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Notes for Tuesday – March 21, 2017

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On this day, in 1778: Just three days after Hessian mercenary forces assaulted the local New Jersey militia at Quinton’s Bridge, the same contingent surprised the colonial militia at Hancock’s Bridge five miles from Salem. In what became known as the Massacre at Hancock’s Bridge, at least 20 members of the militia lost their lives, some after attempting to surrender. The Loyalists reputedly exclaimed, “Spare no one! Give no quarter!” as they stormed the occupied house. Judge Hancock and his brother (both Loyalists) were bayoneted in the melee by the attackers even though they were both staunch supporters of the crown and were themselves non-violent Quakers.

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Today, we present another entry for Round 69 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $15,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
  2. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate that is good for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,195 value),
  3. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  4. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper with a hammer forged, chrome-lined barrel and a hard case to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel, which can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools and a compact carry capability in a hard case or 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  5. An infrared sensor/imaging camouflage shelter from Snakebite Tactical in Eureka, Montana (A $350+ value),
  6. Gun Mag Warehouse is providing 20 Magpul PMAG 30-rd Magazines (a value of $300) and a Gun Mag Warehouse T-Shirt; (an equivalent prize will be awarded for residents in states with magazine restrictions),
  7. Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  8. A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
  9. Two cases of meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Second Prize:

  1. A Tactical Self-Contained 2-Series Solar Power Generator system from Always Empowered. This compact starter power system is packaged in a wheeled O.D. green EMP-shielded Pelican hard case (a $2,400 value),
  2. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  3. A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
  4. A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
  5. A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
  6. A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
  7. A pre-selected assortment of military surplus gear from CJL Enterprize (a $300 value),
  8. A selection of canned meats containing a 10 pack of 28oz cans of Premium Beef and a 5 pack of 28oz cans of Premium Pork from Wertz’s Farm Market (a $300 value),
  9. RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site, and
  10. American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.

Third Prize:

  1. A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
  2. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  3. A custom made Sage Grouse model utility/field knife from custom knife-maker Jon Kelly Designs, of Eureka, Montana,
  4. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  5. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  6. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
  7. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances,
  8. Montie Gear is donating a Y-Shot Slingshot and a $125 Montie gear Gift certificate.,
  9. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value), and
  10. Fifteen LifeStraws from SafeCastle (a $300 value).
  11. A $250 gift certificate to Tober’s Traditions, makers of all natural (organic if possible) personal care products, such as soap, tooth powder, deodorant, sunscreen, lotion, and more.

Round 69 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

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Equestrian Survival For Bugging Out, Recon, Rescue, Projection of Force, or Hunting- Part 1, by R.M.

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Assess Your Horse’s Capabilities and Temperament

We all love to think of our horses as part of the family. Some might love their horses. Let me begin by saying that before you do an overnight or longer trip away from all the comforts of home, you need to honestly assess your horse’s capabilities and temperament. Temperament is key here. I am careful to choose the horse for the job. I prefer traveling far with my dog as well. He is a great scout, level headed, and loves to ride. He often hunts for himself, but I always bring food for him. Mind you, once horse and dog are out for four or five hours, their temperament smooths.

I have made my horse aware of the terrain. He can surf down a steep mountain trail with loose scree or find his way home five hours out, through thick forest on his own, while I relax in the saddle. Trained in the Colorado and California mountains and holding his own in the hunt lands of Virginia, he can practically walk over a four foot fence, loves the hunt, stays placidly tied at the range, and he’s a good old boy, who loves to travel.

I also practice martial arts on horse and need to give him a half hour ride to smooth out before a fight, and he loves to tussle. I realized that much of my experiences through the years might serve some or just be an interesting read, so I thought I’d share them.

As you can see, a horse is not a pet; he is a companion. I feel the same way about my dog. I’ve only taken him to shutzhund level 2 (look to Helmut Raiser. I don’t know if we’ll ever make it to level 3. It’s a united effort; we both have to learn how to train, and we’ve learned a lot already. He has a good bite, won’t let go of the sleeve until told, is not afraid of the stick or punches. He’s okay in a fight, loves kids and to play, and is an excellent tracker. He has that concentrated stare that makes a person back off. The goal, of course, is not to fight. My horse is used to Fritz (my Alsatian breed dog) being in the saddle. He shares the saddle with me when he tires, and Cloud (a big 16 1/2 hand Appy) doesn’t mind a bit. Fritz has been a regular at the range. Gunfire is a normal occurrence to him.

Cloud has been around the same noise and is more bothered by critters in the woods.They are both reliable troopers. He’s kept a cool head around rattlers and was unbothered by a 4′ tall owl in a tree not 12′ away. When a wild boar broke into the corral, it was pandemonium. There were four horses on about the same acreage. it seems the other horses freaked out. Cloud had a hoof print on his hind, but he seemed to keep a cool head. Now he’s always on an 18-acre pasture, where there is plenty of room to move and no incidents. Fritz has his own copse of trees/bushes where he brings deer he catches right next to the 18-acre pasture. I never have to buy bones for him to gnaw on.

Though endurance riders like smaller horses, I prefer a larger horse, which has no problem carrying gear, supplies, weapons and ammo, my dog, and myself. It adds up. The point being, know what your horse is capable of. Flash (a mustang) is a better jouster and is good around gun reports, but he can’t handle as much weight. Fighting sword to sword and wrestling doesn’t bother either horse, but these days it’s hard to find anyone who knows how to do those things. (Julia Thut of the international mounted combat alliance has some good youtube videos.) The best partner I had for that moved to Arizona, but I can still find some friends for jousting. Both horses are trained in dressage. (You can’t use a sword on horse well without it) They are also elegant and sophisticated in their skills. People are amazed that western horses can do what they do. I get more offers for them than I can count. For bugging out, reliability and temperament are what you are in need of most, as well as the ability to carry the load you pose them with.

My thoroughbred could never do any of this but is a good ladies horse. My quarter horse is a good endurance horse at 15 hands but can’t carry much gear, though is good for a three-day event. Most important these days is cognizance of the end times and what that might imply, which leads us to what a survivalist/prepper might require from a horse. Mind you, having learned wrestling on horse back, this ability might make you less prone to being pulled out of the saddle by a hungry discourteous passerby. You would think that people would become more civil in catastrophic circumstances, but we probably can’t count on that. Avoiding trouble is the best course of action. There’s no need to prove anything or “take heads”. Avoiding confrontation is key. If you follow Isaiah or Jesus, you know we have a rough spell to go through.

If you can’t bring your horse from a stand still to a gallop straight away, if you can’t jump trees, if your horse won’t swim, you are taking a lot of risk going far in a Shumer hits the fan situation. You probably would do better on foot. If your horse shies from gunfire (meaning freaks out), it’s probably not a good idea. I’ve seen someone thrown from a horse because of spooking at a gun report.

You want a horse who is blanketed in winter. If their coat is too thick in winter, they will get sweaty when vigorously exercised (riding for eight hours with only a few breaks for example, let alone cantering to make an escape, or being part of a hunt). You won’t be able to dry him off by dark, and the potential for catching cold is greater with this thick wet coat. The short coat will be fine during the day, but depending upon how cold it gets at night a horse blanket might be wise. Cloud will roll around a lot when a blanket is on him (though obviously not when hobbled), but he gets a very thick coat if left unblanketed. You do want a horse who keeps his weight on alfalfa and has no problems with grain and corn. Have a good idea of your horse’s digestive health. You don’t want to be days away from home and have to deal with colic or its complications.

If you can’t find grass when out and your horse is not the type to be inquisitive enough to dig under the snow in search of grazing, then you must depend on grain. How does he react to grain? Some horses get high strung from corn and even overheat. Some get touchy from grain. Know your horse’s temperament. Cloud loves the sugar! Corn is his favorite candy. The problem is, he gets way too high strung from it. We can only give him a handful at a time. He’s fine on alfalfa, which is his normal diet at home; so I watch his weight and bring grain on trips while always trying to find grazing.

Following the seasons, as you may have noticed is quite important, but even in the beginning of summer I would bring enough grain for as many days as you expect to be out. Allowing your horse to have enough time to graze is most important. If you are lucky enough to find an area with grass to bed down near, most hobbled horses will find enough grazing over a night’s stop. Knowing where you are going helps a great deal, as you must know your water stops or be able to carry enough.

I’ve gone down the Grand Canyon with horse and pack mule in the ice and snow of winter while it was snowing, and it can get touchy. It’s amazing how much it warms up at the bottom. When riding in Arizona, I couldn’t imagine going too far from home under hostile circumstances, due to uncertainty about where to find water. Ranchers might not be overly friendly, if you are even lucky enough to find one. This reminds me; a collapsible water bucket is an essential. A well distributed 5-gallon water bag of some sort would also be advisable but not essential in many places. Riding through a cactus forest in Arizona in winter is not the same as riding through a forest in the southeast in summer, or the wilderness of Utah. Riding outside of Phoenix in the summer was also challenging. This might apply in most of the American Redoubt states. Horses grow ornery if they don’t have their needs met.

Putting it simply, we have taken horses from their natural habitat. They would choose the type of land in which they roam and develop a pattern of terrain which allows for grazing and water as well as openness for escape and a kind of sanitation. You may be taking a horse through terrain differing from their natural habitat or from what they would naturally choose. God gave us dominion over the land and all its creatures (and the sea for that matter). It is up to us to be good husbandmen.

We are responsible for the Earth, to treat it as a garden which must be maintained, as is the case with animals, especially the horse. Read Xenophon. He was a horseman. The book could have been written yesterday. The relationship between man and horse has been going on for Eons. There is an interdependence, as is the case with dogs; all of this is in keeping with the teachings of Genesis.

Not enough is fleshed out in the Bible, but we can see in many writings of the past that man learned to properly husband the creatures of the Earth. Some have been responsible; many have not. We must adhere to responsibility as our abilities are challenged by mitigating circumstances in a difficult world. We do our best, which may not always be enough. The genetic code of all living things is closely related and can be found in the soil as well. Maybe this is just some things to think about when offering kindness and not weakness to animals.

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Letter Re: RS’s Story

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Hugh,

I read RS’s story with interest in the March 18th entry. It seems like it’s one of those situations that slowly snowballs out of control but thankfully had a happy ending. Personally, I would have called either the police or a tow service from the lodge to get into the “locked” car (although it turned out to be unnecessary), but I am mostly writing to suggest that RS invest in a couple of those FRS radios from the big box store or Amazon. While they don’t get nearly the range advertised, it may have allowed for communication during the separate hikes the two groups took, particularly after his son was injured. I keep a couple in our cars and in the pre-cell phone days. My family and I used them quite often to communicate when we split up at large events or at malls. Even now, although we mostly use our cell phones for such things, I keep them in the car in the event we’re in an area with no service or for those occasions when we’re driving separate cars on a trip together. Particularly when driving I’ve found them to be extremely helpful; it’s much easier to key the mike and relay a message than trying to manipulate my phone to make a call or send a text, even with a voice texting capable phone. I have noticed my driving abilities decrease dramatically when I use my phone while driving, so I rarely do it anymore, not to mention it is illegal just about everywhere. I’m glad everything turned out well for RS and his family.

Spotlight

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News From The American Redoubt:

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What do you think would happen to you if the government found out that you’d booby-trapped your property with a lethal device and your neighbor’s 14 year old boy and his dog happened upon the device, killing the dog and injuring the boy? You would be crazy to think there would be no jail time there, wouldn’t you? What if it were the government that had planted the boobytrap on public land and didn’t notify anyone? – HJL (Link sent in by reader P.M.)

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Bonner Co. declares state of emergency after flooding, road washouts. (Warning: Auto-start video.) JWR’s Comment: The only thing worse than a near-record snowpack is when it all melts at once.

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Veradale Boy Scout among the survivalists featured on Fox’s ‘Kicking and Screaming’JWR’s Comment: Watching television shows like this can yield a few very useful nuggets of useful prepping knowledge. And if nothing else, they reveal the depravity of human nature, as revealed in times of great stress and hardship.

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Amazon to begin collecting sales tax in Idaho.

JWR’s Comment: This change will become effective on April 1st. The only places safe from sales taxes in the American Redoubt will probably be Oregon and Montana.

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Real estate prices throughout the American Redoubt are moderate, by national standards. Only one county is an aberration: Teton County, Wyoming, with a median property price of around $1.1 million! This is because most of the property listings there are swank homes in and around Jackson Hole. The county is home to Yellowstone National Park and large swaths of National Forest, so there is very little private land available. The little that there is has been bid up to the sky by out-of-state retirees. It’s sad but true. – JWR

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From a non-prepper’s perspective: 11 Reasons Why I Moved to Idaho.

JWR’s Comment: A good article overall, but my Inner Editor is screaming: The name of that river is “Lochsa”, not “Lachsa”!

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Economics and Investing:

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Trump Market Euphoria Impacts Precious Metals Demand: Plummets In West, Surges In East Excerpt: “There seems to be a percentage of the alternative community that are convinced that Trump will actually put the U.S. back to the way it was in the 1960’s. And that is, back to a manufacturing powerhouse with high-paying jobs. While this would be a wonderful thing to do, the continued disintegration of the global oil industry, just won’t allow it to happen.”

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More impact from the Fed targeting higher interest rates: Gold Price Strengthens As USD Comes Under Fire

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The Single Biggest Threat To An OPEC Deal Extension. If OPEC does not agree on an extension to its current production cut deal, Iraq is quite likely to be the central reason behind the failure.

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U.K. to Trigger Brexit March 29, Starting Two Years of Talks (Warning: Autostart video) More than 40 years after the U.K. joined the EU and nine months since it voted to leave, Britain’s envoy to the bloc, Tim Barrow, informed EU President Donald Tusk on Monday of May’s plan to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the mechanism for quitting that has never been used.

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SurvivalBlog and its editors are not paid investment counselors or advisers. Please see our Provisos page for details.

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Odds ‘n Sods:

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NCRenegade posted this great meme about the release of the first increment of Wikileaks Vault 7: Nothing More To Say…

JWR’s Comment: I was amazed to see how quickly the mass media dropped coverage of Wikileaks Vault 7. The implications of the revelations were huge. This was a story much bigger than Watergate, yet it was as if they collectively said: “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

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Worldwide Day of Prayer for the nation of South Africa is scheduled for April 22nd. Please pray for peace, brotherhood, an end to violent crime, and good government for that troubled nation. A prayer gathering of one million people is scheduled on that day in the Bloemfontein region, organized by Christian leader Angus Buchan. (Buchan’s life story was told in the film Faith Like Potatoes.)

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I noticed that the Trovit real estate search web page has a category page for houses (nationwide) that feature bomb shelters. – JWR

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One manufacturer digs through the documents of Vault 7 and discovers an unfixable security hole that the CIA knew about in their routers: One simple command allows the Gov’t to commandeer 318 models of Cisco switches – T.P.

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From SurvivalBlog reader DMS: A must have for your preps, bug out bag, and dental kit. Red Cross Toothache! I’ve used it for over 20 years and it is the greatest temporary oral pain reliever out there in my opinion.

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Hugh’s Quote of the Day:

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“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as Freedom should not be highly rated.” – Thomas Paine

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Cold Steel Extra Large Espada, by Pat Cascio

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We get a lot of requests at SurvivalBlog to test and review many products. Unfortunately, due to the sheer volume of these requests, we simply can’t review every product, or we’d have a website full of product reviews each and every day. I personally take as much time as I possibly can with each product I test to make sure I give it a fair test, in that the product does what it is expected to do. When it comes to firearms, I shoot them a lot, and in the case of a handgun I carry it, too. I’m not going to recommend a handgun to someone else if it isn’t something I’d carry myself.

We get a lot of emails, at least I do, personally, for knife reviews. I’m happy to say I have some of the best contacts in the knife industry, and they are happy to send me their products for testing. Still, I can’t review all of the knives I’d like, because there isn’t enough time! I also get requested, or should I say readers asking me what is the “best” knife! I simply can’t answer that question; there is no “best” when it comes to anything, if you ask me. Each knife (and firearm) is designed for specific tasks. While knife “A” might be a fine example of a survival knife, it isn’t up to the task of an every day carry folder. Knife “B” might be an outstanding every day folder, but it falls short of being an outdoorsman or hunting knife. The list is endless, as you can imagine. Some readers get frustrated when I can definitively say that “this” knife is the best knife; ditto applies for firearms or any gear I test.

A number of our readers asked me to do a review on a big folding knife. Okay, but what defines “big” to me might be small to someone else. I personally like a folding knife with a blade between 3½ inches and 4 inches in length for most tasks. However, I don’t think this is what our readers were looking for. I turned this question over to long-time friend and without a doubt the man who knows more about cutlery than anyone else I know– Lynn C. Thompson, who owns Cold Steel knives. He is the true expert when it comes to cutlery, designing it as well as using it. Yeah, I’ve designed a lot of knives over the years, and as a martial artist I’ve also taught knife fighting as well as knife defense to some of my students, but I’m just a serious student myself. I don’t claim to be an expert in anything. However, I do think that Lynn Thompson is an expert, when it comes to anything in the cutlery field.

An email was fired off to Thompson telling him that our readers wanted me to test a “big” folding knife, and in short order Lynn sent me the Cold Steel Extra Large Espada folder. A quick email was fired back to Lynn explaining I wanted a big folding knife not a folding “sword”. Well, needless to say, when it comes to knives Lynn Thompson is “the” man, and the Extra Large Espada is “the” folding knife of big folding knives, period. Thompson isn’t afraid to step outside of the box when it comes to cutlery. A quick look at his website will prove that. While some knife companies feature a “big” folding knife with a 4-inch blade, the Extra Large Espada comes with a massive 7½ inch blade made out of CarpenterCTS XHP alloy steel, which is super stuff. You read that right; the blade on this massive folder is 7½ inches long. It is longer than many survival knives I’ve reviewed over the years. When opened, the Espada is 16¾ inches long. WOW!

A little history is in order. The Extra Large Espada is based on the Spainish Navaja knives of Spain. However, the Cold Steel version is the result of a collaboration between Lynn Thompson and custom knife maker, Andrew Demko. Demko is famous for the Tri-Ad locking mechanism, and it has been tested to hold the blade open when 600 lbs of hanging dead weight was applied. There is no way this hummer is going to accidentally close on your fingers. However, Thompson and Demko took this test a little farther and had the knife support a free-hanging engine block! Demko is also famous for his thumb plate that allows the knife to be opened as it is drawn out of the pocket. When the knife is fully out of the pocket, the blade opens fully and is locked in place. It just takes about 5-10 minutes of practice to master this. However, once mastered, it is faster than any automatic opening folder.

The Extra Large Espada has a nicely curved handle that is fully capable of allowing a two-handed grip on it. The handle material is polished, high polished, G10 material, which is almost bullet-proof stuff. And the bolsters are highly polished aluminum. There is a pocket clip on the handle for pocket carry. The blade is a Bowie style, and the clip point is strong and sharp. The entire blade is super sharp; one of the attributes of the Carpenter steel is that it holds an edge a good long time, too. I’ve said it hundreds of times, when it comes to sharp knives, Cold Steel set the gold standard, many years ago.

One would think, rightfully so, that such a huge folding knife would weigh a lot. Well, this baby comes in at 16 ounces– one pound. However, when clipped in your pants pocket, it simply doesn’t feel that heavy. Now, as a word about clipping this massive folder in your pants pocket, it isn’t going to work with some pants that might have shallow pockets. Also, it doesn’t work with many jeans that are designed for women. Sorry! The pockets aren’t deep enough. It is a trade-off. If you want a massive folding knife, you have to have the right types of pants with deep front pockets.

As is my wont, I take a lot of knives I test to the local gun shop to show off to the boys (and girl) who work there. They are all into knives. Needless to say, when I started to draw the Extra Large Espada out of my right front pocket, their eyes were just glued to my hand. The knife just kept coming and coming and coming before it was fully out of my pocket, and it was, of course, fully opened and locked when I completed the draw. It was mpressive to say the very least.

The Extra Large Espada is a custom-made folding knife in every respect as a matter of fact, I’ve owned some very expensive folding knives in the past from custom knife makers whose knives weren’t nearly as nicely executed as this one. It is fit and finish is absolutely perfect in all areas. The knife deserves to be displayed on a desk or in a knife collection. It just looks too good to be used. However, Lynn Thompson doesn’t have knives made as wall hangers. His knives are meant to be used and used hard.

Most folding knives are not meant for any sort of chopping, as the locking mechanism just won’t hold up and will fail. The Extra Large Espada is the exception to this rule. I used the knife to chop some fairly large tree branches off fallen trees, and the lock held tight. As I mentioned, you can hold the handle of the knife in two hands if you want to, or you can choke-up on the handle or move the hand down to the bottom of the handle for a longer reach. I’m here to tell you, if someone were attacking you and you pulled this knife out of your pocket, I can assure you that the attacker will sure wish he picked another victim. The sheer size of this folder is enough to give a bad guy a heart attack.

I used the sample knife to easily, very easily slice through free-hanging hemp rope that was an inch thick. There was no contest at all. The knife could easily shave the edge off a piece of copy paper with aplomb too. For such a massive knife, it performed quite well. I just don’t think I’d pull this knife out in public and start cleaning my finger nails with it. LOL!

The Espada was carried in my right front pocket for several weeks, and I used it for all manner of cutting tasks. Even my UPS driver was impressed when I opened a package he delivered to me one day. He couldn’t believe such a huge knife was in my pocket and came out so fast, and he’s very much into knives, too.

I’ve seen bigger folding knives, but these were “display” knives. They were just for show in hardware stores or sporting goods stores. They had no function other than to “look” big and bad. There were not something you’d ever want to carry for any purpose. The Cold Steel Extra Large Espada is one massive folder you can count on, in the city or in the boonies, to do what it is called upon to do. Nothing comes close to this folder, and needless to say, there is a “Large” Espada that has a blade that is “only” 5½ inches long.

I believe that Lynn Thompson hit a home run, all bases loaded, when he came out with this massive folder. If this knife, doesn’t fill the needs of those SurvivalBlog readers who wanted me to review a “big” folding knife, then I don’t know what will. These are hard to come by. They aren’t always in stock, because they are popular with knife collectors. Full retail on the Extra Large Espada is $629, which is not within reach of many budget, but you can save up and get one. You won’t be disappointed in the least. You can also shop around and see if you can find the knife for less money on the ‘net. In any case, this is one “big” folder that won’t let you down.

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21st Century Tradecraft: Discreet Transport of Documents

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I have had many of my consulting clients ask me for advice about how to maintain their privacy. One of their greatest concerns is the interception of e-mails in the now ubiquitous global Surveillance State. The sad truth is there is now no such thing as “secure” e-mail, even when using high level encryption. If a government wants to know what you are communicating and they are willing to invest sufficient time and energy, then they will eventually be able to read your encrypted e-mail. This is known as brute force decryption, wherein massive computing power is dedicated to breaking an encryption scheme. It also goes without saying that telephones, faxes, radio communications, and in fact virtually all other electronic communications systems are vulnerable to interception, decryption, monitoring, and long-term database archiving.

With those capabilities in mind, this leaves us very few options other than traditional face-to-face meetings, mailing well-sealed hardcopy letters, or handing off USB memory sticks via live drops (couriers) or dead drops. (For the sake of brevity, I won’t describe live drop and dead drop methodologies in this article. Those are both Old School tradecraft tricks that have been well described in books and web articles on espionage.)

Postal Mail Cover Now SOP

Since 2013 the exterior of all envelopes sent through the U.S. Postal Service are to have been scanned both front and back and these scans are available to both law enforcement and intelligence agencies. This is the equivalent of what was known as a Postal Mail Cover—something that formerly required a court order. But in the aftermath of several anthrax-through-the mail scares, Congress mandated it. But in our post-9/11 world, it is now Stand Operating Procedure for all domestic mail and all international mail that either originates or terminates inside of the United States. So it is important that you also print the recipient’s address as the return address. This is a legal and common practice. Also keep in mind that the origin post office cancellation town or city location is part of what is routinely scanned. It is noteworthy that court tests on this routine Postal Mail Cover surveillance have failed, because the courts at the Federal level have held that there is “no reasonable expectation of privacy” for information that is contained on the outside of an envelope.

Oh, and since handwriting can be analyzed and cataloged, it is important that you use computer-printed adhesive labels for both the address label and the return address label. Don’t hand-write them! And if you are a total Secret Squirrel, don’t lick envelope seals, since that leaves DNA traces. Use a sponge, instead.

A New Twist- Going Micro

One fairly new method of physical transport of electronic files that I haven’t seen described much elsewhere is the use of Micro Secure Digital (SD) removable flash memory cards. (They are sometimes referred to as “µSD”, “uSD”, or simply “Micro” cards. These cards were first marketed in 2005 and are incredibly small and light. They measure just 15 mm × 11 mm × 1 mm– about the size of a fingernail. That is about one-fourth the size of a standard SD memory card. A Micro SD card weighs only one half a gram. They can be taped onto a couple of sheets of paper and sent through the mail and go un-noticed unless very closely examined. These tiny cards are presently available with capacities ranging from 64 Megabytes (MB) to a whopping 128 Gigabytes (GB). As this article goes to press, low capacity micro SD cards are amazingly inexpensive: 64 MB cards are as low as just 95 cents each, postage paid, when bought in bulk. Plastic protective cases for these cards cost just a few pennies each, if bought in bulk. (You can buy 100 of them for $95, postage paid, on eBay.)

Micro SD cards can be read by a laptop computer several ways. Typically this is done either with a Micro-SD to SD card adapter (aka “card reader”) or with a Micro-SD to USB adapter. These are both very compact and inexpensive adjuncts. And of course you only need to keep a couple of each available at both ends of your courier route. Only the Micro-SD card itself needs to be transported.

Even though they are considered semi-obsolete, even 64 and 128 MB Micro SD cards are still quite useful as a transport mechanism for documents. 662 pages of uncompressed plain text (“.txt”) or 63 pages of a MS-Word file fit in just ONE megabyte. Hence, a 64 MB Micro SD card can theoretically hold 42,368 pages of text! (But because of formatting, from a practical standpoint, you should deduct about 15% of that figure.) If greater capacity is required–such as for transporting JPEG photograph files–you can simply step up to using cards in the low gigabyte range, albeit at greater cost per memory card. (An 8GB Micro SD card presently costs around $7.)

Another Proviso

It is important to note that for greater security, the laptops used at both ends of the courier route should NOT be connected to the Internet. This is in intelligence and information security circles referred to as “air gapping”. Any computer that has ANY network connection should be considered an open book. Only air gapped computers can be considered fully secure, and only air-gapped ones that are also either running from battery or from isolated power are FULLY secure since unintended computer emanations can be tapped from power lines by sophistication intelligence agencies.

Please keep your privacy in mind, as you go about your daily life. Even if you have absolutely nothing to hide, using secure methods of communications is wise and should be exercised, just for the sake of principle. There is an old saying: “Gentlemen do not read other gentlemens’ mail.” Let’s keep it that way! – JWR

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Recipe of the Week: Sweet Potato / Squash Casserole, by Polly in MO

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I have served this on Thanksgiving every year for over 21 years. It is my granddaughter’s favorite, and she comments EVERY year at the start of dinner, “Sweet Potato / Squash Casserole! MY FAVORITE. I ate it as a baby on my first Thanksgiving!”

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups mashed butternut squash
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed sweet potato
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup Brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup melted butter (not margarine or spread)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Mix all together. ( I use a hand mixer.)
  2. Put in 9×9 baking dish.
  3. Sprinkle with topping and bake at 350˚ for 35 minutes

Topping:

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon (I use a Tablespoon, but I LOVE cinnamon; you can reduce cinnamon if you like.)
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans

Directions:

  1. Mix ingredients together.
  2. Sprinkle on top of casserole prior to baking.

For my family of 10, I double this.

o o o

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