The Lynchpin: The Power Grid

The level of severity for any survival scenario will be tremendously greater if the power grid goes down (“grid down“) for a period of more than a week. Consider the following:

If “grid down” most towns and cities will be without municipal (utility) drinking water.
If “grid down” for more than a month there will likely be huge outflows of refugees from cities.
If “grid down” there will possibly be mass prison escapes.
If “grid down”, virtually all communications will go down. Telephone company central offices (COs) do have battery back-up. These are huge banks of 2-volt deep cycle floating batteries. But those batteries will only last about a week. Backup generators were not installed at most COs, because no situation that would take the power grid down for more than 72 hours was ever anticipated. (Bad planning, Ma Bell!) Thus, if and when the grid goes down then hard-wire phones, cell phones, and the Internet will all go down. When both the power grid and phone systems goes down, law and order will likely disintegrate. There will be no burglar alarms, no security lighting or cameras, and no reliable way to contact police or fire departments, and so forth.
If “grid down” for an extended period anyone with a chronic health problem may die. There will be no power for kidney dialysis machines or breathing machines for respiratory patients, no re-supply of oxygen bottles for people with chronic lung conditions, no re-supply of insulin for diabetics, et cetera.
If “grid down”, most heaters with fans won’t work, even if you can bypass the thermostat. And pellet stoves won’t work at all!
If “grid down”, piped natural gas service will be disrupted in all but a few small areas near wellheads.
If “grid down”, then “seasonal affected disorder” will seem mild compared to the depressing effects of spending 13+ hours a day in the dark during winter months—especially at latitudes north of the 45th Parallel.
If “grid down”, there will be no 911 to call—no back-up—no “cavalry coming over the hill” in the nick of time. You, your family, and your contiguous neighbors will have to independently handle any lawlessness that comes your way.
If “grid down,” sanitation will be problematic in any large town or city. Virtually everyone will be forced to draw water from open sources, and meanwhile their neighbors will be inadvertently fouling those same sources. I heard one survivalist lecturer state that a grid down situation would “almost immediately reduce sanitation in the U.S. to Third World standards.” I think that he underestimated the impact of an extended power grid failure. At least in the Third World they are accustomed to living with poor water and sanitation. Here in the U.S., we don’t even have Third World facilities or folkways. With the grid down and city water disrupted, toilets won’t flush and most urbanites and suburbanites will not dig outhouse or garbage pits! Furthermore, the long-standing Third World village norm of “Draw your drinking water upstream and wash your clothes downstream” will be ignored. A “grid down” condition could be a public health nightmare within a week in metropolitan regions.



Islands of Light in the Dark

There will possibly be “islands” of power remaining if the grid goes down for an extended period. Logically, these islands will mostly be near hydroelectric dams or wind farms in rural areas. These localized islands could have their power restored in a few weeks, while it might takes months of even years for power restoration in other areas, depending on the severity of a full scale TEOTWAWKI-type infrastructure collapse. Finding where these islands are will take considerable research. And even if you find a potential “island”, don’t count on it. Circumstances may dictate that power is not available, or that it is all shunted elsewhere by government decree.



Water–The Critical Resource

You can improvise on almost anything at a retreat except water. Without it, you and your family will become refugees, muy pronto.

If you plan to buy an “in town” retreat, have a long conversation with the City Engineer before making the final selection of a town. Don’t just ask: “Is the water gravity fed?” Nine times out of ten, the engineer will answer yes, but will neglect to mention that it is gravity fed only after it is electrically pumped up hill! You are looking for a town with true end-to-end gravity fed municipal water. Such towns are often found in mountainous regions, or at the base of a mountain range.

If buying an isolated retreat, set your sights on a place with copious spring water or an artesian well. A far less desirable second choice would be a property with well water and/or a true year-round stream. I would rather buy a land with a spring, thin topsoil, and infested with weeds than I would buy place with well water and the best topsoil on earth. Why? Because I can improve topsoil and I can eradicate weeds, but I can’t strike a rock like Moses!
If you are going to have to depend on well water, before you buy the property make sure that the well:

Produces at least 12 gallons per minute (GPM),
Has a stable static level–preferably 40 feet below ground level or less,
Has good water quality (have it tested for both toxins and bacteria!)
Has good southern solar exposure at the well head. (You’ll need this exposure to provide for PV panels.)

Deep wells are problematic. If you plan to use a deep well with photovoltaic power you are going to need a more complex PV system. Due to the massive voltage line loss inherent with DC cabling, you will either have to add lots of panels or you will have to run an AC pump on an inverter from a DC power source if the well is more than 60 feet deep. Including an inverter in the system adds complexity and is inherently inefficient. Also, keep in mind that if you want a back-up hand pump, you will be limited to a well depth of 40 feet or less.
Two other options for deep wells are a traditional windmill (with sucker rod pump cylinder at the bottom of the shaft, pumping up to a large cistern), or a “jack” type pump. A “jack” pump looks like a miniature oil field “cricket.” Jack pumps use a reciprocating “traveling” arm to actuate a sucker rod connected to a pump cylinder at the bottom of the shaft. (Again, pumping up to a large cistern.) Due to their complex design, jack pumps tend to develop mechanical problems in the long run. Parenthetically, I should add that I had a jack pump for five years, and it was nothing but trouble: fly wheels that flew off, gearboxes that disintegrated, et cetera. I’ll never make that mistake again!



Zimbabwe: The Slow Slide Scenario

Comrade Mugabe, the Marxist dictator in Zimbabwe (the former Rhodesia) has instituted a virtual news blackout in that once great nation. Mugabe’s “War Veterans” (read: ex-terrorists) are busy again. After spending two years forcibly occupying some of the best farmland in the country (and thereby rendering it fallow) they are now bulldozing the homes, shops and subsistence garden plots of average city dwellers. As usual, the minority tribe is getting the worst of it. But that is hardly a news flash.

Rhodesia was once the bread basket of Africa–its food exports fed much of the continent.But now, after 25 years of Mugabe’s rule, the agricultural infrastructure has been destroyed and its own citizens face starvation. For some background on Zimbabwe’s plight, read Cathy Buckle’s Letters.

I would greatly appreciate reading some first hand accounts from any SurvivalBlog readers who live in Zimbabwe or that have been there recently. For your safety, I will of course conceal your identity.

I pray for all of the Zimbabwe’s citizens. May God grant them the means and the visceral fortitude to loose the bonds of tyranny.



Letter from Dr. November Re: Venezuela

Jim:
In reading the profile I see that I left one concern out. The situation in Venezuela is pretty bad — and the U.S. gets a lot of crude from Venezuela and relatively little from the Middle East. Any disruption in the supply by that Kim Jong Il wanna-be down there [Presidente Hugo Chavez] is going to ripple through the world’s economy. I have a friend in Argentina, the economy is going down the tubes there as well. South and Central America are going to explode, much like they did in the ’60’s, I’m afraid. With corrupt morons (most of the Middle East) or Communists (Venezuela, and China is coming along) controlling or influencing the oil supply we’re potentially in deep trouble there. Add that to the “NIMSS” (Not in My Solar System) environmentalists that won’t let us build refineries (the bottleneck right now, not production) or use nuclear power and the nation will die with a whimper.



Letter from The Bee Man

Letter from The Bee Man (SAs: DIY Veterinary, Relocation, Survival Tools, and Survival Firearms)

Hello Jim & Family,
I’m glad to see your Blog Site has taken off with such success! I’ve passed on your site address to several other people in hopes to get some advertising to come your way. I also hope you and your own are doing fine. It’s hot and very dry here now. Got those brush fires to contend with. The yellow star thistle is waist high on the hills. I believe your timing of your Blog Site is about right. We’ve had numerous inquiries about land sales here. To listen to these people, one can see the the concern they have about the coming times ahead. I’ve noticed that many are ill equipped in knowledge and skills to take on the job at hand. Example: Right now if you have any livestock that needs a vet, you have to take the animal to Lewiston [Idaho–50 miles away]. The local veterinarians have quit doing large livestock. There is more profit in treating dogs and cats. So one needs to be up on their vet skills and knowledge. Old time ranchers still have these skills, but no-one is willing to learn from them. Our most valuable resource is our knowledge pool. This fact may help one “fit in” a rural community. The more multi-functional one is in his skills, the more likely one is able to fit in.

As for waiting to “bug out” at the last minute, forget it. Some people in the outlying areas are well aware of this fact and are so ready for the influx of such personnel. There are areas right now where such people have already taken up homes and the locals are waiting for a social calamity to even scores with “those outsiders”. I don’t agree with this line of thinking, but it does exist. As for the “Government Owned” national parks and forests, these are bad choices also. Most of these areas now have “Dual Use” facilities meaning they can communicate, house, and maintain some type of troop or covert operations personnel for an indefinite period of time. I have personally seen this happen in the Clearwater National Forest.

I’m not even going to attempt to go into the “best” firearms. More garbage has been written about this subject than Carter has pills. The best gun is the one that is loaded and in one’s hand at the time of battle or whatever task is at hand. The most deadly weapon on the planet is the one that sits atop one’s shoulders. How one applies his knowledge towards tool selection is important. Never go the “cheap” route with tools or gear. This applies to everyday tools like hammers and shovels. The purchase of task specific tools should be avoided if one is on a budget. (Example: A .50 BMG single-shot rifle makes a poor tool when the deer are in the brush or the coyotes are after the chickens.) Buy those basic multipurpose items first.

I do agree with your wife about “doom and gloom” conversations. It does wear on ones’ soul. It happens & those moments when one can enjoy a laugh and a moments peace seem that more precious (to me anyhow). I just recall that the price of Liberty and Freedom is Eternal Vigilance. Not cheap. We do have to pay for it somehow, so that our next generation may not have to because we failed to do anything. Thank You. – The Bee Man, Near Kamiah, Idaho



From SurvivalBlog’s American Expatriate Correspondent in Israel: Survival Rations

I had planned to write first about how impoverished Jews lived in old Europe but today being tisha b’Av (the 9th day of the hebrew month of Av) I have a trove of material for a post. Tisha b’Av is the day that the Roman legion after fighting in and taking Jerusalem began burning the second holy temple. It has always been a dark day for Jews and humanity. Among the bad things that happened on this day were: the spies Moses sent out came back with a bad report that we had to wander for 38 more years, the first temple was destroyed, second temple was destroyed, Jews expelled from Spain in 1492, WWI starts–beginning the slide toward the Holocaust. And today, another Tisha b’Av, comes the announcement that the clearing of Jews from Gaza and north Samaria begins in 48 hours.

On this day Jews fast and study and act like we were mourning a death of a family member so that the creator of the universe may remember us and redeem us from our travails.
Siege and Starvation: One of the ways divine justice arrives in the world is famine another is war. Both can lead a person to starvation. As I sit on a low stool and fast this 9th of Av my planned learning mostly deals with accounts in the bible and other writings about the starvation we received at the hands of Rome and Babylon.
One story from a siege Jerusalem deals with stockpiled supplies. Two rich men had stockpiled enough grain for flour and wood for fire to bake bread to last seven years of siege, zealots wishing to fight and kill the Romans burned the warehouses to force the inhabitants to break out and fight. It seems everyone has a little food set aside in their plans, but who thinks about long term fuel supply. Yeheskel (Ezekiel) is given a recipe by God (Ezekiel Chapter 4, verses 7-12) to eat while he is demonstrating to Israel what its siege would look like, here is a decent translation from the net:
For your reference:

a shekel = 8.5 grams or .27 oz
a hin is around a gallon

A serious starvation ration, the cake is cooked in a pan like a pancake. Normally I would expect it to be fried in oil, although it seems Yeheskel likely had to dry fry it during his demonstration of the future siege. Fast forward to to the present day. This is what Yesha council suggested that settlers in besieged communities to stockpile. All families must collect enough supplies to last them two weeks: Canned goods, pasta, rice, oil, sugar, powdered milk, crackers, toilet paper, candles and matches, can openers, flashlights, medicine, and first
aid equipment.

OBTW, as a data point, here is a list of the food ration from the independence war and siege of Jerusalem era up until 1959. “26 April, 1949: The cabinet declared a state of national austerity and rationing of basic food products… The citizens received their rations by means of a local grocery stores. Minister Yosef provided a detailed program, according to which each citizen would receive a monthly supply of food worth IL6. The national austerity menu designed by the new minister was made up of the following daily rations: an unlimited amount of standard bread; 60 grams of corn; 58 grams of sugar; 60 grams of flour; 17 grams of rice; 20 grams of legumes; 20 grams of margarine; 8 grams of noodles; 200 grams of skim-milk cheese, 600 grams of onions, and 5 grams of biscuits. The meat ration was 75 grams a month per person.”

Please say a prayer that the siege be lifted on the Jews of Gaza and north Samaria.



Jim’s Quote of the Day:

"In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man and brave — hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds however, the timid join him. For then it costs them nothing to be a patriot." – Mark Twain



Note from Jim:

I’ve just received four more Retreat Owner Profiles. Three of them have already been edited and posted to the Profiles page. I hope that you find them both informative and motivational. One of them (for Dr. November) is nothing short of astounding! OBTW, I would greatly appreciate seeing some profiles from any of you folks that live overseas!



Which .308 Battle Rifle?

I often have folks e-mail to ask me which is the best all-around rifle for retreat defense. The following may sound a bit like a proverbial Chevy versus Ford rant, but here goes…

To begin, let me state that I firmly believe that .223 Remington/5.56mm NATO is insufficient for self defense. That cartridge was designed specifically for killing woodchucks–not men. It does well at wounding men, which is fine for military organizations. (An incapacitating wound removes three enemy soldiers from the battlefield–the wounded soldier plus two stretcher bearers.) But the last thing that I would ever want to do post-TEOTWAWKI is wound a looter. I want them 100% RBCed, and I want to insure a less than 0.001% probability that they are going to crawl off and snipe at me and my family for the next day or two.

For serious social engineering, .308 Winchester/7.62mm NATO will do the job. It is also a fine deer hunting cartridge. Which .308? In essence, I consider M1As, HK-91s, FALs, L1A1s, and modern AR-10s all functionally equivalent. All four are quite suitable for retreat defense. However, pre-ban HKs are currently way over-priced, and M1A parts and spare magazines have become much too expensive! Meanwhile, most AR-10s use very expensive magazines. (Note: A couple of AR-10 manufacturer have cleverly introduced variants that use FAL magazines. That is the ideal type to buy if you decide to opt for AR-10s.)

Three years ago, I sold all five of the M1As from my family battery and replaced them with five L1A1s and a Para FAL that had been converted to take inch pattern (L1A1) magazines. FWIW, I was an dyed-in-the-wool M1A owner from 1978 to 2002. I switched to L1A1s because of the profusion of inexpensive L1A1 magazines and spare parts. I had 47 spare M1A magazines and nearly one complete spare parts kit. Propitiously, I sold off all those M1A magazines shortly before the 1994 ban expired, for $30 to $45 each. (Some of them were still in original U.S.G.I. wrappers.) Now, for less money than I realized from the sale of my M1As and their accessories, I have 138 spare magazines and four complete L1A1 spare parts sets, plus scopes for all six of my L1A1s. To borrow the modern parlance, the decision was a “no brainer.” Most of my L1A1s are built on pre-ban receivers. IMHO, L1A1s and FALs are the clear choice in today’s market. See The FALFiles for sources. IMO, Century Gun Works (CGW) of Gardnerville, Nevada custom builds the very best FALs and L1As. If you have a FAL or L1A1 kit, then Rich Saunders at CGW is the gent to build it for you. The quality of work at CGW is followed very closely behind by T. Mark Graham of Arizona Response Systems. Mark is also a great gunsmith. I had Mark convert a couple of pre-ban SAR-48s to inch pattern specifications for me. Of the large scale production FAL clones, I think that D.S. Arms rifles are hard to beat. See my FAL FAQ for additional details about FALs and L1A1s.

After all that talk about FALs and L1A1s, you may wonder why I showed HK-91s as a “group standard” in my novel Patriots. Ironically, I’ve actually never owned an HK-91. However, several of my friends have, and swear by them. I portrayed them as standard partly in an attempt to make the novel appear less U.S.-centric. (At the time I would have otherwise touted the M1A.)

To re-iterate: I consider the L1A1, FAL, HK-91, M1A, and the new production AR-10 variants all roughly comparable in terms of reliability and putting lead down range. Here are my quick and dirty comparisons of all four rifles:

The M1A has an edge in accuracy–at least the more expensive match grade models. (But the charging handle is on the wrong side except if you are a lefty.)
The HK-91 has an edge in reliability. (But it has inferior ergonomics and it’s action doesn’t lock open after the last round in a magazine is fired.)
The AR-10 has an edge in light weight. (But it shares the AR-15’s filthy gas system design.)
The FAL has the best ergonomics, and is currently the most reasonably priced.

At the time that I wrote the first draft of the novel. (the winter of 1990/1991), M1As and HKs were both roughly $700 and FALs were $2,200. (The FAL clones hadn’t yet hit the U.S. market.) If I were writing the novel today, I’d definitely pick the L1A1 to portray as group standard.

I prefer L1A1s over FALs because of their sturdier Maranyl stock furniture, bigger selector switches and magazine releases, their folding charging handles, and most importantly their ability to accept BOTH inch and metric magazines. (Tactically, that is an advantage, as the Brits found when they invaded the Falklands.) YMMV, but I do think that “inch is best.” And if you live in a State that borders Canada, I consider inch guns absolutely the way to go. (Since inch pattern spares and accessories are likely to drift across the border WTSHTF.)

OBTW, if you don’t yet have a copy, I strongly recommend that you buy yourself the latest edition of “Boston’s Gun Bible.” Among other topics, Boston goes into great detail about weighing the merits of various battle rifles. My review of Boston’s Gun Bible is included in my Bookshelf page.

One closing note: If practicable and affordable, arm all of the defenders of your retreat with the same model and caliber of rifle, for three reasons:

Commonality of spare magazines
Commonality of training (Any group/family member can pick up any rifle and know how to use it–although its “zero” will probably be slightly different)
Commonality of spare parts


The Housing Bubble

I’m sure that you’ve read about the bubble in residential real estate prices, most noticeably on the coasts in the U.S.. (There are similar bubbles in Oz and England, both of which have already seen their peaks. Far too many people have over-extended their finances buying houses. In fact, up to 35% of the houses being sold in some markets are being bought purely on speculation, with the goal of “flipping” them within six months to take advantage of the rising market. This is making some speculators a lot of quick money, for now. But at some point the music will stop and there will be lot of speculators caught without a chair.

Most people don’t realize the full implications of the housing bubble. The over-inflation of house prices is keeping the consumer economy afloat. People are “taking equity out of their houses” to pay for geegaws and electronic gadgets. When the bubble bursts it will at the very least throw the American economy into a recession, and possibly a depression. For background, read Gary North‘s recent Reality Check article titled: MOM, APPLE PIE, AND HOUSING BUBBLES. (Issue #472, on August 12, 2005.) Also read the piece titled Don’t Let Me Burst Your (Housing) Bubble by Steven Greenhut, a senior editorial writer and columnist for The Orange County Register.

When the bubble does burst, watch out. Things could get ugly. I predict that people that are caught “upside down” in their mortgages will just turn in the keys at the bank and walk away from their houses. This has happened before–most notably in Texas in the 1980s when the Houston Oil Boom fell apart and took the real estate market for the region with it.

My advice: Sell any rental or non-retreat vacation houses that you own. Take your profit now. It is better to be a year too early than a day too late. Keep that money on the sidelines, with at least a portion of it in precious metals. Then after the bubble bursts, you’ll have the chance to step in with cash and buy at perhaps as low as 40 cents on the dollar versus the currently over-inflated prices. When you eventually do decide to buy, concentrate on productive farm land in a lightly populated rural region. (See my previous posts for guidelines on the best type of property to buy.)



G.O.O.D. Vehicle Advice

If you can afford it, buy yourself a Crew Cab 4WD pickup in an earth tone color. A crew cab is the best of both worlds–room for extra passengers like a Suburban, plus lots of cargo room in the cargo bed.) Buy a diesel if you can stand the smell. (I’ll discuss alternative fuels in upcoming blog posts.) You should plan on either buying a low mileage rig that 1 to 5 years old, or buy an older one and have it fully restored/modified. Either way, the total cost will be about the same when all is said and done. I actually prefer the new Dodge engines/power trains, but long term parts availability in the event of TEOTWAWKI could be problematic since there are 20+ Fords and Chevys on the road for every Dodge. So it is probably better to go for the Ford F250 or F350 or one of the equivalent Chevy 2500 HD (Heavy Duty) series pickups.

Buy a low profile camper shell that can be removed quickly in a pinch. Winches front and back may look cool, but for the weight and expense they really aren’t worth it! You are better off spending some money on heavy duty front and rear bumpers. (Reunel is a good brand). Recommended bumper mods: large crash bars in the front, a removable cable cutter post that is as tall as your truck’s cab, and 10+ heavy duty towing attachment J hooks (front and rear center and all four corners.) Buy two or three heavy duty Dayton come-alongs (ratchet cable hoists), and a couple of 48″ Hi-Lift jacks. Carry two spare tires on rims. That, plus shovels, pick, axe, a couple of heavy duty tow chains, some shorter “tree wrapper” choker chains, and a pair of American-made 36″ bolt cutters will get you through virtually any obstacle, given enough time.

Also get the rig set up with range tanks and a tow package. Determine the amount of fuel required to get to your retreat using the slowest possible route with a maximum load of gear. Add 10% to that figure for good measure, and be sure to always have that amount of fuel on hand. Regardless of the fuel capacity of your rig, buy at least 6 additional jerry cans to keep at home. (First consult you local fire code regulations.) Keep those cans filled with fuel and rotate them regularly. Even if you don’t need it to G.O.O.D., this extra fuel will be useful for barter or charity. An aside; I have a friend named John who installed a custom 120 gallon fuel tank in the bed of his 4WD Ford F250 that already had two fuel tanks of its own. Talk about range!

If you are worried about EMP, do some research before you buy your next vehicle. Some models that are less than 10 years old can be retrofitted with a traditional carburetor and spark coil/condenser ignition system. This is an expensive proposition, but it will leave you with a rig that is virtually invulnerable to EMP.

Most importantly: pre-position the vast majority of your gear, guns, and groceries at your retreat! Make sure to store plenty of fuel there. Buy a utility trailer, but leave it at your retreat to use for wood and hay hauling, or in case you need to bug out a second time. You may have only one trip out of the Big City, and messing with a trailer in heavy traffic or on snowy/muddy roads could lead to your own personal disaster within a disaster.)

If there won’t be somebody who is extremely trustworthy living at your retreat all the times to secure it, buy a 24’+ CONEX steel shipping container, and have a extra lock shroud flange welded on. Ideally, your trailer should be custom built (or re-built) to use very the same rims and tires as used on your primary vehicle. That way with two spare tires carried on your vehicle and one more carried on the front of your trailer you will have three spares available for either your trailer or your pickup. If you end up getting a good-sized CONEX, you should be able to leave the trailer in the front, ready to roll out.

BTW, with the recent spike in fuel prices, this is probably a great time to twist the arm of your local car dealership for a discount price on one of their used 4WD pickups. Presently, anything that gets less than 15 miles per gallon is a slow seller. Before you visit any car dealership, do you homework about exactly what you want to buy. Get savvy on current values at Edmunds.(A great site with “blue book” type calculators that take into account all the options.) Once at the dealership, solicit their “best possible price,” and then tell them that you you’ll think about it, and then walk toward the door. Don’t be surprised if you get intercepted and offered an even lower price. I predict that once gas passes the $3.00 per gallon mark, dealers will probably be willing to their sell fuel-inefficient rigs at near cost, just to get them off their lots.



Letter from “Doug Carlton” Re: The Trouble With Caretakers

Jim:
One thing that I wanted to mention about your caretaker/renter post: In many states, if you charge any form of rent, then that person is a renter and has all the legal rights of such under the law. For any of your readers that are considering such an arrangement, I’d recommend they check with a lawyer that knows the rental law of their retreat’s area before going such a route. Laws differ greatly from state to state. One possible route is to provide a separate residence for the caretaker (like a small cabin, whatever) with defined boundaries, then an employment agreement to take care of the rest of the property. Even if no rent is being charged, the exchange of housing for labor may constitute rent, again depending on the state. Another thing is there has to be a plan on what to do with the caretaker post-TEOTWAWKI. Are they going to be gone, there, or what? What are they planning? That their entire clan should stay there? That maybe if you show up, you don’t need to be there? Even if they are a relative, this should be thought out well in advance. – “Doug Carlton”

[JWR’s note: Some of the readers of my novel will remember the Doug Carlton character. Yes, it is the pseudonym of a real life individual that I have known since college. He is a former U.S. Army aviator, now working in the transportation industry on the East Coast. Well, at least its a “Red” State.]



Jim’s Quote of the Day:

“It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were.
And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened. But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed
with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning
back only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.”

“What are we holding on to, Sam?”

“That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.”

– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings


On Climate and Growing Season

“Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.”
– Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

When starting your search for a retreat location, concentrate on “dry land farming” regions, and of those, the ones that specialize in truck farming. Dry land farming regions are where crops can be grown with seasonal rains and are not dependent on electrically pumped irrigation water. Remember that when grid down, the areas in the West that were originally desert will revert to desert, in a hurry! Even an area that might otherwise look good for a retreat at present may be uninhabitable if and when the grid down era begins.

Elevation and exposure are both critical factors. By concentrating on properties at low elevation and with a southern exposure, you will greatly extend your growing season. A growing season that is 30 or 40 days shorter might seem trivial now, but WTSHTF it will be incredibly important. Do a detailed study of both the regional climate and the microclimates in the counties that you are considering for retreats. See City-Data.com for detailed temperature, rainfall, and snowfall data for most locales with a population of 5,000 or more. By the way, there are lots of other interesting statistics there too, such as median age, education levels, and so forth.

In many parts of the country, the reverse side of a ridge (northern facing) can be snow-bound for an extra three months of each year! So be willing to pay a little more for a piece of land with an unobstructed southern exposure.

Environmental scientists can’t seem to agree whether or not the much-touted Global Warming is actually in progress. A minority of scientists have asserted that we might actually be in a cooling trend or perhaps even on the cusp of another “Little Ice Age.” If there is a large volcanic eruption or a comet or meteor strike, there could be some profound climate effects. This is a good reason to have at least two years of food storage. Even the best gardener in the world will not be able to feed their family if there are killing frosts in every month of the year for a couple of years. You might consider making preparations for the remote chance of sudden climate change. I even had one late friend who lived in the Philippines who had a large stock of cold weather gear!

For researching rainfall, population data, tax information, and so forth, a very useful resource is the Home Fair web site.