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

Note from Jim:

This blog is just 11 days old, but its has already had 182,250 page hits and 8,200+ unique accesses (the latter is the number that really counts.) I can’t tell you how happy that makes me. Please continue to spread the word via e-mail. And BTW, if the subject of preparedness comes up on your local talk radio show, please call in and mention SurvivalBlog.com. Thanks!

I’ve just added another profile to the Profiles page. (Mr. Sierra.) His profile is evidence that not all of the readers of this blog are rich doctors. 🙂

On Firewood

Even if you presently heat your home/retreat with propane or home heating oil, get a good quality airtight stove or fireplace insert with a large, long firebox. (If the firebox is too small, there will not be enough fuel to burn all night.) Buy a lot of firewood. A two year or even three year wood supply would be prudent. If you burn four cords per winter, that will mean building a large woodshed. Keep your firewood in a well-ventilated covered shed. If your wood shed has a dirt floor, stack the wood on wooden shipping pallets. Pallets are plentiful and free many places if you ask around. You have no excuse not to get enough to keep your firewood supply from getting damp and moldy. While you are at it, get at least a half dozen extra pallets, or a lot more if you have the storage space. They have 101 uses around a ranch!

Putting wood under a flimsy tarp is throwing away your time and money. Wood that is shed-stored will last for decades. Build a wood shed that is twice as big as your neighbors. Why? Properly stored dry firewood is like money in the bank. The extra that you have can be used for barter or charity. Your extra supply will represent that much less time and gasoline you’ll expend WTSHTF. A chainsaw can be heard for miles, and the loud noise would make it easy for someone to approach you without being noticed. So store plenty of wood before TEOTWAWKI.

Cut or buy the hottest burning wood that you can afford. If you are near a National Forest, you can get a very inexpensive firewood-cutting permit from your local ranger station. Use all appropriate safety precautions.Buy a pair of goggles, sturdy gloves, ear plugs, a “bump” cap (logger’s helmet), and most importantly: invest in a pair of protective Kevlar chaps. They are available at most saw shops. They are money well spent! (A chainsaw accident could be devastating for a family, especially post-TEOTWAWKI.) If you’ve never cut firewood before, have a local “old hand” take you out the first couple of times to show you safe felling techniques and the best places to cut wood for easy loading. Her in the West, I personally prefer Tamarack, Oak, Madrone, Walnut, and Red Fir. Buying soft pine is a waste of money and effort. Ask your neighbors that heat their homes with wood how many cords they burn each winter, and which wood varieties found in the area burn the best. Again, lay in at least a two-year supply, and keep all of it under a sturdy shed roof.

Since you will probably be burning firewood extensively and won’t have the services of a commercial chimney sweeping service available, buy a set of chimney brushes and the appropriate extensions. Practice using them. To prevent creosote-fueled chimney fires, chimneys should be cleaned annually, or perhaps even twice a year if you live in an area where you burn more than four cords annually. Also be sure to buy smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, as well as fire several extinguishers to place in key locations inside your retreat house, barn, and shop.

Got Coal?

Surface coal seams are found in some areas. If you can buy a piece of land that has a coal seam (and mineral rights to go with it), so much the better! Coal burns much hotter than wood, so you will need a special cast iron grate, or else the coal will fairly quickly burn out the bottom of your stove. Whether you burn wood, coal, propane, or home heating oil, lay in at least a two-year supply. If you use oil or propane, set yourself up with a back-up wood or coal stove to use when your liquid fuel runs out. DO NOT buy a pellet stove. It will become a useless ornament once the power grid goes down. Yes, I know that some pellet stove models can run with a battery. But even if you have a foolproof solar-charged battery arrangement, where will you find wood stove pellets in a long term TEOTWAWKI?

Coal is plentiful in a number of regions such as the Powder River Basin. (Around Gillette, Wyoming.) Do some research before you talk to real estate agents.
For more on coal deposits in the U.S., see the DOE’s State Coal Resources Map.

The Billion Dollar Smallpox Vaccine Order

From the news wires comes word that the United States has issued a tender for up to 80 million doses of a smallpox vaccine to guard against terrorist attack. The order will be worth over $1 billion. My question is: What does Uncle Sugar plan to do about the dozens of other potential biological warfare threats? Chalk this one up to FFTAGFFR.

What does the biological warfare threat mean to you and your family? Be prepared to live in isolation for an extended period of time to protect yourself and your family from diseases that are spread by human contact. (Unfortunately smallpox is airborne.) Also stock up on vitamins and antibiotics. The incredibly cheap (but by no means FDA-approved) method of storing antibiotics is to buy a big veterinary 5, 10, or 15 pound bucket of tetracycline hydrochloride (water soluble powder) such as that made by Vedco. It is available without a prescription from your local feed store, or from KV Pet Supply, or any of the several other large Internet vet supply vendors. A 15 pound bucket costs less than $25. The equivalent quantity in human doses would cost thousands of dollars. Keep it in the back of your refrigerator. Replace it every three years. (Donate any that is nearing its expiration date to your local 4H Club swine or equine project leader.) Proviso Maximo: I’m not a doctor, and I don’t give medical advice.Use veterinary medicines only in the most dire circumstances. (You will of course be buying yours to put in the water trough for you hogs…)

On Hubbert’s Peak

Some prognosticators contend that a massive economic shift will occur if and when the world’s oil supply begins to run out– as oil is consumed faster than new sources are located so that our “known reserves” begin to decline. (This tipping point is known as “Hubbert’s Peak.”– a.k.a. “Peak Oil“) Some of the most alarmist analysts suggest that this may start as soon as 2010. Here, I should forthrightly note that since I have faith in capitalist ingenuity, I believe that any such shortage will occur much later. They say that as wells shut down and supply decreases, we will have blackouts by 2015. Roughly two billion people are fed using petrochemical-based fertilizers, which will become prohibitively expensive when oil starts to runs out. There is the grim prospect of mass starvation and massive global wars over increasingly scant resources. For details on these predictions, see:
http://www.hubbertpeak.com/ and, http://dieoff.com/

These grim and alarmist predictions aside, it is important that you have your retreat well stocked with fuels—both solid and liquid. Aside from increased risk of fire or siphoning theft, you can look at your stored fuel as non-dollar denominated “money in the bank.” As of today’s date, the price of oil is spiking past $67 per barrel. Those of us who bought storage fuel when diesel was $1.29 per gallon did well!

A large stored fuel supply at your retreat will make you immune from short term price spikes, and you will have extra on hand for barter and charity. Storage life is a problem for some liquid fuels, especially gasoline. Here is a quote from my first novel, Patriots:
“The category of fuel that I am most concerned about is liquid fuels. Our diesel storage tank is presently almost full–about 900 gallons. It has been stabilized, and it has been treated with an antibacterial. You’ve all heard this before, but for Rose’s benefit, I’ll repeat it. The basic rule for fuel storage is: the more highly refined the fuel, the shorter its storage life. That means that kerosene will store for 15 years or more, diesel stores for eight to ten years, and gasoline normally has only about a two-year storage life. Beyond that, it builds up gums and peroxides, and suffers decomposition of anti-knock compounds to the point that fuel filters clog up and engines won’t run. Also, the butane that is added to gasoline tends to evaporate. Once the butane burns off, starting an engine can be hard. You usually have to use ether. In general, high temperatures and exposure to oxygen encourage the decomposition process. Stored fuel also tends to attract moisture, and that causes a whole ‘nother set of problems. The storage life of all liquid fuels can be extended by the use of a special additive called Gas Saver that delays the decomposition process, and we have plenty of that on hand. Overall, the best way to store fuel is in a completely full, sealed underground container.”

Because of the relatively short storage life of gasoline, it is best to standardize with diesel and/or propane for your vehicles and generators, if possible. Add fuel stabilizer to your stored gas, and rotate it very frequently. Note that you will have to get anti-gel and anti-bacterial additives for your diesel tank. It may sound hard to believe, but there are bacteria that can grow in diesel fuel!

Letter Re: G.O.O.D. Vehicle Alternatives

Jim, agree with your advice on vehicles. Trucks are the way to go and the more towing/hauling capacity the better. Here is one area of vehicles I have often been interested in and thought would make an excellent choice is the event of evacuating: Commercial vehicles, i.e. former rental trucks (Penske comes to mind because of the great care that is given to these vehicles why they are in the fleet and the low miles that they are released at.) These trucks not only have a large load capacity but have the added advantage of keeping your belongings hidden from prying eyes as well as safe from the elements. These trucks almost always come with a time tested and reliable diesel–the one I most recently rented and drove nearly 6,000 miles–had a 190 H.P. in-line 6 cylinder International engine that gave us NO problems. I’m sure there are disadvantages to using these but some other plus’s are mileage–we averaged close to 10m.p.g. with a gross weight of 22,000+lbs! These trucks are of course 2WD but can be converted to all 4WD. All that it takes is bucks. eBay Motors is an excellent source for these vehicles. You may find that they are cheaper that purchasing a dually 4WD pickup (new ones are nearly $50K, while used still command top dollar as well, saw one 2003 GMC fully loaded Duramax for $37K–not really a bargain). Extra fuel tanks can be fitted as well. (They normally come with a 50 gallon fuel cell.) Boyce Equipment of Utah sells refurbished transfer cases and entire axles that would more than likely fit these vehicles. The suspension on these vehicles is typically very robust and any modifications would just enhance that. As well you can add extra cabs, sleepers etc. to these vehicles for hauling other people. Of course, like you say, its better to be in your retreat location in the first place but think of the amount of gear you could haul…repeatedly…to your pre-postioning location. I would imagine that in a city environment storage of the vehicle would be a concern but spaces can be rented at the numerous storage facilities that all good-sized towns now seem to have. I see dozens of vehicles parked in these secure, guarded areas. Also, once stationary at a retreat the engine could perhaps then be utilized as a makeshift generator. With a properly maintained cooling system a diesel engine can run many, many hours. Anyway, that’s my $.02 worth. – J.M.

Letter Re: The Dr. November Profile

Hi Jim,
I was reading the Profile on Dr. November and you are right–lots of great preparation! One item though, at least from my perspective, seems to be in short supply. That is the amount of diesel fuel he has on hand for his equipment and generator. It would appear to be out of line with the rest of his stocks.

Of course we don’t know how much solar power he is able to produce, and how much he needs to run his genny, but if he lived in gloomy Ohio he would not have enough diesel on hand to go along with his six years worth of food.

I believe he should at least calculate how much diesel fuel he uses when he is off grid. We have a new 10 KW Kubota and use about 3 gallons of diesel a day. His tank would last us a little over two months.

Of course everyone’s circumstances are different but it would appear that the Doctor should look into burying a large underground tank for his needs. Off road diesel fuel [un-taxed home heating oil] with the proper additives will easily store 7-to-10 years in an underground tank. If the fuel begins to show signs of aging and has not been used he can then have his fuel supplier pump out the old and replace it with fresh.

Lastly in the event that he can no longer obtain On Road fuel [taxed diesel] for his equipment and trucks he could use the diesel in the underground tanks for those needs.

In regards to the rest of his preparations, repeat after me: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house,Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house. 🙂

Respectfully Yours,

– John Adams