Jim’s Quote of the Day:

"Nine requisites for contented living: Health enough to make work a pleasure. Wealth enough to support your needs. Strength to battle with difficulties and overcome them. Grace enough to confess your sins and forsake them. Patience enough to toil until some good is accomplished. Charity enough to see some good in your neighbor. Love enough to move you to be useful and helpful to others. Faith enough to make real the things of God. Hope enough to remove all anxious fears concerning the future."
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

Note from JWR:

I will be a featured guest today (Saturday) in a round table discussion on Dr. Geri Guidetti’s web radio/shortwave radio show. The show airs at 1 p.m. Central Time (11 a.m. Pacific Time.) This two hour show will also be available via podcast. The Topic: Pandemics–Potential Impacts on Society. For details on how to hear the webcast live or on how to download it post facto, visit the Republic Radio web site: http://www.rbnlive.com.

Today, I continue my detailed potential retreat locales analysis series with another region in Montana. Do you have any suggested regions where you have first hand experience that you’d like to add to the list? If so, please send them to me via e-mail in the same format and I will gladly post them.

Recommended Region: The Bitterroot Valley Region, (Ravalli County, Western Montana)

The Bitterroot Valley region of western Montana, (south of Missoula) is worth considering. It still has some affordable land, but the out-of-state millionaires who all seem to want to build 4,000+ square foot log “cabins” are gradually creeping in and pushing up prices. Concentrate on small towns along the Bitterroot River, such as Florence, Stevensville, Victor, Corvalis, Pinesdale, Woodside, Hamilton, Grantsdale, and Darby.

Advantages: Away from the I-90 corridor. Plentiful water and firewood. Great hunting.

Disadvantages: Even though it is west of the Great Divide and they call this “Montana’s Banana Belt”, this region still has a relatively cold climate and short growing season. But at least it is not as severe as the adjoining high country or locales east of the Great Divide. (Can be compensated by building a large greenhouse.) Both the agriculture and economy are not as diverse as the Kalispell/Flathead Lake Region.

Grid Up Retreat Potential: 5 (On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the best)

Grid Down Retreat Potential: 6 (On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the best)

Nuclear Scenario Retreat Potential: 4 (On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the best)

More About Asian Avian Flu

Several time in recent days I’ve read references to the Asian Avian Influenza (“A.A. Flu“) having a “less than 50% mortality rate.” Clinically, perhaps, but not in a real world pandemic! Why? The 50% figure is based on advanced medical treatment. Because A.A. flu is a respiratory disease, therapies that are currently being used to combat the small outbreaks in Asia this will not be available at home. (This includes inhalation therapy, anti-bacterial drugs like Ciprofloxacin (“Cipro”)–already in short supply–and ventilators.) Here is a data point for you: There 105,000 ventilators installed at U.S. hospitals, of which at least 70,000 are in use on any given day. In the event of a pandemic, the hospitals will be jammed. Now who, of the 20 million to 200 million patients, is going to get the use of those 35,000 ventilators? And who is going to get any of the few available doses of Cipro?

Think this through folks, and PREPARE! Since most flus are spread by person-to-person contact, be prepared to live in isolation for an extended period of time, preferably in a rural, agricultural, lightly populated region. That means a six month supply of storage food and all of the other requisite logistics. You need to also lay in a supply of antibiotics. Yes, I know that they are useless against the flu itself (which is viral), but they can be used to fight co-infections. Try to get some antibiotics like Cipro for your family, ASAP! (Ask your friendly local doctor.) Again, they are just for co-infections. (Pneumonia often accompanies influenza, and lung congestion can be a killer.)

In closing, if you doubt the seriousness of this emerging threat, then read the World Health Organization’s document that describes the propensity of influenza viruses toward antigenic shift: http://www.who.int/csr/don/2004_01_15/en/ You might also fined the following letters informative…

Letter From “A. Microbiologist” Re: Asian Avian Flu

A reader asked about Avian Influenza (H5N1.) Do public health professionals take it seriously? The answer is very much Yes. Of course we can’t predict the future with certainty, and there *is* a certain amount of hype right now — but, yes, the situation *could* eventually rival the 1918-19 influenza pandemic. At the same time, I must emphasize there is no guarantee that will happen: and we are not there, yet, not by a long shot.
The bottom line is yes, it is *possible* the H5N1 virus could mutate so as to efficiently jump between humans (person-to-person transmission) and cause a Very Bad Situation indeed. Fortunately, although a few instances of person-to-person transmission have already occurred in northern Vietnam, it was not very “efficient” from the viral perspective and has not been sustained.
Still, the just-starting annual influenza season in the Northern Hemisphere will be a time for continued vigilance on H5N1, focused on Asia. Your readers should recognize that there’s a lot of attention — public health surveillance — directed to this issue right now. I really expect any new sinister abilities by the H5N1 virus will become apparent in SE Asia first. Indonesia in particular is quite worrisome at this moment. (I am quite mindful of the Chinese government’s very poor initial reaction to SARS in 2003, but frankly it’s at the point where no government could hide serious new developments re: human H5N1 even if they wanted to.) My point is, don’t over-react to winter respiratory illness in the rest of the world. We call it “cold and flu season” for a reason!
(In this regard, I must say the current hysteria in some quarters over the Toronto nursing home deaths seems misplaced. I am prepared to be wrong, but having investigated nursing home outbreaks for more than a decade, I know that in respiratory outbreaks in nursing homes People Do Die and sometimes it’s not instantly apparent why. I have no inside information — but so far, from the press reports, the situation really doesn’t strike me as all that exceptional. Is it a bad outbreak? Obviously. But nasty nursing home outbreaks happen somewhere every year. Labeling it “mysterious” is true as far as it goes, but not meaningful. The public health folks in Toronto, some of whom I know personally, have reported it’s not the most obvious nor most worrisome bugs — not influenza A of any type, nor Legionella, nor SARS, etc etc — so my predictions: it’s RSV, or parainfluenza, or adenovirus. Sometimes theses things just aren’t as easy to diagnose as we’d like.)
Anyhow, back to H5N1: a good technical review article was just published in the New England Journal of Medicine and is currently free on their website: “Current Concepts: Avian Influenza A(H5N1) Infection in Humans,” September 29, 2005, http://content.nejm.org/cgi/reprint/353/13/1374.pdf.

Also, for a doomerish perspective from a professional who has been beating the drum loudly on this topic, read any of the editorials by or news stories on Michael Osterholm, a much-respected former State Epidemiologist from Minnesota. Just “Google” his name. I am not offering any detailed pandemic ‘flu advice as requested by the other reader because I don’t have anything new or brilliant to offer. In the very worst imaginable situation — not likely but also not completely impossible IMHO — your readers *already* should be aware that deep preparations, a chain saw for dropping trees, and a remote location ought to be part of their extended personal options. They are certainly part of mine. If they don’t know this already, then they should reconsider why they are bothering to read your blog at all. – “A. Physician”

A. Physician’s Letter Update(8 October): As a follow up to my comments: The much-watched Toronto nursing home outbreak turned out to be due to Legionella after all (according to news reports made after I wrote my initial note to you.) Nasty but far from unprecedented. The diagnosis was eventually made from autopsy specimens. I’m guessing that earlier “urine antigen” tests were negative, but those can only diagnose one type of Legionella that accounts for 80-90% of Legionella outbreaks; and Legionella bacteria are difficult to grow via sputum cultures from living patients.

Letter Re: Asian Avian Flu

Aloha Jim–
Your Thursday, October 6th reference about the [potential] Avian Flu Pandemic article is a “must read” from page 18 to the end. Included is a specific list of OTC supplies and prescription medications, plus how to care for the ill in your family. These very informative details are predicated on the likelihood that a pandemic would overwhelm professional help/facilities, requiring family members to care for each other. It’s a chilling, but should be a required read – B.B. in Hawaii

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

"Its better to have one and not need it, then to need one and not have it."
– Author Larry McMurtry explains the logic of having a gun, in Lonesome Dove

Note from JWR:

I get more than 40 e-mails a day, more than half of which include specific questions. My humble apologies for not being able to respond to every e-mail. For those of you that do get replies, my further apologies for being so terse. You might feel cheated when you get just a two or three line reply to a 20 or 30 line e-mail. But if I were verbose as I’d like to be in my responses, I would only be able to respond to a small fraction of the e-mails instead of half of them. Since I have a full time job as a technical writer I only have about three hours a day (evenings and early mornings) to respond to e-mails and to put together the blog. Many thanks for your understanding of my situation!

Recommended Region: The Clark Fork Valley Region, (Sanders County, Northwest Montana)

The Clark Fork Valley Region, (Sanders County, Northwest Montana, near the Idaho State Line.)
This isolated valley sits between the Bitterroot and Cabinet Mountain Ranges. Concentrate on small towns along the Clark Fork such as Plains, Thompson Falls, Belknap, Trout Creek, Noxon, and Heron. Avoid the upper elevations. (In this region, an additional 1,000 feet of elevation puts you in a much different climate!)
Advantages: Away from the I-90 corridor.
Disadvantages: Cold climate and short growing season. (Can be compensated by building a large greenhouse.) Economy is not as diverse as the Kalispell/Flathead Lake Region. Insufficient agriculture in the region necessitates very extensive food storage to make a viable retreat.

Grid Up Retreat Potential: 4 (On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the best)

Grid Down Retreat Potential: 5 (On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the best)

Nuclear Scenario Retreat Potential: 4 (On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the best)

Letter Re: L1A1 Rifle Bolt Hold Open Modification

Mr. Rawles:
I am finding your SurvivalBlog to be of interest. Here’s some info for those wishing to convert their Inch rifles to have a true BHO after the last round is fired with a magazine in place. For several years I’ve used an 1/8 inch roll pin to replace the ground pin. This seems to work out better than a piece of drill rod because the roll pins are already hard, and of course by design are compressed slightly when inserted, so they tend to hold in place better than just a press fit rod. The pin hole will normally measure about 110-115″, so all one needs do is turn the roll pin to about 115 thousandths and drive it into place. A drill press and file will do this job, or a hand drill placed gently in a vise and a file if you lack the drill press. I typically use a one inch pin [and trim it to length] simply because the local hardware store stocks 1/2 inch ( a bit short) then 1 inch (a bit long.) If one has an un-drilled BHO, the correct location mikes out to about .435″ from the top of the BHO to the center of the hole. The lever one presses will be on the opposite plane from the hole, don’t drill it on the same plane or it will be pointing in the wrong direction! I hope this helps those with an SLR that want the use of a bolt hold open. – R.J. (known to friends as “Doubletap”)


Another Letter from John in Iraq Re: IEDs and “The Tactical Decision Game” (SAs: Supporting Our Troops, IEDs, Tactics, Survival Mindset)

Hello Again Sir,
I was delighted to see that you’d not only printed a letter from myself, but also from a good friend of mine, Grampa R. He’s the one who first lent me a copy of Patriots and Unintended Consequences and got me started on the survival mindset.

Well, Ramadan’s started but things haven’t been too busy yet. A friend of mine was killed by an IED that also took the leg from a corpsman. Went on a patrol today that took IDF close by, and had an RPG impact one of the trucks. Thankfully it was a glancing shot and it didn’t detonate. If the SHTF to the extent you’re worried about RPG’s or similar being shot at your house, setting up angled barricades might be more effective than trying to make something thick enough to stop it outright. Have to think about it.

We had some problems with a mosque a couple days ago; every Military Age Male (MAM in our jargon) in the area was running into it and staging prior to attacking us. Wanted to go in badly, but the CO of another company was on the hook to battalion and he wasn’t pressing for it as much as he could’ve been. Or maybe he’s just not very articulate; either way higher didn’t give us the go-ahead to raid the place. We got a few small caches and detained a few hajjis, but compared to my friends life and that squids leg it seems insignificant. Sure wish we could’ve raided that mosque. Might’ve actually done some good.

One part of training I think is often overlooked is playing “what if” games. The officer types call it the “Tactical Decision Game.” I’m an 0351, the infantry MOS that does demolitions. The gunner in my truck is as well, so on patrols we ask each other a lot of what if questions about demo. “If you needed to breach a wall of X material, that is Y thick… what charge would you use?” Lots of fun, keeps us awake, and is actually a big help when it comes to making decisions in the field.

Before I deployed I did the same type of thing with my wife. “If riots break out when you’re at work… how will you get home, what will you take, who will you call, where will you go. etc” Seemed to really help her have a solid game plan. Might help those looking for a way to draw a disinterested spouse into the spirit of surviving as well. Or it might just annoy them that you’re bothering them with “your stupid hobby.” Times up again. God bless, and keep up the good work. – John

Letter Re: Retreat Potential for The Eastern States

You mentioned that you don’t feel qualified to comment on much less to rank the eastern states. I can start the ball rolling, re: the Urban Northeast (the UNE). The disadvantages of the UNE are: cold winters, overpopulation, generally bad gun laws, socialistic politicians, and high Sheeple Ratio (SR). However, tens of millions of people live there, so:
1. I live in Philadelphia, for which the natural bugout area is the Catskills, Lehigh Valley, etc.
PA gun laws are surprisingly good; an oasis of sanity in the UNE: Shall Issue CCW (and you can carry virtually anywhere — no annoying patchwork of carry-proscribed areas); no AW laws; no waiting periods. Long guns can be sold privately without a paper trail, but sadly all handguns must go through FFL. This latter is disconcerting because, in open defiance of state law, the PA State Police are keeping a firearm registry. That’s why creating a cache of off-paper rifles is all-important.
PA taxes vary: state income taxes are mild but City of Philadelphia taxes are savagely draconian.
2. New York City: you’re screwed. Politics; gun laws; taxes; population; SR are all hopeless for the foreseeable future. There is no sane bugout area around. New York state gun laws are only marginally better than NYC. NJ is hopeless too. Your best bet might be CT.
3. Boston area. Look north. I can’t comment on Maine, but both NH and VT are excellent choices, especially with regard to gun laws. I’ll try to have my NH friend contribute more info.

JWR Replies: Okay, you other easterners, chime in! Here is you chance to jump up on the virtual soap box and extol the virtues (or non-virtues) of the eastern states and particular counties within them!

Follow-Up Re: The Walla Walla Region (Walla Walla and Columbia Counties, Southeast Washington)

Two different readers e-mailed to remind me that there is a maximum security Washington state prison near Walla Walla. It currently houses 16% of the state’s worst criminals, including approximately 116 sex offenders. The current inmate population is 2,277. Because of this I have revised the “grid down” potential for the region down from a 5 to a 7. (On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the best.) For the sake of all of our readers living near any jail or prison, let us pray that their electric cell door control systems default to “locked” rather than “open” when the backup generators run out of fuel.

Two Letters Re: The Importance of Using Non-Hybrid Seeds

In a recent post, you said: “…we will be discussing how to collect (“save”) and store seed stock in detail in some upcoming blog posts. – The Memsahib”
When it comes to storing seeds long term, I think you will find this article of interest. See: http://www.echotech.org/network/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=84
This describes a safe and easy-to-create liquid that greatly increases the long-term viability of seeds. I bought both chemicals from http://www.chemicalstore.com/ , but after checking this morning, they apparently no longer sell glycerol. It is a safe and widely-used chemical, so it should still be easy to obtain after doing a bit of web searching. Thank you for all you do! Take care and God Bless. – SMG

Just a caveat when using open-pollenated seeds: Be sure the varieties you grow won’t pollinate each other, or you will have: a hybrid. It won’t grow true from seed. The best way to combat this is to grow only one variety, and lots of it. This way, if there are no other varieties of the same crop in the near vicinity, the seed will be true to the original ones planted. Semper Fi, – Sarge

Letter Re: Reinvesting a 401(k) Into Precious Metals

Mr. Rawles,
Congratulations on the success of your website. I follow it everyday and have gleaned much info from it. My wife and I have been working at getting our “beans, bullets and band-aids” together and have made what we believe is good progress. With the state the economy is in and considering your advice about investing, I have a question that I hope you can/will help me with. I am thinking about taking out a loan against my 401K to: 1) Pay off our home @ approximately $18,000; 2) Round out our “beans, bullets and band-aids” and 3) Invest in 2-3 bags of pre-1965 silver coins. To my way of thinking (which may be skewed) this would be a way of re-investing a portion of my 401K in tangibles instead of paper. I would appreciate any advice that you would be willing to give. Thank you for your hard work and for sharing your knowledge and insight. – Steve

JWR Replies: I’d recommend that you keep your investments diverse. Diversifying some of your retirement money into precious metals is wise. Paying off your home early only makes sense if the interest rate that you are paying on your mortgage is higher than the rate of return you are earning on your 401(k).

If like me you have no faith in the long term prospects or the value of the dollar, American Church Trust offers gold coin deposit self-directed IRA accounts. (The folks at Swiss America can help you set one up.) Under some circumstances a 401(k) can be rolled over into an IRA. Parenthetically, when I was with Oracle Corporation back in 1999, my co-workers thought that I was crazy putting money in a gold IRA rather than Oracle stock. (“Jim, you are missing out. Oracle shares are going to the moon!”, they said.) That was when gold was under $325 per ounce. And where are gold and Oracle shares now, respectively?