Note from JWR

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Resources for Going Off-Grid

One of the most important steps that you can take toward self-reliance is developing the ability to produce your own electricity. Alternatives for off-grid power include:

  • Photovoltaics
  • Wind Power
  • Micro-Hydro Systems

Photovoltaic (“PV“) power generation systems use large panels that generate DC voltage. The most durable panels use monocrystaline solar cells in large arrays in weather-sealed panels with glass covers and metal frames. These are designed to last a lifetime with just minimal care, and do not suffer any significant degradation in output over time. They are made with outputs from 5 to 100 watts. They are easily wired in series or series-parallel arrangements to yield the desired voltage and wattage to feed to a battery bank. With plenty of competition between manufacturers, the cost per watt for PV panels has plummeted in the past decade. So PVs are the preferred method of making your own power off grid.

Amorphous solar cells with flexible plastic covers are also now available, but only recommended for tactical applications where you have to stay on the move. In general, amorphous panels are less weather resistant than traditional monocrystaline solar cells hard panels. They also will lose up to 10% of their output over the course of several years, due to UV degradation.

Wind Power systems have been used for many years. Typically they use turbine blades geared to a generator or alternator, mounted on top of a tower. Wind generators work well only at hilltop locations where you get fairly high wind speed regularly. They are relatively high maintenance, noisy, occasionally self-destruct during wind storms, and they pose safety risks for those that climb their towers to do maintenance. In general, I don’t recommend wind power systems if you live in an area with good solar exposure. If that is the case, it is usually best to simply add more PV panels to your system rather than adding the complexity of a wind generator system.

One exception to my aforementioned guidance on wind power is wind-powered water well pumping. The reliability of wind power for lifting water directly with mechanical power is an order of magnitude less complex than an a DC wind generator. .. Traditional “AeroMotor” water-pumping windmills (still manufactured) once dotted the landscape in the midwest. They only fell into disuse with the cheap electricity made by the rural electrification programs that began in the 1930s. Water pumping windmills are incredibly simple and efficient: A mechanical windmill that lifts a sucker rod up and down, operating a brass pump cylinder at the bottom of the well shaft. Aside for occasional greasing of bearing surfaces and replacing the pump cylinder leathers every ten years, they require minimal care.

Micro-Hydro systems (small, water-powered Pelton Wheel electrical generators) are great if you live on a fast moving stream or creek where you can get a permit to put in a small dam. (Simple in states like Idaho and Wyoming, but a bureaucratic nightmare in some of the more populous Nanny States.) To be efficient, you need to have enough “fall” of water, since it is that potential energy that is utilized to spin a water turbine. One of the simplest and best little turbines in the micro-hydro world is the “Lil Otto” brand, made by Bob-O Shultze. See: http://www.ibiblio.org/pub/academic/environment/alternative-energy/energy-resources/homepower-magazine/archives/15/15pg14.txt

Batteries, Charge Controllers, and Inverters

Nearly all home power systems utilize a battery bank to store energy and an inverter to convert DC power into 117 VAC. Despite recent advances in gelled and AGM battery designs, the best buy for a fixed location retreat (in terms of amp hours per dollar) is still the good old-fashioned flooded cell lead acid battery. Just be sure to get the heavy duty deep cycle variety, with threaded terminal posts. Because lead-acid batteries are very heavy and shipping costs are usually prohibitive, it is best to buy a set of deep cycle batteries locally. Just contact your local Trojan or Exide battery dealer. Be sure to include a charge controller in your system to prevent over-charging.

If you can suffice with a very frugal and austere lifestyle, you might omit the inverter and buy all 12 VDC and/or 24 VDC appliances. But in practice, this is usually too much to ask of most modern homesteaders who are accustomed to having both DC and AC tools and gadgets.

 

Resources on the Web:

Home Power Magazine: The best magazine on the subject. They generously provide on-line archives of some of their articles. See: http://www.homepower.com/

Ready Made Resources: Pre-packaged and custom PV systems, inverters, and back-up generators. They provide free consulting. See: http://readymaderesources.com

Backwoods Solar Electric Systems: See: http://www.backwoodssolar.com/ (I’ve known Steve Willey for about 15 years. He really knows his stuff!)

Real Goods/Jade Mountain: See: http://www.realgoods.com/

Xantrex (formerly Trace) Inverters: See: http://www.xantrex.com/



Four Letters Re: The Best All-Around Dog Breed for a Retreat?

James:
Dogs are something I know a little about. I’m glad to finally be of some potential help to readers. I have owned dogs, and raised dogs, for as long as I can remember. The dogs we have been blessed with run the gamut of breed, from German Shepards, to Australian Shepards and Blue Heelers, to Rottweilers and various hunting dogs ranging from English Setters to Redbone coonhounds to Plotts, to the dog I am going to recommend: The Drahthaar. As many have probably not heard of this dog,
I have included a link so that it can be studied: http://www.vdd-gna.org/
If I could only own one breed of dog for my retreat, it would be a Rottweiler of the line I choose. This is because I believe the need for absolute guarding outweighs the need for hunting and “all-around” ability in my situation. The Rottweilers I have owned have been stunning animals. Hard, yet very capable of being trained by family, brave and protective yet sensitive to each situation. Our male is trained, massive, has incredible prey drive and protection skills, but our children and their young friends look upon him as a dog that is just as happy to spend the day laying in the shade watching them play—or fetching tennis balls until nobody has the arm left to throw again. Our female is equally skilled, and adept at all social occasions.
Again, if protection and guarding of livestock is #1? I go with the Rottweiler. Raise it from puppy with your stock and it will believe them family. As intelligent an animal as I have ever encountered http://www.vdd-gna.org You need to find the right bloodlines and breeder. I would never buy a guard animal from a puppy mill. Seriously, if you take any advice…take that piece of advice. Find a breeder that has personally bred the line of his / her choosing back at least 20 years. You will pay more, yes, and get more.

Now, onto the Drahthaar. I have owned and hunted with Drahts for approximately 15 years. I would urge you (in order to save space here) to read the section on “testing program” at my link, to see what this dog is capable of, and tested on at the highest levels. A Drahthaar from a good breeder [if real estate is about location, location, location—dogs are about breeder, breeder, breeder!] will hunt upland birds with the best of bird dogs. I have taken (over their point) quail, pheasant, chuckar, grouse…all retrieved to hand. I have also taken many ducks and geese in very cold conditions, again, fetched to hand. They enjoy hunting close to their master, are terrific retrievers (on land AND water), extremely durable, comfortable in frigid
weather and cold water (though they do not have all the protection of a Lab or Chessie), and the good ones are blessed with an outstanding tracking nose and desire to work. Once they understand what you are asking, they can blood track wonderfully. Ours have proven to be wonderful watch dogs (by that I mean “alert” dogs…barking when strangers enter upon the property, moving themselves between owner and stranger naturally) and LOVE to work, work, work. Our Drahts have taken to obedience training like ducks to water. Again, read the testing program. A Draht is not an animal to be taken lightly. They are tough, have a gator-type set of teeth and jowls, and the large males will not be outdone by any feral dog in a fight—a reality folks, not a sport. Fact is, while it may strike some as cold…my dogs must be capable of protecting my children from feral dogs…and this means capable of dispatching the threat, not just barking at it. If what we believe may
be coming does come, I believe that whatever dog you have must be capable of following through (as opposed to “wanting to”) on driving from your place feral dogs, coyotes, etc., or dispatching the same if necessary. They are what I would consider to be a naturally suspicious dog. They love their pack and distrust all else until the alpha (you, if you are the owner and smart) lets them know there is no need to worry. They, as the Rotties do too, love children…at least ours have.
As with the Rotts, raise these from pups with the stock you want them to guard and tolerate. Both breeds will be protective of your “space”, and provide you with years of love and comfort. One final thing—buy a pup. Yes, it will take awhile before it is
fully capable as a guard / watch / hunter, but dogs raised from pup on with a family form a bond that is unbreakable. And, it allows you to cure any bad habits while still young. I would not buy an adult Rottweiler. I have bought adult Drahthaars, and they have worked out well—but nothing beats the hand-raised puppy. May God Bless each of you in 2006, – Straightblast.

 

Mr. Rawles,
As a dog aficionado I have several recommendations regarding the best dog for a retreat. Firstly, I believe most hunting dogs are affable companions and lack the true guard/watch instincts, the Ridgeback being the notable exception. My heart lies with the herding family of dogs. Many have impressive size and strength, natural protective instincts and alertness, wariness of strangers, and almost all make excellent family dogs as they view the family as their flock to protect. When it comes to dogs the most important thing is to research a breed before buying it so you can match a breed to your lifestyle/habits/realistic expectations of training and time spent with the animal. This is important because breeds will have different temperaments and predispositions which you should match to your own. Someone who never gets out of the house for exercise should never own a Malamute; someone who lives in Arizona should try to avoid buying a long hair dog, etc.
Some recommended breeds

Rhodesian Ridgeback
Belgian Shepherds (aka Malinois, Tervuren, Laekenois; names which denote coat type)
Briard
Anatolian Shepherd
Mastiff
Bullmastiff
Giant Schnauzer

(Additional purebred information can be found at www.akc.org, the web site for the American Kennel Club) Best Regards, – Brian

 

 

I am partial to the Doberman Pinscher. Regarded universally as one of the easiest breeds to train, these guys are very user-friendly. They can be trained with little trouble to behave and do what the owner wants. I’ve seen them in the capacity of guard dogs, but my last Dobie was the friendliest animal I have ever seen, because I socialized him when he was young and never rewarded any aggression. He barked, and that’s the only “tactical” use he had. That, and helping me lighten up those heavy bags of dog food. That was his specialty. Like rottweilers, doberman are portrayed as mean, violent dogs in the media. A big black dog with his teeth bared is a strong psychological deterrent to anyone wanting to cause trouble. If taught properly, they can be mean and violent to intruders. They are fast and strong, and have a good sense of pack. Multiple dogs will cooperate if they are put together when young. Dobies have the proper territorial and predatory instincts you want in a protective dog. When I was very young, my mother had an old Doberman from before she got married. He was a great companion for me when I was young. He was friendly with his owners, but hostile to those he did not know or like. A good
protector for a single woman living in a less-than-desirable neighborhood. Regards, – Ben J.

 

Mr. Rawles,
I’d suggest considering a flock guardian breed: Anatolian Shepherds (I’ve owned one); Kuvasz; Great Pyrenees, etc. They are natural guardians of their herd (two or four-legged) and have not become so popular that they’ve been over bred to the point of genetic apotheosis. They are big, strong and healthy dogs. Also, Anatolians, at least, eat as much as a dog only two thirds their size. For small rodents? I’d add a couple of small terriers. One dog can’t do it all, any more than one weapon can. See the URLs for some FAQs:

http://www.anatoliandog.org/thebreed.htm
Picture of: Anatolian at the beach: http://www.anatoliandog.org/ALPSEA.JPG
http://www.anatoliandog.org/history.htm#List

OBTW, I second your recommendation on the Daniel Tortora book! (“The Right Dog for You.”) – Tom A.



Letter Re: Critical Capabilities for Retreat Defense: “Move, Shoot, and Communicate”

Dear James,
A couple of things to ponder: IR Cyalume sticks are costly and have a limited shelf life. High intensity IR LEDs can be easily built into an “intrusion illumination” system that can be actuated by a number of means (trip wire, seismic, passive motion detection, command, etc.) LEDs are cheap and a simple, reusable, battery powered unit with indefinite shelf life can be cobbled
together for a few dollars.
Visible and IR LEDs can be made into lights for a variety of uses including illumination and signaling. See: http://www.trailquest.net/TQaltgear.html#LED
Years ago, I had an odd dream. I dreamt that I was awakened by a noise from my living room. I arose, shotgun in hand and silently rolled a small, clear plastic ball into the room. After a few seconds’ delay the ball glowed and lit the room with the characteristic glow of a cyalume stick. The implications were obvious – a flashless, noiseless, nonexploding, nondestructive illuminating “grenade” might have a use in certain circumstances (especially if it emits in the IR end of the spectrum.) These days, however, I’d opt to build a small, tetrahedral array out of tubing (think of a caltrop, one LED would always point skyward) using visible or IR diodes with a battery and a timer chip to provide a delay. I’m not certain what the EMP issues would be, but LEDs would take up very little storage space inside a grounded locker or can.
For electronics bugs, it’s also worth noting that inexpensive laser diodes can be used to build a secure, line-of-sight communications system that can, with appropriate tweaking, “broadcast” over several kilometers. No FCC license is required.See: http://captain.haddock.8m.com/laser/laser1.html and http://instruct1.cit.cornell.edu/courses/ee476/FinalProjects/s2003/kmc29/index.htm



Two Letters Re: Rourke on: A Mouse in the House? Retreat Pest Control

Jim:
There’s a product called “Tomcat” that’s a solid bar of coumarin poisoned feed. It’s less messy and more convenient than D-Con and can be placed outside with little or no risk to non-rodent wildlife. (BTW, coumarin is effectively the same as “Coumadin” – that is, warfarin anticoagulant. The way it works is diabolically clever. The mice eat it and it slowly anticoagulates them until they hemorrhage internally. This induces thirst and they often leave the area in search of water before they die. As another aside, I remember hearing about a rancher in Ely, Nevada who was too cheap to buy generic warfarin to
prophylax his atrial fibrillation. He used D-con with good results! Certainly not a recommended regimen, but it worked.)
Any area infested with mice should be treated as contaminated with hantavirus. No one should enter the area without a P-100 or N-100 mask. Droppings should be sprayed or wet-mopped with a 1:10 bleach/water solution and allowed to soak for thirty minutes or more. (Recall that contact time, not concentration is the essential element of disinfection.) Sweeping and vacuuming should be avoided as they aerosolize dust bound to viral particles. Disposable latex gloves are essential. “Snap traps” baited with peanut butter seem to be very effective in attracting and killing deer mice, a major vector of hantavirus. In disposing of trapped mice, first spray the trap and surrounding area with bleach/water, allow a half hour or more and dispose of both mouse and trap via double-bagging into the trash, burying or burning. Here’s a source for hantavirus information: http://www.doh.wa.gov/topics/hanta.htm
The best solution for mouse infestation is mouseproofing, as Rourke points out. Keep food and potential nesting materials sealed in mouse-resistant containers and inspect them frequently. Cats, ferrets and even [de-scented] skunks (vaccinated against rabies) are valuable allies against mice. Of note, they are apparently not susceptible to hantavirus, do not become carriers and cannot spread it to humans. See: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/hanta/hps/noframes/transmit.htm
It may be worthwhile to create perches and nesting boxes for hawks and owls. In addition to being fun to watch, it’s worth considering that a single family of barn owls may consume up to 3000 mice a year.
See: http://members.tripod.com/Tommy51/aboutbarnowls.html and http://www.sarep.ucdavis.edu/pubs/barn_owl.html
A very Merry Christmas and a Joyous New Year! – “Moriarty”

 

Mr. Rawles:

We are surrounded by sugar cane fields here in southern Louisiana, after they harvest the cane, a few days later they burn the fields. (Much to our displeasure). When they do that all the field mice go looking for some place else to stay.
My work shop gets over run. You put out a bunch of traps and you may catch some but then they stop working until you empty them and reset them .. until now ..I found this some where on the web. You take a five gallon bucket drill a hole in both sides about a inch down from the top. Get a metal rod that will pass through both holes and reach all the way across the bucket. Get a quart metal paint can with the top on it and punch a whole in the top and the bottom big enough to have the rod pass through it, get it in the center of the bucket, run the rod through it [acting as a spindle], then put some electrical tape on both sides to keep it in the middle. Put four globs of peanut butter on the paint can about 45 degrees apart.Fill the bottom quarter of the bucket with water. Now take a piece of wood and make a ramp leading up to the paint can. Mouse jumps on paint can, paint can spins dumps mice in to water, ready for the next mouse, come out the next day pour out the dead mice and refill with water
if you can see one mouse, count on the fact that there are a lot more your not seeing.

JWR Replies: I ‘ve used the same method, but simply used a straightened coat hangar wire as the spindle for the can.

The Memsahib recently showed me an even more simple method: Again, use a bucket partly filled with water. Cover it with a piece of newspaper that is taped in place. Put a glob of peanut butter in the middle of the paper. After a couple of days of getting the mice accustomed to visiting this “feeding station”, simply cut an “X” in the newspaper, about 5 inches across. It works like a charm.



Letter Re: The Importance of Firewood or Coal Storage

James:
My brother in law in New York uses a coal pot belly stove to help keep his heating bills down. He usually buys a ton of coal in june of every year and stores it in his garage in a coal bin that he built. He buys it in June because the price of coal in cheaper in June, imagine that. As for storing a three year supply of coal, why couldn’t someone dig a trench, fill it with coal and then put something like two inches of dirt on top of it. It’s not like the coal will rot. As long as he doesn’t need it, it is right there not taking up any space and no one knows he has it. – J.M.



Jim’s Quote of the Day

"The slowness of one section of the world about adopting the valuable ideas of another section of it is a curious thing and unaccountable. This form of stupidity is confined to no community, to no nation; it is universal. The fact is the human race is not only slow about borrowing valuable ideas — it sometimes persists in not borrowing them at all.
Take the German [Masonry] stove, for instance — to the uninstructed stranger it promises nothing; but he will soon find that it is a masterly performer. The process of firing is quick and simple. At half past seven on a cold morning one brings a small basketful of slender pine sticks and puts half of these in, lights them with a match, and closes the door. They burn out in ten or twelve minutes. He then puts in the rest and locks the door, and carries off the key. The work is done. He will not come again until next morning. All day long and until past midnight all parts of the room will be delightfully warm and comfortable.
Americans could adopt this stove; but no, we stick placidly to our own fearful and wonderful inventions of which there is not a rational one in the lot. The American wood stove, of whatsoever breed, is a terror.
There can be no tranquility of mind where it is. It requires more attention than a baby. It has to be fed every little while, it has to be watched all the time; and for all reward you are roasted half your time and frozen the other half. It warms no part of the room but its own part; it breeds headaches and suffocation, and makes one’s skin feel dry and feverish; and when your wood bill comes in you think you have been supporting a volcano.
Consider these aspects of the Masonry stove. One firing is enough for the day; the cost is next to nothing; the heat produced is the same all day, instead of too hot and too cold by turns; one may absorb himself in his business in peace. Its surface is not hot; you can put your hand on it anywhere and not get burnt, yet one is as comfortable in one part of the room as another." – Mark Twain, "Some National Stupidities", 1891



The Best All-Around Dog Breed for a Retreat?

I’m curious to know what breeds of dogs are recommended by SurvivalBlog readers. I’d like to hear your opinion on the ideal the “All-Around Retreat Dog” breed–one that is a good watch dog with a strong sense of territory, loyalty to its masters, distrustful and vociferous when intruders approach, large enough to be taken seriously by intruders, protective when confronted by bears or mountain lions, and alert to poisonous snakes. Ideally, it would also be versatile enough for other responsibilities such as guarding livestock and perhaps killing mice and rats. Secondarily, it would be advantageous to have the same dog be suitable for small game hunting, waterfowl retrieving, and upland game hunting. Yes, I know that meeting all of those requirements is asking a lot. Which breeds come close to meeting all of these needs? I’ll mention three different breeds in this post. But I suspect that you’ll have some other breed suggestions, and/or some more observations about my favorite breeds.

Before I go on, I should mention that I’ve noticed that many people casually use the terms watch dog and guard dog interchangeably. In fact they are two different things: A watch dog is watchful, alert, territorial, and will bark whenever something is amiss. A guard dog, in contrast, has all of the watch dog traits, and it is willing/able to actually attack an intruding human.

Those of you that have read my novel (“Patriots”) will recall that I highlighted the Rhodesian Ridgeback breed. This member of the hound family was originally bred in Africa for hunting lions. The Ridgeback has some unusual characteristics: They are known for their propensity for tree-climbing. They are also known for their excellent sense of smell and tracking/trailing ability. They have an unusual band of fur that runs up their spine that has a “grain” that runs in the opposite direction as the rest of the fur on their backs. (Hence the name “Ridgeback.”) They are known as fearless hunters, and highly territorial guard dogs. The drawbacks to the breed are that they tend to be “one man dogs” and do not always bond well with all of the members of a family. They also have tendencies toward both congenital hip dysplasia and less often, dermoid sinus. So make sure you get a written health guarantee from the breeder on both of those points.

There are several other varieties of hounds that might be suitable as an “all-in-one” breed for a retreat dog. Hounds tend to be intelligent but unfortunately they also tend to wander.

I’ve never owned one, but the original Standard (full size) Poodle is highly recommended as an exceptionally versatile breed: retriever, pointer, companion, and watch dog, all in one. The “Pudel” was originally bred in central Europe as bird hunting dog. If you keep their fur uniformly trimmed short they won’t look prissy like their kleine Toy Poodle cousins. In fact, with a short “hunting” haircut most folks won’t even recognize the dog as a Poodle.

The Airedale is the largest breed in the Terrier family. Airedales are another breed known for their versatility. One particular attribute is their tremendous loyalty. One of our neighbors in our old stomping grounds–up in the wilds of north-central Idaho had a much-celebrated Airedale named Lochsa Louie. Louie was famous for defending the children of his owners from mountain lion and bear attacks. Louie eventually died of wounds received in one such incident and was soon replaced by Lochsa Louie II, who came from the same breeder. (There was copious newspaper ink spilled on this dog. Louie was so famous that they named a saloon after him. Or was it was the other way around?)

Before you select a dog breed, you should check your library for a copy of the book “The Right Dog for You” by Daniel F. Tortora. Inexpensive used copies of this book is also available from Amazon.com. This book is excellent because it rates the various breeds in sixteen temperament “dimensions” including:

Dominance/Submissiveness to humans

Dominance/Submissiveness other dogs

Intelligence

Watch Dog Ability

Guard Dog Ability

BTW, it is not always best to select the most intelligent breeds. This is because the most intelligent dog breeds tend to try to solve problems. If left alone, for example, they will often become escape artists–finding clever ways to climb over fences, open gate latches, or dig tunnels under fences.

Lastly, don’t forget to consider the types of weeds and grasses that are common at your retreat. If there are lots of foxtails and other weeds that get caught is dog’s coat then you should probably consider a short-haired breed.



The Memsahib on The Proposed PAWS Legislation

The hunting and security dog breeding world is about to be stood on it head: Many of the same congressmen that have been after your guns are now after your dogs. Proposed legislation called called The Protection of Animal Welfare Statute (PAWS) designated S. 1139 / H.R.2669 would make hunting dog breeders and sellers subject to Federal (USDA) licensing. Under the legislation’s incredibly loose wording, the term ”dealer” means any person who buys or sells any dog for hunting, security, or breeding purposes

If this bill passes, breeders who sells even just one dog of a “hunting breed” will be designated as a USDA “dealer” and be subject to USDA dealer regulations. These regulations would make it impossible to raise puppies in a home. Because of the expense of complying with all the USDA regulations, hobby breeders will be forced to give up breeding. This will mean that the only puppies available to buy will be those raised for profit by commercial breeders who raise puppies like livestock, without proper socialization. One such kennel in Wisconsin produces 2,500 puppies a year!

We have tried twice to adopt purebred dogs from rescue organizations. In each case the dogs lacked a bond to humans which completely ruined them for being family pets. We will never get another dog that hasn’t been raised in someone’s home with lots of handling and exposure to all the noise and chaos in the average American home from the day they are born.

You can learn more about the PAWS legislation at: http://www.dfow.org/paws.htm. The bureaucrats are stealing our liberty with the death of a thousand paper cuts. It can be stopped, but only if we are vigilant and politically active.



The Memsahib’s Quote of the Day

"Likely terrorist EMP targets are key financial centers such as Wall Street, The City district in London, or the Paradeplatz in Zurich. This would cause incalculable damage to computer hardware and software associated with stock and commodities markets, banking, international currency  exchanges, and pension funds." – James Wesley, Rawles, from a feature article on High Technology Terrorism,  Defense Electronics magazine, January, 1990.



Rourke on: A Mouse in the House? Retreat Pest Control

If you are stockpiling food and supplies, you should have a system of pest control in place. Mice are probably your first and most serious concern, but rats, other vermin, and of course insects also come into play depending on what types of food you are storing, in what containers, and where you are. If most your food is in #10 steel cans, you may only have to worry about other supplies, like toilet paper, which can make a nice nesting ground for them, and incredible mess for you.
As when with dealing any foe, you need to understand the workings and weaknesses of your enemy and use that against them. Starting on the outside, mice don’t like to run across open areas, inside our out. This is a natural instinct so they are not seen by predators, birds of prey in particular. Thus keeping the grass down and not having a lot of cover right next to your house, retreat, garage, etc. can help a little. Your first main line of defense is the point of entry. Leaving your garage door open is an invitation to mice. Also, sliding doors, like barn doors, simply do not offer good sealing protection. In a barn with such sliding doors, you probably might as well get a barn cat. If you are building a new pole barn with wooden posts, consider wrapping tin on the outside of the wood posts all the way around before back filling, and overlapping with the siding material on top of the tin (leaving to place to chew through wood, just metal).
On keeping them outside, mice have tiny little narrow skulls which allow them to squeeze through very small holes. Basically if you can get a dime through sideways, a mouse can get through. I have seen mice eat a hole through 5/8”-thick drywall. “Great stuff”, and such foam sealers (in a can) does work well, and contains chemicals to make them sick, but they can still eat through it. However, they won’t try to eat through steel wool, so plugging an existing hole with that usually works. For some reason, they don’t like walking straight into the ends of the bristles of a brush, so if you mount one that way, they probably won’t walk into it (this can be used around a garage door where you can’t will in the gap because of movement). Also, they tend not to like the smell of fabric softener sheets (the kind that you throw in the dryer). As for those sonic plug in, devices, I have tried but them, but found zero effect, and also be aware some pets may not like that.
Once inside, mice will tend to run along walls. Therefore the best levels of defense are to put wind-up spin metal traps (not baited) on the wall on either side of a door or point of entry, a garage door in particular. These are nice because you can just leave them be, and they will catch mice over and over in a catch chamber, which you later empty. Also in that area, inside, you can put out poison. (Such as “De-con”), but do it in a way so that your pets can’t get to it. In most states it is illegal to poison outside, to protect birds of prey, etc. Some people tell me poisoning mice inside is a bad idea since the mice will crawl into little cracks and die, thus leaving a stinking corpse for you to smell. I have two answers to this, first a body that small tends to dry up even in most climates reasonably fast, and secondly, more importantly, corpses don’t breed. In the case of a rat, yes [because of it size] you are going to have a stinking corpse to find, but I repeat second comment on that again. (Also, the only good thing about rats is they tend to chase off mice). Now as you get in to your kitchen and food storage areas, you use baited traps. Those cheap spring traps work well. Use peanut butter, and what also works well, and really well for rats, is that cheap fatty potted meat stuff in those little cans. For tiny and young mice that clean your traps without setting them off, you are going to need some glue traps. Once again, put them along the walls in covered areas where they will run at night. Save those until you need them, because they are not reusable, they lose their stickiness.
If you come across a nest of baby mice, the best way to deal with it is to drown the babies. A pail half full of water will do the trick. Dump them in, the whole nest, and come back in an hour, and they’ll be dead. They can’t swim.
Mice and rats are a serious threat to your health, food, and supplies. If they go unchecked, such as in a remote retreat, they can do incredible damage over time as they multiply. If you are infested, call in the experts, they do have gas that will kill everything, but it will cost you. IMHO it is best to take these basic preventative steps first.
More information:
Do it yourself Pest Control: http://doityourself.com/pest/pestcontrol.htm
Pest Products:: http://www.pestproducts.com
Nice selection of mouse traps:http://www.pestproducts.com/rodent_traps.htm and
http://store.yahoo.com/mainesupply/?OVRAW=mouse%20traps&OVKEY=mouse%20trap&OVMTC=standard
Humane mouse traps: http://www.biconet.com/traps/smt.html
I put the last one in for one reason: Some people in your family or group are simply not going to like “killing” mice, and may go do far as to sabotage your traps. I have seen this happen in a food company. I would suggest you get tough with them, such as serving them the food that the mice got into as their ration. However, if it is you that feels this way, then, yes, “humane” traps can work, but I have found them to be less effective. – Rourke (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/survivalretreat)



Letter Re: Military Installations as a Factor in Retreat Location Selection

Hey, I just wanted to write in to comment on what seems to me like a missing element in your survival location analysis. Military installations across the United States are presumably not all evenly distributed, and the presence of these bases not only affects your location in the event of a NBC scenario, but if the Schumer] really hits the fan, even well disciplined American servicemen and women will attempt to ensure their own survival even at the cost of local civilians. Now I assume that it would take a world ending event for our military to act in that fashion, but it is within the realm of possibility. So the nature of the military bases is relevant beyond their status as nuclear targets. That is to say, Air Force bases and Navy installations pose a substantially smaller threat of local domination than do Army bases. Again, this is not to say this is likely at all, just that is possible. Further, the size of the base and its local inventories become relevant should they attempt to dominate the local area. I’m sure that there are other insights to be contributed by others more knowledgeable, but I figured it was worth sparking the discussion. Thanks so much. – J.D.



Letter Re: HK91 Magazines Inferior for Barter

Jim:
Military surplus HK91 alloy magazines have been available for several years in the $1-to-$3 price range. It seems to me that the only people who should buy them are HK rifle owners who own less than 50 magazines. Before buying HK magazines as barter items, consider that the market has already been flooded with far more than are needed for the limited number of existing rifles. The German military torched most of their rifles, but sold most of the magazines. Other mags (such as for AR-15) may be great future demand, but I would not bet on the HK. – Mr. Bravo

JWR Replies: Yep, you are probably right: AR-15s are far more commonplace than HK91s (and their clones.) But don’t forget that a CETME rifle can also use HK91 magazines, and CETME owners are notoriously frugal individuals ), so chances are that they will only have four or five magazines on hand. Like everyone else WTSHTF they will suddenly want to own 25 or more magazines. Perhaps $50 is not too much to gamble with, for a potentially valuable barter commodity.

Another practical use for HK91 alloy magazines? Here is a trick that I leaned from Mr. Tango: Because of their light weight, an alloy HK91 magazine positioned top-end-up in tightly-fitting ammo pouch makes an ideal “speed” ammo holder for reloading bolt action rifles, particularly if you clip a few coils off of their magazine springs. BTW, if those mags are going to be held in double magazine pouches, tape them together with duck tape so that they don’t rattle together. Note that it is important that you always use tightly-fitting mag pouches. If they don’t fit tightly, then build up the exterior dimension of the magazine(s) with cardboard and duct tape until they do fit tightly in their pouches. (If the mags wobble in the pouches, it will be difficult to get a “purchase” to strip off the cartridges into your hand.)





Note from JWR

A reminder that we are still accepting entries for Round 2 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The writer of the best article will win a four day course certificate at Front Sight. (An up to $2,000 value!)  The deadline for entries is the last day of January, 2006.