February 2008 Archives

Friday, February 29, 2008

After more than 10 years of searching, it now appears that a movie production company wants to buy my "Pulling Through" screenplay. I hope to be posting more news about this development sometime in the next two weeks.

Stay tuned.

Dear Memsahib:

In your biography, I noticed that you wrote: "I also have taught Fiber Arts. I can shear a sheep, angora goat, or angora rabbit and wash, card, dye, spin, knit, weave, (and/or felt) the wool into socks, mittens, a hat, scarf, or a sweater."

Speaking for those who happen to have a small herd of Angora goats, but no practical knowledge of shearing or weaving/knitting, to say nothing about "wash - card - dye - spin," are there any books you can recommend? Or perhaps, alternatively, a DVD? Thanks, - Pete M.

The Memsahib Replies: I think hands-on learning is so much better than a book or DVD for learning fiber art skills. These are truly "hands-on" tactile skills.

I would recommend you look for a Fiber Guild in your area. These are groups (mostly women) who get together to learn spinning, knitting, felting, weaving, etc. Depending on the guild, they may sponsor workshops with a fee to attend, or there may be informal lessons at the meetings. You may also find buyers for your mohair (the fleece of angora goats) as well as your kids (baby goats, not your children) at the guild meetings.

The "Spin Off" magazine web site has a link to a directory of fiber guilds.

Another great resource is your local yarn shop. Our local yarn shop owner offers classes on knitting and crochet for a nominal cost. She also has spinning and felting teachers come in to give workshops several times a year. Maybe your local yarn shop owner can hook you up. (Pardon the pun.)

We are clearly experiencing deflation, as bad debt and derivatives unwind. At the same time there appears to be massive inflation by the Fed, or else where did the three Trillion for Iraq come from?

The only "X factor" now is the money multiplier. Reserve requirements are now [effectively] zero. A good video (Flash required). But now eliminate the reserve component, [and its] Zimbabwe dollars ahoy.

Here is some scary stuff, directly from the Fed.

And here is an explanation similar to what I had wanted to write about the "Its the Economy Stupid" with Clinton and Greenspan - David in Israel

Dear Jim:
Your piece "Are Simultaneous Inflation and Deflation Possible?" was a great posting on the economic/financial storm brewing. As the "perfect storm" is just getting rolling, this is a good time for those who have not read much Austrian economics to get an understanding of what is likely to hit and why. I feel sorry for folks who have not been given the opportunity to get up to speed on Austrian economics - they are flying blind into the storm (and will get hurt, badly).

1. Robert Ringer has a simplified and easy to read introduction as to what money really is and how it got so corrupted - a great place to start,

2. A super one page distillation of the current problems.

3. After being a paid subscriber to to Gary North for many years, reading him is mandatory, in my opinion. He was very wrong on Y2K, but since then has called the top of the stock market mania (to the month!), begged subscribers to buy gold at $300, and gave years of advance warning of the housing bubble.
Get a fee subscription his Reality Check newsletter. I hope that will convince you to sign on for the full web site subscription. OBTW, I have no $ interest here - just a paid subscriber with a meager hope that if a critical mass of folks get exposed to more moral and economic sense it might help to turn this country around after the crash.
Gary North is a long term bull on gold and also wise enough to look at contrary information. For example, "Helicopter Ben" Bernanke has actually kept a lid on M1 monetary inflation, (even as he lowers interest rates). So just possibly, we'll see a tight money recession and lower gold prices in the short run, before the (almost) inevitable long term inflation.3. For a real comprehensive education, see the Mises Institute. Here is a sample reading list. Regards, - OSOM

Retreat Caretakers, the Good, Bad and the Ugly
Recently I had the honor of reviewing a spectacular working retreat somewhere in Idaho. The owner, whom resides out of state, was present to give me a tour over the grounds covering hundreds of acres filled with multiple springs, ponds and varied terrain that would leave most of the readers here coveting thy neighbors retreat. I suppose I’m guilty as I write this update as well. Thank God for His grace.
The intention of this weeks update is to briefly explore the idea of retaining a full time caretaker at one’s retreat, the pro’s and of course the cons of such an undertaking and the objective of such a decision.
On the surface most, including myself, hail to an astounding NO, when the thought comes to having another person living at their retreat. What about OPSEC? Where am “I” going to stay if someone is in “my” house? What if they tell all their friends? What if….? Questions abound so let’s explore some of these on a purely logical basis, never mind someone is keeping your toilet seat warm in the winter.
First, what is a caretaker and when would one be needed? Well, generally caretakers are just that, they would be required to oversee and maintain the property in your absence and then be of utmost service while you were on site. From some quick research it is generally accepted that the caretaker lives in the home and then retires to a guest house while you are there (this could be a small apartment or a trailer on the property). There are some properties that require only seasonal attention, usually in the winter and thus caretakers may change as often as the season, making for possible problematic OPSEC issues. The best reason I can see to employ a full time caretaker is that you know your supplies and gear is safe, either they know about it and are trusted to help PM it, inventory it and rotate it or they simply are ignorant to the walls being hollow. Either way, your stomach is ulcer free and you can live your life without switching on your expensive retreat-o-cam every morning wondering if your gear is now at the local flea market.
What can a caretaker actually ‘do’ for an absentee owner? If the property is large enough there is a lot of check items that may be overlooked. For starters, like the property I reviewed there will be major daily, weekly and quarterly chores, especially in the spring and summer like:
1. Check, adjust and perform PM on the Solar/PV/hydro systems
2. Tend to animals that you want firmly in place should the retreat be activated (you won’t be able to buy them when TSHTF)
3. Tend to the garden daily and canning activities at harvest time
4. Check and rotate food storage
5. Walk the perimeter fence line and fire break attending to issues
6. Brush clean up for fire season
7. Walking trail maintenance
8. LP/OP checks (Have the critters taken a hold?)
9. Firewood cutting (maintain three years worth)

Any roads including the driveway will need to be maintained, especially in winter and after any significant storms in the summer. If there are ponds on the property who will make sure the stocked fish have a viable environment to thrive for that extra protein should food run low someday? A good caretaker also makes sure that neighborly relationships are intact and that as you approach your retreat after a major event that the odd’s are in your favor that the retreat has been well protected in your absence its’ ready to go when you arrive. The list goes on and on and is unique to each specific retreat.
I guess a good way to sum up the benefits of having a caretaker is like that ol’ Motel 6 commercial where the narrator says at the end “we’ll leave the light on for you”. A comforting feeling for sure.
What are the pitfalls of having a caretaker? I suppose even listing them here would be a waste of words as we all can think of many issues that can become major problems like theft and a total destruction of OPSEC. Those would be the worst of the worst. Should a caretaker be hired, your storage should be split into two places. The first should be the bulk of your supplies, say 75% into a known bunker that can be managed by the caretaker. The other 25% needs to be placed in a secure unknown bunker ‘just in case’, since even the most trusted person can innocently betray’ their friend. One loose word or errant comment can be an issue.
If anyone has ever seen or owned a rental property that went vacant for more than a few months then it should be obvious that homes and surrounding property can become neglected and unmanageable very quickly. A meticulous and trusted caretaker can be a blessing.
How much to pay a caretaker? Normally, in high scale urban environment caretakers (whom some are required to be certified chefs and nanny’s) are paid a salary and benefits. However, this is not the case for rural caretaking positions. Most times pay is a barter of some kind such as free room and a small stipend for duties around the retreat. The owner I spoke with had adjusted his arrangement with his caretakers over several years. In the beginning the caretakers rent was a sum and then it was worked off on an hourly rate, but this was an issue because in the summer the owner had to pay out of pocket not only the monthly maintenance tab but hours back to the caretaker since in the summer there were many projects to do. In the winter the caretaker owed the owner money since there was little to do on the retreat and this arrangement quickly was replaced with a much simpler one calling for no rent and no minimum hours, just a detailed checklist of items that needed to be completed as the seasons changed.
Another issue that roars its’ head is that caretakers normally run a cycle and over a period of time either get burned out, become complacent (or think its’ their retreat), or just simply want to move on. In the beginning they will work like Siberian sled dogs and after a time they’ll work like a seasoned union worker (no offense of course, I was a union worker years back and I knew how to take a break too!). This can be elevated by having a clear and concise contract that lays out duties owed by both parties and remedies for all.
The caretaker does not have to part of your ‘group’. There are plenty of very trustworthy individuals and families that can be ignorant to what the properties real intended purpose is so as to keep your OPSEC in place. Just remember, should a perilous situation arise it is your duty to ask them to stay and if they so choose, to keep on hand enough supplies to take care of them for an extended period of time. If you think that upon retreat activation you’ll just send them on their way, maybe you ought to re-examine your own motives and be wary, since the possibility of them returning to harm you will be very high. On the flip side, maybe a member of your ‘group’ is in a position that they can take the position to make up for any shortfalls in their capital calls to purchase the property. There are many ways to find and retain a caretaker, be very discerning and choose carefully.
So folks, either while shopping for your retreat or once you’ve bought one; consider the merits of a caretaker. After seeing first hand how a caretaker can help a retreat owner the bottom line is that if one selects their caretaker carefully the benefits far outweigh the risks. God Bless, - TS in Idaho

I recently heard from three different storage food vendors that they are getting deluged with orders. Apparently, the recent economic news and reports of grain shortages have worked together to cause people to suddenly want to lay in a supply of long term storage food. Both Mountain House and Alpen Aire now have orders backed up 45 to 60 days. Many storage food vendors have run out of stock, so expect to wait at least two months for shipment. I only expect the order backlogs to increase in coming months, so don't dawdle. Prices are also likely to increase, since most of the packaging companies are changing prices "as needed" (based on cost increases) rather than the traditional annual price list updates. OBTW, I heard from Ready Made Resources that they still have some 6-can cases of Mountain House Freeze dried foods (with a 30+ year shelf life) in stock, and for just the next few weeks they are offering SurvivalBlog readers free shipping in the continental US on selected items. These include Hearty Beef Stew (case price: $180, free shipping) and either Spaghetti and Meat Sauce or Chicken and Rice (case price: $122, free shipping). They also sell the Alpen Aire SuperPak System, with enough food for two people for one year (or one person for two years). This is 1,200 pounds of freeze dried food for $5,825, (1% discount for paying by check. The normal retail is $6995!) Best of all, they are offering free shipping, which is a savings of around $735, depending on the shipping destination. For the SuperPak, allow 6 weeks for delivery.

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Eric flagged this: 'Panic' wheat buying across the US., and SF in Hawaii sent this: Food shortages loom as wheat crop shrinks and prices rise. Down to just a 10 week supply? It is a good thing that most SurvivalBlog readers stocked up on wheat more than a year ago, back when it was still relatively inexpensive.

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RBS sent this example of Nanny State stupidity: Guns Melted for Peace. For peace? Back in 1940, Mr. Haywood's recent ancestors would probably have been thrilled to own any gun, since the country was in imminent risk of foreign invasion. What a difference a couple of generations of the soft life makes. OBTW, did those buffoons realize that the gun in the picture appears to be a very rare limited-production handmade Krausewerk Collectibles stainless steel .45 Luger, currently worth more than $100,000? Seeing it get the abrasive cut-off wheel treatment in the second photo was sickening. What a waste! Obviously, the Nanny State has run amok. OBTW, the only thing worse than a Nanny State is a Surveillance Nanny State. (The UK now has the highest number of CCTV cameras per capita in the world.) My advice to SurvivalBlog readers in the UK who value their freedom: Take the gap!

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Richard C. sent a link to an interesting do-it-yourself project: IR LEDs for Dazzling Closed Circuit Television Cameras

"Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.
The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." - C. S. Lewis

Thursday, February 28, 2008

I often have friends and clients ask me how I can talk about inflation and deflation in the same breath. They've asked: "But I thought that inflation and deflation were contradictory. How do you think that we could experience both inflation and deflation at the same time?"

Let me explain, starting with a bit of background: The fractional reserve banking system, based on usury, creates money. Here is a simplified example: Each time you deposit a $1,000 at your local bank, the bank then lends nearly all of that money out to someone else, charging interest. The bank holds just a small reserve ("the fraction") to cover the their likely daily withdrawal demands. Now, say that $950 of your deposited money is borrowed by a business, to purchase raw materials. The seller of those materials will deposit the payment check into his own bank. But then that bank can again lend nearly all of it out. The process goes on and on. Thus, the banking system has a multiplier effect: With the present-day 10% cash reserve requirement in the US, each $1,000 that you deposit eventually becomes more than $7,000. These additional dollars are electronic dollars that are created out of thin air. This puts a lot of new money into circulation, so it is essentially inflationary. Everyone is happy, as long as they all can keep paying their interest. (But by its very nature, the interest-driven banking system creates winners and losers. The losers cannot pay the interest, and go bankrupt. This explains why so many businesses fail each year.) The bankers are the happiest of all, since they make money from everyone on virtually every transaction, in the form of interest and fees. They earn a tremendous amount of money on the float.

The multiplier effect is an almost magical process, and everything hums along nicely in good times. But then comes recession. You get laid off from work. Instead of depositing money every week, you start to withdraw money. Your bank must cover those withdrawals. Things get interesting: when deposits decline, the multiplier effect also works in reverse. The reverse multiplier effect is deflationary. By withdrawing $1,000 from your bank, you are effectively removing $7,000 from circulation. The foregoing example is oversimplified, but is a useful illustration.

Now let's look at home mortgages. These have always been a cash cow for banks, because of both an un-backed currency and fractional reserve banking, we live in a chronically inflationary environment. Therefore, on average, price of houses go up more than they go down. And mortgages are "safe" because most people are consistent about making their monthly payments. They might miss a car payment or merely pay the minimum on their monthly credit card statement, but they will miss a house payment only in extremis. Nobody wants to lose the house where they live.

Today, in 2008, we are living in exceptional times.The price of suburban houses, fueled by artificially low interest rates for more than a decade, inflated for so long that they created a speculative mania. At the peak of the mania in 2005 and 2006, people bought houses that they couldn't really afford with no intention of ever living in them. They saw how fast the market was rising, so they bought houses purely on speculation, to either rent them out, or to quickly re-sell them ("flip" them), for a tidy profit. They often knowingly signed up for adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) with relatively low "teaser" introductory rates, scheduled to be reset to much higher rates--with monthly payments that then would be higher than the buyer could afford to pay. The buyers did so, with the expectation that they would sell their "spec" house before the interest rate reset. But then interest rates went up for a while, and stopped the market bubble from expanding. This pause pushed more houses onto the market. Seeing the turn in the market, the more astute speculators immediately put their spec and rental houses on the market. Almost overnight, there were 6 or 7 houses available for each buyer. As the inventory grew, inevitably prices fell. (As I often say, the law of supply and demand is inescapable.) More and more speculators, unable to sell their houses, fell behind on their payments. Banks started to foreclose. Those foreclosed properties have now started to hit the market, further flooding the supply of unsold houses. This has started a downward spiral of house prices, as the market naturally seeks equilibrium. Since macro market swings tend to be prolonged and over-exaggerated, I wouldn't be surprised to see the prices of residential real estate decline 30 to 40% nationwide, and as much as 70% in the erstwhile "hot" coastal market areas that were grossly over-inflated. As the market nears bottom, there will be some genuine bargains available in three or four years. A similar process, I believe, will soon occur in the commercial real estate market, as the economy slows.

Starting last summer, the turn in the US residential housing market had a profound effect on the global credit market. The millions of subprime mortgages had been repackaged in lots of creative ways, and the indirect investors in these debt instruments naturally began to wonder what was backing them up. These investors were willing to turn a blind eye when prices were rising, but when the market started to turn, they got nervous. Some of them started pulling their money out of hedge funds that had visible exposure to subprime debt. Two hedge funds managed by Bear Stearns were some of the first to suffer. In more recent months, the subprime contagion has spread, as more and more investors have realized that they have no way of knowing what tangible assets represent surety for their loans. Again, the repeated aggregation and "repackaging" of these mortgage-backed securities created opacity, right when investors sought transparency. Then, to make matters work, it was revealed that the big credit rating firms such as Fitch, Moody's, and Standard & Poors were in collusion with the mortgage bankers. In what amounted to kickbacks and bribery, the credit rating firms had agreed to artificially inflate the credit ratings of hedge funds and banks with residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) exposure. This destroyed the reputation of all banks and hedge trading houses --even those with sterling credit and that had no exposure to subprime of midprime mortgages. Once the rating scandal developed, even "AAA" rated investments became suspect. The end result was that the global credit market essentially shut down. Unable to assess their risk, investors stopped investing, and in turn, bankers stopped lending. This squeeze (remember the reverse multiplier effect that I mentioned?) limited cash to meet the banks withdrawal demands. Rather than declare bankruptcy, some of the hedge funds "temporarily" suspended investor redemptions. Meanwhile, they scrambled to have their parent companies and Uncle Sugar bail them out. This explains the multi-billion dollar "write-downs' that you've seen mentioned in the newspapers.

So now we are in an environment where global credit has shut down to a trickle. The current credit contraction, in terms of its effect on the economy, is actually more severe than that of the 1930s. (The economy is now far more dependent on credit than it was in the past.) There is no liquidity, so there is no chance at all for "business as usual" to continue. But yet we still see the talking heads on CNBC pitching the latest "hot" stocks. Are they blind? Are they spending their weekends picking psychedelic mushrooms? In my estimation the stock market is presently primed for a collapse of epic proportions.

Overall, given the credit squeeze, we are in a situation that is similar to the early 1930s--which was a distinctly deflationary period. Rather than letting the credit collapse cause a worldwide depression, the central banks (including the Federal Reserve banking cartel in the US) are floating huge un-backed loans through creative mechanisms--such as the discount window--to any bank that asks for cash. Hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars. But this is not enough to stem the tide of deflation. The pendulum has already started to swing in that direction, and it is gaining momentum. At this point, it is almost impossible to stop. All that Bernanke and Company can hope to do is soften the blow. Mark my words: There will be recession and massive economic dislocation. The recession may be deep and long enough to qualify as a bona fide depression.

Do you remember Jim Cramer's public meltdown back in August of Aught Seven, when he was screaming "Open the discount window!" His tirade was a foreshadowing of the severity of the current crisis. He could see what was coming, and he briefly let the world know what he felt in the depth of his heart. (He has since then become less vociferous.) It is also noteworthy that at roughly the same time, Cramer also let slip his prediction for "upside down" home investors--the folks that I call contrapreneurs--when he recommended that they "just walk away." In much the same way that I predicted back in early 2007, Jim Cramer saw the advent of what is now euphemistically called "Jingle Mail".

Another key point that I'd like to emphasize is the difference between the availability of credit and the willingness to lend or invest. Helicopter Ben could keep lowering interest rates all the way to zero, but still not make the housing market turn around. As a point of reference, the Japanese lowered rates to zero in 2001, in an attempt to end their chronic recession that started in 1992. It didn't work very well. In fact, they didn't feel ready to raise rates back above zero for five years--until their economic indicators crawled back up into the black, in 2006. But this respite was apparently brief, since Japan once again appears to be sliding into recession. Their recession, by the way, got its start in 1991 when the over-inflated price of Tokyo real estate collapsed. It took 14 years for prices to start to recover. Gee, based on their experience, I guess that we can look forward to many fun-filled years ahead, here in the States.

Is the foregoing making things clear, or just muddying the waters? You might still be asking: "How I can talk about inflation and deflation in the same breath?" Here it is in a nutshell. Assets such as real estate can be deflating at the same time that commodity and consumer prices are inflating. Why? Because Mr. Bernanke and his cronies have an unlimited supply of paper and ink. The banks are now begging their pals in Washington for huge bailouts and "economic stimulus" though artificial incentives such as tax rebates--on the scale of what could amount to trillions of dollars. As I've mentioned before, bailouts and cash infusions that large cannot be financed solely by taxes and bonds. The government will be forced to monetize the additional debt. As I mentioned in a recent article, monetization is highly inflationary. It is not just gradual leverage like the fractional reserve banking multiplier effect I described. Rather, it is an almost instantaneous dump truck load (or as Chairman Ben would call it, a helicopter load) of cash, rapidly hitting the economy. This monetization will not go un-noticed. It will push up consumer and commodity prices and simultaneously push down the value of the US Dollar in international exchange.

So what comes next? In my estimation it will be a continuing downward spiral for house prices, declining commercial real estate prices, more hedge fund collapses, some enormous derivatives melt downs (that will likely spawn municipal bond failures), and bank runs. As the economy slows, the flow of funds going into banks will dry up--both as individual depositors get laid off, and as foreign investors decide to find safer places to put their money. A silent run has already been going on for months, at the institutional level. Meanwhile, the FDIC has identified a growing number of "problem" bank and they are quickly adding staff to be prepared for big bank runs. (Hmmmm...What do they know that we don't know?) But the Generally Dumb Public (GDP) remains clueless. I predict that the private depositor bank runs will start shortly. I believe these runs will be started both by domestically-chartered banks and S&Ls, as well as by international banks that have branches in the US. They will put limitations on withdrawals and balance transfers, starting with home equity lines of credit. These withdrawal restrictions will make depositors nervous. Bank runs are 99% psychological. All that it will take is just one rumor stated on a talk radio show in just one major US city, and the avalanche will begin. It could begin very innocently, for example: "Bank of X says that I can't draw any more money from my home equity line. But I know that my house is still worth $500,000, and I only paid $420,000 for it. So if its not my house that is causing it, then there must be some other trouble at the bank. I'm going to tell my friends to get their money out of Bank of X, right away." The avalanche, once started, will be huge. It will take down virtually all the banks and S&Ls, regardless of their subprime and midprime exposure. Yes, the FDIC will make good on their long-standing promises, but that will take months to resolve. In the meantime, people will be short of cash. Even worse, this shortage of cash may mean that many people won't be making their house payments. Which means even more delinquencies and foreclosures.

Be ready for bank runs. Even the mainstream media is catching on to the threat. Be ready for far-reaching "temporary" executive orders that limit withdrawals. Be ready for the bank run jitters to spill over into other effects that could escalate into veritable mass hysteria: stock market collapses, commodities spikes, and public outcry for "moratoriums", "debt relief", "suspensions", "debt restructuring", "stimulus packages", "buy backs", "grace periods", "liquidity injections", "collective stock purchases", "public investing", "bank holidays", "open market operations", "wage and price controls", and huge "pump priming" public works programs. Brace yourself for an assortment of government edicts and massive market intervention hidden behind a huge smokescreen of Orwellian Newspeak and double talk. By the way, also be ready for restrictions on international currency movements--but only for us little guys with greenbacks--not for the financiers' multimillion dollar wire transfers.

Depending on the outcome of the next presidential election, government reaction could range from merely "large", to downright gargantuan. (The latter may go down in history as "Obama's trillion dollar bailouts.")

What is really needed is the abolition of fractional reserve banking and un-backed fiat currencies. A monetary and banking system based on usury is the root of the problem. Debt-based money and currency inflation (a hidden from of taxation) are both parasitic at the core. We need honest (specie-backed) currency, and traditional warehouse banking. In the long run, honest money will prevail. The recent run-up of crude oil above $100 a barrel, spot gold above $955 per ounce, and spot silver above $19.25 per ounce--all time highs--are indicative that the market recognizes the real value of the US Dollar. Incidentally, I also think that the folks at WIR Bank in Basel, Switzerland have had the right idea for 70 years, through the use of private credit clearing circles.

Dear Jim,
As you know, it's legal in America to build your own standard firearm for personal use [by manufacturing your own receiver.] One of the best ways to get a discreet, legal, off-paper SHTF rifle is an imported de-milled Kalashnikov (AK) kit, with a new, home-built receiver.

Take a look at this web site. His heat treating and machine and tool instructions are accurate. This is the best site I've seen on the subject. I was able to tear down a Romanian kit and assemble a working AK in about 8 hours. Beginners will likely need a couple of weekends. - Michael Z. Williamson

Billy S. found this piece: Is Zimbabwe-style Inflation Coming to America? $500,000 for a cigarette?

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Courtesy of our friend Eric comes this from The Seattle Times: Wheat Hits Record on US Inventory Report

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PMac found us a "Fun little list of Dream BOVs"

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John S. suggested the economic commentary in video clip of Glenn Beck's interview of Jonah Goldberg, the author of the book "Liberal Fascism"

"In our recent survey of the African battlefields, we discovered more positively every time that it was not Boer marksmanship that made the difference in those wars so much as Boer gun handling. Contrary to widespread belief, the Boers did not do significant damage at great range, but when they got into a firing position at a reasonable range, they shot carefully in order to hit rather than by volley [fire] in order to scare. It seems apparent that these men, while good shots, were not extraordinary shots. What matters is that when they came on to shoot they used their individual weapons purposefully rather than ostentatiously. Carefully aimed rifle fire at short range is overwhelmingly demoralizing. What happens, however, is as the range shortens improperly organized warriors tend to shoot carelessly. The difference is decisive." - The Late Col. Jeff Cooper

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The high bid in the current SurvivalBlog Benefit Auction lot is now at $80. The auction is for three items: a 120 VAC/12 VDC BedFan Personal Cooling System (a $99 retail value), kindly donated by the manufacturer, a Thieves Oil Start Living Kit (a $161 retail value) donated by Ready Made Resources, and a copy of the latest edition of "The Encyclopedia of Country Living" by the late Carla Emery (a $32 retail value). The auction ends on March 15th. Please e-mail us your bids, in $10 increments.

Scroll down this article to the link to the Quarterly Derivatives Fact Sheet. It shows Citi[Bank] exposed to $3 trillion and J.P. Morgan at $7.8 trillion [in OTC derivatives.]

Continue to the bottom of the piece for "Intelligence Czar Can Waive SEC Rules." It looks like the Plunge Protection Team is operating in overdrive.

Eisenhower warned of "The military-industrial complex". What about the corporate-government complex? This looks like something Il Duce would have been proud of.

Best wishes for our free enterprise system, - William

JWR Replies: I'm glad to see that some readers took the time to look through the soon-to-be defunct Economic Indicators page link that I provided earlier this month. The executive summary for the Q3 2007 Quarterly Derivatives Fact Sheet mentions "U.S. commercial banks generated $2.3 billion in revenues trading cash and derivative instruments in the third quarter of 2007, down 62% from the $6.2 billion reported in the second quarter. This decline is attributed largely to the difficult trading environment in credit markets." That is putting it mildly!

In more recent months, the banking community has been fleeing the derivatives market like a bunch of scalded cats. Since August, the volume of new OTC derivatives has dropped by a whopping 97%. But the scary thought is that there are still trillions of dollars in banking derivative bets in play, with very risky CDS hedges still active in very large numbers. Many of these contracts will not expires for years. In essence, many of the outstanding derivatives were essentially "borrowing short and lending long." Any time that there is a big swing in interest rates or credit expansion/contraction, such traders are at risk of getting murdered. Every derivative has party and a counterparty. If one party goes belly-up during the life of the contract, there is a huge naked exposure.

Yesterday, rumors been circulating that the Bank of America (BofA) and other bankers (including some from Switzerland) are very quietly courting the US congress, seeking a big bailout. Here it comes, folks! As I mentioned previously, BofA recently bailed out Countrywide, to the tune of $4 billion, partly with taxpayer dollars. (One reason cited was that Countrywide was on the hook to BofA for some huge derivative plays, and that by buying them out, BofA effectively became both party and counterparty which zeroed out that derivative paper.)

Now, it seems, BofA and the other banksters expects Mr. and Mrs. US Taxpayer to bail them all out of their exposure to subprime-backed bad paper! I have warned you, folks: Get ready for the mother of all bailouts. As I've said before, there are not nearly enough tax dollars or foreign investor dollars to bankroll these gargantuan bailout. It is very likely that the Federal Reserve will be forced to monetize this debt--effectively creating money out of thin air. This will be outrageously inflationary. Monetization is something that I mention when I wrote the opening chapter of my novel "Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse", back in the winter of 1990. But I never anticipated Federal over-spending on this scale. If the bailouts take place the way that I predict, we are talking about many hundreds of billions of dollars--and possibly even trillions of dollars--by the time all of said and done. Warm up the helicopters, Ben!

Dear readers, I must warn you once again: Get out of any investments other than mining shares that are US dollar-denominated, and into tangibles, pronto! Got Ammo? Got grub?

I concur with David in Israel regarding overseas retreat destinations. Before any of this discussion was brought up for survival locations, I entertained the idea of relocating to New Zealand, but not for survival reasons. As much as I am attracted there, I rule it out now. I also served in the Middle East as a soldier and served in Moscow, in a different capacity. I spoke fluent Russian at that time. Residing in a foreign country is just that, foreign. Don't kid yourself, in a real situation, you don't have much of a chance, even with family. Your best bet is to stay here and circle the wagons. Plus, since you're reading this blog, we 'survivalists' all need you here so that we can help each other. - Flhspete


Hi James,
I disagree with Tonga as a retreat location. I spent six weeks sailing through and visiting most of the islands from the Ha’apai group south including Lifuka, Oua, Nomuka, Kelfesia and Nuku Alofa. These islands are small, low lying and hit with tropical storms, including cyclones almost yearly. There is severe lack of fresh water on most islands to the point that the Tongan Navy has to supply some islanders with fresh water by boat. There is no way for most of the islands to be self sustaining for more than a few dozen people without resorting to “the other white meat”. Guns are heavily restricted, and there were recent riots. The place is ripe for a coup.

Sail or fly there for a visit. You will have fun as the people are very friendly and the water sports are very good. But don’t even consider it for a retreat location. A far better choice would be the Marquesas islands. Even though they are French controlled, the islands are very mountainous, sparsely populated and have rich soil. They are also out of most cyclone paths. Regards, - Bert W.

JWR Replies: Most of the islands in the Marquesas have unreliable rains, and hence are overall worse than Tonga, in terms of water availability. Like the rest of French Polynesia, residents of the Marquesas are subject to some draconian gun control laws, including universal registration. For that reason, I don't recommend any of the French-administered islands. At least Tonga is an independent, sovereign nation. I included it on the list mainly because of its reputation as a tax haven.


I have been reading your blog for some time, thanks for all the great info.

One idea that I have not heard much about is using medium size rivers as a way to Get Out of Dodge (G.O.O.D.). I know that it would require just the correct locations for both your work as well as your retreat. But a lot of large cities are near some sort of river or lake. In the best case if you work or live upstream from your retreat you could have a small flat bottom or a canoe stored some place to get back to your retreat. I am always surprised how quietly you can move in a canoe. And if you make your move at night you would be even harder to detect. If your retreat is a short hike from the river it could work out quite well. If you live or work down stream you could paddle back upstream or you may want to look at a small trolling motor. These little electric motors are very quiet and the deep cycle battery could then be used with your solar panels once you get to your safe place. If you are lucky you may be able to use this waterway as a way to travel after things hit the fan. The drawback would be that others can use it as well and may be using it for bad reasons. Maybe some of the other readers could add some ideas of their own. I know traveling by canoe creates some problems of its own but it may be better than walking down the road when they are full of cars that are stalled out or just gridlocked. Thanks, - Korey

#1 Son Replies: I have given some thought to people Getting Out of Dodge with a canoe or small boat, since we do quite a bit of canoeing here at the ranch. If you could do it overnight, it might work. As soon as it starts getting light, you might have trouble. Firstly, anyone padding along in a canoe makes a perfect target. He's not moving too fast, and has nowhere to hide. Since this will be the day after TEOTWAWKI many people might go into WDNNSB Mode or might think that they can shoot up whomever they please. Even if the savages don't kill you outright, they might shoot a few holes in your canoe for fun.

"The Revolution was effected before the War commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations ... This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution." - John Adams

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I'm a newbie to your site and I love it! Read it every morning instead of the newspaper. I'm a single female horse rancher living in Alabama (not originally from Alabama). I attend a home church and have been preparing for our future events for several years before reading your blog. After reading the blog I realize how much farther I have to go. Especially in the home defense area. I own two .22 rimfires and a BB gun. LOL! Thank you so much for all the time and information your providing us. I've referred many of like mind to your site.

My main question to you is about whole life insurance. I recently received a [whole life] plan through my parents (something I would never waste my time acquiring). They've paid into it for over 30 years. I did a archive search to see if there are any articles on this subject and found none. Do you have any recommendations? Cash it out? Borrow against it? Leave it alone? I'm thinking something like this will become irrelevant in the future. Any thoughts or reading material you could give me? Thanks for your time. - Merry

JWR Replies: It is apparent that you already recognize the difference in value between whole life and term life insurance plans. (A lot of people are clueless, and waste money on whole life plans, which are not appropriate for the circumstances of most folks.) Unless the value of a whole life policy is appreciating faster than the rate of inflation (currently 18% in the real world, versus the "official" Commerce Department statistic), then it is losing net value.

Since you are single, your only "after assuming room temperature" concerns should be your burial expenses and settling your debts. I recommend that you cash out that whole life policy and set aside roughly $12,000 in precious metals (which would cover your burial expenses), pay off any car loan and credit card debt, and invest the rest in preparations (real "life assurance") and various investment barterables. Since you know horses, your tangible investments should include hay ground, brood mares, tack, and vet supplies. Your knowledge of horses has value, so capitalize on it. In a world with scanty and expensive gasoline, if you have extra horses (with brood mares to produce more) and extra tack you will be considered very wealthy.

Since you are lacking in the area of self defense, give purchasing priority to firearms, ammunition, spare magazines, gun cleaning equipment, holsters, scabbards, and web gear. (Web gear is tack for people. You need a comfortable and practical way to regularly carry loaded spare rifle and pistol magazines, a pistol holster, and a canteen.)

Proper training is just as important as the guns themselves. Budget for training with one of the top-notch training organizations. Here are some suggestions. I haven't attended all of these, but they come highly recommended by SurvivalBlog readers):

Front Sight. Pahrump (near Las Vegas), Nevada. The biggest and the best, in my opinion. They are particularly successful at training women, since they eschew the macho posturing and drill sergeant bullying used by some of the other schools. Try to schedule your class dates from October to April, to avoid the summer desert heat. They also have a training facility in Alaska ("Front Sight North"), if you can only get away in June, July, or August. FWIW, I was a strong proponent of Front Sight's training long before they ever became a SurvivalBlog advertiser.

RWVA/Appleseed Project. Inexpensive but very effective rifle training.

Western Rifle Shooters Association (WRSA). Inexpensive but very effective rifle and pistol training.

Badlands Tactical in Oklahoma. They specialize in long range shooting.

Yavapai Firearms Academy
Louis Awerbuck is a mobile trainer that specializes in defensive shotgun shooting. If travel expenses to attend a school seem prohibitive, then watch the Yavapi training calendar. (The training may come to you!)

Defense Training International (John and Vicki Farnam)

Lethal Force Institute (Massad Ayoob)

Suarez International A very high intensity school. They specialize in the AK-47.

Thunder Ranch Clint Smith is the inventor of the 'Urban Rifle' course, and a great instructor.

E.A.G. Tactical Pat Rodgers is a master of the carbine.

Range Master (Memphis, Tennessee). Tom Givens has been recommended to me by readers from the midwest and in the southern US.

Holland's (Powers, Oregon.) Darryl Holland specializes in long range shooting. He is soft-spoken and has a real gift for sharing his knowledge and skill.

After reading yet another article about how guineas do no harm in the garden, I thought it was time to toss in my thoughts on the matter.

First, guineas do not do nearly the damage a flock of chickens will do. However...

When mine were free to roam the garden, they dug their dust pits right at the base of plants because the soil under plants is cooler from both shade and watering. Be prepared to sacrifice plants to exposed roots.

They walked up and down the rows of strawberries and pecked at all the green strawberries, which then just lay on the dirt because they didn't taste good and were too small to ripen.They also did this with all the pinto bean pods long before the beans ever matured. And they found each tomato as it began to turn red and from the side that was red, pecked out the entire inside so I was left with what looked like a hanging green ice cream scoop. They did this as high as they could reach. They pecked at squash and melons and when they pecked deep enough, either they liked it and ate it, or ants found the wound and made short work of the whole thing.

They pecked every red raspberry they could reach and apparently didn't care for them. This didn't stop them from still pecking off every berry they could reach and just leaving them on the ground. Every day.

I no longer have grape hyacinth all over my yard, because the guineas graze them off like little lawn mowers. I think they can see very tiny things, because I rarely get chigger bites and only get ticks from the cats when they've been in the tall grass.

Guinea hens will not sit on any eggs they might lay if they are penned up. You have to put the eggs under a good mother hen, best being a game hen. Guineas hide their nests and if you don't find them, you will probably lose the nest and the hen, as they will not leave the nest when threatened. They will be lost to skunks, raccoons, possums and dogs. Armadillos will also take the eggs, but I don't think they harm the hen.

Guineas usually make turkey appear intelligent by comparison, but they can be smart in some ways. I have seen them send a youngster to go get a lost keet peeping in the tall grass, and lead it back to the flock. I have only one left now (he is called "Little Schumer"), and he talks to me. He hangs with the chickens now that he's alone, and doesn't wander so far, but he gets really naughty about going into the henhouse at night. His last remaining brother got killed by an owl and I hope to keep this little "tame" one around a long time.

I put thick, slippery plastic sheets about 30" high around the three trees the birds chose to roost in. These won't stop owls, but since being installed they have prevented any more losses to opossums and raccoons.

Here's a helpful hint. Use the poultry to help, not ruin a garden. Stagger plant potatoes in a three foot wide row, barely below the surface of spaded soil. Cover generously with straw, and then roll out a length of 2" x 4" welded wire fencing, four feet high, flat on top of the whole bed. This prevents the chickens from digging it up, the straw means you don't need to hill the potatoes, and the chickens and guineas will eat all the potato bugs and not touch the plants because they are poisonous.

I hope this is of help to anyone who plans to get guinea fowl. - Carol in Arkansas

Mike found a web site from a builder of modern-day castles. Sadly, their extant castle projects seem to be designed for "fantasy" looks rather than tactical practicality. They have far too many windows at ground level. At least the walls are two feet thick. If I could ever afford to spend that much on a castle, I would want a real portcullis --not a fake one that is nothing more than a flimsy door.

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D.K. sent us an article which updates first mention in SurvivalBlog more than a year ago: Biodiversity 'doomsday vault' comes to life in Arctic.

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Reader Mark K. suggested this mail order firm as a very inexpensive source for spare eyeglasses.

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Reader "CalgaryShooter" suggested this piece of market commentary: The ultimate sell signal--Resignation of top GAO official directly impacts your portfolio

"When it comes time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home." - Chief Aupumut, Mohican. 1725

Monday, February 25, 2008

The high bid in the current SurvivalBlog Benefit Auction lot is now at $60. The auction is for three items: a 120 VAC/12 VDC BedFan Personal Cooling System (a $99 retail value), kindly donated by the manufacturer, a Thieves Oil Start Living Kit (a $161 retail value) donated by Ready Made Resources, and a copy of the latest edition of "The Encyclopedia of Country Living" by the late Carla Emery (a $32 retail value). The auction ends on March 15th. Please e-mail us your bids, in $10 increments.

Hi Jim
What are your thoughts on the advantages of basements for cool storage, elevated construction for flood protection, sod roof/earth contact for insulation versus steel roofs for water collection?
Perhaps some of the SurvivalBlog readers may wish to submit hypothetical retreat layouts with advantages and disadvantages and why they would choose a particular layout design. Regards,- JG

JWR Replies: A sod roof or earth-berming creates some contradictions in retreat design goals, most notably that they typically block the defender's view of one entire flank. This can be partially mitigated by properly placing supplementary defensive positions. Sod roofs are also contradictory with the goal of rainwater catchment. My general advice is: Unless you also expect your roof to provide gamma (fallout) shielding, then use metal roofs in dry climates.

There are several distinct approaches to retreat architecture. These should all be modified depending on your local climate and the particular threats that you anticipate.

In an area with a high water table, earth-sheltered houses can only be considered if you start out by building above the existing grade, and build up embankments from there. Details on underground house architecture and design are fairly well described at the Davis Caves web site.

In a dry climates with deep wells, water catchment is a paramount concern. In those areas, I generally recommend one story house designs (to maximize roof surface area), and metal roofs for the house and all outbuildings, with rainwater catchment systems for all of them. Even small sheds should be equipped with gutters and rain barrels.

Anyone living in a high population density area or that is along a potential refugee line of drift should make the need to repel looters one of their primary design considerations. This means large cleared areas in all directions ("clear fields of fire"), ballistic hardening (most easily accomplished by sand or gravel-filled bags--see my comments later in this post), infrared floodlights (for use in conjunction with Starlight scopes and NVGs), and plenty of defensive concertina wire or razor wire. In essence, you want to make your house a "tough nut to crack", so that looters will quickly decide go find easier pickings.

A completely different approach is to make your house blend in with the terrain and go un-noticed. Outside of heavily-wooded areas, this is very difficult to achieve. Furthermore, the goal of self-sufficiency brings along with it the need for barns, greenhouses, wood sheds, photovoltaic panels, and various outbuildings such as hen houses. It is not realistic to expect that you can make all that magically disappear. But at least if you live on acreage in wooded country, you can make the entrance to your property look nondescript. If you have one of those fancy driveway entranceways, then recognize the fact that they scream: "Here is the home of someone wealthy." My advice is to tear it down. If anything, you want your entrance road to look as much like a disused logging road as possible. Plant additional screening trees. Plant native shrubbery to make the entrance narrow and uninviting. If you have a perimeter fence, you might want to make your entrance gate look as much as possible like nothing more than a continuation of the perimeter fencing.

Regardless of where you live, it is important to black out all visible light. Odds are that in a grid-down collapse, you will be one of the few people in your area that still have electricity. Any visible lights at night will thus attract looters. So bes sure to lay in the supplies that you'll need to completely black out your windows and make a light-proof "airlock" for any frequently-used exterior doors. (A wooden framework that is a bit bigger than a phone booth, covered with blankets, works fine.)

As recently mentioned in the blog, extra thick masonry construction is the best choice for ballistic protection. Another great option is an Earthship tire house. But even well-reinforced masonry and Earthships are problematic in earthquake country. There, wood frame construction is ideal, given its inherent flexibility. But what if you live in earthquake country and you want ballistic protection? What a quandary. Unless you are a multimillionaire that can afford hundreds of yards of Kevlar, then the only viable solution is to be ready to build small sandbag-reinforced fighting positions inside of your house, set back several feet from the exteriors windows. This will not earn you any Martha Stewart style bonus points from your spouse, so don't consider doing this before the balloon goes up. Just keep all of the requisite materials handy. That big pile of 3/4"-minus gravel can be explained as "some extra rock for maintaining our driveway." OBTW, unless your house is built on a slab, you will probably have to heavily reinforce the floors beneath your planned sandbagged positions, to allow them take the extra weight. If you aren't a do-it-yourselfer, then have a story ready for any workmen that come to do the job. For example, you might tell them that you have a bad back and are planning to buy a king size waterbed.

Regardless of your design approach, give it some serious thought and prayer. Life is full of trade-offs. If you can't afford to build a retreat that is way out in lightly-populated country, then recognize the fact that there will be lots of hungry, dispossessed people wandering by (or through) your property in the event of a "worst case." Plan accordingly. Defensive architecture by itself will not be enough. Defending a retreat will take 24/7/365 manpower, and that of course necessitates teaming up with other families.

The possibility of a worst case situation complete with "mutant zombie bikers" is of course very small. Rather, the odds are that in the next Great Depression the lights will stay on, crime will be relatively under control, and most of your attention will be focused on your garden and orchard output rather than perimeter security. But if and when things ever do get truly Schumeresque, then the best words of guidance that I can give in a nutshell are: to think: "medieval castle."

Hi Jim,
In an e-mail, you had asked me "can guinea fowl can be kept in the garden or do they exhibit the same characteristics as chickens?" Our guineas free range into our open gardens all summer. They will eat small shoots, such as garlic and chives, and they do eat bean plants so we do need to protect them while young. They don't seem to bother either tomatoes or squash/pumpkin plants. Once the garden plants reach mature height, they tend to leave them alone. I think they go after the small plants early in the season because there is a lack of insect food around. They do love garlic and chive plants and I have chives planted all over the place just for their enjoyment.

Overall, I think you would be okay with guineas once the plants matured. They will randomly check out your plants, rip off a leave or two, but I never get any significant damage. We have lots of Japanese beetles here and they do a great job taking care of them. Our area also has a large deer tick problem but I rarely see them on ourselves or the dog around our property. Guineas also love to kill snakes. They don't eat them but go after them with a vengeance! I often have to rescue small garter and brown snakes from the angry mob. I think they would very much enjoy the grasshoppers you have.

They do make quite a bit of noise when spooked and anyone within a half of mile from you will know you have them. They are also great watch dogs and will let you know if anything is different on the property. I had a couple of C-130s do a terrain profile fly over the other day and my birds went nuts for a half hour. They are fun to watch as they have a definite routine they go through every day. Mine raid our wild bird feeders in the morning, head over to visit the neighbor's (who feed them and enjoy having them visit) by noon and then take their afternoon dust baths by three pm.

My dog is a Yellow Lab/Australian Shepherd cross and it is her job at night to round them up and put them in their pen. They tolerate her herding instincts and obey her pretty well. The guineas are her responsibility and she takes it very seriously. She won't let any visiting dogs anywhere near them.

If you plan on raising them from keets, make sure they don't get damp. Being African birds, they don't take well to it. Chickens will raise guinea fowl chicks as their own without a problem. When they grow up, the hens tend to be the wanderers and the cocks are very protective if one wanders off too far. They will separate into small groups during mating season and the hens tend to lay a large clutch in the brush. I had one hen disappear this last September. She walked back in from the woods with 19 fluffy keets following her, a month later. Guineas tend to not be good parents but this hen has raised a brood for me nearly every year.

Pretty much everything in the "Gardening with Guinea Fowl" book is spot on. They are very interesting birds. I have never ate them but they are supposed to be very good meat birds. I've seen Guinea Fowl on restaurant menus at some high end places. The eggs are also edible but they have very thick shells. I can throw one across the yard and it bounces like a golf ball.
Let me know if you have any other questions. - Rob

Since I happen to be one of the people who made the decision to relocate overseas I hope have a useful take on the topic.

Other than people who have a direct familial connection with the place they are planning to relocate to I generally am against overseas relocation. The only exception that I would consider is New Zealand but that is only if you have a skill that they are in need of right now and you fit their criteria.

Leaving your familiar surroundings, culture, and language is very difficult even if you have the money to smooth the path. Without family that feels responsibility for you you can become really cut off especially outside the Anglosphere. Expect that to be much worse in tough times if you are the foreigner taking away relief resources.

Israel is a very special exception which is only open to Jews. I highly recommend that Jewish readers at least consider this move since history seems to indicate all minorities including Jews end up on the bottom during economic hard times. Remembering recent hard times there was a cutoff in the 1930s where Jews were no longer allowed to escape to Israel, the last escape for Jews in Europe. Right now there are very nice assistance programs to help new Jewish immigrants both financially and with getting settled. See this site for the largest of these Israel
assistance programs.

For other minorities I wish there was good advice to give them. I seem to remember that in the 1930s white unemployment was over 50% but black unemployment was around 98%. I urge all SurvivalBlog readers to remember your brothers and sisters of different appearance or ethnicity and to take this into account both when hiring and and giving charity. - David in Israel

[JWR Adds: David is SurvivalBlog's correspondent in Israel, currently a Torah student. He and his wife were American born, but emigrated to Israel as adults.]

RBS flagged these two articles: Price of bread rising on wheat shortage and Wheat prices could defy a recession. Remember what I wrote about investing in productive farmland?

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Also from RBS: As Economy Slips, Yacht Sales Skyrocket. Of course, a portion of the buyers could be buying some of the smaller yachts as a G.O.O.D. contingency.

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Another sign of the times. Catalytic Converters Stolen. (Of course, with platinum at $2,169 per ounce, one can understand the temptation.) Thanks to Josh W. for finding that article.

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Seven readers sent us links to articles published on both side of the border on this topic: U.S., Canada military ink deal to fight domestic emergencies

"Anyone who clings to the historically untrue - and thoroughly immoral - doctrine 'that violence never settles anything' I would advise to conjure up the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and of the Duke of Wellington and let them debate it. The ghost of Hitler could referee, and the jury might well be the Dodo, the Great Auk and the Passenger Pigeon. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and freedom."
- Robert Heinlein (in a lecture by Colonel Dubois in the novel "Starship Troopers")

Sunday, February 24, 2008

When you forward a post from SurvivalBlog to a friend, instead of copying and pasting it, please just send them the Permalink URL. (Click on the word "Permalink" below any post, and then copy that page's URL.) That way the recipient will be able to follow any hyperlinks included in the post, and they can navigate the rest of the blog site, including the SurvivalBlog glossary and archives. Thanks for your help in spreading the word about SurvivalBlog!!

Hi Jim -
I am a "ten center" and read your blog every day. Just wanted to say that I thought Keith in Minnesota's article on "Survival Chickens" was outstanding. A really good example of maximizing what you have (and leveraging Mother Nature) without spending huge amounts of effort or money to get a major benefit. - John


Jim and Memsahib,
Regarding the recent blog entry "The Home Chicken Flock for Self-Reliance", I have a few comments. I have been raising chickens since I was young and continue to this day. Having a source of fresh eggs is great and I do agree that they are not free. They are of a much superior quality and taste and they are right there in your backyard. That makes them worthwhile.
I do disagree with a couple of care issues from the article. I always lock up the birds at night. Poultry cannot see in the dark but their predators can. Giving your birds a safe roost at night is trivial and you just need to make closing them up at night part of your routine. If you are relying upon them for a source of food, you can't afford to waste them by making the predators fat. In addition, most predators will remember where they got their last meal and will return time and time again leaving you with no survival stock.
Another item I differ from is the cleanliness. Clean water and a clean coop is crucial for avoiding numerous illnesses. There are many methods to coop cleaning and I lean toward the every week method. Ammonia from decomposing manure build up can occur under damp conditions and the birds can develop serious respiratory issues. In the cold weather, you can be a bit more relaxed with coop cleaning if desired as the bedding usually freezes solid. Make sure the coop is not drafty but good ventilation is a must to keep fresh air flowing inside. As well as being beneficial to the birds it will dry up the bedding and eliminate the ammonia smell.

Some other tips:
Many bantams chickens tend to be better foragers than standard breeds. You also get smaller eggs but bird weight to egg ratio is pretty good (read: less feed required per egg). Bantam roosters are much cockier than their larger counterpart and will stand up to dogs. (But they don't always win!) Bantam hens are great mothers who will incubate and brood any other type of poultry you'd like to raise.
Bringing in new birds to your flock should be handled with care. I recommend at least a two week quarantine before introduction. Chickens don't always telegraph their illnesses and you may need to allow a disease to work through a more advanced stage to be able to see it. Of course, the situation allows for it, you should have some medications on hand to assist in the prevention/recovery. Don't forget to sanitize shoes/boots and clothing after visiting another person's coop. You can easily bring home diseases from the manure on your boots.
Chickens will eat nearly any table scraps you produce. We do not give ours any onions (it will transfer the taste to the egg) or meat. Our birds get insects, worms, and grubs for meat protein. These scraps will greatly reduce the amount of feed required.- Rob


Keep up the great work! I'm proud to be a double ten-cent subscriber and continually amazed at the wealth of new topics that come up on your site. The recent post on survival flocks is an excellent example of a concept I had not considered before, but could be lifesaving.

Regarding the survival flock, did anyone else notice that the traits Kevin in Minnesota breeds into his chickens are pretty much exactly the same traits we work towards in ourselves and search for in group members?
1. Can you provide for you own food?
2. Do you have the ability to defend yourself from predators?
3. Are you smart enough to avoid predators in the first place?
4. Strong immune system?
5. Raise your own "chicks"?

I got a chuckle out of rereading the entire "survival flock" article and applying everything in there to people. And for me, preparedness can be summarized as Keith states, it's pretty easy to separate them into two flocks, the dinner flock and the survivor flock. Which flock will you belong to when the Schumer hits?

Speaking of Schumer, I'd like to comment on the recent Sanitation letter, and the treatment of Schumer, the home-grown kind, not the political kind. I take a different view on "The Humanure Handbook" than you. Yes, there are risks in composting your own manure, but no more risk than kerosene, chainsaws, and firearms. Each of these three items have inherent risks that are life-threatening, but easily avoided thru training and safety precautions, just like humanure. And fortunately, the "Humanure Handbook" is available free on-line, and it provides all the details, and scientific studies that prove this is safe, and how to do it safely and easily. I will not go into the details of how, it's all there in the book. But I will stress the advantages for people like me that plan to build a retreat, but don't have a fortune to spend.
1. Huge Cost Savings. Not having to build a septic system will save thousands of dollars.
2. Comfort and Convenience. No trudging outdoors thru the weather to a dark and cold, or hot and bug infested, outhouse. And when done correctly, there is no smell!
3. OPSEC. No need for everyone, several times a day, to expose themselves to prying eyes to visit the outhouse. Have you ever seen the Academy Award-winning movie "Unforgiven" starring Clint Eastwood? The outhouse scene amplifies my fears. This especially applies to your observation posts if hidden. Do you plan to drink hot liquids to stay awake during sentry duty? If so, you will want a bucket system as described in the"Humanure Handbook" to stay hidden.
4. Simplicity. No pipes to clog up and backup. No need to pump/store/waste precious water on flushing. No reliance on a septic pumping company. Even in your own outstanding book, "Patriots", the septic system became overloaded, and had to be reserved for emergency use only. Why not skip it altogether?
5. Thrifty. Why waste perfectly good, home-grown fertilizer?

But to be fair and balanced, there are some minor drawbacks.
1. Sawdust and Hay. You need a "pickup truck" supply of sawdust per year per family. The sawdust, or equivalent leaves/moss/hulls, is used to cover your deposits, after each and every deposit (this is what prevents all fumes). Fortunately, I love the smell of sawdust! But some planning/work is necessary to ensure easy access to cover material (like sawdust). You will also need about 8 bales of hay (or equivalent yard waste) per year per family to cover/protect/oxygenate your compost pile.
2. Gray water System. If you have no septic system, you will need some kind of gray water system to handle your wash water. Wash water can be from vegetables, clothes, or your bath. Fortunately, these are easy to build, but are best thought out in advance. Many sources of information are available on the internet.
3. Another Household Chore. Approximately weekly, someone must haul the full buckets out to the compost pile, wash the buckets, and monitor the heat in the compost. But this should only take 30 minutes at most. This is not labor intensive at all.
4. Humility. You will need some humility to admit you use this system. But this is good for you.
5. Fecophobia. Yes, there is such a word. Yes, your family/friends/neighbors may shun you until you convince them. But this system works! How do you think the Chinese have farmed the same land for centuries without external fertilizer inputs? But Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV).

As a side note, the excellent book by John Seymour titled "The Self Sufficient Life and How to Live It", describes a similar humanure system, but without buckets. So if the only thing holding you back is the buckets, I would also recommend John Seymour's "Loveable Loo" as an alternative. Always learning more, - Rookie

Dear JWR and Memsahib,
I wish to offer some helpful comment regarding the article prescribing “Hardening Chickens”. I have raised chickens and other poultry in a free range setting for 20 plus years. My pre-retirement career was that of a health care professional. I have also worked and volunteered in community health care projects and health education in several third world countries. I still volunteer my services when the need arises and I am able to respond. While I strongly agree in the practice of free ranging chickens and all poultry for that matter, for an aid to general hardiness and convenience of caretaking and the overall natural health benefit of the poultry and the superb quality of their eggs. I however must also warn us all of the severe health consequences caused out of human negligence and lack of proactive caretaking responsibility to ourselves and our farm animals which are being used for human and other farm animal food cycle sources. When TEOTWAWKI occurs, and I believe it will sooner than later, medical care and resources will become infrequent if nil to obtain in hinterboonies regions and rural isolated areas and very questionable at best if you are not fortunate enough to have networked adequately beforehand for that valuable and crucial medical person to come on board, or at least viably reachable by travel and who is also agreeable to being available for your survival group in a worst case scenario. My prime concern here is advocating a proactive responsibility in maintaining and keeping humans and their animals healthy in as natural as possible using natures sources of availability. The practice of poor to absent hygiene practices advocated by the author of the article is questionable for the good health outcome of both species. Even in third world countries, the incorporation of holistic health practices of a sanitary or “clean environment” for human and animal hygiene have statistically shown vast improvements in the populations affected by those health practices and significant reduction of diseases and mortality rates related to them. Thus, their overall quality of life improved. Note, I am not refuting the issue of immunity. That is a whole other issue of whether it is acquired or natural or artificial immunity, passive or active. Diseases caused specifically via harmful bacteria, viruses, protozoans, fungus or the vectors like flies, mites, mosquitoes, and fleas that carry them into contact with us or our animals, must be discouraged. Practices to reduce those harmful populations must be performed in earnest.

Never plan to dine on an animal that had or has questionable health issues. Never feed their caucuses, milk, eggs, or any byproducts of questionable health animals to your family or other animals. Do not put them into your compost pile. Incinerate them. Here you will find just a sampling of multiple diseases causes and effects from an unclean environment. Botulism is more common than we hear about in unclean environments, which is potentially deadly and is transferable to the egg. If you practice the dirty litter suggested by this author, then you had best take heed and caution. Coccidiosis is caused by a protozoan parasite, which are deep tissue invaders occurring in the meat of the bird and eggs laid by it and harbored in moist, old litter. You could treat the poultry with Sulfa based medications which is also then passed on to you in their meat and eggs. Or, you can keep a clean hen house for proactive prevention. Erysipelas is caused by a soil borne gram positive bacteria which enters a break in the skin. It is spread by poultry being bitten by biting flies which are attracted to manure. This is also a human transmittable strain and also transmittable to stocked fish in ponds which are used as free range poultry water sources. It can also transmit to your pigs, sheep, mice and your other yard poultry. Encephalitis is caused by vectors of migrating mosquitoes and biting flies near or on open water sources. The flies lay their eggs in the poultry manure or spilled food. The disease list goes on. Most, if not all can be avoided by your proactive responsible health practices of cleanliness.

I highly recommend the World Poultry web site for its accuracy of abundant information; ease of reference, and on line pictures. It would take volumes for me to describe the offenses and diseases that are caused in poultry alone by these harmful organisms. But, I have high objection and researched validation to show the negative consequences to cleaning a coop of its litter and manure only once a year. All that manure is valuable as garden composting, only after it has cooked to a usable loam state. Never apply green manure directly to your garden or plants. It must be allowed to compost cook to kill off harmful organism cycles. Wear your gardening gloves to protect yourself from live harmful organisms. Wear them over a pair of disposable gloves or rubber gloves when applying compost to your plants or for that matter anytime you work directly in the soil. If you’re kneeling in the soil, wear knee protectors. The object is to protect your intact skin. For the coop cleaning process remove all the eggs and the poultry out and away from the coop. Wear a specifically designated outfit for this clean out, preferably a Tyvek type zip jumpsuit to protect your whole body surface. These can be hosed off and reused many times as long as there are no punctures to the fabric or stresses to the seams. Get a size that is one size larger than your normal size of clothes. If this is not available for you, use a heavy denim type or high denier cloth type military jumpsuit that zips in front. Don latex, or nitrile gloves if you’re allergic to rubber, make sure the gloves cover over the sleeve of the jumpsuit so you have created a skin seal. Last, wear a face mask that also fully protects your eyes, nose and mouth when you clean out either your coop or the nests found randomly constructed on the outskirts of your property. My husband makes use of his light weight welding helmet for this purpose over a disposable nose and mouth mask. This actually provides whole head and hair and ear protection as well. Those feathers can go into the composter as well, unless you are sanitizing them and using them for some other project. Note if you are finding these frequently, your poultry are talking to you. They’re telling you they either need fresh litter or the hen house nest boxes are being occupied when they need to use it. This will usually happen most during brooding season. Listen to them and fix the problem.

Just because you can’t see the bacteria, protozoa, fungus, mold, spores, and the most virulent harmful organisms doesn’t mean they are not there. They are. Most of these become airborne during the clean out process and are unknowingly inhaled by you and your chickens. Even if you have a great immune system response, it does not work well for another or the very young or the elders or the already infirmed that you will come in contact with. These organisms can be passed on by humans performing the human or animal care. This becomes possible by touching contact with the harmful source, or by any natural anatomical open orifice on your body, or unnatural open orifice of skin, like a cut, scrape or burn, for them to enter or be inhaled. You need on hand all these suggested items in ample supply anyway in your survival storage for the more virulent strains of viruses to come.

There are nutritional issues that need to be considered in this important food cycle as well. The poultry must receive a daily minimum requirement of good vegetable protein, vitamins and minerals in their natural habitat if you’re going to only free range. Just like humans. Remember, we’re going to eat their bodies and eggs. The practice of supplements is a good one if you are living in an area where the soil or vegetation is lacking these. Test your soil. Do some study on safe for poultry forage consumable vegetative sources which will provide natural vitamin and mineral supplements. The primary ones to consider are Calcium, Phosphorus, Vitamin D3 and Folic acid. While it is a fact that chicken feces does provide Phosphorus if consumed, eating unnaturally high colony counts of bacteria or viruses which were allowed to incubate for months, could easily infest and kill your entire flock inadvertently. Also, the practice of supplementing back raw egg shells for calcium as a feed supplement should be discouraged as it encourages egg cannibalism. A plot of Spinach plantings and castings are a much better choice. Without adequate intake of these supplements, either natural or store bought, the poultry will poorly develop and are subject to many other maladies related to growth, bone development, skin, and vision. Thus are poor consumables. Those hip fractures described in the article may be related to more than a jump off the roost. My chickens get calcium via crushed oyster shell and have a perpetual spinach plot. They have jumped off the roof of their 10 foot hen house and don’t suffer broken hips. We must always be responsible and accountable to our animals who serve our needs so well. Unlike humans, they can’t tell us that something is wrong. We have to conduct daily routine observation of their behavior and bodies to detect a problem and insure a proactive and ongoing active level of maintenance and responsibility to protect and care for our animals. If you are not willing to make this level of commitment, perhaps it would be better to skip the poultry for you and your family’s sake of good health. Cleanliness is truly next to Godliness in our triage of practices on the homestead.

Once you’re finished with the cleaning process and are ready to leave the coop, please follow these infection prevention practices in this order. Remove the garden gloves and hang them up. Leave the rubber or disposable gloves on until you’re totally finished cleaning your other personal articles. Remove the face mask, and hang it up or throw it away in the trash if it is a disposable. If you’re not using a whole face mask, then wear at least eye goggles and the mask must completely cover your nose and mouth and be one that will protect you from tiny viruses. Read the label. Remove that organism laden jumpsuit that’s protecting your underwear or clothing, by peeling it off at the shoulders and backwards away from your clean body and step out of it. Tug on the bottom exterior of the suit to get your legs and arms out if you need to get it over your washable boots. Avoid turning the soiled side to make contact with your clean skin. Hang it, zip it up and Hose it down in the yard near the coop and away from your home. Scrub your washable muck boots on a boot cleaner outdoors and hose them off and then remove them in your mud room or garage. Keep another pair of clean shoes or scuffs to slip on to wear inside your home. Remove the disposable gloves and dispose them. Wash your hands well with soap and water before you reenter into your inner home. Shower as soon as possible.

God Bless you and yours, this of course includes all your fortunate animals. - KBF

Eric sent us the link to an Op-Ed piece over a the leftist Washington Post: Wall Street Bank Run. My, my, my, after only seven months the mainstream media is finally starting to catch on to the full implications of the global credit collapse.

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The Western Rifle Shooter's Association (WRSA)'s first event scheduled for 2008 is a two day defensive handgun course, in Brookings, Oregon on March 15 & 16. The WRSA offers high quality training for very little money, so be sure to take advantage of it. OBTW, don't overlook the many free online resources at the WRSA's blog site: Look at the left hand navigation bar: They have have basic weapons training videos, an excellent series from Zak Smith on long-range shooting, and a host of other useful downloads.

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Reader H.J. sent a link to an interesting article at Snopes about the history of cellucotton--first used as bandages, and later as Kotex brand sanitary napkins. BTW, they still make good would dressings. Stock up. They are a multipurpose barter item.

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KAF found this: Homeowners Losing Equity Lines. We raised this issue several weeks ago in SurvivalBlog. The easy money is going away. This spells a deeper, longer recession. (Note: Again, the background of the picture tells a thousand words.)

"Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy." - Sir Isaac Newton

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A recent news article titled Dresdner Rescues $19 Billion SIV, Follows Citigroup illustrates the severity of the global liquidity collapse. Note that the article mentions that the K2 SIV had no "direct exposure" to securities backed by subprime or midprime debt. But yet the fund failed dramatically. This adds credence to my assertion that the world's entire credit market is essentially broken, and that despite frantic attempts by the central banks to inject liquidity (BTW, another $25 billion was just injected the Fed on Thursday), most of the major financial institutions are starting to crumble.

In the very near future, we will be reading headlines trumpeting the collapse of multi-trillion dollar derivatives schemes and dozens of hedge funds. In essence, no financial institution will be immune. It won't stop with the exotic "alphabet soup" CDO, CDS, MBS, and SIV investments. The problem is systemic. By endlessly repackaging and re-selling debt instruments, the bankers have built themselves a multi-hundred trillion dollar house of cards. The labyrinth of debt repackaging made it impossible for anyone to gauge risk. Nobody knows what exactly what collateral is backing up any given debt-based investment vehicle. Worse yet, while currencies are inflating, assets--such as houses--are deflating. Thus, even the once "solid" backing of residential house mortgages is nothing but sinking sand. Without a quantifiable measure of risk, it is impossible to judge whether any business venture is creditworthy. Hence, the bankers have defaulted to the time-honored answer that they have given to any potential borrower that cannot prove the value of his assets: NO! (As in: "No, we are not giving you the loan that you applied for.") Global finance has already dramatically slowed. Without liquidity, the wheels of commerce are grinding to a halt. It is particularly noteworthy that the number of new derivatives contracts being written has dropped by more than 90% since August. (And many of those still holding derivatives are biting their nails.)

The global credit collapse will eventually lead to some huge bank and S&L runs and equally huge municipal bond failures. These, in turn, will spawn massive Federal bailout schemes that will make the Chrysler bailout of 1979 and the S&L bailout in 1989 seem miniscule by comparison. Since there will not be nearly enough tax dollars to fund these bailouts, the government will resort to creating new Treasury debt. Tax incentives, large scale civic works projects, and other desperation measures to "jumpstart" the economy will result in even more debt. But since there will be few takers for this mountain of new debt, the Federal Reserve will be forced monetize most of the debt--in effect creating trillions of new dollars out of thin air. This monetization will be insanely inflationary. (On the scale of what I described in my novel "Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse".) I am talking inflation in the Zimbabwean sense of the word. The name Ben Bernanke may someday be remembered in the same breath with the name Robert Mugabe.

The Asian financial crisis of 1997 very nearly started this avalanche, but that problem was contained and fairly neatly varnished over by the mass media. But this new crisis--which started with shaky loans to flaky home buyers in the United States--cannot be stopped until it reaches its inevitable conclusion. So, instead of Thai Baht currency speculators, it will be lower middle class Americans that bought houses with granite countertops that will be remembered as the culprits. "It was the Americans that started this depression", they will all say. And the symbol of this villainy will undoubtedly be the Dollar Sign ($). Don't expect the US dollar to survive this crisis. At the very least it will lose its status as a the world's reserve currency, but more likely it will suffer mass inflation and find its place the dustbin of history. All unredeemable fiat currencies eventually meet their doom. Some are just quicker about it than others.

The current financial instability is just the beginning. Before this is over, the debt crisis will start an avalanche that will bankrupt countless individual investors, institutional stockholders, hedge funds, stock trading companies, municipalities, banks, S&Ls, and insurance companies. Since the magic money tap will be turned off, both residential and commercial real estate may decline--absent overall consumer inflation--by as much as 70%. Stock markets will collapse, and economies will be plunged into prolonged depression. On and on it will go, as the trillions of dollars worth of bad debts that have been winding up for the past two decades are gradually "unwound." This unwinding will be an incredibly painful and protracted process that is punctuated by some massive layoffs, strikes, and social unrest. Dan Ackroyd said it best: "Real wrath-of-God type stuff."

I suspect that the debt avalanche will destroy entire currencies and possibly bring down governments. (We should remember that the Asian financial crisis of 1997 led to the ouster of the 30+ year Suharto regime in Indonesia.) My only hope is that one of the institutions that is replaced is the private banking cartel called the Federal Reserve. Inevitably, we need to replace fractional reserve banking with proper warehouse banking, and replace the fiat currencies with ones that are freely redeemable for precious metals.

Mr. Rawles,
In looking through your great web site I can't tell if you've ever addressed the issue of having a non-US retreat. There are some notable characteristics of the USA that make it a less then optimal location in a TEOTWAWKI type scenario. I think specifically of very heavy reliance on personal vehicles and fossil fuels, a general ignorance about growing food, preserving food, raising livestock. There is a tremendous demographic heterogeneity ("diversity") that in a crisis situation would become a very sore spot and possibly a source of violence. Also a Federal government that has shown an inclination to trample the rights of citizens when it is expedient to do so.

Having some familiarity with central Europe, I can tell you that the rural peasantry will fare very well in a crisis situation. Agriculture is still animal-powered in many areas. Self-sufficiency is the norm rather than the exception.

I would love to see you assess and evaluate various foreign sites as possible retreat locations. The analysis that you have already done on the western states is superb. Thanks much - Dr. R


Mr. Rawles,
First, I'd like to thank you for your work and dedication with SurvivalBlog. You've been a guiding light in darkening times. Second, I'd like to ask about your thoughts on relocating to a retreat abroad?
For some context information, I'm a college student at a local private university; by working two jobs, I've managed to avoid the average $30,000 in student loans my peers have accumulated, and am down to only $9,000. I pay off my interest as it accrues, and set aside about as much as I can spare for prepping every paycheck. Last year, I started talking with my family about survivalism in relation to our current times, and they're happily on board and setting things aside as much as they can, as well. We've made it our goal to purchase our retreat this year- we actually start looking at bookmarked properties the third week of March - but as that I was assigned by family vote the family task of deciding which properties we see, and where we look, I feel the express desire to weigh as many potentially good options as possible.

Recently, the grandparents of a friend retired in Mexico; I had the opportunity to meet them and discuss the venture, and was amazed to hear that, paperwork aside, they were able to purchase several acres, build and furnish their own home, as well as obtain several head of livestock, for under $80,000! In a TEOTWAWKI situation, would one even perhaps be better off in a remote location in Mexico that's already mostly self-sufficient in terms of agriculture, with the advantage of being able to afford more for the money, than in the US?
Or, for that matter, in other such places in the world of similar condition, like Romania, rural western Russia, (and etc.)? Admittedly, if there is ever a popular anti-foreigner sentiment, that could be a key worry- the biggest concern I've come across being that the foreign state could take away your property at any time... but does that worry not also apply to the US, with Eminent Domain? I understand that there's no quick or easy answer to this, but I'm hoping that I might glean some better understanding through your experience, and that of your readers.
Wishing well, - S.L.K.

JWR Replies: Becoming an expatriate retreater requires some very careful study, consideration, and prayer. Many of the highly touted offshore locales suffer either from high crime rates, or have a high population density that would be an issue in a grid-down collapse. Many of these same countries also have restrictive laws on private firearms ownership, so that makes self defense problematic. Despite these and other drawbacks, there are a few offshore destinations that rate high on my list. These include New Zealand (South Island), the Cook Islands, Niue, Tonga, Vanuatu, Bolivia, Chile, rural portions of the Czech Republic, and the lower elevation cantons of Switzerland. I would also recommend Finland if it were not for its harsh climate.

I generally do not recommend most of Latin America and the Caribbean because of high crime rates (most notably property crimes and murder.) Even Costa Rica, which is often touted as a "peaceful haven", has a murder rate higher than the U.S. (6.23 per 100,000, versus 5.9.) It also has a nearly four times higher robbery rate, but a surprisingly low burglary rate.) A lot of the Pacific Islands are not on my list because of either draconian gun laws or a high level of systems dependence. Many of them are now dependent on food imports. (Nauru is perhaps the worst in this regard. It could not even supply enough fresh drinking water for its residents if international shipping were to cease.)

I generally recommend moving to countries that share your language. But if you have an "in" somewhere--namely relatives or close friends that speak the native language and if they would be living on the same property or contiguous property--then the language barrier is less of an issue. But regardless, learn the local language and customs quickly. You should consider that education practically a full time job for your first few years.

The bottom line is that there is no single "perfect" retreat locale. There are advantages and drawbacks wherever you go. Climate, taxes, gun laws, population density, and crime rates are all trade-offs. Many of the locales that would be idyllic in a grid-up situation might be a nightmare if grid-down. But some countries might do very well in the absence of "the modern conveniences." You will note that I have quite a few Pacific Islands on my list. In these island nations, if grid power were interrupted, I anticipate that the locals would quickly revert to traditional fishing, gardening, gathering fruit, hunting (bats, of all things!) and raising pigs.

Eric found this: Fed Issues Gloomy Economic Forecast. The article begins: "The Federal Reserve on Wednesday lowered its projection for economic growth this year, citing damage from the double blows of a housing slump and credit crunch. It said it also expects higher unemployment and inflation. "

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RBS sent us this from a Tampa, Florida newspaper: In home foreclosure, if it's not nailed down ...

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I couldn't help but notice the New York market's closing spot prices for platinum ($2,169 per ounce), gold ($944.60 per ounce) and silver ($18 per ounce). This is still not anywhere near the top. My advice remains: dump your stocks during the rallies, and buy gold and silver on the dips.

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You might have heard an item in the news about a magnitude 6 earthquake in northeastern Nevada. Its epicenter was near Wells, Nevada. The quake was felt as far away as Boise, Idaho and Salt lake City, Utah. I have mentioned the Wells area before, when I was discussing geothermal home heating. Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks of geothermal heating is that regions where geothermal heat is available generally also coincide with earthquake risk. Living there, you have to take the bad with the good--and forget about masonry construction!

"Gentlemen, I have had men watching you for a long time and I am convinced that you have used the funds of the bank to speculate in the breadstuffs of the country. When you won, you divided the profits amongst you, and when you lost, you charged it to the bank. You tell me that if I take the deposits from the bank and annul its charter, I shall ruin ten thousand families. That may be true, gentlemen, but that is your sin! Should I let you go on, you will ruin fifty thousand families, and that would be my sin! You are a den of vipers and thieves." - President Andrew Jackson, when he forced the closing of the Second Bank of the U.S., by revoking its charter

Friday, February 22, 2008

In the Second World War, the United States had nearly two full years to ramp up military training and production before decisively confronting the Axis powers. In the late 1970s, looking at the recent experience of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, the Pentagon's strategic planners came to the realization that the next major war that the US military would wage would not be like the Second World War. There would not be the luxury of time to train and equip. They realized that we would have to fight with only what we had available on Day One. They dubbed this the "Come as you are war" concept.

In my opinion, the same "come as you are" mindset should be applied to family preparedness. We must recognize that in these days of rapid news dissemination, it may take as little as 10 hours before supermarket shelves are cleaned out. It make take just a few hours for queues that are literally blocks-long to form at gas stations--or at bank branches in the event of bank runs. Worse yet, it may take just a few hours before the highways and freeways leading out of urban and suburban areas are clogged with traffic--the dreaded "Golden Horde" that I often write about. Do not make the false assumption that you will have the chance to make "one last trip" to the big box store, or even the chance to fill your Bug Out Vehicle's fuel tank. This will be the "come as you are" collapse.

The concept also applies to your personal training. If you haven't learned how to do things before the balloon goes, up, then don't expect to get anything but marginal to mediocre on-the-job training after the fact. In essence, you have the opportunity to take top quality training from the best trainers now, but you won't once the Schumer hits the fan. Take the time to get top-notch training! Train with the best--with organizations like Medical Corps, WEMSI, Front Sight, the RWVA/Appleseed Project, the WRSA, and the ARRL. Someday, you'll be very glad that you did.

The come as you are concept definitely applies to specialized manufactured equipment.You are dreaming if you think that you will have the chance to to purchase any items such as these, in a post-collapse world: razor wire, body armor, night vision equipment, advanced first aid gear, tritium scopes, dosimeters and radiac meters, biological decontamination equipment, Dakota Alert or military surplus PEWS intrusion detection sets, photovoltaics, NBC masks, and semi-auto battle rifles. Think about it: There are very few if these items (per capita) presently in circulation. But the demand for them during a societal collapse would be tremendous. How could you compete in such a scant market? Anyone that conceivably has "spares" will probably want to keep them for a member of their own family or group. So even in the unlikely event that someone was even willing to sell such scarce items, they would surely ask a king's ransom in barter for them. I'm talking about quarter sections of land, entire strings of well-broken horses, or pounds of gold. Offers of anything less would surely be scoffed at.

Don't overlook the "you" part of the "as you are" premise. Are you physically fit? Are you up to date on your dental work? Do you have two pairs of sturdy eyeglasses with your current prescription? Do you have at least a six month supply of vitamins and medications? Is your body weight reasonable? If you answer to any of these is no, then get busy!

Even if you have a modest budget, you will have an advantage over the average suburbanite. Your knowledge and training alone--what is between your ears--will ensure that. And even with just a small budget for food storage, you will be miles ahead of your neighbors. Odds are that they will have less than two week's worth of food on hand. As I often say, you will need extra supplies on hand to help out relatives, friends, and neighbors that were ill-prepared. I consider charity my Christian duty!

I have repeatedly and strongly emphasized the importance of living at your intended retreat year-round. But I realize that because of personal finances, family obligations, and the constraints of making a living at an hourly or salaried job, that this is not realistic--except for a few of us, mainly retirees. If you are stuck in the Big City and plan to Get Out of Dodge (G.O.O.D.) at the eleventh hour, then by all means pre-position the vast majority of your gear and supplies at your retreat. You will most likely only have one, I repeat, one G.O.O.D. trip. If there is a major crisis there will probably be no chance to "go back for a second load." So WTSHTF will truly be a "come as you are" affair.

With all of this in mind, re-think your preparedness priorities. Stock your retreat well. If there isn't someone living there year-round, then hide what is there from burglars. (See the numerous SurvivalBlog posts on caching and constructing hidden compartments and rooms.) Maintain balance in your preparations. In a situation where you are truly hunkered-down at your retreat in the midst of a societal collapse, there might not be any opportunity to barter for any items that you overlooked. (At least not for several months. ) What you have is what you got. You will have to make-do. So be sure to develop your "lists of lists" meticulously. If you have the funds available, construct a combination storm shelter/fallout shelter/walk-in vault. It would be virtually impossible to build something that elaborate in the aftermath of a societal collapse.

A closing thought that relates to your retreat logistics: The original colonial Army Rangers, organized by Major Robert Rogers during the French and Indian Wars of the 1750s had a succinct list of operating rules. The version of the "Rules of Ranging" recounted in the novel "Northwest Passage" by Kenneth Roberts started with a strong proviso: "Don't forget nothing." That is sage advice.


I found a vendor that sells gluten-free flours in #10 cans for long term storage. See this PDF. Look bottom of page 3 and top of 4. (Also flour in bags that are not packed for long term storage.)

This company make a lot of the baking mixes that are repacked and sold under a different label by the long term storage food companies. So prices are good, but you will pay shipping. (I have no affiliation, but did buy from them and have been happy with the products.) God Bless! - Lyn H.


Dear Jim,
This is in reference to the posters with diabetes in their families.

I am diabetic, Type 1, which means Insulin Dependent by definition. I am also a survivalist. These positions are not mutually exclusive, but my options for survival are quite limited. Why? Diabetic test strips last around two years if they're kept cool and dry. Insulin must be refrigerated but not ever frozen or shaken, and lasts at most 18 months. Oxygen destroys it. Shaking destroys it. What does this mean? You're dependent on civilization to survive, and can only last 18 months without supplies. Meds to reduce your odds of a nasty side effect (coma, embolism, stroke, heart attack, blindness, ketone acidosis) are worth retaining and using.

If civilization falls too far to produce insulin, you're screwed. No really. There is no happy way around this. The upshot is, insulin is produced in many places, and there are some methods which are quite surprising, such as genetically engineered safflower plants by a firm in Calgary, Canada. I don't have access to the seeds yet, but I want them, badly.

To retain access to insulin, you must live near places which stock and store the medicine. This pretty well prevents the Deep Boonies lifestyle, and means you'll have to deal with societal collapse in the burbs or city, or at least close to them. It means dealing with the horde, and retaining contact with those groups or persons who still have access to the medicine needed to live. You don't have the option of moving away unless you can let yourself or your child die painfully, which happens less than 12 hours after the insulin in your system is gone. That may happen regardless, but you'd best organize your plans around staying close to the medicine. And that means staying in the cities and suburbs and dealing with the people there.

Think carefully and plan accordingly and learn to deal with unpleasant people. We don't know just how bad things will get. It might only be the Great Depression 2..Its predecessor was survivable but unpleasant. A good hidden safe is far more valuable to you than a main battle rifle. Good luck. We both need it. Best, - InyoKern

JWR Replies: To extend your logic, the safest place for a diabetic to live would be in close proximity to a pharmaceutical manufacturer that produces insulin. And. ideally, it would be one that is in a swine producing region.

The little details in being prepared for self reliance are often the most important ones. Often people think, chickens would be a good thing to have in a survival situation, after all they produce free eggs, right? Unfortunately they are not free, they cost feed. How can you pay less? Breed survival chickens. Store and feed mill bought chickens are typically ridiculously inbred, and solely dependent on you providing them food. I got started raising survival chickens for meat and eggs about five years ago. My goal was to end up with a breed of chickens that were both adept at foraging, and had a better ability to avoid both disease and predation. Egg production was an afterthought since all chickens are going to lay eggs, it is just a matter of how many. We have a chicken coop that is open for the chickens to come and go as they please. I don?t lock them up at night to keep them safe. The entrance and exit hole is about four feet off the ground, and consists of a piece of electrical conduit sticking straight out of the ground about three feet away from the opening of the chicken house. Connected to this post, I have a thin board that is about two inches wide running directly to the hole of the chicken house. I plan on replacing this with another piece of conduit. This helps to prevent some predators from climbing the pole to gain entrance to the house. My next security measure was to cut an upside down U shape into the plywood I used to block the entrance window to the house. The hole is just big enough for the chickens to squeeze through to be able to get into the chicken house.

My next step started with picking a chicken to use for a breeding line. Several different kinds of chickens were bought at a local chicken swap. The one that proved to be the most resilient was a small bantam we named crow. Crow is now going on to her fourth year, and still produces eggs, just not as many. She has large wings compared to her body size and can fly similar to a pheasant, getting about six feet off the ground, and being able to fly/glide about sixty yards or so. She is an excellent forager, and for the most part, provides for herself. The other much wanted trait she possessed was that she would wait until she got 12 plus eggs, then sit and hatch them if she was allowed to do so. I purchased several more breeds of chicken, and let nature take its course. If a chicken was killed by an owl, or coyote, then to me it was not smart enough, or physically adept enough to get away. I also culled out the lazy roosters that would go and sit under the bird feeder to avoid getting used to handouts, and to avoid any diseases from wild birds. I looked for roosters that had smaller body sizes, had good wing to body ratios, would keep a good look out for danger, would actively search for food and call the other chickens over when they found it, and liked to roost in trees if there was danger, versus trying to make it back to the chicken house. The rooster that made the final cut was my breeding rooster. I allowed these two to breed, and crow hatched out 12 chicks. After several predation attacks, I was left with 5 out of 20 chickens one year. The survivors were bred the following year, and produced another 15 or so chickens. This number was again knocked down by both predators, disease, and injury to about 10.
I added a few challenges to them along the way. The roost height is about four and a half feet off the ground. The heavier bodied chickens would have a tendency to dislocate a hip when jumping down. These became dinner. My next hurdle I threw in their way was to hold back feed in the summer, and only feed them once a week. The ones that did not want to go and forage, became dinner. I know this may sound harsh, but there were plenty of insects, weed seed, and greens for them to eat in the yard, pasture, and woods. It was just a matter of working to go and find it. This is where the chickens separated into groups. One was the forager group, and the other was the dinner group.

My last challenge was disease. I know many people believe that making sure the chicken house is clean to prevent disease is very important. I feel exactly the opposite. The more you shelter both the chickens, and your own immune system, the weaker you make it. In a survival situation, just make sure you put on a disposable mask that you can use much more than once, and gloves if you are worried. I only clean the chicken house once a year in the fall. The chickens don?t seem to mind, as they only use the house for sleeping, and are on roosts that are well above any chicken droppings on the floor. It gets pretty dirty by the fall, but it seems to strengthen the chickens immune systems. The ones that are weakened by the inability to find their own food, and the ones that don?t have strong immune systems tend to get sick and die off. Once a chicken was obviously sick, I would remove it from the flock and put it in a separate house that was the quarantine house. I would be careful to use gloves, and use a mask. If after a couple of days they got better they were re-introduced to the flock. If they were not better, they were put down and burned. When I get new chickens, typically 30% die from disease, or are killed within the first two weeks. Only about 10% make it a full year. (Since my flock is primarily self sufficient in reproduction, it does not cost me anything) These are then allowed to breed into the line. The end result has been a group of chickens that:
1. Can provide 70% of their own food, in the spring, summer, and fall (I do feed them a small amount of layer crumbles, and supplement with finely crushed egg shells, with full feed rations in the winter)
2. Have the ability to fly away from most ground predators.
3. Are smart enough to scatter when hawks or other above ground predators (eagles/hawks) come hunting.
4. Have strong immune systems. (typically after their first year I have no losses to disease)
5. Raise their own chicks, thereby keeping an average flock size of 10.

I have not paid for any chickens for several years now, the only cost is feed. If I need new birds to keep the gene pool from getting too shallow, I typically find someone to trade a few of the hens I don't want for a few roosters that have the physical traits I am looking for. Trust me, it is very easy to trade hens for roosters. What I have ended up with I have appropriately named survival chickens. They require a lot less care, feed, are tough and much smarter than the average bird, and for the most part, take care of themselves. If I needed to, I could breed within the line for several years. This all requires living on your retreat, if you do, it is something to think about ahead of time. This years project is growing my own feed for winter, I plan to start experimenting with the most time and energy efficient grains/seeds I can raise. The goal in the end is to have the end product outweigh the energy expenditure it takes to produce it.

The Memsahib Replies: You are to be commended on your forward thinking breeding "survival" chickens in advance. Based on Keith's experiences it takes several years to develop a survival breed, so it behooves those of us who have land to get going on this project right away.

The ideal stock to use as the starting point for a breeding program would be acquired from someone in your area who has a mixed breed flock of free range chickens that have been allowed to cross breed at will. Even better if this neighbor has practiced benign neglect--letting predators and disease carry off the dumb and weak birds. Barring that look for breeds that have a rose comb, since a small comb is less likely to suffer from frostbite in cold climates. One handy resource is the breed selector tool at MyPetChicken.com. If you are going to start with commercial breeding stock, Sand Hill Preservation Center has some scarce breeds. You might try crossing one of the small-combed Dorking breeds with something like the Norwegian Jaerhon. This would likely yield a very hardy bird that forages well, is sufficiently broody and maternal, and that is fast and wary of predators. OBTW, when visiting the Sand Hill web site, be sure to take a look at their heirloom seeds.

Alphie sent us this link: More people are tapping their 401(k) for cash. JWR's comment: Notice in the photograph accompanying this article what the man's elbow is resting on. That picture tells a thousand words.

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Bob G. mentioned a news feed on Asian Avian flu. He said that it is updated once every 15 minutes.

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I heard that the organizers of the Appleseed Project have 13 simultaneous rifle training events (one for each of the original 13 colonies) planned for April 19th. They are hoping to get 1,000 shooters on the line that day. What could be better than learning about the events of Lexington and Concord on the anniversary of their occurrence? The Appleseed training is a bargain. Get involved!

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Patrick H. and Ben sent this: Montana is up in arms about the supreme court's upcoming D.C. v. Heller decision on the Second Amendment. Patrick's comments: "The Montana legislature meets only once every two years, and is not scheduled to convene again until January of 2009. (OBTW, perhaps there is a lesson in there for the career politicians in the more populous states.) So this resolution was drafted [informally] between the legislative sessions. I wouldn't be surprised if Wyoming and Idaho follow suit." OBTW, there is an interesting discussion of the various Heller court briefs over at the Volokh Blog.

"Well, my days of not taking you seriously are certainly comin' to a middle." - Captain Malcolm Reynolds, Firefly

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Today we present another article for Round 15 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The writer of the best non-fiction article will win a valuable four day "gray" transferable Front Sight course certificate. (Worth up to $2,000!) Second prize is a copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, generously donated by Jake Stafford of Arbogast Publishing. Round 15 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entries. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival will have an advantage in the judging.

Sanitation may be an area that is neglected in our preparations for during difficult times. Not because people don't care, but because we take so much of it for granted we aren't aware of its importance. There are several areas in the sanitation arena that need to be considered when preparing;
1. Food
2. Daily Living
3.Waste Disposal
4. Medical
5. Deaths

The most obvious area to consider is that of our food preparations. We are all aware of the importance of washing our hands and not cross contaminating foods like meats and vegetables. All counters where foods may be prepared should be kept spotlessly clean. This includes areas where butchering is being done. The areas should be hosed and bleached and the meat meticulously washed, making certain the contents of the animals intestines does not come in contact with the meat. The animals should be covered with a fabric bag (one that breathes) to protect the meat from flies, and dirt while the meat is hung. All utensils including those being used for dehydrated foods and canning should be sterilized by boiling or baking. (Do not bake canning lids, they are placed in very hot water prior to processing.)

In the area of daily living, if we allow ourselves to become cluttered and disorganized because the world around us is falling apart we have begun the downward spiral ourselves. Remaining organized and clutter free gives us access to items which may be of immediate necessity and less chance of an accident of which even something as minor as tripping over clutter could become life threatening. Keeping organized also causes us less stress. Relieving our minds to be put to better use. It also provides activities to the group, giving tasks to those who may not be able to do other things or just an extra way to stay 'busy'. Clothes that are kept clean are warmer and last longer (dryers are hard on fabric). And shoes should be worn at all times outside. Personal hygiene is important not only for our physical health, but our mental health as well. Ever notice how much better you feel after a shower? It helps us maintain some a semblance of normalcy and civility in our lives not only for ourselves, but for the group. When we are clean and groomed it is also easier to spot someone not well. Special attention needs to be paid to the care of our teeth. Brushing, flossing and possibly rinsing with an anti-cavity rinse.

Feminine hygiene products that are disposable should be burned and the fabric reusables (for the same) as well as cloth baby diapers should be either boiled or bleached and hung in the sun. (The ultraviolet rays kill lots of bacteria)

Of course you can't assume that cleanliness is next to Godliness is only for the people in your group. Your animals will benefit from your diligent attention to their well being as well. Keeping their pens, bedding and feeders clean could mean the difference between animals used to fulfill our needs and sickly or dead critters. Most domesticated animal waste can be safely used as fertilizer after composting with the exception of dogs, cats and pigs. These should never be used around areas that will have vegetables and pregnant women should Never handle cat waste.

The third great consideration is waste disposal. This not only pertains to manure, but garbage as well. Most containers used for foods will probable be kept for some other need down the road. However, that means time and effort into making sure they are very well cleaned and stowed properly so as not to attract rodents or flies and bacteria. That which isn't needed should be burned, composted or deeply buried away from your area. Food scraps can be fed to animals or composted (not meats) or put into a worm bin (a little bit of meat is okay here) which not only provides great fertilizer for the garden, but worms for your fowl.

Human waste is much more of a problem. We are no longer used to dealing with our own waste. Most of us just pass it on to someone else to take care of. The average person produces 2-3 pints of urine and one pound of feces per day. Multiply that by the number of people in your group for a day/week or longer and you begin to see the problem. If the sewer system is working you can still use your toilet by pouring water directly into the bowl to flush the waste. Five gallon buckets with a toilet seat can be used as a porta-potty. Lime, wood ash, and good ol' dirt can be used to reduce the odor. This will have to be cleaned daily and an area set up away from any possible contamination sites to be used for composting keeping the compost covered to deter flies, etc. You should not use this compost in food gardening. A trench toilet is also an option. Dig a trench two feet wide and a minimum of 12 inches deep and 4 feet long or more. After use, cover with the dirt from the hole, filling in from one end as you go. Bad bacteria can travel 300 feet from its original site. Pay attention to drainage and making sure the manure is covered with lime, ashes or dirt. The area could attract rodents, dogs, and worse, flies. The most important things to remember are reducing the fly/rodent problem and washing your hands thoroughly when you've finished. Stock up on hand sanitizer as well as soap. The book "The Humanure Handbook" by Joseph Jenkins is an interesting read. [JWR Adds: I must add a strong proviso. With this approach, temperature monitoring is crucial! Unless you can be absolutely sure that a bacteria-killing temperature is achieved, then do not attempt to use this method for manure that will be used for vegetable or grain growing!] In my opinion, the risks far outweigh the rewards.

For those of you planning on hunkering down in place if the grid were to go down and the sewer were to quit functioning, pay attention to where the access lids to the sewer are in your area. If you are anywhere down hill sewage may back up through these portals and even into your drains, and toilets. Give this some thought.

The fourth area of consideration is medical. In a TEOTWAWKI situation, we may be having people show up late or be accepted into our group that weren't there in the beginning. We need to consider that these folks whether loved ones or stranger may be bringing something unwanted with them. If possible a 'quarantine' area should be set up where these people could spend two weeks away from the group to make sure they aren't sick. It may sound cruel, but these people should remain without direct contact with the group. (radio contact or distant voice communication if acceptable would be greatly appreciated.) Their meals could be dropped off on paper plates that they could burn after finishing. There utensils washed by them and kept in the quarantine area. Anything that is needed should be brought and dropped off so as not to expose the other members of the group. They would need to remain in the quarantine area at all times and not expose people, animals, areas, or equipment. If after two weeks they are well, the chances are greatly reduced that they have a communicable disease.

There should also be a separate area for medical procedures. A separate bedroom or bathroom. This area should be kept spotless at all times. All items being used should be boiled or steamed (a steam canner or pressure canner as an autoclave) and all fabrics baked (200 degrees for one hour) prior to use. Tables, trays and equipment should be washed and bleached. (Alcohol is a great bacteria killer) New garbage bags can be used to cover tables, chairs etc. prior to use and after cleaning, and to protect between activities. They are fairly sanitary. Disposable rubber gloves and masks should be used when treating patients and if blood is present goggles should be worn (swim goggles, or ski goggles over glasses would work). Used dressings, etc should be burned or buried deeply, away from the area.

A hundred years ago our ancestors lived with germs that our systems are no longer used to. What would not have made them sick, could easily sicken us today. Rodents and flies that carry disease are probably one of the major concerns for us. In a grid down situation they would flourish. And if we weren't exceptionally careful, bring disease to us. Rodent control would be a regular requirement around our 'camps', but handling them could be an issue in itself. Probably best done with a mask and gloves. Keeping flies away from any foods and food areas would be vital. Fly tape wouldn't hurt. All this of course means more water. Stock up on those barrels if you have no other means and if you'll be living downstream of metropolitan areas the water runoff could be deadly so remember to use caution.

The most difficult area of sanitation we may have to deal with is death. Although many organisms in the body of the deceased are not likely to infect a healthy person, handling the blood, bodily fluids and tissues of those who had been infected increases that risk. Many fluids leak from a dead body, including contents of the stomach, and intestines. Decomposition depends on how long the person has been deceased, the temperature of the environment and the damage to the body and the bacteria present. There are some basic precautions to take in handling the deceased. Wear disposable gloves when handling anything associated with the body and cover all cuts or abrasions with waterproof bandages or tape. Wear a mask, or face shield, goggles or some kind of protection to the face for the mouth, nose and eyes. Decomposing bodies can sometimes burst and spray fluids and tissues due to the buildup of gases. Wear aprons or gowns that can be destroyed. Wrap the body in a body bag or several layers of garbage sacks or plastic sheeting. The more quickly this takes place after the death, the less chance of leaking [body] fluids will occur. Graves should be dug at least 100 feet away from all open water sources and deep enough that animals won't dig them up. Cremation requires large amounts of fuel and may not be feasible. In case of accidental exposure, flush with huge quantities of water. (Dilution is the solution.) Thoroughly wash yourself afterward and dip your hands in a bleach solution even if no apparent contact was made. Disinfect all equipment, surfaces, floors, and so forth with a bleach solution. Don't forget to make notes on the deceased and the circumstances surrounding the death and burial. Take pictures if you can. Anything that you think is of importance in case the authorities come back and question it at some time. This may be the most difficult part of a crash. But, the quicker it is dealt with, the better for everyone involved.

Sanitation is a major concern in your preparations. Improper sanitation is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. It would be a shame if you stored your beans, bullets and band aids, but died of dysentery due to lack of proper sanitation. Give this one some serious thought.

I take a different approach to choosing a Bug Out Vehicle (BOV). I recognize many who read this site can afford a well equipped vehicle for your BOV, but not all are in that position.
Let me offer a few suggestions for a different slant on the need to get out of Dodge.
Here is a description of my daily work/family car. This is a 1999 Plymouth Voyager Minivan, in the longer wheelbase version. This has a 3.3L V-6, and gets about 18 MPG around town and approximately 22-23 MPG on the highway, depending on traffic. This is rated for E85 for Ethanol use.

There are presently only two in our family so we leave the two bucket seats and the bench seat out of the back of the vehicle and stored in the garage.

The first consideration after buying this used was to put new Michelin X tires on it, which made a very big improvement in handling, especially in our wet Oregon weather. Costco had them on sale, and they now have over 8,000 miles on them with no discernable wear showing. Next was an Optima Red Top battery, which insures reliable starting every time, even in freezing temps.

My wife and I are both Amateur Radio Operators, and involved in Emergency Communications so we installed,, in the dash console, down low and out of sight a Yaesu FT 1500 2 meter radio with many Oregon 2 meter repeaters, plus several simplex frequencies, plus all of the public service, fire, police, highway frequencies that are VHF high band, that we can scan. Knowing what is going on, on these frequencies give us a good picture of what is happening in our area. We also travel with a scanner guide for the area we are going to be in and passing thru.
The antenna is a 18 inch 1/4 wave thin whip on the roof, and barely shows.
Maps of our area plus surrounding states are also carried in the van.
This model mini van has factory tinted windows which hide a lot of the gear we keep in the van.
We choose to have no decals or signs on the outside of this vehicle, to make it look like any other family van.

We keep a porta-potty in the van all the time, plus all of the extra survival gear that enable us to camp in the vehicle for short times, with bedding, food, water, butane stove, plus clothes for any weather. We keep our equipment covered with blankets, so that a look inside does not give away the multi purpose of this van.We also keep tools, extra fan belt, tow strap, jumpers, and shovel in the back.

This, like most of the mini vans, has front wheel drive which gives it good traction. This is not an all wheel drive vehicle and we do not try to take it in those off road conditions.

I spent most of my adult life in the auto repair business, and do most of my own repairs/service. Please feel free to use some of these ideas in your own preps. This is working well for us. Your mileage may vary. - Tom in Oregon

More than a dozen SurvivalBlog readers suggested this important article: America's economy risks the mother of all meltdowns

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Northern Rock Bank to be Temporarily Nationalized. Speaking of banks, Eric and Krys both sent us this: Banks "quietly" borrow $50 billion from Fed

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Eric suggested this New York Times piece: Wall Street Banks Confront a String of Write-Downs

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Also from Eric comes this Associated Press article: Foreclosed Homes Occupied by Homeless

"Historically, legal tender laws have been used by governments to force their citizens to accept debased and devalued currency. Gresham's Law describes this phenomenon, which can be summed up in one phrase: bad money drives out good money. An emperor, a king, or a dictator might mint coins with half an ounce of gold and force merchants, under pain of death, to accept them as though they contained one ounce of gold. Each ounce of the king's gold could now be minted into two coins instead of one, so the king now had twice as much “money” to spend on building castles and raising armies. As these legally overvalued coins circulated, the coins containing the full ounce of gold would be pulled out of circulation and hoarded. We saw this same phenomenon happen in the mid-1960s when the US government began to mint subsidiary coinage out of copper and nickel rather than silver. The copper and nickel coins were legally overvalued, the silver coins undervalued in relation, and silver coins vanished from circulation.
These actions also give rise to the most pernicious effects of inflation. Most of the merchants and peasants who received this devalued currency felt the full effects of inflation, the rise in prices and the lowered standard of living, before they received any of the new currency. By the time they received the new currency, prices had long since doubled, and the new currency they received would give them no benefit." - Congressman Dr. Ron Paul. Excerpt from a speech titled " Let's Legalize Competing Currencies", before the US House of Representatives, February 13, 2008

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The high bid in the current SurvivalBlog Benefit Auction lot is now at $60. The auction is for three items: a 120 VAC/12 VDC BedFan Personal Cooling System (a $99 retail value), kindly donated by the manufacturer, a Thieves Oil Start Living Kit (a $161 retail value) donated by Ready Made Resources, and a copy of the latest edition of "The Encyclopedia of Country Living" by the late Carla Emery (a $32 retail value). The auction ends on March 15th. Please e-mail us your bids, in $10 increments.

If you haven’t had the chance, I highly recommend the Lionsgate movie titled ‘Right at Your Door’. Without giving anything away, it is about a large scale terrorist attack on Los Angeles . It’s not a traditional disaster movie that tries to cover all the angles, dazzle with special effects and thrill with drama; instead it tells the story of one couple from the suburbs that most should easily relate to.

In no time at all, you see the vulnerability of the average person, and the break down of systems we take for granted, how it all leaves us practically helpless and lost. Chris Gorak, the director, does a good job of pulling you emotionally into the situation and demonstrating our susceptibility. Even the least prepared of us should take heed and learn. For the more practical and prepared, it will confirm our choice to be so.

Jim, from a 10 Cent Challenge subscriber I must give thanks for what I regard as the single best site on the web, bar none. Keep it up and spread the word. - Dfz from Louisiana.

Dear JWR,
I have first taken the time to read through your previous posts on Main Battle Rifle (MBR) recommendations before asking this question, but have not found what I am looking for. I am sure you receive an over abundance of firearms questions but any help would be greatly appreciated.

Due to financial restraints I am the weak link in my group so far in preparedness. I have chosen to spread what resources I do have at my disposal evenly rather than focus only on firearms as too many seem to do. I feel a need to escalate all of my preparations due to present day situations, but 1.) I live in Central Illinois with all ridiculous gun control that comes with living in the same state as Chicago, and 2.) If we are less than a year away from a Democrat-controlled White House and Congress I fear further gun control restrictions. So I am trying to purchase my firearms as soon as possible.

I am planning on purchasing a Model 1911 .45 ACP , an AR-7 .22 Long Rifle survival rifle from Henry (which can be disassembled stowed in its waterproof stock), a shotgun, and a MBR. For magazine and ammo interchangeability we are all keeping with .45 pistols, 12 gauge shotguns and .22 rifles. The other members already have [.223] AR-15s and we are now adding .308s. Due to my budget I am opting for less expensive alternatives to the rest of the groups collection, i.e. a Taurus 1911 instead of their Gold Cups, a Mossberg 590 instead of their Remington 870s. I will most likely not be able to purchase both an AR-15 and a .308 MBR, so if forced to choose one I am going with a .308.

I have looked into Springfield M1As, FN FALs, HK91s (and PTR91 HK clones), all leading me toward a $1,500 to $2,000 price range, it seems. I have noticed several times CETMEs and Century Arms FN clones, but have noted your objections to them. Is there anything in particular that is the problem with these alternatives that can be addressed by upgrading parts or having a gunsmith make some modifications? Or are these rifles just clusterflops? If I can purchase a CETME for $500 and spend $200 having a gunsmith work some magic the savings over an HK or FN FAL would almost leave enough to make all my other firearms purchases.

I realize that saving a couple dollars is not worth being caught in a situation where you have a .308 paperweight in a firefight. I just am not sure if you are stating that one is much preferable to the other out of the box, or if there is nothing that can be done to bring these alternatives up to spec. If you could shed some light on the shortcomings of these budget rifles I would be very interested. Thanks for your help, and all your work. - Eric in Illinois P.S.: Pony up the 10 Cents, people!

JWR Replies: I can appreciate your budget concerns. You are not the only prepper with a tight budget!

The main complaint that I've heard about both the Century Arms L1A1 Sporter (inch pattern FAL clone) and the various CETME clones is unreliable feeding. These can be traced to either receiver dimensional quality control or a Neanderthal approach to assembly. (Namely, lots of grunting and head scratching, followed by WECSOG sledgehammer pounding and copious grinding.) The bad news is that these feeding problems are difficult to isolate and resolve. but the good news is that these problems are not universal. (Roughly 40% of these rifle function like a champ.) Therefore, if you have the opportunity to buy one these rifles, I recommend that you first make inquiries about how well it functioned at the range and if the magazine well "feels" right with standard, unaltered magazines. (Many of these rifles have dimensional problems wit their magazine wells, making them "tight" so that it is difficult to insert and remove magazines quickly. If you get a positive report on both counts, then ask the seller if you can test fire the rifle before you buy it. Be sure to put at least 80 rounds of standard ball ammunition through the rifle. If it feeds and functions well, and magazine insertion does not require Herculean strength, then buy it! (If not, then politely pass, and continue your search.)

FWIW, my current favorite MBR recommendation is the the excellent Vector V-51 clone of the HK91. These are built in Utah, using German Army surplus HK G3 parts sets, with seven US-made parts to comply with US Code section 922(r). The Vector rifles have a great reputation for function, reliability, fit, and finish. The good news is that they can sometimes be found in used condition for as little as $675 to $725 at gun shows. The JLD PTR-91 is a fairly close second choice, and can be found for about the same price, or perhaps a bit less if you are lucky.

These days, with the profusion of military surplus G3 magazines on the market--often less than $2 each, if bought in quantity!--I consider HK91 clones to be the best rifles for the money, Spare parts for HKs are also quite reasonable. You can find complete G3 parts sets (with everything except a receiver) for around $275. (BTW, that would be unheard of for an M14 parts sets. Presently, complete M14 bolts are $120 each, and both operating rods and barrels sell for around $250 each!)

Hi Jim,
I agree with you that you shouldn't "get so paranoid that you withdraw to hide under a rock" when using the Internet. Take precautions, certainly, but strike a balance.
To illustrate why total privacy is practically impossible while making use of the Internet, here's a discussion about recent work done with "de-anonymize" algorithms. In short, the researchers were able to identify 99% of anonymous users by comparing different datasets, one anonymous, and one not.

Further, there have been studies with publicly available census data that show a person can be reasonably identified by all sorts of seemingly innocuous data. For example:
"Using public anonymous data from the 1990 census, Latanya Sweeney found that 87 percent of the population in the United States, 216 million of 248 million, could likely be uniquely identified by their five-digit ZIP code, combined with their gender and date of birth. About half of the U.S. population is likely identifiable by gender, date of birth and the city, town or municipality in which the person resides. Expanding the geographic scope to an entire county reduces that to a still-significant 18 percent. "In general," the researchers wrote, "few characteristics are needed to uniquely identify a person."

"Stanford University researchers reported similar results using 2000 census data. It turns out that date of birth, which (unlike birthday month and day alone) sorts people into thousands of different buckets, is incredibly valuable in disambiguating people. "

Thanks for all of your work with SurvivalBlog.com. I read it every day. - JohnTheAnon

The following is one of those items that widely gets circulated via e-mail, but this one is legitimate and I think that warrants posting to the blog:
"Be prepared should you get this call. Most of us take those summonses for jury duty seriously, but enough people skip out on their civic duty, that a new and ominous kind of fraud has surfaced.

The caller claims to be a jury coordinator. If you protest that you never received a summons for jury duty, the scammer asks you for your Social Security number and date of birth so he or she can verify the information and cancel the arrest warrant. Give out any of this information and bingo; your identity was just stolen.

The fraud has been reported so far in 11 states, including Oklahoma, Illinois, and Colorado. This swindle is particularly insidious because they use intimidation over the phone to try to bully people into giving information by pretending they are with the court system. The FBI and the federal court system have issued nationwide alerts on their web sites, warning consumers about the fraud."

Here is the FBI's web page about the scam

Here is confirmation on its authenticity at Snopes.

Any SurvivalBlog readers that do not yet have identity fraud protection should get it. This is just one aspect of well-rounded preparedness. The service that I recommend is Comprehensive Risk Solutions. (One of our advertisers.)

Wheat Prices Near $20 Per Bushel

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Eric H. found us this: Health officials keeping eye on drug-resistant flu strain

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Here is a "must read" piece: Signs Point To Banking Crisis Getting Much Worse. Meanwhile, reader Randy K. mentioned that the US Bank reserves have dropped even deeper into negative numbers. As reported in WorldNetDaily the "non-borrowed bank reserves column is now at $-18 billion. Randy's comment "It seems that the earlier report of an $8B shortfall was less than half way there. For me, the phrase "financial institutions would be bankrupt if the Fed did not provide billions in liquidity" nails it. It is explained as an accounting anomaly, but why the anomaly? "Borrowings are larger than total reserves." So, the banks are finally doing what America is doing.... borrowing more than they can pay. We do it from the banks... they do it from the Fed." Once again: Be ready for some spectacular bank and hedge fund failures, as well as some good old-fashioned bank runs,.

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New York City Mayor Bloomberg Rips Government Over Failing Economy. A couple of key quotes: "[The nation] has a balance sheet that's starting to look more and more like a third-world country", and, "They want to send out a check to everybody to stimulate the economy. I suppose it won't hurt the economy but it's in many senses like giving a drink to an alcoholic."

"Sooner or later everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences." - Robert Louis Stevenson

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

We just just learned that the beautiful house we had built on our 20 acre Michigan property burned to the ground. I want to urge all readers to have their chimneys checked yearly. The house had a wood furnace in the basement and a well-built 3-flue chimney yet in a state with deep frost, foundations can settle. The new owners never spent the money to have the chimney cleaned/inspected yearly as we had advised them to. Yet they just spent over $40,000 on granite countertops and all that fancy stuff. "Penny wise and Pound foolish!" My brother-in-law lives next door on property he bought from us so he got the full picture. Apparently they hadn't upgraded their insurance either after renovating.

When we moved to the Ozarks and bought this old farmhouse we didn't trust the wiring or chimney...and inspection showed the chimney had been struck by lightening and was dangerously damaged. So we put in a stainless steel liner which makes all insurance companies smile! Wiring was original cloth-covered well chewed by rodents! If we'd have light a fire or turned the power on we could have been looking at a smoldering pile of rubble, too. Which is why we opted to put in a wood-fired outdoor boiler and only rarely use the back-up stove in the kitchen on zero degree days. Since we've lived here five different houses in this area have burned down--all due to chimney fires. Don't think fire can't happen to you. - Diana S.

JWR Replies: I recommend that readers practice cleaning their own chimneys, and buy their own set of brushes and rods. Even if you eventually get lazy and pay someone else to clean your chimney, you need to know how to do it, and you'll have the means to do so.

Unless you already live at your retreat year-round, WTSHTF, you will likely be burning far more wood than usual. This necessitates inspecting your chimney at least twice a year. My philosophy is, as long as you are pulling things apart to inspect, you might as well a go ahead and de-gunk the spark arrestor and brush the chimney. If you have a proper removable bottom clean-out for your chimney, then the whole job should take less than an hour. Be sure to wear gloves, goggles, and and a dust mask.

OBTW, be particularly vigilant if you switch to burning soft woods, such as pine. The creosote build-up can be very rapid!

While I cannot speak to diabetes, except to say that we use natural sweeteners such as maple syrup and honey and maintain a balanced meal, we do have a lot of hands-on with the gluten-free diet. Our daughter has gluten sensitivity, as well as intolerance for corn and soy. I encourage the mother who wrote to you to examine corn as a possible allergy. It tends to go with gluten sensitivity. This has made our situation more difficult as the dynamic duo of wheat and corn are pervasive, they are present in products that you would never imagine and many times hidden under different names, sauces or derivative ingredients. For example, gluten is contained in the following: malt flavoring (from barley), hydrolyzed vegetable proteins, Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) (non-US made), caramel coloring (non US made), dextrins (especially vitamins and medications), wheat starch and the big unknown – natural flavors – which could be anything until you actually ask the manufacturer who often won’t even tell you.

We have been dealing with a gluten free diet for over a year now. Fortunately, as the rest of us have no such restrictions, all the preparations to date have not been wasted. The first approach, which we have been doing for years now anyway, is to have an organic garden from heirloom, open-pollinated seed. In a grid-down situation, we intend to grow as much as possible. Fruits and vegetables (excluding corn, wheat and soy) are perfectly fine for our daughter. We have also done well with the crop rotation and experimenting with varieties to manage to have fresh produce almost the entire year – January and February are a challenge here in the northeast – but even now, we have spinach and other brassica.

You can extend this philosophy of fruits and vegetables (and nuts) to the canned and dry goods on the shelves. Be very careful reading ingredients, for everything! The canned fruit (home canned and store bought) have less of a shelf life, but are a nice addition to the survival larder. Canned vegetables such as organic peas, green beans, etc., have a much better shelf life – measured in a few years. In fact, the old adage of bullets, beans and band-aids still holds… beans are fine for the gluten-free diet. For more substantive meals, we have found a few organic soup combinations (Amy’s Lentil, Split Pea, Three Bean, etc.) that are totally gluten and corn-free and that have a two to three year shelf life.

Turning to meat, there is more good news here in that most people with gluten sensitivity are fine with meat. So depending on the ingredients, whether MRE, #10 cans, jerked, dried, pemmican or freshly hunted, if it’s just meat, it will mesh with a gluten-free diet. Dairy is also usually fine for gluten-free, so milk, butter and cheese are on the menu from whatever your chosen source. Bread, however, is a much more difficult prospect. We have been experimenting for over a year now to find a recipe without wheat, corn, oats, barley (our daughter is sensitive to all of these). So far, my wife has made acceptable bread with chestnut flour (almond, lentil and brown rice flours were just so-so). The chestnut flour has been store bought and shelf life is limited, so not an ideal situation. However, this spring season we are going to try hickory flour (we have several shagbark hickory trees on the property, and yes, I'll be planting chestnut trees) and you can make flour from just about anything. Hopefully this will work for the long-term. I also want to go back a moment to rice. Rice is also generally fine for the gluten-free diet and it is a staple on our table. We try to use brown rice for better nutritional value, but white rice does fill the belly too. It will store well on the shelves, and several companies (BioNaturae and Tinkyada) make gluten-free pasta. In our case the Tinkyada is best since it is brown rice based and both gluten and corn-free. Yes, it’s not quite the same as wheat pasta, but it’s an acceptable substitute. However, unless you can grow rice, it is not a long term solution.

Let me finish by suggesting that you search for gluten-free recipes on-line and drop by the library/used book sales for reference books such as "Gluten-Free Girl" by Shauna Ahern.
Jim - as always, our best to you and yours. - Bill H.


Hi Jim,
First I want to MP in Seattle that I'm sorry, and that we've been there and done that, my Grandson was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes two years ago July. We also have Celiac, dairy, egg, soy, nuts, oats and a host of other allergies in the family. However, the first thing is not to panic (although I do remember the panic weeks after the diagnosis!) We had to rethink things, big time! But we seem to be getting things together, and they can too, it does take time and lots of planning.

First try to get "comfortable" with the diabetes (those first months can be rough) start storing the extra insulin and supplies, and rotate them! (Even the test strips have to be rotated, and don't forget the blasted [glucose] meter batteries! (We did that!) We now have about an eight month supply, but constant and diligent rotating is the key. Every pack and vehicle we own has a diabetic emergency kit in it--you never leave home without it. It truly does change everything.We are opting to stay with shots and pens for insulin delivery, as too many things can go wrong with little people and [insulin] pumps, especially if times get rough, and the supplies are cheaper and easier to buy over the counter.

As for the food allergies, because of the Celiac, soy, nut, egg and dairy (three of us) we went from wheat to rice as a staple, and have already put in place a plan for what if A & B would get cold cereal (rice bases) with rice milk while the rest of us eat oatmeal, et cetera But the plan is in place and new stores created with these factors being worked in. Again it's not easy, but can be done, it just takes time, which I really hope we have, because we've come to realize everything changed with his diagnosis.

Oh, one more thing, regarding aspertame-based sweeteners: Yikes! He does get some, but we try to really limit it, there are alternatives, some herbal teas, very weak black tea (we made a deal, teas always made, and as long as he adds water, it's okay) and water! Love your site! - Lori


My heart, too, goes out to the author; my son just turned one year old last week, and we're blessed that he's pretty healthy...

The following are two brief excerpts from the Walton Feed. web site. I remembered these, since I had been concerned that my son might be gluten-intolerant when he was a newborn. I hope it helps. - Bob

Here in the United States, until recent times, Spelt was grown mostly as feed. However, since the mid 1980's, Spent has made a real inroad into the health food market as a wheat substitute.
Many people who are allergic to wheat can tolerate Spelt. However, many allergy doctors believe that Spelt is too closely related to wheat for it to be an effective replacement grain. They feel that even though wheat sensitive people might be able to tolerate it now, as time goes by they will develop wheat-like allergies to it. However, companies that exclusively sell Spelt products to people, many of them with wheat allergies, say their customers have had really good luck eating Spelt goods. Spelt has a lower gluten strength which makes it possible for many people with gluten allergies to eat this product. Purity Foods, one of the main marketers of Spelt say that out of thousands of their customers with wheat allergies, only 16 of them have reported allergic reactions to Spelt. An Ohio bakery that specializes in making spelt products and distributes them over several different states has numerous customers who can't tolerate wheat yet can eat Spelt products. It seems, for the wheat intolerant among us, Spelt is probably worth a try. If you are allergic to wheat and you want to use Spelt, please consult your doctor before trying this product, then use adequate safeguards when trying Spelt to prevent serious complications should you also be allergic to this product.

Quinoa is one of the few foods with a relatively balanced protein. Quinoa’s high level of the amino acid, lysine, complements wheat nicely. By mixing Quinoa into your wheat at a ratio of 25% Quinoa to 75% wheat, the Quinoa will make your wheat breads a complete protein. Quinoa contains a long list of nutrients.

Quinoa contains no gluten so it’s safe for gluten intolerant people to eat. Quinoa can be eaten in many different ways. Traditionally it has been eaten as a porridge or in soups and stews. Only taking 10-12 minutes to boil until soft (Quinoa is the fastest cooking whole grain), Quinoa seed’s size mushrooms into plump little morsels with a tail. The Altiplano Quinoa has somewhat of a bland yet pleasant flavor. Having a nice, crisp texture similar to brown rice, Quinoa has greatly expanded nutritional qualities over rice and can be used in place of rice in most dishes. Quinoa is also delicious eaten as a side dish by itself. Quinoa flour has been made into spaghetti noodles, flakes, a drink and Quinoa has even been popped. Mixed with wheat flour, Quinoa will boost the nutritional qualities of your bread and add it’s unique flavor. In addition to this, it can be used to make delicious salads, soups and desserts. With the amazing nutrition that’s found in Quinoa, we think, as you begin to use this grain, you will start using it more and more in your daily cooking.

JWR Adds: I highly recommend the many resources at the Walton Feed. web site. I also recommend them as a storage food supplier.


Dear Jim;
This is for all those survivalists who have or who might develop Diabetes type 2.
I am a 48 year old white male, 6'3", 206 pounds with a 34" waist. If you put me in a room with ten Americans and asked random people, "Who is the diabetic?" I would be the last on their list. But here I am. I only had one symptom: I would wake up in the night feeling like my lungs were full of burning butane. At first I thought it was cancer but the "good" news was diabetes.
Just a little present from Uncle Osama. The stress of living through 9/11 triggered it. As could the stress of living through TEOTWAWKI.

My doctors want me to take insulin, blood pressure meds, cholesterol meds, it is as if they get a free trip to the Caribbean if they get me to sign up. But those meds will not be available after the Schumer hits.

In a grid down situation there will be no medicines. However, there will be a lot of exercise. In India where the poor have to use very low tech, low cost medicine, diabetics are prescribed seven miles of walking every day. This amount of activity will erase all the symptoms of diabetes. It will also lower your body fat which will help with insulin resistance. Today I will walk 5 miles, or about 18,000 steps. I walk to work, one mile each way, and then I take care of three dogs with no fenced in yard. How many people reading this get up off the couch at 10 PM and go out walking for 3/4 of a mile?

My doctor does not believe the theory. But he sees the results. The number one thing every diabetic can do is eat right and exercise. That will mitigate 80% of the problem. Increase your training gradually. Listen too your body. It took me years to build up to this level. I eat an organic, free range, high fiber, high protein hunter/gatherer diet. You can't hunt or gather Doritos in the wild. Why should I eat them now? YMMV.

The good thing is that my retreat is 200 miles away. I can walk there in ten days carrying the food and equipment I need on my back if I have to. I could ride my bike in two days.
Eat Healthy, Live Longer! - Spider, Long Island, New York

Credit Default Swaps Are Next to Take the Crunch Test. Does this sound familiar?

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A reader sent me an e-mail to chide me for mentioning that hedge fund redemption suspensions were on the increase. He said: that I was being "an alarmist" because "those [redemption suspensions] are still rare." Well, I'm going to go out on a limb and state publicly that I believe that they are going to become a lot less rare in the immediate future. Even large hedge funds are not immune. For example, just recently one of CitiGroup's hedge funds announced a withdrawal suspension. There are a lot of hedge funds with bond, CDO, and CDS exposure!

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Even Boise, Idaho is not immune from the foreclosure flurry: Foreclosures hit pricey Eagle homes hard

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Reader Phil T. asked about rolling over his existing Individual retirement Account (IRA) into a precious metals IRA that holds US Gold Eagles in bonded storage. It is quick and easy to do. I recommended Swiss America for setting up his gold IRA

"If we continue to teach about tolerance and intolerance instead of good and evil, we will end up with tolerance of evil." - Dennis Prager

Monday, February 18, 2008

The winter weather is starting to relent, and the snow is melting here at the ranch. It is the first hint that Spring is coming. The patchy snow on the hillsides beyond The Unnamed River looks so much like a Bev Doolittle painting, that I half expect to see a few Paint horses to wander through.

no one seems to be discussing what kind of cars to buy in light of the Peak Oil situation. My reading so far has been to stay away from hybrid cars. My situation is that I have a 2003 4x4 V8 Toyota 4Runner. I commute about 30 miles each way to work and [the price of] gas kills me now. My car weighs 6,000 pounds and I don't need a vehicle that big to tow myself around-I am single. I expect the gas prices to go up drastically in the next five years.

I am considering trading in for a V6 4x4 Toyota Rav4 which gets about 10 more miles per gallon than my present vehicle gets, which certainly reduces my burden. This would be my everyday driver and my bug out vehicle.

I was hoping that you could post for readers your perspectives on cars in light of the fact that soon oil will be extremely costly, and scarce. Thanks, - Robert A.

JWR Replies: My general advice is to maximize your flexibility by having a variety of vehicles at your retreat, including at least one that is "flex fuel"--that will burn both gasoline and E85--, at least one light vehicle that is entirely electric (such as a Bad Boy Buggy), and and at least one diesel engined vehicle. You might also look for an inexpensive used propane-powered 4WD pickup. (These are sometimes sold by utility companoes in fleet rotation auctions.) If the Peak Oil crowd is right, then fuel supplies will be spotty, at best. There conceivably may be times when only diesel fuel or ethanol are available. There may come a day when gas and diesel are both so expensive that they will be unaffordable for regular day-to-day driving. So my counsel is to have the greatest flexibility possible. If you budget allows it, a large photovoltaic power system--with excess capacity that could be used to charge a small electric vehicle--would be ideal.

In your circumstances, switching to a lighter vehicle makes sense, but its cargo and towing capacity will of course be less than your 4Runner. This reduced capacity, BTW, is just one more reason that it is crucial to pre-position the vast majority of your supplies at your intended retreat.

I'm often asked by blog readers and my consulting clients about my opinion of Peak Oil. In a few years, we might very well recognize that May 2005, with production of 74,252,000 barrels of oil per day was the all-time peak, and that it is all downhill from there. That is difficult to say for certain. By the time that we are certain, we may very well be "behind the power curve." So my advice is, just in case the Peakniks are right, hedge your bets:

1.) Buy large propane, gas, and diesel fuel tanks for your retreat, so you can take advantage of dips in the market and ride out acute shortages.

2.) As previously stated, diversify your assortment of vehicles, to be ready for both chronic shortages and acute interruptions in supply of any particular type of fuel.

3.) Move to a region with plentiful firewood--both so you can heat your home, and hopefully someday benefit from local fuel alcohol production (Either methanol through distillation, or possibly ethanol, through bacterial digesters,as has been recently touted, but not yet proven feasible.)

4.) Be sure that you can live off the land where you live--so that means fertile soil and plentiful of water.

5.) Assume the worst for potential societal disruption. That necessitate living somewhere safe--well-removed from major population centers.

I am so happy to have stumbled onto your site today. I have not been on the internet in a very long time (1997 or so). I have been working for a number of mineral exploration/mining companies south of our border on and off since 1998. I will no longer travel outside of the U.S. (unless I'm reactivated by the Army) for work or pleasure. I am going to be 40 this month and I don't feel like getting shot at any more, at least not for money. I am a former Army Combat Engineer, Electronic Engineer, small business owner/operator (septic pumping and commercial steam cleaning). The reason I am writing to you is that back in 1982-1983 while I was in high school I was reading Soldier of Fortune and American Survival Guide (ASG) magazines and now it seems I am coming full circle and finding myself planning a long term placer mining operation in a remote wilderness area. I think that some aspects of small scale mining are directly relatable to survival/preparedness living and prospering.

Living in this great country again, I am struck by the wealth surrounding all of us and the opportunity afforded all US citizens by the 1872 mining law to actively pursue that wealth. I will tell you that nowhere else in the world do private citizens have the right to "stake claim" to mineral wealth with so little regulation/red tape not to mention that the US government does not take "royalties" from your finds. The total cost to me for the acquisition of one 20 acre mining claim filed November of 2007 was $217. Fairly reasonable wouldn’t you say? Granted, one does not “own” the land. Rather, one controls the “surface mineral reserve” and has the rights to: sell, rent, lease, even pass-on to your descendents these rights as a deeded land owner.

Well, I just wanted to introduce myself and to inform you of my intention to submit an article on the mechanics of the claiming process for your contest. - RLS

JWR Replies: I would greatly appreciate you submitting an article for our writing contest that would share your first-hand knowledge of mining claims. OBTW, in many parts of the western US there are still patented (deeded) mining claims available, although the recent run-up in the price of gold is inflating claim prices. In recent years the US Forest Service and the BLM--which have effectively taken over administration of most mining claims--have increasingly placed restrictions on year round occupancy of mining claims. In some cases their bureaucrats have even mandated that camping trailers be removed seasonally. But they have hardly any jurisdiction over patented claims, aside for controlling roads to in-holder (lank-locked) claims. For that reason alone, I strongly prefer buying patented claims, if possible.

Dear Jim,

I think before readers spend their hard earned cash on a brick or cinder block structure (thinking it is much safer then stick framed construction) then watching all three parts of this ["Concealment Doesn't Equal Cover"] video is essential. All [high power] rifles (.223, 7.62x39, .308) and 12 gauge slugs went through normal brick and [hollow] cinder block construction. Just food for thought. - Ryan

JWR Replies: I first posted a link to that Dahlgren/Marine Corps training video in SurvivalBlog in December of 2006. There was also a discussion of this topic in July of 2007., following my initial reply, in which I recommended supplementary sandbagging.

I do not recommend standard hollow cinder-block construction to my consulting clients. Instead, I recommend super-insulated masonry, preferably with an air gap. (Although a rock facade directly over poured masonry or brick works fairly well.) The first wall typically breaks up .30 caliber or smaller projectiles, and the second wall then nearly always stops them. This design will also stop individual 12 gauge slugs, but not .50 BMG hits.

The bottom line is that typical stucco-covered wood frame construction is pitiful, but two-course brick (two thicknesses of bricks) or concrete-filled cinder block walls offer some protection. They are certainly not absolute protection, but they are much better than wood frame houses, which offer hardly any protection at all from high power .30 caliber bullets. Even super-insulated masonry construction will not stand up to repeated, well-aimed high power .30 caliber rifle fire. Tests at the Box-o-Truth web site show that short of pouring 20 inch thick reinforced concrete, sandbags are just about the only truly reliable protection from well-aimed repetitious rifle fire. If I were expecting incoming rifle fire, even if I lived in a poured, reinforced concrete house or a Monolithic dome house, I would still construct interior supplementary fighting positions. These would have room for a cot, and be set back a few feet from windows, per current MOUT doctrine. These would be built of sand bags, with 2"x10" or 2"x12" boards built into boxes (sans ends) to provide firing ports. Sandbags are presently cheap and plentiful. But they someday may be highly sought after, so it is important to lay in a large supply (with extra for barter and charity) before the balloon goes up! (SurvivalBlog reader "MurrDoc" recommended Saddleback Materials in Lake Forest, California as a good source for sandbags. Phone: (800) 286-7263.)

RBS sent us this, from the Dr. Housing Bubble Blog: Southern California Housing Numbers Exposed: The Bottom Falls out of the Housing Market, Again. Pay particular attention to the chart that shows the two year lag between sales drops and price drops. Clearly, the worst is yet to come. I'm still predicting a 50%+ drop in house prices in most California counties. The law of supply and demand is inescapable.

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Mark from Michigan alerted me to a great little article over at the SHTF Blog: on constructing secret doors, with links to web pages by folks that have successfully built them: Build a a Hidden Door Bookcase for Your Secret Stash

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The recent week of rioting and arson in Denmark mirrors what has happened on a larger scale in France for two successive years. Once again it was "urban youths" doing the rioting. Translation of this liberal press speak: Moslem immigrants, under age 30. It is noteworthy that the London Underground and bus line bombers were second generation--actually born in England. So "enculturation" and "assimilation" are not panaceas for Jihadi fervor. If only 1% of the immigrant "youths" turn out to be Wahabist radicals, then eventually, inevitably, they will build a terrorist infrastructure and strike with weapons of mass destruction. It may be next year, or it may be decades from now, but it appears inevitable. It would be prudent to prepare for this eventuality.

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Several readers flagged this article: GAO Chief (Comptroller General) David Walker Resigns. Eric's comment: "Now this is concerning: Walker said: ' ...This is the first time in my life I've been concerned about my financial future being destroyed by events outside my control...' When the GAO chief starts saying stuff like this, [it is definitely cause for concern]"." JWR's comment: I do admire a man that shows real conviction and speaks his mind. Did you see his comment about "the Fall of Rome"? It seems that he got a bit emotional, but he stopped short of lapsing into Bill Murray's "Disaster of biblical proportions" speech from the movie Ghostbusters.

Dr. Peter Venkman: This city is headed for a disaster of Biblical proportions.
Mayor: What do you mean, "Biblical"?
Dr Ray Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath-of-God type stuff.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Exactly.
Dr Ray Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling.
Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness. Earthquakes, volcanoes...
Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together - mass hysteria! - Ghostbusters, 1984

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Over at the Bison Survival Blog (formerly called the Bison Newsletter), editor Jim Dakin recently posted an interesting piece titled "Economics of Self-Sufficiency." I recommend his blog, although it is with the caveat that there is a lot of foul language posted there, especially in some of the comments posted by readers.

For several years, Jim Dakin has advocated the low cost retreating approach of buying an inexpensive piece of land (what he calls "junk land"), and living very frugally, with a large used travel trailer for shelter. Jim Dakin presently lives in Carson City, Nevada, in the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada mountains. This is an area that is in uncomfortably close proximity to California's teeming masses. (38 million+, in a recent estimate.) I wrote the following response to his post:

Another reader wrote: "Moving to a homestead property is not for 'theorizing' about.....it takes years and years to work out the bugs, and get a place in shape enough to where one could actually survive on it without outside resources." I agree! Finding plants that do well in your climate can take years. Growing fruit and nut trees to producing maturity will take years! Unless it is a wet climate, then you will have to live there year round to tend to your saplings. Raising small livestock takes experience. You won't get that experience living inside city limits.

I can attest from experience that it does indeed take several years to build up a homestead to anything approaching self-sufficiency.

If high commuting costs are an issue, then I recommend that you do some research and see what the farthest reach of the county commuter bus line is. In your case, I wouldn't be surprised if the bus line goes as far as the town of Stagecoach or perhaps all the way to the Lake Lahontan junction. If that doesn't work out for you in Carson City, then do some research for Fernley, Winnemucca, Ely, Tonopah, and perhaps Elko. Those locales might be more realistic.

Forget Garnderville. Your chance to buy land there ended a decade ago. Ditto for the Washoe Valley and Lamoille. The only relatively cheap agricultural land that I ever saw in northern Nevada was around Lovelock and Fallon. (That was five years ago. I'm not sure about the prices there now.) I have my doubts about those towns in a grid down situation--since they are highly dependent on electrically pumped irrigation. At least Fallon has a good irrigation ditch.

I also have my doubts about being so close to the I-80 corridor Golden Horde route. (From a defensive/isolation standpoint, Ely or Tonopah make a lot more sense.)

The real sticking point in Nevada is water. Generally, if you are close enough to haul drinkable surface water (ponds, lakes, rivers), odds are that the land will be too expensive to fit your "cheap junk land" model. In most of the Humboldt basin the surface water is so alkaline that it isn't drinkable. And if you buy land with a well, then you have the pumping issue. Photovoltaics are expensive. Perhaps you could find a place with a traditional water-pumping windmill.

Soil fertility is a huge issue in desert regions. It is realistic to expect to be able to build up the fertility of a small plot for a vegetable garden. (But again, that takes time.) However, bringing up the fertility of a whole field for raising grain is a lot more problematic. Bottom line: Plan to buy a lot of wheat to store.

Your situation is a lot like mine was, five years ago. My eventual solution was to pull the plug completely from the wage earning/salaried world, and move way out to a very lightly populated region, where the cost of living is very low. But that isn't realistic for everyone. My advice is to start looking for jobs in other cities where there is "junk"-priced land nearby. Ely and Tonopah are probably your best bets. Because of the gold mining boom around Elko (the "Carlin Trend" region), land prices there are insane. I wish you the best in establishing your retreat.

I am home after spending several days in the local Children's Hospital. In short, my toddler was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes after admittance to the ER and subsequent stay in the ICU and diabetes wing. This came as somewhat of a shock but not completely so due in part to a family history of the same. What it has done, however, is caused me to re-evaluate my preps entirely, particularly food and
1) The foods that I have acquired must now be truly accounted for in the carb department. I had never given that any thought for preps issues.

2) My medical must include all sorts of things related to diabetes that I did not have before. This includes lancets, cotton balls (still in diapers and the cotton balls allow for urine test strips), blood and urine test strips, needles, epipen parts and insulin (humalog and lantus) in general.

3) All emergency kits now have to have glucose tablets or gluco paste.
Also sugar free drinks/mixes like Crystal Light.

4) Far more careful monitoring of my daughter for any crashes or issues related to her disease. This includes detailed records of diet, blood tests and insulin intake.

I've learned that even on-line, the stuff isn't cheap so it will put a hole in my finances to get things added to the preps. I'm hoping that you will post this so I can hear (via the blog) of how other survival oriented persons manage and prepare for family members with Type 1 [Childhood onset] diabetes.

Update: Today, my daughter was [also] found to have Celiac Disease [(aka gluten-sensitive enteropathy)]. In short, this disease makes it difficult if not impossible for someone to eat wheat and gluten products. Wow. My already altered preps were happening but now I have to maintain a whole separate line of wheat and gluten free items to help out her diet.

So I'm hoping you can add that to my original question and I hope some readers out there can weigh in and offer their real world advise on how they handle it for themselves or for their family members and loved ones. Thanks, - MP in Seattle (a contributing subscriber)

JWR Replies: My heart goes out to you! I've addressed both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes briefly before in the blog. As you adjust your family's diet, try to minimize your intake of aspartame-based artificial sweeteners (like Benevia, Canderal, Equal, NutraSweet, Equal, Splenda, and Spoonful) They have some profound negative health effects that are just starting to be revealed. I predict that in the long run, aspartame will have a reputation as bad as Red Dye #2.

I'm not sure about the shelf life of blood sugar and urine test strips. Perhaps a SurvivalBlog reader can let us know. Once that is established, stock up, and then rotate them

Since you will need at least a small insulin refrigerator, move up the priority of getting a modest-size photovoltaic power system. The folks at Ready Made Resources can help you size and spec the system. (They offer free consulting for SurvivalBlog readers.)

The good news is that because gluten-sensitive enteropathy is so common, there are a wide range of gluten-free foods on the market, and their are a wealth of gluten-free recipes available online. Needless to say, to start, you will want to adjust your food storage program to have a much higher ratio of corn and rice to wheat.

I would appreciate comments from readers that are gluten intolerant about how they have adjusted their food storage programs.

There was a discussion about batteries a few days back on SurvivalBlog. The writer advocated using AA NiMH cells almost exclusively, with adapters for devices requiring C and D cells. While I do agree that this is a good approach for some devices, there is certainly some merit to having full size 10 Amp Hour (10,000 MAH) batteries in high [current] draw or long term use devices. Not only is capacity
significantly higher on larger cells, but the maximum safe current draw is higher too.

Good NiMH C cells have 2-to-3 times the capacity of AA cells, and NiMH D cells have 4-to-5 times the capacity of AA cells. They can be charged in a reasonable timeframe on a good quality charger like the MAHA MH-C801D. If you shop carefully you can find 10AH NiMH low self discharge D cells for around $10 each (As an example, see Overstock.com). Thanks, - BR

JWR Replies: I recommend that SurvivalBlog readers be very careful when shopping for size C and D NiCD and NiMH batteries. Many of the batteries on the market have no more capacity than a size AA. (With those, essentially you are getting the same "guts" used in a size AA cell, but just in a bigger "can.") Look carefully and the MaH ratings before you buy! Also, be sure to buy only brands (such as Sanyo's ENELOOP) that have "Low Self Discharge" (LSD) rates.

I've mentioned bond insurers several times before in the blog. A recent Reuters article, (courtesy of RBS), shows that the mainstream media has finally caught on to some of the broader implications: New York Governor Spitzer warns: Bond insurer woes could become market "tsunami"

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HH sent us this: Putin threatens to add the Ukraine to nuclear target list if they join NATO.

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I spotted this story linked at Drudge: U.S. will down failed satellite. The article doesn't do a good job of describing what is planned. If an interceptor hits the satellite it will probably not change its de-orbiting path significantly. At best, it will just result in burning up its remaining fuel and hopefully create a smaller spray of chunks. Well, at least the chances are 5 in 6 that it will come down over an ocean.

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Chuck G. mentioned that James Howard Kunstler (well-known for his nonfiction Peak Oil book "The Long Emergency") has just written a post-collapse novel titled "World Made by Hand" that will will be released on February 28, 2008. Amazon.com is now offering the novel at a pre-order discount.

"Genius? Nothing! Sticking to it is the genius! ... I've failed my way to success." - Thomas Edison

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Congrats to Greg M., the high bidder in our most recent SurvivalBlog Benefit Auction. A new auction begins today. This auction is for three items: a 120 VAC/12 VDC BedFan Personal Cooling System (a $99 retail value), kindly donated by the manufacturer, a Thieves Oil Start Living Kit (a $161 retail value) donated by Ready Made Resources, and a copy of the latest edition of "The Encyclopedia of Country Living" by the late Carla Emery (a $32 retail value). The opening bid is just $50. The auction ends on March 15th. Please e-mail us your bids, in $10 increments.

Today's first piece is a guest editorial from a gent with a different perspective on economics.

On January 14, 2008 the FDIC web site began posting the rules for reimbursing depositors in the event of a bank failure. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is required to “determine the total insured amount for each depositor.....as of the day of the failure” and return their money as quickly as possible. The agency is “modernizing its current business processes and procedures for determining deposit insurance coverage in the event of a failure of one of the largest insured depository institutions.”

The implication is clear. The FDIC has begun the “death watch” on the many banks which are currently drowning in their own red ink. The problem for the FDIC is that it has never supervised a bank failure which exceeded 175,000 accounts. So the impending financial tsunami is likely to be a crash-course in crisis management. Today some of the larger banks have more than 50 million depositors, which will make the FDIC's job nearly impossible.

It's worth noting that, due to a rule change by Congress in 1991, the FDIC is now required to use “the least costly transaction when dealing with a troubled bank. The FDIC won't reimburse uninsured depositors if it means increasing the loss to the deposit insurance fund....As a result, uninsured depositors are protected only if a bank acquiring the failed bank will pay more for all of the deposits than it would for insured deposits only.” (MarketWatch)
That's reassuring. And there's more, too. FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair warned that “as of Sept. 30, there were 65 institutions with assets of $18.5 billion on its list of "problem" institutions;” although she wouldn't give names.

So, what does it all mean?

It means that people who want to hold on to their life savings are going have to be extra vigilant as the situation continues to deteriorate.

Right now, many of the country's largest investment banks are holding $500 billion in mortgage-backed securities and other structured investments that are steadily depreciating in value. As these assets wear-away the banks' capital, the likelihood of default becomes greater. This week, Fitch Ratings announced that it will (probably) cut ratings on the 5 main bond insurers (Ambac, MBIA, FGIC, CIFG, SCA) “regardless of their capital levels”. This seemingly innocuous statement has roiled markets and put Wall Street in a panic. If the bond insurers lose their AAA rating (on an estimated $2.4 trillion of bonds) then the banks could lose another $70 billion in downgraded assets. That would increase their losses from the credit crunch -- which began in August 2007 -- to $200 billion with no end in sight. It would also impair their ability to issue loans to even credit worthy customers which will further dampen growth in the larger economy. Structured investments have been the banks' “cash cow” for nearly a decade, but, suddenly, the trend has shifted into reverse. Revenue streams have dried up and capital is being destroyed at an accelerating pace. The $2 trillion market for collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) is virtually frozen leaving horrendous debts that will have to be written-down leaving the banks' either deeply scarred or insolvent. It's a mess.

There were some interesting developments in a case involving Merrill Lynch last week which sheds a bit of light on the true “market value” of these complex debt-pools called CDOs. The Massachusetts Secretary of State has charged Merrill with “fraud and misrepresentation” for selling them a CDO that was "highly risky and esoteric" and "unsuitable for the City of Springfield.” (Most cities are required by law to only purchase Triple A rated bonds) The city of Springfield bought the CDO less than a year ago for $13.9 million. It is presently valued at $1.2 million -- more than a 90 per cent loss in less than a year.

Merrill has quietly settled out of court for the full amount and seems genuinely confused by the Massachusetts Secretary of State's apparent anger. A Merrill spokesman said blandly, “We are puzzled by this suit. We have been cooperating with the Secretary of State Galvin's office throughout this inquiry.”

Is it really that hard to understand why people don't like getting ripped off?

This anecdote shows that these exotic mortgage-backed securities are real stinkers. They're worthless. The market for structured debt-instruments has evaporated overnight leaving a massive hole in the banks' balance sheets. The Fed's multi-billion bailout plan; the “Temporary Auction Facility” (TAF) is a quick-fix, but not a permanent solution. The real problem is insolvency, not liquidity.
The smaller banks are dire straights, too. They're bogged down with commercial and residential loans that are defaulting faster than any time since the Great Depression. The Comptroller of the Currency,John Dugan -- who is presently investigating commercial real estate loans -- discovered that commercial banks “wrote off $524 million in construction and development loans in the third quarter of 2007, almost nine times the amount of 2006”. The commercial real estate market is following residential real estate off a cliff.

Dugan found out that, “More than 60 per cent of Florida banks have commercial real estate loans worth more than 300 per cent of their capital, a level that automatically attracts more attention from examiners.” (Wall Street Journal) He said that his office was prepared to intervene if banks with large real estate exposure maintained unreasonably low reserves for bad loans. Dugan is forecasting a steep “increase in bank failures.”

“Dozens of U.S. banks will fail in the next two years as losses from soured loans mount and regulators crack down on lenders that take too much risk, especially in real estate and construction," eport Reuters, quoting Gerard Cassidy, RBC Capital Markets analyst. Apart from the growing losses in commercial and residential real estate, the banks are carrying over $150 billion of “unsyndidated” debt connected to leveraged buyout deals (LBOs) which are presently stuck in the mud. Like CDOs, there's no market for these sketchy transactions which require billions in cheap, easily available credit. They've just become another anvil dragging the banks under.
On January 31, Bloomberg News reported: “Losses from securities linked to subprime mortgages may exceed $265 billion as regional U.S. banks, credit unions and overseas financial institutions write down the value of their holdings.” Standard and Poor's added that “it may cut or reduce ratings of $534 billion of subprime-mortgage securities and CDOs as default rates rise.” Another blow to the banks withering balance sheet

There's an even bigger threat to the financial system than these huge losses at the banks. A default by one of the big bond insurers could trigger a meltdown in the credit-default swaps market, which could lead to the implosion of trillions of dollars in derivatives bets. The inability of the under-capitalized monolines (bond insurers) to “make good” on their coverage is likely to set the first domino in motion by increasing the number of downgrades on bond issues and intensifying the credit-paralysis which already is spreading throughout the system.

MSN Money's financial analyst Jim Jubak summed it up like this:

"Actually, I'm worried not so much about the junk-bond market itself as the huge market for a derivative called a credit-default swap, or CDS, built on top of that junk-bond market. Credit-default swaps are a kind of insurance against default, arranged between two parties. One party, the seller, agrees to pay the face value of the policy in case of a default by a specific company. The buyer pays a premium, a fee, to the seller for that protection.

This has grown to be a huge market: The total value of all CDS contracts is something like $450 trillion... Some studies have put the real credit risk at just 6 per cent of the total, or about $27 trillion. That puts the CDS market at somewhere between two and six times the size of the U.S. economy.

All it will take in the CDS market is enough buyers and sellers deciding they can't rely on this insurance anymore for junk-bond prices to tumble and for companies to find it very expensive or impossible to raise money in this market." (Jim Jubak's Journal; "The Next Banking Crisis is on the Way", MSN Money)

Jubak really nails it here. In fact, this is what Wall Street is really worried about. $450 trillion in cyber-credit has been created through various off balance sheets operations which neither the Fed nor any other regulatory body can control. No one even knows how these abstruse, credit-inventions will perform in a falling market. But, so far, it doesn't look good.

The enormity of the derivatives market ($450 trillion) is the result of Greenspan's easy-credit monetary policies as well as the reconfiguring of the markets according to the “structured finance” model. The new model allows banks to run off-balance sheets operations that, in effect, create money out of thin air. Similarly, “synthetic” securitization, in the form of credit default swaps (CDS) has turned out to be another scam to avoid maintaining sufficient capital to cover a sudden rash of defaults. The bottom line is that the banks and non-bank institutions wanted to maximize their profits by keeping all their capital in play rather than maintaining the reserves they'd need in the event of a market downturn.
In a deregulated market, the Federal Reserve cannot control the creation of credit by non-bank institutions. As the massive derivatives bubble unwinds, it is likely to have real and disastrous effects on the underlying-productive economy. That's why Jubak and many other market analysts are so concerned. The persistent rise in home foreclosures, means that the derivatives which were levered on the original assets (sometimes exceeding 25-times their value) will vanish down a black hole. As trillions of dollars in virtual-capital are extinguished by a click of the mouse; the prospects of a downward deflationary spiral become more likely.
As economist Nouriel Roubini said:

“One has to realize that there is now a rising probability of a 'catastrophic' financial and economic outcome, i.e. a vicious circle where a deep recession makes the financial losses more severe and where, in turn, large and growing financial losses and a financial meltdown make the recession even more severe. That is why the Fed has thrown caution to the wind and taken a very aggressive approach to risk management.” (Nouriel Roubini EconoMonitor)
"In the fourth quarter of 2007, new foreclosures averaged 2,939 a day, double the pace of a year earlier." (RealtyTrac Inc.) The banks are presently cutting back on home equity loans which provided an additional $600 billion to homeowners last year for personal consumption. Bush's $150 billion “stimulus package” will barely cover a quarter of the amount that is lost. As consumer spending slows and the banks become more constrained in their lending; businesses will face overproduction problems and will have to limit their expansion and lay off workers. This is the downside of “low interest” bubble-making; a painful descent into deflation.
Bernanke wants direct government action that will provide immediate stimulus. But that takes political consensus and there's still debate about the gravity of the upcoming recession. The pace of the economic contraction is breathtaking. This week's release of the Institute for Supply Management's Non-Manufacturing Index (ISM) was a real shocker. It showed steep declines in all areas of the nation's service sector---including banks, travel companies, contractors, retail stores etc—The Business Activity Index, the New Orders Index, the Employment Index, and the Supplier Delivery Index have all contracted at a “historic” pace. Everyone took a hit.
“The numbers are so terrible, it's beyond belief,” said Scott Anderson, senior economist at Wells Fargo & Co.

The $2 trillion that has been wiped out from falling home prices, the slowdown in lending activity at the banks, the loss $600 billion in home equity loans, and the faltering stock market have all contributed to a noticeable change in the public's attitudes towards spending. Traffic to the shopping malls has slowed to a crawl. Retail shops had their worst January on record. Homeowners are hoarding their earnings to cover basic expenses and to make up for their lack of personal savings. America's consumer culture is in full-retreat. The slowdown is here.

When equity bubbles collapse; everybody pays. Demand for goods and services diminishes, unemployment soars, banks fold, and the economy stalls. That's when governments have to step in and provide programs and resources that keep people working and sustain business activity. Otherwise there will be anarchy. Middle class people are ill-suited for life under a freeway overpass. They need a helping hand from government. Big government. Good-bye, Reagan. Hello, F.D.R.

The Bush stimulus plan is a drop in the bucket. It'll take much, much more. And, we're not holding our breath for a New Deal from George Walker Bush.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at: fergiewhitney@msn.com. Re-posted with permission from the author. This article was also posted at CounterCurrents.org


How cold can canned goods get? Near freezing, below freezing (say teens), way below freezing (negative numbers?)
I’m also interested to know this for canned butter and canned cheese.
Thanks! - Maxx

JWR Replies: Freezing generally will not harm the contents of most canned foods, but doing so will put the integrity of the can's seal at risk. (And, once breached, it then opens up a whole raft of further potential problems, that range from mild (discoloration and oxidation) to severe (botulin poisoning).

Reactions to freezing depend on both the can's construction and the contents of the can. If it is full, and the contents have high water content, then the can will likely split. Low water content items are less likely to split a can seam, but there is no real way to be sure. This is because even if the percentage of expansion for any given food product when frozen is known, there are additional variables such as air (or nitrogen) volume in the can--the space not filled by the food--and the amounts of excess moisture that can vary from batch to batch going through a cannery line. Sorry that there are no real "hard and fast rules".

One thing is certain: Each transition between the unfrozen and frozen state adds additional stress to a can, so avoid multiple transitions through the freezing point!

Eric--one of our most prolific content contributors--sent us this: Fed Chairman Bernanke Says Nation's Business Prospects Have Deteriorated. Methinks we can expect at least one more panic-driven interest rate cut in the US. That will surely mean a weaker US dollar and stronger precious metals prices. Meanwhile, Canada looks likely to tag along. Plan accordingly. If the USD Index drops below 72, watch out!

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SF in Hawaii flagged this web link to a Swiss company that has prototyped electric ATVs, scooters, and even ultralight aircraft.

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Reader Bill N. suggested a FAS web site document on designing buildings for EMP and TEMPEST protection.

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Cereal Stockpiles Continue to Fall. (A hat tip to RBS for finding that article.)

"The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers." - Thomas Jefferson

Friday, February 15, 2008

The SurvivalBlog Benefit Auction ends at midnight eastern time tonight. (Friday, February 15th). The high bid is now at $300. The auction is for a Brunton Solarport 4.4 watt photovoltaic panel (a $140 retail value), a Deluxe Outdoor Survival Tool Kit (a $70 retail value)--both kindly donated by Ready Made Resources--as well as seven other items: A copy of the latest edition of "The Encyclopedia of Country Living" by the late Carla Emery (a $32 retail value), an autographed copy of my novel "Patriots" (a $23 retail value), an autographed copy of my nonfiction book "Rawles on Retreats and Relocation" (a $25 retail value), a SurvivalBlog Key Logistics Tote Bag (a $17.50 retail value), and an autographed set of Michael Z. Williamson's "Target: Terror" modern military fiction sniper trilogy, from Avon books: "The Scope of Justice", "Targets of Opportunity", and "Confirmed Kill". Please e-mail us your bids, in $10 increments. ASAP.

I often get e-mails from readers, complaining that the retreat properties that they see listed are too expensive. Typically is something like: "I found a couple of good places, but they are beyond my reach." Here is one possible solution: Buy on the other guy's weakness. There are lots of foreclosures now on the market, and the foreclosure rate is expected to increase as the real estate bubble continues to deflate, and as the US economy slides into recession. (In my estimation, here is the equation for the next four years: Recession equals lay-offs, and layoffs equals missed house payments, and too many missed house payments equals foreclosures.)

One recent newspaper headline read: Metro Areas in Michigan, California, Nevada, Ohio Had Highest Foreclosure Rates in 2007. But not all of the foreclosures are in the big cities. Take a look at one of the foreclosure listing and alert services like Foreclosures.com or RealtyTrac.com. These services have a surprising number of listings in rural areas. With the residential real estate market now in a confirmed downward spiral, the time is getting ripe to watch for foreclosures. Down and down prices go. Bill Bonner of The Daily Reckoning recently mentioned: "In 2007, 17.5% of all the houses sold in Nevada were ones that had been foreclosed. The figure was 15% in Colorado and 11% in California. These foreclosed house sales are pushing prices down further." Bonner continues, "As prices go down, more people are tempted to walk away from their mortgages and their homes. Bloomberg provides an estimate: by the end of
this year, 15 million U.S. households will be “upside down,” meaning, their houses will be worth less than the value of their mortgage loans. Almost half of the people who took out subprime loans over the last two years have no equity in their houses, says Bloomberg. And of the people who bought two years ago, 39% are already upside down." Someone is going to benefit from all these tales of woe. (It certainly won't be the banks. They'll be lucky if they break even.) But someone is going to be buying some real bargains.

If you want to try finding a retreat property via a foreclosure sale or auction, keep in mind the following dos and don'ts:

1.) Do your homework. Study the markets in your planned retreat locales, in detail. Study the microclimates and soils. Ask a real estate agent in your target area to provide you with a print-out of the actual closing prices (often called a "realized price sheet" or just a "closings sheet") for the county for the past year.

2.) Do pay attention to Multiple Listing Service (MLS) numbers. These numbers are typically assigned sequentially. The lower the number means the longer that a property has been on the market, and hence more likely you are to encounter a "motivated seller." (In today's depressed real estate market, you can now translate that as "desperate seller.")

3.) Don't get caught in the same trap as the previous owners. Don't buy beyond your means. If you can't make the payments, then you will lose the property, just like your predecessor. Don't just assume that you can find a job when you move to the hinterboonies. (Maybe that is just what the previous owner thought!) I recommend building up a home-based business before you move. If at all possible, borrow any money needed within your family, rather than from a bank. Alternatively, pool funds with like-minded preppers, and break up a large parcel. (In my experience, joint ownership of retreats is problematic. Just split it up into contiguous parcels with title held by individual families. Yes, surveying and subdividing is expensive and time consuming, but at least there are no hard feelings in the long run. I 've seen all sorts of grief, under other arrangements.)

4.) Don't compromise on location. As I mentioned in my book "Rawles on Retreats and Relocation", you should avoid both resort areas and channelized areas. Look for lightly populated dryland farming regions that are well-removed from major metropolitan areas, and that have good soil and plentiful water. (Even without buying my book, you can see a lot of my advice on retreat buying criteria and recommended locales at this web page.)

5.) Don't rush into buying the first likely candidate property. Watch and wait for a property that is both in a good retreat locale, and is a bargain.

6.) Don't hesitate to sell now, if you know for certain that you'll be moving within three years. If you need to sell your current property to provide cash for the eventual purchase of a retreat, then consider that the urgent item on your agenda. Prices are falling and buyers are scarce, so price your property accordingly, to be sure that it will sell quickly. Rent for a while. (Perhaps even "rent back" your house from the new owners.) Let the new owners worry about its declining value. After you've liquidated, you'll be sitting on cash in the midst of a declining market--a true "buyer's market". At that point you can afford to take your time, be choosy, and drive hard bargains.

7.) Don't be afraid to put in a lowball offer. If a property is "bank owned"--I love that euphemism--then they might be willing to sell it at a loss, just to get it off their books.

One of your blog readers suggested the book "The Long Walk". Five minutes Googling around will satisfy you that "The Long Walk" is pure fiction masquerading as fact. I like a good yarn, but only when such stories are clearly labeled "fiction." Nobody but the British author who made up this tall tale has ever met or interviewed or known anything about the supposed Polish prisoners who he claims walked across the Gobi Desert and the Himalayas with virtually no gear. There are many great true survival stories, but unfortunately this is not one of them. - Matt Bracken in North Florida,

Buying Your Retreat During ‘The Melt’
Ah…for those of you who have never heard of the ‘melt’ or the ‘mud season’ in a cold climate you’ll be in for a big and most likely not very exciting surprise. This phenomenon usually lasts a few weeks to a month and during that time the entire area is just plain wet and muddy. Most roads other than the main highway have [commercial/logging/mining] load weight restrictions placed on them with heavy fines for violations. This is to keep the roads from buckling and sinking when the earth underneath them thaws and is sometimes very soft. Shopping for your retreat during this springtime surprise can often be as much a pain as when there is three feet of snow on the ground. Walking property lines and even getting to some properties will be a challenge at times. During this time, in addition to the hiking boots one should normally have while property shopping in the boonies is a good pair of tall mud boots.

A positive aspect during this time is that you’ll be able to see first hand any drainage and wetland issues. Basements will be showing a seasonal dampness or leakage as well as low spots that may have otherwise been judges as tillable or a decent place for a structure will be identified. Sometimes even the slightest sag in the land can be an issue during this time and these areas are sometimes impossible to see during the summer months. Seasonal streams erupt from out of nowhere and once pristine roads turn into mud soup. Nicely manicured gravel driveways into some properties just plain sink into oblivion. During last year's mud season we ran into a situation where we had to lay gravel and approximately double the yardage was used due to sinking, than if we could have done it after the mud season.

When out looking at properties it will be obvious what the quality of road construction was done in some of the land splits for sale in your locale. I can think of one property that has a road winding up a steep hill and ending on top of the most beautiful view for miles around. I’m certain that the road will either wash out or be damaged during this spring’s thaw. It was constructed using a large amount of rock and boulders from the hillside and fill dirt with no provision for runoff, no culverts whatsoever. With the heavy snowpack in the western US this year, any new owner would be in for a large bill for road repair. Buyers, beware of road construction! Have an engineer look at any questionable construction before you get involved in purchasing raw land.

If you buy a retreat during that time be aware that the moving truck could be delayed by a few weeks and increase the moving costs unless it stays cool enough in the morning hours when heavier loads are allowed with a permit (usually before the sun gets high enough to begin the morning thaw, about 10 a.m. here).

If you’re like a lot of folks out there that haven’t yet sold the property that was going to be used [to raise funds] to purchase that retreat I have some easy advice. Don’t fret over losing $100,000 when there may be a day very soon when you won’t have anything left to lose at all. Get out now! Even if you have to drop your price drastically, wouldn’t you rather have something to work with than nothing at all? Time is truly short in the real estate markets for all involved, even the commercial market is about to take a bath, and a cold one at that. I’m envisioning empty dark office buildings all over yuppieville this time 2009. Knowledge is only power when one actually acts upon it. Otherwise it’s like fools gold, eh?

How to Burn Down Your Retreat
Early Wednesday afternoon we got paged out to a structure fire a few miles outside of our local little town here. As I’ve explained many times before in the weekly update rural fire departments take a bit of time to get to the scene, period. So as this story goes the homeowner was cooking and decided to take a walk, no problem. The food burns and starts the kitchen on fire, again no problem, it happens all the time. Now, the homeowner arrives after a short walk and sees smoke filtering out of the home so they run inside and attempt to put out the fire using a pillow and not a fire extinguisher. Well, not the smartest thing to do, but again no problem. They were unsuccessful so the homeowner decides to open all the windows before running outside and calling 911. Now we have a big problem! Had the fire been left to smolder while we were en route we could have simply vented the structure, made entry and used a foam solution to quell the fire and the home most likely would have been in okay shape. But, venting the fire immediately so that it had oxygen to burn for 12 minutes before we arrived was not a smart thing to do. Normally a fire will double in size every 30 to 45 seconds, very scary? Yes! As you might deduce, we arrived on scene to a fully engulfed home (again). One propane tank exploded right before we arrived and luckily we were able to keep the other 500 gallon tank from exploding (the paint was bubbling on the tank as we put water on it). My point? Keep fire extinguishers on every wall of your retreat and don’t open any windows and close all the doors you can as you (safely) exit the house. The doors will act as a break in the fire slowing the spread and the closed windows will deprive the fire of needed oxygen. If you have your retreat built do yourself and the firefighters a favor, don’t place the propane tanks 20 feet from the house, keep them as far away as possible and bury them! I suppose someone might think that a red fire extinguisher and a flashlight would look silly hanging on every wall in the retreat, but I suppose then that’s why it’s a retreat, a safe house for the family in times of peril, right? Be sure to make it so. Remember, fire is a bigger threat that thieves at rural retreats, especially if you have a ‘bat cave’ to hide your preps in. Assess the risks and prepare appropriately. God Bless - TS in Idaho

Eric sent us this from BBC News: World markets lose $5.2 trillion

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From the International Herald Tribune: Global inflation climbs to historic levels

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RBS sent us an article on CCD, from England: Panic in the beehive

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An analysis from Now and Futures shows a US inflation rate of around 18%, using data from the now defunct M3 Aggregate figure. (A hat tip to Eric for sending the link.) OBTW, speaking of disappearing data, reader John T. mentioned this tidbit: "Due to budgetary constraints, the Economic Indicators service [web site] will be discontinued effective March 1, 2008. EconomicIndicators.GOV is brought to you by the Economics and Statistics Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce. Our mission is to provide timely access to the daily releases of key economic indicators from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the U.S. Census Bureau " John T. was incredulous: "Budget constraints?"

"An armed society is a polite society." - Robert A. Heinlein, Logic of Empire (1941)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The current SurvivalBlog Benefit Auction ends at midnight eastern time tomorrow (February 15th). The high bid is now at $270. The auction is for a Brunton Solarport 4.4 watt photovoltaic panel (a $140 retail value), a Deluxe Outdoor Survival Tool Kit (a $70 retail value)--both kindly donated by Ready Made Resources--as well as seven other items: A copy of the latest edition of "The Encyclopedia of Country Living" by the late Carla Emery (a $32 retail value), an autographed copy of my novel "Patriots" (a $23 retail value), an autographed copy of my nonfiction book "Rawles on Retreats and Relocation" (a $25 retail value), a SurvivalBlog Key Logistics Tote Bag (a $17.50 retail value), and an autographed set of Michael Z. Williamson's "Target: Terror" modern military fiction sniper trilogy, from Avon books: "The Scope of Justice", "Targets of Opportunity", and "Confirmed Kill". Please e-mail us your bids, in $10 increments.

Today we present another article for Round 15 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The writer of the best non-fiction article will win a valuable four day "gray" transferable Front Sight course certificate. (Worth up to $2,000!) Second prize is a copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, generously donated by Jake Stafford of Arbogast Publishing. Round 15 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entries. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival will have an advantage in the judging.

I live in the Midwest. With the recent snow storms hitting the area there has been an abundance of snow and ice. We have had record levels of snowfall for the month of February. It comes as no surprise that the state was ill-prepared for this. As a result there is a statewide shortage of road [de-icing] salt. The distributors are out of stock and it is unknown how long it will be before they will get more. To those of you who have never had the pleasure of driving on winter roads in the Midwest, you may not understand.

Now mind you, road salt is one of those items the can wreak havoc on a vehicle's undercarriage and body panels. But this can be minimized with regular car washes. However, without the road salt major travel routes used for transport of goods and to move workers to provide services become treacherous. Travel to work now becomes a survival situation by itself. Most people with any common sense with stay hoe, if at all possible. However there are some families that this is not an option. This combined with accidents can and has caused lost wages increased medical costs and of course shortages and/or delays in goods and services.

A good example is the semi truck carrying goods for the local grocery store slides off the road and rolls over or it hit by another vehicle that has lost control due to road conditions. Now in this age of interstate commerce where stores only stock what is on their shelves if the supply distribution network is disrupted the store runs out of stock quickly. Business as usual grinds to a halt or is reduced to a snail's pace.

Most people I know complain about how much of a hassle it is dealing with [state] D.O.T. salt trucks, but in the end the service they provide is worth the hassle. No salt on the roads means no stocked shelve at the store.

This simple item and lack thereof has major repercussions to the commerce in any community. This shortage is bad enough that the state has resorted to using sand to try and supplement the salt shortage. Sand is not nearly as effective and when the snow and ice melt the sand goes with the run off faster than the road salt. That and once laid if it snows on top of the sand and then gets packed down and becomes ice, then the sand becomes ineffective. It is trapped between the ice layers. Unlike salt it will not melt the ice to make the roadway safe to drive on. So now we have conditions ripe for more accidents that cause further delays and disruptions in the distribution lines.

It is a wise investment to have some road salt on hand, just in case [, for your own driveway]. If you know you will be in the center of an incoming winter storm, then stock up on extra food and water and be certain that you have backups for heating and lighting. A secondary source of heating in the winter months is crucial. If you have the time and money invest in a wood stove, as a bare minimum. Install it in an area that will be easy to keep warm and not cause a fire hazard. Make sure that it will pass a fire code inspection, wherever you have it installed. Be sure to have all the necessary knowledge and tools associated with its operation and maintenance, such as chimney cleaning. If you will be using it on a regular basis make sure you know how to clean it, and do so regularly.

A lot has been said about having propane heaters but these fall under the category of needing to special fuel for this type of heater. Now don’t get me wrong, having a couple of these around won’t hurt, but when the propane is gone and there may not be any available to replenish it what would you do then? Having a good wood stove might be a bit more work but the payoff is worth the extra effort and care needed. If you run out of firewood, your house and yard are filled with alternative sources of fuel. Just be careful about what you use as fuel as some items will give off toxic fumes. If you live a simple life then most of your wood furniture can be used as fuel, but be careful when selecting what you will use as fuel. [For liability reasons, I add these disclaimers:] If you use furniture be sure to thoroughly strip it of any varnish and paint. Never use any treated wood designed to repel water. Pressure treated wood has been infused with chemicals to reduce the effects of water damage associated with prolonged exposure to the elements. How ever a good percentage of the furniture in you home has no such treatment as they were never intended for prolonged use outside the home. The latter of course would be in the event that you have exhausted your supply of wood and are unable to go out and forage for more.

In a short term emergency there should be an abundance of fuel for your wood stove but in a long term situation it will be increasingly difficult to acquire fuel so be frugal in its use and stock up. Not only is the wood stove good for heating but is also good for cooking and other uses associated with fire. (Such as melting lead for bullet casting, and so forth.)

Here is something that can be of use in this situation: City-Grown Fireplace Logs

Materials Needed:

  • Used Newspaper
  • Large Slicing-Size Kitchen Knife or Scissors
  • Elmer's White Glue
  • Broomstick

Note: Please be very careful when working with knives (Adult supervision!)
Lay used newspaper sections opened to full single page size on a convenient flat working surface. (Consider doing this on a table)
Arrange to have all "folds" on the same side for convenience.
Use a knife to slit all folds to create a stack of single loose sheets.
Using a salvaged broomhandle, positioning it atop the pile of loose sheets. Wrap the top sheet as to tuck it's near end into the area being rolled.
Continue to roll that sheet around the broomhandle by rolling it away from you until it has almost wrapped itself around the broomhandle.
Return the broomhandle with the paper rolled on it to the starting position and tuck the next sheet between the roll and the first sheet.
Continue this process until you have made a "log" of the desired diameter.
Finish by the addition of a few spots of glue to fasten the outermost sheet.
Remove the broomhandle form, by twisting it within the formed "log."
Kids like to use the colored sheets from the Sunday paper as the top cover sheet.

These logs can be made from almost any paper product if there is plenty around. You can also use cardboard for this but it will be a bit more difficult and you will have to compress the cardboard for before rolling to remove the space that is made by the corrugated center of the cardboard. This is where having very active kids come in handy. Lay out the cardboard on the floor. Preferably a hardwood floor or tiled floor. It has to be solid. Have the kids jump up and down to flatten the cardboard. Be careful that it does not slide around during this or you kids might be picking themselves up from the floor and have bruised backsides. Once the cardboard is flattened proceed with the log construction as mentioned above. This type of log will be a bit more dense and heavier than the newspaper log. I have yet to test and see if it burns longer that the newspaper log or not. The results should be about the same though.

This is great for those of us who purchase bulk items that come in large boxes. Two things happen here. The first is you are recycling and the second is you are reducing the amount of space that is taken up by the cardboard. You can use an unused box to store these logs in. If stored properly you could even use these as a little bit of a security measure. Having several of these boxes set up in a manner [as "bait" for] a would-be thief planning to steal some of your stocked supplies. Imagine the look on his face when he opens his ill gotten gain only to find it filled with more cardboard and old newspaper rolls. All the while you have hidden your stash under the floor or someplace nearby and overlooked by the thief. Sure, you might be out of a good heating fuel but better that than valuable food or water or other crucial item that you need. You can always get more paper and cardboard a lot easier and 99% of the time for free as opposed to losing ammunition, firearms or any other vital item that may be a bit more difficult or expensive to replace. Hope this helps, - Heghduq

Dear Jim,
The book "The Long Walk" by Slavomir Rawicz is the best book on the human spirit over the elements (both natural and man made) that I've ever read.

The author and his group escaped from a Siberian Gulag in 1942, crossed the Gobi Desert and the Himalayas, and walked all the way to India. Over 4,000-miles! This was all without the aid of $10,000 worth of gear from the REI catalog, or for that matter, shoes.

It's a perfect combination of some of our standard topics! Government tyranny, survival, hope, ingenuity, teamwork. It was absolutely inspiring! - Frank S.

Hello Jim,
I’ve been lurking since last November after I re-read [your novel] "Patriots". On a whim I tried a web search looking for any newer books you may have published and found your blog. What a tremendous surprise. I had several questions when I first started reading your blog and decided to go back through the archives. Glad I did. Thus far all of my questions have been answered (I just finished [reading the archives of] December 2006). I feel being a recent contributor to the 10 Cent Challenge is dirt cheap for the knowledge I’ve gained, and I’ve been preparedness conscious and actively preparing for most any scenario ever since I was in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in the P.R.K.. Okay, the "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course has been pretty helpful too and back in December when it was 33% off it was a sweet deal I couldn’t pass up. It really helped me “fill in the blanks”.

I've noticed from time to time that readers ask about preparedness groups or how to meet others that are like-minded. I find that wearing my SurvivalBlog [logo] baseball cap to gun shows and similar social and sporting events has prompted some interesting conversations. Well it’s worked for me and others, but YMMV. Did I remember to tell you what a great blog you have? Thanks for all you do and may God bless you and yours. - East of ABQ

Now mainstream journalists are starting to use the "D" word: Depression risk might force U.S. to buy assets. Thanks to Eric for finding that. OBTW, he also spotted this from Reuters: Dozens of U.S. banks will fail by 2010

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Don't miss Charles Hugh Smith's latest economics essay (posted February 13th) "System Instability, Redundancy and the Domino Effect ".

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The Other Ben L. forwarded this: Global demand lifts grain prices, gobbles supplies.

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Mike in Malaysia says "File this under... 'Not good for the world'": Pakistani nuclear scientists 'abducted'

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

It is gratifying to see that there are now so many SurvivalBlog readers all over the planet. Our readership growth in Europe has been phenomenal. I do have one question: Why is there now a 30-to-299 SurvivalBlog reader cluster way out in Siberia, just north of the Mongolian border? It looks too far east to be the Baikonur Cosmodrome (Tyuratam), but it is apparently somewhere on the Trans-Siberian railway route. Perhaps just some bored knob-turners at a far-flung Russian SIGINT site? Oh well, I guess that I should just be content that there are so many SurvivalBlog dots on the map, and an stop wondering about who all these people are. (Update: This morning, several readers suggested that these are actually American SurvivalBlog site visits, via a The Onion Router (TOR) node in Irkutsk.)

Thanks for continuing to spread the word about SurvivalBlog! Links to SurvivalBlog in your personal web page and/or in your e-mail footer would be greatly appreciated.

The first post today is a piece from archives, for the benefit of our many new readers. This was originally posted in September of 2005, shortly after Hurricane Katrina:

Before selecting retreat locale, It is crucial that you decide on your own worst case scenario. A location that is well-suited to surviving a "slow-slide" grid up scenario (a la the deflationary depression of the 1930s) might not necessarily be well suited to a grid down situations. As stated in my post on August 15, 2005, a grid down situation will likely cause a sudden onset variation of TEOTWAWKI with a concomitant mass exodus from the big cities resulting in chaos on a scale heretofore never seen in modern memory.

My own personal "best case" scenario is an economic depression, with the grid still up, and still some semblance of law and order. Things would be bad, but the vast majority of the population would live through it. Living in a rural agricultural area won't ensure that you'll always have a job, but probably will ensure that you won't starve.

My personal "worst case" scenario takes a lot more description: A rogue nation state launches three or four MIRVed ICBMs with high yield warheads simultaneously detonating at 100,000 feet over America's population center, preferably in October or November, to maximize the extent of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) effects. With only six warheads arriving "time on target" (synchronized for simultaneous detonation) over, for example, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Seattle, and Los Angeles, more than 90% of the U.S. population would fall within the footprint of EMP. With such an attack there would be hardly any initial casualties aside for those people unlucky enough to be traveling on that day. (Since EMP would disable electric flight controls, causing any modern aircraft to go out of control and crash, and the sudden loss of engine power in automobiles at the same time as a blinding flash would likely cause thousands of high speed car crashes.) A high altitude air burst would impart no blast or radiation effects on the ground. Nothing other than just EMP. But what an effect! Think of the full implications.

As previously stated, the higher an nuclear air burst is detonated, the wider the line of sight (LOS), and hence the larger the footprint of EMP effects. With an EMP-optimized attack, as I just posited, EMP would be coupled to nearly all of the installed microcircuit chips in the U.S., southern Canada, and northern Mexico. In a enormous cascade this would take down all of the north American power grids, and cripple virtually every vital industry and utility: Natural gas production and piping, municipal water systems, telephone systems (hardwire and cellular), refining, trucking, banking, Internet services, agricultural machinery, electrically-pumped irrigation systems, you name it! 95% of cars and trucks would be inoperative. With the dependence of the power utilities on computers, I have my doubts that they would be able to restore the power grid for weeks, or months, or perhaps years. And with the chaos of society disintegrating around them, they might not have the time or opportunity to restore the grid, even if they would otherwise have the means to do so. This would mean TEOTWAWKI on a grand scale. The words "dog eat dog" do not even begin to describe how things would become in the cities and suburbs. Soon after, as the cities became unlivable (without power, heat, water, sanitation, or transportation of foodstuffs) this would cause a massive, involuntary exodus from the cities and suburbs, almost entirely on foot, comprised of countless millions of starving people. With winter coming on, this would result in a massive die-off, perhaps as much as 70% of the American population. It would not be until after that die-off that some semblance of order could be restored.

This crush of humanity will of course head for any agricultural regions that are within 50 to 75 miles of the major cities. Hence, I would not want to be a farmer living in Pennsylvania's farmlands, California's central or Imperial valleys or Oregon's Willamette valley. They will simply get swarmed and overwhelmed.

Surviving a Long Term a Grid Down WTSHTF Situation
Even in the absence of EMP, any set of circumstances that would bring down the power grids (for example a major war, a fuel embargo, a cyber attack on power utility Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) software, etc.) would be devastating, and have a similar result. The biggest difference would be that the Golden Horde would have functional cars available--at least as long as their gas lasted. This would and Lets say that you've already moved to a lightly populated agricultural region that is more than 150 miles from any major city.
Assuming that you can avoid the ravages of the Golden Horde by virtue of geographic isolation, you will then have to contend with producing food. If the region that you selected is dependent on electrically-pumped irrigation water, then you'll be out of luck. That is why I emphasize the importance "dry land farming" regions. (Regions where consistent seasonal rains are sufficient to produce crops.) A small scale "truck" farmer in such as region, producing a wide variety of vegetables will be sitting pretty. Even with horse drawn or hand cultivation, he will have large quantities of excess crops available for barter and charity. By teaming up with neighbors and hired hands (paid in barter) for "strength in numbers" he will be able to defend what he owns. With copious produce available, he will be able to barter for harvesting manpower, horses, tools, and so forth. IMO, a man in this position and locale is the most likely survivor of TEOTWAWKI.

With the aforementioned in mind, you can see than importance of finding the right retreat locale. Ideally, it will be far removed from metropolitan regions, have a fairly long growing season, plentiful rainfall, rich topsoil, a reliable domestic water supply that us not dependent on grid power (preferably spring-fed), nearby sources of firewood or coal, and a light ambient population density. If you combine all of these factors--visualize them as map overlays--you will end up with only a few regions in north America that are wholly suitable for "worst case" retreats. Start with a photocopy of a climate book with maps of America's farming regions. Mask out any farming regions that are depending on grid-power pumped irrigation water. Then take a compass and start drawing radiuses around all of the cities with a population greater than 200,000 and shade them in. Depending on your level of pessimism about the scenario and/or your estimation of the depravity of human nature, you may be drawing some pretty large circles!

Hurricane Katrina was a wake up call. I cannot imagine how anyone could watch the television coverage of the aftermath of Katrina and not come to the conclusion that we live in a highly interdependent technological society with enormously long lines of supply and just a thin veneer of civilization, as documented in countless newspaper stories. It doesn't take much to disrupt those interdependencies, nor to expose what lies just beneath that thin veneer. Like an onion, what lies beneath is not very pretty smelling.

Get to Know the NRCS Man!
You will note that I specifically mentioned topsoil in the preceding discussion. The importance of soil quality in the event of a true "worst case" must be emphasized. As S.M. Stirling so aptly described it in his science fiction novel "Dies The Fire", soil quality is not crucial in modern mechanized agriculture. If an acre of ground produces 5 bushels of wheat versus 12 bushels of wheat it is not of great consequence when you are cultivating hundreds or even thousands of acres from inside the cab of an air conditioned $40,000 tractor, or a $70,000 combine. However, if someday you are reduced to traditional pre-industrial manpower or horsepower, where cultivating just a few acres will require monumental exertion, then the soil quality will make a tremendous difference between feeding a community, and starvation. Therefore, have the soil analyzed before you buy a retreat property! Determining the soil types within a region should be your first step--in fact even before you talk to the first real estate agent. Buying lunch for the soils specialist at the local Agricultural Extension office might be a valuable investment. On your first scouting trip to your proposed retreat region, call the USDA Agricultural Extension Office, and ask to talk to a soils specialist at the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) desk. (The NRCS was formerly called the Soil Conservation Service or SCS.)

I have to disagree with some of C.D.'s measures listed in his letter (i.e. using Scroogle and Zone Alarm) and refer your readership to the best article I've yet seen on the great difficulty in online anonymity: The Ugly Truth About Online Anonymity Also note comment on the linked article 12 - even if all else could be secured, the moment you behave according to your established surfing profile, you'll be spotted. Kind Regards, - J. in Kyrgyzstan

JWR Replies: I have my own perspective about online activities: Do the best that you can to cover your cyber trail, but don't get so paranoid that you withdraw to hide under a rock. In the context of political action, the day that you go off-line for the sake of privacy or anonymity, then your political opponents have won. In the context of physical preparedness, if you go off-line for the sake of privacy or anonymity, then you have isolated yourself from any like-minded potential allies. It is impossible to build a survival network without taking some risks. And if you are adverse to taking any risks, then you are relegating yourself to a "team" with just one member. A solitary individual is ineffective and vulnerable.

One individual that I greatly admire recently castigated me in an e-mail for having posted F.L. in Southern California's letter titled: "Keeping a Low Profile is Crucial for Preparedness". I think that his criticism went a bit too far. My position is that everyone should strike a balance between maintaining privacy and blatant visibility. There is an old Japanese proverb: "The nail that sticks up get hammered down." I believe that there is value in employing what David in Israel refers to as The Gray Man approach. (Blending in with your neighbors, to be unremarkable and unmemorable.) But the other end of the spectrum is being so vocal, and so visible that you end up being the #1 on the most wanted list. Each individual should consciously set their own parameters, based on their personal circumstances, prayer life, and their comfort zone.

Regardless of where you place yourself on the continuum of visibility, never, ever, give up your guns. That is an inviolable and absolute line in the sand. Without an effective means of self defense and the common defense, a man is just another sheep for the slaughter.

Dear Jim,
I've been following your web-site for a while now and am amazed how you and your members chime in with very news worthy items sometimes weeks before the mainstream media starts covering them. One latest point would be the CountryWide Equity Line suspension finally made our local evening news last night.[It was mentioned in SurvivalBlog on February 5th.]

I was stunned to read today in The Wall Street Journal that coal prices, which once were steadily priced in the $20 per metric ton range began trading in the $40 to $60 range from mid-2003 to mid- 2007, then with the sudden shift of China becoming a net importer of coal, the price has shot up to over $120. per metric ton this week (source: WSJ cites: globalCOAL; 'The price per metric ton for coal out of Newcastle, Australia, is a key benchmark for the Asian market'). When a country the size of China suddenly becomes a consumer in a global market where they once were a provider - this will have huge far reaching consequences. Our already taxed energy system, which relies heavily on coal for electricity, will only go up in price because they have to compete in this global market. We have a country that has not added infrastructure to our oil refineries, natural gas extraction, or nuclear power in decades. Our country is not in a position to simply shift our consumption to a different resource.

How do you see these realities of the international coal markets affecting the United States? The price for electricity must follow in tandem with these resource price increases.

Thanks for the great web-site! - Dennis

I-Told-You-So Department: The U.S. Mint just announced that they will soon be changing the alloying ratios for U.S. five cent pieces ("nickels".) Back in November of last year, I warned readers to stock up. The Mint's announcement was vague, but I wouldn't surprised to see the "new" nickels made with just traces of copper and nickel. It will probably be just be another zinc token. In effect, 2008 will be your last year to stock up on rolls of nickels that still have the long-standing alloy ratio. Once the new pseudo-nickels start circulating side-by-side with the old ones, it will hardly be worth your time to sort them out. (The nickels presently in circulation now have a metal content value of 127% of their face value.)

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Nathan sent us a link to an interesting Box 'O Truth test on the effect of penetrating oils on cartridge primers. The test shows that ammunition is not as sensitive to "primer deadening" as had been commonly assumed. It would be of course be foolish to extrapolate beyond the six week figure cited, so don't expose your stored ammunition to oil or oil-based paint vapors if it can be avoided. But at least it is reassuring to know that merely keeping ammunition in a well-lubricated firearm is not going to kill the primers.

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SF in Hawaii suggested a Don McAlvany YouTube video clip on global economic fundamentals.

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Mountain Brook Foods (one of our former advertisers) is getting ready to complete their "Getting Out of Dodge" move from California to Idaho. To lighten the load before they move their cannery and warehouse, they are offering a 60% off special on all of their remaining inventory at their California warehouse, from February 11th through the 25th. If you would like to pick up your order at their Tracy, California warehouse, please make a note in the "Comments" section of the order form. Order while supplies last!

Burnett: I was told that it might be possible to rent your boat--we need to get up river.
Rambo: Where?
Burnett: Into Burma.
Rambo: Burma is a war zone.
Burnett: Up the Salween river is our best alternative.
Rambo: I can't help you out.
Burnett: Please, it will help change people's lives.
Rambo: Are you bringing in any weapons?
Burnett: Of course not.
Rambo: You're not changin' anything. - from the trailer to John Rambo, 2008

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Dear Jim:
I found an interesting article about local Peak Oil preppers. It illustrates to a "T" the naivete of some of the Peak Oil crowd you have mentioned previously.
In the article ("Oil crisis ahead? 'Peakniks' build for future") there is a good balanced coverage of the problem. Featured is a local architectural engineer who is building a sustainable home called "FoodWaterShelter". His full name, the street he is building on, his current neighborhood, his wife's occupation, etc., etc., are all put out for public consumption. Heck, he is even in a photo.
It took under a minute to find both of his addresses on the county tax appraisal web site, or the online white pages.

This is bad practice in good times to put yourself in the public eye, as it is a definite risk factor to attract criminals. In bad times, it is terminally naive - has he not given any thought that some who are going without "Food, Water, Shelter" might pay him a visit?

Privacy 101: Have an unlisted number, and contact your local property tax appraisal bureaucracy to be taken off their online lookup. Mention your preps only on a need to know basis.
And don't get yourself featured in the local paper as the "go to" place for "Food, Water, Shelter" ! - AnonyGuy

To amplify on the excellent recent letter from SoCal titled "Keeping a Low Profile is Crucial for Preparedness", I have some suggestions that all of us SurvivalBlog readers should implement to keep a low profile in our online activities. Anonymizer and Comprehensive Risk Solutions (both mentioned in the letter) are great ideas. They are cheap insurance. I can also recommend a few other measures, to wit:

1.) Use the Scroogle Scraper for web searches. This allows you to use Google through an intermediary site. That way Google cannot create a profile on your searches. On background: Google is notorious for data mining,a nd they have publicly. stated that they plan to archive all search histories for 30 years! They look at this mountain of data as an "asset" that they can market at a later date.

2.) Install the Zone Alarm firewall.

3.) Get the Stopzilla anti-spyware software.

4.) Either learn how to manually clear your "cookies" and bits of "history" from your PC, or download software such as Free History Eraser (from Blue Chilies) that does so automatically.

5,) If you have a wireless access point (WAP) for your house or place of business, then be absolutely sure to put a Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) password on it. Better yet, go further and use Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) encryption--since WEP can be cracked--and configure your WAP so that it is not visible to anyone that is not on a pre-approved list. In recent years, all sorts of riff-raff have been "piggybacking" on open networks. Everyone from malicious hackers to kiddie porn addicts drive around ("wardriving"--as shown in the YouTube mini-documentary), looking for unsecured wireless networks. Don't be a victim! Regards, - C.D.

I've decided to finally purchase an AR-15 type .223. I've decided on a DPMS Lo-Pro 16 for my .223 carbine. I'm looking into a Mueller lighted-reticle scope, in the area of 2-10x40 or so. Mueller has prices that are quite decent, given the quality, and the reviews I've read. I also have a friend with a Mueller setup on his AR-15.

For a .308, I've looked over many of the FN-FAL and G3 type rifles and their clones, but an AR-type platform has been highly recommended to me: The Rock River Arms LAR-8. It uses the AR-15 design from Eugene Stoner, and accepts Metric or Inch FN-FAL magazines. This seems to me to be the best of both worlds, inexpensive, reliable magazines, and the solid AR platform, made by one of the top leaders in AR type rifles for military and law enforcement.

Please offer any advice or opinions regarding these choices, I value your opinion, and the opinions of my fellow survivalblog readers. I'd appreciate any input from folks out there that have the RRA LAR-8, especially. I'm also thinking of the Mueller scope for this rifle. (Specifically, the Mueller Tactical 4-16x50mm or the Sport Dot 4-16x50mm both priced around $240-$250.) Thanks again! - R. in New Hampshire

JWR Replies: I generally prefer gas piston designs, since the Stoner gas tube design is notoriously prone to fouling. But if you are scrupulous and consistent about firearms cleaning, then it should serve you well.

The Rock River brand has a good reputation, and since their .308 AR can use inexpensive FAL magazines, they are at the top of my list. I wasn't aware that they could accept inch (L1A1) magazines with the large locking lug. (You might want to double check that.)

I just heard from another reader that Rock River Arms has started shipping their LAR-.308 in 16", 20" and 24" Barrels. If that will be your dedicated "reach out and touch someone" long distance shooting rifle, then you might consider getting the 24" length.

In their short track record, the Mueller scopes have a fair reputation for quality. Just one proviso on Mueller scopes: Don't be deceived by their German-sounding brand name and their clever "Euro Coating " and "German post reticle" marketing rhetoric. Mueller scopes are made in Mainland China, using lenses that are mass produced in Japan.

Be sure to a lay in a large supply of button batteries, and store them in your refrigerator. OBTW, one little known fact is that most low voltage (1 to 2.5 volt) button batteries can be recharged, with varying degrees of success. Get a compact solar button battery charger. (Also great for hearing aid batteries.)

I think that a 2-10x scope for a .223 is overkill, since .223 is not a 500 yard cartridge (unlike .308, which definitely is.) In my experience, a fixed-power 4x scope will suffice for a .223 out to 350 yards. And beyond 350, you are using the wrong rifle. I recommend the Trijicon ACOG TA-01-NSN with the donut reticle. These are much more expensive than a Mueller scope, but YMMV.

Not directly related to survival but more aligned with money management, please note that the Bush administration's tax rebate is in fact an advance on 2008's tax refund, and most or all of it will be deducted from taxpayers' refund within a year. So if one spends it, plan to be short that amount next year. Be sure to thank most of your current crop of presidential candidates for supporting this fraud. - Bruce F.

One of our readers that works as a locksmith and welder in Denver, Colorado reports: "I thought you might want to know, that a year ago I would open houses for foreclosure investors, and that market was only about 5% to 10% of my business. Now it is 70% to 90% of my business."

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Reader D.C. recommended an article that has some implication for any readers that own an unattended retreat: Keeping Track From Afar. My personal preference is for a service called uControl Home Security. (They are one of our former advertisers.)

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KBF found an article about a near-future kinetic power generator: Scientists make unique knee-brace power generator

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Vic at Safecastle has announced they have expended their latest 30% discount group purchase deal to not just their Montague and SwissBikes Folding Bicycles, but to all of their bicycles!

"There's something cool about the thought of being totally off the power grid. It's a psychological thing. I could rationalize being off the grid by saying it would come in handy if the rest of the world runs out of energy. But realistically, the big worry in that case wouldn't be powering my iPod so much as not getting eaten by cannibals." - Cartoonist Scott Adams.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Today we welcome back one of our original advertisers: Wiggy's, in Grand Junction, Colorado. They make outstanding quality sleeping bags, clothing, and other outdoor gear. They are one of the four remaining true American-made sleeping bag manufacturers. (Nearly all of their competitors have moved their production offshore.)

I love their products. We have five Wiggy's FTRSS sleeping bags and four Wiggy's Lamilite ground pads here at the Rawles Ranch. Most of these are now more than 15 years old, and still quite serviceable. They are truly built to last.

Here in the States, the newspaper headlines are full of bad economic news: "Credit Collapse", "Housing Market Tailspin", "Credit Rating Agency Scandal", and "Three Trillion Dollar Federal Budget". Most recently, the Federal Reserve (our central bank, operated by a private banking cartel) made a panic move, cutting interest rates in two jumps in just eight days, a whopping 125 basis points (1.25%). A drop that great, and that fast, was unprecedented. This maneuvering did little to calm the markets. If anything, the Fed's actions confirmed the suspicion that the credit market is essentially broken and our economy is headed for dire straits. In recent weeks, two senior market analysts with long-standing mainstream credentials have voiced very strong warnings: Take the time to read both of these articles:

Barton Biggs's Tips for Rich: Expect War, Study Blitz, Mind Markets

Legendary Funds Manager Julian Robertson Predicts Utter Global Collapse Stemming From Bursting of Property Bubble

Tomorrow's headlines are likely to be even more dramatic: Implosion of the derivatives bubble, hedge fund redemption suspensions and spectacular fund failures, a commercial real estate bust that will rival the residential housing market collapse, municipal bond fund failures, bank runs, and numerous government-sponsored bailouts. (For the latter, read: funded by your tax dollars.)

The exact timing of all of these events is difficult to predict, but given the magnitude of the credit bubble, the housing bubble, the out of control Federal budget, and the casino-like atmosphere of the derivatives market that now measures hundreds of trillions of dollars, these headlines very likely will appear--if not in the next few months then in the the next few years. The unbridled excesses that were allowed to develop starting during the "Easy Al" Greenspan years are only making things worse. A loose credit environment for more than a decade created what comedian Eddie Murphy would call a "Big Dang Bubble." The old adage: "The bigger they are, the harder they fall" comes to mind. Be ready for the full implications of these news headlines when they appear.

The biggest banner headline for 2008 may very well be a derivatives trading meltdown. (I have been warning SurvivalBlog readers about derivatives since late 2005., but it has just been in the past four months that the risk has blossomed to huge proportions.) Derivatives are by far the largest financial market in the world, but ironically one of the least regulated and the least well-understood by outside observers. Mark my words: If the derivatives market falls apart, it will not just topple major corporations, but it will trigger an economic collapse that will topple some national governments. The types of derivatives that are presently the greatest cause for concern are Credit Default Swaps (CDS). This is a private form of insurance against a defaulting instrument. In some ways, these are typical derivatives, with parties and counterparties. The CDS system has grown up to huge proportions in just the past 10 years. The inherent problem with the CDS scheme is that it hums along nicely in good economic times, when there are just a few defaults. But the system is not stress-tolterant.for bad economic times. Certainly the CDS system cannot tolerate the failure of an entire industry. Imagine a situation where not just Countrywide Financial fails, but virtually all of the other major mortgage lenders fail. The CDS exposure would be astronomical. What sort of bailout package would Uncle Sugar have to establish to fix that mess? And how would it be funded? Certainly not with income tax revenue. (That would require both a 100% corporate rate and a 100% individual income tax rate for several years.) The answer is that it would be funded with dollars that are created out of thin air. Warm up the helicopters, Ben. If this happens, get ready for Zimbabwe-style hyperinflation.

Specific Guidance:

A.) Protect yourself from inflation by getting out of dollar-denominated investments and shift those funds into tangibles post haste! You may have noticed that Friday's closing numbers for gold ($923 per ounce) and silver ($17.18 per ounce ) are continuing their bull market advance, just as I predicted.

B.) Limit your exposure to hedge funds. Most investors don't understand hedge funds or there dealings. Let me put it to you in a nutshell: 1.) Hedge funds essentially borrow short and lend long. This works great in fairly normal economic times with stable interest rates, where hedge fund leverage often provides double digit returns to investors. A lot of people have made a lot of money with hedge funds in recent years. 2.) Where hedge funds run into trouble is when there is instability in the credit markets and interest rates fluctuate widely. Well guess what happened recently? In less than two weeks, Ben Bernanke and his band of fools went into full-scale panic mode and dropped interest rates by 1.25%. That is a massive, rapid, and unprecedented drop in rates. Some hedge funds are going to suffer for it, badly. 3.) Hedge funds are not insured by the FDIC. They are essentially"risk to the nth power." Yes, you can make a pile of money with hedge fund investing. You can also lose every penny. 4.) Hedge fund rules typically allow the fund managers to suspend redemptions, at will. If you, or anyone that you know, has more than 5% of their net worth in a hedge fund, I very strongly recommend that you get your sell order in, ASAP. Do not miss your next quarterly redemption window. It may be your only chance to salvage your investment!

C.) Be ready for the coming bank runs. These will make the recent run on all of the branches of the Northern Rock Bank in England seem puny, by comparison. The Northern Rock experience taught us a few important lessons: In a 21st Century bank run you can expect three things to happen immediately: 1.) All ATMs will be shut down, 2.) Debit card withdrawals will be severely limited or stopped completely, and 3.) Online banking will be shut down. These measures effectively funnel the "run" down to just face to face transactions at bank teller windows, to stem the tide. Bank managers must slow the outflow of cash, for without these measures, a bank could be "cleaned out" of most of its deposits within 24 hours. I've said this before: Be ready for bank runs, folks. Keep some greenback cash on hand. Don't keep all of your funds in one bank--even if your deposits are less than $100,000. Don't forget that it can take weeks or even months to get a check from the FDIC. Lastly, in the event of widespread bank runs, we can anticipate some draconian new rules limiting withdrawals, via executive order(s). Once bank runs begin in the US, even if your own bank is not yet affected, have direct payroll deposit stopped. Instead, ask your employer's payroll department to issue you a traditional paycheck.

D.) Get your key logistics squared away. Water filtering, food storage, and four season field gear are paramount concerns. You have been reading SurvivalBlog, so you know what you need to do. Quit dawdling. If you are short on some crucial logistics, then pick up the phone. I would appreciate it if you directed your business to our paid advertisers first. They are all reputable firms that are worthy of your patronage. As always, please mention SurvivalBlog when you contact them. Thanks.

E.) For those of you that are already well prepared, it is time to go through your last-minute checklists: Remember December of 1999? In my estimations the current precarious economic situation dictates the same level of preparedness as Y2K. Top off your fuel tanks and fill your wood shed. Rotate your stocks of items that have short shelf lives, such as as pharmaceuticals, gardening seeds (preferably at least 80% of them non-hybrid) and chemical light sticks.

F.) If you have been deferring any nagging dental work, elective surgery, or getting a new prescription for your eyeglasses, then do so as soon as possible.

G.) Pray. Pray hard. Pray often. In retrospect, perhaps I should have put that at the top of the list.

Inflation or Deflation?
I'm often asked if the next recession will be inflationary or deflationary. It is now obvious that Bernanke's Fed will attempt inflate their way out of this mess. They call him Helicopter Ben for a reason I am now predicting substantial consumer price inflation in the near future.

Conclusion. Be prepared to hunker down, folks. Pardon me for sounding a bit agitated in the preceding paragraphs, but today's economic headlines are difficult to ignore. And tomorrow's headlines might have a much more immediate impact on your life and livelihood.

I read the link that was submitted by Craig in Odds 'n Sods. The Channel 3000 story couldn't be farther from the truth. As a local first responder, I can attest that we are getting the short end of the stick. The State Patrol didn't even acknowledge there was any problem on the interstate until hours after our crews were already on scene. They didn't even know that Dane County had set up an incident command headquarters at the Highway 51 interchange. The first semi trucks started losing traction as early as 10 a.m.that day. Near blizzard conditions had been present all the previous night. I am on Stoughton, Wisconsin EMS team, and my cousin is with the Stoughton Fire Department. My cousin and his friend, also a firefighter, responded to the command center with personally owned snowmobiles.

Shortly after these two individuals start checking the welfare of motorists, a State Patrol officer stopped them and read them the riot act for daring to drive snowmobiles on what he called "my interstate." He threatened to give both emergency responders (acting under fire command orders) citations for operating the snowmobiles on the interstate. They had been tasked by the incident commander with recon of the southbound lanes, they made it to the Rock River (where the Rock County incident command was set up), and were met by more than 30 members of the local snowmobile club. These private citizens came ready equipped with food, water and first aid. The two local firefighters were tasked by Rock Co. incident command to split up the club members into two teams and check lanes in both directions.

At no time did the local responders ever see National Guard members on snowmobiles. Nor did they ever see any on the interstate. The National Guard were handing out water and food from one truck at the Dane Co. incident command headquarters to emergency workers. The stranded motorists soon started to become covered by snow drifts. Many said that was the most scary aspect, as well as the total lack of information. Local cell towers became overloaded. Communications were accomplished by "CB relay chains".

Several diabetic motorists were assisted by snowmobilers, and one patient who was en route to the University of Wisconsin Hospital in his privately owned car was loaned a portable generator since the internal battery on the patient's medical device ran out.

The National Guard chopper was seen overhead on several occasions, but never landed as far as I know. Much later in the day, after some traffic flow began, the snowmobilers had to go back out to the interstate to wake up some of the semi truck drivers, who had been sleeping in their cabs, and whose rigs were now blocking traffic flow. All told, the firefighter/snowmobilers logged over 400 miles traversing a 25 mile stretch of I-90. - BadgerDad, EMT-IV

Hello James,
I've been putting off acquiring a AN/PVS-4 [--a Starlight technology electronic light amplification night vision weapons sight--] for too long primarily due to the expense (and other priorities). The time has come to get one from STANO Components night vision (and I'll be sure to mention your blog). I'll be getting a Gen2 refurbished scope with a new [image intensifier] tube and the other details you mentioned recently. I have three options for mounting the scope. I am inclined to mount the scope on my M1A Match (at present is equipped with a 10x super sniper scope) but have other options, an AR-15 or a FN-FAL (none of these have optics).
Note: I have one M1A but two AR-15s and two FN-FALs. I do have a Springfield [Armory M1A] SOCOM (.308) but that is probably not the best choice here. I understand that I should be able to remove/mount the AN/PVS-4 scope without messing up the zero each time but would prefer to just mount it on a firearm and just leave it there as the full time dedicated night firearm. Plus, not having to remount it is just one less thing to do.

I just want to be sure that I'm not missing anything tactically or otherwise before I advise STANO Components to set it up [with a reticle] for .308. Thanks for any input, - Pete.

JWR Replies: I agree that your SOCOM-variant M1A would be a poor choice for use as your dedicated night-fighting rifle. They have 16.25" barrels and consequently have a huge muzzle flash. While a .223 might suffice, I believe that a .308 is much more effective, particularly at long range. I would recommend mounting the Starlight scope on one of your FALs, for two reasons:
1.) FAL (and L1A1) flash hiders are fairly efficient.
2.) FAL scope mount top cover have a good reputation for "return to zero" when removed and reinstalled. Even the inexpensive TAPCO top cover mounts exhibit remarkable return to zero stability.
And thanks, BTW, for mentioning SurvivalBlog whenever you deal with any of our advertisers--or any companies that are potential advertisers.

There is some good commentary from John Ing, posted over at Gold-Eagle; Gold: Lies, Lies And More Lies

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The cable television Sci-Fi channel will air the "Jericho" pilot episode and then the entire first season, starting tonight. (Monday, Feb. 9, 2008.) The second season of the show will be aired on CBS on Tuesday evenings, starting tomorrow night.

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RBS suggested this piece of old time lore on preserving eggs without refrigeration.

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Check out the series of free outdoor survival videos at this British web site: A-Z of Bushcraft.

"My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government." - Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The high bid in the current SurvivalBlog Benefit Auction lot is now at $250. The auction is for a Brunton Solarport 4.4 watt photovoltaic panel (a $140 retail value), a Deluxe Outdoor Survival Tool Kit (a $70 retail value)--both kindly donated by Ready Made Resources--as well as seven other items combined in one lot: A copy of the latest edition of "The Encyclopedia of Country Living" by the late Carla Emery (a $32 retail value), an autographed copy of my novel "Patriots" (a $23 retail value), an autographed copy of my nonfiction book "Rawles on Retreats and Relocation" (a $25 retail value), a SurvivalBlog Key Logistics Tote Bag (a $17.50 retail value), and an autographed set of Michael Z. Williamson's "Target: Terror" modern military fiction sniper trilogy, from Avon books: "The Scope of Justice", "Targets of Opportunity", and "Confirmed Kill". This auction ends on February 15th. Please e-mail us your bids, in $10 increments.

I found some depressing analysis on G.O.O.D. for those of us near US population centers: Read this PDF.

For further information on the ineffectiveness of G.O.O.D. when times get bad, US DOT generated this report: Using Highways for No-Notice Evacuations.

In addition, there is no shortage at the US DOT web site of well-intentioned and theoretical research reports on disaster planning.

For many of us, last minute G.O.O.D. plans are likely to be characterized by a high probability of failure along with its associated human costs. One might guess that the chance of failure is an exponential function of the distance to the retreat. I need to remind myself that it is not a simple matter of just getting in the car or BOV and heading out to the safety of my retreat. Might work, probably won't.

Thank you again for your hard work, - The DFer

JWR Replies: I concur that "Eleventh Hour" G.O.O.D. is a bad idea. Even if you have 90% of your gear pre-positioned at your retreat, there is the prospect of never making it there safely. (Or, arriving days or weeks late, on foot, only to find your retreat occupied by armed squatters that are gleefully eating from your carefully planned deep larder.) As I illustrated in my novel "Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse", being forced to abandon a vehicle and traveling on foot is a dicey proposition, at best. I strongly recommend that readers live at their retreats years round--even if it means giving up a high-paying big city job.

You mentioned: "One might guess that the chance of failure is an exponential function of the distance to the retreat." I would qualify that by saying: "...the distance that you need to traverse in a high population density region to get to the retreat". It is best if one can get away from urban regions fairly quickly and then take secondary or tertiary back roads. For those that are forced by circumstances or family obligations to live a long distance from their intended retreat, I recommend doing some detailed map studies, and then some test drives with a GPS receiver in hand, to establish five or more G.O.O.D. routes--some quite circuitous--to stay away from high population regions and expected refugee lines of drift. Needless to say, always, always, have enough fuel on hand, to make the drive from your home to your retreat without buying any fuel. Depending on the fire code in your town, that might necessitate caching some fuel along your route. (Ideally, with relatives or friends.) Along with that comes the further complication of systematically rotating that cached fuel.)

If and when "The Day" comes, do not hesitate! You need to get out of town well ahead of The Golden Horde, while roads are still passable. It is better to be ultra-cautious and run the risk of burning up some of your hard-earned vacation hours in the event of a few false alarms, than to be complacent and thereby end up stuck in traffic, staring at the tail lights and back bumpers of the enormous horde that left town ahead of you. (Just ask the folks that tried leaving the Gulf Coast cities just before Hurricane Katrina arrived. It was a monumental traffic jam.)

Dear JWR,
I thought you’d like to pass this on if people want to save some of their hard earnings. Now is the last call to purchase before the commodity price increases. Shipping cost increases are to hit us again on February 19th. Here in North Carolina, we’re seeing an average of 20% increases in prices of staple shelf items like flour, corn milled products, honey, milk, eggs and canned goods within the last two weeks in the grocery stores. One bell pepper now costs a dollar. Other produce is following the same increases. Products made of plastics, paper and aluminum and galvanized fencing materials have jumped about 25%. The inventory has also been pared down dramatically in the general stores and farm supply stores, especially on animal feed.

We prepaid and ordered a pallet each of salt blocks, crushed calcium, and lime and had to wait almost a month for them. When we picked them up the manager told us we were fortunate that we prepaid because the prices had increased to about 15% on them.

Local grown soy beans, wheat and corn are hard if nil to come by. The soy has all been shipped to China. Many shelves are bare for several days before resupply. Lumber prices have gone crazy and the available quality is getting poorer and we have dozens of mills and thousands of tree farms within 100 miles of here.

Of course, because of God’s providence and foresight to act, we don’t need to buy these as we’re stocked adequately for a very long haul, but I always make note of the prices on these items, because we have the capability and produce many of these ourselves and we barter excesses of these for other items we don’t produce. The going market value is important to monitor if you want to barter and maintain a balance for the goods you exchange.

Keep up the great work! You have done so much toward educating us all in maintaining our independence and in preparing ourselves for the worst of the worst. We now proudly stand at the ready. God bless you and your family. - KBF

Dear SurvivalBlog.com and SurvivalRealty.com Readers:
I wanted to take a moment to thank Todd Savage for the outstanding work that he did for my family helping us become familiar with Northern Idaho and helping us find the perfect retreat. Todd helped us discover Idaho in its entire splendor, helped us manage our expectations properly and never led us astray.

Initially, we had some good ideas on what to look for in a retreat having read both the novel "Patriots" and [JWR's nonfiction book] "Rawles on Retreats and Relocation" more than once. Nonetheless, we weren’t 100% sure what we wanted in a retreat and we decided to look at everything that was available in our price range with very few limiting criteria. We looked at dozens of properties as we spent the next four months looking for the perfect retreat for our family. Todd was there every step of the way. Our searches were sometimes challenging, like the time we ditched our 4x4 at 2 mph and had to bring in a tow truck from Troy, Montana to get us out of a very dicey iced over mountain road in the middle of a heavy snow (fortunately it was only Todd and I that time). Todd, like the truly prepared individual that he is, took everything in stride and resolved the issue promptly allowing us to continue our search in short order.

Throughout the entire process he was professional, meticulous, and motivated. I always felt as though I was his only client.. Todd is also very conscientious and perceptive and quickly adapts to changing situations with his clients’ searches such as the spouse that may only be 95% on board and doesn’t necessarily want to live in a fortified MX missile silo as many of us in the XY [chromosome] crowd happily would. Todd consistently went above and beyond his duties as a Realtor and retreat consultant, previewing properties for us and making sure that we did not waste any time looking at property that would not fit our needs. Flying into Spokane with two preschool age children for a weekend tour of Northern Idaho is not for the faint of heart; Todd’s meticulous attention to detail with pre-generated reports, satellite views and feasibility studies for each property made the treks all the more enjoyable and fruitful.

If you’re looking for retreat property in Northern Idaho you could never hope to meet a better person to help you find the right place. I placed my trust and potentially the future well being of my family in Todd’s capable hands and he came through the way a Marine always does. Semper Fidelis.
From a very satisfied Survival Realty customer, - E.S.

After a near-death experience, the post-nuke television drama series "Jericho" returns to CBS on Tuesday (February 12, 2008). It is noteworthy that "Jericho" was resurrected from cancellation by popular demand from loyal fans, who inundated CBS officials with shipments of 40,000 pounds of peanuts. As previously mentioned in SurvivalBlog, I have hopes that both "Jericho", and "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (on the Fox network) will in some small way help get people to "think outside the box" about the fragility of our modern society and motivate them to prepare for more inimical times. OBTW, for anyone that wants to chat about either series, there is both a The Sarah Connor Chronicles Yahoo Discussion Group and a Jericho (TV Series) Yahoo Discussion Group.Both of these are moderated by a SurvivalBlog reader.

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Eric found us this: UK- Price of food soars to all-time record

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Thanks to RBS for this one: Your cost of living may be rising faster than the Consumer Price Index

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John R. sent us: Couple survives 12 days in snow. John's comments: "This is why everyone should have carry a kit in their vehicles. The couple made it out alive, thankfully, though one rescue worker died as a result of over-exertion. But it doesn't sound like it was easy." Meanwhile , Craig sent this: Hundreds Of Motorists Still Stranded On I-90. Craig asks: "I wonder how many of them had winter survival kits in their cars?"

"Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, refrains from giving wordy evidence of the fact." - George Eliot

Saturday, February 9, 2008

A reader asked about "deer wheat" in a video posted on Youtube. The intent of the video was to show how someone could inexpensively pack their own dry goods, not to argue the merit of "feed" wheat.

Just to clarify though, the wheat in the video was purchased from a feed store selling it as "feed" wheat not as "deer wheat." As you mentioned there is essentially two types you'll find at feed stores- seed wheat and feed wheat.

Down in the southern parts of the country there are more insect problems, so much of the "seed" wheat is treated with pesticides. The good news is that if you can smell, it will be readily recognizable to you as having pesticides on it.

Having purchased and packed a fair amount of "feed wheat" for personal use and having talked to numerous grain mills in this area, here's what I've found-

The "feed" variety of wheat isn't cleaned as much as "triple cleaned" wheat which is normally what is sold for human consumption.

Quality typically varies from one source to the next. We recommend folks buy one bag to start with after telling the store owner you need non-treated wheat for animal feed. Lots of people mix there own scratch grains, etc. so this is not uncommon. Get the bag home and test it for yourself. We have only noticed a slightly higher amount of grain dust and chaff, but again this will vary from one source to the next. You could always winnow this out yourself if you so desired.

It does offer a cheap alternative for folks to put up wheat. I realize not everyone will see the utility of using this type of food, nor will everyone "approve" of it. I can only tell you that my family (and others) have consumed quite a bit of this with no ill affects. - Dave in Idaho


While animal feed at this time is not par with food, these rules will be changing. The FDA is pressuring, producers, storage facilities and feed mills to bring their standards up to human food chain levels. We will see this transformation in the next three to five years as laws will be brought forth to force this process.

Speaking of food and feed, we are going to see another twenty percent rise in wholesale food pricing within this year.

The preceding statements came to me from the heads of various feed mills, food manufacturing plants and grain shipping/storage facilities where I conduct pest control services on the west coast. - S.M.

Hi Jim,
I have not tried one of these yet. But it seems like a good idea. - Paul D


I came across this interesting product while surfing the Internet a couple of weeks ago. It is one possible solution to the problem of freezing livestock tanks. The web site also mentions that insulating the sides of the tank helps retain the heat. - Jeff


Good Evening Mr. Rawles;
In reference to the posting regarding heating a livestock tank, please review this web site.

I purchased one of these tubs and stoves several years ago but not for livestock use. I do remember my grandfather having something similar at our farm when I was growing up. When I visit my retreat in the winter and temperatures are in the 0 degree range, I can fill the tub with well water and have it heated to 100 degrees in about four hours. Maintaining the temperature is then relatively easy, albeit the tub is covered with an insulated cover when not in use. Also tubbin' temperatures are warmer than required for livestock watering temperatures.

As a secondary benefit, I keep the tub full during the non-freezing months as it makes a great back-up source of water.
I am not affiliated with this vendor, just a satisfied customer.

Also, another note to those that use programs like Quicken to track their financial date, putting the 10 Cent Challenge in your Scheduled Transactions, will insure that you keep up to date on the Challenge. It helps me keep my subscription current. Thanks for all of your work on the site. - S.N.

I clicked on this link from your site, JOTW - Home Made Vegetable Oil Lamp. This got me to thinking about something I read about and tried once, some years ago. Take a tangerine, and using a knife, cut the nub off of the top, to expose the fruit, and using a spoon, separate the fruit from the peel and the segments from each other, leaving the sting like " pith " that runs from top to bottom, down the center of the segments, connected to the bottom. After letting the thing dry a bit, the pith is cut a bit to act as a free standing " wick ", a bit of olive, vegetable, or corn oil is put in, leaving about 1/4" of the pith above the oil to light. If it soaks up the oil enough, the lamp can be made to last quite a while for survival needs.

If you go to the extreme in a survival situation, a lamp could be fashioned from natural clay like the ones seen in the Middle East that have been made the same way since biblical times. . Many thanks to Hawaiian K. for the link. I like to try some of these type preparedness do-it-yourself projects from time to time to learn a new skill that may help me and my family some bad day. - Dim Tim

I just returned from the SHOT Show held in down in Mordor (Lost Wages, Nevada.) Here are my top three favorite innovations that I saw there.

1) This product is number one by a long shot. It is a huge monumental leap in technology for night vision. My buddy just back from Iraq fell over when he saw it. SuperVision(tm) Digital Night Vision. Forget the blurry and hazy green from the past. The new generation shows clear blue-gray out to 300+ yards. Its clarity is impressive and the cost is half of the current top offering of night vision. www.xenonics.com for live video.
Downside-only have handheld unit-working on rail mount for front of scope-due soon.

2) A 5 inch by 3 inch water purifier that purifies up to 2000 liters, and costs only $59.95. It fits in the palm of your hand--very small and compact. Made by Middleboro Water, LLC ph. (508) 947-6824

3) A multi-tube Magazine located in fore-end stock of a semi-auto shotgun. When one tube is empty you rotate the stock to engage a new tube. Total capacity is 16 rounds. Made in Meridian, Idaho. See: SRM Arms PDF and Defense Review article. [A hat tip to Ron A., for sending those links.]

Cool factor: Beretta Pistol with 1000 diamonds embedded in the pistol grips. 90 carats total. And of course, a Perazzi shotgun set: a .410, 28, 16 and 12 gauge shotgun set costing a mere $447,000. Pocket change!

The 2008 SHOT Show had 7,000 vendors and new overflow tents in the parking lot. As you can guess I only saw a percentage of the show in two full days. God Bless, - B.

Eric mentioned this piece posted over at Stan Deyo's site: Thirsty? Dirty? Sorry.

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CJA suggested this photo essay: One Week's Worth of Food--Around the World

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Reader David V. sent us the link to a "must read" piece over at Michael Panzner's Financial Armageddon blog: Still at the Forefront.

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A half dozen readers sent us this link: 'Euros Accepted' signs pop up in New York City

"A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing that is more important than his personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertion of better men than himself." - John Stuart Mill

Friday, February 8, 2008

My missus and I have been into "prepping" for about 15 years. Our house has a basement and it is practically wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling with shelves--with just narrow aisles in between. The shelves are chockablock with storage food (all labeled and organized "FIFO"-style), medical supplies, assorted "field" type gear, tools, barter/charity stuff, ammo cans, propane cylinders (that fit our camp stove and camping lantern), reels of field phone wire, paper products, and so forth. Following the example of Mr. Whiskey (from your "Profiles") we have recently built up 27 sets of designated "charity duffles", each packed in a cheap Made-in-Taiwan nylon duffle bag. Each of these contains a Dutch Army surplus wool blanket, a Chinese knockoff of a Leatherman tool, a pair of gloves, a pile ("watch") cap, a half dozen pairs of socks, a thrift store man's jacket, room for four days worth of food (which we would pack from our FIFO inventory, as needed), a collapsing plastic water container (the type that Campmor sells), a waterproof match container, a tube tent, and a hand line fishing kit. ("Teach a man to fish...")

When we moved back to California in 1998, we picked our house specially because it was built in the 1940s. It is the oldest and sturdiest house on the block. (The neighborhood built up around the house, when the property was subdivided in the 1960s.) It has a basement and its own water well, which is now "off the books"--since the house is now on "city" [metered] water, but the well is still functional with a 24 VDC submersible well pump. I have four flush roof-mounted Kyocera PV panels (cannot be seen from the street) and six deep cycle batteries. The cables are run series-parallel to provide both 12 VDC and 24 VDC outputs.

Even though we live in a standard suburban neighborhood, none of out neighbors are any the wiser about our preps. At the core, I consider my preparations my own business. When the time comes to hand out the charity duffles, we will do so through an intermediary, like our church. (We are Methodists.)

After seeing what happened to that guy in Norco last year, I am glad that I keep a low profile. The specific measures that we have taken to keep a low profile are:

1.) We take no UPS deliveries at our house. Nearly all of our mail-ordered goods are sent to our private mail box at the local UPS Store (it was formerly a "MailBoxes, Etc.") From there, we take the boxes home in our minivan.We are always sure to unload the van from inside my garage, with the garage door shut. All of the empty boxes have the "to" and "from" address labels cut out with a box cutter knife. I discard the flattened boxes in the cardboard recycling dumpster behind the office where I work. (I'm a sales engineer for a medium-size company.)

2.) We don't subscribe to any shooting or hunting magazines. We get all of the gun information we need online. To "stay in the fight" politically, I do make regular anonymous contributions to the GOA, JPFO and CRPA [The California Rifle and Pistol Association, a firearms rights organization], via Post Office Money Orders. (BTW, I do the same for the SurvivalBlog [10 Cent] Challenge. Shame on any of you that read this blog regularly but don't pony up the 10 pennies a day!)

3.) We access all web pages via Anonymizer, with no exceptions.

4.) Most of of our preps purchases are either made F2F, with cash, or with Post Office Money Orders if ordering by mail. This eliminates the "trail of paper" from writing checks or using a credit card. We buy a lot from Nitro-Pak, Ready Made Resources, Major Surplus, and Lehman's.

5.) All of our guns, ammunition, gun gadgets, targets, and cleaning supplies are bought "private party", mainly at SoCal [(Southern California)] gun shows. Also, needless to mention, these are greenback transactions only! In California, we can still at least buy rifles and shotguns that are more than 50 years old without having to buy through a [licensed] dealer. We have two [M1] Garand rifles, and a FN.49, also [chambered] in .30-06. I'm still looking for one or two more of those, but they are scarce, and even harder to find private party. We also have three [Winchester] Model 12 pump[-action] 12 gauge shotguns, two of which have had their barrels shortened to 18.5 inches. Handgun buys in California all require paperwork, but by Divine Providence I bought several Glocks and [Colt Model] 1911s when I was living in Arizona for a couple years, back in the late '90s. [JWR Adds: That loophole was recently closed for Californians. Anyone moving into the state must now register their handguns. Drat! But at least there was a grandfather clause.] There is isn't much to do out in the desert except shoot, so I bought a lot of guns when we were there.

6.) We signed up for an identity theft and credit report checking protection plan three years ago. I noticed that SurvivalBlog just started running an ad from Comprehensive Risk Solutions. Their service has more bells and whistles and a lower subscription cost that our current provider, so we will switch [to them] when our current subscription lapses. [JWR Adds: I highly recommend this service. It is cheap insurance to prevent what would otherwise be a very costly incident.]

7.) We use a TracFone whenever calling a mail order vendor. (No calling history paper trail.)

8. ) We don't mention our preps to anyone outside of our family. We have coached our kids from an early age to keep their lips zipped.

9.) Whenever we have anybody visit our home, the basement door stays closed and locked. (It is a keyed deadbolt lock.) The basement has no windows. Most of our friends and relatives don't realize that we even have a basement. (Basements are actually rare in California tract neighborhoods.) To anybody that visits, the basement door just looks like a locked closet.

10.) We don't leave anything "suspicious" out where it can be seen in our house and garage.

These precautions might seem kinda "over the top", but put yourself in my shoes. In the People's Republic of California it pays to be a bit of a Secret Squirrel. I does cost me about $300 per year to get my mail and packages at the UPS Store, but I consider that a small price to pay for my privacy. I plan to retire to the mountains of central Nevada in nine years, but for now, I am making do in my present circumstances. - F.L. in Southern California

Mr. Rawles
I got a You Tube link that shows "Five gallon bucket storage techniques" and was wondering if the "deer wheat" mentioned in the video was edible or able to sprout and also make wheat berries? I went to my local feed store and they can get the "deer wheat" in 50 pound bags either as "seed" or "feed". If this "deer wheat" is okay for human consumption, then which would be the better buy, "seed" or "feed"?

JWR Replies: Typically "seed" grain is treated with insecticides and fungicides, but "feed "grain is not. Any whole grain (without fillers, additives or byproducts) sold as animal "feed" is probably fit for human consumption, but don't count on it. (See the scholarly study "Contaminants and toxins in animal feeds", for example.) The FDA food handling standards for human consumption generally don't apply. Thus, there could be excess pesticides, insect parts, insect excreta, or other contamination, including the risk of micotoxins, . This is not to say that grains packed for human food are perfect. I've found much more than just chaff in the wheat that I bought from food storage vendors over the years, including pebbles and small dirt clod! But at least the screening is more thorough with these grains that with animal feed.

The only way to be sure about safety for human consumption is to check with the feed mill/packaging company, for each product.

Perhaps a reader that works at a feed mill or perhaps someone with a background in food inspection would care to share their knowledge.


If the location is right, install what looks like access to a septic system. I'd use it for a big cache or a root cellar. Seal the entrance with concrete which can be busted out with a sledge hammer, or perhaps use lumber or brick to cover the walls of the entrance and use the original access for another purpose to hide it's original intent such as a cache of lesser importance.
- E.L.

You wrote: "In particular, ideas on camouflaging the entrance trap door would be appreciated."

I wasn't able to clearly visualize the trap door in the garage. But if the trap door is near a wall, or is recessed at or just below the floor level I might cover the area with one of those 1/8 inch thick oil drip catching sheets of metal available at most auto stores, etc.

If I didn't need regular access to the entry, I would add some Kitty Litter to the metal sheet and perhaps set a push lawn mower on top of that.

A little easily-visible used oil added to the kitty litter for effect would probably help too. - KMA


The first thing I would do is make sure this is not an old converted septic tank. If it were I'm sure you would already know that! If it is going to be an occupied shelter: The first thing I would do is to make an emergency exit to the 'room'. Dig a tunnel from the outside of the garage down to the room about half way up a wall from the yard and fill with sand. About a foot down from the yard hole place pressure treated plywood then dirt then grass. Keep a small axe, a sledge hammer, cold chisel, hack saw with metal cutting blade and a small folding shovel in the room at all times. If you ever get trapped in there you can break the wall out, let the sand fall out in the room, dig some sand out, and escape. You must always have an alternative exit an any situation.

The second thing I would do if its a room is coat the walls, floor, and ceiling at least twice with a waterproof sealer.

The third thing I would do is run a six inch PVC pipe out one wall and have it come out in the yard, screen the yard end and place a large planting pot over it with false bottom with holes in the pot. For heavier safety you could build a cement planter with holes that look like weep holes. Place a false bottom in it, and fill with plants. Inside the room you can add a hand crank squirrel cage blower. [JWR Adds: And a HEPA filter if you want the space top double as a fallout shelter.] You will need to repeat the same for exhaust air. What comes in must go out. Air, water, food goes in and comes out!

The fourth thing I would do is stock it up: water, food, blankets, sleeping bags, guns, ammo, sealable drums for poop bags, first aid and all the goodies.

The fifth thing I would do is start spending nights in it--first one, then two, then three. Make it familiar. You may find you freak out after a few days, and yet it takes weeks for radiation half life to dissipate. Get used to it, you don't want to do that under stress.

The main entry can be concealed with a lightweight fake shelf made from balsa wood. A metal plate can be hinged, fastened to the floor, covered with a rubber mat, and the light shelf bolted to the metal door from below. You can glue stuff to it to make it look like a used shelf. Rings can be welding to the under side of the metal door so chains can be installed to hold it down to keep the 'bugs' out. Just a quick thought. - Jesse

Here in The Unnamed Western State (TUWS), a BMW or a Lexus is not considered a status symbol, but a Caterpillar tractor is. In winters with heavy snowfall, nothing beats a Cat for plowing out roads. Anyone with a large Cat with a versatile blade is is considered the "go-to guy" after a major snow storm. If you own a Cat and your neighbors don't, then after the first hard winter they will consider you indispensable.

   o o o

John T. flagged this from Fortune magazine: 'It's going to be much worse' Famed investor Jim Rogers sees hard times ahead for the United States - and a big opportunity looming in China. His comments on the Federal Reserve being out of control are noteworthy. John also mentioned this from Fortune: Eight ways to recession-proof your job

   o o o

The Memsahib very quickly high-graded my Kaito KA-1102 compact shortwave radio for her own use. (She did so after she discovered that it has better reception of FM stations than any of our other radios.) We live in a remote region where daytime reception is pitiful, so we've come to appreciate the quality of these little radios. They are a lot of radio for very little money. So now I'll be ordering another Kaito from Affordable Shortwaves for my own use. This recent experience adds credence to the old prepper's adage: "Two is one, and one is none."

“Competition is the life of trade…In a controlled situation, people take what they can get. In a competitive situation, people get what they want.” - William C. Durant, founder of General Motors

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Today's first post is for the benefit of the many folks that have just recently found SurvivalBlog. (Our readership has quadrupled since February of 2006. We now have nearly 10,000 unique visits per day.) This is something that I wrote and originally posted in September of 2005.

Start your retreat stocking effort by first composing a List of Lists, then draft prioritized lists for each subject, on separate sheets of paper. (Or in a spreadsheet if you are a techno-nerd like me. Just be sure to print out a hard copy for use when the power grid goes down!) It is important to tailor your lists to suit your particular geography, climate, and population density as well as your peculiar needs and likes/dislikes. Someone setting up a retreat in a coastal area is likely to have a far different list than someone living in the Rockies.

As I often mention in my lectures and radio interviews, a great way to create truly commonsense preparedness lists is to take a three-day weekend TEOTWAWKI Weekend Experiment” with your family. When you come home from work on Friday evening, turn off your main circuit breaker, turn off your gas main (or propane tank), and shut your main water valve (or turn off your well pump.) Spend that weekend in primitive conditions. Practice using only your storage food, preparing it on a wood stove (or camping stove.)

A “TEOTWAWKI Weekend Experiment” will surprise you. Things that you take for granted will suddenly become labor intensive. False assumptions will be shattered. Your family will grow closer and more confident. Most importantly, some of the most thorough lists that you will ever make will be those written by candlelight.

Your List of Lists should include: (Sorry that this post is in outline form, but it would take a full length book to discus all of the following in great detail)

Water List
Food Storage List
Food Preparation List
Personal List
First Aid /Minor Surgery List
Nuke Defense List
Biological Warfare Defense List
Gardening List
Hygiene List/Sanitation List
Hunting/Fishing/Trapping List
Power/Lighting/Batteries List
Fuels List
Firefighting List
Tactical Living List
Communications/Monitoring List
Tools List
Sundries List
Survival Bookshelf List
Barter and Charity List

JWR’s Specific Recommendations For Developing Your Lists:

Water List
House downspout conversion sheet metal work and barrels. (BTW, this is another good reason to upgrade your retreat to a fireproof metal roof.)
Drawing water from open sources. Buy extra containers. Don’t buy big barrels, since five gallon food grade buckets are the largest size that most people can handle without back strain.
For transporting water if and when gas is too precious to waste, buy a couple of heavy duty two wheel garden carts--convert the wheels to foam filled "no flats" tires. (BTW, you will find lots of other uses for those carts around your retreat, such as hauling hay, firewood, manure, fertilizer, et cetera.)
Treating water. Buy plain Clorox hypochlorite bleach. A little goes a long way. Buy some extra half-gallon bottles for barter and charity. If you can afford it, buy a “Big Berky” British Berkefeld ceramic water filter. (Available from Ready Made Resources and several other Internet vendors. Even if you have pure spring water at your retreat, you never know where you may end up, and a good filter could be a lifesaver.)

Food Storage List
See my post tomorrow which will be devoted to food storage. Also see the recent letter from David in Israel on this subject.

Food Preparation List

Having more people under your roof will necessitate having an oversize skillet and a huge stew pot. BTW, you will want to buy several huge kettles, because odds are you will have to heat water on your wood stove for bathing, dish washing, and clothes washing. You will also need even more kettles, barrels, and 5 or 6 gallon PVC buckets--for water hauling, rendering, soap making, and dying. They will also make great barter or charity items. (To quote my mentor Dr. Gary North: “Nails: buy a barrel of them. Barrels: Buy a barrel of them!”)
Don’t overlook skinning knives, gut-buckets, gambrels, and meat saws.

Personal List
(Make a separate personal list for each family member and individual expected to arrive at your retreat.)
Spare glasses.
Prescription and nonprescription medications.
Birth control.
Keep dentistry up to date.
Any elective surgery that you've been postponing
Work off that gut.
Stay in shape.
Back strength and health—particularly important, given the heavy manual tasks required for self-sufficiency.
Educate yourself on survival topics, and practice them. For example, even if you don’t presently live at your retreat, you should plant a vegetable garden every year. It is better to learn through experience and make mistakes now, when the loss of crop is an annoyance rather than a crucial event.
“Comfort” items to help get through high stress times. (Books, games, CDs, chocolates, etc.)

First Aid /Minor Surgery List
When tailoring this list, consider your neighborhood going for many months without power, extensive use of open flames, and sentries standing picket shifts exposed in the elements. Then consider axes, chainsaws and tractors being wielded by newbies, and a greater likelihood of gunshot wounds. With all of this, add the possibility of no access to doctors or high tech medical diagnostic equipment. Put a strong emphasis on burn treatment first aid supplies. Don’t overlook do-it-yourself dentistry! (Oil of cloves, temporary filling kit, extraction tools, et cetera.) Buy a full minor surgery outfit (inexpensive Pakistani stainless steel instruments), even if you don’t know how to use them all yet. You may have to learn, or you will have the opportunity to put them in the hands of someone experienced who needs them.) This is going to be a big list!

Chem/Nuke Defense List
Dosimeter and rate meter, and charger, radiac meter (hand held Geiger counter), rolls of sheet plastic (for isolating airflow to air filter inlets and for covering window frames in the event that windows are broken due to blast effects), duct tape, HEPA filters (ands spares) for your shelter. Potassium iodate (KI) tablets to prevent thyroid damage.(See my recent post on that subject.) Outdoor shower rig for just outside your shelter entrance.

Biological Warfare Defense List
Hand Sanitizer
Sneeze masks
Colloidal silver generator and spare supplies (distilled water and .999 fine silver rod.)
Natural antibiotics (Echinacea, Tea Tree oil, …)

Gardening List
One important item for your gardening list is the construction of a very tall deer-proof and rabbit-proof fence. Under current circumstances, a raid by deer on your garden is probably just an inconvenience. After the balloon goes up, it could mean the difference between eating well, and starvation.
Top Soil/Amendments/Fertilizers.
Tools+ spares for barter/charity
Long-term storage non hybrid (open pollinated) seed. (Non-hybrid “heirloom” seed assortments tailors to different climate zones are available from The Ark Institute
Herbs: Get started with medicinal herbs such as aloe vera (for burns), echinacea (purple cone flower), valerian, et cetera.

Hygiene/Sanitation List
Sacks of powdered lime for the outhouse. Buy plenty!
TP in quantity (Stores well if kept dry and away from vermin and it is lightweight, but it is very bulky. This is a good item to store in the attic. See my novel about stocking up on used phone books for use as TP.
Soap in quantity (hand soap, dish soap, laundry soap, cleansers, etc.)
Bottled lye for soap making.
Ladies’ supplies.
Toothpaste (or powder).
Fluoride rinse. (Unless you have health objections to the use of fluoride.)
Livestock List:
Hoof rasp, hoof nippers, hoof pick, horse brushes, hand sheep shears, styptic, carding combs, goat milking stand, teat dip, udder wash, Bag Balm, elastrator and bands, SWOT fly repellent, nail clippers (various sizes), Copper-tox, leads, leashes, collars, halters, hay hooks, hay fork, manure shovel, feed buckets, bulk grain and C-O-B sweet feed (store in galvanized trash cans with tight fitting lids to keep the mice out), various tack and saddles, tack repair tools, et cetera. If your region has selenium deficient soil (ask your local Agricultural extension office) then be sure to get selenium-fortified salt blocks rather than plain white salt blocks--at least for those that you are going to set aside strictly for your livestock.

Hunting/Fishing/Trapping List
“Buckshot” Bruce Hemming has produced an excellent series of videos on trapping and making improvised traps. (He also sells traps and scents at very reasonable prices.)
Night vision gear, spares, maintenance, and battery charging
Salt. Post-TEOTWAWKI, don’t “go hunting.” That would be a waste of effort. Have the game come to you. Buy 20 or more salt blocks. They will also make very valuable barter items.
Sell your fly fishing gear (all but perhaps a few flies) and buy practical spin casting equipment.
Extra tackle may be useful for barter, but probably only in a very long term Crunch.
Buy some frog gigs if you have bullfrogs in your area. Buy some crawfish traps if you have crawfish in your area.
Learn how to rig trot lines and make fish traps for non-labor intensive fishing WTSHTF.

Power/Lighting/Batteries List
One proviso: In the event of a “grid down” situation, if you are the only family in the area with power, it could turn your house into a “come loot me” beacon at night. At the same time, your house lighting will ruin the night vision of your LP/OP pickets. Make plans and buy materials in advance for making blackout screens or fully opaque curtains for your windows.
When possible, buy nickel metal hydride batteries. (Unlike the older nickel cadmium technology, these have no adverse charge level “memory” effect.)
If your home has propane appliances, get a “tri-fuel” generator--with a carburetor that is selectable between gasoline, propane, and natural gas. If you heat your home with home heating oil, then get a diesel-burning generator. (And plan on getting at least one diesel burning pickup and/or tractor). In a pinch, you can run your diesel generator and diesel vehicles on home heating oil.
Kerosene lamps; plenty of extra wicks, mantles, and chimneys. (These will also make great barter items.)
Greater detail on do-it-yourself power will be included in my forthcoming blog posts.

Fuels List
Buy the biggest propane, home heating oil, gas, or diesel tanks that your local ordinances permit and that you can afford. Always keep them at least two-thirds full. For privacy concerns, ballistic impact concerns, and fire concerns, underground tanks are best if you local water table allows it. In any case, do not buy an aboveground fuel tank that would visible from any public road or navigable waterway. Buy plenty of extra fuel for barter. Don’t overlook buying plenty of kerosene. (For barter, you will want some in one or two gallon cans.) Stock up on firewood or coal. (See my previous blog posts.) Get the best quality chainsaw you can afford. I prefer Stihls and Husqavarnas. If you can afford it, buy two of the same model. Buy extra chains, critical spare parts, and plenty of two-cycle oil. (Two-cycle oil will be great for barter!) Get a pair of Kevlar chainsaw safety chaps. They are expensive but they might save yourself a trip to the emergency room. Always wear gloves, goggles, and ear-muffs. Wear a logger’s helmet when felling. Have someone who is well experienced teach you how to re-sharpen chains. BTW, don’t cut up your wood into rounds near any rocks or you will destroy a chain in a hurry.

Firefighting List
Now that you have all of those flammables on hand (see the previous list) and the prospect of looters shooting tracer ammo or throwing Molotov cocktails at your house, think in terms of fire fighting from start to finish without the aid of a fire department. Even without looters to consider, you should be ready for uncontrolled brush or residential fires, as well as the greater fire risk associated with greenhorns who have just arrived at your retreat working with wood stoves and kerosene lamps!
Upgrade your retreat with a fireproof metal roof.
2” water line from your gravity-fed storage tank (to provide large water volume for firefighting)
Fire fighting rig with an adjustable stream/mist head.
Smoke and CO detectors.

Tactical Living List
Adjust your wardrobe buying toward sturdy earth-tone clothing. (Frequent your local thrift store and buy extras for retreat newcomers, charity, and barter.)
Dyes. Stock up on some boxes of green and brown cloth dye. Buy some extra for barter. With dye, you can turn most light colored clothes into semi-tactical clothing on short notice.
Two-inch wide burlap strip material in green and brown. This burlap is available in large spools from Gun Parts Corp. Even if you don’t have time now, stock up so that you can make camouflage ghillie suits post-TEOTWAWKI.
Save those wine corks! (Burned cork makes quick and cheap face camouflage.)
Cold weather and foul weather gear—buy plenty, since you will be doing more outdoor chores, hunting, and standing guard duty.
Don’t overlook ponchos and gaiters.
Mosquito repellent.
Synthetic double-bag (modular) sleeping bags for each person at the retreat, plus a couple of spares. The Wiggy’s brand Flexible Temperature Range Sleep System (FTRSS) made by Wiggy's of Grand Junction, Colorado is highly recommended.
Night vision gear + IR floodlights for your retreat house
Subdued flashlights and penlights.
Noise, light, and litter discipline. (More on this in future posts--or perhaps a reader would like to send a brief article on this subject)
Security-General: Locks, intrusion detection/alarm systems, exterior obstacles (fences, gates, 5/8” diameter (or larger) locking road cables, rosebush plantings, “decorative” ponds (moats), ballistic protection (personal and residential), anti-vehicular ditches/berms, anti-vehicular concrete “planter boxes”, razor wire, etc.)
Starlight electronic light amplification scopes are critical tools for retreat security.
A Starlight scope (or goggles, or a monocular) literally amplifies low ambient light by up to 100,000 times, turning nighttime darkness into daylight--albeit a green and fuzzy view. Starlight light amplification technology was first developed during the Vietnam War. Late issue Third Generation (also called or “Third Gen” or “Gen 3”) starlight scopes can cost up to $3,500 each. Rebuilt first gen (early 1970s technology scopes can often be had for as little as $500. Russian-made monoculars (with lousy optics) can be had for under $100. One Russian model that uses a piezoelectric generator instead of batteries is the best of this low-cost breed. These are best used as backups (in case your expensive American made scopes fail. They should not be purchased for use as your primary night vision devices unless you are on a very restrictive budget. (They are better than nothing.) Buy the best starlight scopes, goggles, and monoculars you can afford. They may be life-savers! If you can afford to buy only one, make it a weapon sight such as an AN/PVS-4, with a Gen 2 (or better) tube. Make sure to specify that that the tube is new or “low hours”, has a high “line pair” count, and minimal scintillation. It is important to buy your Starlight gear from a reputable dealer. The market is crowded with rip-off artists and scammers. One dealer that I trust, is Al Glanze (spoken “Glan-zee”) who runs STANO Components, Inc. in Silver City, Nevada. Note: In a subsequent blog posts I will discuss the relationship and implications to IR illuminators and tritium sights.
Range cards and sector sketches.
If you live in the boonies, piece together nine of the USGS 15-minute maps, with your retreat property on the center map. Mount that map on an oversize map board. Draw in the property lines and owner names of all of your surrounding neighbor’s parcels (in pencil) in at least a five mile radius. (Get boundary line and current owner name info from your County Recorder’s office.) Study and memorize both the terrain and the neighbors’ names. Make a phone number/e-mail list that corresponds to all of the names marked on the map, plus city and county office contact numbers for quick reference and tack it up right next to the map board. Cover the whole map sheet with a sheet of heavy-duty acetate, so you can mark it up just like a military commander’s map board. (This may sound a bit “over the top”, but remember, you are planning for the worst case. It will also help you get to know your neighbors: When you are introduced by name to one of them when in town, you will be able to say, “Oh, don’t you live about two miles up the road between the Jones place and the Smith’s ranch?” They will be impressed, and you will seem like an instant “old timer.”

Security-Firearms List
Guns, ammunition, web gear, eye and ear protection, cleaning equipment, carrying cases, scopes, magazines, spare parts, gunsmithing tools, targets and target frames, et cetera. Each rifle and pistol should have at least six top quality (original military contract or original manufacturer) full capacity spare magazines. Note: Considerable detail on firearms and optics selection, training, use, and logistic support are covered in the SurvivalBlog archives and FAQs.

Communications/Monitoring List
When selecting radios buy only models that will run on 12 volt DC power or rechargeable nickel metal hydride battery packs (that can be recharged from your retreat’s 12 VDC power system without having to use an inverter.)
As a secondary purchasing goal, buy spare radios of each type if you can afford them. Keep your spares in sealed metal boxes to protect them from EMP.
If you live in a far inland region, I recommend buying two or more 12 VDC marine band radios. These frequencies will probably not be monitored in your region, leaving you an essentially private band to use. (But never assume that any two-way radio communications are secure!)
Note: More detail on survival communications gear selection, training, use, security/cryptography measures, antennas, EMP protection, and logistical support will be covered in forthcoming blog posts.

Tools List
Gardening tools.
Auto mechanics tools.
Bolt cutters--the indispensable “universal key.”
Woodworking tools.
Gunsmithing tools.
Emphasis on hand powered tools.
Hand or treadle powered grinding wheel.
Don’t forget to buy plenty of extra work gloves (in earth tone colors).
Sundries List:
Systematically list the things that you use on a regular basis, or that you might need if the local hardware store were to ever disappear: wire of various gauges, duct tape, reinforced strapping tape, chain, nails, nuts and bolts, weather stripping, abrasives, twine, white glue, cyanoacrylate glue, et cetera.

Book/Reference List

You should probably have nearly every book on my Bookshelf page. For some, you will want to have two or three copies, such as Carla Emery’s "Encyclopedia of Country Living". This is because these books are so valuable and indispensable that you won’t want to risk lending out your only copy.

Barter and Charity List
For your barter list, acquire primarily items that are durable, non-perishable, and either in small packages or that are easily divisible. Concentrate on the items that other people are likely to overlook or have in short supply. Some of my favorites are ammunition. [The late] Jeff Cooper referred to it as “ballistic wampum.” WTSHTF, ammo will be worth nearly its weight in silver. Store all of your ammo in military surplus ammo cans (with seals that are still soft) and it will store for decades. Stick to common calibers, get plenty of .22 LR (most high velocity hollow points) plus at least ten boxes of the local favorite deer hunting cartridge, even if you don’t own a rifle chambered for this cartridge. (Ask your local sporting goods shop about their top selling chamberings). Also buy at least ten boxes of the local police department’s standard pistol cartridge, again even if you don’t own a pistol chambered for this cartridge.
Ladies supplies.
Salt (Buy lots of cattle blocks and 1 pound canisters of iodized table salt.)
(Stores indefinitely if kept dry.)
Two cycle engine oil (for chain saw gas mixing. Gas may still be available after a collapse, but two-cycle oil will probably be like liquid gold!)
Gas stabilizer.
Diesel antibacterial additive.
50-pound sacks of lime (for outhouses).
1 oz. bottles of military rifle bore cleaner and Break Free (or similar) lubricant.
Waterproof dufflebags in earth tone colors (whitewater rafting "dry bags").
Thermal socks.
Semi-waterproof matches (from military rations.)
Military web gear (lots of folks will suddenly need pistol belts, holsters, magazine pouches, et cetera.)
Pre-1965 silver dimes.
1-gallon cans of kerosene.
Rolls of olive drab parachute cord.
Rolls of olive-drab duct tape.
Spools of monofilament fishing line.
Rolls of 10 mil "Visqueen", sheet plastic (for replacing windows, isolating airspaces for nuke scenarios, etc.)
I also respect the opinion of one gentleman with whom I've corresponded, who recommended the following:
Strike anywhere matches. (Dip the heads in paraffin to make them waterproof.)
Playing cards.
Cooking spices. (Do a web search for reasonably priced bulk spices.)
Rope & string.
Sewing supplies.
Candle wax and wicking.
Lastly, any supplies necessary for operating a home-based business. Some that you might consider are: leather crafting, small appliance repair, gun repair, locksmithing, et cetera. Every family should have at least one home-based business (preferably two!) that they can depend on in the event of an economic collapse.
Stock up on additional items to dispense to refugees as charity.
Note: See the Barter Faire chapter in my novel "Patriots" for lengthy lists of potential barter items.

Mr. Rawles,
My wife and I are are in our 50s, (never had kids) and we live in a four bedroom house on 80 acres (mostly leased out [for farming]), eight miles outside a town of 20,000 population, in south-central Iowa. Two of our cousins and one nephew--all military vet[eran]s--that live in town are planning to come out [and live with us], if and when times get nasty. We have now have (or will soon have) all our basic preparations in hand, including a three year food supply for five people, which we got mostly through Safecastle and Ready Made Resources, plus some extra meats from Freeze Dry Guy, and some canned butter from Best Prices Storable Foods. We also took your advice and upgraded to a propane [chest] freezer. (That took a lot of searching, believe me!) It now holds almost a a side of beefalo, and almost 15 gallons of frozen olive oil. (Thanks for mentioning [fats and] oils--that was something that we had totally overlooked!).

My wife and I plan to book the four day handgun course and the four day rifle course back-to-back at Front Sight, with some sightseeing in Vegas, on the weekend in between [the two courses]. We are going in April--before the really scorching weather starts in southern Nevada. (We've been warned about the summers there!) Per your suggestion posts, we [standardized] with Glock 21-SF .45s and FN-FAL clones. With five of each--not to mention the rest of my [gun] collection, which was ah-hem substantial before I ever started reading your blog--we should be able to hold off a small army. We have well water, but have a very reliable windmill that pumps [water up] to a 850 gallon tank with its overflow piped to a 2,700 above-ground concrete cistern for irrigating our garden. Water is not an issue.We also have oversize propane and home heating [oil] tanks. (Large enough that they've each prompted comments from visitors. I've just told them that I like to buy in bulk whenever fuel prices dip.)

Now that we have all the basics covered, we are ready to acquire some stocks for barter, assuming one of your "Grid Down" collapses. We have plenty of [storage] space, since our house has a full unfinished basement. FYI, it has never had any dampness or flooding problems.What do you suggest as the most important barter [item] to stock up on? We also want to have extra items for charity. We plan to do that through our church, so that our family name never gets mentioned. - Karl in Iowa

JWR Replies: It sounds like you are "Away squared"!

For anyone living in an inland area, I consider salt the highest priority barter and charity item. Buy a lot of salt, in several forms. As space allows, buy 20 to 30 of the 50-pound plain white salt blocks from your local feed store. These are great for barter--both for folks with livestock and for people that want to attract wild game. Buy a couple of 25 pound sacks of iodized salt for your own use. Also buy 100 to 200 of the standard cardboard one pound canisters of iodized salt for small scale barter transactions.

The second highest priority for barter and charity is fuel. If you have an outbuilding that can provide safe and secure storage, then buy at least a 20 one-gallon gallon cans of Coleman stove/lantern fuel, 30 to 50 standard propane cylinders (the size used for torches and camp stoves) and 40 to 60 one-gallon cans of kerosene. You might also lay in a few extra welding cylinders (Oxygen and acetylene.)

Also store some bulk fuel. If you can afford it, also install a 300 to 800 gallon underground gasoline tank and a 600 to 2,500 gallon underground diesel tank. (And of course make sure that you have at least one diesel vehicle.) You should carefully camouflage the filler necks and hand pumps for those tanks, as I've previously described in the blog. (In the "Search" box in the right had bar, enter the word "wine".) If you ever use any of your gas or diesel for barter, do not reveal how much you have stored, or the fact that you have underground ranks. All that your customers should be allowed to see is a few 5 gallon cans. Also, depending on the local circumstances, you might also consider getting a pair of used 80 gallon aboveground tanks (typical farm and ranch tanks on metal stands) clearly stenciled "Unleaded" and "Diesel" to leave behind your barn unlocked and nearly empty, as a decoy for burglars.

The third highest priority for barter and charity is common caliber ammunition. I have discussed this at length before in SurvivalBlog. (In the "Search" box in the right hand bar, enter the word "wampum".)

Beyond, those three categories of high priority barterables, if you still have extra cash and storage space available, see my book SurvivalBlog: The Best of the Blog - Volume 1 and/or the SurvivalBlog archives for dozens of other barter items that have been suggested by blog readers.

OBTW, one of my consulting clients recently suggested buying several extra pieces of inexpensive night vision gear, such as first generation Russian monoculars. These would be in demand from any folks fearing nighttime attacks from looters. Since light amplification night vision gear is still relatively uncommon it would surely be a desirable item for barter. If you are looking for night vision gear, please contact our advertisers such as JRH Enterprises and Ready Made Resources, first.

We were recently somewhat "snowed in" and ran low on feed for our flock of assorted fowl. So the ever-resourceful Memsahib simply broke out one of our oldest 35 pound buckets of hard red winter wheat from the JASBORR. She soaked the wheat in water for 12 hours, and voila! Soft, plump wheat berries. She is also sprouting some wheat, which is even more nutritious. She mentioned that her maternal great-grandmother, at the turn of last century used sprouted wheat for chicken feed. This kept her hens laying eggs throughout the winter. Before the days of electrically-lighted hen houses, winter eggs brought a premium price.

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Thanks to KBF for sending this: Bangladesh Hit by Bird Flu Outbreak

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Eric sent this: Disaster Preparation for Dogs

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An interesting discussion in progress, over at The Oil Drum: More Thoughts on Relocalization.

"The wheels have come off. Structured finance, which has been the key to this credit bubble, has broken down. We believe that confidence in structures, ratings, collateral, issuers, counterparties, et cetera, has all been lost. Therefore we are in a very precarious position. Credit has driven the economy and has driven markets. Credit has to grow year-over-year in this credit bubble environment in order for the economy to grow. With structured finance having broken down, in our opinion, there is no way that credit will grow year-over-year any longer." - David Tice of the Prudent Bear Fund, as quoted by Welling @Weeden

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Today we present another article for Round 15 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The writer of the best non-fiction article will win a valuable four day "gray" transferable Front Sight course certificate. (Worth up to $2,000!) Second prize is a copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, generously donated by Jake Stafford of Arbogast Publishing. Round 15 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entries. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival will have an advantage in the judging.

Some of us with desk jobs in the current economy (who possibly stop at Starbucks more than we should) have a bit more to do than just preparing our retreats. I will attempt to address the issue of keeping our bodies injury free, during the upcoming adventures. In the coming economy, there’s going to be a lot of hard, physical work and chiropractors will be hard to come by.

I believe that our family’s preparation plans are going to have to include a plan to bring our bodies up to a standard of fitness, flexibility and strength. Every family member is going to have to be at the top of his or her game, physically. Realistically, we don’t know how bad it’s going to get, so we need to prepare for the worst. In my mind, TEOTWAWKI could mean having to care for our families in a combative environment, without a reliable medic and perhaps far from our medical supplies. In that kind of environment we are going to have to rely on our bodies like never before.

The most important part of the preparation of our physical bodies is going to be flexibility. Thorough flexibility can and will prevent an injury that a stiff, inflexible body could suffer from for months. Have you known anyone sidelined for months or even years with a bad back? WTSHTF, that’s not going to be an option. Our survival will depend on being able to get it done, every day.
The second most important part of your preparation is going to be your “core” strength. This is the strength at the center of your body, mainly your abdominal muscles. A strong core means a strong back. Also, your balance and agility come from having a strong core.

The last, yet still vitally important, part will be muscular strength. Strong arms, legs, glutes, etc. will ensure that we are able to accomplish what we have to. We can be certain that there is some hard work ahead. It’s better to be prepared, than to discover too late that we’re not up to the task.

Before we head off to the gym, gung ho to “get in shape,” keep in mind that we won’t have an LA Fitness Center nearby to maintain our physique. So let’s build it, the way we’re going to have to maintain it. Realistically: at home, without equipment.

We aren’t aiming for a perfect physique. We don’t even need a pretty physique. We need a strong, flexible physique that does what it’s told. Like our children and pets, our bodies have to be trained to respond and comply without hesitation, and without letting us down.

Let’s start with flexibility: Every day, without fail, we need to spend some time stretching and limbering our bodies. This is not until we get to our goal – this is forever. Here are some stretches that should get every inch of our bodies limber: I got these stretches from “The Genius of Flexibility” by Bob Cooley (ignore the “Chinese Medicine” and “Energy Flow” Schumer– but the stretches are good.) You may find better stretches in your own health library. (YMMV)

1. Knee to forehead: increases flexibility and strength of lateral leg, hip, torso, and neck muscles.
Lie on your back. Pull right knee halfway to your chest and place the left ankle over your right knee. Place both hands on the back of your right thigh, close to your knee. Stretch the muscles on your left hip and thigh by resisting your left leg and ankle against your right thigh, as you pull your right knee toward your chest with your arms. Repeat several times and switch sides.
2. Lateral bend: increases strength and flexibility of arms and torso muscles.
Stand with feet together and grasp your hands together above your head. Continuously contract the muscles on the side of your torso by pulling your left arm downward and using your right arm to lean over to the left. Turn your head and torso towards the ceiling. Return to starting position. Repeat several times, and then switch sides.
3. Thigh stretch: front of thighs.
Kneel on all fours with your hips aligned over your knees, and your hands and wrists under and in alignment with your shoulders. Bring your left lower leg and foot up against the wall with a rolled up hand towel to cushion your foot. Step up onto your right foot in front of you and lunge deeply forward, slanting your torso slightly forward. Contract the muscles on the front of your left thigh by pushing against the wall with your left foot while you bring your hips back next to your left foot. Return to starting position. Repeat several times then switch sides.
4. Forward bend: back of thighs and calves.
You can do this standing or sitting. Spread your legs shoulder width apart or wider, and bend forward. Grasp your ankles with both hands. Contract the muscles on the inside back of your thighs as you bend forward, straighten your legs, and pull your head down between your legs with your arms. Return to starting position. Repeat several times.
5. Central leg extension: back of legs and up spine.
Lie on the floor on your back. Bring your right knee up to your chest and bend your lower leg. Grasp hold of your right ankle and foot with both hands. Contract the muscles on the back of your legs and up your spine by kicking your heel toward your butt while you bring your heel up toward your head with your hands. Repeat several times and switch sides.
6. Child's pose: back of shoulders and arms. Kneel on the floor. Curl your torso and head toward your knees and place your elbows and hand parallel to the floor in front of you. Contract the muscles on the back of your shoulders and arms as you pull backwards and push downward against the floor. Press your lower legs against the floor as you arch your back.
7. Lotus – inner thigh.
You can do this sitting up, or laying on your back with you feet up the wall. Bend both knees and put the soles of your feet together. Contract the muscles on the inside of your thighs by squeezing your thighs together while your hands press you’re your thighs open
Remember when stretching – inhale before the stretch and exhale through the stretch. Always stretch slowly, no bouncing or jarring – which could damage the muscle rather than strengthen it. (This seems completely counterintuitive, but give it a try – it works: if you contract your muscles through the stretch, you’ll get a better stretch and you’ll build muscle strength isometrically.) Stretch every day and we’ll all be limber as house cats in short order.
Once we’ve limbered up a bit, it’s time to start working the core. Remember we’re increasing our workout, not replacing anything. : o ) Core strength means balance, agility and a strong back Here are some simple abdominal exercises to get you started: I got these from “Body for Life for Women” by Pamela Peeke and can’t recommend it enough.
1. Crunches:
Lie on the floor, hands behind your head, knees together, feet flat on the floor about one foot from your bum. Push your lower back into the floor, then roll your shoulders up, keeping knees and hips stationary. When your shoulders come off the ground a few inches, hold this position and flex your abdominal muscles as hard as you can for a count of one. Slowly lower your shoulders to the floor, keeping pushing your lower back into the floor for the entire exercise.
2. Reverse Crunches:
Lie on your back with your legs and hips bent at 90-degree angles, and your arms relaxed at your sides, palms facing down. Pull your abs in, and lift your hips as if you were tipping a bucket of water that’s resting on your pelvis. Don’t lift your hips more than a 30-degree angle from the floor. Don’t use your hands to help you pull your hips up.
3. Hip Thrusts:
Lie flat on your back on the floor, with your legs straight up in the air directly above your hips, ankles together and feet flexed. Stretch your arms over your head and grasp the leg of something heavy/sturdy that won’t budge. Lift with the lowest area of your abs so that your hips rise off the floor several inches. Squeeze and hold foe several seconds at the top of the movement, then return to the starting position.
When we have become flexible, and have strengthened our abs and backs: it’s time to build some basic strength. It’s important to handle the flexibility and core training first, because a lack of either will shoot down our strength training in a hurry.
By far, the best method of strength training is calisthenics. No equipment is needed, and exercise can happen anywhere. Calisthenics use the weight of our bodies to build strength – so our equipment is handy at all times.
Again, we’re not replacing any of our current workout – we’re building on it. We’re not trying to build beauty pageant muscles. We want to build functional strength. We want to be strong enough to perform all of our tasks without injury. We want to be strong supple and ready for the unexpected. God designed our bodies to build and maintain muscle mass in response to the demands we put on our bodies. The more demand we put on our bodies; the more we can put on them.
Here are some calisthenics to get started with:
1. Squats:
With feet shoulder width apart, squat as far as possible. Bring your arms forward, parallel to the floor, return to starting position. Repeat.
2. Alternating lunges:
With your hands on your hips, take a step forward with your right leg until your front knee is bent 90-degrees and your back knee almost touches the ground. Push off from your leading foot and return to the starting position. Repeat with your left leg.
3. Push-Ups:
Do manly push-ups, up on your toes; girly push-ups, up on your knees; or even standing and pushing off the wall push-ups.
4. Pull-Ups/Chin-Ups:
Palms face out for traditional pull-ups on a bar to strengthen middle back muscles. Palms face toward you to do a chin-up, which strengthens that back and biceps.This is just a basic outline to get you started. I suggest that you buy a few books on stretching and strength training, just so you have somewhere to go after you’ve mastered the basics. The basics will definitely get you there, but you will probably want to go further. I strongly endorse “Body for Life for Women” and heartily recommend "The Pace Plan" by Dr. Al Sears both programs are short on effort and long on results. There are a lot of good Pilates books out there too.
So here’s my family’s plan, for everyone – even the preschooler and the dog:
Create a flexible body that can twist and bend without snapping anything.
Build abdominal/core strength, so our agile and graceful bodies can hoe a garden (or drag a casualty) without injury.
Build functional strength that will maintain our health and ensure that have that extra effort to give.

Dear Jim,
I just read on a[nother] blog about an imminent Federal Reserve disaster.

There's no [mainstream] news coverage on it yet so this qualifies as a serious heads up.

Note the second numeric column. $40 Billion, has been since 1913, by law. Then notice it suddenly drops to $198 million and then two days ago the report lists the banks as minus $8.7 Billion, something which has never happened before.

How bad is it? Think Weimar Republic. The Fed can no longer stop inflation because the banks can't secure new money with debt. People aren't buying debt anymore. Ergo, hyperinflation is the natural consequence. Mark this day on your calendar. Best, - InyoKern

JWR Replies: In case you missed it, I mentioned the following in Friday's Odds 'n Sods: Hawaiian K. pointed out this Federal Reserve chart, showing that the Net Free or Borrowed Reserves (NFORBRES) of Depository Institutions just fell off a cliff. Let's pray that there aren't any bank runs soon, because the till is empty. It is a jolly good thing that the Fed is handing out so much cheap money these days, so the member banks can list part of these funds as "reserves."

Dear Jim:
There is an "urban myth" that Body Armor "expires" after the official manufacturer warranty runs out. Actually, the standard five year warranty is simply based on the insurance companies legal need to limit their liability - not on the actual performance of armor. (I have a sneaking suspicion that manufacturers don't complain too much about being able to sell new Body Armor every five years either!)

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has found that 10 year old used armor tests as good as new. Since we deal with a lot of Police Surplus we run tests on the oldest and worst looking vests we see (vests we would never sell because they are over 25 years old, on the old NIJ 0101.02 standard). Oddly enough, these old and beat-up vests always stop 9mm +P FMJ and .357 Magnum +P JSP for us.
Here is a direct link to data and photos.

Of course decertified Zylon vests are not to be trusted - regardless of age. However, good Body Armor lasts much, much longer than the five year warranty/insurance policy.
Thanks, - Nick, BulletProofME.com Body Armor

Yesterday, one of our kids was reading aloud from a "Hunting Safely in Grizzly Country" pamphlet that we picked up when buying some topographic maps at the local USFS ranger station. It was published by the "Interagency Bear Committee" and the Wyoming Fish and Game Department. Most of the advice was good, but some of it must have been written by tree huggers. They opined: "Shooting a bear when it is charging is not recommended. The bear almost always lives long enough to maul the hunter severely." Excuse me, but what am I supposed to stop a bear with? Harsh language? I suspect that they give this advice because statistically some bear charges are just "mock" charges. Based on these statistics they'd rather risk your life, than a bear's life. Grizzly bears are of course a "protected species". But to the tree huggers, we deserve no such protection.

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Florida Guy sent us this: Victims Fight Back in Home Invasion. The last line in the article displays the almost obligatory liberal hand-wringing: "The police are very cautious not to make this seem like a heroic act. They say fighting back can sometimes end with the victims being more seriously hurt." Yeah, right. OBTW, I think that the journalist that wrote this could take on some moonlighting work, writing wilderness bear safety pamphlets.

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The following comes from economist Bill Bonner, in a recent issue of the pro-hard money e-newsletter The Daily Reckoning (highly recommended, and subscriptions are free): "In the last seven years of the Bush administration, the federal debt increased by two-thirds while U.S. household debt doubled. Despite all this extra spending, median real incomes have continued to go down. Practically all new jobs have been created either by government, or in housing, health care, bars or restaurants. Jobs in manufacturing are now at levels not seen since just after WWII.
“This is the profile of a third world economy,” says former Under Secretary of the Treasury Paul Craig Roberts.
How does an economy like this keep going? It depends on the kindness of strangers and the stupidity of friends. Who but a fool or a friend would buy a U.S. 30-year treasury bond at a 4.28% yield? This number is only a few basis points from the number for annual increases in consumer prices. Which means, if all goes well, investors can expect to make a return of zero on their investment over the next 30 years. And if all this talk of Zimbabwe economics and banana republic finances turns out to be true, they can expect to suffer another round of losses – measured in the trillions. And why shouldn’t it be true? The American Empire is a bit like General Motors, says Martin Hutchinson. It has heavy fixed costs, an aging workforce, worn-out equipment, mammoth debts, and it is losing market share. At immense cost, America maintains its legions in more than 100 overseas garrisons. At home, the mobs call for bread. And every candidate for office – save the forgotten man, Dr. Ron Paul – offers more of it. “We cannot afford another year without decent wages because our leaders could not come together and get it done,” said Barack Obama in South Carolina.
GM, of course, cannot print money. But as Ben Bernanke himself put it, the United States, like Zimbabwe where inflation is running at 150,000%, “has a technology called the printing press.” What can you expect? We would modestly predict that those 30-year T-bonds, sometime between now and 2048 when they mature, will become worthless."

"Dying is easy; you have to work at living. Life is an athletic event. You have to really be in shape for it." - Jack La Lanne (quoted when he was 93 years old).

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The high bid in the current SurvivalBlog Benefit Auction mixed lot is now at $220. The auction is for a Brunton Solarport 4.4 watt photovoltaic panel (a $140 retail value), a Deluxe Outdoor Survival Tool Kit (a $70 retail value)--both kindly donated by Ready Made Resources--as well as seven other items: A copy of the latest edition of "The Encyclopedia of Country Living" by the late Carla Emery (a $32 retail value), an autographed copy of my novel "Patriots" (a $23 retail value), an autographed copy of my nonfiction book "Rawles on Retreats and Relocation" (a $25 retail value), a SurvivalBlog Key Logistics Tote Bag (a $17.50 retail value), and an autographed set of Michael Z. Williamson's "Target: Terror" modern military fiction sniper trilogy, from Avon books: "The Scope of Justice", "Targets of Opportunity", and "Confirmed Kill". This auction ends on February 15th. Please e-mail us your bids, in $10 increments.

I hope you or some of your readers can help me. I am looking at getting a bullet proof vest. The more I learn about it everyone says that they are really only good for about five years. Then you should replace your vest with a new one. That is fine if I were a police officer and used it everyday, but I am not and would only wear it during my training drills. My questions is, is the five year limit just a way for the companies to limit there liability and get you to buy a new vest every five years, or do they really go bad? I did order a test panel from BulletProofME.com and when I did some testing it seemed to stop everything it should have and then some. This panel was over 10 years old. The other problem is that this equipment is very expensive and I really do not need it unless something bad happens. My fear is that I invest a large sum of money now and in five short years the investment is no good and I have to replace it. I also realize that you cannot even test shoot it to see if it is still stopping bullets because that will weaken the vest. Please let me know your thoughts on this. How long do you keep your bullet proof vests, and how should they be cared for? Thanks, - Korey

JWR Replies: The five year figure that you heard cited was a very conservative manufacturer's estimate, and was based on the assumption of daily wear in a harsh environment. Such estimates are published primarily for liability reasons. The much greater useful longevity of Kevlar vests has been well documented at BulletProofME.com and other body armor web sites. I recommend that all SurvivalBlog readers take the time to read through the extensive information on body armor vests and helmets that is available there, free of charge

I am a law student in Oklahoma.The recent ice storm really opened my eyes. I lost power for a week in freezing temperatures (as did many thousands across Oklahoma) I had no fuel in my car (a Ford Focus) and no food. It really opened my eyes. I am currently heavily in debt and have little extra funds but would like to start getting prepared. I have a dog (a Welsh Corgi) and a cat.

My girlfriend thinks I have gone insane and does not like to talk about things like this. I live in a rented house in mid-town a mile from the University. I have made a few modest preparations (such as beginning to store tap water in two liter bottles with a few drops of bleach, and having about a weeks worth of food in my pantry.)

I own a .357 handgun with only a box of ammo. I am fairly proficient with it.

I am new to this survival concept due to growing up in a very large city in Texas. I have been browsing your site now for a few weeks and was wondering if you would be willing to offer any situation-specific advice for someone like me. Thank You Very Much, - A.M. in Oklahoma

JWR Replies: Here are my recommendations:
1.) Recognize that you can only "do what you can do" with the scant funds that you have available as a student. Make some modest preps like water and food storage, and a few more boxes of ammo for your revolver. The rest will likely have to wait until after you have graduated. The good news is that attorneys have above-average earnings, so you will soon make rapid progress on your preparations. Just hope and pray that the economy holds together long enough for that. You might want to consider real estate and tenant law as your initial legal specialty. That should be a busy field for the next decade, as the real estate bust continues.

2.) Network with like-minded friends and church members. Hopefully you can find an existing retreat group. Do a search in SurvivalBlog's search window (at the top of the right hand bar) on the word "matchmaking". Those articles will give you some good pointers on networking. At your stage in life, networking will provide you with the best chance of pulling through a worst case situation such as a societal collapse.

3.) Prioritize. Thankfully, living in a rented house means that you have more storage space available than the average college student. But make the best of it by prioritizing your purchases.

4.) Be blunt with your girlfriend. Tell her that today's world is replete with substantial risks including terrorism, severe weather (including ice storms and tornados) and economic instability, so preparing is rational. If she can't accept that there is are genuine risks these days, then you might consider courting another young lady that is more realistic and down to earth. Arnie (now the Governator) said it best: "Come with me if you want to live."

5.) I realize that law school is very demanding of your time. However, once time allows get plenty of training on first aid, self defense, amateur radio, food storage, gardening, home canning, and so forth. (See the SurvivalBlog archives for specific recommendations.) With your limited time, it might be appropriate to first select training that would fill a specific need for your survival group.

6.) If you have trouble finding a position at a law firm immediately after graduation, then consider applying for a direct commission an an Army JAG officer. (Life as JAG lieutenant is not very glamorous--you since you will mainly be writing wills--but it is a guaranteed salary, even in an economic depression. In such times, that kind of job security is important for someone that has a lot of student loans.) IIRC, to qualify, you must be under 32 years old at the time of appointment--perhaps a bit older with a waiver.) One way to be almost assured getting an appointment by the Direct Commissioning Board is to have a sufficient number of Army "contact hours" before you complete your Juris Doctor graduate degree. So talk to your university's Army ROTC department. With the approval of the Professor of Military Science (PMS), a graduate student can get a slot for the five week long ROTC Basic Camp (normally for undergrads). It is held each summer at Fort Knox, Kentucky. There is no contractual obligation for attending the camp, and you will get a lot of training that is quite applicable to individual preparedness. This includes NBC defense, marksmanship, first aid, communications, map reading, land navigation, and small unit tactics. Even if you never apply for a direct commission, you will find the training invaluable.

Having that training will also make you more desirable to retreat groups that are looking for members.

I just received an email from my Countrywide Account Executive that they are suspending further draws against Home Equity lines [of credit]. They have reportedly started mailing suspension letters last week to 122,000 borrowers. Who knows how many more could get those based on the markets and Countrywide’s present situation. If you know someone who has [a home equity line of credit] and is going to need the funds, they might want to draw out the money right away and put it somewhere safe. A lot of people use home equity lines as emergency funds. - MB in Boise

JWR Replies: That is a useful data point. It is indicative that the nascent recession will be deep and lengthy. Sadly, it has been consumer credit that has kept the US economy afloat. I wouldn't be surprised if other home mortgage lenders follow suit.

OBTW, as previously mentioned in the blog, I do not recommend taking on additional debt, except in exceptional circumstances such as a stay in a hospital. When the layoffs come, debt servicing will be at least problematic. It may even be catastrophic.

Florida Guy recommended this YouTube video: Gangs are gearing up for war against Americans--And bragging about it. Florida Guy's comment: "If this shocking video doesn't underscore your family's need for serious tactical training, then nothing does. Caution: The video includes some foul "street" language."

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John in Montana suggested a thread over at the Survival Monkey Forum: Some first hand experience - A brief story of Argentina. John's comment: "In view of what is happening in our economy, the article has some good heads-up info. It is long but worth the read."

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I noticed that there have been a number of interesting new posts over at the The Survivalist Groups "Meet-up" web page sponsored by SurvivalistBooks.com. These include some folks that are qualified to be retreat caretakers, as well as some folks looking to join extant group retreats, and even a few survivalist singles looking for a spouse.

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Another news link from Eric: 'Doomsday' seeds arrive in Norway

"The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." - Albert Einstein

Monday, February 4, 2008

I'm posting this a couple of days early, due to technical difficulties at my small town's ISP. Life in the hinterboonies does have its drawbacks!

There are now SurvivalBlog readers all over the planet. The readership growth in Europe has been phenomenal. Thanks for continuing to spread the word about SurvivalBlog! Links to SurvivalBlog in your personal web page and/or in your e-mail footer would be greatly appreciated.

Hello Jim,
Thank you for your blog, it is a great source of information.
My new house is a ranch with an unfinished poured foundation basement. Adjacent to the basement is a poured foundation cistern that lies underneath the attached garage. The cistern does collect a little bit of water via a drainage channel in the front of my garage that is at the end of my downward sloping driveway. This cistern is roughly 10'x12' and at least 8' deep. I do have access to the cistern via an drop-in entry in the garage floor. The cistern is obviously sealed off from the basement that it is attached to. My question is, what is the best use for this space? It holds anywhere from 0"-4" of water at at any given time, and is not incredibly easily accessible, but I still feel like I should be utilizing it in some way. Do you have any suggestions on how to utilize this space? Thanks! - Mark H.

JWR Replies: My first thought is that unless you have gravity fed spring water piped to your house, then you ought to use the cistern for its originally-intended purpose. Keep it lightly chlorinated and full at all times. Even if you have an alternative energy system to power a well pump, the cistern will give you a good backup source of water in the event that you ever have problems with your pump or power system.

If you do have reliable gravity fed spring water piped to your house, then the cistern space provides some interesting possibilities for a hidden cache or a fallout shelter. Perhaps some readers would care to chime in. (As with all other letters and articles, if you care to comment, just e-mail me, and I will post selected letters anonymously.) In particular, ideas on camouflaging the entrance trap door would be appreciated.

As I read "Prepare or Die" I thought of one other item that could be very useful which is a Bivouac ("Bivy") sack. I recently purchased one of these from Campmor for my Bug Out Bag (BOB). It takes the place of a tent. It is basically a waterproof, breathable sack which will entirely enshroud your sleeping bag. Mine was only about 1 pound and under $100. It takes up very little space when packed and according to the REI web site a bivy sack can add 10 degrees more warmth to the rating of your sleeping bag- an important thing in cold climates! These sacks also often come with a mosquito net for summer use. Thank you for your site. I have learned much since I found it last year. - Karen on Massachusetts

JWR Replies: In my experience, bivy bags gradually build up too much internal moisture when used on extended backpacking trips in cold weather. But they are fine for weekend outings. In foul wether there is no substitute for a four season tent with a rain fly--where you can keep your gear dry and have room for changing clothes. .

Dear Jim and Family,
I got notice through Amazon about an interesting novel: "The Winter War", by William Durbin

This sounds like it would be a good choice for historical fiction, though its listed under the Children's section. The Winter War (Taalvisota) in 1938-39 details the invasion of Finland by communist Russia. I've studied it extensively and its a depressing tale, though heroic, because the Finns eventually lost and the Russian incompetence spurred Hitler to invade Russia, thinking it would be an easy victory and give him access to oil. Hitler might have held on longer if he hadn't tried to take the Russian oil by force. America and most of Europe supported the Finns in their battle to protect themselves from the overwhelming masses of the communist invaders.

The Winter War is a good example of guerilla fighting with bolt action sniper rifles, mostly captured weapons reworked into proper condition and accurized, fighting against thousands of tanks, aircraft and 4:1 odds. Skiing cross country through the forest, the Finns destroyed a million Russian troops with the help of their cold winter and isolating the troops from their supply lines. It was a nasty war and the Finns were eventually defeated but its still quite educational for mental preparation, tactics, use of available resources, and applying your advantages to the situation. Its amazing what people can do when they have to. Especially when the enemy is as incompetent as the Soviets were, sending their troops in with Summer weight uniforms and allowing their supply lines to be cut, having massacred their battle hardened generals for not being good party members. The communists did everything wrong in that war, and they paid a high price for it. That's where the old joke about Soviet Minesweepers comes from, only its not a joke. They really did walk arm in arm singing great patriotic songs till their legs were blown off. Gruesome. Somehow I doubt that's in this book. The real Taalvisota is a dark chapter of history and one every survivalist should know. Best, - InyoKern

JWR Replies: See the "Tolvajarvi" chapter of my novel "Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse".. It is an homage to the tenacity of those that fought in the Winter War.

Something occurred to me while addressing an envelope today that I thought might be of value to your readers.

One small way to beat inflation is to purchase US First Class Liberty Bell “Forever” stamps that guarantees a mailed envelope in the USA forever. They may or may not be available at your post office so ask for them. I bought about $200 worth of stamps before the prices went up and plan to hold on to them for a while. I don’t know if these are still being sold but I think we may have yearly or bi-yearly increases in the coming years so keep an eye out for “Forever” stamps.

I have heard many references to US soldiers in WWII transporting their spoils home via unused sheets of postage stamps as they were not prohibited and they bought large denominations stamps from the US and foreign post offices that were later turned back into cash.

Also, find out if there is any stamp or coin collectors that have access to old sheet or reels of stamps. Apparently, whenever the price of stamps changes, businesses involved in mass marketing or sales find it cheaper to dump their stocks of stamps at a loss (claimed on their taxes I’m sure) than to recalibrate their machines to post two stamps (many machines cannot be adjusted). A local coin dealer sells me 41 cents worth of stamps for about 30 cents if I buy more than $100 worth at a time. He buys them for less than 40% of face value. If you don’t mind licking and adhering multiple stamps. It’s a small savings in your daily budget. - A. Taylor

After reading a few more snippets about Radon poisoning and checking a few sources via Internet. I hypothesize that this may be another hoax along the lines of "global warming". There are more medical professionals saying lung cancer is [caused by] diet or smoking and general abuse of the body.

If Radon has been present and naturally occurring since God created the earth, then its being blamed for illness is similar to skid-marks being blamed for car-wrecks. Global warming is increasingly being proved a hoax by the most respected meteorologists and climatologist's who say the minute temperature changes have come with increased solar output; which is now declining. Man is not so powerful as to be able to corrupt the globe as they would like to think. (Nuclear holocaust aside) I'm beginning to think the Radon scare is the same type of gag. Have you ever read the book called "The Report from Iron Mountain"? Make sure it's the early version. Thankfully, God is Sovereign over even the minutiae of Creation. - KM


Mr Rawles,
The link to the radon article brought back memories of my college days and a chemistry seminar on the subject. The speakers research on the subject led him to the conclusion that the EPA was fighting a costly and meaningless battle. He went so far as to say that some radon exposure was better than none. If I recall correctly, him mentioned a trial where lab rats exposed to normal environmental levels of radon lived longer than rats exposed to none. He presented it like it was a mini chemotherapy treatment that killed off unhealthy cells in the rats. He wasn't advocating seeking out radon exposure but he was trying to make the point that radon was less than harmless. I don't have any references for all this but a quick search on the net yielded the following maps:

The first is Radon levels in the U.S.

The second is lung cancer deaths per 100,000 people

SurvivalBlog readers can take this for what it is worth but I don't see the correlation between Radon and lung cancer and you won't find me worrying about Radon levels when I select my retreat location. Personally I think either private industry is pushing Radon for profit reasons or the EPA is using it to secure greater bureaucratic control and funding. - Northwest Huey

Eric sent us this: US recession will dwarf dotcom crash

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KMA found this one: Peak Oil Coming Sooner Than Previously Expected

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Three readers mentioned this article on The Torch flashlight. At the rate this thing eats batteries, I have serious doubts about its practicality, especially when living in Grid Down times!

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More for fun than for preparedness: Geometric pumpkins and squash. Well, at least it is an excuse to grow some unusual heirloom squash varieties, and practice saving seeds.

"Gold is for optimists. I'm diversifying into canned goods." - Richard Daughty (aka "The Mogambo Guru")

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Because of some power outages and power spikes at our ISP, we've been having some serious problems accessing the Internet for the past couple of days. So rather than keeping you waiting for your daily dose of SurvivalBlog, I am posting a couple of days worth of posts in advance, whenever our connection sporadically comes up. So don't be alarmed if in the next few days you see a future date on any posts.

In reading your last few days posts on preparedness for disaster, etc, it brought to mind an experience I had twenty plus years ago in Alaska's wilderness. I am only here to relate this story for one reason - I listened to my father as a young man, one of the few times that I did, but it saved my life.

In 1985 I was on a moose hunting trip on a river boat with a close friend, whose nickname is Dangerous Don. We had put in our boat at the town of Nenana and proceeded up river to a smaller tributary, about 60' wide. As we made the tributary, we got hung up on a sandbar. While we were stuck, Don decided to fill the gas tank on the boat motor from a jerry can. I was in the bow keeping us stable in the river with an oar. He filled the motor, and then used a battery cable from the battery to touch the lead on the motor. He had spilled gas in the back of the boat. As soon as he touched the post on the motor, it sparked and the gas immediately exploded. I heard the explosion and felt the heat on my neck at the same time. I turned and saw Don engulfed in the flames. At that moment, I panicked. I jumped out of the boat, and in the process, flipped my glasses into the river. I grabbed the rope and went towards shore. I was able to tie the boat off on a dead snag next to the river. Don was able to get out of the boat. We stood on shore watching the boat burn.

After watching the boat burn for what seemed like an eternity, we realized the boat was our only way out. We managed to salvage our clothes, a thermos of hot water, a bag of sugar and Don's rifle. By then the fire was out of control, burning the wood transoms, seats and floorboards. We managed to swamp the fire out of the boat by pulling it up the bank and swamping the stern into the river. As we did this, an oar floated down river.

Don immediately dived in, swam down river and retrieved the oar. We then had to pull the boat out of the river after swamping it. By then 10-12 minutes had passed. We were soaking wet and chilled to the bone in the 35 degree drizzle. We were starting to exhibit hypothermia, and knew we were racing a clock. We decided one of us should immediately change to get into dry clothes, and the other start a fire. I changed to dry clothes while Don chopped dry branches off the dead snag, and found some somewhat dry plywood out of the boat. We found some tinder from some dry game bags. But nothing to start the fire. This was the most ironic situation I had ever faced - just put out a fire that was trying to kill us, only to not be able to start one so we could stay alive. Don finally got a spark off of his lighter to ignite the game bags we had soaked in white stove gas we had salvaged.

Once the fire was roaring, Don was turning white from the cold. I had to change his clothes, as he could barely stand. We found a blanket, tied it up as a windbreak and sat in front of the fire, feeding it branches until they ran out. We poured the baggie of sugar into the hot water thermos and drank it. I was sitting on a stump and was starting to doze off - which I knew was trouble.

I must digress here to relate the reference earlier of listening to my father as a young man. When I was 6 years old, my father's brother-in-law was on an elk hunting trip with him and others in the Coeur d' Alene mountains, when he became separated from the party during a snow storm that set in. My father looked until late and went to town to the sheriff's office, only to be turned down by the sheriff - he said it would have till wait until morning. They found my uncle dead the next morning sitting on a stump with his glasses off and his wallet next to them. He was 19. (This happened in 1961.)

For the next ten years, I was schooled by my father in the woods, when we went hunting, fishing, camping, working on the farm etc. When I was twelve and old enough to hunt, I never left his sight for the first three years. After that he would put me on stands until he was certain I knew what I was doing. Most of my hunting was in the rugged Coeur d'Alene Mountains. His number one mantra "If you are in trouble and cold and have no shelter, and no means to make one, don't ever sit down until you can find shelter."

As I was sitting on that stump after the boat fire, my father's words came back to me. I remember in my daze telling Don to "kick me" I woke up on the ground. I jumped up, grabbed Don by the lapels and told him we were leaving. We were going to somehow fix the boat, load everything back in it and float back to the truck. I told him I would rather die on the river attempting to get out, than I would of hypothermia sitting along the river bank. We had no fire, no shelter, no food - he agreed.

We patched the holes along the transom in the boat with foam from under the seats. We loaded all our gear in the front so as not to swamp the back where the holes were. We then shoved off and began to float back to Nenana. As I had lost my glasses, we switched off with Don's glasses to read the river. Once we got to the Tanana which is over a 1/2-mile wide of glacial silt, we felt confident we could make it back.

We then encountered Mr. Murphy. ("Murphy's Law."]After thirty minutes or so on the big river, we saw a tugboat headed up to Fairbanks pulling a barge, and throwing a big wake. As we had a leaky boat on the stern, we knew if we took a wake, we were sunk, literally. We rowed frantically to the far side of the river, turned into the wake and crossed over behind the tug and barge without mishap. We made it to Nenana with no further trouble.

As I have related this story over the years, and am now preparing everyday for "The Crunch" I realize that no matter how prepared we are, how many books we read, how many exercises we drill at, we have to all at times rely on Divine intervention, first and foremost. Yes we were prepared that day for emergency, but not completely. We made mistakes, and we got things right. But without the intervention of YHWH, we would be dead.

During the times ahead of us, which I believe to be the unfolding of events that will usher in the return of our Messiah, we must be so tight with YHWH, that we will know what to do ahead of time prompted by his spirit. I pray that all that have read this, will understand we can be prepared, but if we aren't redeemed, we don't stand a chance with the Almighty when the last trumpet sounds. - Kepha in Idaho

JWR Replies: Thanks for sharing that story with us. As background, I should mention that I attended Northern Warfare School in Alaska, in 1980. It was the three week summer course for West Point and ROTC cadets. (It had nearly all of the fun of the winter course, but very little of the misery.) The first phase of the course was a week of riverine operations, on the Tanana River. What many readers that are unfamiliar with glacial rivers would not realize from reading your account is the depth of the peril you were in. For their benefit, let me add this: If Kepha's expedient boat patches had not held and the boat had sunk mid-channel in the Tanana, he and Don probably would not have lived for more than 20 minutes, even wearing life vests. Glacial rivers are bitter cold--so cold that if you fall in, you can lose consciousness within 10 minutes. Their waters are also so silt-laden (which is what gives them their liquid chocolate appearance) that anyone that falls in very quickly has their pockets and every crevice of their clothing fill up with silt, weighing them down. This is often enough to drown even a very strong swimmer. Kepha's survival was indeed a providential gift from God.


I finally heard from manufacturer. They wrote: "Firstly, my sincerest apologies for the delay in coming back to you - I was traveling a lot over the past week so apologies again.
All of our kettles are manufactured by skilled tradesmen. During the spinning process a small amount of grease is applied to one side of the aluminum sheet to make spinning easier - particularly when attaching the spout for pouring. This greasy side should be the outside of the kettle and this is subsequently wiped clean. I have seen two occasions within the past
two years where this greasy side seems to have ended up forming the inside of the water chamber (totally human error, I'm afraid).
In this case, we have successfully cleaned the kettles by either boiling the kettle using washing up liquid or alternatively, filling the kettle and using a little bit of Milton (as used to sterilize baby's bottles) - let
stand for about 30 minutes and then boil the kettle. Any lubricant should come clean with either of the above methods.
If it does not work, come back to me and I will immediately replace the body of your kettle for you - I will just need your full shipping address and the size of your kettle (2.5 Pint or 1 Pint).
Please accept my sincerest apologies for any inconvenience caused due to this error." I was glad to hear this. - Jesse [JWR Adds: Sounds like good customer service to me.]


Mr. Rawles,
In response to a post concerning aluminum particles emanating from their Kelly Kettle (Volcano Kettle) I thought I'd dig around and see if anyone made a stainless steel one. One of the first things I did find out was that in the country of origin for this product (New Zealand) they call it a Thermette. It's also commonly called a "Volcano kettle" [or a "Benghazi Boiler"]. I think I've stumbled upon boilers/cookers like this before some time ago when looking at small pack stoves. Here's what I've found so far: Copper Thermette, and Tin Thermette.

Unfortunately, I never did find a stainless steel one. Please let me (and us all) know if you find any others. Thank you so much! - Tanker

Commercial real estate lending close to a standstill. (Another link courtesy of RBS.)

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Thanks to Eric B. for sending this link: FBI Investigates Subprime

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Hawaiian K. suggested an article on homemade vegetable oil lamps.

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Yishai found an article with some tips on urban gardening.

"There are going to be situations where people are going to go without assistance. That's just the facts of life." - Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Because of some power outages and power spikes at our ISP, we've been having some serious problems accessing the Internet for the past couple of days. So rather than keeping you waiting for your daily dose of SurvivalBlog, I am posting a couple of days worth of posts in advance, whenever our connection sporadically comes up. So don't be alarmed if in the next few days you see a future date on any posts.

Today we present the first article for Round 15 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The writer of the best non-fiction article will win a valuable four day "gray" transferable Front Sight course certificate. (Worth up to $2,000!) Second prize is a copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, generously donated by Jake Stafford of Arbogast Publishing. Round 15 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entries. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival will have an advantage in the judging.

The size AA battery is the ubiquitous form of mobile power that is presently available. There is a large amount of off the shelf devices that use AA cells. They are available everywhere at low cost. They are cost effective and very safe for lighting. The breadth and depth of equipment available in a portable format is unparalleled by any other type of battery. I will cover the known factors on how to care for and use this resource to help end users get the most out of their equipment.

To start, some general information that covers all types of cells. Cells do not like heat. Heat increases the chemical reactions occurring inside the cell, and thus the self-discharge and other chemical reactions in cell. A cell will lose it's charge and lower it's life span. Keep them cool.

Cells shouldn't get wet. Keep them away from moisture. You should avoid circumstances that will result in condensation on the cell.
Do not drop or roughly handle them. Especially in the case of rechargeables, you can break the separator inside the cell and you may end up with complete cell failure. Inside of a device they're a little more durable, your device will provide some impact protection and buffering.

Do not store your batteries inside of your device for long term readiness. There is a good reason they never come this way from the manufacture in the package. It's not good for your battery and you run a much larger risk of cells leaking or venting into your device. On a short term basis in a device that sees regular use, leaving the battery in is fine.

Matched cells perform better. A battery will only perform as well as the weakest cell. Avoid mixing brands, dates, and especially chemistries and you will get the most out of your cells. The more cells a device has, the more matches cells you need to provide. So it's easier to feed devices that use a smaller number of cells.
In general, take care of them and they'll serve you well.

Primary (use once) cells are the most straight forward. They usually have expiration dates printed on the cell or package. It's important to note that this date is an average amount of time for a specified failure rate. "Fail" is defined as having less than ~85% capacity (depends on manufacture), thought it can also mean complete failure with 0% recoverable capacity. The closer a battery is to it's expiration date, the less capacity it will have and the more likely you are to encounter completely failed cells. Even with expired cells though, they often work. I wouldn't choose to use them in really important applications, but they are still useful.

"Heavy duty" cells generally are not worth messing with - they are cheap, light weight, and low capacity. They seem to only be made to sell to the "lowest possible price" consumers. I would never buy or store them.

Alkaline are the best bang for the buck primary cells. You can pick up a pack of 48 cells for around $10 at COSTCO last I checked (Duracell is believed to be the OEM for Kirkland brand cells). The price has gone up approximate 10-15% in the last year, which seems likely to continue. Alkaline's are good performers under "average" conditions. They do not like low temperatures, and they do not like high current draw (cameras, some flashlights, and possibly other devices). Once you place a battery into a device, I recommend you use it up. Do not return [primary] cells into storage once you've started to use them.

Lithium cells provide the widest temperature and current rating of all primary cells, though you pay the most for the best performance. I do recommend having a few for important gear, red dot sights, night vision,and so forth, [reserving them] especially for emergency winter use.

Rechargeable cells are much more economical for the regular user. Unfortunately they require better understanding to maximize their useful life. So I'll go over NiMH extensively and also address NiCd.
In a quick overview of the current tech of AA cells. NiCd is the most durable battery chemistry, it has capacities ranging from 600-1000 [mil-Amp Hours] (mAH) It has the best temperature performance envelope, endures heat and over charge best, will operate with more cycles. NiMH is the most common consumer cell these days, mostly due to the capacity advantage which run in the 1800-2700 mAH range at present. NiMH also has a new variant on the market I will dub low self discharge (LSD) cells. LSD cells are in the range of 2000-2100 mAH as of this writing and have many advantages over traditional NiMH that mostly come from an effort to stabilize it. They are new, so some data points are not borne out over years, but current evidence indicates that they perform as advertised. I recommend LSD cells for most people over all other varieties, I'll go into more detail why below. First, the brands and types currently on the market. The top brand in my opinion is Eneloops (2000 mAH) from Sanyo, it simply does the low-self-discharge thing better than the competition. The rest of the field seems to originate from a single manufacture or the same licensed design, but there are a bunch of competing cells. Rayovac Hybrids, Hybrios, Titanium Enduros, and a bunch of others (2100 mAH). Given equivalent, or near equivalent prices, I'd pick the eneloops.

In both types of chemistry, the higher capacity cells are more fragile than the lower capacity cells. It's an engineering trade off. The 2700 mAH whiz bang top-of-the-line cells are not your best bet for good durable cells, they are actually fairly fragile (chemically and physically) because of this trade off. Around 2000 mAH is not only cheaper (usually) but yields a cell that will see a longer service life, more cycles, and less likely to fail if dropped. Lower than 2000 in NiMH does not appear to hold significant advantage in durability in most respects. LSD cells appear to be at least as durable as their 2000 mAH NiMH counterparts.

Standard NiMH cells have an approximately life span of 3 years. Cheaper brands may have less. NiCd cells have an estimated 5+ year life span. Much beyond these points or even before them (especially with high capacity cells), increased internal resistance, lowered capacities, and higher self discharge are the norm. NiCd doesn't exhibit a large amount of this and usually fails with internal shorts (complete failure) or excessively high resistance. These numbers are very temperature dependant, colder storage conditions will lengthen the time, warmer will lower it. LSD NiMH cells currently have no data in this regard, they're advertised as having better longevity than NiMH cells, and I would tend to believe them due to the engineering trade offs picked. However, they've only been out for about 1.5-2 years now. To date, my oldest cells (1.5 years old), lightly used, perform like new - so far so good.

Self discharge is one of the biggest inconvenient things about rechargeable cell use. NiMH cells discharge by themselves very quickly. They discharge on the order of a couple of months when new and the rate increases significantly with age and use. NiCd cells have about half the self discharge rate and this usually won't vary much up until cell death. LSD cells shine in this regard, the self discharge slows down after a charge to almost a stand still in a little over a months time. LSD cells will retain around 85% (Eneloops) to 80% (rest of the field) charge after a year of storage at around 70 degrees.
Keeping the voltages up during use is important for many devices and one of the principle reasons rechargeables deliver poor performance in some devices. Standard NiMH suffers from voltage sag over time. It will start out at a nice high 1.4 volts fresh off the charger. Soon it finds it's way to 1.3-to-1.2 v open voltage. If left on the shelf it will fall over time. Many devices require a minimum voltage to operate correctly, if this minimum is above what your battery can deliver under load your device will shut down (can be 1.2v per cell, and NiMH will often fail to meet this under less than ideal circumstances!) If you experience significant performance difference between primary cells and rechargeable cells (especially older ones) this is likely the problem, especially combined with self discharge "usable capacity" drops very quickly. NiCd cells can suffer from a form of voltage sag, it is not as pronounced as NiMH but it can also happen in mid-discharge and is related the over marketed term cell "memory". This problem can usually be corrected with a couple exercise cycles and a good top off charge. LSD cells retain their voltage very well on the shelf, like their charge, and also deliver better than average voltages in normal use anyway. You will usually see much better performance from LSD cells in these voltage sensitive devices than NiMH or even NiCd. If you've been frustrated with rechargeables in the past in some of your devices give some LSD cells a try!

The most common method to kill cells is poor charging practices. I can't stress this enough, especially with NiMH cells, buy a good ["smart"] charger. Usually cells are allowed to "cook" on a standard charger for far, far too long. Remember, heat is bad! It's normal for them to get warm at the end of a charge cycle (not burning hot!). If they continue to stay warm (or worse, hot) for several hours later, you have a [traditional "dumb"] charger that is cooking your cells. I recommend a Maha-C9000 as a good high end charger. On a lower budget I recommend a Duracell 15 minute charger. {To be ready for various circumstances,] I prefer to have both chargers available. The C9000 is a slower charger (relatively) but it will not cook your cells, you can leave them in the unit. The unit has options that allow you to easily exercise cells and see if they are improving. You can match cells to obtain the best performance from them and identify poor performing cells quickly. It also charges individual cells rather than pairs, which is better for them - especially a mismatched pair. The Duracell 15 minute charger is a quality unit that also allows "busy you" to not walk away for hours waiting for, and forgetting about, your batteries. You will be less likely to forget about them and allow them to be cooked on the charger. Some good charging technology goes into the 15 minute chargers, so while they are a little rough compared to a good slower charge - they are actually very good at what they do, especially compared to the cheap junk [chargers] on the market. Fast charging is also fairly energy efficient, reducing the power required to get a full charge. Both of these chargers run on 12 volt DC input so they can plug directly into 12 volt systems allowing for use in a car or directly off a battery based [alternative energy] system (PV, wind, etc).

Do not charge cells when they are below freezing (32 F/0 C). You will damage them. If you really need a charged cell, warm it up in your pocket (preferably the charger too) and use the 15 minute charger. The charge cycle should provide enough heat to keep it above freezing until it's done. Avoid chargers that come with your cells, generally they are poor.

When brought out of long term storage, cells will usually need "exercise". NiCds especially need fairly significant exercise before returning to full capacity. 5+ full cycles may be required, rule of thumb is exercise until you stop seeing capacity gains. This is easiest with a charger like the C9000 with capacity readouts. NiCds should be stored discharged. NiMH cells should be stored with a charge. LSD cells require significantly less maintenance and may not need any exercise at all and will likely have a serviceable charge intact after storage, depending on the length of time in storage and at what temperature.
NiMH cells like to be treated gently. When you're done with your device, recharge the cells. The more shallow the cycle the better. Full cycles will wear on them the most. Keep NiMH cells topped off and they'll last the longest. Occasionally you may need to perform a deep cycle to restore some performance if the cell appears to be waning. The more advanced NiMH care systems like on the Toyota Prius reportedly keep cells at 60-80% capacity and only use about 20% depth in discharge cycles, which seems to be the most chemically repeatable and stable region. NiCds stand up to abuse a lot better, in fact a regular full discharge is good for them and will help you avoid issues with the cells. It's not required for every charge, but once a month or so should keep it's performance high.

I suggest avoiding C and D size rechargeable cells. They are expensive, there are no LSD variants at present, your charging options are more limited, they take forever to charge, and there are adapter sleeves readily available to make AA cells fit these sizes. D sized alkaline cells are reasonable for storage and use for the price. C size cells are usually overpriced and are often repackaged AA cells anyway - use the adapters. COSTCO presently sells an excellent Eneloop kit that includes 8 AAs, 4 AAAs, 2 AA->C adapters, 2 AA->D adapters, and a cheap charger for $26.

Earlier generation NiMH cells had a very poor temperature envelope. There are evidences that this has improved and the LSD introduction advertised even better cold temperature performance. Unfortunately, to date, I am unable to find information or a datasheet to quantify this. I've done a bit of my own testing down to 0 F, the limit of my freezer, and have found no appreciable drop in capacity (old NiMH tech struggled below freezing). I can't really quantify if LSD NiMH is inferior or superior to NiCds at present, so suffice it to say they both do reasonably well in the cold (just remember not to charge them when they are below freezing).

In summary, I don't see any reason to buy any non-LSD NiMH cells these days. LSD tech has dramatically improve the performance and user friendliness of the cells, and hopefully longevity, durability, and cycle life too. However, it is new and relatively unproven tech. NiCd is the old known workhorse and there is good reason why power tools and similar equipment still ship with NiCd cells. It's worth having a few NiCds around as a backup because of their track record. For general use, the Sanyo Eneloops are the way to go.

Hi Jim,
I wanted to ask the vast readership for their help with winter water needs for livestock when we don't have the luxury of electric tank heaters. I had done some research in the past and the only way I found to keep a livestock tank from freezing up with arctic winds was a wood fired Chofu, (Japanese), tank heater. The capacity much too small to handle the trick.
We have just survived another arctic blast with buckets and stock tanks freezing over immediately. The thought of relocating the livestock to open water does not seem viable unless it is open moving water as it would be froze over as well. I am seeking the knowledge of an old rancher that has dealt with this situation. I was hoping to find some sort of tank heater that could be coal fired for heat and ease of lighting if wet, at the very least compare designs and fabricate my own.
Any help? Thanks a bunch, - The Wanderer

JWR Replies: Here at our ranch we have two large stock tanks, both with electric heaters. But of course we have access to backup power. One solution you might consider for the long term: I've read passive ground heating has been used successfully in much of North America: Here is the method in a nutshell: Rent a power auger dig an overgrown posthole and bury a 8 foot (or longer) length of 18 to 24 diameter galvanized culvert pipe in the hole, with just 5 or 6 inches of the pipe showing above ground. Then attach some brackets to the top of the pipe (by welding or nuts and bolts to hold a small stock tank (90 gallons or less), so that the bottom of the stock tank completely covers the open end of the pipe. (The stock tank will appear to be mounted on a low pedestal.) The vertical pipe acts as a conduit for the warmer ambient ground temperature from the soil below the frost line. The beauty of this design is that it is essentially passive and there is no significant maintenance, once installed.

In the short term, however, you might do some searches on Craig's List, and other Internet source for US Army surplus immersion heaters. These crank out a lot more BTUs than typical Chofus, and since they burn liquid fuel (mist were multi-fuel models, IIRC), they require less tending than a wood-fired heater. Of course all the usual safety provisos for liquid fuel burners apply.

Perhaps some SurvivalBlog readers will have some suggestions on other tank heater designs. (Hopefully including something that you can implement without having to wait until next summer.)

Dear Jim,
Over the years I've probably given away five cases of your novel to friends and family, and I think the updated version is outstanding! Thank you so much for all that you've done to promote personal responsibility.

Regarding the post on your home page about birdshot versus buckshot, I couldn't agree more! I'm an instructor with [name of major firearms training school deleted for OPSEC] and this myth of birdshot being the best home defense round is a constant battle with many of our new shotgun students. As you already know, birdshot, when fired within 5' of drywall will act just like a slug, and tag anything directly on the other side full-on. However, at 8 yards, it won't even penetrate a leather jacket. You might as well use slugs! All one needs to do is ask Dick Cheney about the lethality of birdshot when applied to humans.

However, if there ever was a small arms munition which has a proven track record of ending people, it's 00 ["double aught"] buckshot. Granted, it may not end them now (which is the immediate issue in a defensive situation), but of the emergency room doctors I've polled, none have ever had to treat buckshot wounds to the torso because those all go to the morgue.

Lastly, there is a brand of shotgun round called Polyshok which has officially become the only thing I load in my defensive shotguns. Rather than bore you with two pages of opinion, got to the web site and check out all of the demo videos. No one lives when hit with it. A hit in a limb will mean, at the very least, loss of it - but anywhere near the chest cavity or head is instant death. You'll see in the demos how it is also perfect for home defense (no over penetration), and it recoils like birdshot! The only catch is that the manufacturer will only sell to police and military. It's not illegal to own, just a company rule. I'm sure, however, you know a cop or two who can get hold of a box to demo. It's $2 a round, but worth every penny. Thanks again! - Fergie

Merco suggested the Build it Solar web site--that has lots of of alternative energy projects that you can build yourself, from beginner to advanced.

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This comes as no surprise: Broke homeowners linked to arsons

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U.S. slump spreading around the globe, IMF warns

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Eric suggested this Newsday article: U.S. loses its status as an economic world power

"Bushido is all very well in its way, but it is no match for a .30-06." - The Late Col. Jeff Cooper

Friday, February 1, 2008

Because of some power outages and power spikes at our ISP, we've been having some serious problems accessing the Internet for the past couple of days. So rather than keeping you waiting for your daily dose of SurvivalBlog, I am planning to post a couple of days worth of posts in advance, whenever our connection sporadically comes up. So don't be alarmed if in the next few days you see a future date on any posts.

We have finished the judging... The winner of Round 14 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. is J. Britely, for his lengthy article "Prepare or Die". He gets the top prize--a four day "gray" transferable Front Sight course certificate. These certificates are worth up to $2,000! Our thanks to Front Sight's director, Naish Piazza, for generously donating the course certificate. Check out the Front Sight web site and take advantage of their great training opportunities.

Second prize goes to K.L. In Alaska for his article "Sources for Free Survival and Preparedness Information on the Internet". His prize is is a copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, generously donated by Jake Stafford of Arbogast Publishing.

I'm also sending out two honorable mention prizes to Robert R. for his article "How to Win with Asymmetric Warfare", and to Dim Tim for his article "Constructing an Improvised CB Radio Antenna Both of them will be sent autographed copies of my novel "Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse".

Note to all the prize winners: Send me an e-mail to let me know your snail mail addresses, and your prizes will be mailed to you shortly. Thanks gents, and congratulations!
Today we start Round 15 of the contest. Send your non-fiction articles via e-mail for a chance to win some great prizes! The first prize will again be a four day "gray" transferable Front Sight course certificate!

I have been a "prepper" since 1975. In those 32+ years, I have met all sorts of "prepared" people. Some of them have been casual acquaintances. Some I've corresponded with but have never met face to face. Some have been fellow church members. Some have been consulting clients. A few of these have been close and trusted friends. But only a subset of all of them have pursued what I consider well-balanced preparedness. I don't intend the following to be a castigation of anyone in particular. I'm merely trying to illustrate that many of us could benefit from better balance. Here are some of the extremes that I have encountered:

Kruger-centrics. These folks put the majority of their funds into Krugerrands, American Eagles, and numismatic rarities, at the expense of food storage and other practical preparedness measures.

Electronic Gadgeteers. The gadgeteers usually drift into survivalism by way of amateur ("ham") radio. Typically, they spend their evenings chatting with fellow survivalists hams. Hopefully they'll have an "Ah-ha" moment that leads them to the conclusion that true preparedness means more than just keeping 10 gallons of gas on hand for their generator set for The Big Field Day.

Secret Squirrels. About once or twice a month, I get an envelope with no return address. Inside it is a five dollar bill, often wrapped in aluminum foil. Usually there is no explanatory note. Without a return address, there is no way for me to sent a thank you. (So let me say here and now: Thanks for your donations!)

I have one friend in another state that I have not been able to contact for more than five years because he is afraid that even if I use a cash-purchased calling card and if I call him from a pay phone, that we might be "monitored". By isolating themselves, Secret Squirrels cannot take advantage if teamwork and strength in numbers. There is risk versus reward ratio for associating with others. Weigh it carefully.

Eschatologists. Then there are the folks that spend more time studying John's Revelation than they do all of the other books of the Bible. Eschatology (the study of "End Times") is all well and good, but it has become an obsession to some. They forward me umpteen e-mails with modern prophecies: "I had a vivid dream about cities on fire..." They quiz me as to whether or not I believe in a pre-Tribulation Rapture and whether I'm pre-millennial, post-millennial, or a-millennial. Here is my answer, short and sweet: I'm Pan-millennial. Having read the Bible, I believe that it will all pan out in the end. Seriously, the Bible teaches that there will be a time of tribulation. Be ready for it.

As for the modern-day prophets and their adherents: To the best of my knowledge the gift of prophecy ended with the death of the last of the Disciples. Trust in God's providence, but don't expect absolute protection for the faithful. The Bible does not promise that. If you have doubts about that, read Foxes's Book of Martyrs. Rowland Taylor, one of my great grandfathers (16 generations back) is described there. He was burned at the stake for holding to the inerrancy of scripture. But he died singing hymns.

Gun Nuts. I've known lots of people that own dozens of guns, but that have hardly have any storage food or medical gear set aside. Sadly, when things get Schumeresque, some of them may resort to looting once their scanty food supplies have been exhausted.("When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem start to look like a nail.") Instead of being part of the solution in restoring commerce and and law & order, they will be part of the problem. I used to be a bit of a gun nut. But thankfully, after marrying the Memsahib I have become far more balanced in my preps. I gradually pared down my gun collection by more than half. (And I made a tidy profit in the process, since guns only seem to go up in value.) Just don't ask me to part with my shelves full of ammo cans. That ammo is better than money in the bank. And, hey, it even doubles as good gamma shielding.

Granola Idealists. The other end of the spectrum from the Gun Nuts are the incredibly naive folks who eschew all means of self-defense. Many new converts in the Peak Oil camp fall into this category. Some of them profess that merely living in a tight-knit community will protect them. Others hope that extreme geographic isolation will spare them from the depredations of looters.

Conspiracy Theorists. I get an amazing number of conspiracy e-mails every day, and they all sound so sincere. Among other things, they describe: mysterious lingering chem trails, lack of plane wreckage at the Pentagon, black helicopters, thermite and cutting charges in the World Trade Center buildings, George Bush is actually a Gray Alien, railroad box cars equipped with handcuffs and shackles, Area 51 anti-gravitation hovercraft, MK-ULTRA mind-controlled assassins, the CFR, chupacabras, massive underground bases and tunnels excavated by atomic power, Chinese troops stationed in North Dakota, the secret base on the dark side of the moon, you name it. My advice for the Conspiracy Theorists is to stop spending so much time analyzing and re-analyzing the threats and start actively preparing.

Mall Ninjas. You probably know at least one Mall Ninja. To them, looks more important than substance. They insist on having all of their gear in a matching camouflage pattern. Typically they own several guns, but have never zeroed any of them. They have research files full of magazine clippings from Soldier of Fortune about martial arts and isometric exercises, but they never seem to find the time to actually exercise. They own dozens of "tactical" knives and bayonets, but own no water filters. I even heard of a "survival expert" that had one case (12 meals) of MREs, but no other storage food. My friend Keith calls these folks "Tommy Tacticals." Others call them Armchair commandos. The Mall Ninjas are in desperate need of balance.

The preceding may have offended some of my readers. But I felt that it was important to point out that some people have allowed their preparations to get unbalanced. All that I can suggest is: 1.) Don't pin yourself down to just one pet scenario. Instead, be ready for a wide range of potential eventualities. 2.) Stock up in a logical manner that will allow your family to live for an extended period of time with no outside assistance. This means having a good balance of food storage, gardening seed and supplies, means of self defense, alternative energy, communications gear, medical gear, OTC pharmaceuticals, tools, livestock feed, fencing supplies, and so forth. Do your best to be dispassionate, and work though the logical "what-ifs". Develop your lists accordingly.

I wrote the following back in the early days of SurvivalBlog. For the sake of the many new readers (since our readership has more than doubled in the past 12 months), it bears repeating:

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 (refurbished) 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!

Nine readers all suggested the same article: Barton Biggs's Tips for Rich: Expect War, Study Blitz, Mind Markets. The article begins: "Insure yourself against war and disaster by buying a remote farm or ranch and stocking it with ``seed, fertilizer, canned food, wine, medicine, clothes, etc.'' The "etc." must mean guns, because Biggs is also quoted as stating: "A few rounds [fired] over the approaching brigands' heads would probably be a compelling persuader that there are easier farms to pillage,'' he writes in his new book, ``Wealth, War and Wisdom.'' Note that this is coming from a well-known fairly mainstream market analyst! When folks of his stature can start making what most would consider alarmist statements without fear of being branded as a "whacko" by the mainstream media, then there is almost assuredly a change in the weather coming.

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Hawaiian K. pointed out this Federal Reserve chart, showing that the Net Free or Borrowed Reserves (NFORBRES) of Depository Institutions just fell off a cliff. Let's pray that there aren't any bank runs soon, because the till is empty. It is a jolly good thing that the Fed is handing out so much cheap money these days, so the member banks can list part of these funds as "reserves."

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For the month of February, Ready Made Resources is offering a 10% discount on all of their food storage packages. Be sure to get your ordering this month, before the inevitable price increases. Wholesale food prices are rising, and most of the storage food canners are no longer re-pricing annually. Most them are now re-pricing "as needed", without any warning. Stock up during this sale!

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Eric suggested this: Banks' bad loans hit level of S&L Crisis

"The hardest part about gaining any new idea is sweeping out the false idea occupying that niche. As long as that niche is occupied, evidence and proof and logical demonstration get nowhere. But once the niche is emptied of the wrong idea that has been filling it -- once you can honestly say, "I don't know", then it becomes possible to get at the truth." - Robert A. Heinlein, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls (1985)

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