Jim’s Quote of the Day:

“The larger [Persian] Ismaili fortresses provide outstanding examples of military architecture. Their strategic position and the skilled use of natural resources to ensure, that despite the difficulties of the terrain, the castles were well supplied with food and water and therefore able to withstand a prolonged siege of many months, even years. In his account of the destruction of Alamut by the Mongols, the historian Juwayni (d. 1283) describes with considerable admiration the vast underground store rooms built by the Ismailis and the difficulty the Mongols had to destroy the castle’s fortifications.”
– from Nizari Ismaili Castles of Iran and Syria, published by the Institute of Ismaili Studies, London

The Golden Horde

Because of the urbanization of the U.S. population, if the entire eastern or western power grid goes down for more than a week, the cities will rapidly become unlivable. I foresee that there will be an almost unstoppable chain of events: Power -> water -> food distribution -> law and order -> arson fires -> full scale looting
As the comfort level in the cities rapidly drops to nil, there will be a massive involuntary outpouring from the big cities and suburbs into the hinterboonies. This is the phenomenon that my late father, Donald Robert Rawles–a career physics research administrator at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories–half-jokingly called “The Golden Horde.” He was of course referring to the Mongol Horde of the 13th Century, but in a modern context. (The Mongol rulers were chosen from the ‘Golden Family’ of Temujin. Hence the term “The Golden Horde.”) I can remember as a child, my father pointing to the hills at the west end of the Livermore Valley, where we then lived. He opined: “If The Bomb ever drops, we’ll see a Golden Horde come swarming over those hills [from Oakland and beyond] of the like that the world has never seen. And they’ll be very unpleasant, believe you me!”

The Thin Veneer

In my lectures on survival topics I often mention that there is just a thin veneer of civilization on our society. What is underneath is not pretty, and it does take much to peel away that veneer. You take your average urbanite or suburbanite and get him excessively cold, wet, tired, hungry and/or thirsty and take away his television, beer, drugs, and other pacifiers, and you will soon seen the savage within. It is like peeling the skin of an onion—remove a couple of layers and it gets very smelly. As a Christian, I attribute this to man’s inherently sinful nature.

Here is a mental exercise: Put yourself in the mind set of Mr. Joe Sixpack, Suburbanite. (Visualize him in or near a big city near where you live.) He is unprepared. He has less than one week’s food on hand, he has a 12 gauge pump action shotgun that he hasn’t fired in years, and just half a tank of gas in his minivan and maybe a gallon or two in a can that he keeps on hand for his lawn mower. Then TEOTWAWKI hits. The power grid is down, his job is history, the toilet doesn’t flush, and water no longer magically comes cascading from the tap. There are riots beginning in his city. The local service stations have run out of gas. The banks have closed. Now he is suddenly desperate. Where will he go? What will he do?

Odds are, Joe will think: “I’ve gotta go find a vacation cabin somewhere, up in the mountains, where some rich dude only goes a few weeks out of each year.” So vacation destinations like Lake Tahoe, Lake Arrowhead, and Squaw Valley, California; Prescott and Sedona, Arizona; Hot Springs, Arkansas; Vail and Steamboat Springs, Colorado; and the other various rural ski, spa, Great Lakes, and coastal resort areas will get swarmed. Or, he will think: “I’ve got to go to where they grow food.” So places like the Imperial Valley, the Willamette Valley, and the Red River Valley will similarly get overrun. There will be so many desperate Joe Sixpacks arriving all at once that these areas will degenerate into free-fire zones. It will be an intensely ugly situation and will not be safe for anyone. In some places the locals may be so vastly outnumbered that they won’t survive. But some of the Joe Sixpacks will survive, and then the more ruthless among them will begin to fight amongst themselves for the few remaining resources. They will form ad hoc gangs of perhaps 6 to 30 people.

Once the Golden Horde has been thinned (and honed to ferocity) and they’ve cleaned out an area, the thugs at the pinnacle of ruthlessness will comprise the most formidable rover packs imaginable. They will move on to an adjoining region, and then another. But the inverse sqaure law will work in your favor: Imagine that you take a jar of marbles turn it upside down on a wooden floor and then lift the jar suddenly upward. The marbles will spread out semi-randomly. But the farther from the mouth of the jar, the lighter the density of marbles. Hence, the rover packs will attenuate themselves into a huge rural expanse that is peopled with well-armed country folks. By the time the looters work their way out 150 miles from the big cities, they will be thinned out considerably. The rover pack is your primary threat in a total collapse, no matter how remote your retreat. Here are your potential adversaries: A squad to company size force (12 to 60 individuals), highly mobile, moderately well armed with a motley assortment of weapons and vehicles, and imbued with absolute ruthlessness. Be prepared.

From The Memsahib: Small Livestock on a Budget

I suggest that when in comes to small livestock equipment, start out with used equipment and/or build it yourself. If you want new, your local feed store is likely to have fair prices. But do not buy your equipment at a big chain pet store. Compare these prices. Used rabbit cage at a garage sale: $10 with everything included. Build your own: $20. Buy a similar cage at the chain pet store: $75!
The handy person can construct much of the necessary equipment themselves. But if you want to buy it, I have some suggestions for you.
A great time to get set up for rabbits is a month or two after Easter. Likely there will be families in your town who thought if would be fun to get Junior a little pet bunny for Easter. Now the bunny has grown in to a large cranky teenager that bites!. You can likely get the rabbit, cage, and all the equipment for an low price. Most people at this point just want to get rid of the rabbit and will not question if you are giving it a “good home”. But if the seller want a “good home only”, I would respect that, and pass up on the deal. Another good place to get good used equipment is from your local 4-H Club. Contact the Rabbit Leader. He or she may know a youth who is leaving 4-H and has rabbits and/or cages to sell. And don’t forget garage sales…
I have used a lot of kitchen items from Thrift Stores as feed pans, water bowls and the like for my small livestock. Occasionally thrift stores will have “pet supplies” at good prices too. Just remember that you can start your small livestock project for less money than you thought if you shop around and are creative.

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

“In the summer of 1994, I visited the safest place in the United States. I can honestly say I stood in the most protected room in this entire nation. During one of my visits to Washington, D.C., another Army officer, assigned to the White House military office, asked if I would like to experience something that few people have ever seen. Of course, I agreed, and he proceeded to take me to the bomb shelter beneath the White House that would house the President and his family if nuclear attack or civil unrest ever hit the city of Washington. This Army captain showed me the briefing rooms for the Cabinet members, the housing for the troops that would be assigned to guard our nation’s leaders, and even the living quarters for the First Family. I realized at that moment that I was standing in the single most protected spot in the United States, that no other room in America could provide equal safety or protection from harm. In my experience, then, the safest place in this country is in Washington D.C. But the safest place in this world, the safest place in your world and mine, is wherever the sovereign God of the universe takes us. You can be no more secure, you can build no thicker walls, you can find no greater protection than being in the very center of God’s divine will for your life. If God calls you to a place, you can be sure He has gone before you and prepared the way.” – Trey Graham

I Told You So!

I posted the following to the misc.survivalism Usenet newsgroup on February 8, 2001, under the title: Rawles Calls Major Bottom in Silver Price:

“I have come to the conclusion that the long term bear trend in the price of silver has finally come to an end. Silver touched $4.55 earlier today. (Feb. 8, 2001.) If it closes in N.Y. at over $4.75 anytime in the next few weeks, that would be a strong bullish indicator. Look at the six month and ten year silver charts at www.kitco.com for the “big picture.” Once there is a strong bullish indication, don’t hesitate to buy a good chunk of silver, pronto. FWIW, I just made another silver purchase to take advantage of the recent dip. (I’d rather buy early than late.) For those of you living in these united States, I recommend buying silver in the form of pre-1965 mint date circulated U.S. silver coinage (dimes, quarters, and half dollars.) That is the best for barter purposes, and unlike bullion rounds/bars is less likely to be subject to government confiscation. See the free FAQs at my web site for details: www.rawles.to. For the market fundamentals on silver, see: http://www.silver-investor.com (Some interesting observations on the lack of silver to meet demand.) And for general information and analysis on precious metals, see: http://www.gold-eagle.com/ (Note: I am not affiliated in any way with either of these sites.)

[Some commentary on interest rates snipped, for brevity]

I may not have called the bottom perfectly, (silver may sag down to $4.25 before it rallies), but beyond that, IMHO the downside risk is minimal. And what about gold, you may ask? In my opinion, silver is much more likely to double than gold. This is much like buying penny stocks. (Which is more likely double–XYZ Corp. at 58 cents a share, or IBM at $108.00 a share?)”

For the record (as of August 4, 2005): IBM now sells at $83.12 a share. (A 24% loss, after four+ years. Charming.) And I wasn’t far from the mark when I cited $4.25 as the potential bottom. Silver actually bottomed just a few months later, at $4.19 per ounce. (I was off by less than 2% of calling the absolute bottom in a 10+ year bear market.) Silver has risen in fits and starts ever since. I am still convinced that silver is in the early stages of a multi-decade bull market and is headed to $60 per ounce (and possibly higher). Spot silver was at $7.21 an ounce at yesterday’s close, according to the folks at Kitco–a 58.1% gain, after four+ years.) But IMHO silver is still a bargain. In the long run the dollar is doomed. Are you worried that investing in silver won’t earn interest or dividends? Silver isn’t that sort of investment. Rather, think of it as fire insurance–for the dollar. Oh, and what about the fact that silver dropped from $7.21 to $7.11 on Friday (5 August)? The silver market is volatile. You should look beyond the daily fluctuations and instead concentrate on the long term trend. Gold is and silver are both in long term secular bull markets.

From The Memsahib: Raising Rabbits as a Protein Source for Tough Times

It was the late 1930s, the Nation was still in the throes of the Great Depression. Jim’s grandparents and their three young children were getting by on Grandfather’s teaching salary. Then he died suddenly of a heart attack leaving Grandma Julia a widow and the children fatherless. Julia had to go to work. But, not only were women’s wages lower, but she had the added expense of hiring child care. Jim’s mother tells us that they raised rabbits in pens in their backyard to supplement their mother’s meager grocery budget. She and her little sister gathered grass from vacant lots to feed the rabbits. As we can learn from our parents and Grandparents, rabbits can be a good source of protein for your family during tough times. They do not need much space. They can multiply quickly. They do not eat much food. They are easy to handle and to butcher.
Rabbits are one animal you can start raising right now. A generously sized rabbit pen is two feet square. You will need at least two pens. One for the male rabbit (buck) and one for the female (doe) and her babies. (Adult rabbits are extremely territorial and will kill each other in defense of their territory.) I have a number of friends who raise their rabbits inside their homes. But most people raise them in a shady spot in the back yard. Rabbits are the only small livestock you can raise in a suburban neighborhood. They make no sound, unlike hens that cackle and roosters that crow.
Rabbits can be very prolific. I will write more about selecting prolific rabbits in a subsequent blog post. A doe can produce five litters a year. An average litter is eight bunnies butchered at eight weeks old.
Most people feed rabbits commercial pellets. They are convenient and fairly inexpensive to feed. But, if you believe things are going to get really bad, you might consider raising your rabbits on forage like Jim’s grandmother did. Today’s rabbits have been bred to thrive on a pellet diet. So you might want to select for rabbits that are productive on freshly cut grass or grass hay for a long term survival situation.
Because of their small size, rabbits are easy to handle and easy to butcher. The trick is to handle them very firmly. A rabbit held tightly by the scruff with one hand and the other hand supporting its feet will not kick and thrash. Don’t be timid, but hold your rabbit firmly so to avoid getting scratched by the toenails on their powerful hind legs.
I have found butchering rabbits to be much quicker than butchering chickens because a rabbits skin is extremely loose. I can skin a rabbit much faster than I can pluck a chicken. No, it is not pleasant to butcher any animal. But there is a certain sense of satisfaction knowing you can feed your family even if the grocery store shelves are bare.
Rabbits are an excellent small livestock to get started with. Even if you don’t have the ability to move to the country, you can still gain many valuable skills by raising a few rabbits in your backyard.
A great book to buy and read before buying any rabbits is “Raising Rabbits the Modern Way” by Bob Bennett.

#1 Son Adds:

I recently read in Bradford Angier’s book How to Stay Alive in the Woods that a diet of rabbit meat alone will cause diarrhea, due to its leanness. Be sure to have some sort of fat in your diet to avoid “rabbit starvation”, which can cause death in less than a week. How to Stay Alive in the Woods is published by Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc.
It has also been published under the title Living off the Country

Reader’s Letters: On Hubbert’s Peak

> Hi Jim, I realize that you are a busy man but was wondering if you have been
> following the Peak Oil story. Seems like everyone is talking about
> our world oil supply. I remember following Gary North and taking
> heed to his advice, as much as I could. Still seems like a
> sustainable, remote lifestyle makes sense in light of what is looming
> on the horizon.
> Best regards to you and your family
> – J.M.

JWR’s Reply:
I think that the Hubbert’s Peak talk is a definitely premature (and perhaps a bit over-blown), but regardless, your children and grandchildren will thank you
for planning ahead. It is prudent to have large liquid fuel storage tanks (diesel and propane), and lot of stored firewood (or coal), regardless. (Both in anticipation of a potential Grid Down situation and as an inflation hedge, if nothing else.) Presently, I’m more concerned with China and/or North Korea and their published nuclear threats, and the even greater implicit “we’ll use them on you as soon as we lay hands on them” nuke threat from Iran and Al Qaeda. (See the recent article at World Net Daily.) Hence, a “sustainable, remote lifestyle” makes sense for MANY reasons. Head for the hills, my friends! Here is some Food for Thought and Grounds for Further Research (FFTAGFFR): Hubbert’s Peak oriented web sites include www.dieoff.org and www.oilcrisis.com. Again, I think these folks are overly alarmist in the short term. (But not in the long term!)

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

“It happened that a fire broke out backstage in a theater. The clown came out to inform the public. They thought it was just a jest and applauded. He repeated his warning, they shouted even louder. So I think the world will come to an end amid general applause from all the wits, who believe that it is a joke.” – Soren Kierkegaard

On Population Density

The Night Sky

Take a look at The Lights of the U.S. photo map at: www.darksky.org. This montage of satellite photos makes it clear most of America’s population is east of the Mississippi River and is highly urbanized.The population density of the U.S. is dramatically lower west of the Mississippi River. In troubled times fewer people means fewer problems. In the event of a social upheaval, rioting, urban looting, et cetera, being west of the Mississippi will mean a statistically much lower chance of coming face to face with lawless rioters or looters When The Stuff Hits The Fan (WTSHTF).

The northeastern states depend on nuclear power plants for 47% of their electricity. (South Carolina is similarly dependent.) This is an unacceptable level of high technology systems dependence, particularly in light of the emerging terrorist threat. You must also consider that virtually all of the eastern states are downwind of major nuclear targets–most notably the USAF missile fields in the Dakotas. If for one reason or another you are stuck in the northeast, consider New Hampshire or Vermont. They are both gun friendly and have more self-sufficient lifestyle. But unless you have some compelling reason to stay in the East, I most strongly encourage you to Go West!


The other startling thing you will notice when looking at the Lights photo montage is that even in the western states, Americans live in a highly urbanized society. Roughly 90% of the population is crammed into 5% of the land area, mostly within 50 miles of the coast. But there are large patches of the west where there are virtually no lights at all–particularly in the Great Basin region that extends from the back side of the Sierra Nevada mountains to Utah and Eastern Oregon. The average population density in this region is less than two people per square mile.

As an example of the low population density in the west, I often like to cite Idaho County, Idaho: This one county measures 8,485 square miles–bigger than Connecticut and Rhode Island combined. But it has a population of just 15,400. And of those residents, roughly 3,300 people live in Grangeville, the county seat. Who lives in the rest of the County? Nary a soul. There are far more deer and elk than there are people. The population density of the county is 1.8 people per square mile. The county has more than 3 million acres of U.S. Forest Service land, BLM land, and designated Federal wilderness areas. Now that is elbow room!

The Return of Jonny Quest (on DVD)

Jonny Quest

Not only are we home schooling our kids, but we are also raising them without television. I can think of no better gift for a child than an upbringing WITHOUT broadcast or cable television. Current-day television is geared toward the beer, wrestling, and MTV crowd. As The Memsahib says: “Televisions have brightness controls, but they don’t work.” We do let our kids watch some carefully selected movies and TV shows on DVD, but NO broadcast television. We don’t even own a television set. But we can watch DVDs on our Mac computers.  Most recently I bought our kids the entire first season of the original 1960s TV series “Jonny Quest” DVD.

Now *that* is my idea of a manly-man cartoon for kids. Jonny Quest kicks tail! It is outrageously politically incorrect by current standards. Could you imagine a cartoon anything like it being produced these days? It shows children praying before going to bed. (Gasp!) It shows private citizens defending themselves with rifles and machineguns. It even shows children shooting semi-automatic rifles to fend off attacking alligators. (The horror!) If you have kids between the ages of 9 and 16, I recommend that you pick up a set of the first season on DVD. Because it is fairly expensive new, it is probably best to find a used set on eBay or Amazon.

A Letter From Afghanistan

Here is a letter that I just received from one of the troops to whom I sent an Any Soldier care package:

Greetings from Afghanistan

 I have been quite busy and failed to write you as soon as I wanted to. I am finally making time. First, I wanted to thank you for the package you sent. Having already owned the movie Red Dawn, I gave it to another Soldier here. I am in the process of reading the book [Patriots] now. I don’t know if it was providential or what, but I was the perfect person to send your book to. My Dad is definitely a survivalist and I consider myself one as well though I am not necessarily a doomsdayer. I believe that with the American economy in the shape that it currently is and the way that America has become a debtor society that your story is very plausible.

Not sure if you wrote the book based on something you believe could happen or because you just thought it would make a good story but I suspect the former of these two reasons. I am an unabashed Patriot and love my country but am also very realistic. I have been preparing myself for the future by investing in some bullion and plenty of weapons and ammunition (I’m a gun lover anyway and believe that all law abiding Americans should exercise their 2nd Amendment rights). Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate your support and your kindness in sending the package.

A little about things here. I am stationed with an [deleted for OPSEC] on Bagram Airfield and am a volunteer individual augmentee from Fort Bragg where I am the [deleted for OPSEC] NCOIC for an [deleted for OPSEC] Brigade. I have been here in Afghanistan six months now and the time is going quickly. It is pretty safe here on Bagram other than the occasional mortar or rocket attack. That’s about all I have to write for now. Thanks again for your support. I believe that we are making a difference for the better here in Afghanistan and Iraq.

God Bless and take care, SGT [Name Withheld]

From The Memsahib: Endless Logistics Shopping Lists

I am frequently asked by other wives about their husbands’ seemingly endless logistics shopping lists for survival goodies. Wives who do NOT believe things are getting worse don’t see the need for ALL those guns, ALL that ammo, ALL that storage food.
It might help if you look at preparedness as your husband’s hobby. It seems like all the men of my acquaintance have hobbies of one sort or another on which they spend a considerable amount of money and time. Some collect motorcycles, others fishing or water-ski boats, still others have all the latest and greatest computer equipment. And others smoke, drink, or gamble. All humans pursue leisure activities. Be thankful that your husband is spending money on practical things that likely will go up in value, because of inflation.

My husband’s hobby is stocking up for the bad times. Personally I’m glad that he isn’t blowing the money on booze or cigarettes. When I see all the money people spend on vices and toys, I thank the Lord that Jim is buying us useful things. Jim’s stocking up has really saved us a lot of money over time. Even if there is never a major crisis, bulk purchasing makes sense. By buying in bulk, you can buy at much better prices than buying small quantities. As long as you keep in mind the storage life of various items, and how much room they will take up, there is no downside. We have actually saved a lot of money over the years, because we’ve sheltered ourselves from the effects of inflation in many instances.

Jim’s preparedness/self-sufficiency has also caused me to develop some hobbies of my own that I really enjoy. It has given me the excuse to learn how to spin, knit,and weave. When I want to buy sheep, Angora goats or Angora rabbits Jim goes along with my wishes. He sees the value in knowing how to make our own clothes. When I need an accessory for my spinning wheel, he always agrees. Is there a hobby you would enjoy that dovetails? Gardening? Cooking? Sewing? Soap making? Raising chickens? Or? Your husband will be happy knowing that you are helping your family to be well prepared.

My husband is a lot easier to live with when he feels well prepared and supplied. Stock market crash? Dollar devaluation? He doesn’t care! Our money is all in tangibles. If things ever do get REALLY bad, you can thank God for your husband’s providence.

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

“[A] wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.” – Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801