Small Things Can Be Biggest Problems, by S.F.

Several years ago, I used to be a regular contributor on SurvivalBlog. Then in 2011, I bought my dream property and began prepping in earnest.

It is completely off grid with spring-fed water, solar panels and propane generator for power, wood stove for heat, composting toilets, and satellite for Internet and phone. In that time I found that it was the small things that were the biggest problems.

Tick Season

During tick season, I’d have five ticks on me just from a moment in the garden. One bite got infected. My whole arm swelled up. If it were not for antibiotics, who knows what would have happened. Now, I wear white tickproof clothing into the garden during tick season and have plenty of tick tweezers handy.


After a week away, I came back to holes in all my structures (domes). Was it meteorite strikes? No. It was woodpeckers. I learned to mix grape flavor with white paint (because birds hate it) to cover my domes again after patching the holes. I also now keep a semi auto Benelli 20-gauge by the door. The camo paint made the birds think the domes were just big trees, I guess.

Mice in Diesel Generator

Another day I was trying to figure out why my custom diesel Lister generator, for which I paid over $20K, wasn’t working. It was EMP proof and could run on nearly any combustible fuel. What I discovered was that mice got into the generator head and made a nest.

After replacing the wiring, I welded a grid over the place they got into. The generator works fine now and is for sale if anyone is interested.

Redo My Spring

Then I paid a dowser to redo my spring. It was a tough decision. I’d heard, “Don’t fix what isn’t broken.” But, could it be improved? After walking by the spring, the friendly old man assured me that he could at least double my water supply. Several days later after much excavating, he told me that, “Well, there’s more water you’re not getting, but who knows how deep it is.” That means he is never wrong, since if we don’t strike water then it’s just deeper, right? Should I have left it alone?

Water Tanks

A few weeks later, I checked a water tank and it smelled off. I look inside and find 10 or more frogs just swimming around and no doubt urinating and defacating into my water supply. How did they get there? In the six years I’ve had the tanks, they never been there before. Then again, I did open up a working spring, With a pool net in hand, I finally got the last ones out, dumped in a bunch of Chlorox, and sealed up the air holes in the top of the water hatch with silicon. (You can never have enough of this stuff.) I wanted to be sure, just in case that is how they got in. Frogs aren’t so cute anymore.


This summer, the ants weren’t so bad. They didn’t march across our kitchen floor or up into our bed. I guess the multiple poisons I put out for them last year are still working.

Air Filters

What’s still on the list? I already have an industrial air filter. (There is lots of smoke out here.) Yet, I will need to clear the ladder fuels (low branches and brush) from around the buildings so a grass fire can’t ignite the trees.

Drip Irrigation

I’m redoing the drip irrigation with hard PVC all around. This way there won’t be any thin, black, poly “spaghetti” irrigation lines popping out at random intervals

I’m adding another water meter just about the garden with a remote meter so all I have to do is look every morning at the water use from the night before to see if I have a leak.


I’m sure I’m not done learning yet, after all I was a city boy to start. However, the point is that you just don’t know what you don’t know until you actually start doing it.

There’s a saying that you don’t know how to farm your land for at least five years or so. I understand that now. Some of the crops I was assured would grow at my location didn’t thrive. Others I was told wouldn’t do well were very successful. The same is true with a survival property. You have to put in the time to find out where your weak spots are.



  1. A semi-sheltered cat colony would have taken care of most of your problems.

    Ticks: ticks have a two-year life cycle. The first year they live on rodents. The second year they move to larger animals (see Healing Lyme, second edition). Cats have been selected by humans for thousands of years to kill as many rodents as possible. They love doing it. No mice, no ticks. I live in the forest. Most years I have one or two ticks; this year none at all, and I didn’t cut the grass around the house.

    Mice in the generator: same thing.

    Frogs: yummy. More fun for cats.

    Woodpeckers: will avoid areas with cats. They are too big for cats to catch, but they will enjoy trying. Cats coexist with chickens however.

    Snakes: cats love snakes. Snakes are terrified of cats, and get out of Dodge when they smell them. Snakes bring a single-shot pistol to a machine-gun fight. The snake gets one strike, which is well-signaled. Then the cat goes to work. I watched a small female cat, head held high in the air, dragging the shredded remains of a five foot snake across my porch. She looked very proud of herself.

    Ants, irrigation lines and mechanicals: sorry, cats will not help with that.

    Give the cats a place to shelter from coyotes (small opening), and a hearty breakfast in the morning. They will take care of lunch, dinner and snacks themselves.

    Choose cats with long bodies, long legs, and big ears. They are the fastest, and survive best. Do not choose more than one kitten from the same litter.

    1. As far as ticks and infections go, buy yourself some oregano oil. It stops not only teeth infections, but if you have red around a wound or red spreading from it oregano oil will solve it. It is a must for any first aid kit. I live in the mountains and I farm, so I have real experience in such issues. I am still fighting the mouse and rat war though, hard to win completely.

      1. I had huge mice problems for years where I live. I picked up 2 feral kittens from my wife’s co-worker, who had them living in her barn. It is almost unbelievable how they have reduced the rodent population. It has not been a problem for the past 2 years.

  2. Although I live in a different area, have a different climate, and may have different ticks, here’s what has worked well for me. I live in Germany, and we have a 363 day a year hunting season. I am out in the woods and forest just about every day. During spring and summer, the ticks used to be so bad that I almost gave up hunting, having between 5 to 10 a week. I was very afraid of Lymes disease. My Louisiana born hunting friend told me that I’m not eating enough onions and garlic. So I increased my onion and garlic intake three fold.

    About that time, a new product came onto the market caled “Scalibor”, which is a tick repellent collar for dogs. My dog also used to get about as many ticks as I did, so I bought one of these collars for him. The end result was that my dog didn’t get a single tick that year. And…. neither did I! I’m not sure if it is because of the onions and garlic intake, or my contact with my dog while he is wearing the collar, but in the past 10 years I have not had 1 single tick bite, in spite of spending an average of 2 hours a day in the woods. The active ingredient in the collar is Deltamethrin.

    Give it a try, on the dog that is, not on yourself, it might help you as well. If not, learn to like onions and garlic, I did.

      1. I have not had a problem with my dog, but it may be his breed. He is a “Brandlbracke”, or an “Austrian Smooth Haired Hound” in English. The closest relative you may be familiar with being the Beagle.

    1. Be careful of the scaliber, I almost lost a dog to it. She is a border Collie mix. For some reason Collie type dogs are bothered by many flea and tick products out there. And this was recommended to me by my Vet, so be careful and check on side effects and such before using. She is 1000% better than she was, but still not back to where she was before being sick. And that is now two months ago. Finally treated her for “goat polio” and she started responding (that treatment is steroids and red cell as my friend said if she was a goat that is what she would think she had.). The other dog was not affected, a terrier/bulldog mix. As I said just be careful.

  3. I’m just curious, ticks are not much of a problem in my immediate area, although Lyme disease is common around here. If man’s best friend can wear a tick collar 24/7 why not a man himself? Are the collars safe? Is it a systemic poison? Is it bad for my trusted four legged friend ? Any vets out there please chime in. Thanks JML

    1. A friend in the logging business wore a flea/tick collar around his ankle over his boot.
      I tried it and it worked well for me.
      I recently read that it could cause problems for humans, but I think the people in the studies may have not worn them over a boot.

      The ticks have been really bad here the last two or three years, but I’m not so sure of the rodent connection. They have always been bad in the deep south especially in pine wooded areas and high grass.

  4. I’ve learned that if I get the big things under control I have more time to fight off the little things. Ticks in the woods are a problem but like the author, we are defensive now.

    Second year on the homestead we had a major mice infestation in the house, barn and outbuildings. It was so bad even my 4 cats an 4 terriers could not contain them. It took 6 months to get them out or dead, along with extreme restructuring with storage containers they couldn’t chew through.

    Third year was very wet so we got toads and frogs by the hundreds, which brought out the snakes. We have 3 large dogs that hate toads and will literately stomp them to death. The terriers are good at biting them where they don’t get sprayed and then will shake them to death. It took a year to wipe out the frogs and the next generation from the eggs laid. We have fewer snakes now but they are poisonous so we use 22 or 9 mm shot shell followed by a shovel or machete.

    Every year we have had a new surprise and problem. This year was a total failure of fruit trees and berry bushes due to two very late freezes. We just keep on learning and trying to live with Mother Nature.

    1. “major mice infestation”

      not to worry, I’m the inventor of the world’s best mousetrap.

      get two cans, one just larger than the other, and cut the tops off. on the larger can, at the bottom next to the intact lid, use a punch can opener to punch two holes near each other in the side of the can. push the metal flaps down so that the smaller can can slide up and down easily inside the larger can all the way to the bottom.

      take a piece of cardboard, about two inches tall and about 1.5 inches wide, and fold it in half lengthwise. cut a nock in one end for the edge of the smaller can to rest in. put a little peanut butter inside the crease of the cardboard.

      now hold the larger can on its side, punched holes up, and place the cardboard inside the larger can, peanut butter side against the larger can, on the far side away from the punched holes. carefully slide the smaller can into the larger can so that the smaller can’s open side lip rests in the nock cut in the cardboard. carefully stand up the can assembly and place it where mice go.

      when the mouse smells the peanut butter, it goes inside the larger can to investigate. when it pulls away the cardboard to get at the peanut butter, the smaller can drops down and blocks the exit holes, trapping the mouse inside the can assembly. you then can deal with it appropriately.

      works great, I’ve caught up to ten mice per day per trap this way. some tips. mice run along edges, so punch the holes so that when the can is placed in a corner the holes face each direction of approach. when lifting the inner can the mouse will immediately appear at one of the exit holes and then jump, so be ready. to make sure a tripped trap has a mouse and hasn’t just dropped by itself, shake the can assembly, you’ll feel the mouse inside.

  5. I’ve recently heard about a good idea to reduce the tick population. Wet a bunch of cotton balls with permethrin and pack a bunch into the cardboard tubes from toilet paper and paper towel rolls (cut the paper towel rolls in half or in thirds). Leave these cotton filled tubes around the property but sheltered from rain. Mice will find these cotton balls and use them for nest building basically creating insect killing nests which will kill the ticks while in the rodent-host stage. The end result is greatly reduced tick populations in the area. An internet search on this will bring up a lot of results but you get the idea.

  6. Agree about the cats, though I would neuter all but 1 male and all but 2 females, and raise them so they can be handled and petted, also tick collars for them as well. A good mouser will have kittens that are also good mousers. I had a female (named Charlie ), when she had kittens (about 3 litters a year, she was good at that too) all I had to do was put up a sign that read: Charlie’s kittens, new litter ready. I would have people lined up to take one. I think I could have sold them for any price I chose. She also raised an orphaned litter of rabbits that where born around the same time as one of her litters. I brought the buns in and when she was out hunting I put them in the box with her kitten and stirred them all together to spread the scent. She came in dropped another mouse at my feet and hopped in her box. She stood on her hind legs and looked over the top of the box and I KNOW she was thinking ” there’s a LOT more in here than when I left.” But she accepted them and raised them.
    Ticks: Guinia hens are great tick eaters. Get hatching eggs and put them under a hen to hatch, you won’t have to deal with heat lamps etc and the hen will teach them to return to the coop at night. If you get fledged or adult birds the day you turn them loose you will never see them again, they will be out there SOMEWHERE, doing their job but they are more wild then tame. Hope this is useful.

  7. Interesting, eye-opening article. i’ve heard that Guinea hens eat ticks, make good watch dogs, and get along okay with chickens. Do chickens also eat ticks? I hate ticks, especially when they latch onto you between the shoulder blades and you can’t reach them to pull them out!

    May I ask why your Lister generator is up for sale?

  8. We are beginning our 6th winter in N.Idaho. The author speaks truth. Now I understand why “land patents” weren’t granted until you went 7 years with success.

    Cats: friends on the radio this morning mentioned GET CATS!!! I tire of the 5 gal bucket with plastic pop bottle spinning on a stick, and all those “hav-a-heart” traps that become a mousey submariners’ demise (then yellowjacket bait). The first and only cat leapt out of my arms when I opened the Cummins diesel Dodge door. Mistake: not feeding it canned tuna upon our introduction. Never saw it after that.

    If you bought your property from an owner who actually habitated your demesne…..ask him before you do anything rash or brilliant!

    Lister Diesel: I bought a “blueprinted 2-cyl Listeroid” and it still sits on the TRAILER I hauled it up from Salt Lake City 5 years ago……why: how the heck can I get a 1000 pound machine off a trailer without borrowing a Bobcat? It is a nice machine, but a Pre-prepping purchase mistake. Too many small things continuously preempt the “Lister Project”. I would take a good >$6k offer…..

    Ticks: yep: good advice in this article & comments, …. and inspect yerself in front of a mirror after stripping down OUTSIDE (and it goes in the washer straight away). Grow neck hair in the summer (tell ur barber) The Tilley-hat has a “neck shield” that works well for keeping ticks off your head & neck, along with yellowjackets, upset hive honeybee sentries, and brambles. I notice the Guinea hens are good at finding small insects.

    Ants: I do not approve of pesticides for my farm…..but, diatomaceous earth, Delta Dust and Termidor SC placed in places where the carpenter ant queens investigate has stopped the recurring marching drama. (

    Hornets & yellow-jackets attacking my hives: 3 weeks of DAILY sentry duty at hive entrances, hand-squashing the invaders, dead mice in juice bottle traps, propane torch immolation weapon (chickens have learned there is BBQ when I yell chik-chik after frying handfulls on the apples) Bees returned to one hive that was a “goner” and now looks like they are going into Autumn “strong!” Only 2 of 12 hives tho 🙁

    Talk with your neighbors about your plans when conversation lags, they are still here, and might “pull you away by yer belt” when you come up with a cool project idea!

    East-North-East in Cataldo

  9. My 2 cent (not proper English intentional)
    One, I am not a fan of cats. Look into the eyes of a cat and then look into the eyes of man’s best friend. One is evil and one is full of love and thankfulness. Cats cost you money in the way of food with limited results. My son has two cats but they are not always preventative. I have no cats but I have 100% preventative success with Victor. My theory is “Head them off at the pass”. I live way off grid and the only time mice (and pack rats) are a problem is in spring and fall. I have had mice chew through the very corner of the garage door seals. I had to place metal shields at these points. I strictly do not allow mice in my attached garage or cabin (also a good grid down disease preventative). In spring and fall there are numerous traps inside and at each corner of the garage doors. “Get them outside before they get inside”. Plus, Victor old fashion traps are inexpensive and reusable if you are not to squeamish.
    Another tip is to prop up your vehicle hood with a piece of 2×6, etc. This allows open air and prevents critters from building nests on a warm engine.
    A third tip is to place scented dryer sheets in the interior and engine compartments of stored vehicles. It seems to work for me. Critters do not like the smell. There seems to be something in the vehicle wiring that the critters like. If given the chance they will chew on the wiring. Very costly.

  10. Greetings::: Try using patchouli (hippy oil from 60″s) It works well against ticks also mosquitoes and other flying insects. I’ve traveled all 50 states, Canada, and the amazon jungle oils works well. The cost is about $ 50.00 per liter (33 oz) and will last for several yrs improves with age one might say. Only takes 1 or 2 drops on index finger and place behind ear and on socks or shoes and can last for several days on shoes. So apply very little also oils might stain white clothing but eventually washes out .
    You get about 600 drops per oz. smells kinda musky or earthy too. If you really want a boost of insect repellent mix 50 % patchouli , 25 % pennyroyal, and 25 % citronella which is 1/2 oz patchouli , 1/4 oz of pennyroyal and 1/4 oz citronella just dont put near eyes.. and keeps insects away for 12 + hrs .. I’ve also used use lemongrass, or lavender, or eucalyptus , or clove, or neem oil separately as insect repellent which works well too. The oils I use are essential oils and I buy from reliable sources too. If one is interested pick up a book on aromatherapy which is good guide for other uses as well too.

  11. When I was growing up I tried to budget a few projects on our property. Proud of myself and convinced I had saved us money I presented them to my dad. He looks at the budget, smiles, and says, “Well let’s see how close you get.”
    Closest I got was 10% over budget. Some were up to 40% over.
    That’s when he told me about adding the automatic 10% overage and informed me it’s not the meat and potatoes of the project that’ll kill you it’s the cost of all those nickel and dimes you spend doing it.
    How much did that box of nails cost? It costs the box, the fuel you spend driving to the store and the time it took you go get them. That adds up quick.

  12. I’m fully convinced that ticks will drop on to you from the trees. If you take a walk through the woods you will get ticks on your upper body first. But if you walk through the weeds you will get ticks on your legs first. I performed a personal experiment by walking through the woods in the summer time holding a large umbrella over myself. After I exited the woods I walked immediately across a grassy field. I then checked myself and found that I only had ticks on my lower legs ( although they were working their way up my body ) but I didn’t have a single tick from my waist upward. So if you had to spend an extended time in the woods and weren’t concerned about looking like a sissy city boy you could use an umbrella.

  13. “License to kill gophers by the government of the United Nations. Man, free to kill gophers at will. To kill, you must know your enemy, and in this case my enemy is a varmint. And a varmint will never quit – ever. They’re like the Viet Cong – Varmint Cong. So you have to fall back on superior intelligence and superior firepower. And that’s all she wrote.”
    – Carl Spackler, Caddy Shack

    No truer words spoken…

  14. An old and effective tick and chigger repellent is the powdered sulfur called flowers of sulfur. Some old timers would eat a pinch every day to make their blood less palatable, best use is to pour some in a sweat sock, then you pat the sock on your boots and pats and even skin to spread the powder. Very effective used this way, this is also a great material to google just to see its many uses. Can’t help with the frogs, that’s a Biblical plague…

  15. We had a fairly large chunk of property in the Redoubt. We had five cats, all were housecats and permitted indoors but spent most of three seasons outdoors (their choice). Two out of the five were exceptional hunters, one was ok and the other two were pretty much useless. If I had my choice I would have kept the three good performers and adopted out the other two. I do NOT like a lot of pets in the house but part of the reason thee cats hunted so well is because they received praise for bringing their catches home. 3-4 rodents a day sometimes and they cleared the two acres around the house and our garden of ground squirrels, chipmunks, mice, miles and voles. Birds also steered clear of our gardens.

    We currently live in the Southern Central US in a hotter climate. First year here we had a tick infestation in our back yard. Truly biblical plague-like proportions. We raised a few backyard chickens and since they’ve arrived I haven’t had a tick on me and very very few on our cats and dogs.

    Now if any of you have any advice on how to get your spouse to stop collecting household pets like it’s a hobby I’d appreciate it. I have my own corner spot on the couch but that’s about it. I’m pretty sure the cats are plotting my demise.

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