You are “Not” a Survivalist? — by “Buckshot”

A friend once told me back in the late 1990s: “I am not a survivalist.” I replied, “Oh really? Why do you get up every morning and go to work?  Because you love working here so much?” He answered: “No, I come to work to feed and shelter my family.” I then quipped; “Oh, so in order to survive you work, so you are a survivalist too.” He cracked a smile and said that I had a good point! By the same token you have house, life, car and health insurance, right? Why? Do you plan on having your car stolen, your house burning down, a tragic illness, or do you plan on dying today? Ah, no, you say, that is for just in case. That in essence is what a survivalist is: He or she thinks that a disaster might happen that stops the flow of food, gas, heating oil, etc. Can it happen? Sure, no one has to look any farther then down south [to the Gulf Coast] right now to see that America is not immune from disaster.

What can you do? Lots. 

There was a movie that came out in 1996 called The Trigger Effect. Don’t waste your money renting it–it is a typical nonsense “The Government Saves the Day” movie. But one great scene in the movie was at the gun store. The lead character is trying to buy a shotgun and trades his Rolex watch worth thousands for a $200 pump shotgun. The guy complains that his watch is worth thousands of dollars and the gun shop owner replies: “You waited for a disaster to buy the shotgun, so you pay top price.”  This was a movie, in real life what if the gun shop was robbed, closed forever, or the National Guard took all the store’s inventory. Then, the gun shop owner would reply: “You waited for the disaster, now it is too late!

Being prepared for a disaster like a hurricane, snow storm, or power outage is a good “mini test” to see where you are. But what would you do if we started into deep recession, depression, or economic collapse? My Dad use to say that a recession is when your neighbor is out of work. A depression is when you are out of work.

I decided at a young age to learn to live off the land. I started trying wilderness survival following the survival books making homemade dead fall traps. As a friend pointed out, the Native Americans soon learned to trap more beaver with real iron traps and caught a lot more animals then they ever did with dead falls. Homemade wire snares and dead falls will take some animals but with real traps and professional grade self-locking snares you will be armed with top notch equipment that will greatly increase your chances of catching something to eat. Comparing wire snares and dead falls to real traps and snares is like comparing deer hunting with a high power pellet gun to hunting with a scoped 30-06. The guy with the pellet gun might get a deer, but the guy with the .30-06 can get almost any deer he sees within range. A recent e-mail comment I received was: “I hold you and your videos on high. I learned a lot from your videos and your snares are great and greatly priced. I use to mess around with the “homemade” kind from Boy Scouts and survival books, but the real ones blow these away.”

By the same token you don’t want to be too late putting in supply of snares. I have written previously to SurvivalBlog on the subject of how many traps and snares to put away, covering feral dog control and food gathering, but what about predator control? Here is a very interesting e-mail: “I helped out on my buddies farm where foxes, coyotes, coydogs, and weasels were eating his chickens, ducks, and pigeons. They even ran off with a few of his piglets. His terrier was no match, and after a bad fight, he asked me to help. I set up the snares like in the video (survival snaring ), and I placed them at every entrance spot they were coming into. Out of the dozen snares I had, medium, I set ten and got four foxes and five coyotes in two weeks. I just keep moving the snares to fresh paths, and they worked.”

Now if TEOTWAWKI happens you are not going to be able to go down and buy replacement chickens, pigs, or calves. You are going to have to protect them yourself. Setting the snares is easy once you learn how. Snaring is not rocket science. A few tricks to learn, and you are in business. I have several farmers/ranchers that re-order snares every year from us. How many? One rancher uses three dozen a year for coyotes to protect his sheep. Another buys one-to-two dozen each year. Another buys five dozen every other year. I have talked to several farmers and ranchers on the phone about protecting chickens from foxes, raccoons, coyotes and even skunks.If you are worried about wild dogs, then 10 dozen medium snares is cheap insurance. Like any disaster, it better to have too many on hand then it is to wait until it is too late and you can’t order more. – Buckshot

JWR Replies:   I may be biased, but I think that Buckshot’s Camp is the best place to buy traps, snares and scents. His prices certainly are competitive. If you have the chance to buy  bunch of used conibear traps for bargain prices at a farm auction, great!  But most likely you won’t. Even if you do, be sure to get Buckshot’s instructional DVDs. They are an absolute “must.”

Poll Results –What are the Best Items to Store for Barter and Charity?

Here is another suggested barter/charity item list.  Keep them coming!

Mr. Rawles:
My barter "box" contains the following:
Travel size toothpaste
Travel size soap and shampoo (hotel size)
Matches and lighters
Band aids
Razors (disposable kind)
Dish soap
Sewing supplies (needles, thread, buttons)
– K. in FL

Letter Re: A Source for Storage Barrels

Mr. Rawles–just wanted to drop a quick note about storage barrels. We live down the road from a juice factory and they would probably give the barrels away if they had to. Last time I bought a couple, the steel barrels were a buck (with lids and compression rings…the steel barrels were also lined) and the plastic ones were five dollars. Don’t know how many juice factories are out there, but it sure beats paying the high prices the “survival food” companies charge for the same barrels. I’m sure there are other good sources for cheap food grade barrels, too.  Still enjoying the blog and many thanks for all your work. – Peter R.

Letter Re: State Boundaries (Expanding on “The State Line Game”)

Hi Jim,
Your comments on building a house straddling a state line brought me back to my Navy days in Pensacola, Florida. It may be difficult to build across a state line but not impossible. There is a bar that straddles the state line between Florida and Alabama called – of course – The Floribama. As I recall it, there was a different last call time on opposite sides of the bar as the two states had different alcohol serving times. In any case, if it can be done with a commercial establishment (particularly a bar!) it can be done with a house. I also seem to recall an article in National Geographic a few years back where they featured a bar/restaurant that straddled the border between Canada and the US. I even recall a picture of a pool table with the border line drawn across it. Somehow I doubt its still in business but I do recall seeing the images. In any case, it has been done. – "Some Call me Tim"

Letter Re: How Vulnerable are Alternative Energy Systems to EMP?

With all the talk recently on EMP issues, I wonder if a solar system or wind generator less vulnerable or just as vulnerable to EMP to the grid. What type of additional protection could/should be incorporated in to alternative energy designed systems? Keep up the terrific work on the blog. It’s the first thing I read every morning. – D.

JWR Replies:  All modern circuitry that employs microchips is at risk.  However, the greatest risk is to systems that are connected to grid power. This is because the power grid will work like a giant antenna to collect EMP. Assuming that you are out in the hinterboonies (well away from potential nuclear targets), then an independent, truly off grid, solar, wind, or microhydro power system is not likely to be affected by EMP. Here, I should mention that I recommend that you resist the urge to “sell back” your excess power to your local power utility, for three reasons. 1.)  If you don’t decisively “cut the cord”, then you are opening a window of invulnerability to EMP. (By the aforementioned grid connectivity.)  2.)  You are targeting your PV panels for confiscation by grabby bureaucrats in the event of some “crisis” or in a slow slide scenario.  3.)  You make yourself vulnerable to your human nature. If you ever have a problem with your PV, wind, or microhydro system, or when your battery bank starts to get old and sulfated, then you might someday be tempted to revert to using grid power “just for a little while”, and then the repairs to your system will never get done.(BTW, I’ve seen the latter happen, even with wealthy retreat owners.)

Zener diodes can be used to isolate components, but the only 100% foolproof protection is to keep key spares in a Faraday cage. The component at greatest risk in alternative power system is the modern microprocessor-based battery charge controller. They are fairly simple to bypass if yours ever gets fried by EMP, but since they typically cost less than $200 it is probably best to buy a “just in case” spare charge controller and tuck it away in an ammo can.


The Real Estate Bubble–Getting Out at The Top (SAs: Contrarian Investing, Real Estate, Relocation)

Our friends over at The Daily Reckoning report that The International Herald Tribune recently ran an article under the headline: “High Home Prices Drive California Exodus.”  In my opinion the Bubble is about ready to pop. I’m not the only one that holds this opinion. There are lots of others. I predict that the price declines will be greatest in the suburbs in coastal cities. Perhaps dramatic declines. But I also believe that good productive agricultural land will hold most of its value, even as urban and suburban real estate prices crater. To explain:  Farming in America has become so efficient that crop prices have been depressed for decades. This has kept the price of farm ground down–at least in terms of what it can actually produce. Yes, this land is much more expensive than it was in the 1970s, but in real terms, it is still “dirt cheap.”

The real losers in the post real estate bubble era will be the poor deluded souls who bought rental properties on speculation near the top of the market. The bubble is likely to burst long before rents ever ratchet up enough to put those investors into the black. They will be stuck with assets that will suffer down-ratcheting value, with no hope of selling them at a profit for perhaps decades, and taking in rents that don’t cover their financed debt plus the upkeep. As real estate prices go down, renters will ask for even lower rents. The owners of these rentals will be faced with either selling them at a deep loss, or continuing to rent them with a negative cash flow.

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

"I am prepared for the worst, but hope for the best." – Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconfield, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and twice British Prime Minister

Note from JWR:

We’ve just surpassed 100,000 unique visits since we started the blog (in August), and are we are rapidly approaching three million page hits. (To be exact: 2,963,176 as of midnight Monday/Tuesday.)  Many thanks for making SurvivalBlog such a rapid success. Please continue to spread the word with posts to Internet Forums and other Blogs, as well as mentioning SurvivalBlog when you call in to talk radio shows.

Letter Re: State Boundaries (Expanding on “The State Line Game”)

I’d like to expand on a topic that I mentioned briefly in a SurvivalBlog post on August 25, 2005:  “The State Line Game.” Many folks have discovered how to play the state line jumping game: Living near a state line to take advantage of a lower tax or other advantage in one or more adjoining states. For example, you can live in the Idaho panhandle (very low property tax, car registration, and car insurance), work in eastern Washington (no income tax), make your day-to-day purchases in Idaho (5% sales tax) and your major purchases (trucks, wood stoves, generators, gun vaults, appliances, et cetera) in Montana or Oregon–both of which have no sales tax.  Many SurvivalBlog readers have found themselves at the stage of life where they are considering strategic relocation.  If you look at the tax burdens in various states (See:, then you can take the opportunity afforded by relocation to “vote with your feet.”

Let’s continue this line of reasoning a bit further. In many instances, state lines are defined by rivers or the summits of mountain ranges, but in others, the line is more or less arbitrarily set on level ground.  The latter opens up a fascinating possibility: Owning contiguous parcels on both sides of a state line. Imagine living in a small house in a state with no (or low) personal income tax but high property taxes and expensive car registration. You could also own an adjoining much larger parcel land and other assets (garage, vehicles, barn, shop, livestock, a second home) on the other side of the state line, literally a stone’s throw away. Or how about a mobile home that you could move slightly, if and when regulations becomes too onerous at the opposing end of your property. 

Now on to something that at first blush might seem absurd, so I’ll label this as an intellectual exercise: It might be possible to build a house that physically straddles a state line. That is sure to get the tax assessors scratching their heads! Consider the possibilities of a house with with a large main “wing” in a low property tax state, and another smaller wing–perhaps connected by a covered walkway or greenhouse–in a state where you can take advantage of the differing income taxes, sales taxes, or other regulations. (The latter could include gun laws, home schooling laws, cost of car registration/insurance, cost of hunting tags, et cetera.) If you operate a home based business, the presence or absence of a sales tax could make a big difference. Your state of “residence” would be based on the wing where your bedroom and home office is located. You might want your children to legally be residents of the adjoining state, because of home schooling law disparities or to avoid the high cost of “out of  state” college tuition. Another disparity is in hunting regulations and the length of hunting seasons:  If deer season ends earlier on one end of your property than the other, then you could simply reposition your livestock salt blocks. Here is an even more absurd abstraction: A state line that bisects your dining room table:  “Please pass–I mean–Interstate Commerce the mashed potatoes.” The practicalities of getting permits to build a bi-state house might be insurmountable, but it remains an captivating prospect. Think though the many of possibilities–even of just living near a state line,. Consider the following factors:

States that have no state income tax: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming. Two others, New Hampshire and Tennessee, tax only dividend and interest income. (For detail on state income tax rates, see: .)

States with no state level general sales tax: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon. For details, see:

States with very low county and local property (real estate) taxes: These vary widely, depending on the city and county. For details, see:

States with differing firearms laws.  See the book Boston’s Gun Bible for details.  If you don’t already own a copy of this “must read” book, then contact. Fred’s M14 Stocks. As of this writing, Fred is currently offering a great three book package deal: one copy of my novel Patriots +one copy of Matthew Bracken‘s novel Enemies Foreign and Domestic + one copy of Boston’s Gun Bible, all for $50. OBTW, please mention SurvivalBlog, regardless of where you buy your books.

As I previously posted, one possibility is to live and work in southern Washington (no income tax and fairly low property taxes), but shop in Oregon, where there is a high property tax but no sales tax. Unfortunately the two states are divided by the Columbia River.  Perhaps you could buy land east of the point where the river turns north and the border reverts to an arbitrary line. But there aren’t many opportunities to take advantage of the sales tax difference at that end of the state! Another possibility is to buy a ranch straddling the Montana/Wyoming state line, since Montana has no sales tax and Wyoming has no income tax. And both have great gun laws. (Not the best of climates there, however!)

See: for detailed information on the tax rates in various states.

A reminder that the foregoing discussions skirt around a more core issue: the scale of government in each state. Some states have big, pretentious, intrusive governments that love to get involved in every aspect of your life. My advice is to avoid living in any of these Nanny States. As time goes on, they are only going to get worse.

The bottom line: If you live in a state with severe taxes or gun laws, then vote with your feet!   I’d appreciate your comments on the foregoing. Perhaps you have considered a novel way to take advantage of tax disparities. Just drop me an e-mail. OBTW, I plan to also post this to The Claire Files.  This should inspire all of the Libertarians there into a spirited string of discussion. They seem to particularly enjoy this sort of food for thought and grounds for further research. (FFTAGFFR.)


Letter from Dr. November Re: Aviation Fuel as an Alternative Fuel (SAs: Alternate Fuels, Aviation Fuels, 100 Octane Gasoline)

On the avgas issue, you might remind your readers that avgas has a LOT of lead in it (more than high-test leaded car gas ever did). 100 octane Low-lead avgas still has twice as much lead as leaded car gas did. If you use leaded gas in a car with a catalytic converter (like most cars these days) you will ruin the converter in less time than it takes you to empty the gas tank. One of two alternatives will happen, the converter will become completely plugged and your car won’t run at all because of the back pressure, or you’ll get terrible performance. And, if you have mandatory smog inspections in your state, look at a repair bill starting at around $750 to replace the converter. (They aren’t cheap, even used). Also, the waste fuel drums at airports (at least the ones I go to) also have waste oil in them, and usually water. Be careful! – Dr. November

The French Intifada–“Brûlure de bébé, de brûlure!”

In 1965 in Watts, they shouted “Burn baby, burn!” In France, I suppose that the North African teenagers are shouting “Brûlure de bébé, de brûlure!” (Pardon my French.) More than 1,400 cars burned on Sunday night alone. The rioting has spread to 300 cities, and now there are concerns that the rioting could spread to Germany and other countries with large Arab immigrant populations. It remains to be seen if the motivation for this French Intifada is purely economic, or if radical Islam is partly to blame. See: and:

France went through the traumatic civil war in Algeria decades ago, but apparently didn’t learn anything from it. They foolishly brought Algeria home with them, in the form of a large, widely dispersed, largely Islamic, and chronically economically depressed Arab underclass. Hopefully the Bush administration will learn something from this.

Letter Re: Ethanol and Aviation Fuels

Mr. Rawles;
I am the manager of a county airport in the South. Which leads me to a piece of information that I want to pass on to you.

Each day we are required by our brand Quality Control people to draw a sample of fuel from each of our tanks and refuelers. The purpose is to check for contaminates. Once that is done that fuel is poured into a waste drum that has to be disposed of later. We have both 100 low lead for prop planes and Jet-A. Jet-A is a high quality kerosene that works well in diesel engines and in kerosene lamps and heaters. Most larger airports have recovery tanks on their fuel systems that allow them to save this fuel, but some of the smaller airports simply have to call an oil recycler and have it hauled away. For those who are good scrounges and are willing to approach people on such matters this might be a source of fuel for off road use. I would advise the precaution of running this fuel through a filter prior to adding it to a tank since some times an old barrel is used for holding this fuel till pick up. I would request that the "no attribution rule" be applied here.

As for ethanol: I have a book in my library titled Making it on the Farm. This little book covers in great detail how to build a still and make your own fuel. I got mine several years ago from Buffalo Creek Press in Cleburne, Texas. Thanks again and keep up the good work. Long Life, – Name Withheld By Request

My Grandfather’s Wisdom

My paternal grandfather, Ernest Everett Rawles (1897-1985), was a largely self-educated man. Coming from a pioneer family (his father and grandfather came out west by covered wagon in 1857), he had a profoundly practical outlook on life. Ernest grew up on a 6,000 acre sheep ranch near Boonville, in Mendocino County, California. There, he lived life at its basics: The change of the seasons, hunting and trapping, hard work in foul weather, lambing, shearing, and the constant state of war with the predators that annually killed dozens and sometimes hundreds of lambs. It was hard life, but it had its satisfactions. The following are some brief quotes drawn from his oral history:

“I liked growing up on the ranch. We ran livestock on the land, and cut quite a bit of timber. We had horses, cattle, pigs, and Merino sheep. Lots of sheep. Two or three thousand at a time were run by the various members of the family. [To protect the sheep] we had to contend with the coyotes, mountain lions, and bear.”

“People had their jealousies, just like they do today, but for strangers passing through, people were a lot more hospitable. Visitors would often drop by unannounced and uninvited. People would come in from the coast, sometimes they’d come into the house when no one was at home [expecting our return later in the day]. Of course my dad was a politician [so he knew a lot of people.] I can remember we’d come home after a trip in the buggy, and there’d be a barn full of horses, and the chores done, and dinner on the table. That was just the way they did things in those days. They generally brought their provisions with them. If they didn’t, then on the way back they’d bring provisions. People were more cooperative [back then.]”

“Boonville was a very isolated community until about the 1920s. One young fellah wanted some adventure, so he got on a tan oak bark wagon, and went over to Largo, which is on the Northwestern Pacific Railroad. He went down as far as Cloverdale. Then he got on a train, and went back up to Ukiah. From there, he hitched a ride back home. That’s a triangle of about 30 by 30 [miles.] When he got home, he said, ‘By gosh if the world is as big the other way as the way I went, she’s a whopper.’ That’s about as some of the people got in those days. They hardly got on the other side of the hill.”

“You’ve got to understand that we had a big ranch but we only got money once or twice a year out of it. The money wasn’t very free. All the money you got was in gold coin. I remember I was nearly fifteen or sixteen years old before I saw much paper money. It was all gold and silver. They didn’t have any greenbacks that I remember. My dad would take the wool and mutton to sell, and he’d come back with some tobacco sacks full of twenty-dollar gold pieces. He used to drive three or four-hundred head of sheep down to Cloverdale. They only brought about $2 a head. A big four horse load of wool taken over to Ukiah would pay for the groceries and clothes for the next winter. That was the big trip of the year, when I was a boy. That was when the money came in. That was the way that we used to get paid for things. Gold and silver coins. As kids, they used to let us play with the gold coins now and again. That was quite a celebration.”

“We used to go work in the hop fields. We got paid one cent a pound for picking hops. You’d work your tail off to strip a hundred pounds. If you worked long, long hours–get out there at daylight, and head home at dark, you’d pick about 125 pounds. Finally, they paid us a cent and quarter. [$0.0125 per pound.]”

“We used to say that if you saved just ten percent of what you earned, you’d never go to the poor house. That’s one of the first lessons I learned, and I’ve tried to do something along that line since. And I’ve never gone to the poor house.”

The Corn Belt Alternative–Ethanol Compatible Vehicles

I emphasize versatility in survival planning, particularly in the area of alternate fuels. I have mentioned in several previous SurvivalBlog posts that prefer diesel-engine cars, trucks, tractors, and ATVs because they can be run alternatively on either biodiesel and home heating oil. For those of you readers in the Corn Belt, you might also consider buying a gasoline engine vehicles that is compatible with Ethanol. (Ethyl Alcohol or “corn gas.”). The most versatile (but rare) will run on 100% ethanol (E100). But many will run on a 85% ethanol/15% gasoline blend (E85).General Motors of Brazil makes large numbers of E100 vehicles, because E100 is the dominant fuel in that market. (Where it is produced locally from sugar cane.)

There are a wide range of current and recent production E85 ethanol compatible vehicles, from makers including

• Daimler Chrysler
• Ford
• General Motors
• Isuzu
• Mazda
• Mercedes
• Mercury
• Nissan

Note that many of these are only available as special “fleet purchase” vehicles, so you may have to hunt for a fleet trade-in.

For some good background on E85, see:

Many U.S.gas stations already use E85 ethanol compatible pumps and tanks. See:

Be sure to look closely at the vehicle specifications of a prospective purchase before you buy. (A buyer’s guide in PDF is available for download from the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition.) In many cases you have to look at specifications right down to a particular digit in the VIN number to be sure. OBTW, some vehicles have a special sticker inside the gas cap door, indicating that they are E85 compatible. That is the quickest –but not surest–way to check when you a wandering around a car dealership lot. Since big four wheel drive vehicles are currently slow sellers, just putting the word out at a couple of local dealerships that you are looking for a used 4WD that is E85 compatible is almost certain to get some commission-only salesmen motivated to doing some legwork on your behalf.

The bottom line: If you can get get an E85 ethanol compatible vehicle for the same price or slightly more than one that is gasoline-only, then why not get that extra versatility? Some day, post TETOWAWKI, that versatility may make difference between a vehicle that is still viable/mobile and a very expensive immobile lawn ornament.

OBTW, distilling your own ethanol is not rocket science. (Just ask anyone who has lived in the Ozarks.) I will cover “at home” ethanol fuel distilling in an upcoming post.