Retreat Selection–Seek a Diverse Economy

A diverse local economy is of great importance when evaluating potential retreat locales. Unless you are retired or about to retire, the opportunity to find steady work pre-TEOTWAWKI is also very important. Depending on the scenario you envision, you should probably look for a town with:

A robust, growing economy
A good mix of jobs in dry land farming, ranching, mining, industry, high technology, and service sector jobs
City and county governments that are pro-business
A “Farmer’s Market” on summer evenings and/or weekends (evidence of sufficient small scale truck farming)
A good mix of established local businesses such as a grocery store, sewing shop, car parts store, hardware store, and so forth.
A high rate of church attendance. Even if you aren’t religious personally, a high ratio of church attendance equates to a high ratio of law-abiding citizens.

And a town without:

A single industry economy
Predominantly government payroll jobs
A predominantly retired population
A large seasonal tourist population
A large seasonal student population
Lots of bars
Tattoo/piercing parlors
Welfare dependency
Nearby prisons
Nearby military bases

Do your homework in detail before you buy!

Attitude Adjustment–Yours! (SA: Survival Mindset)

Just as important as finding a town that fits your needs is re-making you to fit your new town. For someone accustomed to the Big City pace of life, this can be a major adjustment.
Get to know the local way of doing things in your new town. Get accustomed to the pace of life. Don’t expect to get a lot done during deer season. (Nearly every building contractor, plumber, and electrician will be out in the woods, with tags to fill!) Dress like the natives. Don’t be ostentatious. Don’t whine about the lack of “good shopping” or culture. Learn how to pronounce the local names quickly. Don’t stand out. Join the local church.

Don’t just talk about preparedness. If you have concerns about the future –do something about it: Plant a vegetable garden, get weapons training at Front Sight, learn how to can your own vegetables, change your own motor oil, learn how to knit and darn, take up hiking, help a friend (or a local church) with a building or remodeling project, et cetera.

The difference between a genuine survivalist and an armchair commando (a.k.a. “Tommy Tactical”) is that a genuine survivalist collects useful skills whereas an Armchair Commando collects gadgets that he doesn’t know how to use.

Rethink your budget and your priorities in life. Here are some examples:

Cut out unnecessary travel.
Sell your jet ski and buy a canoe. Sell your television(s) and buy a general coverage short wave receiver.
Sell your fancy engraved guns, and commemorative guns, and customized “race” guns. Replace them with practical guns in non-reflective durable finishes.
Make sure to buy guns from a private party with no paper trail. Sell off your guns that are chambered in oddball calibers such as 16 gauge, 28 gauge, .280 Remington, .240 Weatherby Magnum, .35 Whelen, .25-20, and .41 Magnum. Replace them with guns in the most common standard calibers like: .30-06. .308, .223, .45 ACP, .40 S&W, 12 gauge, and .22 Long Rifle. (In Canada and Oz, that list should also include the venerable .303 British rifle cartridge. )
Sell your Beanie Baby (or whatever) collection on eBay and use that money to buy storage food.
Sell your Rolex and buy a half dozen inexpensive used self-winding watches. (These will come in handy for coordinating tactical rendezvous and guard shift changes.)
Sell your fancy late models cars and replace them with 5 to 10 year old low mileage American-made 4WDs with good ground clearance. When you move to the country you don’t want to stick out or be the focus of envy, so it is better to have older and dinged up vehicles than to have ones that look nearly new.
Get out of debt.
Live frugally.
Dress down.

Prepare for the worst case Schumeresque situation. Thus, you will always be ready for less severe circumstances and you can take them in stride. Such preparations will take a lot of money, but ask yourself:: What is your life and the lives of your loved ones worth to you? If being truly prepared requires moving to a small town in a lightly populated region, then so be it!

Letter From Swampthing

I’m not a wordy kind of guy but I just want to say thank you for getting me back in the survivalist mentality. Without knowing it, I grew up a “prepper” thanks to my grandparents who raised my brother and me. After I got married and moved to Memphis we got mesmerized with all the glitter of affluence. Started having kids and buying toys (kids and grown up) and blah, blah, blah. Then I read Patriots in 1999 and it got me back into the swing of things, full bore!!!

Thanks Again,

Johnny (a.k.a. swampthing)

JWR’s Comment: Swampthing really knows his stuff! Don’t miss his posts about the current spike in fuel prices over on Mutterings.

Letter From T.H. Re: J.M.’s Letter on G.O.O.D. Vehicle Alternatives (Posted 16 August)

I would like to share a little info on box trucks and fuel storage. I have been self employed in the delivery business for 8 years and 5 years as an inspector on crude oil ships.

First you only need a Class D Drivers license for any truck under 26,000 GVW. These trucks generally weigh 10,000-to-11,000 lbs. So if needed 15,000 lbs of supplies could be stored in one of these trucks.

I have owned or been exposed to just about every make of box-bodied truck available. The most reliable trucks IMO are the imports: UD/Nissan Fuso/Mits and Isuzu. I have over 900,000 miles of experience with these brands, combined. The only issue I have had with these trucks seem to be fragile interiors. With 4-to-5 different drivers in a trucks life, they can get rough. The Internationals can be had with several different drive train combos: Cat, Cummings, Allison transmissions, etc. In my experience the problems with these trucks are almost always electrical and can/have rendered trucks useless.

In regard to loading these trucks always load the heaviest items to the nose/front of the truck. Loading heavy to the rear can cause higher fuel consumption due to the front raising and the back squatting = high wind resistance and instability. If you leave these trucks sitting for a long period of time in highly humid or salty air conditions YOU WILL have issues with your clutch, alternator and starter. All of these items will corrode the vehicle will become useless.

Water cut paste [also called Water Finding Paste] is used to detect or measure amounts of sediments and water at the bottom of your fuel tanks. To use: smear paste on a BRASS sounding rod lower into your tank when it hits bottom let it sit for 20 seconds and pull up and read. Two types of paste are needed–one for diesel and one for gas. I STRONGLY URGE YOU to use caution when water cut measuring your gasoline. ALWAYS ground yourself and use a non-sparking (brass) sounding rod. Use only cotton string for your sounding rod 1/8 inch diameter is fine. Also, use a MHSA approved flash light when doing inspections at night. Liquid gasoline is not 1/10th as explosive as its vapors. Static electricity is a killer!

Sincerely, – T.H.

Note from Jim:

If you have a particular area of expertise in any SA related to survival, please share it. Your fellow SurvivalBloggers would greatly appreciate reading short pieces on everything from Apiaries to Zener Diodes. It doesn’t have to be lengthy, and you don’t have to be an expert writer. (I’ll clean up any typos.) Many Thanks! – JWR.

Natural Gas in Your Backyard

As a survivalist, you should plan for every contingency. Part of this planning is identifying alternate fuels for after TEOTWAWKI. If possible, it is best to pick a retreat location with multiple fuel sources. In a recent blog post I mentioned coal seams . Natural gas wells are another possibility. Noted economist and newsletter writer Dr. Gary North advocates finding a retreat property with an existing natural gas well. Gary is one of the few folks in the country that doesn’t have to worry about running out of fuel for his generators. He has several, all natural gas powered.

Important Note: Generators built to run on propane need to have different jets installed to run on natural gas. Propane and natural gas have differing chemistry. Natural gas runs at lower pressures and uses a larger orifice in burners. If you run propane in a device configured for natural gas without modification, you might experience a most unpleasant fireball!

Most people don’t realize that even their piped (utility) natural gas service is dependent on the power grid. To push gas through the many miles of pipeline, gas companies depend on electrically-powered compressor stations to pressurize the distribution pipelines. It is important to distinguish between local (natural) compression versus long distance grid-powered compression. People living right near gas fields will benefit from the natural wellhead compression and thus will probably have continuing gas service in a long term grid-down situation, whereas those living farther away will not.

OBTW, the U.S. Department of Energy has some useful maps of natural gas producing regions.

Running Engines on Drip

Natural gas comes from two different types of wells. “Wet” natural gas is generally a by-product of oil fields. (Oil wells often alternately produce natural gas and oil.) This is often called “casinghead gas” or “associated gas.” In contrast to wet natural gas, “Dry” natural gas generally comes from dedicated gas wells. Both wet and dry natural gas wells produce a light oil or hydrocarbon condensate that is commonly called “drip oil” or in slang simply “drip.” (Technically, the term drip refers only to the tank (or other vessel) that is used to collect condensed drip oil and other contaminants from low points (the “drip legs”) in natural gas piping, while drip oil is what is collected at the drip. But in common usage, drip oil is often just called “drip”.)

The oil and natural gas companies look at drip oil as a big nuisance. At natural gas fields, the companies typically send tank trucks around on a regular basis to collect the drip oil from umpteen drip tanks. It costs them a lot of money to haul it away. They would much prefer to not have to collect the drip oil quite as often, or at all. Most cars and trucks with standard gas engines can run on drip oil almost as well as they do on gasoline. A mixture of drip oil and gasoline works best. (Since drip oil has a lower octane number and slightly higher volatility than standard gasoline.) It is common knowledge that many natural gas companies intentionally leave their drip tanks unsecured, in the hope that the locals will come and collect the drip oil for them—and they do! In fact, some drip tanks have dispenser hoses and hand lever valves just like you would see at a gas station pump. How convenient.

The major sticking point with drip is that technically, it is illegal for the gas companies to let people come and take it. When people collect drip oil and burn it in their cars or trucks, they are circumventing the federal tax on “road” fuels. So once every few years, the tax “Revenuers” come poking around the major natural gas fields, trying to find out if anyone is running their pickups on drip and cheating on the road tax. Magically—almost overnight–all of the drip tanks get locked up, and the word quickly goes out around the county to stop collecting drip until the federal tax agents leave town. A week or two later, everything reverts back to normal. You just gotta love free enterprise and the American way of doing things.

If you live in an area where drip is available, I’ve heard it suggested storing a couple of hundred gallons of extra high octane aviation gas to mix with drip, to raise its octane level. (A 80% drip/20% aviation gas mixture reportedly will run well in high compression engines.) Another approach is to store a can of tetra-ethyl lead or a similar octane booster. Be warned, however, that these chemicals are highly toxic and special safety precautions must be used for storing and handling them. Just breathing the vapors can be very dangerous! I’ve also heard recommendations to buy a pre-World War II vintage pickup truck with a low compression engine that can run on straight low-octane drip.

A Diesel Alternative: Cooking Oil

Behind virtually every restaurant in America, you will find three dumpsters: One for trash, one for flattened cardboard boxes, and one for used cooking oil. (The latter is actually more of rectangular tank on wheels than it is a dumpster.) It is not widely known, but virtually all diesel cars and trucks can run on cooking oil–new or used. This is commonly called “biodiesel” or “greasel.” In essence, all that you need to do is filter the liquid cooking oil through some cloth (typically a couple of thicknesses of cheese cloth) to get rid of the particulate crud, and voila! Free fuel.

When diesel engines were first designed, they were envisioned to run on peanut oil or other vegetable-based oils. In fact, it was only because the gas companies set up a large refinery/fractioning infrastructure that crude-oil based diesel came to dominate the marketplace. I have read that running diesel engines on cooking oil results in longer engine life due to better lubrication and reportedly fewer harmful emissions.

Greasel Conversions, Inc., a small company headquartered in Missouri, makes a greasel conversion kit for diesel engines. My advice: If you own a diesel vehicle, get a Greasel kit. If you have not yet bought a 4WD for your retreat, make it a diesel (unless the exhaust smell gives you headaches), and get a Greasel kit.

Here is the company’s contact information:

Greasel Conversions, Inc.
HC 73 Box 157D
Drury, MO 65638 USA

E-mail: or
Phone: 1 (866)473-2735

For some information on commercial biodiesel, see the Freedom Solutions website, as well as the Grand-daddy of biodiesel web sites.

I should also mention that you don’t have to burn used cooking oil. Newly-pressed oil works fine too. (Newly-pressed corn, sunflower, rapeseed, or canola oil also work fine.)For example, biodiesel fuel can be purchased at the pump in Europe, where the plant source is usually rapeseed oil.

When the corn oil that your store in your pantry goes rancid and you replace it, SAVE that old stuff. (Mark the label with a big red X with a magic marker so that you don’t use it for cooking by mistake.) Save it to burn in your diesels!

A Better Known Alternative–Home Heating Oil

It is common knowledge that all diesel cars, trucks, and tractors can run on home No. 2 heating oil, just as well as they do on diesel fuel. The only differences between the two is that there is a different federal standard on the amount of ash is allowable in home heating oil, and that a dye is added to prevent folks from circumventing the Federal road tax. In actuality, however, the only difference in most batches is the dye, since heating oil and diesel fuel both come from the very same cracking plants, running the same process. This is yet another reason why you should buy at least one diesel 4WD for your retreat. With multiple fuel options, after TEOTWAWKI it is safe to assume that diesel fuel vehicles will be on the road long after gas engine rigs have been deadlined.

Trijicon Wins Big–So Stock Up!

I read yesterday that Trijicon was just awarded a big military contract for their tritium-lit tactical day/night scopes. Congrats to them! They make a great product. I’m glad to see that the U.S. military has finally come to the realization that every front-line soldier deserves an ACOG scope atop his RBC device. (The Brits figured this out 25+ years ago, during The Troubles in Northern Ireland.) The news of the big contract award may have a potential impact on you. The award means that the folks at Trijicon will probably be running two shifts for the next six years fill all the orders. The law of supply and demand dictates that the supply of ACOGs will hence be tight. So if you’ve ever considered buying one, buy it now, while there are still some left in the civilian market pipeline. OBTW, I have TA-11E AGOGs (with .308 cams) mounted on two of my L1A1s. They are Hotel Sierra! The best prices that I’ve found on ACOGs are from individual sellers on Buddy’s Sturmgewehr Parts and Accessories Market Board.

Letter From The Rabbit Man


The SurvivalBlog is looking better and better all the time. I think that you are getting really good information out there.

I’m not sure about J.M.’s letter about the Penske trucks. But it’s worth considering. I still think the GMC 2500 HD is the way to go. OBTW, they interviewed the CEO from last night on TV. He said they now have one million SUVs listed on their web site. I guess that your axiom is correct: Buy when everyone else is anxious to sell, and you’ll get the best price.

Diesel is very expensive now. It is $3.32 per gallon down here in California. Yikes!

I see fuel as a real problem [in the] long term. I don’t have an answer unless you live in Kern County next to an [oil field] cricket. 🙂

OBTW, I think everyone should own at least one tube radio. [For EMP protection.] Yup. You read that right. A tube radio. I have several. I’ve also put a few of my spare transistorized shortwave receivers in storage in milsurp ammo cans, just in case. (The poor man’s Faraday cage.) I am seriously concerned about [the nuclear threat posed by] Iran and North Korea.

Regards, – The Rabbit Man

Letter From Old Sarge

Sir – I think your novel Patriots is great, not only as a good read, but as a survivalist manual!! Your website is the BEST! Please keep it up and running, as we hoi polloi need the info.

This isn’t a criticism, as I think up-to-date info and tech is important; but, when TEOTWAWKI happens, many systems are going down and won’t be resurrected – so an emphasis on more primitive things might be more practical. My suggestion would be to balance the modern with the older, tried-but-true, technologies. Hate to be a Neo-Neanderthal, but there it is.

Keep up the good work! Semper Fi! – Old Sarge