Letter Re: Retreat Architecture Options

Mr. Rawles,
In your 09/19/2005 blog, you asked for input on different architectural techniques related to a retreat. Following is information on a type of construction that has some interesting potential. Take a look at the video at http://archnet.org/library/files/one-file.tcl?file_id=1385 . It is a high-resolution Windows Media Player file showing construction of sandbag shelters using very low tech methods and tools. The shelter exceeds all standard earthquake specs for buildings. Very cool idea and a very well done video. The objective was to find shelter for refugees rather than sticking them in tents. Adding Portland cement to the sand makes for a very permanent structure. In a nutshell, the construction technique uses a modified type of sandbag. The defensive advantages should be readily apparent. For someone with little money to spend and little time left, this could very well be a good solution. Architectural drawings are available if needed for building permits, etc.
This photo – http://archnet.org/mediadownloader/LibraryImagesBig/image/83929/0/IAA0263.jpg – shows a home under construction.
This photo – http://www.akdn.org/agency/slideshow/photos/sandbag7.jpg – shows that just how nice a home can look using this construction technique. – “SMG”

JWR Replies: More about retreat architecture will be posted in the near future. But for now, here is a teaser — just as FFTAGFFR.

Note from JWR:

Yesterday morning, we passed the one million hit threshold! The more important metric is that we’ve had more than 43,000 unique visits. Yee haw! Not bad for a blog site that is just 45 days old. Please help to continue to spread the word. Just sending a one line e-mail to all of the folks on your e-mail list will make a big difference. Many thanks!

Today, I’m covering South Dakota, the 15th of 19 western states in my rankings of states by their retreat potential. Following this series of state-level articles I will begin making specific retreat locale recommendations down to the county level. OBTW, if you have first-hand experience, I’d appreciate your input on specific retreat locales anywhere on the planet. If you know of a region that will provide a nice self-sufficient hidey hole for WTSHTF, let us know, via e-mail.

State By State – South Dakota

South Dakota:
Population: 754,800.
Population Density: 9.78 per square mile (Rank 16 of JWR’s top 19 states).
Area: 77,100 square miles (rank 16 of 50).
Average car insurance cost: $618/yr. (rank 46 of 50).
Average home insurance cost: $380/yr. (rank 42 of 50. )
Crime Safety Ranking: 4 of 50.
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 69%.
Per capita income: $25,958 (rank 34 of 50).
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: 12 of 50.
Plusses: Very low population density and crime rate! A low “total tax burden” of 8.9%. Low car insurance rates.
Minuses: Cold winters and a short growing season. Like its northern sibling, South Dakota has major nuclear targets, so I only recommend that you look west (upwind) of the missile fields.
JWR’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 7 of 19.

From The Memsahib: Lessons from the “Little House on the Prairie” Books

All of the books in the "Little House on the Prairie" series by Laura Ingalls Wilder are great reads for all ages. Many lessons can be gleaned from their pages. (The books are much better than the sappy television series.) Laura’s "Pa" was an eternal optimist. When he saw the luxuriant prairie grasses he assumed the soil was rich and good for farming. But he did not realize that those plants were designed to survive in the Dakota territories’ weather and its pests and and that cultivated grains were not. He did not foresee the devastating storms and pests that would wipe out his crops. Like other homesteaders he took out chattel mortgages on his oxen team in order to buy lumber to build the required house on the homestead. He figured that the wheat crop would more than cover the mortgage. Pa had his crops destroyed one year by a hail storm. Another year his wheat was shriveled by searing winds. Gophers ate half of his seeds as soon as he planted. Another year enormous flocks of blackbirds ate all the ripening corn and all the oats. Twice a plague of locusts ate every green thing on the farm.
As you make you preparation plans, you must plan on the worst. Do not think like Pa that a harvest is a SURE thing. Have a food storage program to get you through crop failures! Diversify your crops. A disaster may wipe out your corn, but you could still have potatoes. Plant way more than than you think you’ll need. Insects and birds will devour more than you think. Pay off your land so that you don’t get foreclosed on when the economy turns bad. Farming doesn’t often “pay” so be sure you have another plan for making enough cash to pay your taxes. The sayings of the old farmers are still applicable today: Don’t count your chicks before they hatch. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. And nothing is sure but death and taxes.

Letter Re: Kudos for SurvivalBlog Advertisers and Advice on North Carolina’s Retreat Potential

I appreciate the link on Captain Dave’s site. I have read your book [Patriots ] ’till the pages are falling out. I have been visiting your blog every day since it was first mentioned on Captain Dave’s. I just wanted to give you a quick A1 “Attaboy” on your advertisers. I have used JRH Enterprises starting in the mid-late 90’s when he was still located in Jacksonville Florida, and he has ALWAYS been a source of good information, honesty, and good deals. If he does not have it he can tell you who does. Bruce Hemming (Buckshot’s) has been a valuable source of training and equipment for trapping to someone that lives in a non-trapping state, and has never done it before. Believe me, if his videos can teach me (they DID!) then anyone can learn. And one last advertiser: Ready Made Resources. I discovered them the late 1990’s when I was preparing for Y2K. I bought thousands of dollars in long term food and supplies from RMR. I have and continue to recommend them as the BEST source this side of the Mississippi. They have always had the best prices and most variety, and have done a great job of expanding into other supplies. Living in Panama City, Florida, I have not dedicated money into the Wiggy’s sleeping bag fund yet but when I finish the retreat in Western N.C., it will surely be higher on the list.

I know you do not recommend retreats on this side of the country but how do you feel about western North Carolina (Macon County), I prefer the lower elevation mountains and the growing season there, as well as the sparse population. Thanks for the daily information – R.L. in Panama City, FL

JWR Replies: Thanks for you kind words about the SurvivalBlog advertisers. I am very selective about from whom I’ll accept advertising.

Regarding North Carolina: I am quick to admit that I have western U.S.-centric viewpoint. This is in part because my family came out west by covered wagon in 1857. My great-great grandfather felt that Ohio was getting “too many people.” (I can’t help but be reminded of the lyrics of the bluegrass song “New Cut Road”, a.k.a. “Coleman Bonner”.)

I’m not familiar enough with North Carolina to make any specific locale recommendations. Perhaps a SurvivalBlog reader who lives there will send me an e-mail and enlighten us.

“Doug Carlton” Re: Military Logistics Versus Individual Retreat Logistics

I just read Army Aviator’s post on the helmets, et al. He brings up some good points, and perhaps even ones that he didn’t intend to. Just because the Army does things a certain way, doesn’t make it the right way for a survivalist. The main difference is that the Army has a long logistics capability and an individual’s will vary so much that even things that may work for one group, might not work for another. An example is the tarps used on the 5-ton trucks. For the Army, the plastic tarps are a better system to use. They’re lighter, cheaper, and they can come in different colors cheaper and easier. Basically, they’re more disposable than the canvas ones (that only come in green and painting them tan for use in arid climates only works marginally well) due to unit cost. Well, that approach is probably better for the Army, because they have a huge logistics system that can provide for that, and hence their relatively short service life is not a major issue. The problem is that individual survivalists don’t have a logistics “tail” like that. So for a survivalist, the canvas might be a better option for the same use. Another example is battery powered gear. The Army devours batteries at an enormous rate. In Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), it became critical to a point that batteries rivaled fuel in maintaining the advance. There’s no way that an individual survivalist is going to maintain that tempo of battery usage, yet I see several who continually purchase battery powered devices like there’s no tomorrow. Some of these item s may have great value, and some may not, but they all take batteries and usually these folks have no “battery plan”. The same goes for any piece of equipment, or even tactical doctrine. What works great for the “Big Army” might not work for me. Many people with no exposure to the logistics of warfighting don’t understand just how much effort goes into the Army’s logistic system. They just figure that “if it’s good for the Army, then it must be good for me.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Army’s a good place to get ideas, but you must always look at your own needs to make decisions on what to buy, or how to do things. As a side note, the MICH came about to have a compatible helmet for Special Forces (SF) individual commo systems. They made it cover less area for a variety of reasons. For SF use, the higher sensory effectiveness was the trade-off for area covered. The ACH is basically the MICH without the commo integration. Per square inch, the ballistic protection provided by the ACH is actually higher than the K-pot. [The Kevlar PASGT helmet.] The material used is indeed lighter, but it will stop more than the 1980’s Kevlar in the K-pot. The problem is that the old K-pot covers more head area so the ACH may indeed be less effective. The USMC has decided against the ACH (though Force Recon uses the MICH) and will be issuing a helmet made from the same lighter, stronger ballistic material of the ACH, but built in the same profile of the current K-pot. That will give them the same higher ballistic protection, without sacrificing the area covered. As for the sidearm, there is another example of not buying the way the Army now does things. They went with cheap aftermarket magazines, and got predictable results. (Factory mags worked 100% in the desert). What many don’t know is that the mag problem was actually identified a few years earlier. It was pretty common knowledge here when the Navy guys started having the same problems with their P226s here a couple years before OIF. At first I figured some swabbie was swapping out mil-spec mags for their private mags, but sure enough the Navy had bought aftermarket mags for the SEAL‘s SIG P226’s. They were all collected up, and factory mags issued, and P226 failures disappeared. (Shocking!) The bottom line: just because it’s U.S.G.I., it may not be the best. – “Doug Carlton”

JWR’s Note: Some of the readers of my novel Patriots will remember the Doug Carlton character. It is the pseudonym of a real life individual that I have known since college. (We went through ROTC at San Jose State University together in the early 1980s.) “Doug” is a former U.S. Army pilot who now works in the civilian transportation sector.

Letter from “The Army Aviator” Re: Dual Fuel Carburetors for Generators

Dual Fuel Carbs for generators generally aren’t available any more. Also, Onan references below also include Kohler’s. Onan Generators 4.0kw to 7.5 kw are a good selection when combined with a Trace SW4024 inverter package. I run my generator two hours a day and have electricity 24/7. (Generators are best run with a full load for maximal service life and fuel economy.)

I’ve noticed that many people think of having a generator and when the grid goes poof, cranking up the genny and life goes on. That dog doesn’t hunt. They usually use a ton of non-essential electricity.and that simply doesn’t cut it when the grid goes away. You can’t possibly run a 100KW for the needed period AND storing (and wasting ) that much fuel is foolish.

I’ve been able to get along wonderfully with a 4.0 KW Onan, I thought about going larger but by staying with the 4.0 KW, I was able to acquire two generators. I only need one but “Two is one and one is none” I do rotate the two on a scheduled basis. Anyway, I started out around 1999 with the one running on gasoline. (Note my property doesn’t have anything coming into it, no electricity, phone, water, NADA!) I went thru Y2K with that setup and it was great. So I went to buy the Dual Fuel carb and BINGO, Due to EPA/OSHA/some alphabet agency they don’t make that any more so I installed the Propane-only carb for both generators. I still have all the gas carb parts and can change back at will (30 minutes) but what a pain. Note: Do the conversion yourself and ask for help if you need it, BUT do it yourself. Then you can do it again when there is no help. Next to last note: Get the not so terribly older Onans/Kohlers. They have a mechanical voltage and frequency (60 Hz) adjustment/control and the Trace still loves it. These older units have minimal electronics to EMP fry (or simply fail). Worst thing you’ll generally find is a mud dauber plugs up the case vent hose and the thing stutters. (Use a coat hanger!)

Last note: Propane stores well! Underground tanks are a waste of time unless you really have to be hidden. Above ground tanks won’t “blow up” They will pop the safety valve and vent with a great big ball of flame but they won’t explode or fragment AND by going with above ground surplus tanks you can store a lot more propane. (I have 6000 gallons). (And mine survived the forest fires!) The only drawback to propane is you can’t go get 5 gallons of propane and pour it into your tank. That’s why you need propane and diesel for your fuel reserves. If anybody asks why you’re buying so much fuel? Tell them you’re buying ahead for your retirement so that when you DO retire your cost of living will be minimal for the first 6 years. or Buying ahead lets you buy when the price is best. Both are always accepted. Regards, – The Army Aviator

Letter Re: Watch Out for Martial Law

Hi Jim,
Thanks for doing a great job on SurvivalBlog… very informative, easy to follow and obviously attracting some pretty bright folks.

Having spent nearly 40 years “working” for Uncle Sam in a variety of military and civilian posts (I retired as a senior IRS field agent), I have a deep-seated mistrust of the feds.

We, The People, are one episode away from martial law and the end of the United States Constitution. As retired General Tommy Franks put it… “the worst thing that could happen” is if terrorists acquire and then use a biological, chemical or nuclear weapon that inflicts heavy casualties. If that happens, Franks said, “… the Western world, the free world, loses what it cherishes most, and that is freedom and liberty we’ve seen for a couple of hundred years in this grand experiment that we call democracy.” Franks then offered “in a practical sense” what he thinks would happen in the aftermath of such an attack. “It means the potential of a weapon of mass destruction and a terrorist, massive, casualty-producing event somewhere in the Western world – it may be in the United States of America – that causes our population to question our own Constitution and to begin to militarize our country in order to avoid a repeat of another mass casualty-producing event. Which in fact, then begins to unravel the fabric of our Constitution.” Coming from a former CENTCOM commander, that statement should have scared all of us to death. In reality, it raised few eyebrows, testimony to how little we Americans value our liberty. When martial law is enacted, the light of liberty will flicker and die.

Imagine this: A major terrorist attack or a major earthquake on the New Madrid Fault… President Hillary Clinton’s FEMA director (Chuck Schumer) orders the confiscation of all semi-automatic firearms in the interest of public safety. Does our spine turn to jelly and we stare at our Nike sneakers as we’re disarmed, or do we put ourselves at odds with the government and defy the order? Too many folks not surrendering their weapons? Any guess on what happens next? Should we have added backbone to our stockpile of beans and bullets? I guess that I’m a pessimist. I fear there are too few of us left who value Liberty above safety. We’re vastly outnumbered by the folks who are willing to surrender precious Liberty in exchange for the worthless promises of professional politicians.

I hope that our Grandkids can forgive us for all we’ve given away in our post 911 fear and hysteria. – “Dutch”

Book Recommendation — “C.Z.” Recommends: Bacteriological Warfare: A Major Threat To North America

I recommend getting a copy of the book "Bacteriological Warfare: A Major Threat To North America" by Larry Wayne Harris (Registered Microbiologist and a Christian)
ISBN 0-9647860-5-2

Why do you need this book? Here is an example: Chapter 13 is on Preparation of Veterinary & Agriculture Antibiotics for Human Use. This chapter has dose charts for using six of the most commonly available veterinary antibiotics.

Used copies are often available through Amazon.com from private sellers.

Letter from a New Yorker Re: Two-Faced Politicians

I get a chuckle out of your terms “When the Schumer Hits the Fan” and “Schumeresque.” I am unfortunately, stuck with ol’ Chuckie [Schumer] as a Senator. The biggest laugh is, as you may know, we have a CCW permit system here [in New York.] Schumer is very anti-gun. A state trooper told me years ago, he was accessing the permit log and found that Schumer himself has a permit, and there were, at the time, two guns listed on it. He couldn’t say what [models] they were, but there were two. Probably more, by now!!

Letter Re: Clarification on Oregon Gun Laws

Hi Jim,
Just read your review of Oregon for retreat potential. Good write up. But your reference to the face to face transfer for firearms is slightly inaccurate. AFIK only those transactions between private parties at a gun show must be papered. Those done in other ways (i.e. newspaper ad, garage sales, private sales between friends, etc.) can still be done without paperwork. I’m an NRA instructor and active range safety officer and try to keep up on the laws and haven’t heard of that getting through yet.
Though some in the state house would like to make things more like California than we already are. There’s also a state preemption pertaining to guns that prohibits cities, counties or other local government bodies from making any laws pertaining to the possession or use of firearms. Oregon is also a “shall issue” state in regards to concealed carry permits.
Keep up the good work, your powder dry and eyes toward heaven.
Blessings to you and the Memsahib. – Jeff in Oregon

JWR Replies:
Thanks for the clarification. I will make the requisite correction to my post. Sadly, since gun shows are the best place to find a decent selection of used guns, and since many metropolitan newspapers now refuse to run gun ads in their classified sections, I consider this change in the Oregon law a significant hit against firearms freedom. The state is definitely suffering from creep Californication. Alas, simply moving to eastern Oregon is not the solution, when everyone is subject to the same petty tyrannies that they issue forth from Salem.

Note from JWR:

Please spread the word about Survival Blog. Your mention of this blog at Internet Forums and/or on radio talk shows is greatly appreciated!

Today, I’m covering Oregon, the 14th of 19 western states in my rankings of states by their retreat potential.

State By State – Oregon

Population: 3.4 million.
Population Density: 35 per square mile (Rank 9 of JWR’s top 19 states) (The highest density is in the northwest part of the state. It is much lower elsewhere, particular eastern 2/3rds of the state.)
Area: 97,000 square miles (rank 10 of 50).
Average car insurance cost: $704/yr. (rank 35 of 50).
Average home insurance cost: $343/yr. (rank 47 of 50).
Crime Safety Ranking: 18 of 50.
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 65%.
Per capita income: $27,660 (rank 25 of 50).
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: 10 of 50 (tied with Washington).
Plusses: No sales tax. Very low home insurance rates. (Average of $343 per year. Ranks #47 in the country!) Has a high rating in “education freedom” (ranked #5 of 50), since Oregon has relaxed home schooling laws. Relatively low car insurance rates.
Note: In the late 1970s, the much-respected survival writer Mel Tappan touted southwestern Oregon–particularly the Rogue River Valley–as a survival haven. But that was back when California had a population of only around 20 million people. Today, I’m not sure that southwestern Oregon will have sufficient geographic isolation to be immune from California’s “Golden Horde” in the event of an abrupt TEOTWAWKI. Presently, I recommend the Grande Ronde Valley of eastern Oregon. I will have more on specifically recommended Oregon locales in subsequent posts.
Minuses: High property taxes. Creeping Californication. Second lowest church attendance rate in the country. Restrictive zoning and expensive building permits in many western counties. Private party gun sales at gun shows were recently banned. All transactions involving modern (post-1898) gun at gun shows must now be processed through a FFL-licensed dealer, with the requisite paperwork. Sadly, since gun shows are the best place to find a decent selection of used guns, and since many metropolitan newspapers now refuse to run gun ads in their classified sections, I consider this change in the Oregon law a significant hit against firearms freedom.
Parts of the state are recommended, (with reservations).
Note: I probably should have given Oregon a lower ranking, due to its mediocre gun and tax laws. However, its favorable climate and long growing season pushed it up the list slightly. JWR’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 3 of 19.