Jim’s Quote of the Day:

“Along the debris-choked Mississippi River, pharmacist Jason Dove watches as people scramble in the parking lot of the downtown convention center for cases of airlifted water and shakes his head. ‘We created this Frankenstein,’ he says. ‘It’s showing how fragile this society is.'” -as quoted in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, USA Today, Sept. 2, 2005.

Hurricane Katrina Update:

Law and order are still scarce commodities on the Gulf Coast. It was reported yesterday (Sunday, September 4th) that police shot eight armed people, killing at least five of them, after gunmen opened fire on a group of contractors that were traveling across a bridge near New Orleans on their way to make repairs. Meanwhile, 200 of the formerly 1,500-strong New Orleans Police department have either formally resigned or have deserted, and two have committed suicide. WorldNetDaily and other sources have reported that looting and assorted acts of lawlessness are continuing in inland areas of Louisiana and Mississippi that were spared the worst of the hurricane’s effect but that are still without power. I’d appreciate hearing some accounts from SurvivalBlog readers close to the scene that would confirm, deny, or clarify the foregoing.

If you want to donate to the relief effort, here is a fairly extensive list of relief organization contacts, courtesy of our friends of Little Green Footballs. I believe that it is best to donate to church-sponsored charities like ADRA, since their overhead is much lower than bloated bureaucracies like the Red Cross.

JWR’s Advice on Food Storage

If and when it comes, TEOTWAWKI will certainly mean a disruption in food production and distribution. You should have enough food stored for your family to last a year, and much longer if you can afford it. Keep in mind that: you will need extra to dispense as charity, to your “head-in-the sand” relatives, to neighbors, friends, fellow church members, and refugees. So store lots of extra wheat, rice, beans, and honey. They are cheap now, but may be very expensive later.
You can “do it yourself” for nearly everything required for home food storage except canned powdered dry milk. It is messy to re-pack yourself, and because of milk’s butterfat content it only stores well for long periods with commercial nitrogen packing.

As previously mentioned, I sharply disagree with the LDS (Mormon) church on their religious doctrines, but I commend them for their food storage philosophy, practice, and infrastructure. Your local LDS ward probably has a cannery, and they will let non-LDS members use it on a “space available” basis. Members are usually on hand to train “newbies” how to operate the equipment.

Bulk wheat, rice, and beans are best stored in 5 or 6-gallon food grade plastic pails. Walton Seed in Montpelier, Idaho has excellent prices and they have top quality products.

If you use your own pails, make sure that they are certified “food grade” (buckets made for paint are not.) And if you re-use food grade buckets, make certain that they were only used for non-smelly foods. (Re-using pickle pails for rice will give you pickle-flavored rice!)

Alan T. Hagan has written an excellent FAQ on food storage. It describes some excellent methods. See: http://athagan.members.atlantic.net/PFSFAQ/PFSFAQ-1.html

Date mark all of your storage foods. Consistently use FIFO (First In, First Out”) rotation.
Buy replacement cooking oil and Crisco every two years. This will be your biggest “recurring loss” food storage expense. (Donate the old oil and Crisco that is nearing its expiration to your local food bank. If you have any vegetable oil that has gone rancid, it can be saved for use as biodiesel. See my previous posts on this subject.)
If you can adapt your diet, buy more stable oils such as peanut oil and coconut oil that have a longer shelf life. They re also more healthful than Crisco or liquid vegetable oils.
Canning lids and rings—buy plenty of extras for barter.
Salt—stock up in quantity, particularly if your retreat is more than 30 miles inland!
Sulphur for drying fruits.
Vinegar-Buy a couple of cases of one-gallon bottles.
Don’t forget:
Baking soda.
Food storage (freezer and vacuum) bags.
Aluminum foil (Buy lots! 101 uses, including making improvised solar ovens.)
Deer bags.
Dog Food. Note: One of my old high school buddies, Scott T. who is now an attorney once quipped “A real survivalist would eat his dog.” But seriously, if your dog(s) will be useful for providing security, then store two years of dog food. Make sure that the dog food has a low fat content (for better long term storage) and that you store it in vermin-proof containers. Galvanized trash cans work fine for this purpose. You can get away with storing much less dog food if you live in an area with profuse deer, bear or elk; or if you raise a lot of livestock. Rotate your dog food just like you do the rest of your storage food.
Date mark all perishable foods with a medium point Sharpie pen. If you have a lot of canned goods to mark, then a date stamp will work.
Rotate your foods consistently. Always place the newest cans at the back of the shelf. Keep a multi-year rotation calendar.
Long term storage multi-vitamins and other food supplements: You should plan to supplement with a good quality double encapsulated multi-vitamin, a good quality B-complex tablet, and a 500-milligram vitamin C tablet. See Vita Cost for some of the least expensive vitamins and nutritional supplements available via the Internet. They should be consumed and replaced at least every three years. Store them in a cool, very dark place. (Light kills vitamins quickly!)
Natural laxatives. (Your diet may shift heavily toward meat, and this could cause problems. Plan ahead.) Bulk Metamucil is one option.
Preservation Methods:
Most families should do their own wet-pack canning and dehydrating. We also buy commercially canned (nitrogen packed) foods, some freeze dried foods, and some MREs (retort packaged.) As I will describe, some methods are more appropriate than others for certain foods.
See Carla Emery’s Encyclopedia of Country Living (published by Sasquatch Books)–a MUST for every survivalist’s bookshelf. The basic guideline for edibility is 2 years for meats and other “high acid” foods, and 4 years for all others. (See Carla’s book for a complete chart.) Edible, yes, but keep in mind that the nutritional value won’t all be there in four years. So store as many vitamins as you can rotate without going past expiration dates. (Roughly three to four years worth, unless you have an ultra cold medical freezer–I’d love to find one of those, used. They cost $3,000+, new!)
Nitrogen Packing is good for roughly 8-to-10 years for most foods and much longer for whole grains. I do not recommend storing flour. It only keeps two or three years.
Whole wheat stores for 20+ years with 80% or more of its nutritional value. Buy whole grains and a hand wheat grinder.
I recommend buying commercially nitrogen-packed cans only for the items that don’t store well otherwise (e.g. dehydrated peas, powdered milk, peanut butter powder, and textured vegetable protein (TVP).
You are better off buying some items in bulk (honey, whole grains, beans, and rice) and canning or otherwise “containerizing” them yourself. Canned nitrogen-packing of these items is ridiculously expensive, and there is very little advantage in storage life. Pack bulk grains and legumes in 5 or 6-gallon plastic buckets by yourself, and you will save a lot of money! Note: Make sure that you use oxygen-absorbing packets available from Walton’s or the dry ice displacement method to kill all the bugs/larvae before you seal up each bucket. (Again, see Mr. Hagan’s Food Storage FAQ.)
Commercially canned “year’s supply type units are needlessly expensive. (Even the salt comes canned. Talk about overkill packaging!) In the instance of wheat, you are paying two to five times as much for the product because of the packaging. (My most wheat purchase was at just $11 per hundredweight! Of course, I had to re-pack it all in six-gallon buckets.)

MRE Storage Life

I do recommend MREs as a supplement to a well-rounded food storage program. Because they are fairly compact, lightweight, and require no cooking , they are ideal to pack in your “Get Out of Dodge” (G.O.O.D.) backpack (or “BOB“).

My old friend who has profile under the pseudonym Mr. Tango had a round of correspondence with the U.S. Army’s Natick Laboratories in Maryland, on the potential storage life of MREs. Like all other storage foods, MREs must be stored at low temperature to maximize their shelf life. The data that they sent him was surprising. Here is the gist of it:

Degrees F / Months of Storage (Years)
120 / 1 month
110 / 5 months
100 / 22 months (1.8 Years)
90 / 55 months (4.6 Years)
80 / 76 months (6.3 Years)
70 / 100 months (8.3 Years)
60 / 130 months (10.8 Years )

Note 1: The figures above are based on date of pack, rather than inspection date.
Note 2: MRE’s near the end of their shelf life are considered safe to eat if:
A.) They are palatable to the taste.
B.) They do not show any signs of spoilage (such as swelled pouches.)
C.) They have been stored at moderate temperatures. (70F or below.)
Note 3: Not enough data has yet been collected on storage below 60 degrees F. However, projections are that the 130-month figure will be extended.
Note 4: Time and temperature have a cumulative effect. For example: storage at 100 degrees F for 11 months and then moved to 70F, you would lose 1/2 of the 70F storage life.
Note 5: Avoid fluctuating temperatures in and out of freezing level.
JWR’s Comments on MREs: The above-cited figures are for palatability, not nutritive value. You should plan on storing vitamin supplements. Again, vitamins should be stored in a cool, very dark place for the longest shelf life. (Many tablets are light sensitive—this explains why they are usually packed in dark brown bottles rather than clear glass.) I recommend rotating your vitamins every two years. The bottom line is that most of the fat, carbohydrates, and protein will still be available in MREs, even after many years of storage, but the vitamins will not. Plan accordingly.
Because MREs and other emergency foods are relatively high in bulk and low in fiber, I also highly recommend storing a bulk fiber supplement with each case of MREs. Don’t overlook this precaution! Also, get yourself some sprouting supplies, and practice sprouting before The Crunch. Sprouts are an ideal source of vitamins and fiber!

Letter RE: The Myth of Copper Toxicity for Sheep and Goats

I wanted to let you know that a correction needs to be made in your statement that copper is toxic to sheep and goats. I own dairy goats on our homestead. Copper is indeed toxic to sheep, BUT COPPER IS CRITICAL FOR THE GOOD HEALTH OF GOATS.  In fact copper sulfate is given as a supplement at times, especially with the darker goats to keep them from turning chocolate brown instead of the black coat color they should have. The belief that copper is toxic to goats is a common misconception and I have had nearly knock down drag-down fights with different feed store employees who didn’t want to sell me the copper salt blocks when they knew I had goats. See David Mackenzie’s excellent “Goat Husbandry” for more information, or “Natural Goat Care” by Pat Coleby. Both available from Amazon.com. – Midwest Farm Mom

JWR’s Reply: I defer to to your experience and study on the subject. I have corrected my original post. Many Thanks!

Letter from “F1” Re: Trapping and Snaring

Hi Jim and Memsahib:
An overlooked area for putting meat on the table is trapping and snaring. Perhaps the reason is it is an almost lost skill because most people live in cities or the suburbs today. However, WTSHTF it may mean the difference between having meat on the table or none at all when, if the supply runs out. Those who live in cities and suburban areas normally have squirrels, rabbits, woodchucks, deer, raccoons and other edible animals available if they have the knowledge and equipment to obtain them. Many in rural areas who are preparing plan on using a firearm to obtain their meat because they too lack trapping and snaring skills and equipment. I am attracted to trapping and snaring for manifold reasons. One, it provides a means to obtain food without drawing attention by the sound of a firearm going off, thus providing an almost silent means of acquiring meat in almost any environment. Two, traps and snares can be used repeatedly year after year making them one of the cheapest investments in long term food gathering. Three, IMHO, traps and snares will be high on the list of bartering items in some areas when, if TEOTWAWKI occurs. Four, using traps and snares increases your firepower by saving bullets. “Buckshot” Bruce Hemming, one of the best trappers in North America can teach everyone in their own home by using the same videos the United States Rescue & Special Operations Group uses to teach their students.  The knowledge from the videos may save your life. The professional grade traps and snares sold here were chosen for military aviator survival kits through extensive testing of several commercially available traps and snares. There is a wealth of survival information and products to check out for knowledge and ideas whether one lives out in the boondocks or in the heart of the city. See: Buckshot’s Camp  
– “F1”

JWR’s Reply: I agree wholeheartedly with all of the points in your letter. I have done business with Bruce Hemming for more than 10 years. He really knows his stuff, and he sells top quality products at great prices. His videos are a must for every serious survivalist.

Letter Re: The Alpha Strategy

I just checked with both Amazon.com and ABE books and there’s probably a couple hundred copies of The Alpha Strategy by Pugsley available from used book sellers around the country. I just ordered mine and thanks for a great blog! – J.K.

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

“It’s downtown Baghdad,” said tourist Denise Bollinger, who snapped pictures of looting in the French Quarter. “It’s insane.” (as quoted by The Associated Press, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina)

Hurricane Katrina Update:

The floodwaters have not yet subsided, but the Monday Morning Quarterbacking, finger pointing, and general recriminations about the FedGov’s handling of Hurricane Katrina relief effort have already begun. For example, see the quotes posted Chrenkoff’s blog.

Meanwhile, the MSM is frantically backpedalling, apologizing for having been so insensitive. They’ve realized that in their haste to report the news that they actually televised images of black people breaking into stores and taking other people’s property and referring to it as looting. I have news for them: It was looting. It is both a crime and it is a Biblical sin. And it wasn’t just blacks that were doing it. Whites and Hispanics were looting too. But since the New Orleans population is predominantly black, the TV camera crews just didn’t happen to catch folks of other races in the act. Shame on the looters, and shame on the MSM for being so spineless and Politically Correct.

Stocking Your Retreat

Stocking a retreat is a complex series of tasks that should be done dispassionately. It will be expensive and may take several years, so make your purchases systematically and in strict order of priority.

At present, the only items that I would recommend bumping up in priority would be the private acquisition of your core firearms battery. (One rifle, pistol, and shotgun for each adult family member, and a .22 rimfire rifle for each child.) With talk these days about “closing the gun show loophole” (requiring a paper trail on all gun purchases), this should be one of your top priorities!

For Starters…
Go through your cabinets with clipboard in hand and calculate what you use at home every month. Everything: from envelopes to toothpaste to paper towels to motor oil to teriyaki sauce. Everything! Then do some multiplication, depending on how long you expect to have to hunker down. Then double or triple those numbers, depending on how many extra people are likely to show up at your retreat on TEOTWAWKI+1. And there will almost certainly be newcomers! Just look at the number of people from the Gulf Coast displaced by Hurricane Katrina last week that just drove a thousand miles or more and are ending up on the doorsteps of their relatives. Some of them have very few possessions. I imagine that a future full scale TEOTWAWKI will create dislocations and refugee mass migrations an order of magnitude larger. So be prepared to dispense lots of charity, and be prepared to have a lot of people under your roof.

Keep shelf life in mind. (You can’t store 10 years worth of vitamins, because they won’t store that long unless you buy an ultra-cold medical freezer.) You will soon find that you’ll need a lot of shelving, plus metal mouse-proof lockers for the items that come in paper or plastic packages. Buy your shelving and lockers used, from a surplus office or industrial supply house.
One key reference on stocking your retreat is the book The Alpha Strategy, by John Pugsley. Sadly, this book is long out of print, but it should be available via inter-library loan. Borrow a copy and make yourself photocopies of the most important sections.

Start With a “List of Lists”

Start your retreat stocking effort by first composing a List of Lists, then draft prioritized lists for each subject, on separate sheets of paper. (Or in a spreadsheet if you are a techno-nerd like me. Just be sure to print out a hard copy for use when the power grid goes down!) It is important to tailor your lists to suit your particular geography, climate, and population density as well as your peculiar needs and likes/dislikes. Someone setting up a retreat in a coastal area is likely to have a far different list than someone living in the Rockies.

As I often mention in my lectures and radio interviews, a great way to create truly commonsense preparedness lists is to take a three-day weekend “TEOTWAWKI Weekend Experiment” with your family. When you come home from work on Friday evening, turn off your main circuit breaker, turn off your gas main (or propane tank), and shut your main water valve (or turn off your well pump.) Spend that weekend in primitive conditions. Practice using only your storage food, preparing it on a wood stove (or camping stove.)

A “TEOTWAWKI Weekend Experiment” will surprise you. Things that you take for granted will suddenly become labor intensive. False assumptions will be shattered. Your family will grow closer and more confident. Most importantly, some of the most thorough lists that you will ever make will be those written by candlelight! (Note: I’ve posted the two preceding paragraphs before, but it bears repeating.)

Your List of Lists should include: (Sorry that this post is in outline form, but it would take a full length book to discus all of the following in great detail)

Water List
Food Storage List
Food Preparation List
Personal List
First Aid /Minor Surgery List
Nuke Defense List
Biological Warfare Defense List
Gardening List
Hygiene List/Sanitation List
Hunting/Fishing/Trapping List
Power/Lighting/Batteries List
Fuels List
Firefighting List
Tactical Living List
Communications/Monitoring List
Tools List
Sundries List
Survival Bookshelf List
Barter and Charity List

JWR’s Specific Recommendations For Developing Your Lists:

Water List
House downspout conversion sheet metal work and barrels. (BTW, this is another good reason to upgrade your retreat to a fireproof metal roof.)
Drawing water from open sources. Buy extra containers. Don’t buy big barrels, since five gallon food grade buckets are the largest size that most people can handle without back strain.
For transporting water if and when gas is too precious to waste, buy a couple of heavy duty two wheel garden carts–convert the wheels to foam filled “no flats” tires. (BTW, you will find lots of other uses for those carts around your retreat, such as hauling hay, firewood, manure, fertilizer, et cetera.)
Treating water. Buy plain Clorox hypochlorite bleach. A little goes a long way. Buy some extra half-gallon bottles for barter and charity. If you can afford it, buy a “Big Berky” British Berkefeld ceramic water filter. (Available from Ready Made Resources and several other Internet vendors. Even if you have pure spring water at your retreat, you never know where you may end up, and a good filter could be a lifesaver.)

Food Storage List
See my post tomorrow which will be devoted to food storage. Also see the recent letter from David in Israel on this subject.

Food Preparation List

Having more people under your roof will necessitate having an oversize skillet and a huge stew pot. BTW, you will want to buy several huge kettles, because odds are you will have to heat water on your wood stove for bathing, dish washing, and clothes washing. You will also need even more kettles, barrels, and 5 or 6 gallon PVC buckets–for water hauling, rendering, soap making, and dying. They will also make great barter or charity items. (To quote my mentor Dr. Gary North: “Nails: buy a barrel of them. Barrels: Buy a barrel of them!”)
Don’t overlook skinning knives, gut-buckets, gambrels, and meat saws.

Personal List
(Make a separate personal list for each family member and individual expected to arrive at your retreat.)
Spare glasses.
Prescription and nonprescription medications.
Birth control.
Keep dentistry up to date.
Any elective surgery that you’ve been postponing
Work off that gut.
Stay in shape.
Back strength and health—particularly important, given the heavy manual tasks required for self-sufficiency.
Educate yourself on survival topics, and practice them. For example, even if you don’t presently live at your retreat, you should plant a vegetable garden every year. It is better to learn through experience and make mistakes now, when the loss of crop is an annoyance rather than a crucial event.
“Comfort” items to help get through high stress times. (Books, games, CDs, chocolates, etc.)

First Aid /Minor Surgery List
When tailoring this list, consider your neighborhood going for many months without power, extensive use of open flames, and sentries standing picket shifts exposed in the elements. Then consider axes, chainsaws and tractors being wielded by newbies, and a greater likelihood of gunshot wounds. With all of this, add the possibility of no access to doctors or high tech medical diagnostic equipment. Put a strong emphasis on burn treatment first aid supplies. Don’t overlook do-it-yourself dentistry! (Oil of cloves, temporary filling kit, extraction tools, et cetera.) Buy a full minor surgery outfit (inexpensive Pakistani stainless steel instruments), even if you don’t know how to use them all yet. You may have to learn, or you will have the opportunity to put them in the hands of someone experienced who needs them.) This is going to be a big list!

Chem/Nuke Defense List
Dosimeter and rate meter, and charger, radiac meter (hand held Geiger counter), rolls of sheet plastic (for isolating airflow to air filter inlets and for covering window frames in the event that windows are broken due to blast effects), duct tape, HEPA filters (ands spares) for your shelter. Potassium iodate (KI) tablets to prevent thyroid damage.(See my recent post on that subject.) Outdoor shower rig for just outside your shelter entrance.

Biological Warfare Defense List

Hand Sanitizer
Sneeze masks
Colloidal silver generator and spare supplies (distilled water and .999 fine silver rod.)
Natural antibiotics (Echinaecea, Tea Tree oil, …)

Gardening List
One important item for your gardening list is the construction of a very tall deer-proof and rabbit-proof fence. Under current circumstances, a raid by deer on your garden is probably just an inconvenience. After the balloon goes up, it could mean the difference between eating well, and starvation.
Top Soil/Amendments/Fertilizers.
Tools+ spares for barter/charity
Long-term storage non hybrid (open pollinated) seed. (Non-hybrid “heirloom” seed assortments tailors to different climate zones are available from The Ark Institute
Herbs: Get started with medicinal herbs such as aloe vera (for burns), echinaeca (purple cone flower), valerian, et cetera.

Hygiene/Sanitation List
Sacks of powdered lime for the outhouse. Buy plenty!
TP in quantity (Stores well if kept dry and away from vermin and it is lightweight, but it is very bulky. This is a good item to store in the attic. See my novel about stocking up on used phone books for use as TP.
Soap in quantity (hand soap, dish soap, laundry soap, cleansers, etc.)
Bottled lye for soap making.
Ladies’ supplies.
Toothpaste (or powder).
Fluoride rinse. (Unless you have health objections to the use of fluoride.)

Livestock List
Hoof rasp, hoof nippers, hoof pick, horse brushes, hand sheep shears, styptic, carding combs, goat milking stand, teat dip, udder wash, Bag Balm, elastrator and bands, SWOT fly repellent, nail clippers (various sizes), Copper-tox, leads, leashes, collars, halters, hay hooks, hay fork, manure shovel, feed buckets, bulk grain and C-O-B sweet feed (store in galvanized trash cans with tight fitting lids to keep the mice out), various tack and saddles, tack repair tools, et cetera. If your region has selenium deficient soil (ask your local Agricultural extension office) then be sure to get selenium-fortified salt blocks rather than plain white salt blocks–at least for those that you are going to set aside strictly for your livestock.

Hunting/Fishing/Trapping List
“Buckshot” Bruce Hemming has produced an excellent series of videos on trapping and making improvised traps. (He also sells traps and scents at very reasonable prices.)
Night vision gear, spares, maintenance, and battery charging
Salt. Post-TEOTWAWKI, don’t “go hunting.” That would be a waste of effort. Have the game come to you. Buy 20 or more salt blocks. They will also make very valuable barter items.
Sell your fly fishing gear (all but perhaps a few flies) and buy practical spin casting equipment.
Extra tackle may be useful for barter, but probably only in a very long term Crunch.
Buy some frog gigs if you have bullfrogs in your area. Buy some crawfish traps if you have crawfish in your area.
Learn how to rig trot lines and make fish traps for non-labor intensive fishing WTSHTF.

Power/Lighting/Batteries List
One proviso: In the event of a “grid down” situation, if you are the only family in the area with power, it could turn your house into a “come loot me” beacon at night. At the same time, your house lighting will ruin the night vision of your LP/OP pickets. Make plans and buy materials in advance for making blackout screens or fully opaque curtains for your windows.
When possible, buy nickel metal hydride batteries. (Unlike the older nickel cadmium technology, these have no adverse charge level “memory” effect.)
If your home has propane appliances, get a “tri-fuel” generator–with a carburetor that is selectable between gasoline, propane, and natural gas. If you heat your home with home heating oil, then get a diesel-burning generator. (And plan on getting at least one diesel burning pickup and/or tractor). In a pinch, you can run your diesel generator and diesel vehicles on home heating oil.
Kerosene lamps; plenty of extra wicks, mantles, and chimneys. (These will also make great barter items.)
Greater detail on do-it-yourself power will be included in my forthcoming blog posts.

Fuels List
Buy the biggest propane, home heating oil, gas, or diesel tanks that your local ordinances permit and that you can afford. Always keep them at least two-thirds full. For privacy concerns, ballistic impact concerns, and fire concerns, underground tanks are best if you local water table allows it. In any case, do not buy an aboveground fuel tank that would visible from any public road or navigable waterway. Buy plenty of extra fuel for barter. Don’t overlook buying plenty of kerosene. (For barter, you will want some in one or two gallon cans.) Stock up on firewood or coal. (See my previous blog posts.) Get the best quality chainsaw you can afford. I prefer Stihls and Husqavarnas. If you can afford it, buy two of the same model. Buy extra chains, critical spare parts, and plenty of two-cycle oil. (Two-cycle oil will be great for barter!) Get a pair of Kevlar chainsaw safety chaps. They are expensive but they might save yourself a trip to the emergency room. Always wear gloves, goggles, and ear-muffs. Wear a logger’s helmet when felling. Have someone who is well experienced teach you how to re-sharpen chains. BTW, don’t cut up your wood into rounds near any rocks or you will destroy a chain in a hurry.

Firefighting List
Now that you have all of those flammables on hand (see the previous list) and the prospect of looters shooting tracer ammo or throwing Molotov cocktails at your house, think in terms of fire fighting from start to finish without the aid of a fire department. Even without looters to consider, you should be ready for uncontrolled brush or residential fires, as well as the greater fire risk associated with greenhorns who have just arrived at your retreat working with wood stoves and kerosene lamps!
Upgrade your retreat with a fireproof metal roof.
2” water line from your gravity-fed storage tank (to provide large water volume for firefighting)
Fire fighting rig with an adjustable stream/mist head.
Smoke and CO detectors.

Tactical Living List
Adjust your wardrobe buying toward sturdy earth-tone clothing. (Frequent your local thrift store and buy extras for retreat newcomers, charity, and barter.)
Dyes. Stock up on some boxes of green and brown cloth dye. Buy some extra for barter. With dye, you can turn most light colored clothes into semi-tactical clothing on short notice.
Two-inch wide burlap strip material in green and brown. This burlap is available in large spools from Gun Parts Corp. Even if you don’t have time now, stock up so that you can make camouflage ghillie suits post-TEOTWAWKI.
Save those wine corks! (Burned cork makes quick and cheap face camouflage.)
Cold weather and foul weather gear—buy plenty, since you will be doing more outdoor chores, hunting, and standing guard duty.
Don’t overlook ponchos and gaiters.
Mosquito repellent.
Synthetic double-bag (modular) sleeping bags for each person at the retreat, plus a couple of spares. The Wiggy’s brand FTRSS (Flexible Temperature Range Sleep System) made byWiggy’s of Grand Junction, Colorado is highly recommended. (See my recently posted review.)
Night vision gear + IR floodlights for your retreat house
Subdued flashlights and penlights.
Noise, light, and litter discipline. (More on this in future posts–or perhaps a reader would like to send a brief article on this subject)
Security-General: Locks, intrusion detection/alarm systems, exterior obstacles (fences, gates, 5/8” diameter (or larger) locking road cables, rosebush plantings, “decorative” ponds (moats), ballistic protection (personal and residential), anti-vehicular ditches/berms, anti-vehicular concrete “planter boxes”, razor wire, etc.)
Starlight electronic light amplification scopes are critical tools for retreat security.
A Starlight scope (or goggles, or a monocular) literally amplifies low ambient light by up to 100,000 times, turning nighttime darkness into daylight–albeit a green and fuzzy view. Starlight light amplification technology was first developed during the Vietnam War. Late issue Third Generation (also called or “Third Gen” or “Gen 3”) starlight scopes can cost up to $3,500 each. Rebuilt first gen (early 1970s technology scopes can often be had for as little as $500. Russian-made monoculars (with lousy optics) can be had for under $100. One Russian model that uses a piezo-electric generator instead of batteries is the best of this low-cost breed. These are best used as backups (in case your expensive American made scopes fail. They should not be purchased for use as your primary night vision devices unless you are on a very restrictive budget. (They are better than nothing.) Buy the best starlight scopes, goggles, and monoculars you can afford. They may be life-savers! If you can afford to buy only one, make it a weapon sight such as an AN/PVS-4, with a Gen 2 (or better) tube. Make sure to specify that that the tube is new or “low hours”, has a high “line pair” count, and minimal scintillation. It is important to buy your Starlight gear from a reputable dealer. The market is crowded with rip-off artists and scammers. One dealer that I trust, is Al Glanze (spoken “Glan-zee”) who runs STANO Components, Inc. in Silver City, Nevada. Note: In a subsequent blog posts I will discuss the relationship and implications to IR illuminators and tritium sights.
Range cards and sector sketches.
If you live in the boonies, piece together nine of the USGS 15-minute maps, with your retreat property on the center map. Mount that map on an oversize map board. Draw in the property lines and owner names of all of your surrounding neighbor’s parcels (in pencil) in at least a five mile radius. (Get boundary line and current owner name info from your County Recorder’s office.) Study and memorize both the terrain and the neighbors’ names. Make a phone number/e-mail list that corresponds to all of the names marked on the map, plus city and county office contact numbers for quick reference and tack it up right next to the map board. Cover the whole map sheet with a sheet of heavy-duty acetate, so you can mark it up just like a military commander’s map board. (This may sound a bit “over the top”, but remember, you are planning for the worst case. It will also help you get to know your neighbors: When you are introduced by name to one of them when in town, you will be able to say, “Oh, don’t you live about two miles up the road between the Jones place and the Smith’s ranch?” They will be impressed, and you will seem like an instant “old timer.”

Security-Firearms List

Guns, ammunition, web gear, eye and ear protection, cleaning equipment, carrying cases, scopes, magazines, spare parts, gunsmithing tools, targets and target frames, et cetera. Each rifle and pistol should have at least six top quality (original military contract or original manufacturer) full capacity spare magazines. Note: Considerable detail on firearms and optics selection, training, use, and logistic support will be covered in a forthcoming SurvivalBlog posts. In the interim, read my FAQs.

Communications/Monitoring List
When selecting radios buy only models that will run on 12 volt DC power or rechargeable nickel metal hydride battery packs (that can be recharged from your retreat’s 12 VDC power system without having to use an inverter.)
As a secondary purchasing goal, buy spare radios of each type if you can afford them. Keep your spares in sealed metal boxes to protect them from EMP.
If you live in a far inland region, I recommend buying two or more 12 VDC marine band radios. These frequencies will probably not be monitored in your region, leaving you an essentially private band to use. (But never assume that any two-way radio communications are secure!)
Note: More detail on survival communications gear selection, training, use, security/cryptography measures, antennas, EMP protection, and logistical support will be covered in forthcoming blog posts.

Tools List
Gardening tools.
Auto mechanics tools.
Bolt cutters–the indispensable “universal key.”
Woodworking tools.
Gunsmithing tools.
Emphasis on hand powered tools.
Hand or treadle powered grinding wheel.
Don’t forget to buy plenty of extra work gloves (in earth tone colors).
Sundries List:
Systematically list the things that you use on a regular basis, or that you might need if the local hardware store were to ever disappear: wire of various gauges, duct tape, reinforced strapping tape, chain, nails, nuts and bolts, weather stripping, abrasives, twine, white glue, cyanoacrylate glue, et cetera.

Book/Reference List

You should probably have nearly every book on my Bookshelf page. For some, you will want to have two or three copies, such as Carla Emery’s Encyclopedia of Country Living. This is because these books are so valuable and indispensable that you won’t want to risk lending out your only copy.

Barter and Charity List
For your barter list, acquire primarily items that are durable, non-perishable, and either in small packages or that are easily divisible. Concentrate on the items that other people are likely to overlook or have in short supply. Some of my favorites are ammunition. Jeff Cooper refers to it as “ballistic wampum.” WTSHTF, ammo will be worth nearly its weight in silver. Store all of your ammo in military surplus ammo cans (with seals that are still soft) and it will store for decades. Stick to common calibers, get plenty of .22 LR (most high velocity hollow points) plus at least ten boxes of the local favorite deer hunting cartridge, even if you don’t own a rifle chambered for this cartridge. (Ask your local sporting goods shop about their top selling chamberings). Also buy at least ten boxes of the local police department’s standard pistol cartridge, again even if you don’t own a pistol chambered for this cartridge.
Ladies supplies.
Salt (Buy lots of cattle blocks and 1 pound canisters of iodized table salt.)
(Stores indefinitely if kept dry.)
Two cycle engine oil (for chain saw gas mixing. Gas may still be available after a collapse, but two-cycle oil will probably be like liquid gold!)
Gas stabilizer.
Diesel antibacterial additive.
50-pound sacks of lime (for outhouses).
1 oz. bottles of military rifle bore cleaner and Break Free (or similar) lubricant.
Waterproof dufflebags in earth tone colors (whitewater rafting “dry bags”).
Thermal socks.
Semi-waterproof matches (from military rations.)
Military web gear (lots of folks will suddenly need pistol belts, holsters, magazine pouches, et cetera.)
Pre-1965 silver dimes.
1-gallon cans of kerosene.
Rolls of olive drab parachute cord.
Rolls of olive-drab duct tape.
Spools of monofilament fishing line.
Rolls of 10 mil “Visqueen”, sheet plastic (for replacing windows, isolating airspaces for nuke scenarios, etc.)
I also respect the opinion of one gentleman with whom I’ve corresponded, who recommended the following:
Strike anywhere matches. (Dip the heads in paraffin to make them waterproof.)
Playing cards.
Cooking spices. (Do a web search for reasonably priced bulk spices.)
Rope & string.
Sewing supplies.
Candle wax and wicking.
Lastly, any supplies necessary for operating a home-based business. Some that you might consider are: leather crafting, small appliance repair, gun repair, locksmithing, et cetera. Every family should have at least one home-based business (preferably two!) that they can depend on in the event of an economic collapse.
Stock up on additional items to dispense to refugees as charity.
Note: See the Barter Faire chapter in my novel Patriots for lengthy lists of potential barter items. I will have lots more on barter in a forthcoming blog posts. (BTW, I would greatly appreciate your suggestions via e-mail to add to the preceding list!)

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

“Many more people could ride out the storm-tossed waves in their economic lives if they had their year’s supply of food and clothing and were debt-free. Today we find that many have followed this counsel in reverse: they have at least a year’s supply of debt and are food-free” – Thomas S. Monson, “That Noble Gift–Love at Home,” [LDS] Church News, 12 May 2001, 7).

Hurricane Katrina Update:

I again recommend reading Interdictor’s blog –direct from the central business district of New Orleans. There is nothing quite like reading something from the perspective of someone who has “boots on the ground”. Please keep all of those affected in your prayers!

Next, a letter from our regular correspondents, “John and Abigail Adams” in Ohio:

It looks like we will be seeing some relief in regards to gasoline and diesel supply and prices in the very near future. Crude oil is now being shipped into Ohio and the refineries are producing product once again! Supply is opening up and prices are dropping! Some stations in our area have run dry, but they should be re-supplied shortly. Our cost on 87 octane is currently at $3.41 per gallon, it will drop around 23 cents per gallon this evening. Hopefully nothing else will take a swing at us, if not we should be looking at normal prices and supply within a week or two.

Also the federal government has made steps to easy supply on diesel fuel. See the following message that I received this afternoon.

IRS WAIVES DIESEL FUEL PENALTY DUE TO HURRICANE KATRINA: The Internal Revenue Service, in response to shortages of clear diesel fuel caused by Hurricane Katrina, will not impose a tax penalty when dyed diesel fuel is sold for use or used on the highway. This relief applies beginning August 25, 2005, in Florida, August 30, 2005, in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and August 31, 2005, in the rest of the United States, and will remain in effect through September 15, 2005. This penalty relief is available to any person that sells or uses dyed fuel for highway use.

Many states have been rationing diesel to truckers on the interstates, hopefully this too will pass shortly! Things are looking up. – John & Abigail Adams.

JWR Adds: Isn’t that just like a Federal bureaucracy to formulate differing dates for the suspension of the tax penalty. Oh well, at least it is some goods news for a change!


On Retreat Selection: (SAs: Relocation, Retreat Selection)

Deciding exactly where to relocate is not an exact science. You can gauge the potential threat and plan accordingly. But you can never be sure what will happen and where you will truly be safe. But you can sleep well, knowing that at least your percentage chances will be higher if you make the move.

There is an apocryphal story about a man who was living in Virginia in the late 1850s. He could see the U.S. Civil War brewing, and he wanted no part of it. He realized that his native Virginia was likely to be heavily contested territory, so he set about finding the safest place possible where he could shelter his family during the coming war. After much searching and deliberation he finally found a peaceful place that was far, far away from where the anticipated the battles would occur. He moved his family up to Pennsylvania–a little farming town called Gettysburg.

Basic Criteria
Once you have selected a potential region to concentrate on, select an experienced local real estate agent. Odds are that you won’t be able to find one that specializes in retreat properties. So it may take a while and a few false starts before your agent starts showing you the right type of properties. The following is a basic criteria list that you can give a real estate agent. (Tailor to suit your particular needs):

Plentiful water–preferably spring fed or an artesian well. (Pumped well water would be an inferior second choice.)

Good exposure for gardening and photovoltaics.

Not on a flood plain.

Southern exposure (for those reader in the northern hemisphere, naturlich)–particularly important at higher elevations

“Panoramic views”. This usually means a hilltop location with open fields of fire and defendable terrain.teh concept of holding high ground goes back to pre-history. Yes, I know, that this is mutually exclusive with the concept of having a house that is not in line of sight of any major road. TANSTAAFL. Decide on one or the other. But don’t buy a place that has neither attribute.

A diverse and healthy local economy.

Minimal noxious weeds. (Russian Thistle, Teasel, Russian Knapweed, Yellow Star Thistle, etc.)

Not in the path of real estate developers. Look at where suburban developments have been established in the county. Suburban tracts tend to follow a “line of march” in certain directions—especially where there is level terrain. Note that in most regions row crop farmland and orchard land is at the greatest risk because it is easy to subdivide. Put on your thinking cap and do some extrapolation. If your intended area is in the path of the sprawl within 10 to 15 years then start looking in a different direction in less advantageous terrain, or a little further out of town.

If it has an existing house, a house with fireproof/ballistically-protected (e.g. masonry) construction. Note: If it is also in an earthquake prone area, you might weigh the odds in this regard and opt instead for more earthquake safe timber-frame construction.

Low housing costs. As discussed in detail in some of my previous blog posts, don’t overlook examining as many factors as possible including home and car insurance rates, property taxes, and so forth. This useful Internet tool compares cost of living in two cities.

My personal preference is to select a retreat in a mixed farming/ranching/timber region in low-humidity western state, preferably in the inland northwest. I generally discourage folks from living in coastal regions for health reasons, risk of tidal waves or hurricanes, oil tanker mishaps, visits by foreign terrorists, and the outside chance of dramatically rising or falling sea levels in the event of a climate shift. I also discourage relocating to anywhere within 150 miles of the Mexican border. (Note: I’m not a racist–just a realist. The crime rate is higher near the border, and in the event of civil war in Mexico or any number of variations on TEOTWAWKI there could be a huge influx of illegal immigrants.)

Family Ties as a Factor in Retreat Selection

Consider giving priority to a rural region where you have deep family roots. Even if you have just a few scattered relations in the area, if your surname is familiar then you will have the instant cachet of an “old timer“ in the eyes of most locals. So if you have relatives living in a rural area in any of my “Top 19” western states (you can refer to my posts about these states next week), then you might start your search there. That is something that would otherwise take a decade or more. To enhance these familial ties, get busy researching your genealogy and how you are related by blood and marriage to other local families. Share that information widely, and you will build extremely valuable bonds that will be remembered when The Crunch comes.