From Gary Bourland in Iraq–Regarding Veteran’s Day

Note from JWR: The following Armistice Day piece comes to us from USMC Captain Gary Bourland, who is one of my regular contacts. He is stationed near Fallujah, Iraq. OBTW, if you don’t already send letters and cards through the’s web page contact list, I highly recommend it. Just one word of warning: It is habit forming.

Blog Readers:
Although many of you already display your strong support for the military, this year, stop for just a couple minutes and really think what Veterans day is about. Think about the families that were affected and the lives it changed. Somewhere there is a quite veteran that probably goes unrecognized most of the time but inside themselves on Veterans Day, “they” will know that the day is special.

When I was a Platoon Commander and had about 45 Marines under my command we occasionally had a few that had disciplinary problems. That year I got a little creative and instead of prosecuting them under the Uniform Code Of Military Justice (UCMJ) the military legal system, I decided to offer them another option that wouldn’t reflect on their records. I directed them along with myself to meet me at 0600 in their USMC Service Alpha uniform (Green coat & green pants like worn by Jack Nicholson in the movie “A Few Good Men”) in front of the barracks. Not going into details, they took the offer. We drove a quiet hot hour to a Veteran’s Hospital. Clenching Marine bumper stickers and posters and American flags. We had no agenda. We looked each other over and began our mission, No time limit, no schedule, about surprising someone. The nurses immediately took us to see some rough and tuff warriors and told us you must see General Richardson. As you entered his conservative room there was a tired warrior with oxygen in his nose, family picture of his grandkids on his nightstand and the Stars & Stripes on the wall, orientated correctly. The nurse said “General, the Marines are here”. He said “You guys here to get me outta here?” I said “Yep I got your shoes let’s GO!” He couldn’t move from his bed but he enjoyed the offer. Along with him and several other gentlemen the Marines sat and mainly listened as warriors from Normandy on through the wars told their story but surprisingly were so interested in the young Marine’s story and reinforced how proud they were of the young men sitting with them in their impeccable uniforms. I could barely sit there and watch as these gentlemen hooked to all kinds of contraptions had a glow in their face and tried to sit up in their beds to shake young warriors hands. I felt pretty dang humble. One gentleman in a wheel chair dressed in his Sundays best asked one of the Marines, “where does a rusty old Marine find one of those Eagle Globe and Anchor tie clasps”? (These are worn with this type of uniform by Marines). The Marine looked down at his own tie clasp and said you mean like this one, as he clasped it on the gentleman’s tie. The guy just through his arms around the Marine and gave him a big bear hug. Money can’t buy you feelings like that.
All of the Marines left the hospital a little different that day. It was a quiet ride back to the base and no one really said anything but everyone was thinking the same thing. We were all very proud to be associated with the gentlemen we just visited with and very appreciative that “they” did what they did for their country. The other 364 days of the year will probably be the same as any other day as the nurse stated “these guys don’t get many visitors”, but that Veterans Day was different for all of us.
If you don’t participate or witness any parades or anything this year for Veterans Day, take a look and the Stars & Stripes in your neighborhood and remember that blood has been shed for our flag time and time again and when the Nation calls on its service members we will answer, so help us God.  Semper Fidelis, – Capt. Gary Bourland

Letter Re: Aviation Gasoline (100LL) and JP4 as Alternative Fuels

It should be pointed out that AVGAS should NEVER be used in a car or truck engine or for that matter anything powered by similar engines. This fuel will destroy an automobile engine in short order. Will also clog the catalytic converter as your other writer stated.

I only recommend getting Jet-A [JP4–to be used in lieu of water clear kerosene] from an airport, not 100LL [100 octane leaded "avgas"]. Get yourself a battery operated pump or hand pump for this purpose and allow a stand off of at least 4 to six inches [distancing the pump drawing inlet from the bottom of the tank] if you have doubts about water or dirt. You may be able to provide your own barrels for use by the airport staff. This would allow you to simply exchange them periodically. As with anything that is obtained in this manner, "CAUTION" is paramount! Long Life, – Overhill

Letter Re: Leadership in Survivalist Circles

I’ve been looking for a U.S. Survival site to take the lead and looks like you are it. John has done a great job with and Jim Benson keeps the torch of the original ASG thinking alive with, otherwise Yahoo groups has been the best place to hang out – but now this is this site and I wish you all the best. Love what I see so far. The “Survivalist” movement is going to make a comeback in the next 4-to-6 years IMHO, and it looks like you are going to be a real leader in that. You can do a lot of good with this site. I hope it works out well for you. Tough to make a dime off survivalists 😉  – Rick in WI

JWR Replies: Thanks for the compliment, but I consider just one of many useful Internet resources on survival and preparedness. I stand humble and small in the shadow of those many excellent and much longer-lived survival sites including the following, which are mentioned (along with many others) at my Links page:

Frugal Squirrel’s Page
Captain Dave’s Page
Survival Ring (Richard Fleetwood)

Letter Re: How Vulnerable are Alternative Energy Systems to EMP?

As usual, excellent comments about [making] a clean cut from the grid. As for me, I am fully self contained in the country with a Trace Inverter/Charger in a Genverter setup. My day to day electricity is from a dual fuel generator which is powered by propane stored in six 1000 gallon surplus tanks. I also have a windmill, windmill tower and solar cells pre wired. HOWEVER, the windmill and solar cells are stored in a well grounded CONEX. ( and BTW the windmill is heavy as he*l on the alternator end and takes a heavy gin pole to mount it.) I don’t think we’ll see EMP but just in case I figure it’s worth the extra cost of fuel to assure the windmill and solar survive. Of course I have two matching windmills and spare well as a matching Trace. “Two is one, and one is none.” Best regards to you and the Memsahib. – The Army Aviator

Letter Re: E85 Ethanol Compatibility and the EMP Protection Quandary

My 1988 Ford F-250 pickup runs fine on a 50/50 mixture of E85 and regular gasoline. I can run E85, but it will not start using just E85, it just won’t fire. – CRZ

JWR Replies:  The only vehicles that seem to do very well running the E85 ethanol blend are those that have been specifically designed for it. This is because they include an electronic sensor to detect the relative flash point of  the fuel.  This adjusts the fuel/air mixture “on the fly”, even if you pump your tank full of regular unleaded gasoline, or all E85, or anything in between. (Most likely this will be dictated by what is less expensive on any given day.)   Yes, I know this is an electronic sensor, so there tradeoff is between fuel flexibility and EMP protection.  Chalk this up as more evidence that “There Ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” (TANSTAAFL.) The inelegant solution to this quandary is simply to have two utility vehicles at your retreat:  One that is modern and multi-fuel capable, and another that is single fuel but that uses a bomb proof old fashioned electrical system.  (Either a traditional diesel, or a gas engine with a traditional points/condenser ignition system and no electronic fuel injection.)

I’m confident that E85 compatible rigs will become more commonplace in the next few years, as Detroit’s engineers get some common sense in Post-Katrina/Post-fuel price shock America. But for now, finding an E85-compatible vehicle can be difficult and time consuming. For survival use, the ones that look the most promising to me are:

2004 Ford Explorers with 4.0 liter engines.

2005-2006 GMC/Chevrolet Suburbans, Tahoes, Yukons, and 2500HD Pickups with 5.3 liter Vortec engines.

1998-2003 Dodge Caravans with 3.3 liter engines. (Yes, I know that they have marginal ground clearance and towing capacity, but they do make a 4WD version, and Caravans get 20 MPG, which is important these days.)

As stated in previous posts about alternate fuel vehicles, you must look closely at the vehicle specifications of a prospective purchase before you buy. (A buyer’s guide in PDF is available for download from the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition.) In many cases it is just selected “fleet purchase” vehicles that can run on E85, so you have to look at specifications right down to a particular digit in the VIN number to be sure. Some vehicles have a special sticker inside the gas cap door, indicating that they are E85 compatible.

You are “Not” a Survivalist? — by “Buckshot”

A friend once told me back in the late 1990s: “I am not a survivalist.” I replied, “Oh really? Why do you get up every morning and go to work?  Because you love working here so much?” He answered: “No, I come to work to feed and shelter my family.” I then quipped; “Oh, so in order to survive you work, so you are a survivalist too.” He cracked a smile and said that I had a good point! By the same token you have house, life, car and health insurance, right? Why? Do you plan on having your car stolen, your house burning down, a tragic illness, or do you plan on dying today? Ah, no, you say, that is for just in case. That in essence is what a survivalist is: He or she thinks that a disaster might happen that stops the flow of food, gas, heating oil, etc. Can it happen? Sure, no one has to look any farther then down south [to the Gulf Coast] right now to see that America is not immune from disaster.

What can you do? Lots. 

There was a movie that came out in 1996 called The Trigger Effect. Don’t waste your money renting it–it is a typical nonsense “The Government Saves the Day” movie. But one great scene in the movie was at the gun store. The lead character is trying to buy a shotgun and trades his Rolex watch worth thousands for a $200 pump shotgun. The guy complains that his watch is worth thousands of dollars and the gun shop owner replies: “You waited for a disaster to buy the shotgun, so you pay top price.”  This was a movie, in real life what if the gun shop was robbed, closed forever, or the National Guard took all the store’s inventory. Then, the gun shop owner would reply: “You waited for the disaster, now it is too late!

Being prepared for a disaster like a hurricane, snow storm, or power outage is a good “mini test” to see where you are. But what would you do if we started into deep recession, depression, or economic collapse? My Dad use to say that a recession is when your neighbor is out of work. A depression is when you are out of work.

I decided at a young age to learn to live off the land. I started trying wilderness survival following the survival books making homemade dead fall traps. As a friend pointed out, the Native Americans soon learned to trap more beaver with real iron traps and caught a lot more animals then they ever did with dead falls. Homemade wire snares and dead falls will take some animals but with real traps and professional grade self-locking snares you will be armed with top notch equipment that will greatly increase your chances of catching something to eat. Comparing wire snares and dead falls to real traps and snares is like comparing deer hunting with a high power pellet gun to hunting with a scoped 30-06. The guy with the pellet gun might get a deer, but the guy with the .30-06 can get almost any deer he sees within range. A recent e-mail comment I received was: “I hold you and your videos on high. I learned a lot from your videos and your snares are great and greatly priced. I use to mess around with the “homemade” kind from Boy Scouts and survival books, but the real ones blow these away.”

By the same token you don’t want to be too late putting in supply of snares. I have written previously to SurvivalBlog on the subject of how many traps and snares to put away, covering feral dog control and food gathering, but what about predator control? Here is a very interesting e-mail: “I helped out on my buddies farm where foxes, coyotes, coydogs, and weasels were eating his chickens, ducks, and pigeons. They even ran off with a few of his piglets. His terrier was no match, and after a bad fight, he asked me to help. I set up the snares like in the video (survival snaring ), and I placed them at every entrance spot they were coming into. Out of the dozen snares I had, medium, I set ten and got four foxes and five coyotes in two weeks. I just keep moving the snares to fresh paths, and they worked.”

Now if TEOTWAWKI happens you are not going to be able to go down and buy replacement chickens, pigs, or calves. You are going to have to protect them yourself. Setting the snares is easy once you learn how. Snaring is not rocket science. A few tricks to learn, and you are in business. I have several farmers/ranchers that re-order snares every year from us. How many? One rancher uses three dozen a year for coyotes to protect his sheep. Another buys one-to-two dozen each year. Another buys five dozen every other year. I have talked to several farmers and ranchers on the phone about protecting chickens from foxes, raccoons, coyotes and even skunks.If you are worried about wild dogs, then 10 dozen medium snares is cheap insurance. Like any disaster, it better to have too many on hand then it is to wait until it is too late and you can’t order more. – Buckshot

JWR Replies:   I may be biased, but I think that Buckshot’s Camp is the best place to buy traps, snares and scents. His prices certainly are competitive. If you have the chance to buy  bunch of used conibear traps for bargain prices at a farm auction, great!  But most likely you won’t. Even if you do, be sure to get Buckshot’s instructional DVDs. They are an absolute “must.”

Poll Results –What are the Best Items to Store for Barter and Charity?

Here is another suggested barter/charity item list.  Keep them coming!

Mr. Rawles:
My barter "box" contains the following:
Travel size toothpaste
Travel size soap and shampoo (hotel size)
Matches and lighters
Band aids
Razors (disposable kind)
Dish soap
Sewing supplies (needles, thread, buttons)
– K. in FL

Letter Re: A Source for Storage Barrels

Mr. Rawles–just wanted to drop a quick note about storage barrels. We live down the road from a juice factory and they would probably give the barrels away if they had to. Last time I bought a couple, the steel barrels were a buck (with lids and compression rings…the steel barrels were also lined) and the plastic ones were five dollars. Don’t know how many juice factories are out there, but it sure beats paying the high prices the “survival food” companies charge for the same barrels. I’m sure there are other good sources for cheap food grade barrels, too.  Still enjoying the blog and many thanks for all your work. – Peter R.

Letter Re: State Boundaries (Expanding on “The State Line Game”)

Hi Jim,
Your comments on building a house straddling a state line brought me back to my Navy days in Pensacola, Florida. It may be difficult to build across a state line but not impossible. There is a bar that straddles the state line between Florida and Alabama called – of course – The Floribama. As I recall it, there was a different last call time on opposite sides of the bar as the two states had different alcohol serving times. In any case, if it can be done with a commercial establishment (particularly a bar!) it can be done with a house. I also seem to recall an article in National Geographic a few years back where they featured a bar/restaurant that straddled the border between Canada and the US. I even recall a picture of a pool table with the border line drawn across it. Somehow I doubt its still in business but I do recall seeing the images. In any case, it has been done. – "Some Call me Tim"

Letter Re: How Vulnerable are Alternative Energy Systems to EMP?

With all the talk recently on EMP issues, I wonder if a solar system or wind generator less vulnerable or just as vulnerable to EMP to the grid. What type of additional protection could/should be incorporated in to alternative energy designed systems? Keep up the terrific work on the blog. It’s the first thing I read every morning. – D.

JWR Replies:  All modern circuitry that employs microchips is at risk.  However, the greatest risk is to systems that are connected to grid power. This is because the power grid will work like a giant antenna to collect EMP. Assuming that you are out in the hinterboonies (well away from potential nuclear targets), then an independent, truly off grid, solar, wind, or microhydro power system is not likely to be affected by EMP. Here, I should mention that I recommend that you resist the urge to “sell back” your excess power to your local power utility, for three reasons. 1.)  If you don’t decisively “cut the cord”, then you are opening a window of invulnerability to EMP. (By the aforementioned grid connectivity.)  2.)  You are targeting your PV panels for confiscation by grabby bureaucrats in the event of some “crisis” or in a slow slide scenario.  3.)  You make yourself vulnerable to your human nature. If you ever have a problem with your PV, wind, or microhydro system, or when your battery bank starts to get old and sulfated, then you might someday be tempted to revert to using grid power “just for a little while”, and then the repairs to your system will never get done.(BTW, I’ve seen the latter happen, even with wealthy retreat owners.)

Zener diodes can be used to isolate components, but the only 100% foolproof protection is to keep key spares in a Faraday cage. The component at greatest risk in alternative power system is the modern microprocessor-based battery charge controller. They are fairly simple to bypass if yours ever gets fried by EMP, but since they typically cost less than $200 it is probably best to buy a “just in case” spare charge controller and tuck it away in an ammo can.


The Real Estate Bubble–Getting Out at The Top (SAs: Contrarian Investing, Real Estate, Relocation)

Our friends over at The Daily Reckoning report that The International Herald Tribune recently ran an article under the headline: “High Home Prices Drive California Exodus.”  In my opinion the Bubble is about ready to pop. I’m not the only one that holds this opinion. There are lots of others. I predict that the price declines will be greatest in the suburbs in coastal cities. Perhaps dramatic declines. But I also believe that good productive agricultural land will hold most of its value, even as urban and suburban real estate prices crater. To explain:  Farming in America has become so efficient that crop prices have been depressed for decades. This has kept the price of farm ground down–at least in terms of what it can actually produce. Yes, this land is much more expensive than it was in the 1970s, but in real terms, it is still “dirt cheap.”

The real losers in the post real estate bubble era will be the poor deluded souls who bought rental properties on speculation near the top of the market. The bubble is likely to burst long before rents ever ratchet up enough to put those investors into the black. They will be stuck with assets that will suffer down-ratcheting value, with no hope of selling them at a profit for perhaps decades, and taking in rents that don’t cover their financed debt plus the upkeep. As real estate prices go down, renters will ask for even lower rents. The owners of these rentals will be faced with either selling them at a deep loss, or continuing to rent them with a negative cash flow.

Note from JWR:

We’ve just surpassed 100,000 unique visits since we started the blog (in August), and are we are rapidly approaching three million page hits. (To be exact: 2,963,176 as of midnight Monday/Tuesday.)  Many thanks for making SurvivalBlog such a rapid success. Please continue to spread the word with posts to Internet Forums and other Blogs, as well as mentioning SurvivalBlog when you call in to talk radio shows.

Letter Re: State Boundaries (Expanding on “The State Line Game”)

I’d like to expand on a topic that I mentioned briefly in a SurvivalBlog post on August 25, 2005:  “The State Line Game.” Many folks have discovered how to play the state line jumping game: Living near a state line to take advantage of a lower tax or other advantage in one or more adjoining states. For example, you can live in the Idaho panhandle (very low property tax, car registration, and car insurance), work in eastern Washington (no income tax), make your day-to-day purchases in Idaho (5% sales tax) and your major purchases (trucks, wood stoves, generators, gun vaults, appliances, et cetera) in Montana or Oregon–both of which have no sales tax.  Many SurvivalBlog readers have found themselves at the stage of life where they are considering strategic relocation.  If you look at the tax burdens in various states (See:, then you can take the opportunity afforded by relocation to “vote with your feet.”

Let’s continue this line of reasoning a bit further. In many instances, state lines are defined by rivers or the summits of mountain ranges, but in others, the line is more or less arbitrarily set on level ground.  The latter opens up a fascinating possibility: Owning contiguous parcels on both sides of a state line. Imagine living in a small house in a state with no (or low) personal income tax but high property taxes and expensive car registration. You could also own an adjoining much larger parcel land and other assets (garage, vehicles, barn, shop, livestock, a second home) on the other side of the state line, literally a stone’s throw away. Or how about a mobile home that you could move slightly, if and when regulations becomes too onerous at the opposing end of your property. 

Now on to something that at first blush might seem absurd, so I’ll label this as an intellectual exercise: It might be possible to build a house that physically straddles a state line. That is sure to get the tax assessors scratching their heads! Consider the possibilities of a house with with a large main “wing” in a low property tax state, and another smaller wing–perhaps connected by a covered walkway or greenhouse–in a state where you can take advantage of the differing income taxes, sales taxes, or other regulations. (The latter could include gun laws, home schooling laws, cost of car registration/insurance, cost of hunting tags, et cetera.) If you operate a home based business, the presence or absence of a sales tax could make a big difference. Your state of “residence” would be based on the wing where your bedroom and home office is located. You might want your children to legally be residents of the adjoining state, because of home schooling law disparities or to avoid the high cost of “out of  state” college tuition. Another disparity is in hunting regulations and the length of hunting seasons:  If deer season ends earlier on one end of your property than the other, then you could simply reposition your livestock salt blocks. Here is an even more absurd abstraction: A state line that bisects your dining room table:  “Please pass–I mean–Interstate Commerce the mashed potatoes.” The practicalities of getting permits to build a bi-state house might be insurmountable, but it remains an captivating prospect. Think though the many of possibilities–even of just living near a state line,. Consider the following factors:

States that have no state income tax: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming. Two others, New Hampshire and Tennessee, tax only dividend and interest income. (For detail on state income tax rates, see: .)

States with no state level general sales tax: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon. For details, see:

States with very low county and local property (real estate) taxes: These vary widely, depending on the city and county. For details, see:

States with differing firearms laws.  See the book Boston’s Gun Bible for details.  If you don’t already own a copy of this “must read” book, then contact. Fred’s M14 Stocks. As of this writing, Fred is currently offering a great three book package deal: one copy of my novel Patriots +one copy of Matthew Bracken‘s novel Enemies Foreign and Domestic + one copy of Boston’s Gun Bible, all for $50. OBTW, please mention SurvivalBlog, regardless of where you buy your books.

As I previously posted, one possibility is to live and work in southern Washington (no income tax and fairly low property taxes), but shop in Oregon, where there is a high property tax but no sales tax. Unfortunately the two states are divided by the Columbia River.  Perhaps you could buy land east of the point where the river turns north and the border reverts to an arbitrary line. But there aren’t many opportunities to take advantage of the sales tax difference at that end of the state! Another possibility is to buy a ranch straddling the Montana/Wyoming state line, since Montana has no sales tax and Wyoming has no income tax. And both have great gun laws. (Not the best of climates there, however!)

See: for detailed information on the tax rates in various states.

A reminder that the foregoing discussions skirt around a more core issue: the scale of government in each state. Some states have big, pretentious, intrusive governments that love to get involved in every aspect of your life. My advice is to avoid living in any of these Nanny States. As time goes on, they are only going to get worse.

The bottom line: If you live in a state with severe taxes or gun laws, then vote with your feet!   I’d appreciate your comments on the foregoing. Perhaps you have considered a novel way to take advantage of tax disparities. Just drop me an e-mail. OBTW, I plan to also post this to The Claire Files.  This should inspire all of the Libertarians there into a spirited string of discussion. They seem to particularly enjoy this sort of food for thought and grounds for further research. (FFTAGFFR.)


Letter from Dr. November Re: Aviation Fuel as an Alternative Fuel (SAs: Alternate Fuels, Aviation Fuels, 100 Octane Gasoline)

On the avgas issue, you might remind your readers that avgas has a LOT of lead in it (more than high-test leaded car gas ever did). 100 octane Low-lead avgas still has twice as much lead as leaded car gas did. If you use leaded gas in a car with a catalytic converter (like most cars these days) you will ruin the converter in less time than it takes you to empty the gas tank. One of two alternatives will happen, the converter will become completely plugged and your car won’t run at all because of the back pressure, or you’ll get terrible performance. And, if you have mandatory smog inspections in your state, look at a repair bill starting at around $750 to replace the converter. (They aren’t cheap, even used). Also, the waste fuel drums at airports (at least the ones I go to) also have waste oil in them, and usually water. Be careful! – Dr. November