeds, twine, and a bit of seaweed spray) since I have all the tools already. Could rent out my tiller at $ 30 / day if I took the trouble to post at the local store. Meanwhile, we're eating healthy and free and will start putting up food as I expand my beds and grow enough to save as well as eat.

I love the work so it is not drudgery for me it is great exercise and a relief to be outside after working in my office all week . Weekends in late winter and early spring are a bit busy –-- perhaps 5 or 6 hours per weekend for a month or so . But once the winter garden is out and the spring garden is planted, it requires about two hours per week for the rest of the season.

Yes, we all want to life in the country. But until then there's free food for eating and survival storage right in your backyard if you're willing to do the work. - Patrick C. in Southern California

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I'd like to add an additional perspective on the letter on "Learning the Details of Self-Sufficiency" -- the conscious competence learning model. I'd like to pull back the shade a bit on why 'just buying stuff' and reading books isn't going to cut it when the balloon goes up.

Many folks are 'buying things', reading books, searching the internet with the thought that when the time comes, they will begin living the self-sufficient lifestyle in the country. The aforementioned letter points out the folly of this approach. I just want to take a step back and look at why so many people are taking an unproductive approach -- it has to do with how people assimilate new skills.

With a new skill set (like self-sufficient living in this example) a person at first is unconsciously incompetent (stage #1). Here a person doesn't even know what they don't know. They certainly don't understand the ramifications of not having mastery of the things they don't know. Most people stop right here. They feel safe. In fact, it's not until they go a bit further into consciously incompetent (stage #2) when they begin for the first time to understand some of the things at which they are incompetent; and begin to realize the impact of their incompetence on their desired outcome.

Stage 2 lasts a long time because the more a person learns, the more necessary skills they uncover, which skills they have no experience whatsoever. It's not until you actually eat the beans you've canned, which were stored in the root cellar you made; which beans grew in your garden, which garden you protected from insects, which plot you cleared from the forest, fenced from the deer, amended the soil, selected the correct variety of bean seed, planted at the correct depth,with the correct spacing, at the right time of year, with the proper sun exposure, etc. Then and only then will you have begun to have some gardening experience -- for beans. Then you can begin to appreciate that beans are not carrots. Carrots have different needs, and hey, wow, I wonder if all these different vegetables, grains and fruits have different requirements? Gee, what would happen if I grew my garden in 'compost' I bought from a local garden center and the entire crop failed, and I couldn't buy my veggies from Wal-Mart? Last example was a true story for me as a local nursery sold me 10 yards of 'compost' which [later] tested almost zero for N, P, & K. My crops bolted and died within three weeks.

Stage 3 is conscious competence. This is when you can perform a skill reliably at will. I can put up more beans this year, I know how to do it; I know how many rows of what dimension and how much seed I need. I want to put up some dilly beans, I know how to do that too. I can cook using the blanched and frozen beans I grew last year.

Stage 4 is unconscious competence. This is where you aren't even aware of the skills you are using to produce the desired result. People who reach this level of expertise often can't teach another person how to do what they are doing because so much ability (not knowledge -- big difference) is assumed. Have you ever seen a craftsman produce a beautiful result, and make it look easy? Then you tried and found, "Hey, this is harder than it looks!" That's what stage 4 is, and where you need to be before you risk your family's life on homesteading in the midst of a crisis.

We've only talked about beans so far; how about production quantity gardening for the 20 or so veggies, fruits, and grains you're going to need? How about producing pork? Chicken? Rabbit? Lamb? Can you breed, select, grow, cull, harvest, process, store, and prepare all of these? How about dairy operations? Retreat security? Redundant water systems in place? Redundant power systems in place and functioning? Productive relationships with neighbors? Suppliers? I'd like to give you a more complete list, but I've been doing this for years now, so I don't even know all I know!

If you aren't doing these things right now, then you won't be any good at them in a time of need. The only way to gain new skills is by doing. Take advantage of whatever time we have left before things get much worse, and go do it! - Mr. Kilo

Friday, April 24, 2009

None of us here can know the hour when 1 Thessalonians 4:16 -17, will come to be. There are Prophesies that seem to indicate that that time approaches. But we don't know. We are not Prophets ourselves. We can just know to be ready. But until that time comes, there are also many other possibilities for which to prepare. We are in the early stages of a world-wide economic meltdown. As that grows worse, it can lead to all sorts of interesting events. Unemployment will likely lead to increased crime and even food riots. That can lead to the break down of systems. And that can cause the loss of health care, electricity, sanitation, water and so on. And that will inevitably lead to epidemics.

The Sun is the "quietest" it has been in many, many years. The last time Earth experienced so little sun spot activity, hundreds of thousands died from cold and lack of food because it snowed during the summer. The Yellowstone Caldera, a super volcano, is 40,000 years overdue to blow. When it does, it will spread ash across the entire US and block sunlight for years. There is an undersea volcano off Africa that is in danger of collapse. That could cause a tidal wave that would take out the entire east coast of the US. ...And then there is the ambitions of our governments "new friends" in Venezuela and Iran, and Al Qaeda and N. Korea. An EMP attack will surely make us all take notice that being "friendly" and acting weak is no solution to bad behavior by evil people. ..Not to mention what the closing of the Hormuz Straits will cause, if certain folks decide they can get away with it.

And all that is just some of the possibilities as televised on PBS shows in the last week. Not even alarmist conspiracy theory or doom and gloom, just Public TV science and reporting.

I am of the opinion that the "first world" industrial societies are so complex, that they could collapse fairly easily. It's just like my tractor. For lack of grease, the bearing spun. For lack of a bearing, the field didn't get plowed. With no turned earth, there was no garden and no food.

In these kinds of economies, small events can have remarkable consequences. Several years ago, a tree fell against a power line in Ohio. That small outage spread. Power went off in parts of Canada and as far away as New York. A couple more trees, and there could be no power anywhere. And then who would there be to help Florida or Texas, after a hurricane.

So what are we to do? Certainly reading survivalblog everyday is a great start. Acquiring knowledge thru books is absolutely necessary. Getting training and practical experience at such schools as Front Sight and Midwest Native Skills Institute is crucial. You can also volunteer at any of many the open air museums, and learn about appropriate non-electric skills and tools. But, there is more. We really need seven day, everyday, experience.

For example, there has been a good bit of discussion lately about "city retreats". Some folks believe they can make it in a well equipped "abandoned" factory or warehouse. They will hide in plain sight. That may work for a time, but what happens when the power goes out, and your stored fuel is used up? You might have bullets and food stored to last three years, then what? In my opinion, if you are concerned enough to be reading survivalblog, you ought to be realistic enough to get where you need to be to survive. And, IMHO, that ain't the city. You simply won't learn the practical skills needed to be self-sufficient, if you live on cement

It is remarkably complex to be self-sufficient. Without daily experience, you are unlikely to make it. It can easily take three years to successfully cultivate and grow an organic garden. It can take years to really learn to save seeds or prune a fruit tree. If the electricity goes out, you'll need to be able to do that and much more. If you can't, your children will suffer. It may take you a season or two to learn to get your fences built before the deer eat your crops. (They can clear a garden in one night). It can take years to learn what you actually need to run a farm. Little things like having lots of nails and screws on hand. If the big box stores close, how are you going to build shelter for city family refugees if you don't already have the supplies? And do you know construction? Do you have the tools? Or, without lots and lots of files and hack saw blades, how will you work metal when the gas runs out? It takes more than just having an anvil and hammer. Do you know the simple things like stacking hay bales on their sides, instead of "strings up"? If the hay gets wet, the water will run through the bale if it's on its side. The hay will much more likely mold if you store it with the strings pointing up. Right now, we all have the time to make such mistakes. It's not yet life or death. But soon, it may be.

In a crisis, being efficient also becomes much more important. You'll waste all kinds of time until you learn to carry a tool box on your equipment when you go to the field. It can be pure aggravation to need a wrench, screw driver or piece of wire, and have to walk all the way back to the barn. A simple fix can easily turn into a wasted hour, if you don't have the experience and tools to know better. And an hour lost is a job undone. That can be very costly.

It's taken me quite some time to learn to consistently keep certain things lined up by the back door. If I turn on any lights at night, a raccoon or coyote going after the chickens will run. I've learned, if I hear a noise, to get up in the dark, put on my boots, which are always where they need to be, have the other necessaries in easy reach, and to get out the door, silently, to take care of business. That's not something learned easily or quickly. Just developing night vision and how to see in the dark, and how to listen to the sounds of night in the country, can take a lot of time. Not knowing that can mean losing half your chickens in one night. It happened to me.

It can also take some time to learn which neighbors are reliable and which farm equipment dealerships are best. You don't want to buy major equipment from a dealer that has poor service and inventory. And asking for help from the wrong neighbor can be worse than no help at all.

It can take many seasons to learn the weather of your farm. I know that there is always a dry week in April when I can till the gardens. If I miss it, and it rains, it may be May before the ground will again dry out enough to plow. And when snow comes from certain directions, it may mean I need to clear a roof before it falls under too much weight. ..It's happened.

It's taken me some time to learn to put a broody chicken in wire cage inside the hen house. I put as many eggs under her as will fit, put in a bit of water and food, and shut the door. I've had many a hatch of eggs go bad because the chicken got up and didn't find her way back. With this little trick of confining the chicken, I get chicks every time. That's not something you learn just bugging out from the city.

It's also taken some time to learn that its hard to read by candle light. An oil lamp is better, it can give between 2.7 to 4.4 candle power, depending on how wide the wick is. And having an oil lamp with mantle, which gives 40 candle power, (or the equivalent of a 60 watt bulb), is really important if you have any medical needs at night. I know I much more appreciate sewing myself up when I can see where to stitch, instead of kind'a poking around by candle light.

And so it goes. We all know something is coming. Most of us believe it in our cores. We wouldn't be here otherwise. So, what are you going to do? I believe the time has come to take action. It may not be comfortable to leave the city and a well paying job. But you have so much to learn, and so little time. You really need to get moving. Because the mistakes you will certainly make today, just may do you in, tomorrow. - Jim Fry, Curator, Museum of Western Reserve Farms & Equipment, Ohio

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Let me tell you about an experience I had the other day and my frustration. I recently purchased some tools from Sears and got the "higher quality" Craftsman brand. One of the items purchases was a bow saw. I did not look closely at the quality of the item purchased because I thought to myself, "It is a Craftsman, they have a life time warranty." Well, a few months later
the saw broke because of bad construction. Some little nubs that were punched through the very thin sheet metal that held the saw blade in place. It does not take an expert to see that they broke soon after I started to do some hard work. Very disappointing. Sears exchanged it, and I see that they have a new model with a rivet instead of a nub. But I am not sure that it will las very long. I asked the clerk if all of their stuff was Made in China. She said "No," and stated it surprised her that the saw was made in China.

On the way out I looked at a vacuum cleaner, it was a wet-dry "shop vac". Craftsman and Made in Mexico. I guess that "Mexico" is not China so she was technically right. I purchased a Kenmore about two years ago because it was rated the highest in Consumers' Reports. It is all plastic and does not work that well. The suction is pretty low. My grandmother has a vacuum cleaner that she purchased over fifty years ago. My brother and I call it "The Pig" because it looks like a pig (complete with a snout) from behind. I can not seem to find a vacuum cleaner that will last. They are all cheap and made as disposable items. I would rather purchase one good vacuum cleaner to last me 50 years instead of one cheap one every 3-to-5 years.

Where does someone buy Made in the USA products that are made out of good metal? I know a place must exist somewhere. Thanks, - Brent

JWR Replies: This topic has been raised before in SurvivalBlog. In my opinion, the best quality for your dollar can often be found in used American and European-made tools. For details, see this post from late 2008: Letter Re: Recommended Sources for Gardening Hand Tools.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

With a cynical eye on the rapid downward spiral of events, it seems prudent to plan for a very long time of sustainable living. In this case survival depends not only on your stockpiled preps, but also in your ability to sustain food production past the end of your stored supply.

Let’s assume, to begin with, that you have reasonably stocked retreat. I’m not talking a stock to the level described in “Patriots”, but rather one that includes a year (or more) of food, basic ammo, firearms, reliable water, heat and power source … the basics.

Now it’s time to look past the first year or so and decide how you will continue to produce food and supplies for your family. Hunting is often an option, but it can’t be considered a long-term complete food source, as it is not nutritionally complete.

Much has been said about keeping heirloom (open pollinated) seeds, and this cannot be stressed enough. But you have to plant and harvest a crop each year to continue to re-supply your seeds. Most retreats seem to be in colder climates as they tend to have a lighter year-round population load. If you’re up in the mountains, altitude will play a significant factor in what you can hope to grow. Staples such as corn require heat days in order to properly pollinate and “set”. You generally want to lay in a supply of varieties that have the shortest maturity date. That means from the time you plant that seed to the time you harvest the crop is the shortest possible number of days.

Using “short season” varieties gives you two advantages. First, if you have a crop failure for some reason, you can often have time to replant. Secondly, if you’ve harvested your first crop, you have time to put another crop in the same space.

As summer approaches, consider a great time to practice crop production, if you haven’t already. It is not as simple a poking a seed into some dirt. Get a couple of good gardening books, or better yet, books on basic farming. Carla Emery’s Encyclopedia of Country Living and the Reader's Digest Back to Basics are both excellent reference books that cover everything from farming to livestock to making basic necessities.

Having a huge variety of seeds is not as important as having plenty to the right seeds for your needs. If you just can’t live without brussel sprouts, by all means, lay in some seeds. But stick mostly to the basics: wheat, corn, squash/pumpkin, beans, peas, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, peppers, and your basic herbs. If you haven’t planted fruit trees, now is the time to get started on that. It takes several years for trees to be come productive. Also give consideration to other perennials such as strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and grapes. Again, it take a few years for these (except for strawberries) to get into full production.

Besides your garden, fields and orchards, you’ll need to take a serious look at what sort of livestock will fit in to your situation. Eventually, you will probably need some sort of animal power for transportation and heavy work.

The most efficient feed-to-food converter is a chicken. One hen will lay approximately one egg every other day. Peak production (during the summer) generally is an egg a day. Winter drops to an egg every third day or so without significant extra light in the chicken coop. You can expect to raise two or three sets of chicks each summer. Hens will get “broody” and sit on eggs to hatch them once the weather is warm. In order for the eggs to be fertile, you of course must have a rooster. The best ratio is one rooster to every ten hens. A family of four would do well with 25 laying hens and three roosters. The extra eggs produced during the warm months can be frozen or used for feed for other animals. You can even feed the [well-pulverized and unrecognizable] eggshells back to your chickens to give them adequate calcium. During the spring, summer and early fall, you don’t even have to provide chickens with any feed. They are excellent consumers of all sorts of insects and bugs. “Free range” chickens pretty much feed themselves during the warm months. If predators are an issue though, you’ll want to keep them in a moveable cage (called a “chicken tractor”) so they don’t become a snack for some varmint. Raccoons are especially fond of chickens, as are weasels.

If you know that the stuff is hitting the fan, try to order 50 chicks or so [and buy a 50 pound sack of chick starter feed at your local feed store]. Chicks arrive in the mail. Ideal Poultry and Murray McMurray are two excellent sources. If you order “straight run” chicks, you’ll get a mix (about 50/50) of hens to roosters. The best all-round chicken in my opinion is the Astralorp. They start to lay early (at about five months of age) and consistently, they are good mothers and are big enough to still be a reasonable source of meat. The roosters tend to stay calm and usually are not aggressive. Chicks will cost you around $1.50 each. The price varies with the breed, the supplier and the time of year. Ideal tends to have good sales, which you can keep up with by signing up for email alerts.

Another excellent feed-to-food converter is the basic goat. I’ll say right off that they are tough to keep fenced in. Goats are terrifically intelligent and are phenomenal escape artists. If you keep goats, make absolutely certain that your gardens, crop grounds and trees are well fenced off and well protected. Goats can decimate fruit trees in minutes. Goats produce milk, meat and leather. A doe can kid as early as eight months old, but it’s best to wait until they are yearlings. Goats’ gestation is about five months and they tend to only breed in months that have “R” in the name (Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr). There are some aseasonal breeders, but don’t count on it. If your does are bred in early September, you might be about to get them bred back again in April, two months after kidding. Goats usually have twins and triplets. Bucks can be smelly and can be aggressive during rut.

The breed of goat really is an individual preference. Goat enthusiasts will extol the virtues of their particular breed, but mostly it comes down to basics: good dairy does will give about a gallon of milk a day. Goat milk, properly processed, is indistinguishable from fresh cow’s milk. If you have never consumed fresh milk, you ought to give it a try. It is completely different from what you purchase in the store. It makes store-bought taste like water. Goat milk is white, it does not separate as easily as cow’s milk (it takes longer to skim enough cream for butter), and it is often well-tolerated by people with lactose issues. During grazing months, a goat will produce milk just with pasture (grasses, clovers, and browse). A small amount of grain is nice at milking time so the does will be excited to come in to the milking area. It beats chasing them all over Creation. IN the winter, they will require hay and a little grain if you intend to keep milking. Some people “dry off” their does in the winter in preparation for kidding. You have to allow about two months of no milking before the doe kids so that her body has time to produce the colostrum the kids need in order to survive.

Goats are capable of pulling small, fairly light carts and helping with basic garden work (muzzled, of course). They can work individually or as a team of no more than two. They are also good packers capable of carrying about 30 pounds (for a full grown adult goat). For a family of four, two or three does and one buck is plenty. And yes, you can keep doe kids and still breed them back to their sire (or their brothers). Line breeding is not recommended over the long-haul, but it’s perfectly fine until things stabilize and you can trade genetics with a neighbor.

Sheep are extremely important, in my opinion, but are rarely discussed. They don’t have a terrific feed-to-food ratio, as they require a bit more protein. But for what they give you in return, they are an excellent survival animal. Besides meat and terrific hides, sheep produce wool. Wool is one of the very best natural fibers. It is somewhat flame retardant, retains its warmth even soaking wet, and is incredibly versatile. It can be spun into yarn, felted, woven, and even worked with “raw”. Lanolin is the “grease” on the wool. Once cleaned, it is an excellent, lasting softener for badly chapped/burned skin.
Sheep are not very smart, and so they really require looking after. If you have a predation problem, you’ll want to keep sheep close-in, or have some sort of guardian (human or animal) with them at all times. Sheep are similar to goats in breeding and birthing habits. In fact, you can keep sheep and goats together without any problems. They do not interbreed (although you may see the males trying it anyway).
Merino sheep are the best for fine wool production: the kind of wool you can wear next to your skin and not feel “itchy”. They are hard to find in the United States. Virtually any sheep, except “hair sheep”, will work for survival purposes. Larger breeds such as Columbia, Suffolk, and Corriedale will have more coarse wool, but they will produce bigger (meatier) lambs on less feed.

Like goats, you’d want two or three ewes and one ram. Rams can be dangerous. Repeat: rams can be dangerous. There is a product available called a “ram shield”. It is a leather piece that fit over the ram’s face so that he can’t see straight ahead to charge. However, his vision is fine for eating and wooing the ewes. (By the way, it works on goat bucks, too). After one Suffolk ram kept charging me, it is standard on our rams except for the Merinos. I’ve never had an aggressive Merino ram. Not to say it couldn’t happen; it just hasn’t happened yet. Merinos are smaller and when the rams fight during rut, the Merinos can take quite a beating. With the other rams wearing shields, it helps keep the Merinos from getting clobbered. It’s best to have a separate ram area away from the ewes once the girls are bred. It’s just safer for the shepherd/ess during feeding and lambing time.

Hogs are not for everyone, but they are one of my favorites. They produce a lot of meat, they are smart and easy to manage if you treat them decently, and they can grow fat on table scraps, roots, and forage. One sow can produce 20 or more piglets in a year. That a lot of meat and useful fat (soap-making). My experience is that colored pigs do better on pasture and forage than white pigs. I have no idea why this is true, but it seems to be. I don’t think the breed makes much difference, as long as the pigs aren’t white. Contrary to the stories, pigs do not like to be dirty. However, they cannot sweat to lower their body heat, and they must be provided with a place to cool off. A shallow concrete “pool”, access to a creek or pond, or even occasional hosing off will work. If pigs cannot get cooled off any other way, then they will wallow in a mud source.

Pigs “root” (dig) almost from the minute they are born. This is a terrific help in the fall when you want to get your garden turned over. They are omnivores and will graze, browse, and yet still consume table scraps and meat. Pigs are a good way to dispose of any accidental animal carcasses that you can’t eat yourself. Pigs are extremely smart (some say smarter than dogs). Boars can be dangerous, just like any other male, especially when he’s chasing a female. If you see the boar slobbering (white foam), stay out of the pen. He’s wooing a lady. We tame our pigs by hand-feeding eggs to them. After a few days, the pigs will come when you call. I have never even been charged by a pig, and I feel comfortable around ours. However, I never forget that they have razor-sharp teeth and that they weigh about 600 pounds when full grown! I never let the kids go into the hog pens unless I am standing right there. We’ve never had a problem, but I don’t believe in being foolish either.

Sows’ gestation is 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days. Sows will have between 8 and 15 piglets per litter. Many times, sows will have fewer “faucets” than piglets and you’ll have to make sure every gets their fair share of food in the beginning. Within a week, the piglets will be running everywhere and helping themselves to whatever Mom is eating. Piglets can be weaned at one month, but we generally leave them on until the sow weans them herself. The nutrition they receive from the sow doesn’t cost me anything and it helps the piglets get an excellent start.
Pigs can be butchered at about 160 pounds, which will give you about 80 pounds of meat and 20 pounds of lard. Pigs raised on pasture have much less lard and more lean meat. A little corn each day will help them gain weight faster, but much of that weight gain is fat and is probably a waste of valuable resources.
One sow and one boar will keep your family fed and provide lots of meat for trade.

As for larger stock, cattle and horses are generally what most people think of. They have great benefits but also great draw-backs.
Cattle produce milk, meat and hides. They also have a poor feed-to-food ratio compared to smaller stock. However, cattle can provide muscle as oxen for pulling, farming, and carting things around. Oxen can be male or female, so even your milk cow can be your ox in a pinch. Cows eat a lot. Figure on a milk cow eating 30 to 50 pounds of hay a day in the winter time. That’s a lot of hay if you’re putting it up by hand. Bulls are dangerous, but necessary to keep your cow bred (unless you can trade for the service a neighbor's bull). It takes about a year or so to get a calf to butcher size, which means you’re going to be feeding that calf over the winter (more hay). However, your cow will produce five to eight gallons of milk a day (on average). That’s a lot of milk for your household, for trade, or for feeding chickens and hogs. Cow milk separates easily.

A cow’s gestation is about nine months and they will breed any month of the year. You can continue to milk the cow up until about two months before she calves. Cows usually have just one calf. Dairy cows produce far more milk than beef cows, but they have less meat. A good solution is to have a dairy cow and a beef bull. The resulting calf will have more meat at butcher time. However, if you’re trying to raise a replacement milk cow, this won’t work in the long run.

There are many breeds of dairy cows. Dexters are excellent dual purpose (milk/meat) for a small group. They are little cows, about the size of a pony. They consume half the feed of a full size cow, produce two to three gallons of milk daily and have a beefier carcass. They dress out at about 65%. The down side is that they are still relatively expensive ($1000 for a cow/$800 for a bull). If you look carefully, especially in this down economy, you can probably find them quite a bit cheaper. Dexters are docile and make excellent oxen.

Jerseys are another “homestead” favorite due to their smaller size and high percentage of butterfat in the milk. Jerseys are 800-1,000 pounds full grown and produce 5-to-8 gallons of milk daily. The milk is rich in butterfat and slightly sweet. I think it’s the best milk. We have a Jersey cross milk cow for our family’s use.

Horses are a huge help, but not necessary to survival. They consume a lot of feed without producing any food in return. Most of the work horses do can also be done by oxen. However, I’d rather ride a horse than an ox any day. If you have plenty of pasture, plenty of feed and plenty of shelter during storms, then by all means keep a couple of horses. Again, a mare or two and a stallion keeps things sustainable.

It’s unlikely that most people would be able to keep each of these animals, or even that they would want to. The idea is to carefully consider what you need to supply for your family over a period of years. What livestock can you add to your retreat planning to help insure a sustainable food supply? Other possibilities include rabbits (meat/hides), geese (down/eggs), ducks (higher protein eggs) or domestic turkeys. Both of the books mentioned above for farming practices have a wealth of information for small-scale livestock production.

The other thing to consider is mobility. If you’re already living at your retreat, adding large stock is relatively simple. If you’re going to have to bug out, you’ll have to consider what you can take. I know that I can put three goats, three sheep, six piglets, and 30 chickens in and on the back of my Suburban. I know because I tried it. It took me 30 minutes to get all of them safely loaded and/or crated. [JWR Adds: My #1 Son mentioned that you should have videotaped this exercise--it would be very popular on YouTube!] I’d have to leave my cattle and horses if I had to bug out, but I could take enough livestock to keep us going for the foreseeable future.

So give consideration to what you will do when your stash runs out. How will you feed your family, your neighbors, your group if hunting is difficult or impossible? What can you do that is sustainable and practical? Think about what works for you in your situation. It’s easy to butcher poultry. It’s a bit more complicated for sheep or goats, and it takes some serious planning for a 600 pound pig!
Think ahead and be prepared.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


One of your readers asked: "I want to buy a 3 in 1 machine. Does anyone have any experience with them? Perhaps a brand to recommend or stay away from?"

Having considered that choice extensively myself, my home shop amateur opinion is to recommend separate machines. Now that I see what a real mill table looks like, I realize there isn't enough table space on the 3-in-1 to set up anything. Instead, get the cheapest lathe you can stand, and the best mill you can afford. If you still want a combo for space reasons, get one of the lathes with the vertical mill attached at the back center of the bed, like the Grizzly G0516.

As one example of a machine combination, I would propose the 250 pound Harbor Freight 8x12 (8x14+, actually) lathe, and the 700 pound Enco Rong-Fu 45 clone (square column, geared head). I've found real-world machine capacities are better described by weight than work envelope.

Budget spending twice as much on tooling as you do on the lathe and mill. If you can only afford one, get the lathe. People did clever work with a lathe for hundreds of years before the vertical mill was made practical by cheap end mill cutters. Machine tools are only as clever as the user, but others' cleverness is recorded and available inexpensively in books from Lindsay Books.
Of course all this equipment is made in China. The EPA, OSHA, and the unions have made it impossible for industry to be competitive in the US. Thanks to what remains of free trade, you are better off being able to get Chinese iron than to get nothing at all. The purpose of autarky is to be able to starve a population into submission; see also
Curtain, Iron. Buy soon while you can still buy at all.

Chinese machine tools tend to be a fix-up project from the start. There are lots of little details which will want to correct, which you wouldn't be willing to pay the manufacturer to have done right.
Popular machines have deep user communities on the Internet.
Here are some suggested vendors and places to get ideas: [JWR Adds: Beware! Nearly all Harbor Freight products are made in Mainland China, and mostly junk with scant spares or warranties!]
Lindsay Books

Regards, - B.B.


Hi James,
I have had a Shoptask 3 in 1 for 6 yr's now. As far as I can tell, the Harbor Freight designs are [clones of the] older designs of the Shoptask machines. Grizzly also makes a similar machine,which in my opinion looks better, but I have no firsthand knowledge of that. My experience with any of these machine's is that out of the box, they are junk. These do not have high quality metal, hardened surface's and such. The belt drive's are poorly designed, extremely noisy, and prone to breakdown. The best thing to do with one should you purchase it,it to tear it apart, clean and adjust everything! Mine came with casting sand all over, and inside! Everything was sloppy or loose. If you have any mechanical background,these can be made into a decent machine ,but with lot's of sweat and time. These are great for making odds and end',or quick repairs,but not heavy duty stuff. They are not,and will never be, intended for 8 hour a day use. For a home hobby machine,they can be handy, but not for true business use. The switches are junk, the motors are junk, the bearings are junk, the belts are made of old rubber bands or somesuch! The milling portion of it is nothing more than a drill press, and just as inaccurate.

If your an experienced machinist, I have 30 year's worth,they can be a handy machine, given time and effort. I personally have three other older machines, two CNCs and a chucker, each one cost about the same as a new Shoptask. If room is an issue, I'd prefer to get a Harbor Freight machine, as it need's the same amount of work to be decent,and cheaper. My experience with Shoptask was less than stellar,as it took 8 months to arrive, a really slow boat from China! If shop floor space isn't an issue, I'd prefer--and wish I had bought--an older full size machine. Even an older "worn out" production type machine would have been less effort than this was! - Dean



In response to your letter regarding 3-in-ones:
The ones you see for sale are a combination machine tool that combines a metal lathe, drill press and vertical milling machine. They are used a lot by hobbyists here, and I have heard that in Vietnam and similar locales, they are the #1 machine for small motorcycle rebuilding shops.

I have been using a Smithy 1220 for about 5 years, and here are some observations:
Most of these machines are built on a pretty heavy lathe bed that uses a small milling table as the platform for bolting the lathe tooling to. As a lathe, they are pretty stout. Most of them lack a back gear for slow turning operations (such as threading) and you'll want to check on whether they have a split nut, power feeds and a thread dial. The basic 1220 I have does not have a thread dial or a slow speed, which basically means threading is done [by 'hand-spindling"] with the lathe powered off. The upgraded Smithy models have more of these features.
In general, these machines do a good job as a lathe. Be sure to get a 4-jaw chuck with the package, as you will need this for gunsmithing or any precision work. The import 3-jaw chuck you will get with most is not anything I would use on work that needs to be repeatable.

In drill-press mode, they will all work fine. They are really overbuilt compared to even a good drill press, so you will have no problems locating and drilling precision holes, countersinking, etc. I recommend tossing the import drill chuck that comes with these and purchasing a proper American-made Jacobs, as they are much better.
The main weakness in all of these machines is the milling aspect. The table is usually fairly small, most do not have a knee for raising/lowering the table, and they are not that rigid. Your work envelope will be quite a bit smaller than a full-size Bridgeport or even a tabletop mill. Get rid of the vise that comes with these and pick up a Kurt or a good import knockoff of this design.
Also, build a heavy-duty table to bolt the unit to, and it will run with much less chatter. I made a stand for mine out of 2x2" steel tubing filled with concrete. I can mill steel if I use good US cutters (pick these up on eBay) and modest feed speeds.

From my experience, I would say that the Harbor Freight model is probably the least desirable, in terms of initial quality and aftermarket support. The Grizzly is better, and they generally stand behind their products and offer replacement parts for sale. My Smithy has been okay in terms of quality, and I would say that their support is excellent (reasonable prices on parts/accessories and excellent US phone support). I do not have any experience with the Shoptask, but I hear good things about the machine and its capability.
If you want more first-person accounts, sign up for the Yahoo 3-IN-ONE discussion group. Cheers, - JN


In response to the questions about 3 in 1 machines. The two most common brands are Shoptask and Smithy. Both are imported, quality is pretty similar from what I can tell. I have owned and used a Shoptask for more than a decade.

Both machines have real limitations. For a neophyte or hobbyist who wants to make the odd part for a motorcycle restoration or old gun, they're fine. If you're trying to scratch out a subsistence living with a part time job as a machinist, you'll never make it. The mill/drill function of the machine is extremely limited in the "Z-axis", which is the "up and down" motion. There are other limitations as well.

I bought one because I knew I would be moving 5-10 times in a decade, and would have to put it in a basement or utility room. They are somewhat "portable" and take up less room than three proper machines. You can do decent work on them, but it's slow and tedious and takes more skill. But to do really good work, and do it efficiently enough to make a living on, you just have to have a real lathe, a real milling machine, and a real drill press.

If you shop around, you can get both a used lathe and a used milling machine, probably with some tooling, for around $5,000, give or take. Occasionally there are terrific deals around and you might get the job done for half that amount. A real lathe and a real milling machine could produce parts at about 10 times the rate of any combo machine.

Don't forget that it is entirely possible to spend as much on tooling as you do on the basic machine, so the initial lower price of the 3 in 1 machine isn't as great a deal as you might first assume, compared to a used machine with goodies included. Sure, there are worn out junk machines on the used market, so you have to know what to look for there. It's not an automatic slam dunk that all used machines are better than all new 3 in 1 machines.

If you bought new Grizzly equipment, you could get a small mill/drill machine and a modest size lathe for $5,000 including shipping. If you decide you really have to have one, stick with either the smithy or the Shoptask. Many of the off brands are junk. Some of them can't even cut threads, which is a key function of a lathe. HTH, - Troy


Dear Editor,

Personally, it has been my experience that no one, unless you are a "hobbyist", should use one of these machines. They are fine for very small parts only, and parts made of either plastics, brass, or aluminum. Why? They cut really fast, easily, and require no specialized tooling. No extreme pressures, but the speeds are up there, about 1,200-1,800 rpm.
It all comes down to one word: Rigidity! If it isn't solid, you have wasted time, money and energy. You cannot get gold, from junk.

1) A lathe was made to turn 'rounds', period.
You can dress them up with a number of additions, to make a lot of items not easily made by the lathe itself. (everything you do, costs more money!)

2) Mills are what they are, and anyone that has ever operated one, knows what's their most important feature/factor.
Not just weight, but the rigidity of the entire unit, from the "quill" to the bed, to the knee, (if it's that type of mill).
You cannot do much with a small lightweight machine, it's like trying to mill on a drill press! (It just Won't work!)

Like I said, those smaller combination units may work ok, but not for any serious metal turning or milling, especially of steels. It is comparable to soldering-versus-MIG or TIG welding!
You have to have the right machine for the correct operation.

I own a "very well used" circa 1939 metal lathe, belt driven, 9-12" swing, and 32" length material capacity. Geared head and has a range of 12 speeds.
It still, holds within .002"-.005" accuracy, and I've never "adjusted" it so far.
It weighs in at 400+ lbs. With the small 3/4 horse 115 volt ac motor, it can make anything I want it to. It only cost me $800!
(With that being said, 1 collet chuck cost me $600, alone! Then there were the collet sets and such, as well as the replacement 3 and 4 jaw chucks that ran around $280 each) Not cheap to get into, and not for just anyone! If you don't know what you are doing, in this area, then get some knowledgeable help!
BTW: they can, and they do, tear people up, if you make "1" single mistake!
Stay away from a lot of imported stuff, unless you know it's a real "brand name" that you can easily get parts and tooling for .

A machinist friend of mine bought a "Jet" lathe a few years back, then discovered it was smaller than what he thought...It had a swing of only 3 1/2 " and a material capacity of 11-3/4 ".
He paid over $600 for it, and it only weighed about 45-47 lbs! It was great , if you were making model aircraft or train components... He has it sitting on his desk, as it's only 18" long, and makes an interesting paperweight!

Look for the stability, and "serviceability" of the tools you select for the "proper" job.
In other words don't use a chisel in place of a screwdriver, and vice-versa!
There are quite a few older models out there today, and...not all Chinese made tools are that bad either.
For example, a mill I used a lot in aerospace manufacturing , was an old "MaxMill", a big old "boat-anchor", that wouldn't quit. The writing on it's electric motor was in Chinese, and I never did know much about it! We also had an "X-Cello". (I have no clue [about its origins],) but it was a good solid machine!

For "our" lathes, nearly all were made in China, as the really older ones made in Japan were deceased by then. My personal favorite was the "WEBB" or "Takisawa" (same same), the guys in the shop called it the "widow maker"...It had a broken detent, that allowed it to drop into crossfeed mode at it's own whim. Once it was repaired, I'd have paid $5,000 for that old junker! (Cost to replace the detent: $0.10).

Note: Most of the older DOD contract requirements mandated that any part made for them or by use in any military equipment, had to be made on a machine based in the United States only!
That meant out of our shop's six mills, we could only use three of them (the Bridgeport's) and of our lathes we could only use one, the "Hardinge". (A nice toy if you have the money.).
That included all manual mills lathes and all CNC machines. We had machines from Germany, Holland, China,and Japan.

Today, thousands of these older 'dinosaurs', are on the market... You can get an older "Southbend Lathe", for a song and a dance, and with all the tooling! You'll need a lot of guys and maybe a forklift to move it though! Bridegports are the same way!

Stay away from all of the CNC machines, unless you know programming! In the machining business, you have to figure it this way: "Weight is equal to quality and accuracy"! - Bill in Phoenix


Go to They are the best American-made machines (for lower cost) available. Their only limitation is [their small] size, which is true of any machine. - Mr. XYZ Axes


Mr. Rawles,
Any multi-task machine is a trade off. They do nothing well,but do save space. When ShopSmith brought out theirs in the early 1970s, I saw many demos and was about to buy one. I am glad I didn't.Wood or metal working is the same basic concept.

I would recommend that a person buy the tool they need most and add "toys" later. If you need a mill, buy a mill. But if you only do a little mill work but do a lot of drilling, get the best drill press available. You can put an end mill in a drill press chuck and do light milling. See my point. As for things made in China, almost all tools that have a high cast content like vices, anvils, clamps, drill presses, and such have been made in China or India for over twenty years. One good place to find tools and machinery is school district auctions. They upgrade the shops from time to time. Also, government auctions are worth looking into. I know the depot in Columbus, Ohio has had some good deals recently.

It's a sad state of affairs that our government lets this happen since China will not let an item be sold there that's not made there. Then they scream protectionism if we add a tariff or restriction.
Thank you for your blog, it is very good. - BKM


James: industrial has good quality stuff from taiwan, including mill/lathes 3 in 1s has been around a long while. (only 3 in1s) (made in China) is from USA but they are specialized for tiny things. has Chinese stuff, but is better than nothing, they have good customer service.

STAY AWAY FROM HARBOR FREIGHT! Most everything they sell is shifty shady and breaks fast. (it is soooo tempting though) I haven't used their machine tools, but to their credit, I have seen their smallest mill in three separate catalogs. Harbor Freight micrometers have some merit. My machine shop teacher had a few sets, but when things really needed to be precise he whipped out his Etalon micrometers.
I have been disappointed by every purchase from Harbor Freight I've made. I stopped buying from them awhile ago.

If two is one and one is none, [when buying from] Harbor Freight [, the ratio] is 10 is one and 9 is none.
Real machine shops give a wiiiide berth to the multifunction machines. It's like the AR-15 with every attachment you can think of . They get in each others way. But they're much better than nothing.

Mainland China and Taiwan are the most common machine tool builders. Korea and Japan make better ones--and of those, Japan the best. Germany makes them too (real good). Italy a few.
Basic machine tools from the USA no longer exist. Only the super precision, extremely large, specialized, and a few CNC.

Again, Moore, Hardinge, HAAS Sandvik. Moore machines can cost millions, Hardinge/Bridgeport cost tens of thousands (not pure USA either) and HAAS is only CNC, (great machines though--when they break, their software tells you what to fix!) Sandvik is super specialized.

Get used to working High Speed Steel. (HSS) It is more robust and cheaper than carbide, it does fine. It just likes slower speeds.
Dig through this Thomas link, and you'll find next to nothing in USA-built machines.

Kannon is a good middle of the road (hard to find)
Fowler is hit and miss (mostly hit), but reasonably priced
Mitutoyo (expensive), Starrett, Brown and Sharpe, and Etalon (expensive). You get what you pay for with these.
Stay away from any plastic/fiberglass/resin measuring devices. they loose accuracy fast when temperature changes. - Tantalum Tom


To the reader in Hawaii looking for a 3 in 1 machines, he might check out They have four different machines listed in their 2008 catalog. I bought a Shoptask 3 in 1 machines about 12 years ago. The he lathe part of it is fine, but the mill leaves a lot to be desired and I have had to repair the multi position switches several times. I am not a machinist, but a master machinist has thought me the basics and beyond over the years. I still use the Shoptask, but I also needed larger machines. Bridegport machines were out of the question as simply too expensive for just hobby work. In my search several years ago I found Grizzly.

The main reason I went with Grizzly is that they make large machines in 220 V single phase. Most other companies that sold similar machines of those larger sizes were all 3 phase motors and I didn't have 3 phase and I didn't want to buy a phase-o-matic system to convert from 3 phase to single phase. I have a 14" x 40" lathe and a 2 h.p. horizontal/vertical mill with a 9-1/2" x 39-3/8" table. Both machines are outstanding. I also liked Grizzly because it is a large company, with help line, and replacement parts are no problem. I am not affiliated with Grizzly. I just like their products. I have also bought a large wood planer and a large joiner from Grizzly. Again, they have outstanding pieces of machinery, but it is made in China. -Regards, - John in Montana



As a non-professional amateur hobby pseudo-machinist that likes to play with machinery. My suggestion is don't buy a 3-in 1 unless you have very little space or will do very little machining. I know there are many that won't agree with me. The problem is you will have a project set up and then want to work on something else. then you will loose the first set-up to make another set-up. I started with a 6" Atlas lathe 30 years ago and used a hand held drill. later was added a new bench top drill press (Taiwan built) then 4 years later I found a 16" Jet mill/drill that came from a burned-down fabricating shop. I've since added a 13" Enco lathe (Taiwan built) and many Taiwan and Chinese made add-ons. They are not the highest quality tools but they are what I can afford. I did add a strong magnet to the lathe gear box to catch chip. Without imports, I and a lot of others could not afford this type of machine. I have had to redesign some things on the machines but the machines allow me to do it.

Don't get me wrong, I would have a Bridgeport and an American made lathe and drill press if I could afford it.

Keep in mind, a lathe is the only machine capable of reproducing itself. It can drill, mill, bore and turn metals and wood. The skill and imagination of the operator is what determines what it can do.

Used machines do sometimes become available, both import and domestic. A lot have been abused, some well cared for. If space is not a concern then consider separate machines, and take care of them. - Frank from Indiana

JWR Replies: The current economic downturn will mean that hundreds of small prototype and production machine shops will go out of business in the next two to five years, particularly in and around Detroit, Michigan. There will be some genuine bargains found at auction. Watch your local sale papers closely. Some high quality US and German machine tools, bits, dies, jigs, brakes and so forth may sell for pennies on the dollar!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Yesterday, in Part1, I discussed the "safe" and counter-cyclical occupations for the unfolding economic depression. Today, I'd like to talk about one specific approach: self-employment with a home-based business.

I posted most the following back in late 2005, but there are some important points that are worth repeating:

The majority of SurvivalBlog readers that I talk with tell me that they live in cities or suburbs, but they would like to live full time at a retreat in a rural area. Their complaint is almost always the same: "...but I'm not self-employed. I can't afford to live in the country because I can't find work there, and the nature of my work doesn't allow telecommuting." They feel stuck.

Over the years I've seen lots of people "pull the plug" and move to the boonies with the hope that they'll find local work once they get there. That usually doesn't work. Folks soon find that the most rural jobs typically pay little more than minimum wage and they are often informally reserved for folks that were born and raised in the area. (Newcomers from the big city certainly don't have hiring priority!)

My suggestion is to start a second income stream, with a home-based business. Once you have that business started, then start another one. There are numerous advantages to this approach, namely:

You can get out of debt

You can generally build the businesses up gradually, so that you don't need to quit your current occupation immediately

By working at home you will have the time to home school your children and they will learn about how to operate a business.

You can live at your retreat full time. This will contribute to your self-sufficiency, since you will be there to tend to your garden, fruit/nut trees, and livestock.

If one of your home-based businesses fails, then you can fall back on the other.

Ideally, for someone that is preparedness-minded, a home-based business should be something that is virtually recession proof, or possibly even depression proof. Ask yourself: What are you good at? What knowledge or skills do you have that you can utilize. Next, consider which businesses will flourish during bad times. Some good examples might include:

Mail order/Internet sales/eBay Auctioning of preparedness-related products.



Medical Transcription


Repair/refurbishment businesses

Freelance writing

Blogging (with paid advertising) If you have knowledge about a niche industry and there is currently no authoritative blog on the subject, then start your own!

Mail order/Internet sales of entertainment items. (When times get bad, people still set aside a sizable percentage of their income for "escape" from their troubles. For example, video rental shops have done remarkably well during recessions.)

Burglar Alarm Installation

Other home-based businesses that seem to do well only in good economic times include:

Recruiting/Temporary Placement

Fine arts, crafts, and jewelry. Creating and marketing your own designs--not "assembly" for some scammer. (See below.)

Mail order/Internet sales/eBay Auctions of luxury items, collectibles, or other "discretionary spending" items

Personalized stationary and greeting cards (Freelance artwork)


Web Design


Beware the scammers! The fine folks at have compiled a "Top 10" list of common work-at-home and home based business scams to beware of:

10. Craft Assembly
This scam encourages you to assemble toys, dolls, or other craft projects at home with the promise of high per-piece rates. All you have to do is pay a fee up-front for the starter kit... which includes instructions and parts. Sounds good? Well, once you finish assembling your first batch of crafts, you'll be told by the company that they "don't meet our specifications."
In fact, even if you were a robot and did it perfectly, it would be impossible for you to meet their specifications. The scammer company is making money selling the starter kits -- not selling the assembled product. So, you're left with a set of assembled crafts... and no one to sell them to.

9. Medical Billing
In this scam, you pay $300-$900 for everything (supposedly) you need to start your own medical billing service at home. You're promised state-of-the-art medical billing software, as well as a list of potential clients in your area.
What you're not told is that most medical clinics process their own bills, or outsource the processing to firms, not individuals. Your software may not meet their specifications, and often the lists of "potential clients" are outdated or just plain wrong.
As usual, trying to get a refund from the medical billing company is like trying to get blood from a stone.

8. Email Processing
This is a twist on the classic "envelope stuffing scam" (see #1 below). For a low price ($50?) you can become a "highly-paid" email processor working "from the comfort of your own home."
Now... what do you suppose an email processor does? If you have visions of forwarding or editing emails, forget it. What you get for your money are instructions on spamming the same ad you responded to in newsgroups and Web forums!
Think about it -- they offer to pay you $25 per e-mail processed -- would any legitimate company pay that?

7. "A List of Companies Looking for Homeworkers!"
In this one, you pay a small fee for a list of companies looking for homeworkers just like you.
The only problem is that the list is usually a generic list of companies, companies that don't take homeworkers, or companies that may have accepted homeworkers long, long ago. Don't expect to get your money back with this one.

6. "Just Call This 1-900 Number For More Information..."
No need to spend too much time (or money) on this one. 1-900 numbers cost money to call, and that's how the scammers make their profit. Save your money -- don't call a 1-900 number for more information about a supposed work-at-home job.

5. Typing At Home
If you use the Internet a lot, then odds are that you're probably a good typist. How better to capitalize on it than making money by typing at home? Here's how it works: After sending the fee to the scammer for "more information," you receive a disk and printed information that tells you to place home typist ads and sell copies of the disk to the suckers who reply to you. Like #8, this scam tries to turn you into a scammer!

4. "Turn Your Computer Into a Money-Making Machine!"
Well, this one's at least half-true. To be completely true, it should read: "Turn your computer into a money-making machine... for spammers!"
This is much the same spam as #5, above. Once you pay your money, you'll be sent instructions on how to place ads and pull in suckers to "turn their computers into money-making machines."

3. Multi-Level Marketing (MLM)
If you've heard of network marketing (like Amway), then you know that there are legitimate MLM businesses based on agents selling products or services. One big problem with MLMs, though, is when the pyramid and the ladder-climbing become more important than selling the actual product or service. If the MLM business opportunity is all about finding new recruits rather than selling products or services, beware: The Federal Trade Commission may consider it to be a pyramid scheme... and not only can you lose all your money, but you can be charged with fraud, too!
We saw an interesting MLM scam recently: one MLM company advertised the product they were selling as FREE. The fine print, however, states that it is "free in the sense that you could be earning commissions and bonuses in excess of the cost of your monthly purchase of" the product. Does that sound like free to you?

2. Chain Letters/Emails ("Make Money Fast")
If you've been on the Internet for any length of time, you've probably received or at least seen these chain emails. They promise that all you have to do is send the email along plus some money by mail to the top names on the list, then add your name to the bottom... and one day you'll be a millionaire. Actually, the only thing you might be one day is prosecuted for fraud. This is a classic pyramid scheme, and most times the names in the chain emails are manipulated to make sure only the people at the top of the list (the true scammers) make any money. This scam should be called "Lose Money Fast" -- and it's illegal.

1. Envelope Stuffing
This is the classic work-at-home scam. It's been around since the U.S. Depression of the 1920s and 1930s, and it's moved onto the Internet like a cockroach you just can't eliminate. There are several variations, but here's a sample: Much like #5 and #4 above, you are promised to be paid $1-2 for every envelope you stuff. All you have to do is send money and you're guaranteed "up to 1,000 envelopes a week that you can stuff... with postage and address already affixed!" When you send your money, you get a short manual with flyer templates you're supposed to put up around town, advertising yet another harebrained work-from-home scheme. And the pre-addressed, pre-paid envelopes? Well, when people see those flyers, all they have to do is send you $2.00 in a pre-addressed, pre-paid envelope. Then you stuff that envelope with another flyer and send it to them. Ingenious perhaps... but certainly illegal and unethical.

From all that I've heard, most franchises and multi-level marketing schemes are not profitable unless you pick a great product or service, and you already have a strong background in sales. Beware of any franchise where you wouldn't have a protected territory. My general advice is this: You will probably be better off starting your own business, making, retailing, or consulting about something where you can leverage your existing knowledge and/or experience.


In closing, I'd like to reemphasize that home security and locksmithing are likely to provide steady and profitable employment for the next few years, since hard economic times are likely to trigger a substantial crime wave. After all, someone has to keep watch on the tens of thousands of foreclosed, vacant houses. (If not watched, then crack cocaine addicts, Chicago syndicate politicians, or other undesirables might move in!)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The current economic downward spiral has prompted several SurvivalBlog readers to write me and ask: "My job is now at risk, so what are the safe jobs?" I've actually addressed this topic fairly well since I started SurvivalBlog in 2005. We ran a "best recession-proof jobs" poll, back in May of 2006. Then, in February, 2007, we ran a poll on "Best Occupations for Both Before and After TEOTWAWKI". Later, we even ran a poll on the current occupations of SurvivalBlog readers. In the past three years, we've also posted a panoply of more detailed employment-related letters and articles on subjects such as:

How to set up a home-based second business,

Bartering skills,

Home-based mail order businesses,

Small sawmills,


Handloading ammunition,

Horse breeding,

Rabbit breeding,

Small machine shops,

Selling and bartering through Freecycle,

Selling and bartering through Craig's List, and

19th Century Trades.

And those were just the ones that I found in a cursory 10-minute search of the SurvivalBlog archives. There are many more. Just type a topic into the "Search Posts on SurvivalBlog:" box at the top of the right -hand bar. (We now have nearly 6,200 archived articles, letters, and quotes!)


Which Jobs Were Safe in the 1930s?

One good insight on the near future can be found in the past. (As Mark Twain said, "History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme.")

According to statistics published some 20 years ago by Dr.Ravi Batra, the safest businesses and industries during the worst years of the Great Depression (1929-1933) were:

Repair shops
Educational services (A lot of young men that couldn't find work borrowed money to go to trade schools and college.)
Healthcare services
Bicycle shops
Bus transportation
Gasoline service stations
Second hand stores
Legal services
Drug or proprietary stores

To bring Batra's list up to date, I would speculatively add a few more sectors and business that are likely to do well in the next depression:

Home security and locksmithing (since a higher crime rate is inevitable in bad economic times.)
Entertainment and diversions, such as DVD sales and rentals. People will undoubtedly want to escape their troubles!
Truck farming and large scale vegetable gardening (since just 2% of the population now feeds the other 98%--whereas back in the 1930s the US was still a predominantly agrarian society)
Export consumer goods. (Starting in late 2009 or early 2010, the US Dollar is likely to resume its slide versus most other currencies)

Tomorrow, I'll post Part 2 of this article, in which I will focus on home-based businesses.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Many readers of Survival Blog are either in the process of moving to a lightly populated area or actively planning to bugout to such an area when the balloon goes up. Twenty years ago I moved from the edge of a large city to a fairly remote property, and have been quietly setting up the doomstead and perfecting skills ever since. In the process, I became part of the fabric of country life here and have learned some valuable lessons which may benefit the rookie country dweller.

Most full-time country residents are descendents of frontiersmen who ventured into the wilderness with little more than a rifle, axe, team of horses, and a large supply of guts. Country people hold many of the same attributes as their forebears; competence, toughness, perseverance, and a willingness to help their neighbors, be it for common defense or a barn raising. Many of these traits are at odds with modern city life supported by a specialized full-time job. Your transition to country life will be smoother if you consider the following:

Country People are Closet Doomers:
They can do lots of useful things such as shoe a horse, grow corn, weld, back a trailer, milk a goat, make tamales, catch a wild cow, troubleshoot an electrical problem, can a tomato, and shoot lights out. And that's just the women.

People here are armed every day as a matter of course. Most have been shooting all of their lives, so the level of firearms proficiency is way above average. I see lots of casual ARs and scoped bolt actions, so if my neighbors and acquaintances are any barometer, potential rampaging MZBs are in for some exceedingly tough sledding.
On a related note, there are a few bad apples in the country, but most tend to migrate to the anonymity of the cities. The outlaws who remain are generally well known to both law enforcement and the population at large, and are easy enough to avoid once you plug into the local grapevine.

Be Scrupulously Honest:
Country people don't care that much what you think or how you wear your hair as long as they can trust you. Lie or stiff a merchant one time and in 45 minutes everyone in the county will know it, guaranteed.

On the flip side, if you've been given too much change or an error is made in your favor with a bank deposit or charge purchase at a merchant, politely point out the mistake and insist on paying the correct amount. While such a gesture will usually be met with stunned disbelief in a large city, in the country it will be acknowledged with a nod and sincere appreciation. And never doubt for an instant that the country grapevine will work in your favor as the word spreads.

When I first moved here, I was able to open an account with any business in town simply by asking if I could charge a purchase. No references, no questions, no credit check, just an address so they could send a statement at the end of the month. Such an accommodating policy would most certainly not have been the case had I been late in paying those first bills.

Money is Overrated:
Country people never forget a kindness; they also rarely forget a transgression against good manners or honesty. The most valuable commerce in the country is not conducted in dollars but in trading, gifts, being owed a favor, and goodwill.

Become Part of the Community:
Self-sufficiency is a worthy goal, but in truth perhaps the most useful survival skill is contributing to a community which has a stake in your well being. To my mind, being able to call upon neighbors for specialized assistance or trade is just as important as beans, bullets, and Band-Aids.

Schools and churches are the glue which binds a country community. If you have children in local schools or choose to attend church, tapping into country networks will be greatly accelerated.
Also, small communities run largely on volunteers, so consider volunteering at the library, as a fireman, at sports fund raisers, community cleanup, or meals on wheels. JWR Adds: If you homeschool your kids, be sure to join the local homeschooling "co-op" group. You will be sure to meet the preparedness-minded folks in your community.

The Country is a Time Warp:
Time passes slower here, as it's based more on the seasons than on a clock.
Fight the city urge to hurry everywhere. Tasks are completed when time, required supplies, and any needed help are available, and not on an arbitrary schedule. Parts are generally not readily available as they are in a city, you might have to order a particular part and wait days or weeks for it to arrive, and perhaps have to improvise in the meantime.
The two main time-related lessons you’ll learn is that weather can throw a kink into any plan, and maintaining household water supply trumps almost every other concern. You’ll soon adopt a mañana attitude about most other projects, as there is always plenty more to be done while waiting for specific parts or supplies.
Slow down enough to take time to talk about the weather, trade recipes, talk gardening, help a neighbor with a project, and to watch a sunset.

Seek Out Those with Useful Skills Now:
Country life requires a generalist rather than a specialist, so trading your particular skills – whether carpentry, electrical expertise, or knowing what’s wrong with a row of beans - with neighbors in exchange for their skills just makes sense. In fact, there is even a term here, “neighboring”, which refers to a group effort of working each landowner’s livestock in turn without hiring outside help.
I have also become acquainted with various people who have huge gardens or dairy goats or sheep or hogs or teams of horses and mules or a small band saw mill for making lumber. Such people often don’t advertise and they may be hard to find, but the search is potentially of huge benefit to the astute survivalist.

As an example, there is a man here who has an old steam-powered grain mill. Another has a tiny combine for harvesting wheat and oats in the scattered small plots where it is grown in this area. Up until now, I haven’t used their unique services, but still make it a point to give these men a quart of honey from our hives every summer.
You will choose to help many of these people in time of trouble, just as they will choose to help you, but in the meantime always exercise OPSEC about your underlying motivations and preps. Country people have a wide independent streak so your desire to be more self-sufficient will never seem out of place.

Country People are Provincial:
But largely by choice, which doesn't mean they are stupid or uninformed. The vast majority are Internet savvy and many are exceptionally well-traveled and well-read. More than a few have made the decision to leave a lucrative city existence in exchange for country life. The level of overall awareness is high, so you'll hear more commonsense over a cup of coffee than you'll ever hear from Washington.
A few recent quotes I’ve heard regarding our current economic meltdown:
“I was going to sell all of my calves last fall but held back four in case my freezers start to look empty.”
“We’re breaking some new garden ground this spring, going to plant a lot more potatoes than we usually do.”
"I bought two more cases of .223 ammo, just in case the rabbits go on the warpath.” Listen and learn.

Never Underestimate the Amount of Work Involved:
Few farms or ranches here are entirely self-supporting, with one or both spouses usually working a “regular” job. The pay scale is considerably lower than in a city, so often people work two or even three jobs in order to live well. This is in addition to farming and working livestock on their own places. People work hard, and that’s in relatively good times.

If this economy continues to unravel, more subsistence-level farming and ranching may well become the norm, and that’s when the work really begins. Growing and processing most or all of your own food requires a tremendous amount of labor and expertise, with constant effort from everyone involved. Have no illusions about some idyllic country life of sitting on the porch all day, chewing on a grass stem while contemplating the vista. The trick for making subsistence agriculture work is for everyone to always be doing something constructive, whether it’s hoeing weeds in the garden, building a chicken coop, shelling beans, cleaning a firearm, playing with a toddler, or rereading one of your how-to books.

With that said, no family or survival group can possibly be competent at all of the skills required. This is when being on good terms with neighbors becomes essential; give them half of a fresh beef now for the cheese they can provide later on; the pickles you made are a fair trade for his baskets of peaches; your stash of supplies may well allow you to trade for a rooster and five hens (along with some expert advice on getting started); if you can provide the diesel, your neighbor might plow your garden plot after your tractor has thrown a rod. - Bois d'Arc

Sunday, February 22, 2009

I was raised in a missionary family, on nine different mission fields around the world. At the age of nineteen, I went out to serve the Lord on my own in the former Soviet Union. I had no formal Theological training, but was accepted by the missionary societies of my denomination because of my experience under my father and my willingness to go to dangerous areas.

I married, and my wife and I have now six children. A few years ago, due to some changes in my theology, I fell out of favor with my denomination and had to return home to the USA. I was faced with a situation of suddenly having to feed and care for a large family with: 1. no formal education/training/skills of any kind and 2. very little understanding of the southern American culture that I found myself living in. I was forced to take very low-paying jobs and survive on a low-income.

With our savings we were able to buy a small rural house and 7.5 acres in the southeast. We were able to pay cash, I wanted it to be ours with no strings attached, regardless of what the future held. I figured that at the very least we would have a roof and some plantable land. I bought in the area my parents lived in to help care for them as they progressed in years.
Our income is very limited. I work at just above minimum wage. I work a full-time job and another part-time job. I am thankful that the Lord provides.

As I studied current events I became concerned about the possibility of a world-wide economic and/or societal collapse of some kind, or a societal break-down here in the USA resulting from any number of possible reasons. I had witnessed the chaos of the nineties in the former Soviet Union, had watched doctors and physicists sweep streets and live off of potatoes and bread for months on end, and I was concerned about my responsibility to feed my family should a similar collapse happen here.

What can you do when you have very limited means? Actually there is much you can do. It amounts to setting goals and getting your family on board with you. The first thing I did was (after my wife and I had many long talks and she began to see things in a similar way), I gathered the family around and explained everything to them. I explained about our limited means, exactly how much money was coming in, how much went to utilities, fuel, etc. I explained what I believed the dangers were. I explained what we needed to do as a family. Let me interject here that after being born and growing up on a third-world mission field, they were far from spoiled children! They were accustomed to living in tight quarters, washing in cold water, eating cheap, and basically just "roughing it."

My first priority was for two weeks worth of provisions. We began to buy a few extra cans of food when we went shopping. I set a goal of 20 dollars per week for prepping. Some weeks ten dollars of canned goods and/or dried foods like rice, beans or noodles, and ten dollars in ammo or medical supplies. Some weeks just food, some weeks just extra gasoline. We bought gas cans at thrift stores and garage sales for a dollar apiece, Large scented candles (better than nothing) at closeout sales and garage sales for 30 and 50 cents, and just about anything we could scrounge that might come in handy if the lights went out. It did not take us long to build up enough supplies to last two weeks in an emergency. We had enough gasoline to drive to work for two weeks (if needed), enough food for our family plus a little extra, and candles, radios, batteries and other odds and ends to get by.

I had also along the way added to my ammunition stocks for my Winchester .30-30, and my bolt-action .22 LR.
After we reached the point where we felt we had enough for a two-week catastrophe, we began to focus on the six-month time frame. This opened up many entirely new possibilities. since the food required for this amount of time was such a major expense, we had to make sure that it would last for several years. This raised the issue of long-term storage in buckets, mylar bags and oxygen-absorbers. We had to save for months to buy an order of oxygen-absorbers and mylar bags on e-bay! We found low-cost buckets and began to fill them with rice, feed corn, corn meal, noodles, beans etc. Anything that was inexpensive. We taught the children to like corn-meal mush and grits since they might get quite a bit of it one day!

Gradually we worked our way up to 30 buckets. At this point I made a strategic decision. I decided that we needed to invest our extra funds in gardening. Not entirely stopping the food storage, but reducing it in favor of procuring means and experience in growing and canning our own food. We began to buy canning jars and lids to put away in the attic for the future. My father gave us a tiller with a blown engine which we were able to get fixed, and we began to garden. The first garden was not very well thought-out. Some things grew, some did not. But we learned. We learned first-hand what pollination means and about soil fertility. We learned about bugs and blight. We gained valuable experience.

We also invested in chickens, and watched some of them die, some of them be eaten by neighbor's dogs, some get eaten by our dogs, and the hardy survivors begin to lay eggs. We watched them eat their own eggs and learned to give them calcium. We let half of them free range and half range in portable pens that we built which have an open floor that we could move each day to fresh grass. We learned how to make them roost and lay where they were supposed to.

We bought some rabbits and learned a lot, real fast! We experimented with many types of portable cages for rabbits which would allow us to move them from one grassy spot to another without giving them time to dig a burrow. Sometimes we would wake up and find rabbit carcases torn to shreds, because a neighborhood cat had gotten to them. My kids handled most of this, and they learned things the hard way.

If you haven't figured it out yet, We were totally green. I spent my life traveling and overseeing the translation of Christian literature into foreign languages. My wife is a musician. We had zero experience at any of this, and no one around that we knew to advise us. We had to learn everything from scratch. We bought a goat and promptly saw it attacked and killed by a stray dog. That hurt, financially as well as emotionally. After sending the dog to join the goat "on the other side", I bought another goat. and then another. These have survived. We have learned to care for them.

Gradually I am seeing my children grow confident in their relationship to the animals under their care. Gradually we are learning the needs of these animals and how to make them produce for us. If we had had some kind of hands-on training, it would have saved the lives of a lot of animals, but we didn't. I am happy to announce a much higher survival rate for animals that we bring home now.

I felt like I needed a greater firearms capability (what man doesn't?). I thought long and hard. At first I bought a Mosin-Nagant since they were so cheap ($75) and the ammo was dirt-cheap as well. I then began to consider what type of semi-automatic I could afford. I looked at the prices of ammo which was very critical since I would have to train my entire family to shoot. At the time the best deal for us appeared to be the SKS rifle. It was cheap (a good quality Yugo[slavian SKS] was less than $200), dependable, semi-auto and the ammo was very cheap at the time. I later added a cheap 12 gauge pump, and last but not least, a 17 round Bersa Thunder 9mm. After purchasing these guns I began to pick up ammo for them when I could find it on sale. I have gradually gotten up to about 500 rounds for each of them.

I then turned my attention to our home and it's defense. While we live in the country, we are close to our neighbors 100 yards +/-, about five miles from a small town, about 15 miles from a large town, and about 90 miles from Atlanta (upwind fortunately). My greatest concern is our proximity to the road. The house is only about 65 feet from the dirt road in front of our house. A looter or burglar/rapist could be at the door or windows before the dog barked. In response to this my next expenditure is to be fence posts, fencing, and barbed wire, along with a row of thorny bushes in front of the wire next to the road.

Our house is a soft target, offering no ballistic protection. My remedy/forlorn hope is to have plenty of sand and gravel on hand, and to start checking the thrift stores for pillow cases to buy and store. perhaps we would have time to bag up sand bags and at least harden up certain corners or rooms of the house. We also have several large piles of sandstone (we live on top of a mountain) which could be placed strategically and then perhaps sand bags on top of that. We could also cut logs and add that to the mix.

Our water supply is a [grid-powered] electric well. This is one of my biggest worries. We have made it a priority to buy a generator at least strong enough to run the well and freezers for an hour or two a day. I know that this is only a temporary solution but is about all we can handle right now. I am very thankful for the non-fiction writing contribution about the siphon pumps for wells such as mine, that offered up new possibilities which I have not had time to address yet. We also have a neighbor 1/4 mile away which has an artesian spring on his property, though it has extremely high iron content. I have purchased two 330 gallon plastic livestock watering tanks and several drums which I can fill at the first sign of trouble. I can also load them on my little trailer and pull them down to the neighbor's to fill up from his well. I just need to check on the ramifications of the high iron content.

I am also trying to fill up as many containers as possible with gasoline. I add Sta-Bil and plan to use/rotate it yearly (as long as the price stays low). I would like to keep at least 250 to 500 gallons on hand at all times. I buy old gas cans at yard sales and just found a source for cheap 55 gallon drums with sealed lids ($3). I may start using them instead.

Our immediate plans are to build more pens and raise more chickens and goats, maybe a pig or two. We also look forward to planting a much bigger garden this spring and maybe use some of our hard-won experience of last year. We also want to involve the kids in martial arts classes if we can afford it, as well as herb-collecting hikes from the local community college field school (which are free and fun). We want to spend more time with them in the woods and in the garden so that they feel comfortable there and begin to think about survival from their own perspective. We also are beginning to exploit the library for free resources for them to study on various topics.

The future of this country looks grim. As Christians we have "read the back of the Book" and we know Who wins. Our responsibility is to be good stewards of the talents we have, perform our duties as husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, and ultimately, to trust Him for that which is beyond our vision and power.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Situational Awareness has a number of definitions, from the rather complex to the "simple". They include:

  • The process of recognizing a threat at an early stage and taking measures to avoid it. (Being observant of one's surroundings and dangerous situations is more an attitude or mindset than it is a hard skill.)
  • The ability to maintain a constant, clear mental picture of relevant information and the tactical situation including friendly and threat situations as well as terrain.
  • Knowing what is going on so you can figure out what to do.
  • What you need to know not to be surprised.

This comes to mind because of my recent reading of your novel, "Patriots". (An excellent book. A must have for any "prepper".) The book is primarily about a group of people who joined together to survive in the "days after". The daily requirements of surviving in times of roving bands of criminals and martial law enforcers were covered rather forcefully. Many of the challenges they faced required an armed response, and situational awareness was often discussed. For the kinds of situations in which the "Patriot" folks found themselves, the extremely helpful explanations of such matters as OPSEC and LP/OPs are very helpful to anyone facing what is soon coming for many of us. As the book describes, situational awareness is absolutely vital to survival and success in our near future.

But, while situational awareness is most commonly thought of as a conflict skill, there are also other kinds of situational awareness. On Yahoo Groups, there is a discussion group about surviving in the days after. One of the most prolific writers has several times recently warned the readers to "Get out of the cities now !". He's even suggested moving to very unpopulated areas and using wood pallets to erect shacks. IMHO, this is a suggestion that will cause many people great harm. Folks, with little or no preparations, suddenly moving to the land to escape the "Golden Horde", will likely fail or die. Just reading the stories of the many pioneers who moved west, will quickly sober you up from any "can do/don't know" thinking.

I have lived nearly all my life on a farm. I have developed a deep knowledge of the land. It has come at the great expense of many missteps, failures, successes, hard work and time. I call it having situational awareness of the environment. I know what certain kinds of clouds mean when forecasting tomorrow's weather. I know that the vine-like plants with three shiny leaves aren't so good to eat or touch. I know a dead snake can still bite. People just coming to the land for the first time will have little of that knowledge.

For untold years and many generations, the knowledge of how to live on the land and be self-sufficient was passed down thru families. In farm country, school was often found at the back fence. If you or your Grandfather didn't know something, the farmer next door often did. I remember many times in my youth when I'd be out working the land and the guy next door would be out on his. Often as not, we'd stop and stand by the line fence and talk. ...And I learned lots. But, now, much of this passing on of knowledge is lost. Farmers more commonly sit 12 feet in the air, driving an air conditioned combine, following the turns suggested by the GPS receiver on the dash. Your parents most likely worked in a factory or a shop, than on a farm. What was common family knowledge just a couple generations ago, such as maple syrup making, canning, gardening, butchering, animal husbandry, etc., etc., is gone. The "chain" is broken. Without this great deal of passed on knowledge and experience, nearly any farm endeavor can, and often will, lead to unexpected disaster.

This is where Situational Awareness comes in. "The need to know, so as not to be surprised." The list is endless, but for starters:

  • Knowing the good bugs from the bad in the garden
  • Knowing fresh horse manure will kill a garden, fresh chicken m. will help
  • Knowing only 3 or 4 ounces of yew leaves--a common landscape plant in much of the US--can kill a horse
  • Knowing how to split wood so that the axe won't glance off and chop your leg
  • Knowing that burning certain kinds of wood in your wood stove means you need to clean the chimney twice a winter so you don't burn down your house [with a chimney fire]
  • Knowing the nice, fresh, clean, free flowing, mountain stream may be full of giardia.
  • Knowing that, when plowing with a horse, you should never tie the reins together and put them around behind your back so your hands are free to handle the plow. (This was the way it was done in the novel "Dies the Fire" [by S.M. Stirling). If your horse happens to shy and takes off running, you will be dragged along the ground and be seriously hurt. The proper way to plow is with the reins over one shoulder and under the other. Then, if your horse runs, you just duck your head and the reins slide off.
  • Knowing that crows in the garden are bad because they eat the new planted seeds, but crows around your chicken coop are good because they keep away the hawks that will eat your chickens.
  • Knowing that if your tractor suddenly starts making a new sound, this is not good. Stop immediately and figure out what's going on, before something breaks.
  • Learning to look around you when walking, instead of only staring at the ground for your next step, (as most people do).

And on it goes. I have lived decades on the land. There's not a day goes by that I don't learn something. But even with all my handed down knowledge and hard-fought experiences, I'm not even sure I could make a go of suddenly heading out to the "country" to build a cabin and barn, till the soil, cut fire wood, store food for man and beast, and more. It's just awful hard without lots of prep's. And I can tell you, without an extensive knowledge of what the "environment" around you is telling you, it's darn near impossible. ...(Taking a walk in the woods can hurt just as much as a walk on certain inner city streets.)

So what are you to do ? Well, having a "G.O.O.D." bag and great escape vehicle is a start. Having supplies, tools and seed already in place really helps. But once you get to your retreat site, have a plan, have some knowledge of how to do, what to do. Practice now. If you think you're going to learn while living in a wood pallet shack, you won't. You'll most likely die. If there's no more Elders to ask, get to know the other "elders"--books. Go to local farms and ask to spend time just helping, so you can learn something. Go to a school to learn skills; like tracking, orienteering and fire building without matches; (one of the best, imo, is Midwest Native Skills Institute). Never take charcoal or lighter fluid on a picnic, learn to gather what burns. Go camping in winter, instead of just when it is "pretty" outside. Find a "big animal" vet. and ask to attend and help when birthing a calf. Most especially, turn off your tv. Use your time to learn to sew, or knit, or make soap. Pick up (fresh) dead animals on the road and practice skinning them and then tan the hide. [JWR Adds: Needless to say, consult your state Fish and Game laws before doings so!] Find local crafts people and acquire a skill, such as weaving, or candle making, or tin smithing, because having a survival trade in a cashless society may keep you alive. Learn to listen. Throw away those darn ear plug music things. Learn situational awareness. What is the wind telling you about the day ? What does the sudden and not normal crowing of a rooster warn you of ? What does the setting of the moon in a certain place on the horizon tell you about the season ?

Learn what it takes to live on the land, before you have to suddenly move there. Learn what nature, the land, and new tasks are telling you, before you find yourself in a difficult situation, ...(un)aware.

- Jim Fry, Curator, Museum of Western Reserve Farms & Equipment, Ohio

Monday, February 9, 2009

Thank You Mr. Rawles,
My husband and I are new readers of SurvivalBlog; we have been so encouraged/convicted/moved/enlightened/blessed by your wisdom.

Gertrude's "Bloom Where You're Planted" article, for me, was amazing. It's the "if she can do it, anyone can do it' - I am encouraged. I don't really have words for what I'm trying to say, just that I don't feel so overwhelmed now after reading her words.

We are just in the baby beginning stages of preparedness. My amazing husband is leading us in the most right direction, and is a very steady purposeful man. I trust him and his ability completely.
I think to sum up this attempt at an email to you Mr. Rawles, is that hearing Gertrude's calm direction and wisdom has changed my entire approach, or my thinking....does that make sense?

Ultimately, my trust rests in my most Gracious God, and then, He knows my fears and doubts and places folks like Gertrude in my path. I am grateful. Blessings on you, - Kristy in Oregon

Saturday, February 7, 2009

I'm giving really serious consideration to a move to the north-central Ozark area of Arkansas. My reasoning is that the weather is fairly benign - average temps are 40-to-80 F, good [length of] growing season; land is still pretty reasonable. Acreage at $1,000 per acre - sometimes less - is not unusual. The area has springs/lakes/creeks/caves; many smaller towns; living costs are very reasonable; a strong family orientated population; fairly well-developed medical services even in the smaller towns.

I realize that this area is more suited for people who do not work or who are not looking for work, but I'm only seven months from retirement and so far have managed to keep most of my retirement funds from tanking. I hope to have in the area of around $4,000 per month coming in to fund my retirement; and this without resorting to IRA withdrawals. I should hopefully be able to off-load my house in Florida for around $150,000 - mostly because of the location. After paying the minimal balanced owed, I hope to pretty much be able to put up ~$100,000 as purchase money. Looking through the current realtor's ads from the area, that money could buy me anything from 50-to-80 undeveloped acres at one end, to a three bedroom house on 20-40 acres on the other end.

The biggest negative in the area appears to be that the in-place governmental infrastructure occasionally is not up to the job, a state income tax, and jobs are not very plentiful. But again for me these are really almost pluses. I plan to use trusts to handle most of my transactions there and by limiting my visible income I hope to keep pretty much off both the state and Federal radar screen. All taken together the pluses - at least from my perspective - seem to far outweigh the negatives.

I would like to build a semi-underground house on a southeast exposure to minimize heating and cooling costs as well as reducing security issues - both personal and disaster related.

A big downer there is that it is in the Mississippi earthquake zone, but sometimes you have to flip the coin, and I worry more about the caldera of Yellowstone than I do a [local]earthquake. Regards, - Doug D.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I recently received an e-mail from T.F. in Utah, who quipped: "They tell us that inflation is now non-existent. Well, how many years of deflation will it take to get prices back to where they once were? It is noteworthy that the average annual property tax on a house on a city lot now exceeds the entire land purchase price and construction cost of a comparable square footage house, in 1890." Inflation is indeed insidious. And its has implications that are far-reaching. For example, consider the following:

Creeping tax increases one of the reasons that it is now nearly impossible for someone to "live off the land" on small acreage. Even if you own your house and land free and clear, property taxes are inescapable. Thus, in "self-sufficient" mode, although you can feed yourself, you still need a cash-earning job, just to pay the taxes. I pray that at the far end of the coming depression, our debt money system--which is the root of inflation--will be replaced by a system of sound currency that is redeemable in specie. That is the only sure, long term solution to creeping inflation, and corresponding creeping taxation.

I've mentioned this tale of woe before: Back in the 1930s, my great grandparents lost a considerable portion of their 5,000+ acre sheep ranch in northern California to back taxes. At the beginning of the Great Depression they were land rich but cash poor. But by the end of the Depression, that had neither much money or land. (By 1942, the county had taken most of the ranch for back taxes.) Although the chances of a long-lasting deflationary depression are fairly small (since I think Helicopter Ben will try to inflate his way out of this mess), it is prudent to do your best to maintain a cash income to supplement "the fat of the land", from your self-sufficient retreat. See the SurvivalBlog Archives for some suggestions on building up home-based businesses.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Here's a beginner's list I made for my [elderly] father today:

{Brown pearl] rice does not store well. Neither does cooking oil so that needs to be fresh. No, Crisco doesn't count.
Coconut oil would be your best bet.
Wheat berries - 400 pounds - bulk order at your local health food store
Beans - 400 pounds - bulk order at your local health food store
Mylar bags
Country Living grain mill
propane tanks, small stove and hoses to connect
freeze dried fruits, vegetables, eggs and meat if you can find them.
500 gallons of water [storage capacity. Rainwater catchment is a common practice in Hawaii]
Water filter

Cast Iron Cookware

FN PS 90

10 PS 90 magazines

5.7 handgun

10 FN 5.7 handgun magazines

5.7 ammo

Training: Front Sight four day defensive handgun course. (Note: eBay sometimes has course certificates for $100!)

Body armor: Nick at

Personal medications
Augmentin antibiotic
Up to date dental work
Anti-fungal spray

$10,000 cash in small bills
100 one-ounce silver coins ( or

Gasoline in 5 gallon cans or better yet, this.
Gas stabilizer
Mountain bikes
Air pump

Rechargeable Batteries
Battery charger
Hand held walkie talkies
Topographical map of your area
Spare eyeglasses
Shortwave radio
Home generated power
12 volt battery system
Good backpack
Good knife
Good compass
Good shoes
Bar soap
Dental floss
Toilet paper
Fishing kit
Salt licks
Connibear traps

Regards, - SF in Hawaii

JWR Adds: The following is based on the assumption that SF's father also lives in Hawaii: Because of the 10 round magazine limit for handguns, I recommend that Hawaiians purchase only large bore handguns for self defense--such as .45 ACP. Both the Springfield Armory XD .45 Compact or the Glock Model 30 would both be good choices. The "high capacity" advantage of smaller caliber handguns is not available to civilians in Hawaii, so you might as well get a more potent man stopper, given the arbitrary 10 round limitation.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A front page headline in The New York Times on Friday shouted: Congressional Leaders Stunned by Warnings. The article began: "It was a room full of people who rarely hold their tongues. But as the Fed chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, laid out the potentially devastating ramifications of the financial crisis before congressional leaders on Thursday night, there was a stunned silence at first." Later in the piece, it mentions: "...the congressional leaders were told “that we’re literally maybe days away from a complete meltdown of our financial system, with all the implications here at home and globally.'"

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (Democrat, of New York) gave his impression of the meeting with Bernanke: “When you listened to him describe it, you gulped." In a another interview with NPR, Schumer said of the unfolding credit crisis: "If we wait too long, the floor could come out and everything could crash down. " It was Schumer, BTW, that first proposed creating a new agency that would be analogous to the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC), during the Savings and Loan Crisis of the late 1980s. Parenthetically, you will also remember Schumer as the inspiration for a couple of my pet expressions ("Deep Schumer", and "When The Schumer Hits The Fan"), that I coined back in the early 1990s, to avoid making crude scatological references. Given Senator Schumer's horribly leftist and gun-grabbing voting record, I make no apologies for enshrining "Schumer" and "WTSHTF" in the SurvivalBlog Glossary.

Clearly, we are living in perilous times. I predict that the markets will be in rollercoaster mode for the foreseeable future, with news stories and government pronouncements precipitating some huge swings. At this juncture I think that I should repeat some thoughts that I posted back in March of this year, since our newest readers probably missed it. This was posted back when I first started warning in earnest about the Mother of All Bailouts (MOAB). As you'll see, most of my predictions were correct:

Last week, the mainstream media described the latest expansion of the Mother of All Bailouts (MOAB), but they politely refrained from calling this what it is: socialism, plain and simple. The grand plan, as it stands now, is to bail out not just consumer banks, but also investment banks, with taxpayer dollars. They are effectively making our life savings and our future earnings surety for a bunch of idiotic contrapreneurs' loans on everything from flat top duplexes to McMansions. These were houses that the contrapreneurs bought, that they could never really afford unless the market continued to rise at an artificial rate. They bought these houses with the intention of "flipping" them, but then the market topped out, and the "easy money" party ended.

At least those hated fascist dictators like Mussolini had the common sense to nationalize viable, productive companies. But now Ben Bernanke is busy nationalizing a slew of corporations with negative net worth. This is absolute lunacy!

[Some deleted, for brevity.]

All of these calls for regulation, new government agencies, and greater scrutiny might outwardly sound well-reasoned, but they ignore some inescapable underlying problems: We have a fiat currency that is based on debt, we have a banking system with fictional fractional reserves, we have a derivatives market that is a $500 trillion casino, and we have a national treasury that is backed by wishful thinking--certainly not by anything tangible.

The other key point that seems to have escaped the mainstream media is that this new regulatory power is being handed to the Federal Reserve, which is a private banking cartel, not a government agency. They are no more "Federal" than the Federal Express parcel courier company. So this isn't just socialism. This is nothing short of corporate-controlled socialism--where a handful of banking corporations are given access to the Federal tax coffers to bail out other institutions and then, even further, they are given sweeping regulatory powers. This power grab is deemed "necessary" by circumstances that the Federal Reserve itself created! Somewhere, somehow, somebody stands to make a lot of money in this process. Cui bono? I'll wager that it won't be the American taxpayers that benefit. As economist Mish Shedlock observes, this is like putting the Fox in Charge of the Henhouse. Mish summed up the current mess succinctly: "The biggest, most reckless credit experiment in history has started to implode. It's far too late to stop a complete systemic collapse now. Granting new powers to the agency most responsible for the mess simply does not make any sense."

Secrecy is another concern. In a recent e-mail, SurvivalBlog reader KAF commented: "We should be greatly concerned about the fact that the Federal Reserve has provided public release anonymity to the institutions who are taking '30 day' never ending loans. We'll now never know if the institutions we deal with are truly solvent and credible, This new"confidentiality" allows the Fed. to manipulate reserves on a routine basis. We'll never know if this country's Federal Reserve is or is not heading for bankruptcy unless we use the tests of consumer spending and commodity pricing as indicators." She hit the nail on the head. At the same time that the press is howling for "greater transparency" in banking, and writing exposes of "predatory lending practices", the Powers That Be are drawing the veil of secrecy over lending institutions. They'd rather treat us like mushrooms--keeping us in the dark and feeding us barn waste--than risk a panic by letting the public know the real depth of the liquidity crisis and its collateral effects.

Instead of government platitudes, do you want some figures to chew on? Look at this Federal Reserve web page. The negative numbers at the bottom of the "Non-loaned Reserves" column speak volumes. Without the newly-created Federal Reserve "emergency lending mechanisms", many banks would be absolutely bankrupt. As you can see, the bankers are swimming in red ink. There is now a huge risk of bank runs, but this threat is being ignored by the mainstream media. Mark my words: There are bank runs coming.

The fact is that the global lending system is essentially broken. Artificially lowering interest rates won't fix it, when bankers are afraid to lend. As I've previously noted, the bankers are afraid to lend because so much re-packaging and reshuffling of debt has gone on in the past seven years that nobody knows who owes what to whom, and precisely what assets are underlying these exotic debt "packages." Meanwhile, the bankers have learned that the big insurance firms like Fitch, Moody's and S&P were in on the swindle. We now know that they colluded with their mortgage firm buddies to inflate assets and deflate risks in a masterpiece of legerdemain that would make Enron's accountants proud.

The bottom line is the the entire world economy is is in deep, deep trouble. Without financing, the Big Machine is grinding to a halt. The next few years will probably see the economy plunge into a deep recession, if not a full blown depression. The current headlines are just a foreshadowing of the real crisis to come. The MOAB will grow and grow, eventually bailing out far more than just banks. There will be brokerage houses, insurance firms, S&Ls, credit unions, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac, and possibly even muni bonds and pension funds are all lined up, ready to reach into our wallets. Once the government starts down the slippery slope of bailout-socialism schemes, they will perforce spread to more and more institutions. And, as I've previously noted, the public coffers will be insufficient to cover the inestimable costs of the MOAB. So this mean that Uncle Sam will monetize the difference. They'll just create the needed "dollars" out of thin air. This will be outrageously inflationary, at all levels.

[More deleted, for brevity.]

All of these macro-level implications might seem fairly abstract, so let me put them in real world terms and take the risk of extrapolating on some trends that I've observed: There will be a recession, and it will be deep, and long-lasting. A recession will mean that there will be some big corporate layoffs. Be ready. There will be bank runs and banking "holidays". Be ready. There will be huge flows of "bailout" funds that will effectively nationalize many industries. Be ready. There will probably be a stock market collapse. Be ready. There will be a further collapse in residential real estate that will make the recent declines seem small, by comparison. Be ready. Credit delinquencies and foreclosures (on car loans, home loans, credit card bills, etc.) will dramatically increase. Be ready. There will be a collapse of the commercial real estate market. Be ready. Even though the credit available for IPOs and private mergers and acquisitions has dried up, there will be news of some large and seemingly inexplicable acquisitions in the near future, all sanctioned by and in some cases, underwritten by, and even funded by, the Federal government. Be ready. There will be shortages of key commodities including fuel and food. Be ready. Strapped for cash, America's highway, rail, water, sewer, telecommunications, and power infrastructures will degenerate. Be ready. There will be mass inflation of the US Dollar that will devalue any dollar denominated investments. Be ready.

And now, to further extrapolate, (with a lower level of confidence): All of the aforementioned economic dislocation and surging inflation might trigger mass protests, riots, looting, and arson in the cities. Be ready. There may then be massive out-migration from the cities. Be ready. Wars have been known to follow close on the heels of depressions and financial crises, so there may be a war, possibly big enough to require another draft. Be ready.

As I've written many times before, the real lynchpin to worry about is the power grid. If the grid goes down, then all bets are off. Be vigilant, be well-stocked with a deep larder, and be self-sufficient. Store extra for charity. If you can afford to, establish a survival retreat in a lightly-populated region, and if possible, live there year-round.

I still stand by those recommendations. The time to get ready was yesterday.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Well, I am back on the Internet for a time at least. Mind you, from the look of the soap opera world, I didn’t miss much. Grin

A bit of background first for context. I am forecasting grim things for the fairly near future, particularly in financial terms. In one sense I am a type of survivalist, in that I want to prepare. Most survivalists tend to plan and prepare for a type of bunker at a fixed location to survive whatever doomsday they foresee coming. Such a plan has very distinct, real, and important advantages. However, the armed forces have a saying, “No battle plan ever survives first contact with the enemy.” In my case I did not feel I had sufficient forecasting ability to make a viable plan, nor do I think that most others have either. So I decided to be as flexible as possible based on a couple of premises. One; That there were negative changes coming for humanity which would cause great social disturbance, and when the stuff is about to hit the fan, it is best not to be standing about with your face hanging out. (Want to be at least a tank of gas away from a major population center.) Secondly economic conditions will likely deteriorate dramatically, and with them a good deal of the scientific infrastructure that makes life so good today. If humanity is going back to the 1800s, I want to prepare using the advantages our infrastructure of today provides.

I picked a number of locales at which I felt I could, in extreme circumstances, be largely self sufficient. All have plusses and minuses. A large degree of isolation became a central point because of expected social disruption. (Desperate, starving people.) Part of isolation is to be in a place where no one would likely go, or at least not roving gangs. And that means having no roads or trails leading to you. Individuals who are lucky enough, or experienced enough to find you, may make good additions to the team.

Events of Aug 15, 2007 convinced me that it was time to stop planning and begin acting. I decided to move to the nearest locale that I felt could be a possible final location, and which would allow me to be far enough away from a major population center so as to avoid the worst of the initial social disruption, yet close enough to rescue the non believers I care about, and also be able to salvage a good deal of valuable stuff before people recognize its value. From there I could watch events unfold in relative safety, while still likely to be able to move on if that became desirable. As practice and to test my plans, during the last five weeks I began setting up the beginnings of a permanent residence and clearing enough land for a garden. I don’t expect to use this location, but in a worst case scenario, or proper circumstances, I can. This is a report of the surprises I encountered.

Probably the biggest mistake I made was one that I had experience with, and logically, knew what to expect because I grew up with no electricity or refrigeration. I had not expected how emotionally dependant I had become on refrigeration and the offshoots from that. Logically, I had supplied myself with lots of dried foods, etc. In a “grid down” situation it becomes much worse than even those who grew up without electricity, and refrigeration will expect.

The most stupid mistake was to think I could use a cell phone as emergency backup in case of accident in an isolated, unpopulated place. You’re on your own. No signal.

Some small tools, such as a leaf rake which I never saw the likes of in the 1930s, would be invaluable. I tried to remember exactly what we had on the farm then and replicate that. A fly swatter or it’s equivalent is easy to pass over in planning. Pioneers valued their cutting edges above almost all else. Axes and saws were gold. I had plenty, depending on how society fell apart, but I have added more for a worst case scenario. I also found one of those charities selling used clothes and stuff. They had various sharp “butcher” type knives on sale for .19 each. I snagged about 40, along with some stainless steel kitchenware, and other goodies. [I think some things like specialty steels (razor blades) and aluminum (Energy intensive) will become very scarce.] I did one really good thing, and that was to obtain a loggers tool I have not seen in years. I call it a Peavey but it is sometimes known as a cant hook. Used for wrestling with logs, particularly in water such as a river.

Only once before in my life (over 50 years ago) had I met insects that raised significant welts on me. (And I have spent years in the bush, mostly in isolation.) The insects at this location did, enough so that I broke my isolation rule and visited a doctor. Four pills of Benadryl brought me back from sheer agony and fear of major change in plans. (I thought part of the problem was allergies due to advancing age. Maybe, maybe not.) A Calamine lotion with an antihistamine content helped marginally. Anti-allergenics are a must have in your medical kit. (Along with an insect mesh jacket and hood I discovered. The brand name was CAMPAC and within the last couple of days, I am informed that this type of jacket/hood can be purchased in the order of $11, versus the $36 I paid when in a rush.) Stocking enough DEET to be effective would fill a warehouse, although it works well.

I had forgotten what percentage of the time one spends in rubber boots, and how easy it is to poke holes in them. Of course I had a pair, but now I have four good pairs, and would consider more if rubber boots did not deteriorate relatively rapidly, unused.

Glass for windows and light will be sorely missed. Thankfully, I am also skilled in glass making.

After some scouting, the location I picked was on the edge of a swampy area of about 100 acres. Swampy area produces good soil when drained. (And lots of bugs until then! It was probably crown land. The problem in converting the area to farmable land is twofold. One; the trench(s) to drain it, and two the huge stumps and roots it produces, which must be removed or they simply sprout again. (One can do controlled burns it three consecutive years in the spring and it will be largely cleared, except for roots. [Watch for ground fires, particularly the third year] I had neither three years nor the inclination to attract fire rangers to my spot.) I had decided that fuel for mechanical devices would likely be difficult to get in isolation or TEOTWAWKI, so had opted for chain blocks and other hand methods for heavy lifting such as stump removal. I can say these methods do work, but they are very slow and hard work. I had expected to supplant my own muscles with horsepower, but moving animals before having a fixed location is a no go. (Plus animals don’t like biting bugs, which are plentiful around swamps, any more than we do and they move away.) Regarding stumps and roots- you can expect as much wood below ground as above ground. Lots of digging.

I began thinking about an easier way. Eventually, despite my resources being finite, I began to consider some form of small engine driven unit such as a 4 wheel ATV, (Arctic Cat) construction loader (Bobcat) and finally one of the mini-Kubota diggers. (Available in tracked or wheeled models) A regular backhoe would be ideal, and efficient, but it uses about 2-1/2 litres of fuel per hour. (Approximately 4+ litres per US gallon, or 5+ per Imperial gallon) Cost new; $35,000-40,000) At a maximum I felt I could not store a two year supply, if for no other reason than degradation of fuel. (A Kubota is a miniature backhoe, but one can buy attachments such as a blade or bucket.) The Kubota would be rather like emptying a swimming pool with a teaspoon, Can be done, but oh so slowly and ineffectively. (Note: A major problem with any form of backhoe is the hydraulics and their repair. If the hydraulics break anywhere, they may be useless.) For trenching, or digging roots the Kubota would be worth its weight in gold. I do have a chainsaw and spares, with an expected useful life for any engine of less than two years. (Fuel supply)

Overall, horses would be far more efficient than the mini Kubota, and the other small engine machines were non starters. (the BobCat less so than the ATV.) On the other hand, horses require feed. Unless one has a relatively small fenced area, and can bring the food to them, horses travel great distances to forage. I have seen them go 10 miles hobbled, and 20+ miles if un-hobbled, in one night. You can spend all your time chasing horses. (The pioneers often used cattle to draw their wagons as they traveled. Cattle will not wander so much when foraging, and stay in a herd, whereas horses go off in all directions, but are better and faster for hauling.) Since I had no feed to bring to horses, I could not consider other than forage. Until I had enough land cleared for my food and horses food, (Or fences up, and shelter is a higher priority) I would have difficulty getting thru the winter. (Plus, particularly now, I didn’t want visible trails from the road by packing in repeated loads.) Ah, the problems one faces for having a variable plan.

I can hear the questions/arguments now. I do expect land prices (not value) to drop dramatically as the world financial system collapses. (And government and law as we know it to fall apart completely.) Besides, there are few locations with developed land that do not have roads. Where I tried my experiment, there were no roads within five miles, and then only one poor secondary road/fire trail. So far as I know, there were also no habitations within 20 miles or more or even ATV trails either. So, while I am rather closer to a major population center than I would like, I feel that it is unlikely that I will be found easily by an inexperienced group capable of taking me (and those who accompany me) down. In the time available I could not make a significant impact on the ecology, since to build a largish fire to burn downed trees would have the fire rangers investigating instantly. I do believe I have tested out my general plan, and found some problem areas that need addressing. And that was the purpose of the exercise.

Warning: Do not try this at home. It requires lots of experience, particularly in the bush, but in farming as well, and even then success is not guaranteed. And it is so easy to fatally injure yourself, particularly if you are living alone.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Mr. Rawles:
After reading "Patriots" last year, much like Mr. H., I was decidedly ready to act, but largely unprepared logistically. It can be overwhelming and the feeling that “I had a long way to go” was ever present (it still is and I suspect always will be as my education never ends). I'd just like to remind the author to not worry, you’ll get the stuff; you’ve already taken the first step and done something. But preparedness is more than material, the mindset is most important. Start to live right, be frugal, be healthy. Don’t be reliant on outside institutions. Grind that grain, learn to eat and use whole foods. You’ll not only be saving money in this inflationary environment as you prepare, you’ll also enjoy health benefits and be doing your family service by breaking them out of the consumerist mentality that inundates us all and welcoming them into a life of self sufficiency. Most importantly by being a good, guiding father and husband.

Once you get your mind right and start thinking, you’ll learn to set priorities and focus on certain aspects of preparedness individually. Over time you will accumulate materials and skills necessary to not only survive in TEOTWAWKI, but to thrive in everyday life.

Last year I submitted an article called What if The Schumer Doesn't Hit The Fan? - Reasons to Prepare Anyway. I stand by my writing but have learned a lot since and think we are ever closer to rough times.

In less than one year, I’ve accumulated most importantly a wealth of knowledge, but also several months worth of grain and dried food for my family, a grain mill of course, defense items, several books, communication equipment, a generator, a modest gasoline supply, first aid supplies, a pocket water filter and several other items. We also now raise backyard chickens, expanded our garden, increased savings (the most difficult part by far), and I am finally working on starting a small dog training business.

Since deciding to really prepare, it’s amazing how far I’ve come, but I was also amazed at how receptive my wife and kids have been and how much we were either already doing or mentally prepared to do which mesh well with a preparedness lifestyle. Things like home schooling, camping, eliminating debt, learning to do without. I still have a long way to go but I am proud of our accomplishments and enjoying the lifestyle change.

In closing, I'd like to say it's awesome how many people's lives you are changing. Thank you, Mr. Rawles for all you do. - MB

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

JWR's Introductory Note: The following is a re-post from the Energie & Klima Blog, which was kindly translated by SurvivalBlog reader Martyn B., a multi-lingual Danish ex-pat that lives in Spain . To read the original article in German, see: Überleben in der Krise

Within the next two years, the price of oil could rise to $150 to $200 per barrel, analysts of the investment bank Goldman Sachs forecasted yesterday under the management of the famous chief analyst, Arjun N. Murti. According to the news agency Bloomberg, the cause is stated mainly as being that the supply of oil cannot cover the rising demand from countries that are comprised by the growth, such as China. The chief analyst of said bank in Munich Harlaching, where parents in the "villa suburbs" exchange the newest economic developments while they watch the kids playing in the sandbox and on the climbing rigs, only smile at such forecasts. The man in his late forties who is never seen without science and economy magazines, has already moved on. For a while, he has now been reading and praising "Walden" by Thoreau.

On request, Uwe informs overbearing, smiling parents that the imminent "crisis" has nothing to do with the crisis from the 1980s where Monaco Franze [bon-vivant, small time crook and protagonist of a German television series by the same name] procured forest strawberries, parma ham and champagne from Dallmayr (Delicatessen chain) for picnics with pretty female schoolmates in the English garden while the whole world around him was talking about crisis, saved and dared not "fill up". No, the imminent crisis, according to Uwe, is written in upper case: PEAK OIL, CLIMATE CHANGE, FINANCIAL CRISIS, HUNGER RIOTS and cannot be charmingly painted pretty by Munich-Harlachingen-ish island mentality, a completely misguided "Munich feeling". You need to
get prepared, right now, for a totally new, radically changed lifestyle in order to survive this CRISIS.

As The Guardian reported at the beginning of the week, Uwe is a part of a greater international movement. So-called survivalists with a sharpened awareness of the possibility of an impending total breakdown of Economy and Society, would be discussing on countless pages on the Internet where to find refuge and how to best equip your retreat once the time comes.
While many would not shy away from breaking arms legislation when equipping themselves, most will, according to information from The Guardian journalist Harriet Green, be content with the milder methods for fighting for survival, such as stashing food, growing fruit and vegetables in their own gardens as recommended by the famous British television chef Jamie Oliver and self-sufficiency in terms of energy and water.

When it comes to money, survivalists will also be looking for new opportunities. According to Harriet Green, precious metals are preferred. (For savings, Uwe advises stocks and real estate).

"The safe haven must be self sufficient". Ex-banker Barton M. Biggs also knows this. He is also one of the people cited in The Guardian's Survivalist Overview as warning against the impending total breakdown. The former (until 2003) "Chief Global Strategist" of Morgan Stanley has published a book, "Wealth, War and Wisdom" and contains, according to Bloomberg, has an unusual piece of advice for the rich: "Insure yourself against war and disaster by buying a remote farm or ranch and procure large stocks of seed, fertilizer, canned food, wine, medicine, clothes etc."
The "etc.", Bloomberg alleges, "must mean guns".

But even when "the wolf is at the door", there are also survivalists with a less bleak concept of the time after Peak Oil, such as the webmaster of WolfAtTheDoor, who predicts to The Guardian that TEOTWAWKI will occur within the next decade: "I'll be turning 50 this year. So far, I've had a good life. I want to enjoy the next 5 to 10 years."

Uwe, as it seems, has found a girlfriend among the single parents in Munich-Haidhausen; maybe he will soon be writing crisis in lower case. I'll soon be going to BeraterBank to find out.
- Thomas Pany, May 7, 2008

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"A wise man has great power, and a man of knowledge increases strength; for waging war you need guidance, and for victory many advisers." (Proverbs 24:5-6)
Most survivalist planning focuses on physical needs—food, shelter, clothing, first aid, self defense. While the physical essentials rightly belong at the top of the list, there's almost always some empty space left in the locker/bunker/trailer/back-of-the-truck for...something. What to put in there?

Human beings are social animals, and we need each other; God has woven this into our genetic code. A "Lone Ranger" survivalist might have an edge in the short-term, but a group of survivors has a distinct long-term advantage—if they can overcome the challenges. Other than basic supply-scale issues, the primary challenges facing larger groups center around communication issues—making sure everyone is fully informed and knows The Plan. Communication helps build trust, and trust-based relationships are exactly what you need as a survivor—whether you're dealing with your family, or with the family down the road, in the next county, or across the globe.

One of the reasons I enjoy being a technology consultant is the fact that technology brings people together. Postal mail, telephone, fax, mobile phones, email, text messaging, videoconferencing, two-way name it, it's basically about human communication. As I formulate and revise my overall survival plan, I find myself evaluating various technology gadgets in this light: Would this gizmo (whatever it is) provide communication benefits to me if I were in survival mode, and, if so, is it feasible and reasonable to utilize it in that capacity? Note that what is "feasible" and "reasonable" are almost completely subjective, depending on the skill set of the particular individual or group—those who have a "techno-wiz" or two in their midst can obviously support more complex technology than others. By evaluating your group's capacity for utilizing technology, and carefully selecting from some proven technologies, you can improve your survival capabilities in numerous ways by improving your ability to communicate within your group of survivors, be it large or small, and increase your access to outside resources. Here are some ideas:
Get your ears on. The mobile phone infrastructure may or may not be operational, and even if it is, your survival retreat might not have decent reception—so don't count on it. If your group consists of more than one person, odds are that you will need to split up at some point, and radio communications give you a huge advantage in almost every situation—especially if you run up against an aggressor. Anything is better than nothing, so at least grab a set of inexpensive "bubble pack" FRS/GMRS radios. Better still, see if you can develop a relationship with a like-minded radio guy in your area, and draw upon his expertise. Find yourself an expert and get educated.[JWR Adds: See the ARRL for a directory that will include a ham radio club in your area.]

Get eyes in the back of your head...or house. A good survival retreat includes a security system, and this is a great place to leverage technology. D-Link, TrendNet and others make decent network cameras, both wired and wireless, for around $100 each. You can string network wires through the trees, direct-bury, or go wireless. Virtually any inexpensive wireless access point (e.g., Linksys/Netgear/D-Link cable/DSL routers, Apple AirPorts, etc.) can be used to provide a basic communications network for wireless cameras. Using multiple cameras with software like Security Spy for Macs or NCH Software for Windows, one person with a laptop computer can cover a lot of ground just sitting in a chair. You can even configure the software's motion detection features to alert you (by making a noise, flashing the screen, etc.) when anything moves, so the man on duty doesn't have to keep his eyes glued to the screen. Much of this equipment runs on 12 VDC, so it's perfect for photovoltaic-powered systems.

Own the night. Get some night vision equipment. Others have written extensively and with much more knowledge on the subject than I possess, but if you can see in the dark, you have a huge advantage over the guy who can't. Find yourself an expert and get educated. 'Nuff said. [JWR Adds: One night vision gear vendor that I recommend is JRH Enterprises.}

Get connected. What happens to the internet after TEOTWAWKI? A safe assumption is that the Internet will be unreliable at best, and possibly unusable. This may be true to varying degrees on a global or regional scale, but understand that the internet itself is simply a conglomeration of smaller networks. If you've built a security network like the one mentioned above, you can use point-to-point wireless links to connect your survival retreat with your closest like-minded neighbor (you do know your neighbors, right?), so you can communicate more quickly and easily. Remember, there is strength in numbers—especially when you can maintain good communications. What's more, if you build a "mesh" of interconnected networks, if just one location has internet access, those communication and information resources immediately become available to the entire mesh. Remember all those articles you always meant to print out but never did? If the server is still online, now you can get to them!

The least expensive wireless point-to-point equipment is generally going to be a pair of weatherproofed 802.11b/g radios hooked to a directional antennas. The disadvantage to this configuration is that 802.11b/g is a "line-of-sight" technology that uses microwave frequencies—so, anything that would heat up in a microwave oven will attenuate the signal. Thus, if your two locations are separated by foliage or terrain, you'll have to get those antennas up over the treetops. Not only is that a hassle, but it's also a very easy way for non-friendlies to locate your retreat. In that case, you'd be better off utilizing more specialized equipment from a manufacturer like Motorola or Trango. It's pricier, but it's non-line-of-sight (NLOS) and will shoot through trees.

Light 'em up! A good solar power system is a great addition to a survival retreat in any case, but it becomes a necessity if you want to leverage electrically-powered technology. A basic solar power plant is comprised of one or more photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, which generate electric current whenever they're exposed to light, one or more deep-cycle batteries to store the excess power for later use, and electronics to regulate the voltage and manage the battery charging. Power is usually delivered at 12 VDC, which can be converted to 120 VAC using an inverter—though it's more efficient to simply use equipment that will run on 12 VDC. Don't skimp on photovoltaic gear, and I recommend sizing your solar panels to at least double your usage projections. For one thing, you'll always want more juice than you think you'll need. For another thing, many vendors quote solar panel performance based on best-case conditions, and even if they regionalize their numbers for the amount of daylight in your area, they typically use an average length-of-day instead of the shortest length-of-day, and they either ignore or underestimate the effects of cloudy days, dust coating, bird feces, etc. on PV panel performance. Solar power is quiet, too, so you won't be giving away your position with a noisy generator. [JWR Adds: One alternative energy system vendor that I recommend is Ready Made Resources Also, don't overlook the references available at SolarDoc, at Backwoods Home magazine, and at Home Power magazine.]

Protect your equipment against electromagnetic pulse (EMP). The general effects of EMP are fairly well documented, but the specific effects of EMP on various types of electronic equipment, and the most effective ways of protecting that equipment, are not so well-documented. EMP is surrounded by misinformation, urban legend, and simple unknowns. Most "experts" on EMP seem to agree that the most straightforward way to protect equipment is probably to store it inside a "Faraday box," which could be made by lining the inside of a metal filing cabinet with several layers of newspaper, or wrapping a cardboard box with a couple layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Stored in these containers, your electronic equipment is reasonably protected against EMP. Note that I said "reasonably." When we're talking about EMP, we're talking about nuclear attack, and survivability—for electronics and people alike—is obviously highly dependent on where you are in relation to ground zero, so all you can do is make reasonable preparations and pray to God for grace.

Only you can determine whether or not the benefits of these technologies are worth the money and effort in your particular survival plan. If you decide to utilize any particular technology, I highly recommend building and testing the system now, before it's needed. And, of course, you should always have a "Plan B" for those times when—not if, but when—the technology fails. EMP, rainwater in the wrong place, a broken wire, and a dead battery all have the same end result—dead equipment—and you need to plan for it. Note, too, that the ideas presented here were kept to a basic level of information due to the limited scope of this article—each topic would easily merit a fairly lengthy book, if not a complete volume, in order to be explored to a satisfactory degree—so I strongly encourage you to seek further knowledge in those systems that are of interest to you.

Again: Find yourself an expert and get educated. If you're an expert in one or more survival fields, find someone who wants to be educated and teach them. Being a survivalist doesn't mean you have to be antisocial. Remember that part of your survival plan should involve building relationships with like-minded people who have, among them, a diverse enough skill set to be able to handle the widest possible range of survival tasks. One of the primary uses of communications technology, aside from its immediate tactical use, is to build and maintain these kinds of relationships even (or especially) in a survival scenario."Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no-one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

Here is a non-exhaustive list of Internet resources, to help get you started:

Night vision:
Optics Planet

Point-to-point and outdoor wireless:
Radio Labs
Trango Broadband
Motorola PTP
MoonBlink Wi-Fi

Photovoltaic power:
Solar Power Directory

EMP protection:
AusSurvivalist EMP Protection Pages
Faraday Cages
1997 Military EMP Hardening Handbook EMP Hardening Handbook

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Mr. Rawles,
I have been working on a retreat that I will be moving to later in the year. Naturally, construction is taking up a large amount of my time. My family is on-board for the retreat.

I need help in the area of an Operations and Security Manual. Is there anything that you know of that would be a starting place rather than from the ground up? I know there are a lot of things that I would miss out on if I started [by myself] from the ground up, and not know it until it's too late. I purchased the "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course and I would have missed the boat on food storage if I did not have that as a reference.

Any direction would be appreciated. Thank you, - Craig in Arkansas

JWR Replies: I can't recommend a stand-alone reference, but I can recommend an abbreviated version of the list of "musts" for your retreat bookshelf::

  • The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery. Sasquatch Books. (Get the Ninth or later edition.) This book is 845 pages of valuable 'how to' country survival knowledge.
  • Nuclear War Survival Skills, by Cresson H. Kearney
  • American Red Cross First Aid
  • Where There is No Doctor, by David Werner
  • Where There is No Dentist, by Murray Dickson
  • Emergency War Surgery (NATO handbook) Dr. Martin Fackler, et al.
  • The Ultimate Sniper, by Maj. John L. Plaster

And, at the risk of sounding self-serving, I also recommend my novel "Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse". It provide a detailed description of what might be needed to secure and operate a self-sufficient rural retreat in a protracted societal collapse.

Monday, May 5, 2008

I have finally found one of my favorite books available as a PDF. This Peace Corps Remote Areas Development Guide is just what anyone would need to jump start a agricultural settlement and
everything else the small town would need.

Unfortunately the [photo reproduction] quality [of the PDF file] is low, I have packed my hard copy of this practical pocket guide with me for many years from my college Bugout Bag to here in Israel.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I’m finding SurvivalBlog very interesting in these troubling times. I came across it in the bibliography of a good novel, "Last Light", by Alex Scarrow, which took me to Peak Oil, and then to your blog.

I live in a small city in the most unknown part of Italy , a southern region called Basilicata . It’s always been a region bypassed by history and its inhabitants have known a modicum of well being only in the past 20 years. You might have heard of a book called "Christ Stopped at Eboli" by Carlo Levi. Well, that’s here. Though of course right now, it’s a charming place to live, with a lively music scene, great art and new restaurants opening up every day, people still remember vividly a subsistence existence.

I think having been very poor could actually be a huge advantage if and when it is The End Of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI). There’s still a huge huge amount of knowledge in their DNA about how to make do under harsh conditions of extreme scarcity. I can’t imagine them panicking if horrible things happen because every home has a grandmother or grandfather or an uncle that tills a small field, that can make sausage and is really good at canning. They have literally thousands of years of experience in banding together in harsh conditions. My sisters in law know everything there is about storing food, canning, etc.

In many ways, the millennial poverty (now greatly alleviated) will probably prepare them well if things collapse. And maybe areas of the world that are used to living in scarcity will do better than rich urban areas. They might not collapse, just revert to a previous culture. Also, this area is very rich in water and they’ve just discovered the largest methane fields in Europe .

Anyway congratulations on your fascinating blog. Right now, there’s no food scarcity because Italians don’t have a long food chain. They are very careful to eat locally and by law food’s origins must be labelled and Italians prefer national food to imported food, because they are snobbish about the taste of imported food. Also, Italy grows most of its own rice. Best, - E.J.

JWR Replies: I wholeheartedly agree that in the event of a societal collapse, those that live close to the land will fare better than most others. It may go down in history as a Great Inversion--something analogous to France, during the Revolution, when wealthy people in desperation traded rings set with precious stones, gold necklaces, and fancy furniture for loaves of bread. Perhaps in the next collapse they'll be trading Jet Skis and big screen plasma televisions. This sort of inversion was aptly described by Pat Frank, in his early-1960s post-nuke novel "Alas, Babylon." The novel is set in rural Florida. The story describes how the erstwhile poor black residents coped much better than rich whites, simply because they were already accustomed to making do. When dollars became worthless, suddenly it was practical skills that trumped all else. Before the Schumer hit the fan, the "Po Folks" already raised gardens, kept small livestock, and were experienced subsistence fishermen. Their white neighbors had a lot of catching up to do, to reach the same level of self-sufficiency.

Could life imitate at? I think so. The most likely to prosper in a collapse will me middle class farmers and ranchers that are well-removed from urban areas . They can capitalize on their food production kills and infrastructure, yet will be isolated from most of the peril that will grip the cities and suburbs. A farmer with a pair of well-trained draft horses and old-fashioned (horse-drawn) machinery will do the best of all. These farmers with new-found wealth will of course have to quickly hire some mercenaries to protect what they have. Speaking of Italy, the days ahead may get downright Machiavellian.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

In the past week I've had three newcomers to write and ask me to summarize my world view. One of them asked: "I could spend days looking through [the] archives of your [many months of] blog posts. But there are hundreds of them. Can you tell me where you stand, in just a page? What distinguishes the "Rawlesian" philosophy from other [schools of] survivalist thought?"

I'll likely add a few items to this list as time goes on, but here is a general summary of my precepts:

Modern Society is Increasingly Complex, Interdependent, and Fragile. With each passing year, technology progresses and chains of interdependency lengthen. In the past 30 years, chains of retail supply have grown longer and longer. The food on your supermarket shelf does not come from local farmers. It often comes from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. This has created an alarming vulnerability to disruption. Simultaneously, global population is still increasing in a near geometrical progression. At some point that must end, most likely with a sudden and sharp drop in population. The lynchpin is the grid. Without functioning power grids, modern industrial societies will collapse within weeks.

Civilization is Just a Thin Veneer. In the absence of law an order, men quickly revert to savagery. As was illustrated by the rioting and looting that accompanied disasters in the past three decades, the transition from tranquility to absolute barbarism can occur overnight. People expect tomorrow to be just like today, and they act accordingly. But then comes a unpredictable disaster that catches the vast majority unprepared. The average American family has four days worth of food on hand. When that food is gone, we'll soon see the thin veneer stripped away.

People Run in Herds and Packs, but Both Follow Natural Lines of Drift. Most people are sheep ("sheeple"). A few are wolves that prey on others. But just a few of us are more like sheepdogs--we think independently, and instead of predation, we are geared toward protecting and helping others. People naturally follow natural lines of drift--the path of least resistance. When the Schumer hits the fan, 99% of urbanites will try to leave the cities on freeways. The highways and freeways will soon resemble parking lots. This means that you need to be prepared to both get out of town ahead of the rush and to use lightly-traveled back roads. Plan, study and practice.

Lightly Populated Areas are Safer than High Density Areas. With a few exceptions, less population means fewer problems. WTSHTF, there will be a mass exodus from the cities. Think of it as an army that is spreading out across a battlefield: The wider that they are spread, the less effective that they are. The inverse square law hasn't been repealed.

Show Restraint, But Always Have Recourse to Lethal Force. My father often told me, "It is better to have a gun and not need it, than need a gun, and not have it." I urge readers to use less than lethal means when safe and practicable, but at times there is not a satisfactory substitute for well-aimed lead going down range at high velocity.

There is Strength in Numbers. Rugged individualism is all well and good, but it takes ore than one man to defend a retreat. Effective retreat defense necessitates having at least two families to provide 24/7 perimeter security. But of course every individual added means having another mouth to feed. Absent having an unlimited budget and an infinite larder, this necessitates striking a balance when deciding the size of a retreat group.

There are Moral Absolutes. The foundational morality of the civilized world is best summarized in the Ten Commandments. Moral relativism and secular humanism are slippery slopes. The terminal moraine at the base of these slopes is a rubble pile consisting of either despotism and pillage, or anarchy and the depths of depravity. I believe that it takes both faith and friends to survive perilous times. For more background on that, see my Prayer page.

Racism Ignores Reason. People should be judged as individuals. Anyone that make blanket statements about other races is ignorant that there are both good and bad individuals in all groups. I have accepted The Great Commission with sincerity."Go forth into all nations" means exactly that: all nations. OBTW, I feel grateful that SurvivalBlog is now read in more than 100 countries. I have been given a bully pulpit, and I intend to use it for good and edifying purposes.

Skills Beat Gadgets and Practicality Beats Style. The modern world is full of pundits, poseurs, and Mall Ninjas. Preparedness is not just about accumulating a pile of stuff. You need practical skills, and those only come with study, training, and practice. Any armchair survivalist can buy a set of stylish camouflage fatigues and an M4gery Carbine encrusted with umpteen accessories. Style points should not be mistaken for genuine skills and practicality.

Plentiful Water and Good Soil are Crucial. Modern mechanized farming, electrically pumped irrigation, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides can make deserts bloom. But when the grid goes down, deserts and marginal farmland will revert to their natural states. In my estimation, the most viable places to survive in the midst of a long term societal collapse will be those with reliable summer rains and rich topsoil.

Tangibles Trump Conceptuals. Modern fiat currencies are generally accepted, but have essentially no backing. Because they are largely a byproduct of interest bearing debt, modern currencies are destined to inflation. In the long run, inflation dooms fiat currencies to collapse. The majority of your assets should be invested in productive farm land and other tangibles such as useful hand tools. Only after you have your key logistics squared away, anything extra should be invested in silver and gold.

Governments Tend to Expand their Power to the Point that They Do Harm. In SurvivalBlog, I often warn of the insidious tyranny of the Nanny State. If the state where you live becomes oppressive, then don't hesitate to relocate. Vote with your feet!

There is Value in Redundancy. A common saying of my readers is: "Two is one, and one is none." You must be prepared to provide for your family in a protracted period of societal disruption. That means storing up all of the essential "beans, bullets, and Band-Aids" in quantity. If commerce is disrupted by a disaster, at least in the short term you will only have your own logistics to fall back on. The more that you have stored, the more that you will have available for barter and charity.

A Deep Larder is Essential. Food storage is one of the key preparations that I recommend. Even if you have a fantastic self-sufficient garden and pasture ground, you must always have food storage that you can fall back on in the event that your crops fail due to drought, disease, or infestation.

Tools Without Training Are Almost Useless. Owning a gun doesn't make someone a "shooter" any more than owning a surfboard makes someone a surfer. With proper training and practice, you will be miles ahead of the average citizen. Get advanced medical training. Get the best firearms training that you can afford. Learn about amateur radio from your local affiliated ARRL club. Practice raising a vegetable garden each summer. Some skills are only perfected over a period of years.

Old Technologies are Appropriate Technologies. In the event of a societal collapse, 19th Century (or earlier) technologies such as a the blacksmith's forge, the treadle sewing machine, and the horse-drawn plow will be far easier to re-construct than modern technologies.

Charity is a Moral Imperative. As a Christian, I feel morally obligated to assist others that are less fortunate. Following the Old Testament laws of Tzedakah (charity and tithing), I believe that my responsibility begins with my immediate family and expands in successive rings to supporting my immediate neighborhood and church, to my community, and beyond, as resources allow. In short, my philosophy is to "give until it hurts" in times of disaster.

Buy Life Assurance, not Life Insurance. Self-sufficiency and self-reliance are many-faceted. You need to systematically provide for Water, Food, Shelter, Fuel, First Aid, Commo, and, if need be, the tools to enforce Rule 308.

Live at Your Retreat Year-Round. If your financial and family circumstances allow it, I strongly recommend that you relocate to a safe area and live there year-round. This has several advantages, most notably that will prevent burglary of your retreat logistics and allow you to regularly tend to gardens, orchards, and livestock. It will also remove the stress of timing a "Get Out of Dodge" trip at the11th hour. If circumstances dictate that you can't live at your retreat year round, then at least have a caretaker and stock the vast majority of your logistics in advance, since you may only have one trip there before roads are impassable.

Exploit Force Multipliers. Night vision gear, intrusion detection sensors, and radio communications equipment are key force multipliers. Because these use high technology they cannot be depended upon in a long term collapse, but in the short term, they can provide a big advantage. Some low technologies like barbed wire and defensive road cables also provide advantages and can last for several decades.

Invest Your Sweat Equity. Even if some of you have a millionaire's budget, you need to learn how to do things for yourself, and be willing to get your hands dirty. In a societal collapse, the division of labor will be reduced tremendously. Odds are that the only "skilled craftsmen" available to build a shed, mend a fence, shuck corn, repair an engine, or pitch manure will be you.and your family. A byproduct of sweat equity is muscle tone and proper body weight. Hiring someone to deliver three cords of firewood is a far cry from felling, cutting, hauling, splitting, and stacking it yourself.

Choose Your Friends Wisely. Associate yourself with skilled doers, not "talkers." Seek out people that share your outlook and morality. Living in close confines with other families is sure to cause friction but that will be minimized if you share a common religion and norms of behavior.You can't learn every skill yourself. Assemble a team that includes members with medical knowledge, tactical skills, electronics experience, and traditional practical skills.

There is No Substitute for Mass. Mass stops bullets. Mass stops gamma radiation. Mass stops (or at least slows down ) bad guys from entering a home and depriving its residents of life and property. Sandbags are cheap, so buy plenty of them. When planning your retreat house, think: medieval castle. (See the SurvivalBlog Archives for the many articles and letters on Retreat Architecture.)

Always Have a Plan B and a Plan C. Regardless of your pet scenario and your personal grand plan of survival, you need to be flexible and adaptable. Situations and circumstances change. Always keep a G.O.O.D. kit handy, even if you are fortunate enough to live at your retreat year-round.

Be Frugal. I grew up in a family that still remembered both our pioneer history and the more recent lessons of the Great Depression. One of our family mottos is: "Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without."

Some Things are Worth Fighting For. I encourage my readers to avoid trouble, most importantly via relocation to safe areas where trouble is unlikely to come to visit. But there may come an unavoidable day that you have to make a stand to defend your own family or your neighbors. Further, if you value your liberty, then be prepared to fight for it, both for yourself and for the sake of your progeny.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The ABCs of When the Schumer Hits the Fan (WTSHTF.) aren’t what you have prepared, acquired or stowed but even more basic in the preparation processes that we sometimes take for granted.
The A is the ability to learn, to adapt and to try. No matter how many classes we take or how much we have stored away there is the potential that we might have missed something or prepared for one scenario and ended up with another. We may be in the middle of TEOTWAWKI and not be fully ready but guess what, we aren’t scheduling it. Ability is not only applying something that we’ve learned but troubleshooting or working through something that we don’t have a clue about. We may not get it right the first time that we try something new but we have the ability to learn from our mistakes and go back to try again. We have the ability to learn from others mistakes and we have the ability to make changes or corrections that work for our scenario.

The B is the brains that we have to reason with to store our morals our life lessons and the memories that make us who we are. The best tool that we have at our disposal is our brain. So many people in day to day life just go on auto pilot and don’t think about what they can do to improve how they do something. In my line of work I hear that “I’ve done it that way for 20 years”. My response is that you’ve been doing it wrong for 20 years. We just get in the habit of doing things a certain way. We eat our meals at the same time even if we aren’t hungry just because it is the time we are conditioned to eat. We go to bed at a certain time and we get up at a certain time. As a culture we have stopped utilizing what we were born with. In my opinion that is a large part of why we are where we are today. The sheep just keep waiting for someone to lead them or fall prey to the ones that use their brains without the use of morals. If we just think about what we are about to do instead of just doing it we can prevent personal injury or emotional pain. A simple example would be when a loved one has done something that upset you and you just respond without thinking of how it would affect them or why they did it the way they did. The words are already spoken; you can’t take them back, or you’re cutting something with a knife and slice your finger or hand because you didn’t think about what you were doing. We should try to learn and practice as much as possible so it will at least be familiar if not second nature but if we haven’t seen or done it before it is still doable because we can reason and solve problems. The human race has faced challenges for thousands of years and we have always improved because we have the ability to think.

The C stands for two things, first is choice. Most of the dialog that I’ve seen on SurvivalBlog shows that we have made a choice to not be led into a place where we no longer have a choice. We all are at different stages in the process but our choice is to survive whatever we are dealt. The choice is yours for all situations, you may not be able to control the overall aspect but you make the choice of how you let it affect you. Have you ever been driving and had someone cut you off? You don’t have control over the other driver but you do have the ability to make the choice of letting the incident infuriate you or brushing the whole situation off. We all make choices of whom if anyone will be invited into our confidence or where our retreat will be. We make the choice of what type of armament we will utilize or the type of food we will store or grow. Some things are dependent on location or availability but it is still a choice. Our choices are a large part of what makes us who we are. The choice to have faith, the choice to be ready, and the choice to have morals are some choices that most of us here have made. Remember that no matter what the influences are the final choice is the one that you make. Right, wrong or indifferent it’s the choice that you will have to live with.

The second C is composure, always maintain your composure. If you keep your wits about you then you stand a better chance of surviving the situation. When you lose your composure you lose your ability to reason and react rationally. In an emergency situation time is critical and if you remain calm you will have a higher probability of doing it right the first time. In an emergency situation maintaining your composure could mean the difference between life and death. I don’t mean you have to become cold or callous but you can deal with your emotions after the situation subsides. If you don’t maintain your composure you might not get that chance.
I would like to thank my brothers in arms from all the services; they have helped me learn these lessons and have given me the opportunity to use what I was born with and strived to refine it and help it grow.

Remember that we started out without clothes and shelter. We started out without the ability to communicate over great distances without traveling them. We can now travel and communicate in space or around the planet all because we use our ability, our brains and by the choices that we make.

In my opinion we should absolutely continue to learn, store and prepare. We should choose who we will coexist with before, during and after the coming collapse, we should do that even if the collapse doesn’t come during our lifetime. We should continue to grow as an individual and as a group. We should not over analyze the solution to whatever problem we face. We should not assume failure if we missed something or we didn’t get the opportunity to get everything that we wanted. We should be thankful for what we have. We should remember how far we have come. We should use our brain to think the solution through. We should use our ability to reason and we should stay calm to prevail.
I have learned a great deal since I started reading SurvivalBlog and utilizing the links and resources available here. It has provoked the thought process of things that I hadn’t thought of or had a different approach about something.

There are many things that the survivalist practices that have become a lost art so to speak such as canning and the ability to survive without modern conveniences. We are in a society that does not know how to function without cell phones and computers but I can remember when we didn’t have them. We communicated either by land line telephone or my goodness how archaic, snail mail. Farther back in our history there was the Pony Express and even couriers.

[The author of the] Heartbreak Ridge [screenplay (James Carabatsos)] stated it best:" Improvise, adapt and overcome."

Friday, April 4, 2008

I've had several consulting clients contact me in recent weeks, all with notes of fear in their voices. They realize that something is horribly wrong with the economy, but they cannot properly isolate and articulate the problem. I haven't been able to calm them, however, because to an extent I share their anxiety. In my estimation, the "something wrong" that we sense is nothing short of a monumental shift in the economic climate.

America is clearly headed for a recession. Most economic recessions are simply a product of the business cycle. These recessions are relatively mild and they often last just 12 to 24 months. The economic engine just readjusts and everything soon gets back to normal. But this nascent recession in 2008 is something radically different, and it won't be short-lived. The current slow down was triggered by a collapse in the global credit market. For decades, the global credit market grew and grew, in an enormous debt spiral. Our neighbors to the south saw trouble coming decades ago, because their economies were at the time more debt-dependent than our own. As far back as the mid-1980s, their newspapers featured political cartoons that portrayed an enormous, insatiable monster that was invariably captioned "La Dueda"--"The Debt". Our cousins in Latin America saw it coming first, but the dark side of the debt nemesis will soon be clear to everyone.

Because modern banking in the western world is based on interest charges that create continuously compounding debt, credit cannot continue to grow indefinitely. At some point the excesses of malinvestment become so great that the entire system collapses. This is what we are now witnessing: a banking panic that is spreading uncontrollably as wave after wave of ugly debt gets destroyed by margin calls and subsequent business failures.

Some economists are fixated on reading charted histories--and unrealistically expect that by doing so that the can reliably predict future market moves. (They can't do that any more than I could predict the bends in the road ahead by keeping a chart of the preceding left and right turns of my car's steering wheel. My apologies for any offense to my friend The Chartist Gnome, but you are fooling yourself.) Although they are working from a flawed premise at the micro level, the chartists do have some things right on the macro level: There are major economic "seasons" and even climate changes. The most vocal chartists like Robert Prechter hold to what is called the Elliot Wave Theory. And the big bad nasty in this school of thought is a Kondratieff Winter. This "K-Winter" is an economic depression phase that the world has not fully experienced since the 1930s. An economic winter does not end until after the foundations of industry and consumer demand are rebuilt. This can be a painful process, often culminating with war on a grand scale. (It was no coincidence that the Second World of the early 1940s was an outgrowth of the Great Depression of the 1930s.)

The US Federal Reserve and the other central banks are furiously pumping liquidity to the best of their ability, but in the long run they will not be successful. At best, dumping billions in cash on the economy will delay a depression by perhaps a year or two. But inevitably, a K-Winter depression will come. And the longer that it is delayed, then the worse the depression will be. Further inflating the debt bubble will only make matters worse. I think that veteran market analyst Jim Rogers had it right, in a recent interview. Take a few minutes to watch that video. Jim Rogers sees the big picture. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that he has gone off somewhere to hunker in a bunker.

"Big Picture" Implications

As I've mentioned before, hedge funds are presently most at risk in the unfolding liquidity crisis, because they use lots of leverage in lending funds that they themselves have borrowed. They borrow short and lend lon, effectively use debt compounded upon debt. Many, many hedge funds will be bankrupted before the end of 2008.

Even more alarming is the scale of global derivatives trading, particularly for credit default swaps (CDS). Derivatives are a relatively new phenomenon, so derivatives contract holders have not yet experienced a major recession or a depression. Thus, it is difficult to predict what will happen in a genuine K-Winter phase. In a perfect world, derivatives are a nicely balanced mechanism, where there are parties and counterparties, and every derivatives contract equation balances out to have a neat "zero" at its conclusion. But we don't live in a perfect world: Companies go bankrupt. Contracts get breached. Counterparties disappear and disappoint. We have not ever experienced a derivatives full scale "blow up", but I predict that when it happens, it will be spectacular.

The scale of derivatives trading is monumental, and the vast majority of the population is blissfully ignorant of both its scale and the implications of a derivatives crisis. There are presently about $500 trillion of derivatives contracts in play. That is many times the size of the gross product of the global economy, but the average man on he street has no idea what is going on. It won't be until after the giant derivatives casino implodes that the Generally Dumb Public (GDP) awakens and asks, "What the heck happened?" Since the credit market began to collapse last summer, the number of new derivatives contracts has dropped precipitously. But whether the aggregate derivative market is $400 trillion versus $500 trillion, when a crisis occurs there will undoubtedly be some very deep drama.

The next decade will likely be characterized by successive waves of inflation and deflation, and perhaps some of both simultaneously, at different levels. Countless corporations, and perhaps a few currencies or even whole governments will go under as this tumult plays out. The current low interest rates will soon be replaced by double-digit rates, much like we saw in the late1970s. The dollar will lose value in foreign exchange, and may collapse completely. The Mother of All Bailouts (MOAB) will result in mass inflation. The bull markets in silver and gold will surge ahead, propelled by economic and currency instability. (Investors will be desperate to find a safe haven, when currencies and equities are falling apart.)

Risk Mitigation

Be ready to "winter over" the coming K Winter depression. That will require: 1.) Prayer. 2.) Friends that you can count on (a "retreat group"). 3.) A deep larder, and 4.) An effective means of self defense with proper training. (For each of those four factors, see the hundreds of archived articles and letters at for details.)

Since large-scale layoffs seem likely, it would also be wise to have a second income from a recession-proof home-based business.

In the event of a "worst case" (grid down) economic collapse, it would be prudent to have a self-sufficient retreat in a rural area that is well-removed from major population centers. Get the majority of your funds out of anything that is dollar-denominated, and into tangibles, as soon as possible. The very best tangible that you can buy is a stout house on a piece of productive farm land. It will not only preserve your wealth, but living there may very well save your life.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Good Evening,
I've recently become a reader of your web site - thank you for the excellent resource.
Having read through your information on Recommended Retreat Areas, I have an additional question or two. My husband, kids and I currently live in Utah. He has family here, within an hour drive. We also live in a heavily populated area, right on the Wasatch Fault. That is worrisome. My mother, many cousins and close friends live in rural coastal North Carolina. My mom lives alone and is aging. We have thought ahead to the possibility of needing to care for her. She has a large house that is paid for and will pass on to me when she leaves this life.
My family has very strong ties to North Carolina, having ancestors in the same county for 200+ years. My husband and I have lived there together - he felt most welcome and fit in very well. We were part of a close knit church group, in addition to family and neighbors that looked out for each other. I know that the East Coast is not high on your list of places to be, and my family is in a hurricane/flooding zone. On the other hand, it's rural, the home is paid for, it's on almost two acres that can be used for small scale homesteading, and there is a family/friends support system in place. Do you feel that these things are more important than having a retreat in a specific location, i.e. West of the Mississippi? Thank you, - Mary C.

JWR Replies: As I described in my book Rawles on Retreats and Relocation, you cannot put a price tag on having deep roots in a community! Even if you were not known personally, if you are related and share a distinct surname with "one of the pioneer families", then you have an exceedingly valuable "in" in a rural area. This factor should weigh heavily in your choice of retreat locales.

My main objections to moving to the eastern United States are the generally higher population density, and the unfavorable downwind position of the eastern states in the event of a full scale nuclear exchange. You can fairly well mitigate both of of those drawbacks by:

1.) Building a home fallout/storm shelter (typically by upgrading an existing basement, or building a stand-alone shelter, such as those built by Safecastle), and

2.) By teaming up with contiguous neighbors or "doubling up" with another family that would share your house with you after TSHTF, to provide additional security for your retreat.

The only other significant limitation in your situation is owning less than two acres. Perhaps you could buy or lease some adjoining land. Good luck with your upcoming move!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Moving to a new area is a challenge, as any city-bred person from the US East Coast could tell you after his first winter in Wyoming. And the job market is not exactly as promising, either, at least for office workers. Yet, many make the move, and come to regret having waited so long before having done so. An even more difficult move is to go from the country of your birth and to explore a new life somewhere else. Many of our ancestors did this, however, and under far more difficult circumstances than you would face today. Just think of the “coffin ships” that the Irish came to North America on.

Before considering this big step, you should ask yourself what you are trying to achieve and what types of disasters you are hoping to survive. Is it a local disaster, such as flooding, or the disaster of your country going down the drain? You can prepare for almost all natural disasters without the need to move. However, if you are worried about something along the lines of serious civic unrest or even a civil war, then you may want to consider a more dramatic move. For example, if you had been living in the Soviet Union when it came crashing down, but had had German ancestry, you could have moved to Germany. Would you have done so?

Once you have decided to pursue the possibility of moving, you should consider the fact that serious trade-offs will be required, as there is no perfect place in this world. You will have to weigh and balance many new issues in a way that you don’t now. For example, some countries often have low crime, but may seem a bit regimented, such as Singapore. Other countries may be relatively free, but lacking in modern infrastructure.

1. Review all the issues that would apply if you moved within your country. They still apply - only more so. If you can’t handle the snow in Idaho, you won’t do much better in Switzerland. If you can’t afford a house plus a retreat in the Western US, then you probably won’t be able to pull it off in Costa Rica, either. Yes, it’s true that prices are lower in less-developed countries, but the days of the dollar being as good as gold are long gone.

2. Make a list of needs, wants, and can’t haves for everyone in the family. Without their buy-in, you’ve got a problem. You need a reasonable balance for them in their new home, too. You may happy to find a paradise that has both good tax and gun laws, but your children may not care about that, and they’re unhappy about going to a school that teaches in a foreign language.

You should set your priorities of what you can live with, and live without. Do you need TV programs from your home country? You realize, of course, that those might not continue anyway if things get really bad. Do you need first-class hospitals, such as the Mayo Clinic? What is your definition of good medicine? Some folks think the US has a great system, while others disagree. It’s clearly the case that some of the less-developed countries have modernized quite a bit in the last 20 years, and that could make a move to, say, Mexico a lot safer in this regard now than then. Indeed, medical tourism is a fast-growing business due to the low costs in places such as Costa Rica or India. Are you willing to experiment a bit? I have had good results with Chinese herbal shops in Asia, but you may feel that is too risky.

A possible list of must "haves" is:
-Taxes are no worse than where I am now.
-A hospital where at least some of the doctors speak English is within close range.
-Some form of self-defense is legal.
-Phone and Internet service is available.
-Violent crime is uncommon.
-Many schools teach in English.
-The type of business I want is legal for an immigrant to operate.
-Good agricultural land is available and not too expensive.

A possible list of "wants" is:
-Phone and Internet service is inexpensive.
-The government is pro-American.
-The currency is stable.
-A wide variety of churches and religious materials is available.
-Properties with gravity-fed water supply are available.
-Acquiring a second citizenship is not too difficult.
-The country is considered to be a tax haven and has laws that guarantee financial privacy.
-US-style fast food and supermarkets are available.
-Cyclones are rare.

A possible list of "can’t haves" is:
-Religious oppression is common.
-There is widespread hostility towards home schooling.
-A high probability of civil unrest exists, such as Pakistan.
-The country’s language would take many years to learn, such as Chinese.
-The country has high anti-American sentiment or very poor political relations with the US, such as Venezuela.
-The pollution is unbearable.

Then you need to do some long soul-searching about your lists, as we all have a tendency to overestimate our strengths and underestimate our weaknesses. You may think that learning Phasa Thai will only take a year or so, but most Westerners living in Thailand would say that’s highly unlikely.

As you can imagine, one man’s must have is another man’s can’t have. You may want something that doesn’t exist in a country, but that product might be available on the Internet - for now. Not if things get rough, though. As most of the world eats a lot of rice or beans, you might have to change your diet. Can you do without pancakes and maple syrup? Can you give up venison in exchange for fruit bat?

3. Consider the possible differences due to geography, history, or the thinking of people in the culture.

German-speaking Switzerland and parts of Germany may seem very similar, but their mindsets are not. The historical experiences of Switzerland have led the public to have a jaded view of government, and big neighbors with big armies. Even if gun rights or financial privacy are limited in Switzerland, it will be a lot better than in Germany.

Chile and Brazil illustrate a similar situation. In Chile, the government is relatively effective and not particularly corrupt. In Brazil, government is, shall we say, a bit different, and authorities in Rio de Janeiro have often ignored the laws from Brasilia.

4. You simply must visit a country for some length of time before considering a permanent move. Can you handle the cleanliness standards there? Are you starting to pick up the language after a few weeks? Are your kids fascinated, or disgusted? And make the effort to stay in a representative location, so no Hilton hotels. Consider a home stay for studying the language.

A visit will let you discover things that travel guidebooks won’t say. For example, I know a woman who was the wife of an American diplomat. In one South American country, this couple had to worry about their child with blond hair and blue eyes being kidnapped, and this child’s memories of life there are very different from her sibling, who has a darker complexion.

5. Be honest about your financial and work situation-for both you and your spouse. If you need good luck in your business to make it past three years at a location, you probably shouldn’t go. Also, do not be surprised if it costs you twice as much as you expect or takes twice as long as it should.

6. Be honest about your family’s desire to move. A big cause of failure is family strife about being in another culture.

7. Study the country and region you are considering moving to. Has it changed since you visited 20 years ago? Many readers of this blog would like Australia as it was 30 years ago, but would you like it today? Are different technologies practical or required? A tropical island may not have much of a power grid, and you may want to consider cyclones when building anything. For that matter, if you are from a country with a large population, it can be hard to keep in mind the idea that the capital of a tropical country may only have 50,000 people.

Open your eyes to the fact that a lot of possibilities are not really discussed in the mass media, or that the way things are presented gives a misleading impression of how the people in a country actually live. 80% of the Japanese population lives in the big, urban centers – so there are a lot of empty spaces (and houses) that are quite cheap. If you are single and contemplating New Zealand as a location, you may want to look into house sitting or working on a farm. If I were young, I would seriously consider a working holiday visa there to check it out. A friend moved to Israel after the dotcom bubble burst, and has enjoyed it immensely, and done quite well in the Information Technology business.

An under-appreciated topic is the reality of laws on the ground versus theoretical laws. In many cultures, theoretical laws from the capital are not the way you would actually have to live. This is especially relevant with regards to visas, weapons, and building codes. [JWR Adds: The Philippines come immediately to mind, on that point.] This most definitely doesn’t mean you should buy a passport in another name with a bribe, but it’s just a fact of life that many countries have the perspective that governments are corrupt and lousy, so you have to do what you have to do. In any case, you simply should not rely on a government’s web site for any important decision without verifying what they say with locals, preferably ones who aren’t trying to sell you something. And the same applies with many law firms who just parrot the government’s story, too.

8 - Make a list of how your choices would fare with different scenarios. For example, how do you think your home in rural Texas would do if the US or the whole world had a 1930s style depression? How about a dollar collapse or horrible inflation? Or a repressive national government? Now, how would you fare if you lived in Vanuatu if similar things occurred? And don’t think that an article you read about a nearby country is really all that relevant. New Caledonia could have major strife if the world economy got really bad or France has continuing unrest, as the relations between the French settlers and the locals are not very good in the best of times, while Vanuatu might be perfectly fine. As a general rule, urban areas have dramatically more problems now and will have even more potential problems if the balloon goes up, as a lot of rural areas around the world are largely self-sufficient, and do not contain large numbers of disaffected immigrants from poorer areas.

9. If you do decide to make a move, don’t rush things. You may want to build up your skill sets first, language being an obvious one. Also, certain skills might be required to get a visa. For example, New Zealand offers a lot of bonus points in their immigration system for immigrants with qualifications in desired fields. A credential might mean the difference between getting in, or not.

10. Expect the move to be a lot of work. Much more than if you moved to a rural area in your home country. Just the visas alone can be a major headache in some countries.

11 . Be willing to not do it. You always have the alternatives of getting more prepared where you are or moving to a better location in your home country. You can also improve your skills or bank account.

12. Have a backup plan, and perhaps a secondary backup plan if your first backup plan goes bad. If a family member becomes terminally ill back home, what will you do?

For resources, I recommend It has a large collection of articles written by immigrants living in different countries. It is not oriented towards survival topics, but it some writers discuss self-sufficiency, as that’s one of the aspects of adjusting to life in a less-developed country. And, of course, your starting position should be to review everything written at the Rawles Ranch. You can also gather information regarding countries at the CIA’s World Factbook.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Hi Mr. Rawles,
I hope you're having a great day! I was tumbling around the Internet and stumbled upon a site on do-it-yourself bookbinding.

It's got a great deal of information on binding your own books simply and easily using two bolts, two wing nuts, some wood scraps, a wet cotton ball and some Gorilla Glue. I tried it and found that this is a great way to EMP-proof my PDF collection of [public domain] WTSHTF books. Have a great evening. Best, - Ian

Thursday, March 6, 2008

“I’m right there in the room and no one acknowledges me.”

"We must face the prospect of changing our basic way of living. This change will either be made on our own initiative in a planned way, or forced on us with chaos and suffering by the inexorable laws of nature." - President Jimmy Carter (1976)

Before we discuss this Elephant in the Room we must first briefly consider the notion of ‘sustainability’. Too often people debate sustainability issues from an understanding that is vague, incomplete or frankly flawed.

"Just exactly what is meant when the word 'sustainable' or ‘sustainability’ are used?" They are popularly used to describe a wide variety of activities which are generally ecologically laudable but which may not be sustainable.

First, we must accept the idea that "sustainable" has to mean “for an unspecified long period of time.”

Secondly we have a spectrum for the use of the term "sustainable." At one end of the spectrum, the term is used with precision by people who are introducing new concepts as a consequence of thinking profoundly about the long-term future of the human race. In the middle of the spectrum, the term is simply added as a modifier to the names and titles of very beneficial studies in efficiency, etc. that have been in progress for years. In some cases the term may be used mindlessly (or possibly with the intent to deceive) in order to try to shed a favourable light on continuing activities that may or may not be capable of continuing for long periods of time.

The Government of the United Kingdom defines a ‘sustainable community’ in its 2003 Sustainable Communities Plan: ‘Sustainable communities are places where people want to live and work, now and in the future. They meet the diverse needs of existing and future residents, are sensitive to their environment, and contribute to a high quality of life. They are safe and inclusive, well planned, built and run, and offer equality of opportunity and good services for all.’

So there briefly we have “sustainable”?

If we follow on from the above we can see that a ‘sustainable population’ would be one that can survive over the long term, I am talking of thousands to tens of thousands of years, without running out of resources or damaging the environment in the process. This means that most of the resources we use have to be both renewable through natural processes and entirely recycled if they are not renewable. Our numbers and level of activity must not generate more waste than natural processes can return to the biosphere. A sustainable population must not grow past the point where those natural limits are breached.

If the population does exceed the carrying capacity, the death rate will increase until the population numbers are stable. Using these criteria it is obvious that the current human population is not sustainable.

In the entire environmental-related discussion taking place, population is a word we seldom dare to speak and it is conspicuous by its absence: Population is the elephant in the room.

It is obvious that something has massively increased the world's carrying capacity in the last 150 years. During the first 1800 years of the Common Era, like the tens of thousands of years before, the population rose very gradually as humanity spread across the globe. Around 1800 this began to change, and by 1900 the human population was rising dramatically:

That something is oil.

Peak Oil

As we all know, but are sometimes reluctant to contemplate, oil is a finite, non-renewable resource. This automatically means that its use is not sustainable. Oil and Natural Gas are finite! There may be arguments over how much oil/gas there was/is but, regardless of what that number is they are finite, absolute.

If the use of oil is not sustainable, then of course the added carrying capacity the oil has provided is likewise unsustainable. Carrying capacity has been added to the world in direct proportion to the use of oil, and the disturbing implication is that if our oil supply declines, the carrying capacity of the world will automatically fall with it.

These two observations (that oil has expanded the world's carrying capacity and oil use is unsustainable) combine to yield a further implication. While humanity has apparently not yet reached the carrying capacity of a world with oil, we are already in drastic overshoot when you consider a world without oil. In fact our population today is at least five times what it was before oil came on the scene. If this sustaining resource were to be exhausted, our population would have no option but to decline to the level supportable by the worlds lowered carrying capacity.

What are the chances that we will experience a decline in our global oil supply? Of course given that oil is a finite, non-renewable resource, such an occurrence is inevitable. The field of study known as Peak Oil has generated a vast amount of analysis that indicates this decline will happen soon, and may even be upon us right now. The decline in oil supply will reduce the planet's carrying capacity, thus forcing humanity into overshoot with the inevitable consequence of a population decline.

The rapidity of the decline following the peak will determine whether our descent will be a leisurely stroll down to the canyon floor or a headlong tumble carrying a little sign reading, "Help!"

Each of the global problems we face today is the result of too many people using too much of our planet's finite, non-renewable resources and filling its waste repositories of land, water and air to overflowing. The true danger posed by our exploding population is not our absolute numbers but the inability of our environment to cope with so many of us doing what we do.

But are there other factors besides these that may contribute to overshoot with the inevitable consequence of a population decline.

The United Kingdom

UK population growth is environmentally unsustainable, and if it is environmentally unsustainable it is also economically unsustainable, for without ecologically healthy land our economy will not be able to support its own people without causing damage to the environment.

Today, the UK population is about 62 million and is one of the most crowded areas in the world. In 1750, when the Industrial Revolution was beginning, it was about 6 million. It had never exceeded this figure, although during the Dark Ages and after the Black Death it fell to one or two million.

Most people lived and died in poverty. Pre-industrial farmers were pushed to the limit to feed so many. The population increased slightly in years with good harvests, but starvation and malnutrition cut it back to the 6 million norm when harvests were bad.

We are in fantasy land if we think that we can continue to support the number of people that we do now without the full input of oil and its related products.

We have become so dependent on those fuels, that there is no way we can sustain ourselves at this population density and level of technology without them. Even something as basic as food will become impossible to produce, process and transport for our present numbers without fuel.

Just as redistributing greenhouse gas emissions is no solution to climate change, population redistribution provides no long-term solution to environmental sustainability - total population numbers need to decrease both in the UK and worldwide, alongside efforts to reduce people's individual environmental impacts.

By adding over two million more people (extra producers of greenhouse gas emissions through household, transport and business use) to the population of the UK since 1997, and by allowing the number of climate changers to rise by more than 300,000 people a year, the government's population policy has undermined most of its environmental goals.

Climate Change

The climate change scenario for the UK is one of initial warming. Longer drier summers and stormy wetter winters are predicted, based on a temperature rise of 2/3.5° Celsius for the UK by the 2080s [UK Climate Impacts Programme, 2002]. [1]

But a 5.8° Celsius rise is possible, with some climate scientists suggesting even faster warming. In the UK, 2006 was the warmest year since records began in 1659.

The Benfield Hazard Research Centre at University College, London, has produced maps of Britain showing the additional impact of sea-level rise under three scenarios. [2]

There is also increasing evidence of another worrying scenario - the possible failure of the Gulf Stream that keeps Britain's climate warm. Without it, the UK would be plunged rapidly into freezing temperatures that would prevail for many generations, and be unable to support its current population of nearly 60 million.

Extremes of temperature and climate, combined with weather-related disruptions, would severely reduce the size of the country's population carrying capacity.


The UK does not need to be wholly self-sufficient in food, but with population continuing to grow, urbanisation eating up farmland, and more of our remaining agricultural land likely to be used for energy crops, food production will be further squeezed.

The introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into the biosphere poses a danger similar to that of disease. When a plant GMO is created, its pollen spreads around the world. It is quite conceivable that much of mankind’s food supply could be eliminated, simply by a terrible error in which the introduction of one or more GMOs resulted in the global loss of harvests of a staple food, such as a cereal grain. [3]

The systems that produce the world's food supply are heavily dependent on fossil fuels. Vast amounts of oil and gas are used as raw materials and energy in the manufacture of fertilisers and pesticides, and at all stages of food production: from planting, irrigation, feeding and harvesting, through to processing, distribution and packaging.

In addition, fossil fuels are essential in the construction and the repair of equipment and infrastructure needed to facilitate this industry, including farm machinery, processing facilities, storage, ships, trucks and roads. The industrial food supply system is one of the biggest consumers of fossil fuels and one of the greatest producers of greenhouse gases.

Almost every current human endeavour from transportation, to manufacturing, to electricity to plastics, and especially food production is inextricably intertwined with oil and natural gas supplies. We are now at a point where the demand for food/oil continues to rise, while our ability to produce it in an affordable fashion is about to drop.


Changing consumption patterns reflecting higher material living standards are causes which can be mitigated by changing habits and better recycling, but the 2000-06 rate of increase in municipal waste exactly matches that of population growth. As each individual recycles more of his or her own waste, success is undermined by the constantly increasing numbers of people who create waste.


Among the alternative power proposals is wind power. Wind power is clean and carbon-free, and if the UK's offshore air currents remain as prevalent as they are today, it will remain the most promising proven source of renewable energy until and if technological innovations improve prospects for solar, wave and tidal power.

But how much land would be needed to provide all our electricity? It depends how much wind power can be constructed offshore. If half the 25,200 MW target for 2020 (estimated to provide a fifth of UK electricity) were built onshore, 3,100 square kilometres of land would be needed - an area larger than the whole county of Dorset (2,653 sq km). For wind power to supply all-electric homes at today's rates of consumption, for today's 60 million people, several counties would need to be covered with wind turbines.

Turbines are being built to rated capacities above 1MW, but whatever the capacity of a turbine, and whatever the improvement in energy yield per hectare, these calculations apply only to household electricity demand - if wind power were to be used to produce hydrogen fuel cells as a substitute for petrol for motor transport, land requirements for turbines would rise further.


The total amount of water used in UK (on a per person basis, but including domestic, industrial and agricultural withdrawals) is modest – about 550 litres per day - compared to the majority of countries in the world, because agriculture can be carried on mostly without irrigation.

The UK Government attaches importance to the goal of lowering water use per household because of increasing water constraints: rivers reduced to a trickle for several months, reservoir levels dropping, water tables (for groundwater supplies) continuing to drop. The large increases in the UK population experienced during the last five years makes it even more important to try to push per person consumption downwards.

Against this background, it is astonishing that the UK government has given the go-ahead – indeed has promoted – a massive expansion of housing. Half a million new homes are planned in the South East alone.

The CFRE (Campaign For Rural England) has said: ‘The Environment Agency’s own figures show that for this number of houses to be sustainable would require all the new houses to be 25% more water-efficient and all existing houses to be 8% more water-efficient. Yet 200,000 new houses have already been built in the region without any water conservation measures. Unless we can make the politicians and planners listen and re-think, we are heading for disaster here in Eastern England.’

In a letter to The Guardian, on August 9 2006, Campaign to Protect Rural England chief executive said:

‘Any attempt to define an optimum level for immigration… needs to look beyond issues of the economy and social stability, important as these are, to take into account the environment…. The UK is one of the most densely populated and built up countries in the EU and some English regions are already close to reaching the limits of their capacity to take further development without serious damage to the environment or quality of life.’

Our total usage of water just puts us inside the WWF category of mild stress, and we should regard this as a wake-up call. Along with every measure for reducing per person use of water, through metering, efficient appliances, rainwater harvesting, and reduction of pipe leakages, we should address the problem of population.

UK Summary

The UK has until recently been one of the most resilient economies in the world. Over the last 100 years, it has survived two world wars, staged spectacular economic recoveries, been blessed with energy resources, and evolved from manufacturer to the world into a service economy. But the position in which it now finds itself looks bleaker.

The UK is no longer a net exporter of oil and gas, and though rising prices will in the short term mitigate the impact of this reversal, its trade deficit in goods and services continues to widen. Domestic energy substitutes are unlikely to be able to support current levels of economic activity, and the insecurity of energy imports and import prices is already evident.

Of all the problems that we have to face right now the convergence of Peak Oil, Climate Change and economic instability are probably the most crucial issues we face.

All these problems are merely symptoms of a single, deeper underlying problem. They are symptoms of a species and a way of life that have grown beyond the ability of this planet to supply enough resources or to cope with our inevitable waste products. This growth is seen in the human population, currently surging through 6.6 billion people worldwide. It is also seen in our economic and industrial growth, with its emphasis on perpetually rising living standards and increasing wealth.

The consequences are already clear - our planet is under mounting stress from human activities, with its climate changing and its ecosystems failing. But recognition that we must act urgently to preserve our natural habitat has been undermined by persistent failure to admit the multiplier effect of human numbers. Without policies to reduce world population, efforts to save our environment cannot succeed.

The only thing that has enabled our numbers to shoot so far over the long-term carrying capacity is the planet's one-time gift of fossil fuels. This has also enabled our underlying destruction of the biosphere.

The global human population before the discovery of oil was about 1-billion. Today it is about 6.6 billion and rising. Without oil, the earth will only support about 2-3 billion, and only if we stop desecrating our environment right now. We cannot continue to feed an expanding global population indefinitely.

The uncomfortable truth is that the impact on Earth's biosphere of a projected 9 billion people living at a desired higher standard of living in 2050 would be fatal for the planet in terms of greenhouse gas emissions alone.


Given the fact that our world's carrying capacity is supported by oil, and that the oil is about to start going away, it seems that a population decline is inevitable. The form it will take, the factors that will precipitate it and the widely differing regional effects are all imponderables.

Populations in serious overshoot always decline, though actually, it's a bit worse than that. The population may actually fall to a lower level than was sustainable before the overshoot.

The reason is that unsustainable consumption while in overshoot allowed the species to use more non-renewable resources and to further poison their environment with excessive wastes.

However it is important to recognize that humanity is not, overall, in a position of overshoot at the moment. Our numbers are still growing (though the rate of growth is declining).

However, we are getting obvious signals from our environment that all is not well. If the carrying capacity were to be reduced as our numbers continued to grow we could find ourselves in overshoot rather suddenly. The consequences of that would be quite grave.

So here we have a huge, complex, brittle system built on the foundation of a depleting, non-renewable resource and depending on a damaged environment with diminished carrying capacity. If this system receives a series of shocks (such as repeated local interruptions of its energy supply) the resulting failure cascades can disrupt the organization of the system to such an extent that the cohesion provided by its interconnections fails. Ironically those connections themselves become the pathways that spread the failure to other parts of the system.

What has all this theorizing to do with population?

Because we are now a global species with a global civilization, continuing growth of our numbers depends on the continuing growth of our civilization. Humanity does not grow through demographics alone; there must be a sufficient level of food, shelter, energy and medical care available. All these factors will be put at risk globally within the next two decades due to the loss of oil and our ability to keep people alive will decline.Food production and distribution will be hampered or in some cases made impossible, and due to the damage of soil and water local agriculture will prove very difficult in some places. If medical care erodes, so will infant mortality and longevity. The erosion of urban sanitation systems will have an identical but greater effect. Across the world the effects will be highly variable, with some places like the United States and the United Kingdom suffering from the catastrophic decline in net global oil exports that is now underway. Other countries like those at the bottom of the list of developing nations will simply be too poor to compete against the developed world for the resources needed for survival. Populations will fall as a result.

This leads inevitably to the objection that such a position caps the aspirations of less developed countries and is thus morally unacceptable. Be that as it may, the facts remain: there aren't enough resources to bring the whole world up to the industrial level of the developed world and the developed world is unlikely to consent to their own voluntary impoverishment in favour of industrializing the less developed world, and attempting such an approach would increase rather than reduce global ecological devastation. There appears to be no possibility of reducing global fertility through industrialization.

What is amazing is that today’s human society views the present planetary catastrophe (to the limited extent that it considers it at all) only in terms of its impact on itself – on the current generation of human beings. From the viewpoint of future generations, Nero is fiddling as Rome burns.

According to the 2003 State of the World report by the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute, the human race has only one or perhaps two generations to rescue itself. "The longer that no remedial action is taken, the greater the degree of misery and biological impoverishment that humankind must be prepared to accept," the Institute says in its 20th annual report. Various other reports, like that of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change foresee world-catastrophic conditions already for the second decade of this greatly celebrated millennium.

The authors of The Limits to Growth suggested that it may be possible to avoid the collapse, and transit peacefully to a long-term-sustainable equilibrium, that was over thirty years ago.

I fear this ‘predicament’, not ‘crisis’, because these conditions are not of recent origin and will not soon abate, may no longer be solvable by ourselves and that the change will now be forced upon us with chaos and suffering by the inexorable laws of nature.

Faith in technology as the ultimate solution to all problems can divert our attention from the most fundamental problem--the problem of growth in a finite system--and prevent us from taking effective action to solve it.

We must learn to live within carrying capacity without trying to enlarge it. We must rely on renewable resources consumed no faster than at sustained yield rates.

"If the present growth trends in world population, industrialization, pollution, food production, and resource depletion continue unchanged, the limits to growth on this planet will be reached sometime within the next one hundred years. The most probable result will be a rather sudden and uncontrollable decline in both population and industrial capacity." [4]

"As for man, there is little reason to think that he can, in the long run, escape the fate of other creatures…….. During ten thousand years his numbers have been on the upgrade in spite of wars, pestilence, and famines. This increase in population has become more and more rapid. Biologically, man has for too long a time been rolling an uninterrupted run of sevens." - George R Stewart, Earth Abides (1949)


[1] UK Climate Impacts Programme, 2002.

[2] The Benfield Hazard Research Centre

[3] Human Genome Project Information

[4] The Limits to Growth (1972)

2003 State of the World report by the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute

My special thanks to Paul Chefurka for his Peak Oil, Climate Chaos; the World Problematique; to OPT; and to Rosamund McDougall for their assistance.

Compiled by Norman. J. Church

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Dear Memsahib and Jim,
I am a daily SurvivalBlog reader and contributor, along with my husband. I am very interested in learning more how Memsahib and other retreat women manage to do all that they do. How does a day or week in your life go? How do you can, bake, cook, shear, spin, weave, knit, sew, teach, et cetera and get it all done?
We are moving to our retreat soon. I have baked, cooked, knit, learned to spin and weave, and have canned in the past, but not all at once. I forgot to mention clean, wash, take care of a garden, etc. etc.
We need a blog [post] about how to accomplish everything and remain sane. Not to mention home school and run a family, continue church life, etc.
For those of us who have been working and raising a family in a large town and are moving to a retreat life, we need some how to's!!!
The order of things is of the most importance or we will never accomplish all our tasks!!!

Memsahib, does your work every stop? Do you feel like you have no personal time?

I also work as a registered nurse and will try to continue with my specialty in teaching young mothers how to breast feed and care for their newborns.
Thank you for your input from all of us women who will try to "do it all" on our retreat sites. Thanks again, - Kathie

The Memsahib Replies: Thank you so much for your huge vote of confidence. How nice to think there is a woman out there who thinks that I do it all! :-) First let me say first, no I don't do it all. And secondly I don't worry about doing it all either.

I'm writing this reply specifically to married women with children. The most important thing is to keep your priorities right: I believe the correct order is: God, your husband, your children, and then everything else after that. Also remember it is not up to you to insure the survival of your family. God is in control of everything. And after God is your husband. I hope this will lift some if the burden that you are feeling. Don't shoulder the burden of the family's survival yourself. That is not your role. I think that is usurping your husband's role of provider and protector of the family.Your job is to be a helpmeet to your husband.

Okay, that said, I have acquired a lot of skills that could be put to use in TEOTWAWKI, but I do not try to do them all now. I think to attempt that would put me in an early grave like my pioneer great grandmothers! I think this is time for learning preparation skills, but if you tried to actually do them all there is no way you would have time to learn any new skills. For example I have a lot of food preservation skills. But at this present time most of our larder is full of mostly purchased foodstuffs. For the satisfaction of it, I have fed my family entire meals from food I personally raised including the milk that came fresh from our cow. It feels great to know I can do it. But I don't try to do it on a day to day basis.

There are some things that we do that allow for extra time in my schedule. We don't own a television. I think I get a lot more done for the lack of watching television. Also, I do not have a full time job outside the home. Not having to commute saves a lot of time. Another thing I attribute to getting more done is the fact that we are out in the middle of nowhere, so I don't shop. There is no place to shop. Every two months or so we stock up to top off our supplies. I also know the capacity of our larder well. I'm very strict with my family about sticking to the list! This saves time and money when we are out shopping. Also we only shop for clothes twice a year when we visit family in the big city. My sister knows all the great thrift stores. And, she knows which department stores have the best sale prices on shoes socks and underwear. If we didn't have growing children we probably could go several years without buying clothes! By the way. I do know how to sew clothes. And I know how to knit sweaters, hats, socks, mittens, and such. But I don't make my family's clothes because I don't particularly enjoy sewing. (For now, I go to the thrift store. I often can buy down jackets, Merino wool sweaters and nearly new blue jeans for $3 each, and shirts, slacks, blouses, skirts, dresses for less than than that.)

Another thing is that our family does which frees up quite a bit of time for me is cleaning up after themselves. Our children for example clear their places after meals, take their dishes to the sink and putt the scraps in the chicken bucket, and rinse their plates and glasses, and put them in the dishwasher. When there are clothes to be folded at our house all the children fold and put away their own clothes. Our children also have an individual chore based on their age, such as setting and clearing the table, unloading the dishwasher, keeping the wood box filled, and feeding their pets. And you may have realized by now I make use of all the modern appliances which make household chores quicker. In the past, we've lived without running water and without electricity. I know I can survive without them, and I may have to in the future. But I sure enjoy the luxury of having them now!

The "survival skills' that I do practice daily are the ones that I personally really enjoy. I practice them as recreation and relaxation. For me personally that is raising small livestock. I really enjoy going out to the barn and feeding my critters. I especially enjoy my sheep because I also enjoy the fiber arts. I also really enjoy gardening. So my hobbies dovetail nicely with my husbands desire to be well prepared. So what hobbies and interests do you have? Which ones could you cultivate as prepping? Just because I don't care for sewing doesn't mean that it wouldn't be a great dovetail for you.

You might say another one of my hobbies is acquiring "life skills". Some people have a personality that is suited for focusing on one skill and developing that skill to a master level. My personality is more suited to trying everything. I try to make the most of each situation in which we've lived to learn what I can. My motto is: when God gives you zucchini take the opportunity to experiment baking, drying, frying zucchinis! The older women of the communities we've lived in have been wonderful teachers. They have taught me how to can pickles, make grape juice, milk goats, make soap, knit socks as well as sharing the abundance of their gardens and orchards. But I in no way feel compelled to now makes all the food we eat from scratch, knit all our clothes, make all our soap, and neither should you!
I would be remiss if I did not say that I think it is very important to use this time of liberty of ideas and travel to attend Bible studies. Yes, you can and should read and study the Bible at home. But, I find that the commitment to do a study with other believers disciplines me to stay in the Word even when life gets hectic. And our pastor has many valuable insights into the Scriptures. If you have the ability to attend a good Bible study, then do it! You may not always have that opportunity because of poor health, high gas prices, lack of transportation, or lack of religious freedom. Reading the stories of prisoners of war, I am struck by how their knowledge of God's word helped them endure. As the Bible says, "make the most of time, because the days are evil".

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Mr. Rawles,
In looking through your great web site I can't tell if you've ever addressed the issue of having a non-US retreat. There are some notable characteristics of the USA that make it a less then optimal location in a TEOTWAWKI type scenario. I think specifically of very heavy reliance on personal vehicles and fossil fuels, a general ignorance about growing food, preserving food, raising livestock. There is a tremendous demographic heterogeneity ("diversity") that in a crisis situation would become a very sore spot and possibly a source of violence. Also a Federal government that has shown an inclination to trample the rights of citizens when it is expedient to do so.

Having some familiarity with central Europe, I can tell you that the rural peasantry will fare very well in a crisis situation. Agriculture is still animal-powered in many areas. Self-sufficiency is the norm rather than the exception.

I would love to see you assess and evaluate various foreign sites as possible retreat locations. The analysis that you have already done on the western states is superb. Thanks much - Dr. R


Mr. Rawles,
First, I'd like to thank you for your work and dedication with SurvivalBlog. You've been a guiding light in darkening times. Second, I'd like to ask about your thoughts on relocating to a retreat abroad?
For some context information, I'm a college student at a local private university; by working two jobs, I've managed to avoid the average $30,000 in student loans my peers have accumulated, and am down to only $9,000. I pay off my interest as it accrues, and set aside about as much as I can spare for prepping every paycheck. Last year, I started talking with my family about survivalism in relation to our current times, and they're happily on board and setting things aside as much as they can, as well. We've made it our goal to purchase our retreat this year- we actually start looking at bookmarked properties the third week of March - but as that I was assigned by family vote the family task of deciding which properties we see, and where we look, I feel the express desire to weigh as many potentially good options as possible.

Recently, the grandparents of a friend retired in Mexico; I had the opportunity to meet them and discuss the venture, and was amazed to hear that, paperwork aside, they were able to purchase several acres, build and furnish their own home, as well as obtain several head of livestock, for under $80,000! In a TEOTWAWKI situation, would one even perhaps be better off in a remote location in Mexico that's already mostly self-sufficient in terms of agriculture, with the advantage of being able to afford more for the money, than in the US?
Or, for that matter, in other such places in the world of similar condition, like Romania, rural western Russia, (and etc.)? Admittedly, if there is ever a popular anti-foreigner sentiment, that could be a key worry- the biggest concern I've come across being that the foreign state could take away your property at any time... but does that worry not also apply to the US, with Eminent Domain? I understand that there's no quick or easy answer to this, but I'm hoping that I might glean some better understanding through your experience, and that of your readers.
Wishing well, - S.L.K.

JWR Replies: Becoming an expatriate retreater requires some very careful study, consideration, and prayer. Many of the highly touted offshore locales suffer either from high crime rates, or have a high population density that would be an issue in a grid-down collapse. Many of these same countries also have restrictive laws on private firearms ownership, so that makes self defense problematic. Despite these and other drawbacks, there are a few offshore destinations that rate high on my list. These include New Zealand (South Island), the Cook Islands, Niue, Tonga, Vanuatu, Bolivia, Chile, rural portions of the Czech Republic, and the lower elevation cantons of Switzerland. I would also recommend Finland if it were not for its harsh climate.

I generally do not recommend most of Latin America and the Caribbean because of high crime rates (most notably property crimes and murder.) Even Costa Rica, which is often touted as a "peaceful haven", has a murder rate higher than the U.S. (6.23 per 100,000, versus 5.9.) It also has a nearly four times higher robbery rate, but a surprisingly low burglary rate.) A lot of the Pacific Islands are not on my list because of either draconian gun laws or a high level of systems dependence. Many of them are now dependent on food imports. (Nauru is perhaps the worst in this regard. It could not even supply enough fresh drinking water for its residents if international shipping were to cease.)

I generally recommend moving to countries that share your language. But if you have an "in" somewhere--namely relatives or close friends that speak the native language and if they would be living on the same property or contiguous property--then the language barrier is less of an issue. But regardless, learn the local language and customs quickly. You should consider that education practically a full time job for your first few years.

The bottom line is that there is no single "perfect" retreat locale. There are advantages and drawbacks wherever you go. Climate, taxes, gun laws, population density, and crime rates are all trade-offs. Many of the locales that would be idyllic in a grid-up situation might be a nightmare if grid-down. But some countries might do very well in the absence of "the modern conveniences." You will note that I have quite a few Pacific Islands on my list. In these island nations, if grid power were interrupted, I anticipate that the locals would quickly revert to traditional fishing, gardening, gathering fruit, hunting (bats, of all things!) and raising pigs.

Friday, February 22, 2008

In the Second World War, the United States had nearly two full years to ramp up military training and production before decisively confronting the Axis powers. In the late 1970s, looking at the recent experience of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, the Pentagon's strategic planners came to the realization that the next major war that the US military would wage would not be like the Second World War. There would not be the luxury of time to train and equip. They realized that we would have to fight with only what we had available on Day One. They dubbed this the "Come as you are war" concept.

In my opinion, the same "come as you are" mindset should be applied to family preparedness. We must recognize that in these days of rapid news dissemination, it may take as little as 10 hours before supermarket shelves are cleaned out. It make take just a few hours for queues that are literally blocks-long to form at gas stations--or at bank branches in the event of bank runs. Worse yet, it may take just a few hours before the highways and freeways leading out of urban and suburban areas are clogged with traffic--the dreaded "Golden Horde" that I often write about. Do not make the false assumption that you will have the chance to make "one last trip" to the big box store, or even the chance to fill your Bug Out Vehicle's fuel tank. This will be the "come as you are" collapse.

The concept also applies to your personal training. If you haven't learned how to do things before the balloon goes, up, then don't expect to get anything but marginal to mediocre on-the-job training after the fact. In essence, you have the opportunity to take top quality training from the best trainers now, but you won't once the Schumer hits the fan. Take the time to get top-notch training! Train with the best--with organizations like Medical Corps, WEMSI, Front Sight, the RWVA/Appleseed Project, the WRSA, and the ARRL. Someday, you'll be very glad that you did.

The come as you are concept definitely applies to specialized manufactured equipment.You are dreaming if you think that you will have the chance to to purchase any items such as these, in a post-collapse world: razor wire, body armor, night vision equipment, advanced first aid gear, tritium scopes, dosimeters and radiac meters, biological decontamination equipment, Dakota Alert or military surplus PEWS intrusion detection sets, photovoltaics, NBC masks, and semi-auto battle rifles. Think about it: There are very few if these items (per capita) presently in circulation. But the demand for them during a societal collapse would be tremendous. How could you compete in such a scant market? Anyone that conceivably has "spares" will probably want to keep them for a member of their own family or group. So even in the unlikely event that someone was even willing to sell such scarce items, they would surely ask a king's ransom in barter for them. I'm talking about quarter sections of land, entire strings of well-broken horses, or pounds of gold. Offers of anything less would surely be scoffed at.

Don't overlook the "you" part of the "as you are" premise. Are you physically fit? Are you up to date on your dental work? Do you have two pairs of sturdy eyeglasses with your current prescription? Do you have at least a six month supply of vitamins and medications? Is your body weight reasonable? If you answer to any of these is no, then get busy!

Even if you have a modest budget, you will have an advantage over the average suburbanite. Your knowledge and training alone--what is between your ears--will ensure that. And even with just a small budget for food storage, you will be miles ahead of your neighbors. Odds are that they will have less than two week's worth of food on hand. As I often say, you will need extra supplies on hand to help out relatives, friends, and neighbors that were ill-prepared. I consider charity my Christian duty!

I have repeatedly and strongly emphasized the importance of living at your intended retreat year-round. But I realize that because of personal finances, family obligations, and the constraints of making a living at an hourly or salaried job, that this is not realistic--except for a few of us, mainly retirees. If you are stuck in the Big City and plan to Get Out of Dodge (G.O.O.D.) at the eleventh hour, then by all means pre-position the vast majority of your gear and supplies at your retreat. You will most likely only have one, I repeat, one G.O.O.D. trip. If there is a major crisis there will probably be no chance to "go back for a second load." So WTSHTF will truly be a "come as you are" affair.

With all of this in mind, re-think your preparedness priorities. Stock your retreat well. If there isn't someone living there year-round, then hide what is there from burglars. (See the numerous SurvivalBlog posts on caching and constructing hidden compartments and rooms.) Maintain balance in your preparations. In a situation where you are truly hunkered-down at your retreat in the midst of a societal collapse, there might not be any opportunity to barter for any items that you overlooked. (At least not for several months. ) What you have is what you got. You will have to make-do. So be sure to develop your "lists of lists" meticulously. If you have the funds available, construct a combination storm shelter/fallout shelter/walk-in vault. It would be virtually impossible to build something that elaborate in the aftermath of a societal collapse.

A closing thought that relates to your retreat logistics: The original colonial Army Rangers, organized by Major Robert Rogers during the French and Indian Wars of the 1750s had a succinct list of operating rules. The version of the "Rules of Ranging" recounted in the novel "Northwest Passage" by Kenneth Roberts started with a strong proviso: "Don't forget nothing." That is sage advice.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Start your retreat stocking effort by first composing a List of Lists, then draft prioritized lists for each subject, on separate sheets of paper. (Or in a spreadsheet if you are a techno-nerd like me. Just be sure to print out a hard copy for use when the power grid goes down!) It is important to tailor your lists to suit your particular geography, climate, and population density as well as your peculiar needs and likes/dislikes. Someone setting up a retreat in a coastal area is likely to have a far different list than someone living in the Rockies.

As I often mention in my lectures and radio interviews, a great way to create truly commonsense preparedness lists is to take a three-day weekend TEOTWAWKI Weekend Experiment” with your family. When you come home from work on Friday evening, turn off your main circuit breaker, turn off your gas main (or propane tank), and shut your main water valve (or turn off your well pump.) Spend that weekend in primitive conditions. Practice using only your storage food, preparing it on a wood stove (or camping stove.)

A “TEOTWAWKI Weekend Experiment” will surprise you. Things that you take for granted will suddenly become labor intensive. False assumptions will be shattered. Your family will grow closer and more confident. Most importantly, some of the most thorough lists that you will ever make will be those written by candlelight.

Your List of Lists should include: (Sorry that this post is in outline form, but it would take a full length book to discus all of the following in great detail)

Water List
Food Storage List
Food Preparation List
Personal List
First Aid /Minor Surgery List
Nuke Defense List
Biological Warfare Defense List
Gardening List
Hygiene List/Sanitation List
Hunting/Fishing/Trapping List
Power/Lighting/Batteries List
Fuels List
Firefighting List
Tactical Living List
Communications/Monitoring List
Tools List
Sundries List
Survival Bookshelf List
Barter and Charity List

JWR’s Specific Recommendations For Developing Your Lists:

Water List
House downspout conversion sheet metal work and barrels. (BTW, this is another good reason to upgrade your retreat to a fireproof metal roof.)
Drawing water from open sources. Buy extra containers. Don’t buy big barrels, since five gallon food grade buckets are the largest size that most people can handle without back strain.
For transporting water if and when gas is too precious to waste, buy a couple of heavy duty two wheel garden carts--convert the wheels to foam filled "no flats" tires. (BTW, you will find lots of other uses for those carts around your retreat, such as hauling hay, firewood, manure, fertilizer, et cetera.)
Treating water. Buy plain Clorox hypochlorite bleach. A little goes a long way. Buy some extra half-gallon bottles for barter and charity. If you can afford it, buy a “Big Berky” British Berkefeld ceramic water filter. (Available from Ready Made Resources and several other Internet vendors. Even if you have pure spring water at your retreat, you never know where you may end up, and a good filter could be a lifesaver.)

Food Storage List
See my post tomorrow which will be devoted to food storage. Also see the recent letter from David in Israel on this subject.

Food Preparation List

Having more people under your roof will necessitate having an oversize skillet and a huge stew pot. BTW, you will want to buy several huge kettles, because odds are you will have to heat water on your wood stove for bathing, dish washing, and clothes washing. You will also need even more kettles, barrels, and 5 or 6 gallon PVC buckets--for water hauling, rendering, soap making, and dying. They will also make great barter or charity items. (To quote my mentor Dr. Gary North: “Nails: buy a barrel of them. Barrels: Buy a barrel of them!”)
Don’t overlook skinning knives, gut-buckets, gambrels, and meat saws.

Personal List
(Make a separate personal list for each family member and individual expected to arrive at your retreat.)
Spare glasses.
Prescription and nonprescription medications.
Birth control.
Keep dentistry up to date.
Any elective surgery that you've been postponing
Work off that gut.
Stay in shape.
Back strength and health—particularly important, given the heavy manual tasks required for self-sufficiency.
Educate yourself on survival topics, and practice them. For example, even if you don’t presently live at your retreat, you should plant a vegetable garden every year. It is better to learn through experience and make mistakes now, when the loss of crop is an annoyance rather than a crucial event.
“Comfort” items to help get through high stress times. (Books, games, CDs, chocolates, etc.)

First Aid /Minor Surgery List
When tailoring this list, consider your neighborhood going for many months without power, extensive use of open flames, and sentries standing picket shifts exposed in the elements. Then consider axes, chainsaws and tractors being wielded by newbies, and a greater likelihood of gunshot wounds. With all of this, add the possibility of no access to doctors or high tech medical diagnostic equipment. Put a strong emphasis on burn treatment first aid supplies. Don’t overlook do-it-yourself dentistry! (Oil of cloves, temporary filling kit, extraction tools, et cetera.) Buy a full minor surgery outfit (inexpensive Pakistani stainless steel instruments), even if you don’t know how to use them all yet. You may have to learn, or you will have the opportunity to put them in the hands of someone experienced who needs them.) This is going to be a big list!

Chem/Nuke Defense List
Dosimeter and rate meter, and charger, radiac meter (hand held Geiger counter), rolls of sheet plastic (for isolating airflow to air filter inlets and for covering window frames in the event that windows are broken due to blast effects), duct tape, HEPA filters (ands spares) for your shelter. Potassium iodate (KI) tablets to prevent thyroid damage.(See my recent post on that subject.) Outdoor shower rig for just outside your shelter entrance.

Biological Warfare Defense List
Hand Sanitizer
Sneeze masks
Colloidal silver generator and spare supplies (distilled water and .999 fine silver rod.)
Natural antibiotics (Echinacea, Tea Tree oil, …)

Gardening List
One important item for your gardening list is the construction of a very tall deer-proof and rabbit-proof fence. Under current circumstances, a raid by deer on your garden is probably just an inconvenience. After the balloon goes up, it could mean the difference between eating well, and starvation.
Top Soil/Amendments/Fertilizers.
Tools+ spares for barter/charity
Long-term storage non hybrid (open pollinated) seed. (Non-hybrid “heirloom” seed assortments tailors to different climate zones are available from The Ark Institute
Herbs: Get started with medicinal herbs such as aloe vera (for burns), echinacea (purple cone flower), valerian, et cetera.

Hygiene/Sanitation List
Sacks of powdered lime for the outhouse. Buy plenty!
TP in quantity (Stores well if kept dry and away from vermin and it is lightweight, but it is very bulky. This is a good item to store in the attic. See my novel about stocking up on used phone books for use as TP.
Soap in quantity (hand soap, dish soap, laundry soap, cleansers, etc.)
Bottled lye for soap making.
Ladies’ supplies.
Toothpaste (or powder).
Fluoride rinse. (Unless you have health objections to the use of fluoride.)
Livestock List:
Hoof rasp, hoof nippers, hoof pick, horse brushes, hand sheep shears, styptic, carding combs, goat milking stand, teat dip, udder wash, Bag Balm, elastrator and bands, SWOT fly repellent, nail clippers (various sizes), Copper-tox, leads, leashes, collars, halters, hay hooks, hay fork, manure shovel, feed buckets, bulk grain and C-O-B sweet feed (store in galvanized trash cans with tight fitting lids to keep the mice out), various tack and saddles, tack repair tools, et cetera. If your region has selenium deficient soil (ask your local Agricultural extension office) then be sure to get selenium-fortified salt blocks rather than plain white salt blocks--at least for those that you are going to set aside strictly for your livestock.

Hunting/Fishing/Trapping List
“Buckshot” Bruce Hemming has produced an excellent series of videos on trapping and making improvised traps. (He also sells traps and scents at very reasonable prices.)
Night vision gear, spares, maintenance, and battery charging
Salt. Post-TEOTWAWKI, don’t “go hunting.” That would be a waste of effort. Have the game come to you. Buy 20 or more salt blocks. They will also make very valuable barter items.
Sell your fly fishing gear (all but perhaps a few flies) and buy practical spin casting equipment.
Extra tackle may be useful for barter, but probably only in a very long term Crunch.
Buy some frog gigs if you have bullfrogs in your area. Buy some crawfish traps if you have crawfish in your area.
Learn how to rig trot lines and make fish traps for non-labor intensive fishing WTSHTF.

Power/Lighting/Batteries List
One proviso: In the event of a “grid down” situation, if you are the only family in the area with power, it could turn your house into a “come loot me” beacon at night. At the same time, your house lighting will ruin the night vision of your LP/OP pickets. Make plans and buy materials in advance for making blackout screens or fully opaque curtains for your windows.
When possible, buy nickel metal hydride batteries. (Unlike the older nickel cadmium technology, these have no adverse charge level “memory” effect.)
If your home has propane appliances, get a “tri-fuel” generator--with a carburetor that is selectable between gasoline, propane, and natural gas. If you heat your home with home heating oil, then get a diesel-burning generator. (And plan on getting at least one diesel burning pickup and/or tractor). In a pinch, you can run your diesel generator and diesel vehicles on home heating oil.
Kerosene lamps; plenty of extra wicks, mantles, and chimneys. (These will also make great barter items.)
Greater detail on do-it-yourself power will be included in my forthcoming blog posts.

Fuels List
Buy the biggest propane, home heating oil, gas, or diesel tanks that your local ordinances permit and that you can afford. Always keep them at least two-thirds full. For privacy concerns, ballistic impact concerns, and fire concerns, underground tanks are best if you local water table allows it. In any case, do not buy an aboveground fuel tank that would visible from any public road or navigable waterway. Buy plenty of extra fuel for barter. Don’t overlook buying plenty of kerosene. (For barter, you will want some in one or two gallon cans.) Stock up on firewood or coal. (See my previous blog posts.) Get the best quality chainsaw you can afford. I prefer Stihls and Husqavarnas. If you can afford it, buy two of the same model. Buy extra chains, critical spare parts, and plenty of two-cycle oil. (Two-cycle oil will be great for barter!) Get a pair of Kevlar chainsaw safety chaps. They are expensive but they might save yourself a trip to the emergency room. Always wear gloves, goggles, and ear-muffs. Wear a logger’s helmet when felling. Have someone who is well experienced teach you how to re-sharpen chains. BTW, don’t cut up your wood into rounds near any rocks or you will destroy a chain in a hurry.

Firefighting List
Now that you have all of those flammables on hand (see the previous list) and the prospect of looters shooting tracer ammo or throwing Molotov cocktails at your house, think in terms of fire fighting from start to finish without the aid of a fire department. Even without looters to consider, you should be ready for uncontrolled brush or residential fires, as well as the greater fire risk associated with greenhorns who have just arrived at your retreat working with wood stoves and kerosene lamps!
Upgrade your retreat with a fireproof metal roof.
2” water line from your gravity-fed storage tank (to provide large water volume for firefighting)
Fire fighting rig with an adjustable stream/mist head.
Smoke and CO detectors.

Tactical Living List
Adjust your wardrobe buying toward sturdy earth-tone clothing. (Frequent your local thrift store and buy extras for retreat newcomers, charity, and barter.)
Dyes. Stock up on some boxes of green and brown cloth dye. Buy some extra for barter. With dye, you can turn most light colored clothes into semi-tactical clothing on short notice.
Two-inch wide burlap strip material in green and brown. This burlap is available in large spools from Gun Parts Corp. Even if you don’t have time now, stock up so that you can make camouflage ghillie suits post-TEOTWAWKI.
Save those wine corks! (Burned cork makes quick and cheap face camouflage.)
Cold weather and foul weather gear—buy plenty, since you will be doing more outdoor chores, hunting, and standing guard duty.
Don’t overlook ponchos and gaiters.
Mosquito repellent.
Synthetic double-bag (modular) sleeping bags for each person at the retreat, plus a couple of spares. The Wiggy’s brand Flexible Temperature Range Sleep System (FTRSS) made by Wiggy's of Grand Junction, Colorado is highly recommended.
Night vision gear + IR floodlights for your retreat house
Subdued flashlights and penlights.
Noise, light, and litter discipline. (More on this in future posts--or perhaps a reader would like to send a brief article on this subject)
Security-General: Locks, intrusion detection/alarm systems, exterior obstacles (fences, gates, 5/8” diameter (or larger) locking road cables, rosebush plantings, “decorative” ponds (moats), ballistic protection (personal and residential), anti-vehicular ditches/berms, anti-vehicular concrete “planter boxes”, razor wire, etc.)
Starlight electronic light amplification scopes are critical tools for retreat security.
A Starlight scope (or goggles, or a monocular) literally amplifies low ambient light by up to 100,000 times, turning nighttime darkness into daylight--albeit a green and fuzzy view. Starlight light amplification technology was first developed during the Vietnam War. Late issue Third Generation (also called or “Third Gen” or “Gen 3”) starlight scopes can cost up to $3,500 each. Rebuilt first gen (early 1970s technology scopes can often be had for as little as $500. Russian-made monoculars (with lousy optics) can be had for under $100. One Russian model that uses a piezoelectric generator instead of batteries is the best of this low-cost breed. These are best used as backups (in case your expensive American made scopes fail. They should not be purchased for use as your primary night vision devices unless you are on a very restrictive budget. (They are better than nothing.) Buy the best starlight scopes, goggles, and monoculars you can afford. They may be life-savers! If you can afford to buy only one, make it a weapon sight such as an AN/PVS-4, with a Gen 2 (or better) tube. Make sure to specify that that the tube is new or “low hours”, has a high “line pair” count, and minimal scintillation. It is important to buy your Starlight gear from a reputable dealer. The market is crowded with rip-off artists and scammers. One dealer that I trust, is Al Glanze (spoken “Glan-zee”) who runs STANO Components, Inc. in Silver City, Nevada. Note: In a subsequent blog posts I will discuss the relationship and implications to IR illuminators and tritium sights.
Range cards and sector sketches.
If you live in the boonies, piece together nine of the USGS 15-minute maps, with your retreat property on the center map. Mount that map on an oversize map board. Draw in the property lines and owner names of all of your surrounding neighbor’s parcels (in pencil) in at least a five mile radius. (Get boundary line and current owner name info from your County Recorder’s office.) Study and memorize both the terrain and the neighbors’ names. Make a phone number/e-mail list that corresponds to all of the names marked on the map, plus city and county office contact numbers for quick reference and tack it up right next to the map board. Cover the whole map sheet with a sheet of heavy-duty acetate, so you can mark it up just like a military commander’s map board. (This may sound a bit “over the top”, but remember, you are planning for the worst case. It will also help you get to know your neighbors: When you are introduced by name to one of them when in town, you will be able to say, “Oh, don’t you live about two miles up the road between the Jones place and the Smith’s ranch?” They will be impressed, and you will seem like an instant “old timer.”

Security-Firearms List
Guns, ammunition, web gear, eye and ear protection, cleaning equipment, carrying cases, scopes, magazines, spare parts, gunsmithing tools, targets and target frames, et cetera. Each rifle and pistol should have at least six top quality (original military contract or original manufacturer) full capacity spare magazines. Note: Considerable detail on firearms and optics selection, training, use, and logistic support are covered in the SurvivalBlog archives and FAQs.

Communications/Monitoring List
When selecting radios buy only models that will run on 12 volt DC power or rechargeable nickel metal hydride battery packs (that can be recharged from your retreat’s 12 VDC power system without having to use an inverter.)
As a secondary purchasing goal, buy spare radios of each type if you can afford them. Keep your spares in sealed metal boxes to protect them from EMP.
If you live in a far inland region, I recommend buying two or more 12 VDC marine band radios. These frequencies will probably not be monitored in your region, leaving you an essentially private band to use. (But never assume that any two-way radio communications are secure!)
Note: More detail on survival communications gear selection, training, use, security/cryptography measures, antennas, EMP protection, and logistical support will be covered in forthcoming blog posts.

Tools List
Gardening tools.
Auto mechanics tools.
Bolt cutters--the indispensable “universal key.”
Woodworking tools.
Gunsmithing tools.
Emphasis on hand powered tools.
Hand or treadle powered grinding wheel.
Don’t forget to buy plenty of extra work gloves (in earth tone colors).
Sundries List:
Systematically list the things that you use on a regular basis, or that you might need if the local hardware store were to ever disappear: wire of various gauges, duct tape, reinforced strapping tape, chain, nails, nuts and bolts, weather stripping, abrasives, twine, white glue, cyanoacrylate glue, et cetera.

Book/Reference List

You should probably have nearly every book on my Bookshelf page. For some, you will want to have two or three copies, such as Carla Emery’s "Encyclopedia of Country Living". This is because these books are so valuable and indispensable that you won’t want to risk lending out your only copy.

Barter and Charity List
For your barter list, acquire primarily items that are durable, non-perishable, and either in small packages or that are easily divisible. Concentrate on the items that other people are likely to overlook or have in short supply. Some of my favorites are ammunition. [The late] Jeff Cooper referred to it as “ballistic wampum.” WTSHTF, ammo will be worth nearly its weight in silver. Store all of your ammo in military surplus ammo cans (with seals that are still soft) and it will store for decades. Stick to common calibers, get plenty of .22 LR (most high velocity hollow points) plus at least ten boxes of the local favorite deer hunting cartridge, even if you don’t own a rifle chambered for this cartridge. (Ask your local sporting goods shop about their top selling chamberings). Also buy at least ten boxes of the local police department’s standard pistol cartridge, again even if you don’t own a pistol chambered for this cartridge.
Ladies supplies.
Salt (Buy lots of cattle blocks and 1 pound canisters of iodized table salt.)
(Stores indefinitely if kept dry.)
Two cycle engine oil (for chain saw gas mixing. Gas may still be available after a collapse, but two-cycle oil will probably be like liquid gold!)
Gas stabilizer.
Diesel antibacterial additive.
50-pound sacks of lime (for outhouses).
1 oz. bottles of military rifle bore cleaner and Break Free (or similar) lubricant.
Waterproof dufflebags in earth tone colors (whitewater rafting "dry bags").
Thermal socks.
Semi-waterproof matches (from military rations.)
Military web gear (lots of folks will suddenly need pistol belts, holsters, magazine pouches, et cetera.)
Pre-1965 silver dimes.
1-gallon cans of kerosene.
Rolls of olive drab parachute cord.
Rolls of olive-drab duct tape.
Spools of monofilament fishing line.
Rolls of 10 mil "Visqueen", sheet plastic (for replacing windows, isolating airspaces for nuke scenarios, etc.)
I also respect the opinion of one gentleman with whom I've corresponded, who recommended the following:
Strike anywhere matches. (Dip the heads in paraffin to make them waterproof.)
Playing cards.
Cooking spices. (Do a web search for reasonably priced bulk spices.)
Rope & string.
Sewing supplies.
Candle wax and wicking.
Lastly, any supplies necessary for operating a home-based business. Some that you might consider are: leather crafting, small appliance repair, gun repair, locksmithing, et cetera. Every family should have at least one home-based business (preferably two!) that they can depend on in the event of an economic collapse.
Stock up on additional items to dispense to refugees as charity.
Note: See the Barter Faire chapter in my novel "Patriots" for lengthy lists of potential barter items.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Throughout my life I have been caught unprepared several times and while nothing seriously bad happened, it easily could have.  I have been lost hiking.  My car has broken down in very bad neighborhoods - twice.  I have been close enough to riots that I feared they would spread to my neighborhood, been in earthquakes, been too close to wildfires, been stuck in a blizzard, and have been without power and water for several days after a hurricane.   I managed to get myself out of each situation, I thanked God, and tried to learn from my mistakes.  I could have avoided these situations or made them much less unsafe and worrisome if I had been more aware and prepared.  I have also tried to learn from the mistakes of others so as to not learn everything the hard way.  One group I assisted was a two hour drive into the mountains, out of gas, wearing tee shirts, and had empty water bottles (at least they kept them) (I have made each of those mistakes but not all at the same time). 

I aspire to be more prepared the next time.  My preparedness includes many different aspects.  In my opinion, the most important thing I have done is to learn as much as possible about what to expect and how to deal with those situations.  The other important thing that gives me some piece of mind is that I carry and stock away water, food, ammo, books, and other tools and equipment that should help me survive a bad situation.  Be prepared!

The other inspiration for my preparations is my family.  Seeing my family suffer from lack of water or food would be very hard for me, especially if some easy and cheap preparations could have made a big difference.  Recently, a few friends and family have asked me about my preparations and how they might prepare.  I didn't have a good short answer because I have spent years learning and stocking away.  I thought of myself as more of a student than a teacher in this area, but now I think I do know enough to give some basic advice and refer them to good sources for more.  Hopefully, they (and you) can learn from my mistakes without having to waste time, energy and money on things that don't work.  Of course, I haven't been through every situation or disaster but I have made it through a few tough spots without losing my head.  My advice is based upon what I know to work and also what sounds like it would work with the minimum fuss.  I always prefer the cheap, easy, home-made solution, but sometimes it is worth the cost to get a quality item that is just too hard to improvise or where the manufactured solution is much better (such as a knife).  Keep it simple stupid (KISS) when you can.  With persistence you can get a lot done $20 at a time.

The purpose of this document is to give an overview of preparedness and the first steps to take.  I focus more on the why than the what so that you can tailor your preparedness to your own situation and budget.  I will also cite the best sources I have found for more information.  There is a lot of information out there in books, classes, web sites, and forums. Most of it is good but it is also really repetitious and overwhelming.  This document is only about 15 pages printed out (you are printing important information (not necessarily this) aren't you - since in an emergency you may not have power and need to take the information with you).  I try to keep my important preparedness documents in an expandable file folder with a tie inside a plastic crate.

What are you preparing for?

No one really knows what will be the next survival situation they will face or how it will play out (will it get worse before it gets better?).  It could be getting lost hiking, the car getting two flats in the middle of the desert, a hurricane, a home invasion, an earthquake, or a terrorist attack.  You must assess your own situation and determine what you need to prepare for.  Of course some preparations will be useful in many situations including everyday life, and these are the best type.

In order to get an idea of what to prepare for, look at the types of situations that you or people similar to you have been through.  Also, assess where you live or spend a lot of time such as work and vacation.  We need to learn from the past but without fighting the last war. 

I like hiking and being outdoors, so for me learning how not to get lost and how to stay alive in the outdoors are high priorities.  These skills may also come in handy if I need to walk to safety during a terrorist attack because all of the roads and public transportation are closed.  Living in your house without power or water isn't too different from camping except for the nice roof over your head and all of your stuff.  I have also taken a first aid class.  It is pretty limited in coverage but still useful in a variety of situations.

To assess the likely dangers to where I live and work I used several sources including FEMA (free guide), DHS, Disaster Center, Emergency Essentials, Two Tigers and CBS.  Also, find your local emergency response office.  But don't rely on the government too much for planning or for help.  As we relearned with the Katrina response, their information and advice is far from perfect.  And FEMA has always said it will take 72 hours to respond.  So the way I look at it, during Katrina, FEMA (and local governments) failed to live up to its own low expectations.  But even if FEMA had been able to provide more food and water, you would still be much better off taking care of yourself.  Do you really want to be told what possessions you can hold, when to eat, when to sleep, and live in close quarters with thousands of strangers?  Sounds like prison to me.

It's A Disaster is a good book that will get you started on a plan for most disasters.  Some of their plans are a little passive for me (don't take any risks and follow all FEMA directions) and their kits lack some important things like knives.  Still, it is a very good book and a great start.  Family and friends should be included in your planning and preparations as much as they want to be, but be careful about telling people who you do not trust or know well.  You do not want to become a target in a crisis.

I think one of the best sources for thinking about what you are preparing for and what does and doesn't work is news and first hand accounts.  These are some of the best ones I have found.  A few of them seem kind of glib and bravado but the advice seems sound.

True Stories of Survival

Hurricane Katrina:

Argentina thread 1:

Argentina thread 2 (some swearing):

Airplane crash:

Ground Zero:

Karen Hood's Survival Journal (a week in the wilderness)

Sailing to Hawaii



A list of stories


The survival Rule of Threes:

  • It takes about three seconds to die without thinking
  • It takes about three minutes to die without air
  • It takes about three hours to die without shelter
  • It takes about three days to die without water
  • It takes about three weeks to die without food
  • It takes about three months to die without hope
  • Try to have at least three ways of preventing each of the above (a backup to your backup).

So the priorities are thinking, air, shelter, water, food, and hope.  These are rules of thumb and approximations.  Also, you will likely start feeling really bad before you die so you need to be proactive in addressing these needs.

Basically, don't panic and do something stupid.  This is easier said than done, but you can build your thinking skill and confidence by playing ‚Äúwhat if‚Äù games. After reading about the risks to your area and the survival stories above, think about what kinds of things could go wrong and how you would deal with them.  The more detail the better.  What would you do if a cat 5 hurricane was projected to hit your house?  Where would you go?  What would you take?  Would it all fit in your car?  Do you have enough gas to get there if the gas stations are closed?  What if you don't have time to leave? What room in your house is safest (can you reinforce it easily)?

If you are facing a serious situation but no immediate threat, take the time to consider your options before rushing into a course of action.  Take an inventory of what you have on hand and what is around you.  Think of how each item could help solve one or more of your priorities. 

Thinking about these things may be scary but it will be less scary when it actually happens if you have thought it through.  Focus on what you can do to improve things and not on what you cannot change. Thinking can also be more long term as in learning and planning.  I suggest you read some of the sources below and then come up with a plan for several types of situations that you are likely to face.  But don't delay, you can take some first steps outlined below, such as storing water, right now.  You can then read more, take classes and collect useful items.  Preparing is a process not a one time event.

Having breathable air is not something you usually have to worry about, but it is an immediate priority if you do.  First aide can help with choking and bleeding (which causes the body to not get needed oxygen). Hundreds of people die from carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide poisoning every year because of gas leaks and cooking or heating indoors.  Being at altitude can also make it harder to breath.  Finally, a terrorist attack could put dust, chemical, biological, or nuclear contamination in the air or force you into a shelter that needs ventilation.  Be aware of these dangers and have appropriate detectors if possible (smoke, carbon monoxide, etc.).  A wet cloth or hand wipe (carry on airplane) to breathe through can help for dust or smoke.


Shelter is mainly about staying dry and the right temperature, but you also want to avoid sunburn, bugs, animals and other dangers.  Your house is your usual primary shelter but it could become damaged or you may have to evacuate.  You should have emergency repair items on hand such as tarps, lumber, shovels, nails, plastic sheeting, crowbars, and a saw.

Your clothes are your first and most important layer of shelter outdoors.  Clothes protect you from heat, cold and abrasions.  In general silk, wool, and synthetic materials are better than cotton especially to keep you warm in cold wet weather. I find cotton more comfortable especially in hot weather, so I compromise and wear a cotton shirt and shorts, but carry a better shirt, pants and socks in my bag, as well as additional layers and a change of underwear.  This makes my pack a little heavier, but I have been cold and wet in the wilds and that is miserable.  For me, a hat and sunglasses are indispensable.  I try to always carry at least a light water resistant jacket or poncho (with a garbage bag as a backup).  For me, boots are the only sensible walking shoes.  Find some that are rugged and comfortable.  Have extra laces and a backup pair.

You can carry a tent, a tarp or garbage bag for resting and sleeping.  A tarp can make a simple shelter or an elaborate one.  Rope, twine and tape are also useful.  You can carry some type of staff or tent poles or make them with an ax or saw.  Mosquito netting is necessary in some places.

You should have many ways to start a fire since most are cheap and compact.  At least have a lighter, matches, and flint.  You can also build a firebed to sleep in if you have inadequate shelter from the cold.

This is a crucial area that can be helped a lot with very cheap and easy actions before The Schumer Hits The Fan (TSHTF).  This is probably the thing you can do with the highest payoff for amount of effort.  The only problem with water is that it is heavy and can take up a lot of room.  If you have storage room and are staying home this isn't a problem but if you are on the move it can become a driving factor in your progress.  Long term solutions are also difficult if your primary water source (city water or well) goes out and you are not near a river or lake. 

Used plastic soda bottles and orange juice jugs with screw tops make very convenient water storage containers.  Just rinse them a few times with hot water. Old liquor bottles and wine box bladders work well too.  I also have several canteens and rugged 5 gallon containers with taps.  The five gallon containers weigh about 40 pounds each and are about as big as can be easily moved (larger drums can go in your basement or garage or under a rain spout).  A few collapsible containers might also be useful because they can be stored and carried empty.  Tap water can last for years without going bad if kept in a cool dark place.  But you should check water that has been stored for clarity and odors.  If in doubt, treat it with one of the methods below.  You can also freeze the plastic soda or orange juice containers (these do crack sometimes when freezing) and use them in a cooler to keep food cold if the power goes out before drinking it.  If you know a disaster is coming fill up any container you can including the coffee maker, crystal vase, bucket, bathtub, sink, and kiddy pool (some of these could be spilled or contaminated but hopefully some will make it).

Most sources recommend about a gallon per person per day.  People consume about 2 quarts in cool low activity environments but much more if hot or active.  You should have at least 2 weeks worth per person in your primary residence (but why not have months worth if you have the room).  If you are traveling by car, three days worth per person is minimum (more for bathing), and if you are walking take as much as you reasonably can carry but at least one days worth (several small bottles are better for diversification if one leaks and also to let you know to start looking for more water before you are on your last bottle).  I also store extra water for washing and bathing.  Here the container doesn't matter quite as much.  I use old liquid detergent jugs.  You should also have at least two methods of sterilizing water. 

The first step in sterilizing water is to get the water as clear as possible.  If it is cloudy, strain it with coffee filters, a clean cloth, or sand.  Or you can let it settle and pour off the more clear water. 

The primary and most reliable method of sterilizing water is boiling.  You actually do not need to boil the water just heat it past 145 degrees for long enough. But if you don't do it right you can get sick.  So to be safe, boil it for 5 minutes if you can.  If you are walking, a metal cup (enamel or stainless) or a converted tin can is easier to boil than a full pot.  You can carry a backpacking stove or a Kelly Kettle.  You can use solar power to sterilize water (in a soda bottle) if no cooking is possible.  Other stoves are suggested below under food. 

To sterilize water with bleach use 2 drops of plain unscented bleach per quart of water (or 8 drops per gallon or 1‚ÅÑ4 tsp per 2 gallons).  If you don't have a dropper you can wet a paper towel and then drip it (wear gloves).  Let the water sit for 20 minutes and then smell it.  If it smells like chorine then its good to go.  If it doesn't, repeat with the same amount of bleach.  If that doesn't work try to find other water.  (Really bad water or salt water requires a still.)  Bleach is cheap but does not last forever - rotate.  Dry Calcium Hypochlorite {sold as "pool shock" bleach) stores much better than liquid bleach but requires an additional step of mixing a solution. (It provides a very inexpensive long term solution to water treatment).

There are also Potable Aqua iodine tablets that are more compact for sterilizing water.  You can also use Tincture of Iodine.  Iodine and chlorine are poisons so be very careful (kill the bacteria not yourself. [Avoid ingesting chlorine or iodine crystals!])

Any of the chemical treatments can make the water taste funny.  You can use drink mixes to make it taste better.  I'm not sure if sports drinks are really better, but Gatorade seems more thirst quenching to me than water.  The powder form is more convenient and cheaper.  You can also make your own sports drink (1/4 tsp nu salt (potassium chloride), 1‚ÅÑ4 tsp salt, 3-6 tbsp sugar (to taste), juice of 1 lemon (or orange), and optional flavoring (Kool-Aid) per gallon of water) or switchel.        

Of course you can spend money for water if you want to.  You can buy prepackaged water or expensive filters. There are backpacking filters but I have found these to be temperamental.  A water bottle with a filter would be a good backup or a straw. You can also go the more expensive route with a good gravity fed filter like this:  This is a great looking solar still but doesn't appear to be for sale right now. 

If you are a homebrewer (or like beer), you can add some dry malt extract, hops, and dry yeast to your stash.  Beer is boiled as part of the brewing process.  Then the alcohol and hops act as a natural preservative.  For the long term you can get some sproutable barley, grow some hops, and culture yeast.  If you or someone with you doesn't handle alcohol well, skip this. 

Providing food can be as easy or complicated as you want.  The easiest thing to do is simply buy more of any food you normally buy that stores well.  By store well, I mean does not spoil.  Foods like fresh milk, meat and bread do not store well.  Other foods like rice, dried beans and pasta all store well and are cheap.  They eventually lose some of their nutrition but this is gradual and will not make you sick from eating ‚Äúexpired‚Äù food if you forget to rotate.  I do not list exact rotation schedules because every source is different.  Some sources say grains only last one year but most sources say 10 plus years and other credible sources say hundreds or thousands of years.  It all depends upon how it is packed and where it is stored which is discussed below (vacuum packed, cool and dry are best) Canned meats, fruits and vegetables store okay and are more expensive.

How much food you want to have on hand depends on what type of situation you expect and how much you want to spend.  Buying a month' worth of rice, beans, salt, and pasta will not cost much (and is a good start).  You will be a lot happier if you add:

  • canned or dried meat (Costco and BJs have multipaks of Spam, ham, tuna and chicken for under $10)
  • canned or dried fruits and nuts
  • canned or dried vegetables
  • dried potatoes
  • canned or dried sauces (for pasta, chili, etc.)
  • soup mixes (bean soups are cheap) and bullion
  • dried onions
  • parmesan cheese
  • cooking oil
  • ramen noodles
  • peanut butter
  • mayo
  • vinegar
  • sugar and honey
  • powdered milk
  • bread crumbs, stuffing, oatmeal, cereal
  • flour, pancake mix, biscuit mix
  • baking soda
  • cocoa, instant coffee, tea, drink mixes, juice mixes (cranberry)
  • lemon juice
  • dry yeast
  • spices 

Some of these can be eaten without cooking or water if you have to.  Costco is great for the rice, canned goods, bullion, yeast (2 pound box), cooking oil and spices. Don't forget a can opener and other utensils.  Of course you can do the drying (wood or solar) and canning yourself for better quality and lower cost.  The oil, flour, baking soda and yeast (refrigerate the yeast if possible) do not store well and have to be rotated more frequently than the rice, beans and pasta.  You will be healthier if you add some multivitamins.  There are also luxury items like Powerbars, powdered eggs, powdered cheese, powdered butter, food tabs, and meals ready to eat (MREs).

To decide how much you need, you can simply scale up recipes and meals (print some simple recipes that use your stored food).  How much rice and beans would you eat at a meal or in a day if that was all you ate?  A lot probably (make a meal as a trial).  Now multiply that by the number of people and the number of days and you have a ball park of how much to store.  The problem is that you could end up feeding more people than your immediate family.  Who else would you not turn away? (Anyone you wouldn't want to live with normally is not someone you want to be stuck with in a crisis.  That said there is some family I wouldn't turn away even if they deserve it).  Start with the cheap stuff (rice, beans, pasta, salt) and then slowly keeping adding and rotating the other food until you have at least one months worth.  Do an inventory at least twice a year.

Store everything in airtight/waterproof containers inside a tough container in a cool, dry, dark place.  Some things come packed pretty well and can just go in a plastic bucket or crate (cans can be dipped in wax).  Other items should be vacuum packed in small bags or large mylar bags with oxygen absorbers and then put in the plastic bucket with a lid or crate (with a solid latching lid).  If you don't have shelves, you can make shelves out of the buckets or crates and 1‚Äùx12‚Äù lumber.  Put 2‚Äùx4‚Äù's under the bottom shelf to keep it off the floor.

For years worth of food instead of months worth of food we need to move to grain and grain grinders.  The Church of Latter Day Saints are the experts here.  They also have storehouses that will sell to the public if you are polite.  Of course you can buy online but the shipping will be as much or more than the food.  I went cheap and was able to get about six months worth of food for one person for $100.  I stuck to grains (400 lbs/year), beans (40 lbs/year), soup mix (20 lbs/year), and milk (16 lbs/year) (I already had sugar (60 pounds/year), salt (10 lbs/year), oil (5 gallons/year), baking soda and yeast).  I borrowed some of their equipment to pack some of the food, the rest I packed at home in the mylar bags and buckets described above.  The milk is a sticky powder and very messy (think of spilling flour and multiply by 100), repack it outside if possible.  I also bought a hand operated grain grinder to make flour from the wheat.  Then I can make bread (scale this recipe up to one loaf per day for a year as a cross check for a year's supply).  This would be a pretty miserable diet but I think it would keep me alive and healthy if I had enough vitamins.  Because of the sack size I have more of some things than others so towards the end I may be eating paste.  I hope to upgrade later.  For infants you need more milk, oil, sugar, and vitamins from which you can make an emergency formula (breast feeding is better, then you give the extra food to the mother). 

For even longer food solutions you need to farm.  Supplementing your food with a garden or sprouting would also make things last longer and provide some healthy variety.  Its best to have some non-hybrid seeds on hand or save seeds from your garden.  Serious (expensive) seed packages are here.  Have some fertilizer and pesticides on hand but in the long run organic is the way to go.

For cooking you can use a wood burning stove, barbeque, or camp stove in the short run (have some extra fuel on hand).  The Petromax lantern is pricey but well made and also has a stove attachment.  If you don't have one of these or run out of fuel you can build one: a coffee can stove, a bucket stove (avoid galvanized metal), a alcohol stove, a collapsible stove, a tin can stove (simple version), solar oven (portable version), or a clay stove (print directions for making at least one of these).  This is also a good commercial stove for those with cash to burn.  These are much more efficient than an open fire.  You need a good pot or dutch oven for boiling water and cooking.  For more portable food you can go with MREs, make your own or stock what ever you would normally backpack with.

Hope is different for everyone.  It can be safety, comfort, companionship, or normalcy.  For me it is mainly hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel.  I can work hard and persevere if I know eventually things will get better.  This means long term planning.  So I want to have what I need in the short term but also have some hope for the long term (so I have gardening tools and seeds in addition to rice and spam).  You also want comfort items such as a book, Bible, game, coloring book, pictures, beer, tea, or warm shower.  Some of these can be dual purpose such as a book about hiking or gardening, survival playing cards, or a novel about survival and perseverance. 

There are lots of things you can get, but you can also just organize what you have already.   The number of lists seems endless and what you need depends upon the situation, your skills, and your budget.  Here is what is wrong with the DHS kit  I have already mentioned several items above and list some others here but being comprehensive would take a lot of space (read the links and references for more).  Here are some basics.

All types of camping equipment and tools come in handy but can be expensive (shipping can be expensive too so you may want to make your own, try your local yard sales, craigslist, sporting goods or hardware store first).  You may want a small tent to carry and a larger tent to put in the car.  Sleeping pads are as much for insulation as for comfort (learned the hard way‚Äîyou don't want to be in the cold without some insulation between you and the ground).  A hammock can be multipurpose.  You can try your local hardware store for lanterns or Lehman's (they also have candle making supplies).

I suggest four knives for anyone responsible enough to have one (in general you get what you pay for, but start cheap and upgrade later): a folding lock blade knife (buck and gerber are both good reasonably priced brands), a Swiss army knife (with saw blade) or leatherman type knife (pliers are handy), a solid full tang knife, and a machete or short sword for brush.  A kitchen knife can work until you get any of these.  A hatchet would also be useful.  Keep them sharp.

You need several maps (local, state (small scale and large scale), neighboring states, topographic and road) and a compass.  A GPS is optional but very handy.  There are usually welcome centers along interstates and in some cities that hand out free maps.  The USGS is a good source for reasonably priced maps but sometimes it is a bit hard to find what you are looking for.  They have a catalog for each state that really helps. They are also very friendly by phone but still prefer if you order online. 

You should have at least one non portable (plug in) phone that can be used with the power out.  Medicine, diapers and feminine products will be hard to get.  A generator is great but can be expensive and you must have enough fuel (I don't have one but want one).  Solar powered battery chargers are really slow but might be the only option.

Change your attitude, don't be wasteful, and you can reuse many items. A tin can becomes a cup or pot with a little work.  Use both sides of a piece of paper and then use it as insulation or tinder.  Waste not, want not.  This also minimizes trash as there may be no trash pickup.

Organize your equipment and supplies into different levels and packages

Stuff you almost always carry

You should make a small kit that fits in your pocket or around your neck.  This should include:

  • ways to make a fire (matches, mini bic, flint, etc.)
  • a button compass
  • a small knife or razor blade, broken hack saw blade, small file
  • Swiss Tech Micro-Tech 6-in-1 Tool
  • led light
  • small candle (light or fire making)
  • a saw
  • short piece of wire
  • parachute cord (as much as will fit)
  • iodine tablets
  • sturdy needle and thread
  • individual salt servings
  • food tabs, hard candy, bullion or individual parmesan cheese/sugar (if space permits)
  • freezer bags (water)
  • nails (assortment)
  • trash bag if it will fit (poncho or tarp)
  • dental floss (twine)
  • Advil, Imodium, Benadryl, vitamins, band aids, SPF chapstick any other essential medicine for you or your family (all labeled)
  • fish hooks, split shot, fish line, safety pins.
  • Survival cards can go in kit or wallet (you can make something similar). 

Personal Fanny Pack (or vest)

This should be small enough and attached to you so that you do not put it down even when you take a break.  Take it with you on any hike, drive or emergency.  A large fanny pack works well or Ranger Rick suggests putting everything in a vest and a bamboo walking stick.  You can duplicate some of the items in your mini kit but add substantially.

  • Survival cards or pocket survival guide (or print some out).
  • Knife of your choice (another one can go in your pocket or on your belt)
  • Sharpening stone (or ceramic insulator)
  • Fire materials (matches and tender (dryer lint, cotton balls in Vaseline, small candles, etc.) waterproofed)
  • Magnifying glass wrapped in bandana
  • Pliers if your knife doesn't have them
  • Compass
  • Maps
  • Metal cup (boiling water)
  • 2 small bottles of water
  • Freezer bags (organization, waterproofing and for more water)
  • Small camp soap (or traveler's shampoo)
  • Iodine tablets
  • At least 2 trash bags (clear for still and heavy black for shelter), or tarp and poncho, or space blanket, or light weight jacket with hood (a shell that compacts) or hat
  • Rope, twine and wire
  • Headlamp and extra batteries
  • Candle
  • Wipes (these are multipurpose and are more compact than toilet paper, keep them in zip lock bags (add a little water if they get dry))
  • Gloves and socks
  • Small first aide kit (including prescriptions)
  • Sunscreen and bug repellant.
  • Whistle
  • Snacks (powerbars, trail mix, food tabs, tea, Gatorade mix, bullion, beef jerky, MRE)
  • A GPS, FRS radio, am/fm radio, cell phone, or CB can go in here if it fits
  • Mini binoculars (to spot landmarks, approaching fires, etc.)
  • Notepad and pencil or pen
  • A multipurpose tool is a good backup for the other items.

72 hour kit (or less)

To some, the 72 hour kit is everything they have in their house for disasters.  I think this should be what you take with you if you have to evacuate (even on foot).  If you can't carry 72 hours worth of food and water (that is a lot of water even if you only plan 2 quarts per day), scale it down and put the rest in a car bug out kit that can be used in your house or on the road.  You can also make a similar kit for work or other places you are likely to be in an emergency.  It should be in a medium sized backpack that you can easily carry (get a rain cover for the backpack (or make one)‚Äîthese really help in wet conditions).  Again, repeat items in your smaller kits as you see fit.  Here are some suggestions:

  • It's a Disaster! Book (or print out a similar one)
  • Personal mini-kit and fanny pack or vest (attached to you separately from the backpack)
  • Water (as much as you can fit without making the bag too heavy, you can carry some containers empty and fill them later)
  • Changes of clothes (several underwear and socks, long underwear)
  • Jacket, hat, and sunglasses
  • Sleeping bag or blanket (and compact pad), hammock
  • Soap and other toiletries (comb, nail clippers and razor)
  • Small stove and/or lantern (or directions and supplies for making one of the stoves above)
  • Small tent or tarp and netting, plastic sheeting, tent poles and stakes (multipurpose)
  • Stuff sacks, mesh bags, pillow cases for organization
  • Duct tape
  • Hatchet or machete, folding saw
  • Small shovel
  • Rope, twine and bungee cords
  • Backpacking pot/pan
  • Cooking and eating utensils (kitchen knife, can opener, spatula, spoon, forks, plates, cups)
  • Foil
  • Dish soap, sponge, dish pan or bucket (collapsible) (also a wash basin or bucket), towel
  • Food (Snacks and MREs as well as rice)
  • Vitamins
  • Detailed road maps
  • topo maps
  • Extra ammo
  • Pocket warmers
  • A GPS, FRS radio (everyone with a list of channels to use), am/fm radio, solar calculator, or CB (whatever you have that fits)
  • Copies of important documents, phone numbers, extra credit card, cash, ID
  • Comfort items (book, cards, bible, pictures, coloring books, games)

Car Kit

Keep this in the car if possible.  I used to keep a lot of this in my car but since some of it was stolen, I keep most of it in the house and load it up for longer trips.  I have something similar to the personal fanny pack that I keep hidden in the jack compartment.

  • 72 hour kit
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Jumper cables
  • Seat belt cutter and window breaker (keep within reach)
  • Water (bottles can go under the seats)
  • Matches
  • Gloves
  • Tarps
  • Garbage bags
  • Wipes
  • Maps
  • Driving compass
  • Rope and/or tow strap and bungee cords
  • First aide kit (any medications)
  • Siphon hose for water or gas (do not drink gas)
  • Window washer/scraper
  • Crowbar and other tools (hammer, saw, wrenches, duct tape, fuses, belts, and screws)
  • Ax, bucket and shovel (this is required in some forests)
  • Engine oil
  • Gas can (keep it empty and unused unless you have a place for it on the outside of your car or truck)

Stuff you take if you have to Bug Out

This is stuff that is too heavy to carry in your 72 hour kit but something you can throw in your car (in addition to what is already there) quickly if you need to evacuate.  You might be able to take it in a garden cart if you can't drive but travel by roads is still safe.  Here is an example to help you make your own kit (or here).  Pack it in crates or duffle bags.  Here are some suggestions (what fits in your car will vary):

  • More survival books or books on camping/country/simple living
  • 5 gallon water cans (full)
  • Food (cans and other heavy bulky items)
  • Cooler (grab some ice and any travel friendly fresh items that are still good like cheese, peanut butter, apples, lemons, and bread)
  • Large first aide kit
  • Dutch oven
  • Stove and fuel or barbeque, Kelly Kettle
  • Lantern (Petromax is good but expensive)
  • Unscented bleach
  • Tent and large tarps, rugs
  • Blanket and pillows (sleeping pad, hammock, or cot)
  • Paper plates, utensils and cups
  • Paper towels and wipes
  • Foil
  • Solar shower
  • Bucket toilet (you can store garbage bags, toilet paper, wipes, and soap inside the bucket)
  • Many garbage bags
  • Laundry soap
  • Clothes pins
  • Soap and shampoo
  • Ant traps and insecticides
  • Fishing gear
  • Radio and batteries
  • Several extra fuel cans (enough to get to your destination without refueling)
  • Propane heater with fuel
  • Generator
  • Small safe for guns and documents
  • Bikes (on rack and with pump and tire repair kit)
  • Frisbee or other games

First Aid and Medical Kits

Take a first aide class and more training if you can.  For supplies, the place to start is with a pre-made small portable first aide kit and a larger home or car first aide kit.  These are usually $10 to $20 on sale (but can be $100's if you want).   You can add items from your medicine cabinet and replace things like the cheap scissors that usually come with them. However, these usually are not good for much more than minor cuts and scrapes (going to a hospital/doctor may not be an option or may take a while‚Äîso do your best until you can get to one).  For more serious injuries you probably have to make your own kit.  The best book is Wilderness Medicine, by William W. Forgey.  His suggested kit in the back of the book is great (I learned the hard way I needed some of the items that he recommends and figure the other items are ones I may need in the future).  Amazon and Moore Medical have most of the items if you can't find them locally.  For the house or car first aide kit, I suggest a hard sided box like a tool box.  Dental care is also important.  A toothache is really distracting. A little dental kit like this could make you a lot more comfortable until you can see a dentist.

Other Kits

Make other kits as you see fit.  I have a kit that is mainly in case of terrorist attack (I live and work too close to a likely target).  I have Jane's Chem-Bio Handbook and what to do if a nuclear attack in imminent as well as Potassium Iodide (seven days), plastic sheeting, duct tape, Tyvek clothes coverings,  and a face mask (this is not as good as a gas mask but its what I have).  You can spread this to your other kits if you want.

Protecting yourself from criminals
is as natural as buying a fire extinguisher to put out fires (but more expensive).   Get fences, dead bolts, and lock your windows at night but if someone really wants to get in your home they will.  Police take an average of 11 minutes or more to respond to violent crimes 40 percent of the time (sometimes hours), under normal conditions. A lot can happen in 11 minutes and you are going to wait a lot longer in a crisis.  When someone is kicking in your door, it is too late to go buy a gun.  You are on your own.  Relying on the kindness of someone breaking into your home is not a good bet.

If you are a gun person, pick your own gun.  This advice if for those who don't own a gun or don't shoot.  I suggest a pistol, a rifle and a shotgun for every adult (check you local gun laws).  If I had to only have one gun it would be a shotgun because of their versatility.  A 20 gauge shotgun is more than enough for most purposes including home defense and has less recoil than a 12 gauge.  The Remington 870 is a great choice but many people also like Mossberg.  Take a class on using the shotgun for home defense.  For home defense ammo, I use bird shot.  This will not penetrate and stop a criminal as fast as buck shot but is also less likely to go through a wall and hurt an innocent person.  Make your own decision here based on who is in adjoining rooms and how close the neighbors are.  You can always load bird shot as the first few shells followed by buck shot (keep about 200 rounds on hand because it will be hard to buy in a crisis).  The only options I recommend are hearing protection, glasses, a cleaning kit, a sling (guns with slings don't get set down in bad places as much) and maybe a light or night sights.  I think the factory stocks are fine. 

Next on my list would be a .22.  The Ruger Single Six is a nice revolver that is convertible to either 22 LR or 22 magnum (This might be a better choice as the only gun for some people). Also get a holster for it.  Savage and CZ make bolt action rifles that are great bargains. A .22 is a little small for home defense (it is less likely to stop a criminal in his tracks) but a lot better than nothing.  It is also important to be comfortable with your gun and a .22 is fun to shoot so you are more likely to practice (.22 ammo is very cheap and you can get 1,000 rounds for about $20).  As soon as you are comfortable with the .22 and your budget allows, you should probably upgrade to a larger common caliber (.357 for a revolver, 9mm, .40 or .45 for an automatic pistol, 12 gauge for a shotgun, and .223, .308, 7.62x39, .30-30, or .30-06 for rifles).  Get a concealed weapon permit if your state allows them even if you don't plan on using it (carrying a gun).  Again, these take some time to get so you have to get one before you need it even if you think that will be never.  Also, the required classes are really great and focus mainly on when not to use a gun.  Almost any gun range will offer such a class (and many others that are worth it too).  In general, buying a used gun is fine (simple guns are very durable) but for the guns I recommend here, the premium for a new gun (gun store or some sporting good stores) will probably be less than $100 and probably worth it to avoid any mechanical issues to start with.

Learn the gun safety rules and locking up any guns not on your body is a good idea and a necessity if you have kids (or adults who act like kids) in your home.  For pistols you can get a cheap keyed safe for about $20 (also good for documents).  Then you have to hide the key where you can find it quickly but no one else can.  A combination safe is better but a lot more expensive (practice opening it in the dark).  For long guns you can get a locking cabinet for about $100 (some cases have a good lock and that is a good idea for taking with you in the car), put a lock on a closet, or get a real safe for about $1,000.  Trigger locks are generally a bad idea because you can accidentally pull the trigger when getting them on or off.

If you decide against a gun, at least get pepper spray, a baseball bat, or a flashlight.  A self-defense class would be good too (martial arts classes are good but take a long time to become practical). A bullet proof vest and helmet would be good but neither is inexpensive.  Finally, there is safety in numbers.  Staying with family and friends during a crisis is a good idea if resources and space allow.

First Steps

  1. Buy some unscented bleach and start storing water.
  2. Start accumulating food and other supplies.  Initially, just buy more of the food that you already buy that stores well.  Re-pack as necessary.  Get some food grade buckets or plastic crates and find a cool dark place.
  3. Start reading more about the risks that you face personally and ways to deal with them.  What is your plan to deal with each?
  4. Organize your stuff into personal mini kits, personal fanny packs (or vests), one or more 72 hour kits for each person for each location they spend time, a car kit, a bug out kit, and your house stash.
  5. Practice.  This doesn't have to be a military style exercise.  Try camping and living without power and running water (in your backyard to start with).  Load your car with what you think you would want to take if you had to evacuate.  How long did it take?  Did it all fit?  Try driving back roads to get out of town.  Go hiking with your 72 hour kit. 
  6. Periodically take an inventory and revise your plans.

Books and other sources (in order of relevance and grouped)

Online Resources

SurvivalBlog (the best daily variety of all types of information at a good price too)

Alpha Rubicon (The "Mythbusters" of the survival world. Membership required for most information, great information and more personalities than members)



Some of these are a bit far fetched and depressing (worst case) and mainly about TEOTWAWKI  (sing ‚ÄúIt's The End of The World as We Know It, and I feel fine" ) (they are fiction) but still give some good food for thought.

Author's web site:

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

I saw your post on The Memsahib's collection of seed catalogs coming so soon. The reason for this is a simple one: to get your plants to a respectable size, and in the ground after the threat of frost has gone, they must be sent to the customers as early as possible to allow proper selection by the customer, mail processing time, order fulfillment, return processing, and in the case of some seeds, proper germination time before setting out into the garden. I know these things, because I have started a few gardens from seed before. This all plays out to the final objective, which is getting the garden to produce to it's full capacity in the set length of your particular growing season. While a lot of people just buy their plants at garden centers and so forth to skip all this, some others go the seed route. While there is nothing wrong with this practice at this time, other than the fact that you are limited by what they produce and sell, in the case of TSHTF, this is probably not going to be an option. Everyone who visits this site to gather information to help them plan, should at least try to sprout their own seeds for some, if not all of their produce. And they should be looking at as many heirloom (or "open pollinated" seed)s to plant, so that they can re-seed the same plants the following years, in case TSHTF from the cargo bed of one of those massive dump trucks that work some of the Western open pit mines.

There are a lot of seed sources out there to choose from. Take your pick. Some preparedness sites like Emergency Essentials ( ) sell packs of seeds for a survival garden, packed in a #10 can. I do not advertise for them or any other company, but use them as an example only. Whichever company you choose, order two or three, just to be on the safe side, in case you have a bad year in the garden that year