Letter Re: East Coast WTSHTF: You Can’t Get There From Here

In my role as “the good citizen” and amateur radio operator, I have just competed a state sponsored FEMA “Incident Command System” class (IC-700). My worst concerns regarding bugging out from my coastal home in Connecticut were
confirmed at that class. Here in Connecticut we have no mass evacuation routes available or realistic plans in place to deal with a catastrophic scenario resulting in the exiting of the people who live in this area.
You see we already have quite an impressive rush hour traffic pattern which as gotten geometrically worse over the past 30 years. Back in 1976, the morning traffic heading to New York City (NYC) would be backed up starting about a half mile East of the
City of Stamford on I-95 (I-95 runs East-West in CT). Today, we (in CT) see traffic crawling through Bridgeport and stop and go from Westport down to Greenwich. This means that what would normally take 30 minutes to travel 25 miles now takes 90 minutes. And that is on a good day! All it takes is just one tractor-trailer accident to shut the highway down (or cripple it).
Now imagine a SHTF situation causing people fleeing NYC, Metro NYC and Coastal Connecticut…
The gridlock would be spectacular. As they say in the coun

Letter Re: Recommendations on Flashlights and Battery Powered Lamps?

You recently endorsed reader recommendations for kerosene lamps.  What about flashlights and battery powered lamps?  Do you have any recommendations there?
I realize battery powered devices may have limited value in a long-term, grid-down scenario.  But what about short-term scenarios like a power outage associated with a hurricane–a few days or weeks? Best Regards, – d’Heat

JWR Replies: The advent of white light emitting diodes (LEDs) in the 1990s revolutionized flashlight technology. Up until a couple of years ago, I would not have recommended buying an electric camping lantern, since they were such battery hogs. But now, a new generation of white LED lanterns remarkably little current, allowing batteries last surprisingly long time. For example a Tuff Brite rechargeable LED lantern can operate for up to 70 hours on one charge. These are available from Northern Tool & Equipment and several other Internet vendors. (Search on: Tuff Brite Model # VEC144.)

Letter Re: The Mainland Chinese Threat

While we pour blood and treasure onto the shifting Iraqi sands and frighten ourselves silly with the scarecrow of terrorism… Red China forges ahead with one of the greatest military buildups in history.
Jed Babbin and Ed Timberlake have put together a compelling case as to why we need to refocus our attention on the red giant.
Of particular interest is a 228 page document titled “Unrestricted Warfare“, written by Colonels Qaio Liang and Wang Xiangsui of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
I fear we are living in the declining years of the American Republic. – Dutch in Wyoming

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

"When evil wins in the world, it is only by the default of the good. That is why one man of reason and moral stature is more important actually and potentially, than a million fools." – Ayn Rand

David in Israel Re: Buckshot’s Survival Attitude Versus the “Commando” Survival Attitude

Just a quick response as I expect such responses after the pro .30-30 posts.
1- Outfit with a basic defensive firearm .30-30, SKS, 12 gauge, etc.
2- Take care of other more important survival purchases
3- When your budget allows upgrade to better defensive weapons
4- Don’t let ownership of exotic/military utility weapons make you believe you are a SEAL (the point of the .30-30 post)

Unless defense is the most pressing danger, then don’t sink your whole survival budget into guns if you can already accomplish that mission with existing arms. Most of us enjoy firearms and we are always tempted to justify a new firearm upgrade instead of the boring grain mill and basic shelter type stuff. – David

Letter From Buckshot Re: Housing Bubble Schizophrenia

Hi Jim,
I was over on Realtor.com and checking on housing prices for the bubble. On the right hand side was books advertisements. The first one listed was Cash in on the Coming Real Estate Crash, the second book was Learn How to Profit from Foreclosures Without Risking Your Savings! the books are from Wiley real estate.
Talk about Wiley Coyote stepping off the cliff on part of the page they are trying to sell houses and the other part they are saying Real Estate is going to crash. Only in America. Here’s the link to Wiley

Letter Re: Firearms Training and Subsequent Practice

Reading the letter from the gentleman who mentioned on all the western states instruction opportunities compared to the eastern ones, I noticed my all-time favorite instructor was not mentioned: Pat Goodale, of Practical Firearms Training. His primary range is located in West Virginia, and I wholeheartedly recommend his courses.
Last year I decided I was slacking off with my practice and signed up for a full summer of his courses (he also owns a company in Montana, so there are courses offered here as well). I took Defensive Handgun I, II, and III, Precision Rifle, Tactical Rifle, and will be taking Defensive Shotgun this year. His courses run about $150 per day, are limited in class size, and are an incredible value. I’ve been to Front Sight, and while it was good training, I think it was nowhere near as fantastic as what I’ve
learned from Pat. In the handgun courses we expended 500 rounds per day – same for tactical rifle. It’s fast-paced training, and well worth anyone’s time to take the trip to Alderson, WV or Billings, MT for the course. If you can get 8-10 of your friends to pitch in, Pat will even come to your location and customize courses for you.
I have sent half a dozen students to Pat; some driving all the way from Florida and Ohio. Everyone says the same thing – take advantage of this top-notch instruction while you can. I can certainly assure you it’s the best training I’ve received to date. You (or your readers) can check out my class reviews here:

Defensive Handgun I & II.

Defensive Handgun III.

Tactical Rifle I.

Precision Rifle:

Enjoy. 🙂 And if any of your readers go, tell Pat that Kit sent you. – Kit

Odds ‘n Sods:

Trading on the new Russian RTS oil and gold bourse begins June 8th. The transactions will be denominated in Euros. Sound familiar? This does not bode well for the U.S. Dollar.

   o o o

The US DoD Upgrades its Assessment of the Chinese Military Threat.

   o o o

Here in the U.S., the unsold house inventory backlog jumped to 565,000 in April. The housing bubble has popped. There are no more bidding wars for houses. Now its price cut after price cut. In the coastal markets, I anticipate a race to the bottom, most likely starting in September of Aught Six.

   o o o

The CDC is forming a Morgellon skin disease task force.

   o o o

I was just doing a search for some genealogy materials on the Rawles surname on eBay. I had to laugh when I found a current auction for a copy of my novel “Patriots” . The following was included in the description: “THIS COPY IS VERY WELL USED AS IT IS UNDERLINED, BUT STILL VERY READABLE, IT SURVIVED TWO WINTERS IN THE YAAK RIVER AREA OF MONTANA. TURNED CORNERS,WATER, BOOZE OR COFFEE STAINS.”

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

Jake: What’s this?
Elwood: What?
Jake: This car. This stupid car. Where’s the Cadillac? The Caddy? Where’s the Caddy?
Elwood: The what?
Jake: The Cadillac we used to have. The Blues Mobile!
Elwood: I traded it.
Jake: You traded the Blues Mobile for this?
Elwood: No. For a microphone.
Jake: A microphone? Okay I can see that. Well, what the h**l is this?
Elwood: This was a bargain. I picked it up at the Mount Prospect City Police auction last spring. It’s an old Mount Prospect Police Car. They were practically giving them away.
Jake: Well, thank you pal. The day I get out of prison, my own brother picks me up in a police car.
Elwood: You don’t like it?
Jake: No, I don’t like it.
[Elwood floors the gas pedal and jumps over an opening drawbridge]
Jake: Car’s got a lot of pickup.
Elwood: It’s got a cop motor, a 440 cubic inch plant, it’s got cop tires, cop suspension, cop shocks. It’s a model made before catalytic converters so it’ll run good on regular gas. What do you say, is it the new Bluesmobile or what?
Jake: Fix the cigarette lighter.
– Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi in The Blues Brothers

Using Rechargeable Batteries, by Northwest Huey

There have been a number of comments on SurvivalBlog about rechargeable batteries. The majority of these expressed the feeling that rechargeable batteries were expensive and ineffective for a long term storage plan. Before anyone gives up on rechargeable batteries I would like to share a plan that has proven effective for my family.
One day I sat down and assessed my family’s state of preparedness. Like many others, we needed more beans, bullets and band-aids. Turns out, we also needed more batteries. Before I started buying batteries, I tried to think of creative ways to minimize the number of batteries I would need. The first thing I decided to do was to go to low drain and no drain devices when possible. For example, I picked up an LED conversion for my Mini Maglite that more than triples the run time of my flashlight. [JWR Adds: Such as one of these.] So now, I get the runtime from two batteries that used to require six batteries. An example of a no drain device is the Swiss windup alarm clock that I purchased to replace my battery powered clock. Obviously these steps only lessened my dependence but I still needed a lot of batteries. The next idea I had was to standardize my equipment so that I only needed one type of battery. This way I would not have the expense of stocking up on a bunch of different types of batteries. This also helped because I would only have to worry about rotating one type of battery in my storage. I ended up choosing to standardize with the AA battery. Not only are they cheap and readily available, I found that almost every type electrical device that I wanted came in a model that used AA batteries. For instance when it came down to an Aimpoint or a HOLOsight, I choose the HOLOsight model that was powered by AA’s. Even after standardizing I still had some devices that I purchased earlier that use other types of batteries. Instead of immediately replacing them, but in keeping with my plan, I purchased some battery adapters (from greenbatteries.com). These sleeve type adapters slide over AA batteries and allow them to be used in place of C and D cell batteries. This completely solved my standardization problem and added flexibility to my plan. Runtimes are obviously much shorter when using the adapters but at least the devices will be useable should I need them.
Standardizing and going with low drain devices was only part of the solution. I was still faced the daunting task of buying a sizable number of batteries. It was at this time that I started looking at the cost of various AA batteries. I went down to the local retail store and came up with the following: 8 alkaline batteries cost $5.18 or $0.65 each, 8 lithium batteries cost $16.84 or $2.11 each and 8 NiMH rechargeable batteries cost $17.87 or $2.24 each. Based on initial cost alone it would seem that alkaline would be the way to go. However if you look at cost per 500 uses, NiMH is $2.24, Alkaline it is $325 and Lithium is $1055. If you can get 1000 charges out of your NiMH battery, it will still only cost you $2.24 while the costs of the alternatives double. Although the initial cost is higher, I would only need to recharge each NiMH battery four times to break even with the cost of alkaline batteries. On paper rechargeable batteries looked good. However, I was still skeptical because my experience with rechargeable batteries has not been all good. I decided to do a little more research to see if they could be a viable long-term option.
My research revealed that rechargeable batteries have several deficiencies. To make a plan that would work I would have to overcome the following problem areas: overcharging, overheating, poor conditioning and deep discharges. The plan I came up with will require more effort to maintain than simply buying lithium batteries. However, if you are up to the challenge of making sure your batteries are properly conditioned and rotated then the monetary savings are worth it. Now let me tell you how I made the plan work for me.
The first step was buying a quality smart charger. The right charger makes all the difference in the world and helps minimize my effort by preventing overcharging, overheating and poor conditioning. The bad press about rechargeable batteries is largely to blame on older chargers sometimes called ‘dumb’ chargers. These dumb chargers are set to charge batteries for a certain time period. This time period is based on the batteries being almost totally discharged. If the batteries are not totally discharged then they can be overcharged and overheated. Smart chargers monitor the batteries charge and stop charging when full capacity has been reached. Overheating is largely prevented by not overcharging but you can also do things to prevent overheating like placing the charger on a platform that allows air to circulate. I like to use old plastic strawberry containers turned upside down. Also if the charger has a cover leave it open while it is charging or remove it completely. Overheating is not a problem limited to the charging cycle, so when the batteries are actually being used keep the device out of the sun when possible.
Poor condition occurs when the battery is used for a short time and then recharged again without being fully discharged. When this repeatedly happens a battery can lose the unused capacity. This is often referred to as memory effect. Look for a charger that comes with a conditioning cycle. The really good chargers will sense when a battery is poorly conditioned and will automatically run it through a few charge/discharge cycles to regain lost capacity. One last thing to consider in a charger is one that can be powered by both 110 volt AC and 12 volt DC. I couldn’t find the right charger locally so I got on the Internet and found a Maha MH-C204F (from Thomas Distributing). This model meets all my needs and is the backbone of my plan.
The last problem I had to solve was deep discharges. If voltage drops too low you can lose performance or even kill a battery due to polarity reversal or anode oxidation. This generally isn’t a problem when using digital devices like GPS, FRS radios and digital cameras as these devices shutdown on their own when power gets too low. You have to watch out for devices that keep pulling a charge when performance drops off. The best example of this is a flashlight that starts to get dim but is still sucking power. The solution is to immediately switch batteries in any device that starts to lose performance. Also, it is a good idea to buy a battery tester so you can check batteries in devices like this so you can be sure they are not being too deeply discharged. Deep discharges can also occur in batteries that are just sitting on the shelf. Rechargeable batteries have a higher self-discharge rate than normal batteries. Normally they lose 1% to 2% of charge each day when stored at room temperature. This means they are only good for use 3-5 weeks from their last charge. If you really procrastinate using or recharging the batteries they can eventually reach a state of deep discharge. To combat this I started storing batteries in my freezer. This slows the discharge and retains about 90% of the charge for a full month. Even if I can’t complete a full cycle of using all the batteries before they lose their charge I can slow their discharge down to the point that I can minimize the number of times the batteries have to be charged. And the fewer times they have to be charged needlessly the more times they can be charged and put to use for a necessary reason. Keep in mind that the batteries work best when they are first returned to room temperature after coming out of the freezer.
How many batteries did I buy? I made an inventory of all the electronic devices that I would conceivably use in a TEOTWAWKI scenario. Let’s say I would use 12 AA batteries on my worst day. I then applied the survival rule of three and multiplied the 12 batteries by 3 and came up with 36 batteries. That allows me to have 12 batteries in use, 12 batteries that have been charged, and 12 batteries that are being charged or waiting to be charged. 36 batteries my not seem like a lot but keep in mind that I will be getting between 500 and 1000 uses out of each battery. I decided against buying additional batteries because this would make the rotation between batteries so long that some would not be used before they had to be recharged again. IMHO it would be better to buy an extra smart charger or two and keep them in a sealed ammo can in the basement. This is due to the fact that smart charges are controlled by computer chips and therefore would be vulnerable to EMP. You will also want additional smart chargers if the charger you choose cannot charge the required number of batteries in one work day. In the previous example the charger I picked can charge 12 batteries in less than 9 hours so the one charger has sufficient capacity for the example.
I didn’t run out and buy the batteries right away. First I looked at individual brands of batteries to see if one was better than another. I found an article on the internet titled “The Great Battery Shootout”. It shows the results of a test done with digital cameras and various brands of rechargeable batteries. You can look up the results yourself but let me summarize by saying that Energizer got top marks and since my local retail store carries that brand that is what I buy. To make the plan affordable and to ensure that all my batteries don’t go bad at the same time I bought them over time. I started off with 8 batteries and kept track of how often I charged them. After 4 charges each I broke even with the cost of alkaline batteries and went out and bought 8 more batteries. Again after 4 charges each I went out and bought 8 more batteries and continued the process until I reached the required number of batteries. Once I reached the required number of batteries I actually started saving money as compared to using alkaline batteries. This money is now free to be used for other pressing needs. Eventually I will need to reinvest in some new rechargeable batteries but at my current rate of use that day is years away.
Any rechargeable battery plan is based on having a grid down power source. Ideally this power source would be your existing backup power source. If you don’t have a backup power source then you should consider investing in some portable solar panels. Otherwise, this plan will only work until the lights go out.

Summary of Plan:
-Replace battery operated devices with low drain or no drain models.
-Standardize to AA batteries (Buy battery adapters if an essential device is not AA compatible).
-Buy quality smart [AC/DC] charger(s) with enough capacity to charge your battery needs for one day.
-Buy quality rechargeable batteries (3 times the number you expect to use on your worst day).
-Rotate batteries: Charge, store in freezer, then use them on a rotating basis.
-Replace batteries when they drop below 50% capacity (roughly 500-1000 cycles for NiMH).
Note: Rechargeable batteries may not work for all situations. If you keep some supplies away from home or in your car that can’t be regularly rotated then you should probably buy some lithium batteries.

Letter Re: Growing Dwarf Fruit Trees Indoors?

Dear Jim:
I was wondering if any green thumbs out there have actually grown dwarf fruit trees indoors?
Regards, – Rourke

The Memsahib Replies: Yes, fruit trees can be grown indoors but each flower must be hand pollinated unless you have a house full of bees, butterflies, and/or flies. That means for each piece of fruit that you hope to produce, you must transfer pollen from one flower to another. Fruit will not develop unless the male pollen enters the female ovum. This can be done with the tip of a feather. If you have only room for one tree, be sure it is “self pollinating”. Self pollinating means that your tree will bear both male and female flowers. In nature trees are not self pollinating and you need two trees of each. Two cherries, two apples, two lemons and so forth. The crop yield-versus-labor ratio is fairly small for most dwarf varieties. My grandparents have grown dwarf fruit trees, as well as regular fruit trees, for the last thirty years under optimal California weather. And I have to say it seems like grandma and grandpa are always babying and fussing over the dwarf trees. They seem much more susceptible to insect and fungal infestations. Also, dwarf varieties are grafted onto rootstock, not propagated from seeds, so you cannot grow new dwarf trees from the seeds. Since the Rawles Ranch is in a severe winter climate zone, I have considered growing some dwarf citrus in a greenhouse. I would grow each of mine in a big pot (such as a half wine barrel, or possibly a bit larger), set on a low four-wheeled furniture dolly and wheel the trees outside after the danger of frost has long since past. And then bring them back into the greenhouse in early fall. Lemons would be a treat in long term TEOTWAWKI when they would no longer be available at the grocery. My great grandma said that lemonade was a much anticipated once a year 4th of July treat when she homesteaded in North Dakota. And an orange for Christmas was considered a special splurge. Who knows? Perhaps someday oranges and lemons will be a fantastic barter item!

From The Memsahib: Lessons Learned from The Black Death

The following are some interesting quotes that I found when doing some of genealogy research. (One of my ancestors was a Norseman who died of the plague in Avignon in 1349.)

In Parma, Italy, the poet Petrarch wrote to his brother:
When has any such thing been even heard or seen; in what annals has it ever been read that houses were left vacant, cities deserted, the country neglected, the fields too small for the dead and a fearful and universal solitude over the whole earth?… Oh happy people of the future, who have not known these miseries and perchance will class our testimony with the fables.

An account by Marchionne, written from Florence:

Such was the terror this caused that seeing it take hold in a household, as soon as it started, nobody remained: everybody abandoned the dwelling in fear, and fled to another; some fled into the city and others into the countryside. No doctors were to be found, because they were dying like everybody else… Sons abandoned fathers, husbands wives, wives husbands, one brother the other, one sister the other.

… The foodstuffs suitable for the sick, cakes and sugar, reached outrageous prices. A pound of sugar was sold at between three and eight florins, and the same went for other confectionery. Chickens and other poultry were unbelievably expensive, and eggs were between 12 and 24 denari each: you were lucky to find three in a day, even searching through the whole city. Wax was unbelievable: a pound of wax rose to more than a florin, … The shroud-cloth apparel which used to cost… three florins, rose in price to thirty florins… No industry was busy in Florence; all the workshops were locked up, all the inns were closed, only chemists and churches were open. .. Those who especially profited from the plague were the chemists, the doctors, the poulterers, the undertakers… And those who made the most were these herb sellers. Woollen merchants and retailers when they came across cloth could sell it for whatever price they asked. Once the plague had finished, anybody who could get hold of whatsoever kind of cloth, or found the raw materials to make it, became rich. (Adapted from: George Deaux, The Black Death 1347. New York: Weybright and Talley, 1969.)

The plague had large scale social and economic effects… People abandoned their friends and family, fled cities, and shut themselves off from the world. Funeral rites became perfunctory or stopped altogether, and work ceased being done. …The economy underwent abrupt and extreme inflation. Since it was so difficult (and dangerous) to procure goods through trade and to produce them, the prices of both goods produced locally and those imported from afar skyrocketed. Because of illness and death workers became exceedingly scarce, so even peasants felt the effects of the new rise in wages. (Courie, Leonard W. The Black Death and Peasant’s Revolt. New York: Wayland Publishers, 1972; Strayer, Joseph R., ed. Dictionary of the Middle Ages. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. Vol. 2. pp. 257-267.)

If this isn’t an argument for food storage in the event of a flu pandemic, I don’t know what is! Because trade had shut down, the price of food and necessities sold for exorbitant prices if they could be found at all. Of course we saw some of this during hurricane Katrina, but this was just a localized event. Imagine truckers refusing to drive to pandemic stricken cities. Imagine store managers refusing to open their stores.

Letter Re: Request for Advice on Dog Breeds

Hi, Jim.
I wanted to reply to the thread about Advice on Dog Breeds. Here is my main point:  Dogs are are like guns, in that there is no one true “all purpose” dog breed.
The very qualities that make a dog a good herding dog will make for a poor protection dog.  Sometimes even, the qualities that make for a good watch dog will make for a poor guard dog.  (A watch dog’s purpose is to alert you to a potential intruder.  A guard dog’s purpose is to hold, bite and stop and intruder.)
As the former owner of both South Bay K-9 Academy for seven years, which was the #1 dog training company in Los Angeles, and the current editor of Dogproblems.com, I have a lot of experience in this field and have noted that– even within the professional sector– macho attitude often rules over pragmatic trial by fire.  I can go into more detail on how to select a good dog, depending on the job you’re looking for him to do, but for now let me just point out that the more realistic and specific you can be about the job you seek your dog to do, the better your chances of success in finding a good dog. 
For example, the Belgian Malinois– a subset of the Belgian Shepherd breed– is now widely considered to be the best working police and military dog available, both in America and Europe.  However, these dogs are simply too “high drive” and too “high energy” to be an easy pet for a beginning dog owner.  They usually require several hours a day of strenuous exercise and activity. 
A similar argument can be made for a hunting labrador from good bloodlines.  These are “working” animals and as such do not make good house pets.  Now, there’s always the exception to the rule.  Just like you may be able to occasionally find an Italian handgun that doesn’t jam.  Or a British sports car that runs reliably.  But when adopting a new dog, I like to go with the odds.
Here is a run-down of my most favorite dog breeds, divided by work type for your average (beginner to intermediate) dog owner:
– Large guard dog breed: Rottweiler.  Very easy to teach to bite.  Tends to have a lower energy level compared to other guard dog breeds.  Runner up:  German Shepherd.  Buy from proven, titled working bloodlines only. 
– Small guard dog breed: Australian Cattle Dog.  Tough.  Tenacious.  Can be very intimidating if you’re working with a trained professional.  Downside:  Very high energy.  Can be headstrong.  The very idea of a small guard dog breed is a compromise– much like carrying a .380.  But can be good for apartment living or other scenarios.  Runner up:  American Pit Bull Terrier.  Beware of individuals that are dog aggressive.  (Dog aggression and aggression toward humans are completely different).  .
– Watch dog breed:  The Miniature Pinscher.  Small,  Requires very little food.  Suspicious by nature.
Runner up: The Chihuahua.
– Herding breed: The Border Collie (although this depends on what type of herding you will be using a dog for). 
Runner up:  Australian Shepherd.
– Hunting breed: Labrador Retriever (again, depends on what type of hunting you will be using the dog for).  But from proven bloodlines only.  (You know if the dogs are from proven bloodlines if they have multi-generational competition winners in the pedigree.)  Always verify the nature of the competition, as breeders are like used car salesmen.  Every breeder will tell you that their bloodline has “champions.” 
Runner up: Golden Retriever.  Very easy to train.
– Rodent control: Rat Terrier. 
Runner up: Tie: Jack Russell Terrier and Irish Terrier.
Stay away from the newer exotic breeds.  With the exception of the American Bulldog, none have consistently proven themselves to be performers. Yes, there will always be the exception.  But remember:  Adopting a dog will be an expensive adventure.  Stack the odds in your favor by going with the probability of getting a dog that will fit into your lifestyle.
All the best, – Adam of Dogproblems.com