Letter: Earthbag Shelter

earthbag shelters

Regarding the Odds ‘n Sods entry last month: Owen Geiger has several earthbag shelter designs that are inexpensive but labor intensive and that are an option for radiation protection.


The Mythical Group Retreat: Survival Preparations are Not Like Car Detailing

The mainstream media has recently featured many articles about multi-millionaires buying opulent shelter spaces marketed by companies like The Survival Condo Project and Terra Vivos Reportedly, these swank leased shelter spaces are being gobbled up by the rich and famous. (Important Caveat: Those are just two well-publicized examples among many similar ventures, and I’m not criticizing them, per se. I have serious doubts about the efficacy of all such leased retreat space ventures, if and when things fall apart.)

Survival preparations are not like buying a service, such as car detailing or house painting. You can’t just “have it done” by someone else and expect to actually survive a major disaster to see full restoration of normal day-to-day life. You need to learn these skills for yourself. You need to construct things for yourself, tailor them to your own family’s particular needs, and then maintain them … Continue reading

Letter Re: Sanitation Issues: Understanding Home Septic Systems

Dear SurvivalBlog Readers,
Recently SurvivalBlog has presented several articles on sanitation issues. I’d like to add to those.

Many homes are equipped with septic tanks to perform as a holding tank for waste allowing waste decomposition to occur. Reduction of solid waste through bacterial action works, but is a slow process and often incomplete; additionally, a large number of chemicals we regularly introduce into our septic tanks, such as common soap, dish washing and clothes detergents, bleach, commercial toilet cleaning solutions, etc., are toxic to the bacteria performing the job of decomposition.

Septic tanks are one part of the equation, the other being the leach field. Leach fields are the fluid distribution pipes running from the septic tank into the ground and are intended to operate with clear  liquids only; clear liquids does not refer to their color, but means no solid materials. Solids will fill the spaces … Continue reading

Letter Re: Hobbit Houses


I looked at these houses you can bury. We found a few areas of concern. They are joined together in such a way that we were concerned about leakage. Also, you can only bury in about 6″ to 8″ of dirt, which doesn’t give much protection.

We are planning to get InterShelter Domes. They come in 14′ diameter or 20′ diameter, and domes can be attached to each other to make bigger dwellings. InterShelter Domes withstand hurricane force winds, earthquakes, and require no maintenance.

InterShelter Domes are made of aerospace fiberglass, and you would have to hold a blow torch in one spot for some time to get it to melt.

With the insulation package, the AT&T Dome in the Arctic has daily sustained winds of 225 mph and minus 40 degrees temperature. The inside stays a comfortable 72 degrees using only a space heater. In over ten years … Continue reading

How Two People Can Build A Fully Functional Bug Out Cabin For About $10,000 In Just Two Days, by S.T.

There are many builders of sheds that are available all over the U.S. I picked this builder as an example because their products are available in my area and I have seen their products in person. This builder also offers free delivery and setup in my area. Make sure that the exterior paint color and roof color you choose will blend in with the area where your cabin will be placed and will not stick out saying “I am here, so please come and get me”.

First, pick your size of ***LINK to http://www.backyardoutfittersinc.com/products/treated-buildings/lofted-barn-cabin-playhouse/***shed. Some options are:

  • 12′ X 28′ with a metal roof for $6,820.00 + approx $500.00 for a workbench & shelves
  • 12′ X 32′ with a metal roof $7,695.00 + approx $750.00 for a workbench & shelves
  • 12′ X 36′ with a metal roof $8,640.00 + approx $900.00 for a workbench & shelves

For … Continue reading

From Debt to Rural Independence, by R.T. in Georgia

You may read that the first thing you should do when prepping to prep is to get out of debt, but there is not much depth beyond that in the description of why you should get out of debt. My family has made a journey from debt to sustainability over the last seven years and absolutely the main thing that enabled that to happen was getting rid of our consumer debt. This is a quick description of one family’s fortune, what God allowed us to do and the opportunities that were made available to us when we took the challenge to pay off our debts. None of this could have happened with continuing consumer

Getting Out of Consumer Debt

It took three years to pay off cars, credit cards and get to a place where my only expenses were food, utilities, insurance, car maintenance, gas and my house … Continue reading

Constructing a Multi-Use Hoop House on a Budget, by O.M.

Many people are hard pressed to pay full price for a prefabricated building. These often cost several thousand dollars. A small chicken coop can cost several hundred, just to provide very minimal housing for a few birds. A good green house is also quite expensive. Instead of shelling out a bunch of money or, worse, going into debt, my solution is to do it yourself! This set of instructions requires no particular wood working, plumbing, or construction experience. A little common sense, simple tools, and materials allows for all of these structures on a shoe string budget. It is even possible, for those who are good at scrounging, to find most of the materials for free. Some materials are best new, but the plastic sheeting in question isn’t that expensive.


  • Four, paired boards of desired dimensions (You want at least 2x4s; though you can … Continue reading

An Essential Prep: The Outhouse, by KMH

A car I did not recognize drove up the long, bumpy, dirt driveway to the camper trailer that was our home. We had not been there a week yet, but we were gradually making things comfortable. My husband and I, with our four children and an old friend of ours, had decided to go off the grid. We bought five acres in rural Tennessee, purchased a camper trailer out of a farmer’s field for $100, and started living on our land.

We had set up a table made of pallets under a tarp-style pavilion and cooked our meals on a Coleman stove. Toilet facilities were a latrine in the edge of the woods, hidden behind a fallen log, complete with a roll of toilet paper hanging from a tree branch. This day, a man in a suit got out of the car and introduced himself. He was from the Department … Continue reading

Gravity Fed Water Systems, by J.S.

Gravity systems are simple but very complex at the same time. Having lived on spring water that was fed by gravity for over 50 years, I have some experience in making these systems work and easy to maintain. I hope that my simple overview will help you design, build, and enjoy a gravity-fed system, too.

There are four basic elements to a gravity water system: source, intake, sediment removal, and storage. Of course, you may have to deal with some troubleshooting down the road as well.


The source can be any supply of free water. Spring, creeks, lakes, rivers or even collected rainwater are all viable sources. However, each has advantages and disadvantages to a homeowner. For instance, if you use flowing water, will a flood or mudslide possibly destroy your intake? First on your to-do list is to identify all water sources available to you. Even swampy … Continue reading

What to Expect When Planning A Hardened Shelter With A Professional Team of Engineers and Architects, by D.C.

I’m writing this article to persons considering developing their retreat with a fortified shelter. Here, I will thoroughly explain the expected preparation and process we went through on our shelter design and construction phases with our design professionals (engineers and architects) and other building industry professionals (general contractors, subcontractors, and product vendors).

I am a licensed architect, with licenses in more than eight states and over 25 years of experience. Much of my career has been spent in highly technical commercial work (MRI suites, computer data centers, pharmaceutical labs, and so forth). For a mid-career alternative, in 2001, I also launched my own residential practice, which performed a design/build enterprise. In other words, my team functioned as both architects and general contractors. Presently, for select clients, we have designed hardened shelters, using my knowledge and experience in the principals of infantry combat as a former U.S. Army Reserve Infantry Lieutenant. … Continue reading

Letter Re: Use of the Title Architect

You have recently run two posts (my article and D.C.’s reply letter) and have dug into the ugly underbelly of the building design world.

I think there needs to be some clarification of D.C.’s points.  I will dissect it to indicate that this is the type of person that I would describe as an “elitist” and they are why we are in the predicament that we are in right now in this country.  I mean simply stated: Why would using the term “architectural, Architect, or Architecture” be a misdemeanor?  Sounds like a little government overreach to me. 

First things first.  Notice the three states he indicated.  California, Oregon and Illinois.  Those are three state that epitomize the Nanny State mentality.

Now if you put that aside let me describe my credentials. 

I am a practicing Designer in the field or Architecture. (An Architectural Designer.)  I can use this … Continue reading

Letter Re: A Contractor’s Preps: Materiel Storage

Dear Mr. Rawles, 
Thank you for the article by Paul W. about contractor’s preps.  Free building supplies can often be found at Freecycle.org, there are local groups in most cities.  Also, don’t forget Habitat for Humanity re-sale stores, which have very inexpensive supplies.
Thank you, as always. – Carol D.

Letter Re: Use of the Title Architect

Letter Re: Use of the Title Architect

In nearly every state I am aware of it is unlawful and may be a misdemeanor for any person to use a title, business name, or description of business services using the word “architect”, or “architectural” to refer to one’s self or business, unless the principal of the firm is a state licensed architect. Some states take this so seriously that I as a licensed architect on several states, am prohibited to use of “Architect” and/or “Architectural” in a state where I am not licensed, or in a state where I am licensed, and my license has lapsed or I failed the renewal criteria. Illinois even goes one step further and requires any firm which wants to call itself “Design-Build” be under the direction of a Licensed Architect or  Registered Professional Engineer (PE). When I have an out of state project … Continue reading

A Contractor’s Preps: Materiel Storage, by Paul W.

I’d like to discuss my perspective on family preparedness, from the perspective of a architectural design and building contractor. There are four categories to this aspect of preparedness:  Materials, Tools, Knowledge and Usefulness

I read a lot of articles about things to stock up on when TEOTWAWKI situations occur.  One thing I do not hear discussed as much is keeping a well stock material shed at your bug out location.  Now keep in mind this is not a Bug out bag list.  The is a Bug Out Destination or Home list.

Coming from the world of Architectural Design and Contracting I have seen buildings become deplorable shacks in no time.  You would be amazed at how quickly a simple water leak can destroy your compound/home.  Maintenance is always key but sometimes Mother Nature will take over on even the best of us.  A downed tree branch, strong wind … Continue reading

The Leader’s Recon: Planning the Homesteader’s Defensive Battle Space, by Tim R.

Today, I did a leader’s recon (reconnaissance) of my small homestead.  While I was in the infantry, I would plan my future ground defense by walking the terrain with my small unit infantry leaders.  Today, I did the same, minus the team leaders.  Twenty years in the infantry, and now several years retired, and now I look at how I am going to protect my family and defend my rural homestead.  I feel that the day may be coming soon.  President Obama stated that our nation’s deficit does not concern him.  This nation is on a mad printing spree, conjuring up money out of thin air to pay for our debts.  Any student of history knows that you cannot print your way to prosperity.  This will not end well.  Social upheaval is inevitable when you rapidly devalue your currency.  To prepare for this coming storm means analyzing and planning … Continue reading