August 2008 Archives

Sunday, August 31, 2008

I just wanted to let you know that this plant ([considered] a weed) is usually killed off as a pest, yet is more nutritious then wheat. It grows all over the place and if it was planted on purpose it might help a lot for people looking to survive.

Deane’s site is packed full of plants worth looking in to for food! (A good source of info while the power is up! YouTube really does have everything!)’ - Fitzy in Pennsylvania


James Wesley;

In response to the person setting up a Michigan retreat, I saw mention of Amaranth as one of his grains set aside. Amaranth will grow quite handily as a "weed" in North America, has one of the highest protein contents of any grain (not gluten either, for those that are gluten sensitive) and extremely high content of lysine. It grows rapidly and can have grain heads over 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) with over half a million seeds therein.

I can think of few choices better suited to unsupervised growing [at an unattended retreat] than Amaranth. - Dave R.

Mr Rawles,
I've been thinking a lot about storing food like grains in the olive containers that get thrown out at the restaurant where I'm currently working. There made of what I assume to be food grade plastic (olive storage) and looks like they store about 7-to-8 liters. The lid is made of two pieces and has a rubber seal. If I were to wash these off a bit do you think they would serve as long term food containers?
Thanks, - Paul from Canada

JWR Replies: Those containers should be fine, since they are doubtless made of food grade plastic. Just be sure to inspect the seals to make sure that they are pliable and intact. Most of these olive buckets, barrels and tubs are made of HDPE. Since there is a slight chance of the odors from original contents permeating your grain, I recommend that you thoroughly clean the containers. (Via repeated soaking with hot, soapy water) Also, be sure to use use a mylar liner bag in each container . These liners are available in various sizes from Nitro-Pak. BTW, the same company also has a good reputation as a supplier for freshly-made oxygen absorbing packets that are properly sealed well for shipment.

Mr. Rawles,
I hate to bother you, but thought you might have heard if someone was ill or passed away at Buckshot's camp?
I placed an order which was billed out, and never got it. I have called several times and got the recording, and e-mailed also, but have never heard back from them. This has been since May. I was just wondering if you had heard anything about them, and thought maybe you know someone that may know them. The game trap article in today's blog, brought this up, and I'm just grasping at straws to see if someone knows them. Thanks, - Rod


Dear Mr. Rawles,
I recently ordered a snare kit and DVD on how to use it from Buckshot's Camp online at the beginning of July [2008]. I have yet to receive shipment and have had no response to e-mails or phone calls.

I checked the BBB finally and found that he has an unsatisfactory rating with them. So I wanted to let you and your readers know this since in the past you have suggested him as a supplier of traps and snares. Stay prepared, - Michael in Oklahoma

JWR Replies: Buckshot's Camp hasn't advertised with us since early 2006. I dropped them as an advertiser because of their poor customer service. (BTW, they were one of just two advertisers that I've been forced to remove in the three years that SurvivalBlog has been up and running. All of our other 80+ advertisers have sterling reputations.) I removed my links to Buckshot's Camp in my Links page at the same time.

I'm sorry to hear that you had the order fulfillment problem Bruce Hemming's ex-wife. (She owns the mail order business, as part of their divorce settlement.)

Please pray for Bruce and his ex-wife. They need to reconcile themselves to each other and to their slighted customers. And of course we all need to reconcile ourselves to God.

Reader A.M. in Cocoa, Florida sent a link to a very interesting video clip about a solar/hydrogen powered house. Coveting is a sin, but I must admit that I sorely wish that I had his sort of budget.

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Kevin A. recommended a piece of commentary by Darryl Schoon: Don't Cry For Me Argentina... Save Your Tears For Yourself

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Some escalation in the war of words in the nascent Cold War II: Russia Issues warning : Military help for Georgia is a 'declaration of war', and Russia bans poultry imports from 19 U.S. suppliers, and
Russia may cut off oil flow to the West . Thanks to readers KAF, Susan Z., and Mr. X, for the links.

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Derek C. notes that anyone interested in some light game theory reading, might consider a piece from the Cato Institute, on how fiat money emerges from a barter economy. Derek describes it": "The author's (quite intuitive) point is that fiat money comes from convertible paper money, which in turn comes from actual commodity money, which in turn comes from barter. this transference arises because barter is an inherently unattractive form of exchange, because of high transaction and search costs. The article has implications for the re-monetization of precious metal commodities, following an economic collapse."

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Anther Friday, another bank failure: Integrity Bank, in Alpharetta, Georgia. There will be many more bank runs in the next few years, so be ready.

“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” - I Corinthians 13:13

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Today's blog posts include two letters from "Doug Carlton" Those of you that have read my novel "Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse" will recognize this real-life individual as the basis for one of the novel's characters. "Doug" and I attended college and went through ROTC together, back in the early 1980s. He later went on to be a US Army aviator. He now lives in Virginia and works in the transportation industry.

Dear SurvivalBlog Readers:

I currently live in Virginia and what Jim said about retreat locale selection is generally accurate. That's not to say "all is lost!". Hardly, there are some advantages you have in our area that I've only found in a couple other places in the US, and you can successfully find a retreat location. You just have to work harder at it. The simple fact that most people live where they do is because it's easier. The more remote locations, and the more secure, tend to be more work to live in. It's all balance and trade off.

Due to the improvements to US17 and the construction of I-66, the area you're in now will be expanding out to the west very soon. Mike knows better than anyone the amount of growth the state has experienced, and Manassas used to be in the sticks just a few years ago. Culpepper/Warrenton/et cetera. were down-right the boondocks, and they will be the next housing area for the Capitol in a decade or so. All of us see the expansion before our eyes.

The biggest problem with the Shenandoah is it's a natural corridor. I-81 and the AT just make it a massive avenue of approach. But within the mountains you can find a place that is indeed suitable. It's just going to take more work. I can't think of too many places as beautiful as that area, and even the I66 corridor is pretty, and simply put you just have to really look hard to find the right place. The farther West you go, and even into West Virginia, the terrain is more favorable, but in the end you just have to make an intelligent decision on the place that's right for you. You can name any area in the country, and with few exceptions you can probably find a decent place for a retreat, and a lot of places to avoid. That goes for West of the Mississippi as much as the East. It's just you have to look harder in the East.

Narrow down your areas to less than just a general region. Do an "IPB". That's "Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield". Figure out the most likely risks and make a list in priority. It's your priority because it's your list. Take counsel, but it's still your survival, and you're the one who really has the responsibility for deciding what's important and what isn't. Then take a map and make overlays, or just mark the map of areas that are "no-go", like the obvious ones that you can block off as not where you're going. Things like Quantico, DC, etc. aren't probably going to be high on the list of areas for a retreat. Plot the avenues of approach on the map (the refugee flow) and you'll start seeing where to look and where not to look quickly. Once you narrow down the areas, look at resources and plot those. Basically, just take the area and graphically make the process of elimination. What's left is where you should start looking.

You can also take a more "think outside of the box" approach to things. Generally speaking it's simpler to have a "one-size-fits-all" retreat. We'd all love to live at our own ranch and somehow pay bills and live off the grid, yada, yada. Sure. For many of us it's simply not going to happen. We choose, rightly or wrongly to live where we are for a variety of reasons. The choice is ours, as the responsibility is ours and ours alone (not the government's or anyone else's). So if you're stuck in a bad place to begin with, make the most of it.

Take the list of most likely threats and see if there's a way to divide them up. For example Tsunamis, hurricanes, floods, etc. can pretty much be obviated by a retreat in a relatively close position to where you live. It doesn't take much but being inland, with high ground, and a stockpile of supplies to deal with it. Having a "risk specific" retreat complicates things in that you don't have the simplicity of a single place, but you may not really need the place for World War "Z". You are much more likely to need the place that can deal with floods, civil riots in the Capitol, hurricanes, etc. You can easily find a place like that where you desire. Do the same IPB, just base it on a narrower list of risk and you should have a wider area to choose from.

Obviously there are big disadvantages in this. More than one retreat location greatly complicates things. It increases expense, It greatly increases risk because you just might be wrong too in your planning. But sometimes your bomb shelter just can't be proof against a direct hit. There's a risk trade-off in everything.

In my years in Virginia, I've run into several situations were we were either on our own, or it had the potential. Most were Hurricanes, some blizzards, a localized riot or two, a terrorist attack, and the everyday crime/fire/etc that is frankly the most likely and just as destructive to your everyday life. (You do have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, right?). Odds are pretty high these same things are what I'll face in the future, rather than the ultimate collapse of civilization. So there is a lot to be said about starting small and improving things. A closer retreat can deal with a lot of things you're likely to face. It can also allow you a base to rebuild your residence from if you're house burns down, etc. that's easier to operate out of than one far away. Obviously it would only be a valid locale for a limited amount of scenarios, but the most likely ones.

So think about approaching it in stages. Getting a "good enough retreat" now and a "perfect retreat" later might be a viable way to go. It's far more risky than going all out and doing the "perfect retreat" from the get-go, but the actual risk can only be judged by you for your own situation. You're the only one responsible for it should be. Regards, - Doug Carlton

I enjoyed your repost of the "Illusion of Isolation" article in reply to Mike's query about the Shenandoah Valley being a good retreat location. My own observation is that the Shenandoah is far too crowded and accessible to the fleeing hordes, many of whom are already there as the northern end of the Valley is already a bedroom community for the "Peoples' Republic of Stalingrad", DC. He really needs to get out farther than is a practical commuting distance from the city. As you note, the East is a challenge because getting a full-tank distance from the city is simply not possible for the most part.

I would recommend that Mike look a little further south and west; south of Harrisonburg or quite a ways west of the interstate. Once you get ten miles back from the interstate it is an entirely different world, and if you get 25 miles west of Staunton and cross over Shenandoah Mountain you will be infinitely better off as you find yourself amongst very self-sufficient folks for the most part. There also are some isolated areas near Winchester at the northern end of the valley, but it has long been an area for weekend/ski getaways for city folk. Recently there was a northern Valley realtor whose sales pitch touted the fact that Winchester, Virginia was outside the "blast zone" for DC. All the Best, - Crusher

Long before the current trend in drop-leg holsters, we used some in Army Aviation to clear the armor on the seats in some specific aircraft. The one I flew had more armor coverage, and frankly even a drop-leg wasn't going to work, so the shoulder holster was the way to go for me. Tanker wear shoulder rigs, as well as desk jockeys for the very same reason. Your pistol needs to be out of the way to do your primary job. That's the Army though. Just because Big Army does it, or uses it, it doesn't mean it's really a good idea for you as an individual. There's a lot of junk the Army uses to great effect that is just useless for the individual or small-group survivalist. Don't ever base what you need on what you see the Army, or even contractors, using. The missions are entirely different. Buy and use what you need.

That being said, drop-leg rigs are great for wearing directly on your belt, or a dedicated gun belt, along with a knife. If you remember Trasel's post a while back about gear he mentioned keeping your knife, etc. on your trouser belt, so you always have it with you, if you ditch, or just don't have your web gear. Sage advice there. A drop-leg, or even a shoulder rig, does this for you. By using the right holster (that's key there), you can have it attached to your person, and clear your web gear. If you have to ditch your web-gear, your gun and knife are still with you.

While most schools frown on shoulder holsters because of safety concerns, and the complexity of sidearm retention, in many cases it's a good choice. Pilots have used them forever, and it's unlikely you'll face a retention situation in your own cockpit. Same with tankers. I remember a picture of a P-38 pilot in the Pacific that had the usual USGI WWII shoulder rig, with the shoulder strap also going through a mag pouch and survival knife. Not a bad set-up for his use, and worth thinking about for a lot of reasons. Not the perfect rig for a night on the town, but it obviously worked for him. Even what's perfect in a schoolhouse training environment might not be perfect for you. The key is to go with what works for you.

Whatever holster you choose, if you have more than one try to keep to one system. If you're using a Safariland 6004, look at a holster with the self-locking system (SLS) for concealment, or go without [secondary] retention. What you don't want is different retention systems to deal with. Using a 6004 with SLS on your leg, then using a thumbsnap for concealment, and using a level three retention holster for belt use isn't a wise move. [For the sake if kinesthetic memory] you want to make the same movements each time to get the gun out.

Sometimes you can modify stuff to work. The Safariland 6004 is often the subject of some surgery which allows it to ride higher and much more comfortable for many. Sometimes you can get holsters that do many things. The USGI M12 [aka Bianchi UM-84 series] holster can be adapted to many different types of carry. I frankly don't think too highly of that holster, but many think USGI means it's the way to go. They're cheap enough I suppose. I currently use an Eagle brand drop leg that the drop leg flap can fold over so you can use it both as a conventional belt service holster as well as a drop leg. It rides high enough to be out of the way in drop-leg mode, and low enough to clear gear. The full flap, with Fastex fastener means it's secure no matter what I do, and the full-flap velcros out of the way to allow an open top configuration with a thumbsnap retention as well. It pretty much does it all for me from admin to tactical and it's all the same holster, so training is simplified and it's cheaper to buy one good holster than several different ones (though I always seem to buy several anyway). It's doesn't do concealed carry well, but most CCW holsters are either non-retention, or thumbsnap, so again there's nothing to re-learn in a fight.

As for slings, I said before the Israeli type has a lot going for it, and that's what I use. You can beat it in specific tasks with other slings, but for all around lugging a rifle around and still be effective with the sling, they're great.

While I agree on having different sets of web-gear for each rifle, I don't agree on caliber/weapon specific. I think they should be universal for what you're equipped with. That way all that needs to change is the magazines, and not the whole set of web gear. Weapon-specific web gear is too specific, in my opinion. Regards, - Doug Carlton

With Gustav Approaching New Orleans Residents Stocking Up on AR-15s and ammo

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KAF sent this: Rat meat in demand as inflation bites

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L.A. Police Gear (a likely new SurvivalBlog advertiser) is having a 10% off sale, for Labor Day Weekend. Enter coupon code "LABOR".

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Kevin A. suggested a background article on economics by Louis Even, titled Guernsey's Monetary Experiment. Here is a key quote: "The issues of national currency by the States of Guernsey caused neither inflation nor idleness. They created activity and prosperity. But these issues did not make any slaves, and that is why the bankers intervened."

"At this point, our bet remains that the Feds will go to default mode which means cranking up the printing presses into the red zone, letting the dollar move ever closer to its intrinsic value: zero. That they'll follow this route is suggested by two inputs. First, a depreciating dollar means a reduction in the trillions of dollars in obligations now owed by the U.S. government. And, secondly, foreign holders don't vote." - David Galland, as quoted by The Silver Bear Cafe

Friday, August 29, 2008

Today we present another entry for Round 18 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The contest prizes include:

First Prize: The writer of the best contributed article in the next 60 days will be awarded two transferable Front Sight  "Gray" Four Day Training Course Certificates. This is an up to $4,000 value!
Second Prize: A three day course certificate from OnPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses.
Third Prize: A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing

Round 18 ends on September 30th, 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.

Sometime in the future, in a post-TEOTWAWKI environment, your retreat group may decide to send out small teams to conduct either reconnaissance or security patrols. They may want to collect information on what is happening at the nearest town or confirm/ disprove the accuracy of any information (rumors) previously attained. Whatever the mission, these teams must function as a cohesive unit every time. Their success or failure will depend on everyone’s ability to operate during darkness or periods of reduced and/ or limited visibility (to include rain, fog, snow, etc.) even if they do not have the aid of night vision devices because of expense, loss, and/or damage.

Psychological Effects
The inability to see well in darkness leads to doubt and increases apprehension. Darkness always brings out an individual’s weakness, especially in lethal situations. It has been demonstrated many times in both military and police situations that if a team member is confused, frightened, or operating in a diminished capacity, the entire team will suffer. This could lead to over-caution, which might make an individual a better target due to slowness or additional time spent being backlighted or silhouetted. The team’s ability to function (and fight) at night is directly related to confidence in individual skills, unit teamwork, and confidence in leaders.
At night, objects or shadows can appear “real”, exaggerated to the untrained mind. These illusions can come from the over-active imagination (and viewing too many horror type movies; which, due to darkness, the imagination cannot separate fact from fantasy. Illusions may also come from:
- Confusion due to an error of the senses: hearing, smell, and sight
- A mistaken impression in the mind (a low tree with no leaves on its branches is a man standing with a rifle, etc.).
- A confused mind and personal fears or phobias (a piece of rope is a snake; a clothesline full of cloths is a group of people, etc.).
As stress increases, individuals may also imagine dangers, causing fear or even panic. Fear can cause uncertainty, which could cloud an individual’s decision-making capability. This is true in all untrained or marginally experienced people. Training will diminish this dilemma (however, to some extent it will always be there); confident in their abilities, individuals and teams will be better prepared for what they may encounter

Physical Factors
Just as darkness affects the mind, it also affects the senses. Maximizing the capabilities of the senses will enhance an individuals ability to move and fight at night. Improving the senses of hearing and smelling requires training; vision is maximized by understanding how the eye operates differently at day and night and how to efficiently use its capabilities.

Hearing: At night, hearing becomes more acute. Several factors contribute to this: increased concentration; sound travels farther in cooler, moist air, and less background noise. Practice and training will help overcome an individual's fear in what they hear at night. Training enables individuals to discriminate multiple sounds, faint sounds, and sound source directions. Below are some examples of sounds that you might encounter and the distances the normal human ear can hear at night:
- Normal Footsteps (20 – 30 meters)
- Footsteps over leaves and branches (60 – 80 m)
- Normal conversation (90 – 100 m)
- Conservation in low voice (35 – 45 m)
- Coughing (55 – 65 m)
- Cocking / loading a weapon (400 – 500 m)
- Motor vehicle movement on a dirt road / highway (500 m / 1,000 m)
- Screams (1,500 m)
- Single rifle shot (2,000 – 3,000 m)
- Automatic weapons fire (3,000 – 4,000 m)
Remember sharp sounds carry much farther, and unnatural sounds are much more easily identified. When patrolling, whenever possible, try to use natural or normal sounds to mask your movement. Move quickly as possible when these sounds can be used to your advantage (e.g., a car drives by, a gust of wind through the trees, etc).
Check team members and equipment for objects, which can make noise. Have member’s jump-shuffle before moving out. Some things to be aware of:
- Loose change or keys in pockets
- Hand guards or sling on weapons
- Loose boot laces
- Loosely attached items, such as flashlights
- Items that “flop” forward when you stoop or bend over
- Water sloshing in a half-full canteen

Smell: Of all the senses, smell is used the least and often ignored. In the movie “Uncommon Valor”, Col. Rhodes (Gene Hackman) tells the team “…we will be eating nothing but Vietnamese food from now on. We don’t want to be tromping through the jungle smelling like Americans”. This was because different diets produce different characteristic human odors. With some training, individuals should be able to easily detect and differentiate between different odors. Additional clues like exhaust from fuel-burning engines, cooking odors, campfire, tobacco and aftershave can linger long enough to signal an individual/ team of possible contact. Below are some examples of odors that you might encounter and the distances the normal human nose can detect them at night:
- Cigarette smoke (150 m)
- Heat tab (300 m)
- Diesel fuel (500 m)

Vision: Vision at night is different from vision during the day. At night, eyes cannot differentiate color, and easily blinded when exposed to light. The color receptors are clustered near the center of the retina, creates a central blind spot, which causes larger objects to be missed as distances increase. Below are some examples of light sources that you might encounter and the distances at which these light sources could be seen at night with the naked eye:
- Lighted cigarette (500 – 800 m)
- Lighted match (1,500 m)
- Muzzle flashes from small-arms weapons (1,500 – 2,000 m)
- Flashlight (2,000 m)
- Vehicle headlights (4,000 – 8,000 m)
While at the retreat, members know that during the hours of darkness, everyone must observe strict blackout rules. Windows, entrances, and other openings through which light can shine must be covered with shutters, screens, curtains, and other special opaque materials to prevent light from escaping. The same is true while out on patrol (e.g. if you need to review a map, use a tactical red lens flashlight (with cardboard filter cutout – to create a smaller beam); be on the ground and under a poncho). If members are lucky enough to have night vision devices, be aware that they can throw off a retro-reflective glow commonly know by soldiers as “cat-eyes” reflection. This glow could be seen by others also using night vision devices. Members should always assume that others, not in the group, have just as much or even more technology as they do.

Relation of Vision to Light and Shadows:
- When light, such as the low full moon is faced vision is decreased.
- When light, such as the high full moon, is behind, vision is increased.
- When light is straight overhead, the effect is neutral. To the patrol looking for a target, both are easily seen when moving, and hard to see when in the shadows or stationary.
- Direct lighting will ruin your night vision.
- It is easy to see looking from darkness into light, but nearly impossible when looking from a lighted area into darkness. (e.g. standing near a campfire).
- When holding a light, you become a long-range target, while you can only see your immediate surroundings.
- Silhouetting an object with light from its rear will clearly define it.
- Camouflaged individuals in the shadows are extremely hard to see, even when moving.
- The smaller the object, the further away it will look. The bigger the object, the nearer it will appear making range estimation difficult.
- Bright objects will seem closer, obscured or dark objects will seem farther away, again making range estimation difficult.

Improving Night Abilities
Awareness: Become in tuned with your surroundings – be able to differentiate between what is normal, and what is not (or being able to notice the absence of normal sights, sounds, objects, or activities). It is also being able to subconsciously catalog the various sounds and have a mental alarm when something is not right. Being aware is something that can be developed through training. Remember, you do not always have to be in camouflage, with weapons or on patrol to conduct training. Some examples of exercises that individuals or a team can practice (day and night) are:
- In either an urban environment or at the retreat, sit quietly and carefully, listen to each and every sound, identify and cataloging each individually, rather than incorporating it into the overall drone creating by the mass of sounds. Be aware of what is natural, or normal, and when the sounds should be heard (e.g., birds singing during the day and not at night). Lock the sound into your subconscious so that you will be able to take warning when their absence is inappropriate, as well as when their presence is normal. When doing these exercises, simply relax, breathe deeply and focus your mind.
- Practice on smelling techniques. Face into the wind, nose at a 45-degree angle, relax, breath normally; then take sharp sniffs, concentrate and think about specific odor.
- Practice moving at night or with a blindfold, becoming aware of texture and feel.
- Practice moving through various terrains, during different times of the day and the year; and in various weather conditions.
- Sit around a moderately normal area, such as dry, short grass (not knee-deep dry leaves) with everyone’s eyes tightly closes, head down. While everyone is concentrating on listening, have one team member try to move toward someone else and try to touch them, without being detected; or place someone in a designated area, and try to move the team to the position without being detected. With practice, members will be surprised not only at how well they can now move more quietly; but also, how good they have become at detecting sounds.
Dark Adaptation: Is the process by which the eyes increase their sensitivity to low levels of light. Individuals adapt to the darkness at varying degrees and rates. During the first 30 minutes in a dark environment, the eye sensitivity increases roughly 10,000 times, but not much further after that time. [JWR Adds: A good diet that has plentiful Retinol (the animal form of Vitamin A) is also important. Just keep in mind that because Vitamin A is fat-soluble, you should not over-dose on Vitamin A. Remember the standard KADE rule for dosing vitamins that are not water soluble!]
- Adaptation is affected by exposure to bright lights such as matches, flashlights, flares, and vehicle headlights; taking 30 - 45 minutes for full recovery.
- Night vision devices can impede dark adaptation; however, if an individual adapts to the dark before donning the device, they should regain full dark adaptation in about two minutes after removing them.
- Color perception decreases during darkness where light and dark colors distinguished depending on the intensity of the reflected light.
- Visual sharpness at night is one-seventh of what it is during the day, this is why individuals can only see large, bulky objects.

Protecting Night Vision: While working and performing tasks in daylight, the exposure to this light will directly affect night vision. Exposure to bright sunlight for two to five hours causes a definite decrease in visual sensitivity, which can also persist for equally as long. During this same time, the rate of dark adaptation and the degree of night vision capability will be decreased. These effects are cumulative and may persist for several days. Therefore, neutral density sunglasses or equivalent filter lenses should be used during daylight when night operations are anticipated.

Night Vision Scanning: Dark adaptation is only the first step toward maximizing the ability to see at night. Night vision scanning enables individuals to overcome many of the physiological limitations of their eyes and reduce the visual illusions that so often confuse them. The technique involves scanning from either right to left (or from left to right) using a slow, regular scanning movement. Although both day and night searches use scanning movements, at night individuals must avoid looking directly at a faintly visible object when trying to confirm its presence.

Off-Center Vision: Viewing an object using central vision during daylight poses no limitation, but this technique is ineffective at night. This is because the eye has a night blind spot that exists during low light. To compensate for this limitation, individuals use what is called “off-center vision”. This technique requires looking approximately 10 degrees above, below, or to either side of an object rather than directly at it. This allows the peripheral vision of the eye to remain in contact with an object. It must be noted that even when off-center viewing is practiced, the image of an object viewed longer than two to three seconds tends to bleach out and become one solid tone. As a result, the object is no longer visible and can produce a potentially unsafe operating condition. To overcome this condition, the individual must be aware of this phenomenon and avoid looking at an object longer than two to three seconds. By shifting their eyes from one off-center point to another, individuals can continue to pick up the object in his peripheral field of vision.

Training: While at the retreat, it is important to set up realistic training scenarios, using role players, and in the terrain, your team is most likely to encounter. Since night operations are a broad topic, covering a full spectrum of many necessary skills, the following minimum things should be evaluated:
- Discipline and teamwork.
- Proper use of cover and concealment (including react to flares - ground/ air)
- Selection of proper positions and routes (geographic study of the terrain to include potential obstacles, natural or man-made)
- Noise and light discipline.
- Team’s ability to follow its plan.
- Use of contingency plans.
- Employment of proper tactics.
- Proper undetected movement
- Traveling formations (file versus wedge)
- Good planning sequence.
- Stealth techniques (night walking, stalking)
- Proper use of camouflage.
- React to unplanned contact (immediate action drills – contact front/ rear; right/ left; ambush, etc.)
- Movement on ridges and hilltops (which lead to detection).
- Abort and rally point exercises.
- Crossing danger areas (roads or open areas).
In addition to the above, the follow areas should be evaluated for urban environments:
- Moving past windows (low and high).
- Moving through doors.
- Getting over walls and fences.
- Getting under chain linked fences.
- Observation and movement techniques.

Although, modern electronic night vision devices are available, not everyone will be able to afford them or know how to use them to their full capability. Remember that fancy equipment is in no way a substitute for complete, balanced, and specific training. Therefore, night training is a "must" requirement for all individuals/ teams at your retreat. It will allow everyone to become confident in their abilities (obtaining high morale and a mental offensive spirit) even without the aid of night vision devices.

The last piece of advice I will leave you with is: The only thing more difficult than training (or planning for an emergency) is having to explain why you didn’t train. Good-luck and God Bless!

FM 7-70 Light Infantry Platoon/Squad, Appendix D, Night Operations
FM 7-93 Long-Range Surveillance Unit Operations, Appendix K, Night Operations.
Brown, Tom, and Bolyn, Heather. “Tom Brown's Field Guide to Nature Observation and Tracking”. Penguin Group Inc., New York, New York, 1986

"I think there is a 90% probability the great crisis will be upon us within ten years" says Richard Maybury, of the Early Warning Report newsletter. Maybury has been uncannily prescient on geopolitical and economics for many years. Thanks, to Nick, for the link

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F.M. sent us this: PEMEX Expects Oil Depletion in Seven Years

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OSOM flagged this article: Fannie and Freddie Failure Would be Catastrophic. OSOM's comment: "So the question is, how much of our taxpayer money, and inflationary fiat money will be used to bail them out?"

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Michael A. mentioned "The World's Best Cane" as a perfect 'hidden-in-plain-sight' defense tool. Michael notes: "They are made in the US, out of Brazilian Cherry Wood (laminated), with the handle cast out of bronze. It's very, very tough, yet also a piece of artwork. In California, where it is so often difficult or impossible to carry something to defend yourself with, it also has a 'dual' function of being used as a 'baton' or 'long hammer'. [Since they are classed as ambulatory aids,] TSA won't be able to stop you from bringing your cane onboard an aircraft! I can see how someone might want to take this cane on vacation where you cannot legally or conveniently carry another self-defense device." JWR Adds: Don't under-estimate the value of a cane, walking stick, or full-size umbrella in situations where you cannot carry a gun. Several times in SurvivalBlog I've mentioned the Barton-Wright system of walking stick self defense that was developed more than a century ago. Be ready and able, regardless of circumstances. Even a tightly-rolled newspaper can be pressed into service as a form of baton, but of course a well-made cane with hardwood shaft is vastly superior.

"You are as much serving God in looking after your own children, training them up in God's fear, minding the house, and making your household a church for God as you would be if you had been called to lead an army to battle for the Lord of hosts." - Charles Spurgeon

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Many thanks to the several new 10 Cent Challenge subscribers hat have signed up in the last few days. These subscriptions are entirely voluntary, and gratefully accepted. The Memsahib's recent hospitalization was incredibly expensive, so your support of SurvivalBlog is particularly appreciated this month!

Mr. Editor:
I live 50 miles west of Washington, DC. How do you feel about the Shenandoah mountains area as a retreat location? I was thinking about building a cabin with a Safecastle underground [blast/fallout/security] shelter. I have not yet bought the land yet but it is a good time to do so. I look forward to talking with you soon. - Mike

JWR Replies: I highly recommend Safecastle's shelters, but a shelter by itself will not ensure our safety in truly desperate times. You will also need geographic isolation. I think that anywhere that is within one tank of gasoline driving radius of the DC/Baltimore area is a dicey proposition. For anywhere inside that radius, I strongly recommend that you carefully study likely refugee lines of drift, and find a place that is very far off the beaten path--preferably a truly bypassed area that is isolated by unique geography (Steep ridges, bodies of water, et cetera.) My suggestion is that you don't want to be anywhere near a highway or even railroads! Anywhere close to a major metropolitan area, you can expect a lot of company (of the bad sort). This would require very robust (and expensive ) defense. It can be done, but why not avoid most trouble, by being much more remote? This is much more feasible on a modest budget.

It has been more than three years since I posted the following, so it worth re-posting, for the sake of the majority of SurvivalBlog readers who have all joined us in just the past 18 months: (Our readership has doubled in the past 14 months. We now have around 89,000 unique visitors per week.) This was posted under the title "The Illusion of Isolation":

If you are an eastern urbanite and come to the conclusion that you need to buy “a cabin in upstate New York” or “a brick house in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens,” then you are wrong, quite possibly dead wrong. (By the way, I had both of those earnestly suggested, in e-mails from readers of my novel "Patriots".) A rural area that is within an overall heavily populated region is not truly rural. It lacks real isolation from the basic problem--population. Most of these “rural” areas—except perhaps for a few fortunately bypassed zones, as I mentioned yesterday--will be overwhelmed by refugees and looters in a true TEOTWAWKI. You will need to be at least one tank of gas away from the larger metropolitan areas--preferably 300 miles or more, if possible.

A retreat is not just “a cabin in the mountains.” Rather, it is a well-prepared and defensible redoubt with well-planned logistics. A proper survival retreat is in effect a modern day castle. Be prepared to escalate your defensive posture to match an escalating threat, and in a “worst case” your retreat will be so well defended that looters will most likely give up and find someone less prepared to prey upon. Ideally, a survival retreat is located in a region with the following characteristics:

A long growing season.
Geographic isolation from major population centers.
Sufficient year-round precipitation and surface water.
Rich topsoil.
A diverse economy and agriculture.
Away from interstate freeways and other channelized areas.
Low taxes.
Non-intrusive scale of government.
Favorable zoning and inexpensive building permits.
Minimal gun laws.
No major earthquake, hurricane, or tornado risks.
No flooding risk.
No tidal wave risk (at least 200 feet above sea level.)
Minimal forest fire risk.
A lifestyle geared toward self-sufficiency.
A homogeneous population
Plentiful local sources of wood or coal.
No restrictions on keeping livestock.
Defendable terrain.
Not near a prison or large mental institution.
Inexpensive insurance rates (home, auto, health).
Outside blast radius and upwind from major nuclear weapons targets.

After digesting the foregoing list and taking it seriously, you should be able to greatly narrow your search for potential retreat regions. And if you haven't done so already, please read my "Recommended Retreat Areas" static page. Even greater detail is available in my nonfiction book "Rawles on Retreats and Relocation".

With your recent food accounts that brought up constipation, I wanted to bring up slippery elm bark. It is an inexpensive food additive/herbal remedy to make sure that your digestion is processing smoothly.-

Love ya brother, but low rigs are not necessarily"Mall Ninja." A coupe of circumstances warrant them; First, body armor like US military issue Interceptor Body Armor (IBA). Having a pistol on your hip when wearing IBA/rack gear is not fun. The gun and gear is always gimping you and hanging up, especially when you're in and out of vehicles. Second; when you're wearing a BDU or ACU type top that isn't tucked in. Again, it's constantly binding or hanging up and, unlike an open front vest, digging up under the top to get at the gun and then trying to get it clear is not very cool either.

The thigh rigs are not very comfortable themselves either, but they beat the hang-ups at hip level when wearing gear and out of pants tops. They bang around when you run and flop around when you walk, unless you go with a wide base and snug the straps down real good, then they stay in place. Properly adjusted for height, you can get pretty fast with a thigh rig too.

At the end of the day, there is no comfort to be found anywhere in armed situations, only varying levels of misery. - Mosby

Dave in S.C. recommended a handy FAQ on DC batteries.

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Cyberiot sent us this article: Problem bank list keeps growing. It includes this troubling metric: "FDIC says list of troubled banks in 2nd quarter grows to 117 with $78 billion in assets - up from 90 banks, $26 billion in assets in 1st quarter..." Speaking of the FDIC, several other readers suggested this article: FDIC weighs tapping Treasury as funds run low. I've said it before: Be ready for a massive wave of bank runs, folks.

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Reader "MGB" suggested a piece over at the S.S.R.I. web site with details on weapons caching, using PVC pipe.

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Matt in Texas alerted us to an article by Mike Whitney that cites this from UK Telegraph piece: "The US money supply has experienced the sharpest contraction in modern history, heightening the risk of a Wall Street crunch and a severe economic slowdown in coming months. Data compiled by Lombard Street Research shows that the M3 ''broad money" aggregates fell by almost $50bn in July, the biggest one-month fall since modern records began in 1959."

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Copious contributor Cheryl N. sent us another big batch of economic news: FHA, Next Disaster In The Works, CitiGroup Really Cutting Costs (Really!), Citigroup Thinks Fannie, Freddie Good Til End Of Year, Bank Borrowing From European Central Bank Is Out Of Control, Credit Crisis II, Banking Stocks Dragging Asia Lower, Dead Men Walking

"Ludwig von Mises warned us that governments will destroy free-markets long before they ever understand how they work. I would like to add that governments will destroy free-markets if they do not like the message of the market. Government intervention after all is nothing but a blatant attempt to change the market's message about the price of some good or service. We have seen this intervention time and again by governments around the world, including the U.S. government. Sen. Lieberman's bill to prevent institutional investors from buying commodities is a good example of this penchant to destroy the market process rather than put the blame on the real culprit, which is the US government itself and its mismanagement of the dollar, which itself is an un-Constitutional currency." - James Turk

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Today we present another entry for Round 18 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The contest prizes include:

First Prize: The writer of the best contributed article in the next 60 days will be awarded two transferable Front Sight  "Gray" Four Day Training Course Certificates. This is an up to $4,000 value!
Second Prize: A three day course certificate from OnPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses.
Third Prize: A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing

Round 18 ends on September 30th, 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.

Den Traps are my favorite type of trap, and knowing how to make and use them may be the most important survival skill you ever acquire. Once you grasp this concept, you will have the ability to provide fresh meat for yourself, friends, and family, for the rest of your life. So, what is a den trap? Den Traps are the best permanent trap design ever invented. A den trap is simply an artificial den or burrow, built to shelter wild game animals until you are ready to harvest them.

A Den Trap has many advantages over any other type of trap. The trap is permanent, and will provide you with game for years, or even decades. It will catch many different types of game, and no bait is required. It is always set; one animal going in will not lock others out, so you can catch several animals at once, and may even catch different types of game at the same time. It will work all year, and in all weather conditions. In fact, bad weather prompts game to shelter in these traps, so they will often produce game when other trap designs will not.

Any other type of trap must be checked quite often, to see if it has been sprung, and animals must be processed right away, when killed in a snare (or other killing-type trap), or taken care of, once caught in a live-catch type trap. With den traps, game animals actually take care of themselves until you wish to harvest them for food. You can ignore a den trap for weeks or even months and no game will die in the trap.

Some animals dig their own dens, but most will happily adopt any type of shelter they can find. There is always a housing shortage in the wild, and very few places are as suitable as your den trap will be, so animals will benefit in several ways when you build these traps. A game hideout at the entrance to the den trap provides a perfect hiding place with overhead cover, and game can enter and exit the hideout from two different directions. The trap provides shelter from both predators and the elements, allowing more young game to survive, so you will actually be boosting game population in every area that you build den traps.

From my long-term survival perspective, den traps are great for several more reasons. Since they are hidden from view, no one will know that trapping is going on, making them perfect for use in areas such as public lands. [Consult yourlocal game regulations.] The underground version of the trap is hard to spot, making it unlikely that your game will be stolen, or your trap destroyed. This trap can be made in many different variations, using scrounged items or trash, or built completely out of natural materials. It can even be scaled up to catch larger game, such as coyotes.

No other trap offers the advantages that this one does. A few installed around your location will be available to collect game from, for many years in the future. They can also be made now, and placed in an area that you may want to stay at later, and will be ready to provide you with food when you arrive. Den Traps could be installed at every location that you like to visit or camp, helping the game to flourish in each area you have chosen. This allows you to move from location to location, while having a supply of fresh food waiting for you at each stop.

Now you are probably wondering if Den Traps have any disadvantages, and of course they do, as any design has some “engineering trade-offs”. These are permanent traps, so they are not portable (but you can build them wherever they are needed). They take a certain amount of time and effort to construct, which varies with the exact style of trap you choose to make. Once finished, it also takes some time for local game to find these traps, get used to them, and start using them, so you don’t set them up quickly, like wire snares, or cable-lock deer snares, and expect to have game trapped the next morning. But aside from these few drawbacks, there is no better permanent trap, for long-term survival.

In fact, the longer this type of trap is in place, the better it works, as more game in the area locate your dens and move in. And although it isn’t required, you can shorten the time it takes game to find and use your dens, by putting some bait (such as a sardine, minnows, dry dog food, or a dab of peanut butter) in the game hideout at the entrance to each den every day for a few days, to help animals locate and get used to their new housing.

Construction: There are many different ways to make these traps, but all share some similarities. A den trap consists of four basic parts; a den box with a removable lid, an entrance tunnel, a game hideout at the entrance, and a blocking pole [or panel] (which is used to prevent game from escaping, when you go to collect them from the den). You can use many different materials for each of these parts, and you may think up your own unique variations.

There are three basic styles of Den Traps; above-ground traps, sunken traps, and underground traps. The above-ground style is the easiest to build, but it is also the easiest for other people to find. The underground style is just the opposite, harder to build, but also harder to locate. The sunken style is half-buried, so it splits the difference between the other two styles. First, we will describe how to make an above-ground Den Trap.

Above-Ground Den Trap:

The Den: You can make all of your den boxes from scratch, using lumber or plywood, but I seldom use this method, because I prefer to improvise. I like to make my dens out of locally available materials, so if I am in a wooded area with lots of sticks and tree limbs, I will build a den box out of sticks, like a miniature log cabin.

If I am in a rocky area, I make a den box by stacking up stones to make the walls, like a little stone house.

If I am out in a grassy area, where materials are scarce, I make the den box using squares of grassy sod dug up with a shovel, or mud bricks (made by mixing mud and grass), like a small adobe building.

I prefer to make the top of adobe dens from sticks or scrap lumber, or pieces of plywood or corrugated roofing, if any of these are available. You can make a sod roof, using a shape like an igloo, or skep beehive, but it may collapse in wet weather. Stick roofs can be improved by covering them with some plastic, for waterproofing, if you have any. A den that stays warm and dry is a den that catches more game.

If I am near a junkyard, or other source of man-made materials, I use whatever looks suitable. The den box can be made from any suitably sized wooden or metal box, a five gallon bucket with lid, a plastic storage tub, an old trash can, a large flower pot, or even a large section of hollow log, or hollow stump. Your den only needs to be big enough for several game animals to fit inside, so den boxes can be as small as 12 inches square, but 18 inches is better, and 24 inches on each side is very roomy, by den standards. Dens can be made round, square, or rectangular, as desired. Twelve inches is a good standard height for any den box, as few small game animals stand over one foot high. If you want to trap coyotes, you will have to make larger dens. (Thee feet by three feet).

The top of your den box should be open, or have an opening built or cut into it, which is large enough for you to reach into, so that you can remove game from the trap. The top (or the opening) is covered with one or two lids, an (optional) screen lid, which allows you to see into the den without letting game escape, and a solid lid, which closes the den, and keeps out sunlight.

The solid lid will be covered with a layer of leaves or forest debris, to hide the trap, and to help keep the den dark (because game will not stay in a den, if sunlight shines into it). The game hideout also helps to keep direct sunlight out of the entrance tunnel, and den box. The den box also needs an opening on one side, to connect to the entrance tunnel.

The solid lid can be made from a variety of materials, just like the other trap parts. Again, I tend to use whatever is handy, where I happen to be. A lid can be made by lashing sticks together, or it can be a large, thin, flat rock. Scrap plywood makes a good lid, or several pieces of crap lumber can be nailed [or screwed] together to make one. A piece of corrugated roofing works okay, and old metal or plastic trash can lids make good den box lids. (Wow, lids make good lids!)

The solid lid should be larger than the opening it covers, to help seal out rain and sunlight. I like to put two handles on my lid, to make it easy to lift up when checking the trap, as the lid will be covered with leaves. The handles can be made from rope, cordage, nylon strapping, or wire, or you can use old screen door handles.

The Entrance Tunnel:

Entrance tunnels are the way the game gets into the den box. You just need a tunnel about four feet long, and big enough for your game to fit inside; six inches across is good for small game, twelve will do for the largest possums and raccoons, and eighteen inches will work for coyotes. Again, I like to use locally available materials.

In wooded areas, lay two four-foot long small logs down, the right distance apart. Put a third log on top of these two, so that it bridges the gap, and you have a tunnel. The logs can be flattened on the inside, if you want, to make a smoother tunnel.

In rocky areas I make two lines of stones, the right distance apart, and place flat stones across the gap, to create the tunnel.

In grassy plains areas, I use lines of sod or adobe bricks, but I use a plank for the top of the tunnel, so that it won’t cave in when it rains.

When man-made materials are available, you have a number of options. Tunnels can be made from planks or plywood nailed together, to form hollow square columns (or hollow triangular columns). You can also use old plastic or metal pipe, metal or concrete culverts, old bricks or cinder blocks, or even old drain tiles, roofing gutters, or downspouts. You could also use several large cans or buckets wired together, with the ends cut out.

The entrance tunnel fits up against the opening in the side of the den box, so that animals can crawl through the tunnel, and enter the den.

My favorite entrance tunnels are made from hollow logs that I cut into four-foot long sections, or hollow logs that are open on one side (you just put the open side down, and this is also how you use rain gutters). I am always looking around for more hollow logs, which I cut up into sections, and save for using with my next batch of den traps.

These logs often have rotted wood inside, which needs to be cleaned out, using an axe and adze for open logs, or a spud (a large debarking chisel on a pole) for enclosed hollow logs. You can often knock the rotted wood out with just a length of metal pipe and a hammer. If you don’t have any tools, you can always burn them out using campfire coals, if you are careful (keep water on hand to douse the flames, as needed).

The Game Hideout: When you have made your den and entrance tunnel, find a rock (or short section of log), and put it a foot or so in front of the entrance tunnel. Now find a flat rock, or slab of wood, and place it so that it bridges over from the entrance tunnel to the first rock. This creates a little game hideout where animals can stay hidden, and be protected from overhead attacks by birds of prey. They can also come and go from either side, so animals will feel like they have an escape route, as well as being able to retreat down the entrance tunnel.

Game animals will consider this to be a perfect arrangement, and will be drawn to live here as soon as they find the den. Now cover the flat rock with leaves or forest duff, to help it blend in. The hideout can be further disguised by grass, brush, or other rocks, as desired.

The Blocking Pole: A blocking pole is just a stick, limb, pole, or pipe which is longer than the entrance tunnel, and has a block of wood fastened on one end, the right size and shape to block the tunnel. To use, you insert the pole (block end first) into the tunnel, until the block is up against the opening of the den box. This requires you to temporarily remove the game hideout cover first, and usually the rock in front of the entrance as well.

The blocking pole will seal the den, so that game can’t escape, and if any game happened to be inside the entrance tunnel, it will drive them back into the den. To keep the block from going past the tunnel and into the den, make the entrance hole on the side of the den box a little smaller than the entrance tunnel, or you can put a couple of nails at the end of the tunnel as a stop, if it is made from wood.

Once you have constructed your above-ground den trap, and made sure that the blocking pole will fit into the entrance tunnel properly, then the trap should be covered with a thick layer of leaves and forest debris, to insulate it, disguise it, and to seal out sunlight from any gaps.

You can also make the walls of the den box and tunnel thicker, if made from sod or stones, or chink stones with a mixture of mud and grass, if you want, or cover the exterior with a piece of old plastic or canvas before adding leaves, or you can cover the trap with a layer of dirt (an earth berm), before adding forest debris, to help block out light. Any of these techniques work ok, so pick one. Extra insulation is especially important in northern locations with severe winters.

Where To Locate Den Traps: The best locations for den traps are alongside existing game trails, and close to year-round streams or water holes, where game goes to drink and find food. So install your den traps where the game already travels, preferably in a well-drained and gently sloping location, and above any possible flooding, as you don’t want your dens to fill up with water. In swampy areas you will have to use the highest ground available, even if it is not ideal, so look for any small hills or ridges that may be in the area.

Almost any animal that can fit into the entrance tunnel will use your den, both meat animals and furbearing game. Yet another advantage to den traps is that most animals are nocturnal, so you can check your traps during the day when it is convenient, and the game will be sleeping away inside. No more having to get up at the crack of dawn, to check your trap lines before your catch is spoiled, eaten by predators, or stolen by trap line thieves.

Harvesting game: So you made some den traps, and then waited a few weeks for animals to take up residence. When you are ready to collect your game, you remove the flat rock (or wood slab) that makes up the top of the game hideout (and the rock in front of the entrance tunnel, if necessary). Insert the blocking pole into the tunnel, until the block is up against the den entrance. Now dig around in the leaves and forest debris above the den box, until you find the rope or wire handles that you made.

Lift up gently, to remove the solid lid (with the mat of debris still intact on top of it), and then you can inspect your catch. The mat of forest debris tends to compact into a solid mass of compost over time, making it easy to remove and replace the lid, without having to clear away the leafy cover first. You can also tie the debris to the lid with string or fishing line, in a simple net pattern, and then add a bit more debris, to conceal the cordage. (The Viet Cong sometimes glued leaves to the trap doors of their tunnel hideouts, so they wouldn’t fall off.)

Screen Lids: The screen lid is optional, as game often will not even try to escape, but will cower in the den long enough for you to make a decision, but you want to inspect the den carefully before actually reaching inside, because you may find rattlesnakes or skunks in your trap. I like to use screen lids, as I find that they keep me from feeling rushed. Also, any technique that helps you avoid losing food will be worth using in a famine, or any true long-term survival scenario.

If you opt for a screen lid, there are many different ways to make one (Hey, I see a pattern here!) A screen lid can be a simple wooden frame, covered by chicken wire, window screen, hardware cloth, or expanded metal.

I usually make my screens from sticks or bamboo lashed together into an open lattice, because I like to make things out of sticks, and sticks are easy to collect for free. The screen allows you to see what you caught, without letting any game jump out, so you can decide if you want to collect or shoot your catch at your leisure.

Since den traps are live-catch traps, captured game can be removed unharmed, if desired, so you can use them as livestock, or as trade goods, or you can fatten them up in cages before eating them (possums and raccoons are much better eating after they have been fattened up on kitchen scraps first). Predators and nuisance animals (such as skunks) should usually be killed, to reduce their numbers in the local area.

Sunken Den Traps, and Underground Den Traps:

The sunken versions of den traps are similar to the above-ground traps, except the den box is installed in a hole in the ground. Sunken dens can be from half-buried, to deep enough that the top is flush with the ground level. This reduces the visibility profile of the trap. Underground den traps are set deep enough that the top of the den box is below ground level (10 to 12 inches lower), allowing them to be completely concealed from view.

Since these styles of trap are set in the ground to one degree or another, the entrance tunnels must be placed in slanted ditches, so that they run from the game hideout on the surface, to the opening in the side of the den box, which will be below ground level. The entrance tunnel can be as simple as a narrow ditch, covered by a log, plank, flat rocks, or old corrugated tin, if the soil is stable enough to prevent cave-ins. More durable entrance tunnels, which are required in soft or sandy soils, can be made from the hollow logs I like, or any of the other methods already mentioned for above-ground traps.

In fact, if the ground is hard enough (such as hardpan, clay, or rock-filled soil), the den “box” can be a simple hole, but the entrance hole (at the den box end of the entrance tunnel) should be made smaller than the tunnel, using rocks or wooden stakes, to provide a stop for the blocking pole. One other advantage to the sunken and underground designs is that, since the entrance tunnel slopes downwards, the end of the blocking pole will be elevated, and so it usually fits over the rock in front of the entrance tunnel, meaning that you only have to remove the overhead cover stone from the game hideout, to insert the blocking pole into the entrance tunnel.

I prefer to make the underground style of den trap, whenever circumstances permit, but it is easier to make above-ground den traps, if you don’t have any tools. This is one of the reasons that my caches, vehicle kits, bugout kits, and survival kits contain Army surplus entrenching shovels, small pickaxes, and saws and hatchets. You can improvise digging sticks, but having good tools available makes the construction process much easier.

Once you make one of these traps, you will see for yourself just how well they work. If you build a test trap close to your home on your property, you could also install a small security camera with infrared night vision capability, inside the den box, and wire it to a remote monitor. This would let you see when animals are in the trap, if you have the equipment available, and you feel like going to the effort.

Please note that, like everything else fun and useful, making and using these traps could be illegal, or could become illegal, as new laws are passed. Use discretion, research you local and state laws, and use this information for survival situations only. I hope that you find this useful, and remember: “God Decides The Outcome Of Every Battle”.

Mr. Rawles,
I have a retreat in northern lower Michigan were I have begun staging my Get Out of Dodge (G.O.O.D.) supplies. I have several containers full of non-hybrid vegetable seeds, and a large amount of staples (wheat, corn, dry beans, dry pasta, amaranth etc.) approximately an 18 month supply for four adults. My question is do you know of any plants I can put on the property that I can let grow wild to help supplement my food storage until I can get my garden planted and ready to harvest. I have planted some raspberry bushes, and blueberries that have been thriving. I have also planted some amaranth, but have not been able to get away to see if it has taken or not. I need something that won't need a lot of attention. I manage to get up to the retreat several times in the summer months and a few times every winter. - Scott from Michigan

The Memsahib Replies: A look at old homesteads will give you a good clue what kinds of plants can survive through years of neglect. The top of my list would be heirloom varieties of berry vines, apples, plums, and rhubarb.

One of our many subscribers with a Hushmail address suggested this TED Talk video: Adam Grosser: A new vision for refrigeration

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Cheryl N. sent us this: FDIC Gets Ready for Bank Failures

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Also from Cheryl: Wall Street Fears the Worst as US Housing Sales Continue to Fall

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A SurvivalBlog reader in Arizona wote me to mention that he just acquired several Wells Fargo vaults (about 5' x 6' and around 3,000 pounds each) along with several smaller but still large safes and fireproof filing cabinets. If any readers in Arizona might be interested, these are very inexpensive versus normal retail. Contact : Robert Mayer. (617) 997-6295. Note: This offer comes from someone that I've never met or done business with, so caveat emptor.

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Here are a couple of discussion forums that SurvivalBlog readers might find of interest: Tree of Liberty Forums and Beacon Survival Forums.

"Unless derivatives contracts are collateralized or guaranteed, their ultimate value depends on the creditworthiness of the counterparties. In the meantime, though, before a contract is settled, the counterparties record profits and losses - often huge in amounts - in their current earnings statements without so much as a penny changing hands. The range of derivatives contracts is limited only by the imagination of man (or sometimes, so it seems, madmen)." - Warren Buffett, in a recent Berkshire Hathaway annual report

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

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Dear Mr. Rawles,
I just read "Patriots" and "Tappan On Survival". Both were greatly helpful and entertaining as well. Can you recommend any type of web gear to have ammo, handgun and rifle at the ready, both at home and on the farm? I see our military forces with all kinds of web equipment configurations, most notable is the hand gun in a thigh mounted holster. Front Sight taught me to shoot from a belt mounted holster and discourages shoulder holsters. It seems to me that a shoulder holster has a place, especially in a vehicle. Any thoughts on tactical rifle/shotgun slings?

Thanks for all you do, - RP

JWR Replies: Like you, I do not advocate thigh-level pistol holsters. These seem to have proliferated in recent years mostly because they look snazzy in SWAT television shows and movies. They are actually quite impractical for just about all situations except rappelling. (Which, if I really correctly is what they were originally designed for.) At thigh-level, a holstered pistol is quite tiring to wear when hiking. They are also slow to access, which increases the time to draw and fire your pistol. My advice is to instead buy a sturdy belt holster, and leave those thigh-level holsters for the Mall Ninja crowd.

I cannot over-stress the following: You must tailor a full web gear rig for each of your long guns. This should include a USGI LC-2 web belt, Y-harness (or H-harness) type padded suspenders, two ammo pouches, a couple of first aid/compass pouches, and a canteen with cover. Granted, you can only carry one long gun at a time, but odds are that you will be arming equipping a lot of family and friends after the Schumer hits the fan. So you will need a set of web gear for each gun. To simplify things, I bought a pile of new nylon sleeping bag stuff sacks in various earth tone colors, and placed a set of web gear and magazines in each of them. I then attached a label card to each sack's drawstring, associating it with its respective gun, for quick "grab it and go" reference.

It is important to think through: how, where, and and when you will need to carry or access your guns on a day-to-day basis. How will you carry in you car, on your tractor, on your quad, or on your horse? How will you carry a pistol if you need to conceal it? How will you carry in foul weather? What will you carry when gardening or during other chores? How and when will you carry accessories such as cleaning kits, bipods, and spotting scopes? What other items will you need to carry in the field that will also need to be kept handy, such as binoculars, flashlights, night vision gear, and GPS receivers?

For holsters, I recommend Kydex Blade-Tech brand holsters and mag pouches. That is what we use here at the Rawles Ranch. And when carrying just a pistol by itself, we use modestly-priced Uncle Mike's black nylon/velcro belts. (They are "Plain Jane", but sturdy and functional.) We do have a couple of leather "Summer Special" concealment holsters made by Milt Sparks Holsters. Their belts and holsters are highly recommended. I've been doing business with them for more than 20 years. They don't skimp on quality. The Milt Sparks belts and holsters range in style and price from utilitarian (like the rough-side out "Summer Special") to some that are downright stylish. (And priced accordingly.) The Blade-Tech holsters inexpensive enough that I put one holster and pistol magazine pouch on each of my sets of my sets of long gun web gear. This makes them much more readily available and eliminates the need to constantly reconfigure rigs, as situations change. Keep in mind that what is nothing more than a time-consuming inconvenience today, could cost be a huge problem en extremis, tomorrow!

I agree that shoulder holsters are undesirable in most situations. They do make sense, however, when you are a car for more than an hour. The bottom line is that if you find yourself removing your belt holster on long drives, then you are probably better off with a shoulder holster in those situations. If you ever have to "bail out" of a car in a hurry, you need to be armed. That means that the pistol has to be attached to your person. And if that means using a shoulder holster for the sake of comfort--despite their drawbacks--then so be it.

For rifle slings, I recommend a traditional two-loop military sling design. They really help steady a rifle for accurate long-range shooting. Attending a weekend WRSA or Appleseed rifle shooting clinic (both highly recommended, BTW) will show you how to properly adjust a two-loop sling for various shooting positions. (Once you've identified your "summer" sling adjustment notches (when wearing just a shirt) for prone and sitting positions, I recommend that using a black magic marker you circle the holes and mark them with a "P" and "Sit" , for quick reference. Draw another line or preferably a "W"--for Winter--at each adjustment, and again a circle around the notch holes, to indicate the longer adjustment needed when wearing a winter coat, a target shooting jacket, or a field jacket. OBTW, speaking of positions: I don't advocate using standing unsupported positions for either hunting or most defensive shooting situations. It takes just a moment to sit down, and just a bit longer to get prone. Not only will you be much more steady (and hence more accurate), but you will also present a much smaller target to your opponent(s). Yes, there are situations where you need to stand (such as when you are in tall brush, or when you are moving tactically), but the general rule is: If the situation allows it, then sit down, or better yet get prone!

For shotgun slings, in my experience a padded nylon extra-long sling (such as an M60 sling) works well. Unfortunately, most shotguns come from the factory with sling swivel studs that are mounted on the bottom of the gun. These are designed for duck hunters, not tactical use. Properly, they should have the front sling swivel mounted on the side, and the rear sling swivel mounted on the top of the stock. This way, when you carry a riotgun with the sling around the back of your neck (to keep the gun handy to come up to your shoulder quickly ) the gun won't flop upside down when you remove your hands. Retrofit your riotguns, as needed, for this configuration.

Locking quick detachable (QD) sling swivels are a must, because there are many tactical situations in which you won't want a sling at all. You need to be able to quickly attach and detach a sling.

For horse or quad (ATV) scabbards, I like the new brown Cordura nylon scabbards that are now on the market. Leather is more traditional, but it takes a painfully long time to dry out, which can induce rust on a gun in short order. Brown nylon won't win any beauty contests but it works. OBTW, buy a couple of spare tie-down straps for each scabbard, to give them greater mounting versatility.

OBTW, dull (non-glossy) olive drab (O.D.) duct tape is your friend. Buy a couple of big rolls of it. It has umpteen uses out in the field. I wrap each of my Y-harness snaps with duct tape, to keep them from rattling or coming loose. It is also useful for toning down any reflective objects. The best field gear is very quiet, very secure, and very unobtrusive. Applying O.D. duct tape helps with all three of those.

In closing, I 'need to add one important point: You can own the very best guns, and have the very best holsters and accessories, but they will be marginal at best in untrained hands. Once you've invested in your first gun, you should follow through and invest in the best training available. I most strongly recommend taking advantage of Front Sight's current "Guns and Gear " offer. I should mention that The Memsahib and I have both taken the Four Day Defensive Handgun course at Front Sight, and we can vouch that it is absolutely top notch. The trainers exude a quiet professionalism that is amazing. There is no shouting, bullying, or theatrical posturing. These folks are the best, and they know how to pass on their knowledge. We saw some shooters that had literally never fired a handgun before walk away at the end of that course with a level of combat handgun shooting proficiency that was better than most police officers! And I learned more about practical pistol shooting in four days than I had leaned in six years as a US Army officer! I guarantee you that the training at Front Sight will not disappoint you. Go for it! If you are serious about preparedness, then you should get the best training available. The Memsahib Adds: There were several women in our class that had never fired a gun before--including one that was attending Front Sight because her life had recently been threatened, and she was being stalked. The Front Sight instructors are exceptional in their ability to work with novice shooters, and were willing to work with students one-on-one, to encourage them.

What scares me [in Heinberg's article] is the use of words like “policy,” “regulations,” “controls,” “comprehensive plan,” etc.
At the least, this is government control of the economy. At the worst, of our personal lives. (Population control.)
He may have some technical points, but he is a bad sociologist. And a bad economist.

A free economy may not be the most efficient, but it works very well when the social side is considered.
There are all ready farmers of multi thousand acre places on the Great Plains, both US and Canada that are growing a few hundred acres of oil seed stock for their own, on farm, bio diesel operations.
Solar heated pig houses have been around for decades.
It is not uncommon for today’s dairy farms to create more electricity than they need with generators running off methane made on site.
I just read a story where a local ice company converted from electric refrigeration to a solar heated ammonia system. His electric bill was virtually eliminated.
All this so Joe Sixpack can get a bag of ice on his way to the lake.

All this is being done by individuals looking at current events, and thinking about the future. On their own.No “comprehensive plan” needed. No government involvement needed. (Or wanted.)

People are not stupid. They can, and do, make mistakes. But in the end, no control has always won out over control.
Do I think we have problems on the horizon? Sure. And I am making plans.
But I do not think running out of oil will be the cause. There are two factors keeping this from happening. First,
People, and companies, are, on their own, starting to conserve and convert.(Wal-Mart, and others, are putting solar panels on their store roofs.)

Second., There are still huge, untapped reserves around the Earth.
To date they have been bypassed for economic and political reasons, but when the price becomes right, those obstacles seem to go away.
According to Paul Ehrlich we all should have starved to death 30 years ago if we didn’t come up with a “comprehensive plan.”
We didn’t, and I don’t know about you, but I weigh about twice what I did 30 years ago. - Ken S.


The article by Richard Heinberg was very informative, but after all is said and done the fact remains that the problem is not food production, peak oil, peak water, phosphorous or anything else. Unless population growth is addressed, no amount of organic farming, technology or other methods of increasing production can be anything but a temporary fix.
Thank you for your fine blog. - E.L. in Washington



I am not so sure about the veracity of the two-part article by Richard Heinberg . Let me give you two examples:

On the point of needing fertilizer he wrote:
"The only solution here will be to recycle nutrients by returning all animal and humans manures to cultivated soil, as Asian farmers did for many centuries, and as many ecological farmers have long advocated."

It has been long known that spreading human waste in the field also spreads stomach ailments and other diseases. I would advise thinking about this a bit more
before doing it.

At the end of his article Richard Heinberg mentioned no-interest loans for farm land purchases. Didn't we just see what low interest rates for home loans did? Something like create a bubble in house prices, bubble pops, people lose their homes, banks around the world start failing. God only knows what else is in store for us because of bad monetary policy. And this guy wants to repeat this who thing by putting the same conditions on farm land, the thing that grows our food. - Ben M.


Dear Jim:
Well Richard Heinberg’s article certainly alarmed me, but not in the way he intended!
Yes, Peak Oil is real - but like any other commodity in a free market, shortages produce higher prices. Higher prices produce conservation, substitution, innovation, and a horde of entrepreneurs seeking to profit from the changed economic circumstances by giving consumers better options. No guarantees that our standard of living won’t go down during the transition to other energy sources, but the free (or currently semi-free) market has produced an incredible rise in living standards for a few centuries now (even before oil came on stream).
Richard Heinberg seems blind to the power of the market, and instead worships the power of the state to solve the Peak Oil problem. My jaw dropped when he spoke approvingly of how Cuba’s command economy adapted to the loss of Soviet oil. Yes, let’s just listen to the “experts” and go back to using oxen like the Cubans! Yikes! Somehow I think the human race has the creativity and ingenuity to do a little better than that!
But the biggest clue to his statist mindset - he calls for government subsidies of the “appropriate” solutions. And exactly which "omniscient" bureaucrat or politician figures out the optimal solution(s) to subsidize? To quote Thomas Sowell roughly: “I can’t think of a worse system than having the the people making the decisions be the same ones who pay no price for being wrong.”

How about entrepreneurs with their own money on the line making those decisions? How about consumers, voting with their own money, deciding which of these entrepreneurs profits? You know, the free market system that has the poorest folks in our society living better than the kings of 300 years ago…
Finally, the US government that Mr. Heinberg thinks can make rational decisions currently subsidizes the insane ethanol boondoggle. Many studies indicate ethanol takes more energy in oil inputs than the energy produced as ethanol. So our government subsidizes this energy sinkhole, sucking up scarce grain supplies, and consequently grain prices are artificially high. This is causing malnutrition of some of the poorest people on the planet. Why not even a peep about the reality of government subsidies distorting the market, and the truly evil results.
The sad part is that all the good that comes from his organization (the Post Carbon Institute) and its’ promotion of creative solutions will be overshadowed by the damage done by giving more intellectual support to government intervention.

So, indeed I am alarmed. If the Congress Critters listen to “experts” like this, who are ignorant of free market economics, we will have more boondoggles like the ethanol subsidies. If Peak Oil is a big a problem as he thinks it is, then we can’t afford government “help” misallocating scarce resources into losing propositions - while over taxation and over-regulation strangles entrepreneurs searching for viable solutions. Yours truly, - OSOM

New SurvivalBlog reader Brad H. mentioned the old farmer's standby product: Bag Balm. It is a medicated petroleum jelly that is marketed towards livestock but works wonders for dried skin on humans Brad notes: "Working winters in construction, my hands constantly become cracked. After a few days of using the balm, the crack is healed. I also use it for abrasions and small cuts and shortens the healing time. Most Agway [and other feed] stores carry the product."

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Costa Rica Jones flagged this: Diesel-Powered Mitsubishi Racing Lancer Fulfills Every Post-Apocalypse Fantasy Ever, Has 480 Lb-Ft Of Torque.

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Cheryl N. found this: Imminent Bank Failures- Credit Crisis Worst is Yet to Come. And this: Looming Financial Catastrophe: A Real Inconvenient Truth

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Two readers suggested watching Chris Martenson's video primer on Peak Oil.

"Self-sufficiency isn't a sexy idea. At best, people who say they're interested in being self-sufficient are stereotyped as dour, old-fashioned rural types. At worst, they're seen as fanatical survivalists planning for an apocalypse. Economists also tell us that self-sufficiency is an anachronism. Instead, it is specialization that produces wealth, and economies - including the world economy - produce the most wealth when everyone, including countries, specializes in what they do best and then trades their products for the other things they need. The more specialization, the more connectivity among specialists, and the more trade along those connections, the better." - Thomas Homer-Dixon and Sarah Wolfe, in a recent Globe and Mail editorial titled "Everything is Not Peachy"

Monday, August 25, 2008

Today, with permission, we present a guest editorial from Vox Day, the editor of the widely-read Vox Popoli blog.

Suckers! Many conservatives are aquiver with excitement that George Delano is daring to brave the third rail of American politics, the much-beloved welfare program set up by his philosophical predecessor, FDR. It is true, of course, that Social Security is nothing but a government-run Ponzi scheme, that there is no trust fund, that as an investment it is a complete rip-off, that it rewards white women at the expense of black men and that it is an outrageous violation of the Constitution of the United States of America.

But this does not mean that the Bush administration's plan to allow a modicum of private investment in the stock market is necessarily a winner or even an expansion of individual freedom in America. A single column is not sufficient to address a subject this complex, so I shall simply focus on one erroneous argument that is often used to support the administration's plan, namely, the notion that stock prices inevitably move up over time.

Superficially, this appears to be a most persuasive argument. If one looks back to 1965, which is when 65-year-olds retiring now were first entering the job market en masse, the Dow was around 900. Last Friday, the Dow closed at 10,800, a 12x gain. There can be little question that no Social Security recipient is getting back $12 for every dollar he put into the system, and yet, we must consider the first of several flaws in this crude analysis, namely, inflation.

Of that $12, almost half was nothing but inflation. One 1965 dollar is worth $5.81 now. That phenomenal gain doesn't looks so great now, given that one could do better than half as well just collecting compound interest, even at the miserable interest rates offered in basic savings accounts. But that's not all – it gets much worse.

One of the many dirty little secrets of Wall Street is that the Dow of 1965 is not the Dow of today. In fact, the Dow of 1995 is not the Dow of today, nor is that of 2003, for that matter. This is due to "rebalancing," which is a reconstitution of the index to get rid of companies that are underperforming or disappearing altogether. It is vital to understand this, because no investments are made in indices and relatively few are made in index-matching funds. Most investments are made in the stocks of individual companies and, due to this "rebalancing," the return on the dogs and the bankrupted dead are not reflected in these historical comparisons. Since 1999, seven corporations representing almost one-quarter of the Dow have been dropped and replaced.

The situation is significantly worse with regard to the NASDAQ-100 (NDX), which flip-flops more often than John Kerry running for office. Last year alone, eight companies were kicked out of the showcase technology index – Cephalon, Compuware, First Health Group, Gentex, Henry Schein, NVIDIA, Patterson-UTI Energy and Ryanair. Some of these corporations had been added only recently, and it is even possible for companies to bounce in and out of the NDX as their stock price alternately soars and sinks. For example, Synopsys and Symantec both rejoined the index in 2001 after being previously dropped.

In the last four years, there have been 44 changes to the 100 companies making up the NDX – 1999 was a banner year for such beauty-enhancing alterations, as the addition of 30 new companies helped drive the index to its all-time high of 4,816.35 on March 24, 2000. Despite the rebound year of 2003, and the aforementioned attempts to pretty up the index, the NDX is still down 68 percent since that 2000 high.

And if you'd been unfortunate enough to invest in some of those 30 corporations added in 1999, you'd have done even worse. You'd likely have nothing at all. Global Crossing (GX) was one of those high-flying newcomers – it was dropped by December of the following year and an attempt to see how it's doing on today an online financial site will reveal the following result: "Symbol(s) do not exist: GX."

Yes, and neither does your retirement fund ...

A legitimate historical analysis of any index must account for all of this rebalancing turnover. Unfortunately, the market masters do not make this easy. The NASDAQ even claims not to keep track of this information – it's much more interested in explaining how it is the stock market for the next 100 years, even if its annual rate of 11 percent turnover means it will have fewer original pieces left to it than Cher in a decade, let alone a century.

The ancient Roman saying caveat emptor is applicable to every proposed transaction, but never more so than with regard to the stock markets, where history is rewritten on an annual basis. The Bush administration's plan features a number of questionable assumptions, but its biggest flaw is that its logic is based on a foundation of historical fiction.

About the Author: Vox Day is a novelist and Christian libertarian. Visit his web log, Vox Popoli, for daily commentary and responses to reader e-mail.

Jim -
Last week, I rotated some gasoline that was put into storage ont he 1st of March, 2005. It was in plastic fuel cans with Sta-Bil added, per the directions. They sat in a storage garage subject to midwest summer temps for one year, in an un-cooled basement garage the other years. I poured the fuel into a 1/3 tank of gas in my car. No noticeable difference in starting or running of the engine. Almost 3.5 years - not bad - just wish I could have replaced it for te same cost I originally filled the cans for![It was then around $1.95 per gallon.] I did buy on the recent dip to $3.65 per gallon [when I re-filled the cans.]

On another topic: Last week, the home market in KC dropped an average of 1% in just one week. How much longer before the house of cards collapses? - Beach

In answer to the recent query in SurvivalBlog about denture adhesives, Sea-Bond is an all natural wafer with [a very long shelf life--] no expiration. It sells for $5.99 for three boxes of 15 wafers each. It is the only thing I could find that would do. I'd stock up on these for long term use. - TD


Mr. Rawles,
This formula comes from a book that I have in my arsenal of survival books, entitled "Formulas, Methods,Tips and Data for Home and Workshop" by Kenneth M. Swezey (I can't tell you how many times over the years we have used it but I had to buy an extra one just in case.)
He states "Most of the proprietary adhesives consist of just one or two common gums or a combination of them, with the addition of a trace of flavor".

Here is his denture adhesive recipe:
Gum-Tragacanth-Powder 3 ounces (available most craft stores for cake decorating/check the grocer aisle in the cake mixes too)
Powdered Karaya gum 1 ounce (health food/herbal/supplement stores)
Sassafras Oil 35 drops (not available anymore because of health concerns and illicit use. Mrs. Foxtrot suggests peppermint oil, it is what she uses for our Toothpaste recipe)

Shake the two powdered gums in a dry wide mouthed bottle until thoroughly mixed. Add the oil and shake again until the oil has blended with the powders. Sprinkle sparingly on the denture and place in mouth.

Best wishes for Reader Bill T. - Mr. Foxtrot

JWR Replies: I've posted this solely for educational purposes. Consult your dentist! Beware of any formulas from old formulary books that pre-date modern food and drug safety regulations. I do not recommend experimenting with any chemicals that will contact human tissue. I'm only presenting this because the topic was in the context of a worst-case societal collapse. If anyone were ever to use such a formula in an emergency, then they should first test a very small contact area, both to test the adhesive's its strength, and for gum or other tissue irritation. In this instance, it is quite important that if it is a partial denture that you make sure that it would not "over bond" or inadvertently bond to your teeth or other dental work!

Peppermint oil is a great essential oil to keep on hand. It is particularly useful for settling stomach upsets. (Just one drop on your tongue will do.) However, be forewarned that it is highly aromatic, so just few drops would probably suffice for the four-ounce formula that you cited.

As I've mentioned before, old formulary books are worth collecting. One of my favorite formulary reprints is Kurt Saxon's book: "Granddad's Wonderful Book of Chemistry"--primarily a reprint of the classic formulary "Dick's Encyclopedia", circa 1872. Saxon also assembled a dictionary of old fashioned chemical terms and synonyms and included it in the front of his reprint. This is worth its weight in gold. (Having an old formulary is great, but if you don't know that "oil of mirbane" is now called nitro-benzene, then a lot of formulary knowledge verges on useless.) Kurt has some far-out political beliefs which, as a Christian, I find abhorrent. (Kurt Saxon is both an atheist and a eugenicist.) But if you skip past those rantings, all of his books are great references. I've heard that a few of his hard copy books are now out of print, but that they are all still available on CD-ROM.

OBTW, if you search through used book stores, you will occasionally find other old formulary book from the late 1800s. Buy them when you find them. They are treasure troves of useful arcana!

Special notes of caution on home chemistry:
Use extreme care whenever working with chemicals--even when doing something as basic as making soap. Always wear full goggles, long sleeves, and gloves. Always work in a well-ventilated area. Wear a respirator mask, when appropriate. Always keep an A-B-C fire extinguisher handy. Keep an emergency eyewash bottle handy. When working with a chemical that could burn your skin, be prepared with a bucket of water (if appropriate) or the appropriate neutralizer. Never use any of your regular kitchen utensils, containers, or measuring instruments when working with chemicals. (Have a dedicated set, and clearly mark them as such!) Never work alone. Study reactivity tables, and always keep them in mind. Whenever working with anything flammable or potentially explosive material, always work with minute quantities for your experiments. Keep in mind that 19th Century safety standards were considerably more relaxed than today's, so old formularies often omit safety warnings. Always remember that exposure to some substances such as lead, mercury, and carbon monoxide are insidious and cumulative. FWIW, I'm not putting forth all these strong warnings simply to cover my assets from a lawsuit. I really sincerely mean them, since I've "been there, done that". As an over-exuberant teenage chemistry hobbiest I caught my hair on fire a time or two.

FerFAL (SurvivalBlog's correspondent in Argentina) recently posted some interesting comments on resisting violent crime, in his personal blog

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The WRSA has another "Grid-Down Medical Course" scheduled in Everett, Washington, September 12th to 14th. Their training is inexpensive, and highly recommended.

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Pauly from Canada recommended the National Geographic documentary "Guns, Germs, and Steel" to add some historical perspective to Richard Heinberg's recent article.

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Update: I spoke too soon yesterday when I mentioned that Detroit's Big Three Auto makers are courting Congress for a $25 billion bailout. "Photo Tom" sent this: GM, Ford Seek $50 Billion From U.S., Double Request

"We are not only headed for a Depression, but a violent Depression that will be far worse than [the one that started in] 1929. Some experts believe the United States will fall into the chaos, bedlam and anarchy that tore apart Yugoslavia. I am not going that far, but I know our morals and ethics are not the same as they were in 1929. Moreover, we are a far more violent society and totally dependent upon a well oiled system for delivery of food and basic services." - Mike Morgan

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Today we present the conclusion of a lengthy and scholarly guest article from Richard Heinberg, the author of eight books, and a Research Fellow of (Part 1 was posted on August 23, 2008.)

Impact of Biofuels

One factor influencing food prices arises from the increasing incentives for farmers worldwide to grow biofuel crops rather than food crops. Ethanol and biodiesel can be produced from a variety of crops including maize, soy, rapeseed, sunflower, cassava, sugar cane, palm, and jatropha. As the price of oil rises, many farmers are finding that they can produce more income from their efforts by growing these crops and selling them to a biofuels plant, than by growing food crops either for their local community or for export.

Already nearly 20 percent of the US maize crop is devoted to making ethanol, and that proportion is expected to rise to one quarter, based solely on existing projects-in-development and government mandates. Last year US farmers grew 14 million tons of maize for vehicles. This took millions of hectares of land out of food production and nearly doubled the price of corn. Both Congress and the White House favor expanding ethanol production even further - to replace 20 percent of gasoline demand by 2017 - in an effort to promote energy security by reducing reliance on oil imports. Other nations including Britain are mandating increased biofuel production or imports as a way of reducing carbon emissions, though most analyses show that the actual net reduction in CO2 will be minor or nonexistent.14

The US is responsible for 70 percent of world maize exports, and countries such as Mexico, Japan, and Egypt that depend on American corn farmers use maize both as food for people and feed for animals. The ballooning of the US ethanol industry is therefore impacting food availability in other nations both directly and indirectly, raising the price for tortillas in Mexico and disrupting the livestock and poultry industries in Europe and Africa.

Grain, a Barcelona-based food-resources NGO, reports that the Indian government is committed to planting 14 million hectares with jatropha for biodiesel production. Meanwhile, Brazil plans to grow 120 million hectares of fuel crops, and Africa up to 400 million hectares. While currently unproductive land will be used for much of this new production, many millions of people will be forced off that land in the process.15

Lester Brown, founder of the Washington-based Earth Policy Institute, has said: "The competition for grain between the world's 800 million motorists, who want to maintain their mobility, and its two billion poorest people, who are simply trying to survive, is emerging as an epic issue."16 This is an opinion no longer being voiced just by environmentalists. In its twice-yearly report on the world economy, released October 17, the International Monetary Fund noted that, "The use of food as a source of fuel may have serious implications for the demand for food if the expansion of biofuels continues."17 And earlier this month, Oxfam warned the EU that its policy of substituting ten percent of all auto fuel with biofuels threatened to displace poor farmers. Jean Ziegler, a UN special reporter went so far as to call the biofuel trade "a crime against humanity," and echoed journalist George Monbiot's call for a five-year moratorium on government mandates and incentives for biofuel expansion.18

The British government has pledged that "only the most sustainable biofuels" will be used in the UK, but, as Monbiot has recently noted, there are no explicit standards to define "sustainable" biofuels, and there are no means to enforce those standards in any case.19

Impact of Climate Change and Environmental Degradation

Beyond the push for biofuels, the food crisis is also being driven by extreme weather events and environmental degradation.

The phrase "global warming" implies only the fact that the world's average temperature increase by a degree or more over the next few decades. The much greater problem for farmers is destabilization of weather patterns. We face not just a warmer climate, but climate chaos: droughts, floods, and stronger storms in general (hurricanes, cyclones, tornadoes, hail storms) - in short, unpredictable weather of all kinds. Farmers depend on relatively consistent seasonal patterns of rain and sun, cold and heat; a climate shift can spell the end of farmers' ability to grow a crop in a given region, and even a single freak storm can destroy an entire year's national production for some crops. Given the fact that modern agriculture has become highly centralized due to cheap transport and economies of scale, the damage from that freak storm is today potentially continental or even global in scale. We have embarked on a century in which, increasingly, freakish weather is normal.

According to the UN's World Food Program (WFP), 57 countries, including 29 in Africa, 19 in Asia and nine in Latin America, have been hit by catastrophic floods. Harvests have been affected by drought and heatwaves in south Asia, Europe, China, Sudan, Mozambique and Uruguay.20

Last week the Australian government said drought had slashed predictions of winter harvests by nearly 40 percent, or four million tons. "It is likely to be even smaller than the disastrous drought-ravaged 2006-07 harvest and the worst in more than a decade," said the Bureau of Agriculture and Resource.21

In addition to climate chaos, we must contend with the depletion or degradation of several resources essential to agriculture.

Phosphorus is set to become much more scarce and expensive, according to a study by Patrick Déry, a Canadian agriculture and environment analyst and consultant. Using data from the US Geological Survey, Déry performed a peaking analysis on phosphate rock, similar to the techniques used by petroleum geologists to forecast declines in production from oilfields. He found that "we have already passed the phosphate peak [of production] for United States (1988) and for the World (1989)." We will not completely run out of rock phosphate any time soon, but we will be relying on lower-grade ores as time goes on, with prices inexorably rising.22

At the same time, soil erosion undermines food production and water availability, as well as producing 30 percent of climate-changing greenhouse gases. Each year, roughly 100,000 square kilometres of land loses its vegetation and becomes degraded or turns into desert, altering the temperature and energy balance of the planet.23

Finally, yet another worrisome environmental trend is the increasing scarcity of fresh water. According to United Nations estimates, one third of the world's population lives in areas with water shortages and 1.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water. That situation is expected to worsen dramatically over the next few decades. Climate change has provoked more frequent and intense droughts in sub-tropical areas of Asia and Africa, exacerbating shortages in some of the world's poorest countries.

While human population tripled in the 20th century, the use of renewable water resources has grown six-fold. According to Bridget Scanlon and colleagues, writing in Water Resources Research this past March 27, in the last 100 years irrigated agriculture expanded globally by 480 percent, and it is projected to increase another 20 percent by 2030 in developing countries. Irrigation is expanding fastest in countries such as China and India. Global irrigated agriculture now accounts for almost 90 percent of global freshwater consumption, despite representing only 18 percent of global cropland. In addition to drawing down aquifers and surface water sources, it also degrades water quality, as salts in soils are mobilized, and as fertilizers and pesticides leach into aquifers and streams.24

These problems all interact and compound one another. For example, soil degradation produces growing shortages of water, since soil and vegetation act as a sponge that holds and gradually releases water. Soil degradation also worsens climate change as increased evaporation triggers more extreme weather.

This month the UN Environment Program concluded that the planet's water, land, air, plants, animals and fish stocks are all in "inexorable decline." Much of this decline is due to agriculture, which constitutes the greatest single source of human impact on the biosphere.25

In the face of all these daunting challenges, the world must produce more food every year to keep up with population growth. Zafar Adeel, director of the International Network on Water, Environment and Health (INWEH), has calculated that more food will have to be produced during the next 50 years than during the last 10,000 years combined.26

What Is the Solution?

International food agency officials spin out various scenarios to describe how our currently precarious global food system might successfully adapt and expand. Perhaps markets will automatically readjust to shortages, higher prices making it more profitable once again to grow crops for people rather than cars. New designer-gene crop varieties could help crops adapt to capricious climactic conditions, to require less water, or to grow in more marginal soils. And if people were to simply eat less meat, more land could be freed up to grow food for humans rather than farm animals. A slowdown or reversal in population growth would naturally ease pressures on the food system, while the cultivation of currently unproductive land could help increase supplies.

However, given the scale of the crisis facing us, merely to assume that these things will happen, or that they will be sufficient to overcome the dilemmas we have been discussing, seems overly optimistic, perhaps even to the point of irresponsibility.

One hopeful sign is that governments and international agencies are beginning to take the situation seriously. This month the World Bank issued a major report, "Agriculture for Development," whose main author, economist Alain de Janvry, appears to reverse his institution's traditional stance. For a half-century, development agencies such as the World Bank have minimized the importance of agriculture, urging nations to industrialize and urbanize as rapidly as possible. Indeed, the Bank has not featured agriculture in an annual report since 1982. De Janvry says that, since half the world's population and three-quarters of the world's poor live in rural areas where food production is the mainstay of the economy, farming must be central to efforts to reduce hunger and poverty.27

Many agencies, including the INWEH, are now calling for an end to the estimated 30 billion dollars in food subsidies in the North that contribute directly to land degradation in Africa and elsewhere, and that force poor farmers to intensify their production in order to compete.28

In addition, there are calls for sweeping changes in how land use decisions are made at all levels of government. Because soil, water, energy, climate, biodiversity, and food production are interconnected, integrated policy-making is essential. Yet policies currently are set by various different governmental departments and agencies that often have little understanding of one another's sectors.

Delegates at a soils forum in Iceland this month took up a proposal for a formal agreement on protecting the world's soils. And the World Water Council is promoting a range of programs to ensure the availability of clean water especially to people in poorer countries.29

All these efforts are laudable; however, they largely fail to address the common sources of the dilemmas we face - human population growth, and society's and agriculture's reliance on fossil fuels.

The solution most often promoted by the biggest companies within the agriculture industry - the bioengineering of crops and farm animals - does little or nothing to address these deeper causes. One can fantasize about modifying maize or rice to fix nitrogen in the way that legumes do, but so far efforts in that direction have failed. Meanwhile, and the bio-engineering industry itself consumes fossil fuels, and assumes the continued availability of oil for tractors, transportation, chemicals production, and so on.30

To get to the heart of the crisis, we need a more fundamental reform of agriculture than anything we have seen in many decades. In essence, we need an agriculture that does not require fossil fuels.

The idea is not new. The aim of substantially or entirely removing fossil fuels from agriculture is implicit in organic farming in all its various forms and permutations - including ecological agriculture, Biodynamics, Permaculture, Biointensive farming, and Natural Farming. All also have in common a prescription for the reduction or elimination of tillage, and the reduction or elimination of reliance on mechanized farm equipment. Nearly all of these systems rely on increased amounts of human labor, and on greater application of place-specific knowledge of soils, microorganisms, weather, water, and interactions between plants, animals, and humans.

Critics of organic or biological agriculture have always contended that chemical-free and less-mechanized forms of food production are incapable of feeding the burgeoning human population. This view is increasingly being challenged.

A recent survey of studies, by Christos Vasilikiotis, Ph.D., U.C. Berkeley, titled "Can Organic Farming Feed the World?", concluded: "From the studies mentioned above and from an increasing body of case studies, it is becoming evident that organic farming does not result in either catastrophic crop losses due to pests nor in dramatically reduced yields..."31

The most recent publication on the subject, by Perfecto et al., in Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, found that "Organic farming can yield up to three times as much food on individual farms in developing countries, as [conventional] methods on the same land..."32

Moreover, is clear that ecological agriculture could help directly to address the dilemmas we have been discussing.

Regarding water, organic production can help by building soil structure, thus reducing the need for irrigation. And with no petrochemical runoff, water quality is not degraded.33

Soil erosion and land degradation can be halted and even reversed: by careful composting, organic farmers have demonstrated the ability to build humus at many times the natural rate.34

Climate change can be addressed, by keeping carbon molecules in the soil and in forests and grasslands. Indeed, as much as 20 percent of anticipated net fossil fuel emissions between now and 2050 could be stored in this way, according to Maryam Niamir-Fuller of the U.N. Development Program.35

Natural gas depletion will mean higher prices and shortages for ammonia-based nitrogen fertilizers. But ecologically sound organic-biological agricultural practices use plant and manure-based fertilizers rather than fossil fuels. And when farmers concentrate on building healthy topsoil rich in beneficial microbes, plants have reduced needs for nitrogen.36

The impending global shortage of phosphate will be more difficult to address, as there is no substitute for this substance. The only solution here will be to recycle nutrients by returning all animal and humans manures to cultivated soil, as Asian farmers did for many centuries, and as many ecological farmers have long advocated.37

What Will Be Needed

How might we actually accomplish this comprehensive transformation or world agriculture? Some clues are offered by the example of a society that has already experienced and dealt with a fossil-fuel famine.

In the late 1980s, farmers in Cuba were highly reliant on cheap fuels and petrochemicals imported from the Soviet Union, using more agrochemicals per acre than their US counterparts. In 1990, as the Soviet empire collapsed, Cuba lost those imports and faced an agricultural crisis. The average Cuban lost 20 pounds of body weight and malnutrition was nearly universal. The Cuban GDP fell dramatically and inhabitants of the island nation experienced a substantial decline in their material standard of living.38

Several agronomists at Cuban universities had for many years been advocating a transition to organic methods. Cuban authorities responded to the crisis by giving these ecological agronomists carte blanche to redesign the nation's food system. Officials broke up large state-owned farms, offered land to farming families, and encouraged the formation of small agricultural co-ops. Cuban farmers began employing oxen as a replacement for the tractors they could no longer afford to fuel. Cuban scientists began investigating biological methods of pest control and soil fertility enhancement. The government sponsored widespread education in organic food production, and the Cuban people adopted a mostly vegetarian diet out of necessity. Salaries for agricultural workers were raised, in many cases to above the levels of urban office workers. Urban gardens were encouraged in parking lots and on public lands, and thousands of rooftop gardens appeared. Small food animals such as chickens and rabbits began to be raised on rooftops as well.

As a result of these efforts, Cuba was able to avoid what might otherwise have been a severe famine.

If the rest of the world does not plan for a reduction in fossil fuel use in agriculture, its post-peak-oil agricultural transition may be far less successful than was Cuba's. Already in poor countries, farmers who are attempting to apply industrial methods but cannot afford tractor fuel and petrochemical inputs are watching their crops fail. Soon farmers in wealthier nations will be having a similar experience.

Where food is still being produced, there will be the challenge of getting it to the stores. Britain had a taste of this problem in 2000; David Strahan relates in his brilliant book The Last Oil Shock how close Britain came to political chaos then as truckers went on strike because of high fuel costs. He writes: "Supermarket shelves were being stripped of staple foods in scenes of panic buying. Sainsbury, Asda, and Safeway reported that some branches were having to ration bread and milk."39 This was, of course, merely a brief interruption in the normal functioning of the British energy-food system. In the future we may be facing instead what my colleague James Howard Kunstler calls "the long emergency."40

How will Britain and the rest of the world cope? What will be needed to ensure a successful transition away from an oil-based food system, as opposed to a haphazard and perhaps catastrophic one?

Because ecological organic farming methods are often dramatically more labor- and knowledge-intensive than industrial agriculture, their adoption will require an economic transformation of societies. The transition to a non-fossil-fuel food system will take time. Nearly every aspect of the process by which we feed ourselves must be redesigned. And, given the likelihood that global oil peak will occur soon, this transition must occur at a forced pace, backed by the full resources of national governments.

Without cheap transportation fuels we will have to reduce the amount of food transportation that occurs, and make necessary transportation more efficient. This implies increased local food self-sufficiency. It also implies problems for large cities that have been built in arid regions capable of supporting only small populations from their regional resource base. In some cases, relocation of people on a large scale may be necessary.

We will need to grow more food in and around cities. Recently, Oakland California adopted a food policy that mandates by 2015 the growing within a fifty-mile radius of city center of 40 percent of the vegetables consumed in the city.41

Localization of food systems means moving producers and consumers of food closer together, but it also means relying on the local manufacture and regeneration of all of the elements of the production process - from seeds to tools and machinery. This again would appear to rule out agricultural bioengineering, which favors the centralized production of patented seed varieties, and discourages the free saving of seeds from year to year by farmers.

Clearly, we must also minimize indirect chemical inputs to agriculture - such as those introduced in packaging and processing.

We will need to re-introduce draft animals in agricultural production. Oxen may be preferable to horses in many instances, because the former can eat straw and stubble, while the latter would compete with humans for grains. We can only bring back working animals to the extent that we can free up land with which to produce food for them. One way to do that would be to reduce the number of farm animals grown for meat.

Governments must also provide incentives for people to return to an agricultural life. It would be a mistake to think of this simply in terms of the need for a larger agricultural work force. Successful traditional agriculture requires social networks and intergenerational sharing of skills and knowledge. We need not just more agricultural workers, but a rural culture that makes farming a rewarding way of life capable of attracting young people.

Farming requires knowledge and experience, and so we will need education for a new generation of farmers; but only some of this education can be generic - much of it must of necessity be locally appropriate.

It will be necessary as well to break up the corporate mega-farms that produce so much of today's cheap food. Industrial agriculture implies an economy of scale that will be utterly inappropriate and unworkable for post-industrial food systems. Thus land reform will be required in order to enable smallholders and farming co-ops to work their own plots.

In order for all of this to happen, governments must end subsidies to industrial agriculture and begin subsidizing post-industrial agricultural efforts. There are many ways this could be done. The present regime of subsidies is so harmful that merely stopping it in its tracks might be advantageous; but, given the fact that rapid adaptation is essential, offering subsidies for education, no-interest loans for land purchase, and technical support during the transition from chemical to organic production would be essential.

Finally, given carrying-capacity limits, food policy must include population policy. We must encourage smaller families by means of economic incentives and improve the economic and educational status of women in poorer countries.

All of this constitutes a gargantuan task, but the alternatives - doing nothing or attempting to solve our food-production problems simply by applying mere techno-fixes - will almost certainly lead to dire consequences. All of the worrisome trends mentioned earlier would intensify to the point that the human carrying capacity of Earth would be degraded significantly, and perhaps to a large degree permanently.42

So far we have addressed the responsibility of government in facilitating the needed transformation in agriculture. Consumers can help enormously by becoming more conscious of their food choices, seeking out locally produced organic foods and reducing meat consumption.

The organic movement, while it may view the crisis in industrial agriculture as an opportunity, also bears an enormous responsibility. In the example of Cuba just cited, the active lobbying of organic agronomists proved crucial. Without that guiding effort on the part of previously marginalized experts, the authorities would have had no way to respond. Now crisis is at hand for the world as a whole. The organic movement has most of the answers that will be needed; however, its message still isn't getting through. Three things will be necessary to change that.

  1. The various strands of the organic movement must come together so that they can speak to national and international policy makers with a unified voice.
  2. The leaders of this newly unified organic movement must produce a coherent plan for a global transition to a post-fossil-fuel food system. Organic farmers and their organizations have been promoting some of the needed policies for decades in a piecemeal fashion. Now, however, there is an acute need for a clearly formulated, comprehensive, alternative national and global food policy, and there is little time to communicate and implement it. It is up to the organic movement to proactively seek out policy makers and promote this coherent alternative, just as it is up to representatives of government at all levels to listen.
  3. I have just called for unity in the organic movement, and to achieve this it will be necessary to address a recent split within the movement. What might be called traditional organic remains focused on small-scale, labor-intensive, local production for local consumption. In contrast to this, the more recently emerging corporate organic model merely removes petrochemicals from production, while maintaining nearly all the other characteristics of the modern industrial food system. This trend may be entirely understandable in terms of the economic pressures and incentives within the food industry as a whole. However, corporate organic has much less to offer in terms of solutions to the emerging crisis. Thus as the various strands of the organic movement come together, they should do so in light of the larger societal necessity. The discussion must move beyond merely gaining market share; it must focus on averting famine under crisis conditions.

To conclude, let me simply restate what is I hope clear by now: Given the fact that fossil fuels are limited in quantity and that we are already in view of the global oil production peak, we must turn to a food system that is less fuel-reliant, even if the process is problematic in many ways. Of course, the process will take time; it is a journey that will take place over decades. Nevertheless, it must begin soon, and it must begin with a comprehensive plan. The transition to a fossil-fuel-free food system does not constitute a distant utopian proposal. It is an unavoidable, immediate, and immense challenge that will call for unprecedented levels of creativity at all levels of society. A hundred years from now, everyone will be eating what we today would define as organic food, whether or not we act. But what we do now will determine how many will be eating, what state of health will be enjoyed by those future generations, and whether they will live in a ruined cinder of a world, or one that is in the process of being renewed and replenished.

About the Author

Richard Heinberg is one of the world's foremost Peak Oil (oil depletion) educators and is a Research Fellow of Post Carbon Institute. He is the author of eight books including The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies (New Society, 2003, 2005), Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World (New Society, 2004), and The Oil Depletion Protocol (New Society, 2006).

Heinberg is a journalist, educator, editor, lecturer, a Core Faculty member of New College of California where he teaches a program on “Culture, Ecology and Sustainable Community,” and a Research Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute. He is widely regarded as one of the world’s foremost Peak Oil educators. His monthly MuseLetter has been included in Utne Magazine’s annual list of Best Alternative Newsletters. Since 2002, he has given over three hundred lectures on oil depletion (“Peak Oil”) to a wide variety of audiences—from insurance executives to peace activists, from local and national elected officials to Jesuit volunteers. Richard is married to horticulturist/herbalist/massage therapist Janet Barocco; they live in a suburban house retrofitted for energy efficiency and food production.


  • 1. See Fernand Braudel, The Structures of Everyday Life (New York: Harper & Row, 1982)
  • 2. See Vaclav Smil, Enriching the Earth: Fritz Haber, Carl Bosch, and the Transformation of World Food Production (Boston: WIT Press, 2004)
  • 3. David Pimentel, "Constraints on the Expansion of Global Food Supply," Kindell, Henry H. and Pimentel, David. Ambio Vol. 23 No. 3, May 1994. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
  • 4. See also Roger D. Blanchard, The Future of Global Oil Production: Facts, Figures, Trend and Projections (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2005)
  • 5. Longwell, "The future of the oil and gas industry: past approaches, new challenges," World Energy Vol. 5 #3, 2002
  • 6. Energy Watch Group, "Crude Oil - The Supply Outlook,"
  • 7. "Oil Supplies Face More Pressure," BBC online, July 9 2007
  • 8. Energy Watch Group, "Coal: Resources and Future Production" (April, 2007).
  • 9. John Vidal, "Global Food Crisis Looms as Climate Change and Fuel Shortages Bite," The Guardian, Nov. 3, 2007
  • 10. Jacques Diouf quoted in John Vidal, op. cit.
  • 11.
  • 12.
  • 13. Peter Apps, "Cost of Food Aid Soars As Global Need Rises, Reuters, October 16
  • 14. See Jack Santa Barbara, The False Promise of Biofuels (San Francisco: International Forum on Globalization, 2007)
  • 15. Vidal, op. cit.
  • 16. Lester Brown quoted in Vidal, op. cit.
  • 17. "IMF Concerned by Impact of Biofuels of Food Prices," Industry Week online, October 18, 2007,
  • 18. Ziegler, quoted by George Monbiot
  • 19. Monbiot, op. cit.
  • 20. Vidal, op. cit.
  • 21. Vidal, op. cit.
  • 22. Patrick Déry and Bart Anderson, "Peak Phosphorus,"
  • 23.
  • 24. "Agriculture Consuming World's Water," Geotimes online, June 2007
  • 25. "Unsustainable Development 'Puts Humanity at Risk'," New Scientist online, October 17 2007,
  • 26. "Between Hungry People and Climate Change, Soils Need Help," Environmental New Service, August 31, 2007,
  • 27. Celia W. Dugger, "World Bank Puts Agriculture at Center of Anti-Poverty Effort," New York Times, October 20, 2007,
  • 28. Stephen Leahy, "Dirt Isn't So Cheap After All,"
  • 29. Ibid.;
  • 30. See, for example, William M. Muir, "Potential environmental risks and hazards of biotechnology,"
  • 31.
  • 32. (vol 22, p 86) University of Michigan, July 10, 2007
  • 33. "Organic Agriculture," FAO report, 1999,
  • 34. Ibid.
  • 35. "Between Hungry People and Climate Change, Soils Need Help," Environmental New Service, August 31, 2007,
  • 36. FAO, op. cit.
  • 37. F.H. King, Farmers of Forty Centuries: Organic Farming in China, Korea and Japan, (New York: Dover Publications, 1911, ed. 2004)
  • 38. The story of how Cuba responded to its oil famine is described in the film, "The Power of Community,"
  • 39. David Strahan, The Last Oil Shock (London: John Murray, 2007), p. 15
  • 40. James Howard Kunstler, The Long Emergency (Nerw York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2005)
  • 41. Matthew Green, "Oakland Looks toward Greener Pastures," Edible East Bay, Spring 2007,
  • 42. Peter Goodchild, "Agriculture In A Post-Oil Economy," 22 September, 2007

The latest news is that Detroit's Big Three Auto makers are courting Congress for a $25 billion dollar bailout. This will make the $1.2 billion in loan guarantees to Chrysler in 1979/1980 seem small, by comparison. Just as I had warned, the Mother Of All Bailouts (MOAB) continues to expand in both size and scope. It seems that Congress knows no bounds when it comes to plunging their hands into our wallets.

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Cheryl N. flagged this: US Still Naked to EMP Threat

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Cheryl also sent us this raft of economic articles and commentaries:
Another Friday, Another Bank Closing (#9-Columbian B&T of Kansas), Sterling Tumbles as UK Economy Grinds to a Halt, Goldman Sachs Research Says Half the World Economies Are In Recession or on the Brink, The Silver's So Cheap It's Practically Free, The Final Fate of Fannie and Freddie, and The Gold Rush Is Still On.

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Farmer's Almanac Says Cold Winter Ahead

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Tamiflu Resistance at 100% in Australia and South Africa (for the H1N1 virus)

"The US economy is crumbling because the way we conduct the activities of daily life is insane relative to our circumstances. We've spent sixty years ramping up a suburban living arrangement that has suddenly entered a state of failure, and all its accessories and furnishings are failing in concert. The far-flung McHouse tracts are becoming both useless and worthless in the face of gasoline prices that will never be cheap again. The strip malls and office "parks" are following the residential real estate off a cliff. The retail tenants of all those places are hemorrhaging customers who have maxed out every last credit card. The lack of business is now leading to substantial layoffs. The airline industry is dying and will probably cease to exist in its familiar form in 24 months. The trucking industry is dying, threatening the entire just-in-time distribution system of things that even people with little money to spend still need, like food.
These conditions will now get a lot worse, no matter whether the banks continue to conceal their problems. All of it leads to an inflection point that coincides with the November election. By then, I expect that quite a few banks will be toast, job layoffs will rise spectacularly, foreclosures and bankruptcies will be raging across the land, and homeowners north of the magnolia belt will be shattered by the cost of staying warm this winter." - James Howard Kunstler

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Today we present part one of a lengthy and scholarly guest article from Richard Heinberg, the author of eight books, and a Research Fellow of Part two will be posted tomorrow.

The first dilemma consists of the direct impacts on agriculture of higher oil prices: increased costs for tractor fuel, agricultural chemicals, and the transport of farm inputs and outputs.

The second is an indirect consequence of high oil prices - the increased demand for biofuels, which is resulting in farmland being turned from food production to fuel production, thus making food more costly.

The third dilemma consists of the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events caused by fuel-based greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change is the greatest environmental crisis of our time; however, fossil fuel depletion complicates the situation enormously, and if we fail to address either problem properly the consequences will be dire.

Finally comes the degradation or loss of basic natural resources (principally, topsoil and fresh water supplies) as a result of high rates, and unsustainable methods, of production stimulated by decades of cheap energy.

Each of these problems is developing at a somewhat different pace regionally, and each is exacerbated by the continually expanding size of the human population. As these dilemmas collide, the resulting overall food crisis is likely to be profound and unprecedented in scope.

I propose to discuss each of these dilemmas briefly and to show how all are intertwined with our societal reliance on oil and other fossil fuels. I will then argue that the primary solution to the overall crisis of the world food system must be a planned rapid reduction in the use of fossil fuels in the growing and delivery of food. As we will see, this strategy, though ultimately unavoidable, will bring enormous problems of its own unless it is applied with forethought and intelligence. But the organic movement is uniquely positioned to guide this inevitable transition of the world's food systems away from reliance on fossil fuels, if leaders and practitioners of the various strands of organic agriculture are willing to work together and with policy makers.

Structural Dependency

Until now, fossil fuels have been widely perceived as an enormous boon to humanity, and certainly to the human food system. After all, there was a time not so long ago when famine was an expected, if not accepted, part of life even in wealthy countries. Until the 19th century - whether in China, France, India or Britain - food came almost entirely from local sources and harvests were variable. In good years, there was plenty - enough for seasonal feasts and for storage in anticipation of winter and hard times to come; in bad years, starvation cut down the poor, the very young, the old, and the sickly. Sometimes bad years followed one upon another, reducing the size of the population by several percent. This was the normal condition of life in pre-industrial societies, and it persisted for thousands of years.1

By the nineteenth century a profound shift in this ancient regime was under way. For Europeans, the export of surplus population to other continents, crop rotation, and the application of manures and composts were all gradually making famines less frequent and severe. European farmers, realizing the need for a new nitrogen source in order to continue feeding burgeoning and increasingly urbanized populations, began employing guano imported from islands off the coasts of Chile and Peru. The results were gratifying. However, after only a few decades, these guano deposits were being depleted. By this time, in the late 1890s, the world's population was nearly twice what it had been at the beginning of the century. A crisis was in view.

But crisis was narrowly averted through the use of fossil fuels. In 1909, two German chemists named Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch invented a process to synthesize ammonia from atmospheric nitrogen and the hydrogen in fossil fuels. The process initially used coal as a feedstock, though later it was adapted to use natural gas. After the end of the Great War, nation after nation began building Haber-Bosch plants; today the process yields 150 million tons of ammonia-based fertilizer per year, producing a total quantity of available nitrogen equal to the amount introduced annually by all natural sources combined.2

Fossil fuels went on to offer other ways of extending natural limits to the human carrying capacity of the planet.

In the 1890s, roughly one quarter of British and American cropland had been set aside to grow grain to feed horses, of which most worked on farms. The internal combustion engine provided a new kind of horsepower not dependent on horses at all, and thereby increased the amount of arable land available to feed humans. Early steam-driven tractors had come into limited use in 19th century; but, after World War I, the effectiveness of powered farm machinery expanded dramatically, and the scale of use exploded throughout the twentieth century, especially in North America, Europe, and Australia.

Chemists developed synthetic pesticides and herbicides in increasing varieties after World War II, using knowledge pioneered in laboratories that had worked to perfect explosives and other chemical warfare agents. Petrochemical-based pesticides not only increased crop yields in North America, Europe, and Australia, but also reduced the prevalence of insect-borne diseases like malaria. The world began to enjoy the benefits of "better living through chemistry," though the environmental costs, in terms of water and soil pollution and damage to vulnerable species, would only later become widely apparent.

In the 1960s, industrial-chemical agricultural practices began to be exported to what by that time was being called the Third World: this was glowingly dubbed the Green Revolution, and it enabled a tripling of food production during the ensuing half-century.

At the same time, the scale and speed of distribution of food increased. This also constituted a means of increasing human carrying capacity, though in a more subtle way. The trading of food goes back to Paleolithic times; but, with advances in transport, the quantities and distances involved gradually increased. Here again, fossil fuels were responsible for a dramatic discontinuity in the previously slow pace of growth. First by rail and steamship, then by truck and airplane, immense amounts of grain and ever-larger quantities of meat, vegetables, and specialty foods began to flow from countryside to city, from region to region, and from continent to continent.

The end result of chemical fertilizers, plus powered farm machinery, plus increased scope of transportation and trade, was not just an enormous leap in crop yields, but a similar explosion of human population, which has grown over six-fold since dawn of industrial revolution.

However, in the process, conventional industrial agriculture has become overwhelmingly dependent on fossil fuels. According to one study, approximately ten calories of fossil fuel energy are needed to produce each calorie of food energy in modern industrial agriculture.3 With globalized trade in food, many regions host human populations larger than local resources alone could possibly support. Those systems of global distribution and trade also rely on oil.

Today, in the industrialized world, the frequency of famine that our ancestors knew and expected is hard to imagine. Food is so cheap and plentiful that obesity is a far more widespread concern than hunger. The average mega-supermarket stocks an impressive array of exotic foods from across the globe, and even staples are typically trucked or shipped from hundreds of miles away. All of this would be well and good if it were sustainable, but the fact that nearly all of this recent abundance depends on depleting, non-renewable fossil fuels whose burning emits climate-altering carbon dioxide gas means that the current situation is not sustainable. This means that it must and will come to an end.

The Worsening Oil Supply Picture

During the past decade a growing chorus of energy analysts has warned of the approach of "Peak Oil," the time when the global rate of extraction of petroleum will reach a maximum and begin its inevitable decline.

During this same decade, the price of oil has advanced from about US$12 per barrel to nearly $100 per barrel.

While there is some dispute among experts as to when the peak will occur, there is none as to whether. The global peak is merely the cumulative result of production peaks in individual oilfields and whole oil-producing nations, and these mini-peaks are occurring at an increasing rate.

The most famous and instructive national peak occurred in the US in 1970: at that time America produced 9.5 million barrels of oil per day; the current figure is less than 5.2 Mb/d. While at one time the US was the world's foremost oil exporting nation, it is today the world's foremost importer.

The history of US oil production also helps us evaluate the prospects for delaying the global peak. After 1970, exploration efforts succeeded in identifying two enormous new American oil provinces - the North Slope of Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. During this period, other kinds of liquid fuels (such as ethanol and gas condensates) began to supplement crude. Also, improvements in oil recovery technology helped to increase the proportion of the oil in existing fields able to be extracted. These are precisely the strategies (exploration, substitution, and technological improvements) that the oil producers are relying on to delay the global production peak. In the US, each of these strategies made a difference - but not enough to reverse, for more than a year or two at a time, the overall 37-year trend of declining production. To assume that the results for the world as a whole will be much different is probably unwise.

The recent peak and decline in production of oil from the North Sea is of perhaps of more direct relevance to this audience. In just seven years, production from the British-controlled region has declined by almost half.

How near is the global peak? Today the majority of oil-producing nations are seeing reduced output: in 2006, BP's Statistical Review of World Energy reported declines in 27 of the 51 producing nations listed. In some instances, these declines will be temporary and are occurring because of lack of investment in production technology or domestic political problems. But in most instances the decline results from factors of geology: while older oil fields continue to yield crude, beyond a certain point it becomes impossible to maintain existing flow rates by any available means. As a result, over time there are fewer nations in the category of oil exporters and more nations in the category of oil importers.4

Meanwhile global rates of discovery of new oilfields have been declining since 1964.5

These two trends (a growing preponderance of past-peak producing nations, and a declining success rate for exploration) by themselves suggest that the world peak may be near.

Clearly the timing of the global peak is crucial. If it happens soon, or if in fact it already has occurred, the consequences will be devastating. Oil has become the world's foremost energy resource. There is no ready substitute, and decades will be required to wean societies from it. Peak Oil could therefore constitute the greatest economic challenge since the dawn of the industrial revolution.

An authoritative new study by the Energy Watch Group of Germany concludes that global crude production hit its maximum level in 2006 and has already begun its gradual decline.6 Indeed, the past two years have seen sustained high prices for oil, a situation that should provide a powerful incentive to increase production wherever possible. Yet actual aggregate global production of conventional petroleum has stagnated during this time; the record monthly total for crude was achieved in May 2005, 30 months ago.

The latest medium-term report of the IEA, issued July 9, projects that world oil demand will rise by about 2.2 percent per year until 2012 while production will lag, leading to what the report's authors call a "supply crunch."7

Many put their hopes in coal and other low-grade fossil fuels to substitute for depleting oil. However, global coal production will hit its own peak perhaps as soon as 2025 according to the most recent studies, while so-called "clean coal" technologies are three decades away from widespread commercial application.8 Thus to avert a climate catastrophe from coal-based carbon emissions, our best hope is simply to keep most of the remaining coal in the ground.

The Price of Sustenance

During these past two years, as oil prices have soared, food prices have done so as well. Farmers now face steeply increasing costs for tractor fuel, agricultural chemicals, and the transport of farm inputs and outputs. However, the linkage between fuel and food prices is more complicated than this, and there are other factors entirely separate from petroleum costs that have impacted food prices. I will attempt to sort these various linkages and influences out in a moment.

First, however, it is worth taking a moment to survey the food price situation.

An article by John Vidal published in the Guardian on November 3, titled "Global Food Crisis Looms As Climate Change and Fuel Shortages Bite," began this way:

Empty shelves in Caracas. Food riots in West Bengal and Mexico.

Warnings of hunger in Jamaica, Nepal, the Philippines and sub-Saharan Africa. Soaring prices for basic foods are beginning to lead to political instability, with governments being forced to step in to artificially control the cost of bread, maize, rice and dairy products.

Record world prices for most staple foods have led to 18 percent food price inflation in China, 13 percent in Indonesia and Pakistan, and 10 percent or more in Latin America, Russia and India, according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).

Wheat has doubled in price, maize is nearly 50 percent higher than a year ago and rice is 20 percent more expensive...

Last week the Kremlin forced Russian companies to freeze the price of milk, bread and other foods until January 31...

India, Yemen, Mexico, Burkina Faso and several other countries have had, or been close to, food riots in the last year...

Meanwhile, there are shortages of beef, chicken and milk in Venezuela and other countries as governments try to keep a lid on food price inflation.9

Jacques Diouf, head of the FAO, said in London early this month, "If you combine the increase of the oil prices and the increase of food prices then you have the elements of a very serious [social] crisis..." FAO statistics show that grain stocks have been declining for more than a decade and now stand at a mere 57 days, the lowest level in a quarter century, threatening what it calls "a very serious crisis."10

According to Josette Sheeran, director of the UN's World Food Program (WFP), "There are 854 million hungry people in the world and 4 million more join their ranks every year. We are facing the tightest food supplies in recent history. For the world's most vulnerable, food is simply being priced out of their reach."11

In its biannual Food Outlook report released November 7, the FAO predicted that higher food prices will force poor nations, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa, to cut food consumption and risk an increase in malnutrition. The report noted, "Given the firmness of food prices in the international markets, the situation could deteriorate further in the coming months."12

Meanwhile, a story by Peter Apps in Reuters from October 16 noted that the cost of food aid is rising dramatically, just as the global need for aid is expanding. The amount of money that nations and international agencies set aside for food aid remains relatively constant, while the amount of food that money will buy is shrinking.13

To be sure, higher food prices are good for farmers - assuming that at least some of the increase in price actually translates to higher income for growers. This is indeed the case for the poorest farmers, who have never adopted industrial methods. But for many others, the higher prices paid for food simply reflect higher production costs. Meanwhile, it is the urban poor who are impacted the worst.

Reader RH says: "I have been collecting Foxfire books for some 20 years now. I was so happy to find! These books have so much important information from the past for our future, lest we forget."

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Tina in the Philippines sent us this article: Iligan folk seek St. Michael help, also bear arms. Tina's comment: "A real big surprise for me, cause I've been asking around about the gun laws here, and generally understand that its very restrictive. So many various permits are needed, and separate permits if you want to transport your gun to the range, and even then, for a good chunk of the year, guns are banned from the streets because politicians tend to get shot. Guns aren't practical or usable for self defense, with laws like this. I hope there'll be positive effects from what happens in Iligan when the fighting stops."

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Cyberiot recommended a piece of insightful economic commentary by James Quinn, posted over at The Prudent Bear: The Great Consumer Crash of 2009

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Terry B. In Upstate New York flagged a piece of commentary by The Mogambo Guru: The new silver - made with paper. Terry's comment: "This article explains why it's important to own actual physical silver, not a piece of paper promising silver."

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There is now talk that the pending bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may force the breakup of the organizations into numerous regional privatized organizations. If this happens it will very likely push up mortgage interest rates. And this in turn, will further exacerbate the collapse of residential real estate prices in the US. To my mind, this represents a huge "lose-lose". Not only will it balloon the cost of the Mother Of All Bailouts (MOAB), but it will also make the impending depression deeper and last longer. (And to add insult to injury, the cost of the bailout will be extracted from our wallets. The Fannie and Freddie debaclesare indicative that the global credit market is indeed badly broken. It will be many years until global liquidity is restored, and I'm certain that there will be be plenty of pain in the interim.

The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter.
The grasshopper thinks he’s a fool.
He laughs and dances and plays the summer away.
Come winter, the ant is warm and well fed.
The shivering grasshopper has no food or shelter, so he dies out in the cold. - Aesop (620BC - 560BC)

Friday, August 22, 2008

If you find what you read in SurvivalBlog useful, then please consider becoming a voluntary 10 Cent Challenge subscriber. Thanks!

Mr. Rawles:
I diligently read your “nickels”article and archived follow-ups, but nowhere do you mention which size ammo can it is that cubes rolled nickels for storage most efficiently?

I have cleaned out my children’s bank accounts slowly over the last few weeks and am walking into random banks and grocery stores converting the cash into rolled nickels. ”Havin’ a yard sale, don’t ya know.”.Wink. It keeps the Stepford bank weenies from asking unnecessary questions.
- Laura C.; Hiding in Plain Sight, Somewhere Deep In The People’s Republic of Northern Virginia

JWR Replies: In my experience, the USGI .30 caliber ammo cans work perfectly for storing rolls of nickels. Each will hold $180 face value (90 rolls of $2 each) of nickels. The larger .50 caliber cans also work, but when full of nickels are too heavy to carry easily. Speaking of weight, several bags of "junk" silver coins or ammo cans full of nickels coins make great "ballast" for the bottom of a gun vault. This makes it more difficult for a burglar to haul away a vault intact. (But of course gun vaults also need to be securely bolted to a floor, for the same reason.)

Dear SurvivalBlog Editor,
Anyone considering the 410/.22 long rifle combo or any other 410 bore shotgun for survival use should take a look at the new state of the 410 slug. It is far more powerful than before and has potential as a defensive weapon against dangerous animals, human attack or as a big game getter. Those interested in details may find it at Hoening Big Bore South.
You may want to check this out occasionally as work continues on new loads for smooth bores and barrel offerings. - James Hoening

JWR Replies: In my estimation the standard factory .410 slug has been a poor choice for self defense. It is just barely capable of taking deer reliably at short range, and is certainly not to be trusted to reliably stop a two-legged varmint that is shooting back at you. The standard 1/5th ounce (87.5 grain) .410 slug used by Winchester and Remington has a muzzle velocity of 1,815 fps, and generates just 640 ft. lbs. of muzzle energy. For comparison,.commercial .44 Magnum handgun ammunition uses a 240 grain bullet at 1,350 fps and generates 971 ft. lbs. of muzzle energy (from a 6" revolver barrel!) Centerfire deer rifles such as .308 Winchester are in another class altogether . The Federal Fusion 150 grain .308 soft nose spitzer load, for example, has a muzzle velocity of 2,820 fps and produces a muzzle energy of 2,650 ft. lbs. Mr. Hoening's semi-custom .410 heavy slug load is impressive. It uses an un-crimped 375 grain slug at 1,500 fps that generates 1,873 ft. lbs. of muzzle energy. Not bad for a little .410! I will definitely buy some to experiment with and to keep on hand in the event that our .410 shotgun ever gets pressed into service above and beyond its usual pest shooting tasks.

If readers want to use a shotgun for self defense, I still generally recommend that they use a 12 gauge, or a 20 gauge for smaller-statured shooters. The Brenneke 12 gauge (3" shell) 1 ounce (437 grain) sabot slug has a muzzle velocity of 1,673 fps, and a muzzle energy of 2,686 ft. lbs. That is more than four times the energy of the standard .410 slug. The Hoening .410 slug heavy load (with a whompin' 1,873 ft. lbs muzzle energy) is captivating, but unfortunately because of its non-standard overall length it cannot be cycled through pump or semi-auto shotguns. Unless someone were to practice extensively for rapid reloading with a .410 short-barrel double-barreled ejector shotgun (coach gun style), then this limits the Hoening heavy slugs to use as a hunting load, rather than a self-defense load. The less powerful standard length Hoening roll-crimped .410 slug load can be cycled through a repeating shotgun, and has a velocity of 1,200 fps and a muzzle energy of 1,199 ft. lbs. This might suffice as a deer hunting load, but in my opinion it stills falls short of what is needed for self defense.

The Werewolf (our correspondent in Brazil) mentioned a free web site with 883,542 downloadable manuals on 3,627 brands of products.

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Frequent contributor Cheryl N. spotted this: Sharp US money supply contraction points to Wall Street crunch ahead. As I've been warning for nearly a year, the global credit collapse is going to have some profound and long-lasting effects, and thusfar we are nowhere near the bottom.

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Ogre sent us a link to an article about Fannie and Freddie's Uncertain Future

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And from Eric, comes this expected news: Food prices to post biggest rise since 1990: USDA

"Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide." - John Adams, 1814

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Get your entries in for Round 18 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. Starting with this round, the contest prize list has been expanded. The prizes now include:

First Prize: The writer of the best contributed article in the next 60 days will be awarded two transferable Front Sight  "Gray" Four Day Training Course Certificates. This is an up to $4,000 value!

Second Prize: A course certificate from OnPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses.

Third Prize: A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing

Round 18 ends on September 30th, 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.


This might interest your readers. I am considering buying compact, high-calorie emergency food bars for long term storage of food. I know they are not "real" [nutritionally complete] food but they easily moved and taken along, they have a great storage life and taste pretty good. The problem is that no pizzas and no cereal might make for a dull year, but having some of these on hand might be good. I was wondering if the 'food bars' are a good storage product. I would not stop storing real food, but would rely on the 'bars' for [short term] major calories. The ones I am looking at are in the Emergency Essentials catalog and I am sure you are aware of them. I would continue to add to my stores but the 'bars' would be a fairly expedient way to store a fast year's supply, so your thoughts are? Just guessing at about 100 bars to start in case you wonder where I might go with this. Thanks for your consideration. - "SSB"

JWR Replies: The commercially made "energy bars", "emergency ration" bars, and "sports bars" can provide a useful adjunct to a storage food program. In terms of their calories per cubic inch of storage space, they are just about at the opposite end of the scale from ramen noodles, which we recently discussed. Because they are so compact, these bars can easily be packed in ZipLoc bags (or better yet, vacuum packed with a Tilia FoodSaver sealer) and stored in a chest freezer. This will greatly extend their shelf life, especially in hot climates. Just don't forget to pin a prominent note on your "Get Out of Dodge" (G.O.O.D.) kit rucksack, reminding yourself to retrieve them from the freezer before you head out the door.

Nutritionally, food storage bars just by themselves are in adequate, just as you mentioned. But they do make a useful supplement to your food storage program, both to provide variety and and flavor in a bland diet, and to serve as a very compact short term food supply for your G.O.O.D. kit.

As with any other item in a food storage program, relying too heavily on one sort of food can lead to digestive problems. When storing foods, moderation is the key. Include plenty of foods that you can use in greater or lesser quantities, to keep your bowels moving properly. I'm not joking Constipation that progresses to fecal impaction can be lethal, particularly in situations where strong physical exertion is required. Books on wilderness medicine and medicine for mountaineering often stress this fact.

Nearly all of the energy bars on the market are fairly expensive. On my budget, I consider them prohibitively expensive. One good alternative is making traditional jerky and pemmican at home. The cost per ounce can be very low, especially if you hunt or if you raise livestock. OBTW, I recently received samples of Hickory Blend Jerky Seasoning and Jerky Cure from the folks at Hi-Mountain Jerky, in Riverton, Wyoming. I probably won't have the chance to try them until the upcoming deer and elk season, but these look promising for a budget conscious do-it-yourselfer like me. (I'll post a review after I make my next batches of jerky and pemmican.) But, keep in mind that just like with energy bars, if you store dried meat you will also need to store a good source of dietary fiber.

Mr. Rawles,
I have been trying to find out more about the consequences of a polar shift, particularly the effects it will have on the Great Lakes Region. I know that no one really knows what will happen, but everything I've seen points to something really really bad. If possible could you post what knowledge you may have on the subject on SurvivalBlog?
Thank you, - Scott from Michigan

JWR Replies: Rapid pole shift is a little more than an unsupported theory, touted mainly by the Art Bell crowd. In my opinion it should be one of the least of your worries. Even if rapid magnetic pole reversal does happen (and there is far more evidence that very gradual pole movement is what actually occurs), it might be a "once in 100,000 years" event. Instead of concentrating on that, you should get ready for a major economic depression, which is demonstrably a "once-every-few-generations" event. And, BTW, a depression seems to be unfolding now, right before our eyes. Also consider what you'll need to do to be ready for a pandemic influenza. Such pandemics are more likely "once-every-few-generations" events.

I'll establish my bona fides by stating that I am a General class Amateur Radio licensee with extensive experience in the VHF and UHF radio bands. While I applaud your promotion of the MURS radio for general use, it is not the best choice for the gentleman residing in the concrete condos in Florida. Penetration of concrete and steel structures is significantly better (by approximately 30%) at UHF frequencies (as used by FRS/GMRS radios) than at the VHF frequencies as used by MURS. Though free air range favors VHF, UHF penetrates obstacles better, assuming the effective radiated power (ERP) is the same. There is a significant amount of literature on this topic in the amateur radio community, should anyone care to research it for themselves.

In the case in question, the gentleman would be better served by a GMRS radio, operating in the UHF band and radiating up to 5 watts, than with a MURS VHF unit limited to 2 watts of output. He would have the significant advantage of both the better obstacle penetration of the UHF band, and the dramatic increase in allowable output power. In a concrete and steel structure, the combination would easily outperform any MURS radio by a significant margin.

Since these are to be used as emergency communication devices in hurricane country, it is worth noting that most Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) are equipped with FRS radios for inter-unit communications. Since most GMRS radios include FRS channels as well, it would give the residents of the building an extra (and direct) way to contact help should the need arise.

In this case the GMRS/FRS combination is a far better choice for the conditions described. Regards, - Grant C.


I recently bought TriSquare's eXRS radios. I highly recommend them. I chose the TSX300 model.

They use frequency hopping technology with 1 billion frequencies (up to 10 numbers long: you choose the frequency). The best part is that it is license-free (no $80 FCC GMRS license needed).

It may not be the best choice for everyone, but it is more secure than FRS. Regards, - David M.

Norman in England found a web page with some useful information on assembling outdoor survival kits.

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Reader Bill T. asked me: "I'm a denture wearer. Do you know a formula for home-made denture adhesive?" I have no idea, but given SurvivalBlog's large worldwide audience, perhaps there is a reader that can chime in with a formula.

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Cheryl N. spotted this interesting piece: 'Liar loans' threaten to prolong mortgage crisis. She also found this one: The Endgame Nears for Fannie and Freddie

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Rich at CGW has created a page just for SurvivalBlog readers, where he has hand-picked some nice products and created a 10% off coupon.

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The movie, "I.O.U.S.A." that I described earlier this month is showing in selected theaters, starting tonight. The grand opening on August 21st will feature a follow-up live video conference with Warren Buffett, Pete Peterson, and David Walker. A movie trailer is available on their web site.

"Beaten paths are for beaten men." - Eric A. Johnston (1842 - 1914), US journalist and short-story writer

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mr. Rawles,
First off, thanks for your fine web site! I was proud to become a 10 Cent Challenge subscriber.

For those looking to increase their food storage supply in a cost-effective manner, I would recommend stopping by Wal-Mart and picking up their 12-pack containers of Ramen noodles (in various flavors). They're currently $1.73 per package, which comes out to just 14.5 cents per single pack.

Nutritionally, a single pack of Ramen noodles contains:
380 calories
14 grams of fat
52 grams of carbohydrates
2 grams of fiber
10 grams of protein
and 16% of your daily requirement of iron

We ate a lot of Ramen noodles in the field while I was on active duty, you could boil up a single pack in a canteen cup and add a can of mushroom soup to it for a hot meal that was a break from C Rations. It would actually feed two guys most of the time.

Ten cases would cost you $17.30 to add 120 servings of a filling and easy to prepare base to stretch out your food storage dollars. This is worth the money, in my opinion! Yours, - Will from Florida

JWR Replies: The nutritive value of ramen is marginal, so it should not be considered a primary storage food. But I can see the wisdom of having some on hand as a food storage supplement, especially in lean times when hunger pangs will be a distinct possibility. There are lots of interesting ramen recipe web sites on the Internet, like this one with 430 recipes. Coincidentally, instant ramen is nearing its 50th anniversary.

In my experience, ramen, like other bulk pasta, is particularly vulnerable to vermin. I strongly recommend storing it in 6 gallon food grade buckets with gasketed lids. If you are short on buckets, One alternative--albeit providing a shorter shelf life--is finding metal cabinets (such as military wall lockers) with tight-fitting doors. These will at least keep your pasta safe from mice and rats. (But not necessarily safe from insects.)

Hello James,
I have been an avid reader of your novel and SurvivalBlog for about six months now, and I have to echo the sentiment of many other readers--that it has given me a desperately needed focus and sense of purpose. The increased threat of TEOTWAWKI was clear in my mind, and prior to finding your blog, I just had anxiety and was confused over what actions I should be taking t protect my family. I was like a deer in the headlights. Now it is a whole different story. I have stopped wasting money on non-essential items (sodas at restaurants, for example - my kids even request water now.). I have started to gather tangibles. Bullets, Beans and soon Band-Aids.

My comment for this email is based on a rumor I heard at a gun show this weekend. The gentleman who was selling me ammo (from a very large ammo wholesaler) stated that Wolf brand ammo and all other Russian ammo like Brown Bear, may be threatened by a Bush embargo as a political protest to the Russia's Georgian War.

I hesitated to mention this as it is best to have an orderly flow in the market place and not panic, but as with the Iraq war I & II, I watched ammo prices almost double. Another war, especially involving an ammo producing country like Russia, will only make prices increase more, IMHO.

As I type this I have already seen .223 go over $240 per 1,000 and 7.62x39 is quickly approaching $200 per 1,000. Wal-Mart just raised prices last weekend on 12 gauge and .22 caliber. What was priced at $11.50 is now $13.50. Best Regards, - Robert D.

Dear SurvivalBlog:
At my condo complex in Florida, we've been wondering if we could use consumer two-way radios--such as Motorola Talkabout two-way radios--to communicate successfully between (from inside) condo units. We would do this during scenarios such as a severe hurricane.

The question is whether those radios (which, of course, come in several models with different specs) use the right frequency band and and have adequate power to penetrate the multiple concrete walls that would be line-of-sight between the communicating radios. We assume--in planning for worst possible case--that both line telephone and cell phone service would be down, and are looking for ways to directly communicate with each other during the height of a storm when we couldn't safely walk from unit to unit.

Does anyone with relevant expertise have any ideas on this? Thanks for your assistance. Best Regards, - Gregg T.

JWR Replies: The key question is: How much reinforced concrete? As I recently noted in the blog, reliable communication in a cluttered urban environment is "iffy" for the typical FRS and GMRS hand-held transceivers on the consumer market. My preference is for the MURS band hand-helds. Not only will you get better range, but you will also be operating in a less commonly used frequency band. This will give you marginally better communications security. (But with the oft-repeated proviso: no radio transmission should be considered 100% "secure.") I recommend the MURS Radios company (one of our advertisers) as a reputable source of transceivers. They also do custom frequency programming, and sell both accessories and MURS-compatible perimeter intrusion detection systems.

Mr. Lima mentioned a site with some useful videos on basic homesteading skills like gardening, fruit trees, growing grains, beekeeping, and so forth. They've promise to add more videos coming about alternate energy, raising rabbits and chickens, food storage and more.

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Philip N. flagged this: Depression survivors: 'We lived the hard way'

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Jack B. sent this: Lights are on, but banks increasingly closed: James Saft. And meanwhile, several readers mentioned this ominous prediction: Credit crunch may take out large US bank warns former IMF chief.

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Susan Z. sent this from the ever-cheery journalist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: Dollar surge will not stop America feeling the effects of a global crunch

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Our friend John ("Commander Zero") up in Montana mentioned in his Notes from The Bunker blog an article about leaking FEMA fuel tanks. John's comment: "The fact that the tanks themselves are leaking isn't noteworthy to me. What is noteworthy is why those tanks are there in the first place. Years ago the girlfriend [now his wife] and I looked at buying one of these communications bunkers and it had originally been equipped with a 3,000 gallon fuel tank. The tank had been removed when the place was decommissioned but you could see the hole where it used to be. So, if a person were to get hold of this list of tanks that need attention you would also have, de facto, a list of hardened facilities and sites since no one was gonna dedicate a resource like fuel and storage to a facility that would crumble at the first bit overpressure."

"Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution and to the Republic for which it stands. Miracles do not cluster and what has happened once in 6,000 years, may not happen again. Hold on to the Constitution, for if the American Constitution should fail, there will be anarchy throughout the world.'" - Daniel Webster

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Today we are pleased to welcome our newest advertiser: They have a very broad line of products including binoculars, hydration packs, flashlights, Trijicon scopes, knives, holsters, boots, helmets, body armor, BDUs, anti-vehicular barriers, and much more. They even sell armored vehicles!

Hi Jim,
After reading "Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse" a second time (and this time tabbing the pages) and making note of the ROTC cadet's story, I acquired some 20mm-sized ammo cans. I thought I'd put together at least one contingency box [for an underground cache], in the event of losing everything else, due to being overrun by bad guys, etc.

First off, instead of pavement/roadway emulsion, I took two of these cans to a Line-X [spray-on bed liner] shop, to have them painted with their material. They were happy to help, since they were shooting a metal surface with the stuff, and not plastic or fabric.

Here's my list so far, for one can. Some of this is stuff that I have excess quantities:

-One AUS-8 Stainless Recon Tanto knife (I have a bunch of other knives, along with some in Carbon V steel, that I'm currently keeping for barter)
-One Swiss Army knife
-Toothbrush, dental floss, and toothpaste.
-One one-quart canteen with purification tablets
-One two-serving Mountain House meal (I was considering an MRE, but there's too much candy and excess packaging. Also, an MRE may not store for as long .)
-Lighter and matches
-One earth-tone set of T-shirt, underwear, and socks
-50 rds. .22 rimfire ammo
-50 rds. 9mm Parabellum ammo

And if I can fit them: One 10 rd. box of 12 gauge shotgun shells, and / or a pair of combat boots. Regards, - Jerry E.

I have been reading SurvivalBlog now for several months and really enjoyed the articles. I live in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia . For those who don’t know the place and I imagine there are many who are unfamiliar with this part of the world, it’s an island at the bottom of Australia.

I work on disease protection for the government. This involves responding to bird flu pandemics, terrorist attacks etc. Being an island at the bottom of the world with not many threats, it’s an easy job. But I do believe that there is lots of trouble coming in the future from climate change, increasing world populations in areas that cannot support any more people, Peak Oil, et cetera. So in my view, thinking people should prepare for trouble ahead and develop personal plans for survival.

The reason I have written in today is that from some of the posts that people have submitted to SurvivalBlog, many are planning just for total breakdown in society, everyone for themselves, point the guns out the door and survive at all costs. From my limited reading and understanding of such situations, total breakdown would only occur in extreme events like total nuclear war. For example, even in Germany during war time with the Russians advancing one direction, and the allies the other, it had a functioning society where you could buy goods and services and the government still functioned. Thus perhaps people should have several plans. One for total breakdown (like nuclear war), one for minor disruptions like financial meltdowns/depressions and another for global pandemics/biological warfare.

Hopefully we will only experience minor disruptions and we should have already planned ahead by growing as much of our own food as possible, reduced our mortgages, moved closer to work, kept food stocks, stored heating fuel etc. Being prepared for something to happen tomorrow will lessen people's reliance on the modern supermarket and the expected doubling of prices, shortages etc. In the event of a pandemic, then avoiding public places and other people is a very good idea, so food stocks will help and being able to work from home is a major advantage.

My point is that people need to plan for a number of scenarios, not just "let's retreat and point the guns". I personally will be trying to help my community survive any disruption, for the sake of my children, loved ones and country. Previous generations have faced bad times before and moved through them without losing their sense of community. My grandfather used to tell me about life during the Depression, where he used to hunt rabbits and other game to stretch the family budget and how they used to reuse things to save money. You could buy things, but you just didn’t have any money. But even during those hard times he said there was always a strong community spirit and they always helped out others who were less able to cope. We should all plan for being able to help others by being self reliant.

Lastly if people want to relocate to an area that is not targeted for nuclear war, has a modern economy, speaks English, and has less than half a million people in an area the size of Ireland, then move here to Tasmania. We even like Americans. - M. L.

Reader Bob S. pointed us to an interesting thread in progress over at the When SHTF Forum, about Bug-Out Vehicles (BOVs). I generally advise painting BOVs in a single flat earth tone color. A camouflage paint scheme can actually attract attention, which could be a bad thing. OBTW, most semi-gloss paints can be turned into flat paint by mixing in a flattener additive before spraying it on.

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The Russians continue to claim publicly that they are "withdrawing" from Georgia. If so, then why is their armor still heading south? Perhaps they're planning to withdraw by way of Tibilisi.

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North Texas school district will let teachers carry guns. Why isn't this already the norm, across the nation? It makes sense to me. OBTW, Naish Piazza of Front Siight is offering free firearms training to the teachers and administrators from that school district. The Four Day Defensive Handgun Course mentioned is the same one that The Memsahib and I took, and the same course that is included with Front Sight's current "Guns and Gear " offer. Take advantage of it!

   o o o

Bob at Ready Made Resources mentioned that they have added Jaffrey's Fruit Presses to their product line. With harvest season in full swing here in the northern hemisphere, this is an important tool to own.

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Fay prompts tropical storm warning for South Florida. I trust that that SurvivalBlog readers in the southeastern US are far better prepared than most of their neighbors. You'll be in our prayers.

"I remember during the metals’ bull market of the 1970s when we were worried about gas rising to $1.50 a gallon, some enterprising gas stations put up signs selling gas for a dime a gallon. Of course, they wanted pre-1964, 90-percent silver dimes which had value in excess of a gallon of gas. If you were smart, you didn’t fall for it. You were better off keeping the coins to yourself." - Howard J. Ruff

Monday, August 18, 2008

I won't mention my name because of the privacy concerns you so eloquently pointed out in your blog, but here's an example of what you were asking about in regards to preparations for a new cold/hot war.

I was in the USAF in Security Police from 1980 to 1989, the height of the Cold War, when President Reagan was stepping up the pressure on the then Soviet Union. I served in ICBMs (Minuteman III's and the Peacekeeper) at Warren AFB in Wyoming and overseas in Ground Launched Cruise Missiles (GLCMs) at Florennes Air Base, Belgium. One of the things we were constantly aware of during our duty in the missile fields stateside was that on-duty Security Police were not allowed to go into shelters in the event of a nuclear attack.

Knowing that, we were constantly aware of our position in the missile field, the current weather forecast, and planned escape routes in the event of the "unthinkable" (yet we were always thinking about it, so go figure). The two primary concerns were surviving the initial attack and surviving subsequent fallout. Surviving the initial attack would have involved making the best speed possible in the 25-to-30 minutes you had to get out of the missile field(distance and shielding are your friends). Given the distances involved, there would have been no time to dither and look at a map trying to figure out a route, so we reconnoitered all our routes in advance, particularly looking for likely areas of shelter such as culverts, highway overpasses, etc. should we fail to get out in time. We had our survival kits, weapons, and NBC gear with us (by regulation) so we were constantly ready.

The other consideration was where to go in the event we survived the initial attack. This would involve avoiding the initial fallout, thus making it necessary to be aware of prevailing weather conditions. We had pre-planned reassembly points where we were to report after an attack, so we had to know a variety of routes from any particular point to get to them.

How does that translate to survival preparedness now? God forbid that we should ever have to prepare for an attack on that scale now, but the basic elements are these:

1. Know likely targets in your area. If you happen to live in an area free of likely targets, count your blessings. If you happen to be away from that area for any extended period of time, have several plans and routes for getting back there planned in advance. There won't be time to dither, and while everyone else is looking for an escape route, you should be halfway home. It also goes without saying that you should have equipment and supplies sufficient to enable you to get home without having to stop for anything except fuel. Have cash on hand to pay for fuel.

If you live in close proximity to a target area such that you would be affected by the blast, plan your immediate escape route(s) with the primary considerations of speed and shelter possibilities. Avoid cities and towns if possible and look for areas where you can shelter from immediate blast effects if that should happen. Fortunately, you won't be prohibited from entering a shelter like we were, so having adequate shelter in the first place should be one of your preps. However, most of us have to work and we all have to get away from home sometime, so we can't guarantee that we'll be there when something bad happens. Have an escape/shelter plan for work, office and for the kids in school if that's your situation.

Keep an eye on the news (for readers of this blog I don't think that will be a problem) and know about rising tensions. You won't have immediate notification of an attack like we did, but there should hopefully be some kind of warning (even over the Emergency Broadcast System) so have a plan to use those precious minutes before the "unthinkable" (to most people) happens. Get in the habit of listening to the radio while driving instead of listening to CDs or MPEG files. If you have 15 minutes and a clear route planned, then you could make 10-20 miles in that time, depending on traffic. That amount of distance might make the difference between surviving the initial attack or not.

2. Have a variety of post attack routes to your assembly point (bug out location) planned in advance (did I say that once before?) based on weather, traffic and road conditions. What looks like a nice, scenic route in good weather could become closed by winter conditions or flooded in the spring. Know where to go and what to do if the route you choose should happen to be blocked (even if blocked by authorities). Know what your route looks like in daylight and darkness. The unexpected can happen at any time.

3. If you're not familiar with the roads in any particular area, get a map and study it. Learn how to read a topo map so that if you have to choose a route you haven't reconnoitered you can at least tell where the steep hills, valleys, bridges, etc. are.

Hope this level of planning doesn't sound too paranoid, but I lived with it for ten years, so it's become more or less habit by now. The preparations you make involving equipment and supplies are all for naught if you don't survive or can't get to them. S o I would say that all of the aforementioned preparations are as important or more important than having every last piece of cool gear available. Software trumps hardware every time. Furthermore, it doesn't cost very much. - A Former SAC Troop

Hi Jim -
Thanks for your blog. It is well worth the [voluntary] 10 cents a day.

Just a quick tip on saving money. Many employers offer flexible spending ["Health Savings"] accounts [(HSAs)] that are funded with pre-tax money. These accounts are usually billed as letting the employee pay for office co-pays, prescription co-pays, etc. tax free. But depending on the program, many other things qualify for purchases through the account. For example, my employer's program allows most over-the-counter [medical] products. Things like bandages, creams, contact lens solution, foot care products and more are all valid purchases. I've been able to build solid health care/first-aid kits for my 72-hour bag, truck, and home using my account. My employer's program offers a card that is used like a debit card, good any place that takes Master Card or VISA. This makes it even better because I can make qualified purchases wherever I find the best deal without worrying about claims forms, receipts, etc. If any of your readers work for an employer that offers such an account, it is worth researching to see what is allowed and what isn't. They might be surprised, I know I was! - John in Michigan

JWR Adds: It is also noteworthy that with most HSA plans, any portion that is not expended can accrue and be designated for a retirement fund. I consider HSAs a "win-win" for preparedness-minded families. The only significant drawback would be if our nation enters a period of mass inflation.

Mr. Rawles,
Not long ago you mentioned the price of precious metals had fallen. Today the market ended with spot precious metals taking a sharp dive. If any reader does not have at least some silver or gold for when the economy really drops off, now is definitely the time to get them. Kitco is one source. I use the Northwest Territorial Mint for large purchases. For smaller buys, I have used Mint Products, but they are more for the collector, and not bullion speculator.

I have been able to amass a large sum of bullion, in the forms of silver and gold. Most gold is the older coins from the [late] 1800s and early 1900s. This gives me the bonus of not only having gold [bullion], but also having a [numismatic] rare coin. When things go really bad, I also keep a large quantity of [non-numismatic circulated] silver dimes. Buying these in $1,000 face value bags is the way to go. This will allow a person to have the smaller coins for barter. Also, having some Morgan and Peace dollars can be helpful. With the current low costs people can give now purchase them for use as birthday or Christmas presents, as well. Most young people have never seen the large dollar coins, so these coins make unique gifts.

As a last mention on this topic, Canadian silver dollars are selling for about the same cost as a US dollar, yet they are worth $5 Canadian dollars. With the current economy and weak US dollar, these are a better buy than the US Silver Eagles and people should look to these if they have a choice concerning coins. Also, plan on getting a small scale that does not take batteries. If one can be obtained, the older postage scales that can handle smaller weights would be advisable.With a scale available, [heavily worn] silver coins can be weighed to help determine their value, after TSHTF. Regards, - J. Russ

OSOM sent us this link from National Geographic: How to Survive (Almost) Anything: 14 Survival Skills

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Cheryl flagged this article from The Telegraph: Spanish government cuts short holiday as economy collapses

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Wes at WK Books has decided to give away one of the best survival manuals on the web, in HTML: U.S. Army Field Manual Survival 3-05.70 (FM 21-76) Print out a copy and leave a copy on your hard disk.

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Reader CJ mentioned a Russian web site with some uncensored photos of the war in South Ossetia. Warning: Some graphic images of bullet wounds and immolated bodies.

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The tension gets kicked up another notch: Ukraine offers satellite defence cooperation with Europe and US

"Now I have a sheep and a cow, every body bids me good-morrow." - Ben Franklin, The Way to Wealth, 1736

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The high bid in the SurvivalBlog Benefit Auction is now at $350. The auction for a mixed lot that includes: Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried foods in #10 cans, (donated by Ready Made Resources--a $320 value), a NukAlert radiation detector, (donated by KI4U--a $160 value), a Wilson Tactical COP tool, (donated by Choate Machine and Tool Company, a $140 value), a DVD of 480 E-books on Alternative Energy (donated by WK Books--a $25 value). The auction ends on September 15, 2008. Please e-mail us your bid.

Perhaps Anatoliy Golitsyn was right. He was a high level Soviet defector that predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union, claiming that perestroika and glasnost were charades that had been planned for decades by the Soviet-era KGB leadership to strategically deceive the West into thinking that we had "won" the Cold War. Some evidence: the recent Russian invasion of Georgia, Russia's nuclear threats against Poland, and Putin's hints of positioning ICBMs in Cuba. (As I've written before, history doesn't exactly repeat itself, but it often rhymes.) Was Golitsyn right? The West may have been the victim of the greatest dezinformatisaya (disinformation) campaign in world history. If they've pulled off an illusion this grand, Sun Tzu would be proud. (Some 25 centuries ago, he wrote: "I will force the enemy to take our strength for weakness, and our weakness for strength, and thus will turn his strength into weakness.")

I can foresee that the recent Russian campaign of brinkmanship will continue for months or perhaps years. This may very well escalate, degenerating into a renewed cold war of tit-for-tat escalation--including both diplomatic moves and military posturing. Likely maneuvers for the West might include further demands, economic embargoes, troop redeployments, offshore asset seizures, and diplomatic sanctions. One crucial sanction might be removing Russia from the G8 -- reverting it to the Group of Seven (G7) Nations. We might even soon see something similar to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. And from there it is no great stretch of imagination to envision the cold war tipping over into a genuine hot war--nothing short of World War III.

I believe that western intelligence analysts spotted the Russian troop buildup on the Georgian border many months ago and predicted an invasion. It is noteworthy that the majority of the US "advisers" in Georgia were Special Forces (SF or "Green Beret") troops. Their premier specialty is training guerilla fighters. (Although they are better known publicly as counter-guerilla trainers.) There is a high likelihood that the SF were training Georgian "stay behind" guerillas, in anticipation of a total invasion and takeover of Georgia, by Russia. So things might even get worse in Georgia. Instead of just South Ossetia, the Russians may want the whole enchilada.

But stepping back from these tumultuous events for a moment, it is more likely that we are simply witnessing a spate of Russian saber-rattling. This may pass, and the international scene may regain normalcy. However, I don't rule out the possibility that the recent events could presage something far more serious.

What then, are the implications for well-prepared American families if this escalation were to continue into a new cold war? Based on the experience of the War on Terror (WoT), I predict that any of the following could occur:

  1. Even greater shortages of storage food and other key preparedness logistics.
  2. Increased border security and scrutiny of Americans leaving or reentering the United States. This may have a profound effect on anyone that has, or is considering establishing an off-shore retreat.
  3. A rapid escalation in the price of gold and a coincident collapse in confidence in the United States Dollar.
  4. A new draft or other some form of forced universal military conscription.
  5. Widespread shortages and rationing of food, fuel, and other key goods.
  6. Demonization of anyone making substantive logistical preparations for their families (under the mischaracterization of "hoarding"), regardless of when and how someone stocked up. (Don't let the mass media's twisted Orwellian logic fool you. By stocking up well in advance, you have actually helped to mitigate any future shortages.)
  7. New laws or executive orders covering a plethora of nouveau 'crimes' including: private possession of a huge list of chemical "precursors"; bans on exotic "paramilitary" ammunition (such as tracer, AP, and incendiary); bans on owning unlicensed amateur radio equipment, night vision equipment, and body armor; criminalization of private hard encryption; banning of large caliber rifles, and so forth.

I urge all SurvivalBlog readers to redouble their efforts to keep a low profile in their communities and their presence on the Internet. If the Cold War reemerges with the same intensity as the Cuban Missile Crisis, we may very well soon enter an age of deception and betrayal that could sweep up innocents as well as malefactors. It is both wise and prudent to avoid creating a 'paper trail', 'electronic footprints', or 'cookie crumbs' when acquiring storage food, ammunition, night vision gear, controversial books, and various logistics. Avoid using credit cards and avoid making purchases from major Internet vendors such as and These are the ones most likely to keep detailed records and also the most likely to be asked to turn them over to authorities.

You should concentrate on making your purchases from small "Mom & Pop Operations", and from private parties. Pay cash and pick up merchandise personally, as much as possible. If you are buying other than face to face, then pay via money order rather than by personal check or credit card. Don't leave your name or address. If it is legal in your state, buy guns only on the secondary market, directly from private parties. (Be sure to consult your state and local laws!).

I also encourage all SurvivalBlog readers to use Anonymizer Safe Surfing Suite , (for web searches), TrueCrypt, PGP, and other Internet privacy software and services to lower your profile. All of this might sound slightly paranoid, but in my estimation a higher degree of privacy is, again, wise and prudent, even if times aren't likely to get any worse than they already are.

I'd appreciate input from readers about what they would consider an essential checklist of preparations for a new international crisis, or, may God forbid, for World War III.

Mr. Rawles,

I just picked up two rugged 4GB USB memory sticks at a rather good price of $15 each. ($19.99 less a mail-in rebate of $5.) Your readers might consider them for their emergency kits to store scanned in copies of their legal documents, insurance, investments and personal records and photos.

This isn't bullets and butter but might just prove more valuable than both when trying to get a replacement social security card or passport. The 10 year warranty is awfully nice so keep your receipt. Maybe you should scan that and save it on the memory stick too!

If your readers would also be interested in a free encryption software they should consider trying TrueCrypt for Windows, Mac and Linux. - Neal

"Bee Prepared" sent us this article from The Guardian: Honeybee deaths reaching crisis point. One in three of UK's honeybees did not survive winter and spring. Pollination of fruit and vegetables is at risk.

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From a farm bulletin, courtesy of reader MK:

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Cheryl N. found this: Merrill Lynch: Credit Crisis is Broad, Deep and Global

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Cheryl N. also sent this, from Trident Military: World Camouflage Catalog. It makes handy reference.

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Also from Cheryl N.: US Home Foreclosures Increase 55% and Estimated 1,300 Houses Foreclosed in California Every Day

"Almighty God...I yield thee humble and hearty thanks that thou has preserved me from the danger of the night past, and brought me to the light of the day, and the comforts thereof, a day which is consecrated to thine own service and for thine own honor. Let my heart, therefore, Gracious God, be so affected with the glory and majesty of it, that I may not do mine own works, but wait on thee, and discharge those weighty duties thou requirest of me. Give me grace to hear thee calling on me in thy word, that it may be wisdom, righteousness, reconciliation and peace to the saving of the soul in the day of the Lord Jesus. Grant that I may hear it with reverence, receive it with meekness, mingle it with faith, and that it may accomplish in me, Gracious God, the good work for which thou has sent it. Bless my family, kindred, friends and country, be our God and guide this day and for ever for His sake, who lay down in the Grave and arose again for us, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen." - The Prayer Journal of George Washington

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Congrats to Tom H., the high bidder in the recent SurvivalBlog Benefit Auction. Today we start a new auction for another mixed lot that includes: Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried foods in #10 cans, (donated by Ready Made Resources--a $320 value), a NukAlert radiation detector, (donated by KI4U--a $160 value), a Wilson Tactical COP tool, (donated by Choate Machine and Tool Company, a $140 value), a DVD of 480 E-books on Alternative Energy (donated by WK Books--a $25 value).

The auction ends on September 15, 2008. The opening bid is just $50. Please e-mail us your bid.

Today we present a guest editorial from Craig R. Smith, the president and CEO of Swiss America Trading Corporation. His firm has been one of SurvivalBlog's most loyal advertisers. They have a great reputation for trustworthiness, reliability, and responsive customer service. This article also recently appeared in WorldNetDaily.

Recent events in the financial markets have renewed concerns that should be considered by any American who has worked, paid taxes, invested and saved for the future.
It is no secret that America is swimming in debt. Currently the U.S national debt is $9.6 trillion. That is $47,000 for every adult or $94,000 for couples. One can only imagine the future burden that will put on taxpayers as the politicians continue to print money to pay off everything from health care to foreclosed mortgages. No level of taxation will support this kind of unbridled spending.
We are now spending money at a rate that is ridiculous and there is no end in sight. Predictions are that by the end of 2008 America will be running a $500 billion deficit and soon the national debt will exceed $10 trillion. And while this level of debt should have every American demanding the immediate halt to most spending, it has not. In fact, more and more Americans are looking for the government to spend more money fixing their personal problems.

In an unprecedented move, the Federal Reserve, in cooperation with the Treasury Department, bailed out the investment bank Bear Stearns in March. For the first time ever, the Fed opened the discount window to an investment bank issuing $35 billion of financing for the beleaguered institution. Then in the dark of Sunday night, the Fed, with the complete cooperation of the Treasury, set up a sale of Bear Stearns to a commercial bank, JP Morgan, with all assets being applied to JP Morgan's balance sheet while only increasing liabilities for the first billion in potential losses.
But it gets worse.

Within weeks, the confidence in the financial system and American banks in particular had so dramatically deteriorated, the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission adopted a rule that forbade naked short-selling of financial stocks such as JP Morgan, Wachovia, Bank of America, Citibank, HSBC and Well Fargo, just to name a few. This meant an investor who had no confidence in a financial stock could no longer sell the stock in a short sale expecting its value to drop – at which time they would buy it at a lower price and fill the sale.
Keep in mind, this was still a perfectly acceptable practice with other stocks – just not the "financials." If that single move did not send shivers up every American investor's spine, then it's hard to say what would.

The market was so vulnerable to a massive sell-off and further deterioration of bank-stock values that the free market was abandoned for a government-controlled market and the folks were almost grateful that a crisis had been averted.

Grateful? We should have been outraged. But then again, many in America don't really want free markets. They want the government to protect their assets. Do we believe the government has been so successful in managing the finances of government that we now want them to manage the financial markets?

Weeks later, Congress passed H.R. 3221, "The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008." This allowed Congress to bail out the 400,000 homeowners who are facing foreclosure, while saving Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the government-sponsored enterprises, or GSEs – the same companies that arguably caused most of this mess to begin with.
The president, who vowed to veto the bill, caved and signed it. It allows, by statutory limit, the spending of as much as $800 billion, which will bring the national debt to potentially $10.6 trillion.

Again, more government spending to save whom? Homeowners who fell on tough times? Or speculators who were trying to play the game and the banks that financed them? You got it. The banks and the speculators.

This bill will do nothing more than bail out the very people who created the mess – at taxpayer expense. What homeowner in their right mind, if given the choice to walk away from a home that has dropped by 40 percent in value or refinance it at the original value, will opt to refinance? This bill will directly place billions of dollars into banks in order to clean up and rehab foreclosed properties which will be put right back on the market at reduced prices. Once again, all at the taxpayers' expense.

It will be a virtual repeat of the Resolution Trust Corporation bailout in the late '80s – with one difference. There was a standard held for credit in the '80s. This last loose-money binge was created by lending anyone who could breathe and sign the paperwork cheap money to buy a home – regardless of the reason why.
The bottom line: To "save" the system that was clearly melting down as a result of plummeting real estate values and frozen credit markets, the Fed and the Treasury Department will allow the creation of billions and billions, if not trillions, of dollars which will be added to the national debt. This will further deteriorate the long-term value of the U.S. dollar and ultimately threaten Americans' quality of life through increases in the cost of living. Once again, the American taxpayer and saver will foot the bill – all the while watching the price of everything from food to college tuition increase at an alarming pace.

The markets are well aware of the effect these moves will have on the dollar and have prepared accordingly. The international markets have long ago lost their appetite for American debt. The days of foreign countries and businesses lending us the money necessary to survive have ceased. Now they look to buy our businesses, our real estate and other assets. They are not willing to take a promise to be paid in the future with dollars that are constantly diminishing in value.

With the stock market having experienced six minus-300-point rallies, it is clear we are in a bear market for stocks. Bull markets never experience such rallies according to the chief economist at Merrill Lynch. Such rallies are inherent in bear markets and this market is clearly in a bear mood. Earnings are shrinking, unemployment is increasing and raw material costs are through the roof. Not to mention skyrocketing energy and healthcare costs.

The once-free American markets that were the envy of the world have become government-controlled markets, out of necessity for the time being. The powers that be at the Fed and Treasury can ill-afford a breakdown of the system. News reports of runs on the Indy Mac bank were reminiscent of the 1929 crash and were quickly bandaged to stop the bleeding of public confidence. And while the immediate symptom received treatment, the underlying disease was ignored. All shareholder equity, for those who invested in Fannie and Freddie, should have been wiped out. The market should have been left to heal on its own. But instead, the Fed placed the government version of a Band-Aid on a hemorrhaging wound. Real treatment of the problem would have been more than the market could bear.

In the last week or so, we have seen the U.S. dollar strengthen against most world currencies. Oil prices have subsided back to the $116/barrel level, but make no mistake about it: It will not last. The long-term prospect for the dollar remains tenuous at best and the moment the factories go back to work in China after the Olympics, oil consumption will return and the lower dollar and higher oil scenario will be back in full swing. Any relief in either of these areas is an opportunity to get out.

So don't go out and pop the corks on the champagne bottle just yet. Remain vigilant. In the 1990s, one could place profit ahead of liquidity and safety. Today, that would be financial suicide. Liquidity should be the No. 1 priority: Can I get my money if I want or need it? Second is safety: Are my investments in a relatively safe area of the market? Are they insured if they are in the bank? Third, look to see a profit. Low interest rates are a sure loss, but then, you are paying for safety and liquidity.

The best advice I can offer right now is to stay very well diversified. The long-term portion of one's money can be in stocks. A portion in real estate. A portion in mutual funds. A portion in bonds and cash. However, a key investment component would be holdings in gold, knowing this is an investment in your control, not a bank's, one that's private, portable and potentially very profitable, and one that has long been a reliable anchor in a financial storm and insurance against an uncertain future.

As Will Rogers once said, "I am not as concerned about the returns on my investment as I am the return of my investment."

Future writings in this space will discuss the geopolitical events that may change things at a moment's notice. For instance, the threat of Iran taking control of the Strait of Hormuz – and 30 percent of the world's oil supply – is real. Russia, China, India and Brazil (the so-called "BRIC" economies) and their growing economies are fully ready to compete and win in the battle against America for world customers.
Are we prepared for all this, and more?

These are very uncertain times, most of it out of your control. That is why the only investment strategy that will provide a good night's sleep is one strictly based on a well-diversified financial portfolio. (Please feel free to speak to one of the representatives at Swiss America, who can help inform you on all the latest trends and options, so your hard-earned dollars are protected against all possible scenarios.)

I was recently interviewed by Kayleen Schaefer of Details magazine. She is looking for other preppers that would be willing to be interviewed. In particular, she'd like to find someone living in tech Baltimore, Maryland or Washington DC area that would not mind having one of the magazine's photographers photograph of their food storage shelves. They've promised not to publish anything that would reveal identities or locales. Please contact Kayleen via e-mail if you'd like to be interviewed.

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Thanks to Chris W. for spotting this: Ready for Disaster? 'Preparedness Movement' Members Say They Are

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From reader Tim P.: Researchers fear other [H9N2] bird flu virus may cause pandemic

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If you haven't seen it yet, be sure to check out US Army "Ranger Rick" F. Tscherne's web site. He has some great survival tips and tricks.

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Cheryl sent this: The outrage in your credit card's fine print. Cheryl predicts that credit card debt will trigger the next big crisis.

"Invest in inflation; it’s the only thing that’s going up." - Will Rogers

Friday, August 15, 2008

Today is the last day in the current SurvivalBlog Benefit Auction. The high bid is now at $580. This auction is for a big mixed lot: a NukAlert radiation detector, donated by KI4U--a $160 value), a DVD of 480 E-books on Alternative Energy (donated by WK Books--a $25 value), and the following package of survival gear all kindly donated by One case of MREs, one pack of water purifications tablets, a bottle of colloidal silver, a fire starter, a bottle of potassium iodate tablets, an emergency dental kit, a pack of "Shower in a bag" bath wipes, and one messenger bag to pack it in. The auction ends at midnight (eastern time) tonight--Friday, August 15, 2008. Please e-mail us your bid.

Hi Jim,
I don't recall reading a specific article about root cellaring, specifically long term storage of vegetables. Is there a point and time when potatoes go to sprout that you can no longer safely eat them? What about the best overall temp to store in and yes or no to burlap bags? What about other veggies?
Another tidbit was on Fox and Friends house call portion of the show they talked with an expert and outlined the extreme benefits of eating broccoli and broccoli sprouts with their extreme cancer killing properties and the vitamins in the vegetable. On a side note, I did not realize that broccoli ounce for ounce contains more calcium than milk! Can broccoli be kept in a root cellar for an extended time?
What about rodent control in the root cellar? Is there an optimum humidity level for the cellar?
(on a personal note, have you ever done or heard of anyone whom has bought a Bison brand hand pump? The company is located in Minnesota. They offer a pump that goes into the existing well casing without removal of the original pump.) Was curious if these were quality.
Thank You So Much - The Wanderer

JWR Replies: To start, I highly recommend the book Root Cellaring, by Mike and Nancy Bubel.

In answer to one of your questions: Broccoli and cauliflower do not generally store well in a root cellar unless the ai temperature is in the 30s, and even then, it storage life is limited--perhaps a few weeks at most.

In a root cellar, root crops, nuts, and fruits such as apples store the best. The temperature should be as low as possible, without dipping below freezing. The ambient ground temperature will dictate the cellar's air temperature. Unless someone lives in Alaska or inland Canada, I recommend digging root cellar quite deep (with at least three feet of soil for insulation) , putting it on the shady side of your house, and installing a double set of ("airlock") type doors with plenty of hard foam insulation.

Fairly high humidity (90 to 95%) is actually a good thing in root cellars. Without it, many stored food will gradually desiccate. Very high humidity is not a major issue unless it high enough, and the temperature low enough for the air to condense each time the door is opened. In places where the humidity is that high (near 100%), it is probably best to have the entrance to the root cellar inside a house (by way of an interior basement door, rather than an exterior entrance.) In many parts of the country, you will want to supplement the natural humidity by placing a thin layer of gravel on the floor, and a occasionally sprinkling it with water. You should monitor both the temperature and the humidity (the latter with a hygrometer) in your root cellar.

I don't have any personal experience with the Bison brand pumps. Perhaps a reader that has used one would care to comment. OBTW, they should be available from

Mr. Rawles,

Thanks for the great articles. I have been able to check out your web site for several months, and have recently been able to purchase thru private channels an M1A (Smith Enterprise receiver) battle rifle. It came with a McMillan fiberglass stock and two 20 round"W"-marked magazines. I have purchased four more of the same magazines through Cheaper Than Dirt, and wanted to know if you had any recommendations on scopes and scope mounts. There seem to be a lot of cheap import scope mounts, but many customer reviews are mixed. Also, with this type of weapon, a poorly made scope will show fast. Most US military scopes are designed around the .223 (5.56mm NATO) round. Any idea on where to start with this?

I should let you know that I have land that will be used for my retreat. I will be putting a cabin together come Spring of 2009, and the land is lightly treed rolling hills. I plan to use this firearm as a fixed defensive weapon, since it is fairly heavy compared to my other firearms. I have the heavy steel bipod for this, and with the soon to be compliment of six 20rd magazines and 22 stripper clips, this should make for a decent piece. I have seen Yukon night vision scopes, but have no idea about the quality. Any advice would help a bunch. Best Regards,- J.M.R.

JWR Replies: I recommend that you buy at least two more, and preferably four more magazines, to be ready for truly Schumeresque times. The original "W" stamped magazines were made by Winchester. But be advised that there have been some reports of faked "W" and "BRW S-1"--marked M14 magazines currently on the market. Because the markings on these replicas area almost identical to the originals, the only way to be absolutely sure that you are getting the genuine article is if you buy ones that are still in the original government issue VCI paper wrapper, with military contract markings. The good news, however, is that the functional reliability of the replicas is just as good as the originals. But collector-purists would be incensed to find that they bought fakes. (For details on M14/M1A magazines, see my FAQ on the subject.)

I highly recommend the ARMS #18 scope mount. The Springfield Armory (commercial) steel scope mounts are also excellent. In my experience, even their early generation (single thumb screw) mounts are "bomb proof" at holding zero. I've owned each, and I have no complaints about either of them. I've heard that Smith Enterprise M1A mount is also excellent, but I've never tried one.

Avoid the cheap imported M14 scope mounts .I have read that many of them have either inconsistent quality control (dimensional) problems, return to zero problems, or both.

For scopes, I recommend any of the following:

Leatherwood ART scopes.

Leupold Mark 4 (PR LR) 4.5-14x40 Mil-Dot scopes. (These require 30mm diameter rings.)

Trijicon Trophy Point scopes (with tritium-lit reticle)

AN/PVS-4 Starlight scopes, such as those remanufactured by STANO Components, Inc. (Get an original USGI M14 Starlight scope mount.)

I do not recommend most of the inexpensive starlight scopes made in Russia. They have notoriously uneven quality control and poor image quality. For more details on night vision gear, see this letter in the SurvivalBlog archives.

Pete in New Hampshire found this web site while preparing to test his Bug Out Bag equipment in the field. Pete mentioned "It allows you to build customized topographical maps of the area you pick and if you pay $20 they will mail it to you laminated, ready for field use."

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This latest bit of Nanny State meddling doesn't bode well for those of us that like to formulate our own soap or otherwise do any home chemistry: Home Science Under Attack In Massachusetts. (A hat tip to "Crusher" for sending the link.)

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Merry sent us this article: Crime-ridden Arkansas town expands 24-hour curfew

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Cheryl found this one for us: Banks' Subprime Losses Top $500 Billion on Writedowns

"Patience and fortitude conquer all things." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, August 14, 2008

There is just one day remaining in the current SurvivalBlog Benefit Auction. The high bid is still at $500. This auction is for a big mixed lot: a NukAlert radiation detector, donated by KI4U--a $160 value), a DVD of 480 E-books on Alternative Energy (donated by WK Books--a $25 value), and the following package of survival gear all kindly donated by One case of MREs, one pack of water purifications tablets, a bottle of colloidal silver, a fire starter, a bottle of potassium iodate tablets, an emergency dental kit, a pack of "Shower in a bag" bath wipes, and one messenger bag to pack it in. The auction ends tomorrow--Friday, August 15, 2008. Please e-mail us your bid.

Many thanks for your e-mails of love and encouragement. Your prayers are greatly appreciated. I am now feeling better each day, and am uplifted by your heartfelt prayers!

Thanks so much for SurvivalBlog. I've been lurking there for around six months now, ever since I started to realize the value of being prepared. It's a daily stop for me, because I know I'll learn something new nearly every day.
I read with interest some of the recent writings about preparedness on a budget and investing in metals. I've combined the two. I, like many people, don't have a lot of money to spend on preparedness (good thing, otherwise I might be a mall ninja). But at the same time, I want to prepare for everything at once. So I started preparing food through a link I found through your pages -- with the $10 a week food storage. At the same time, I wanted to continue my metals savings.

I had been saving up $40-$60 a month and buying gold coins. When gold went to $1,000 per ounce, I switched to buying silver. Now each month I set aside just $20. I then either head to my local coin shop or use the Internet to buy a silver coin or bullion. I actually get the silver in my hands. I read a recent article on SurvivalBlog that mentioned how to invest in silver and how to obtain certificates or deposits, etc. But I want the silver in my hand. Now I know that if there's a total meltdown, no one will want coins. But if there's just a partial meltdown, I know I've got something that will be worth trading. If there's no meltdown, know what? I've still got something worth something. And I like that by taking physical possession of it, that I'm assured that no matter what bank fails, I've still got it.

There is great value, in my mind, in having the peace of mind to know that I'm prepared. - Ogre

Just discovered your site. You have lots of useful information, but I have noticed a few points that may have been overlooked, or that I haven't gotten to [in the Archives] yet.

1. Off road or utility motorcycles: I feel safe to discuss this,being a former off road racer! A 4 stroke bike is the way to go,it gets 4 to 5 times the gas mileage. A big 2 stroke will smoke anything that can fit thru the woods but sucks gas like a maniac. My [two stroke] race bike was lucky to get 5 mpg--a 500 cc Husqvarna. For trail use, ease of handling, and easy for a novice rider. Go to Pep Boys and get a couple of the 100cc [four stroke] trail bikes .Cheap, easy to ride and learn, and great gas mileage. Get a trailer, not just for the bikes, but for everything else. As a last resort you can ditch your main ride, and ride the bikes.

2. Electric power: I also feel safe to discuss this topic,as my father owned a Recreational Vehicle (RV) dealership! All of the RVs had a "three way" refrigerator,12 volt DC, propane, and 110 volt. They also owned a place in Mexico, way out of the town proper, with solar power. Why not use those cheap little solar lights that you use along the sidewalk for lighting?

3. All heck breaks loose, no time to run: I always' stock up on any sales at the grocery store. Canned food,"10 for $2" or whatever, hot dogs on the 4th of july, turkeys around Thanksgiving, whatever fits in my deep freeze. Also, I always keep water bottles in the deep freeze, not only for the water, but should the power fail, you have instant huge ice blocks to maintain it a bit longer. Living in Arizona, water is a more required item, than comfort. I have a small jacuzzi, which can be used just to cool off when it hits 110 degrees here, as it does often. It holds 400 gallons. I wouldn't use it for drinking or cooking, but it makes the day a lot more comfy [since it can be used for bathing and toilet flushing]

4. Tools: As a machinist, I think I have two of every tool known to mankind! Learn to use them, properly. An improperly used tool won't last long. A screwdriver is not a chisel, and a chisel is not a screwdriver. You may never have a chance to find another 9/16" wrench for a while, so buy quality tools, use them right. The same logic applies with chainsaws, generators, and whatever. You may need to rely on them more than you believe. As an off-road motorcycle racer, I have!

5. Think outside the box: A Marine Corp #1 rule: improvise! I was in a [long distance off-road] race in Mexico, and got a front flat tire. I was pretty much out of the race, right? Wrong! I stuffed the front tire full of weeds grass, and twigs, zip tied the tire to the rim, and rode slowly to the pit stop. I ended up placing second in the race. The moral of the story? Nothing is impossible! You just haven't thought of the solution yet!

Okay, I'm done ranting. Thanks for your site. It is very informative - Dean

Prince Charles warns GM crops risk causing the biggest-ever environmental disaster. (A hat tip to Bob G. for the link.)

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Keith recommended an article by John Silveira with some alternative thoughts about Peak Oil. Keith notes: "The article will remind you what makes this country still work and it points out the pitfalls of assuming that how things are in the present will continue into the future. I'm not saying they are the do-all end-all, but you cannot discount technology, innovation, and free enterprise."

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Mike McG--a veteran intel Cold Warrior--sent us a link to an interesting New York Times article about the Soviet invasion of Georgia: Before the Gunfire, Cyberattacks

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KT flagged this one: Why food is the new oil

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Red in Oklahoma sent us this alarming news: One Third of New Owners Owe More Than House Is Worth. Red also found this: Fed holds first auction for 84-day loans. OBTW, George Ure over at had some great commentary about the new Treasury auction term.

"If ever time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin." - Samuel Adams

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Today we present another entry for Round 18 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The contest prizes include:

First Prize: The writer of the best contributed article in the next 60 days will be awarded two transferable Front Sight  "Gray" Four Day Training Course Certificates. This is an up to $4,000 value!
Second Prize: A three day course certificate from OnPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses.
Third Prize: A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing

Round 18 ends on September 30th, 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.

Icelandic sheep are the ultimate survival livestock for anyone living in USDA climate zone 6 or colder. Why?
Because unlike other small livestock they are triple purpose: meat, milk, and fiber. They were bred by the vikings who settled in Iceland for 1,000 years. The viking husbandry practices only favored the hardiest and smartest sheep. In Iceland the sheep are turned loose to forage for themselves as soon as the snow melts and not rounded up again until late Fall when no forage remains. Typically the oldest daughters spend the summer at pasture with the sheep milking them and making cheese. The sheep are expected to raise twins and have excess milk for cheese and butter by foraging alone. They are never feed grain. This makes them ideal for a self-sufficient farmstead. Other Icelandic owners we know have a business making gourmet cheese. At one month old they separate the lambs each evening from the ewes then in the morning they milk the ewes in the morning. Then the lambs and ewes are turned out together for the day and the lambs can nurse freely all day.

Unlike nearly all other breeds of sheep Icelandics are browsers as well as grazers. They will make use of all the forage on your property. Our property which had nearly 20 different species of noxious weed when we bought it has been improved dramatically since grazing our Icelandic sheep. We used cross fencing to divide up the pastures. Our Icelandics eat it all down including all the noxious weeds to four inches and then we move them onto the next pasture. Furthermore, because the Icelandics browse bushes and shrubs and trees of all sorts the wildfire danger to our property has been dramatically reduced.

I can't say enough about how tasty Icelandic lamb is. Even our friends who thought they didn't like lamb enjoy Icelandic lamb chops. Most Icelandic ewes easily raise twins to market weight in four months. Of course another byproduct at butcher is a gorgeous pelt.

They are excellent mothers. They are very protective and aware of their lambs. They lamb easily and rarely require and help. Most all of mine lamb so easily I miss nearly all the lambing even though I was going out to the pasture multiple times in hopes of seeing the births. They are super attentive to their newborn lambs cleaning them off vigorously. And urging their lambs to nurse promptly. And unlike other breeds of sheep Icelandic sheep can count to three meaning they can and will raise triplets. The lambs are vigorous quick to stand and search for the teat. Just because I think it is so interesting I really want to be there for the birth. But I always end up missing the whole thing and I find the new mama ewe and lambs are already dry and nursing vigorously.

Icelandic sheep also are recognized for their intelligence. Aside for some being especially intelligent, in each lamb crop, we have had some that are especially tame and interested in people. These lambs come to see us to be scratched and petted. As adult ewes they are great to have in the flock because they come whenever they are called and the rest of the flock follows them where ever I lead. These ewes are also very easily milked. Also Icelandic rams in general have exceptionally docile temperaments. Our rams are best friends and graze side by side and occasionally amble over to us if they want to be scratched.

Then there is the fiber!!! Icelandics are unique among all breeds of sheep in that they are dual wool coated. Each animal produces an extremely soft underdown wool that rivals the finest Merino and a top wool which is strong and especially suited for hard wearing articles such as rugs and socks. The I use a dog brush to brush the soft underdown out of the long guard wool. The underdown I spin up into baby soft yarn that makes gorgeous next to skin soft articles. [By the way many people who think they are allergic to wool are actually allergic to the harsh chemicals used in the modern processing.] The long wool I spin worsted into sock yarns and warp yarn for my loom among other uses. Though usually we hire a sheep shearer to shear our flock all on one day. Though I have used scissors to hand shear my sheep. Icelandics naturally shed their wool. The vikings gathered the sheep around the vernal equinox when the shedding was underway. The viking selected a sheep, tied their feet together and used a dull knife to scrape off the fleece. Icelandics come in colors!The outer wool comes in white, black, or chocolate brown. The under down wool can be white, black, brown, cream or gray. So simplest terms you can get Icelandics that are white white, black black, black gray, brown brown, brown gray, or brown cream. We have some white sheep because I enjoy dying wool different colors just for fun. But my very favorite are my black blacks. Their wool great for making tactical watch caps and sweaters without the need for dyes. Another fun thing we do with the fleece which comes off in one piece is felt it into a pelt. This is a really fun project the kids and I enjoy. We take the whole fleece and lay if on top of a vinyl table cloth. Then I poor hot soapy water over the whole fleece the the kids and I side step round and round the fleece singing. The underdown turns into felt and the guard hair remains in loose locks and does not felt. except at the base into the underdown. It really is quite amazing! When we are done we have created a gorgeous "pelt"

In conclusion I believe the Icelandics intelligence, dairy potential, and dual wool coat make them superior to all other sheep breeds for survival purposes for anyone living in the northern US.

The Memsahib Adds: It is advisable to buy livestock that is appropriate for your particular climate. Readers on the Gulf Coast might consider Black-bellied Barbados sheep, while those living in rainy western Washington might consider some of the British breeds.

Thank you for dispersing such a wealth of knowledge on your blog. My prayers are with your family and for the Memsahib’s recovery.

I concur with D.J.’s post on Third World Experience. Having done mission work in Central America, Australia, and Nepal I have seen a broad range of austere environments and it truly does open your eyes to have a more prepared mindset. Being in Nepal during the onset of a small civil war brought to my attention the need to be prepared while travelling.

Other than the obvious G.O.O.D. kit within arm’s reach while overseas what are your recommendations for being prepared for survival type scenarios (civil unrest, natural disaster, conflict, etc.) while travelling abroad? Thanks, - J.R.S.

JWR Replies: See the SurvivalBlog article: Preparedness While on Business Travel--What to Pack, by LP, which was posted in November of 2007.

Mr Rawles,
I don't recall if I have ever seen a mention on the blog about this widely known (or maybe just remembered) product so I thought I would give it a mention. We have been using Chia (of "Chia Pet" fame of yesteryear, a.k.a. Salba [grain/grass seed] ) for a little over one year now and this stuff is incredibly versatile for anything food related.

Ounce for ounce this stuff is far more nutritious than any other grains on the market. Here is a link to one of the places I found to purchase in bulk: Hidalgo Foods. They also have documentation about the product as well.

Note: I have no vested interest in this company other than I have purchased more than 100 pounds and their service was excellent. Last, with the cost of wheat and other commodities today this stuff (purchased in bulk) is not much more expensive and nutritive value is more than worth the added expense. Regards, - R.E.

JWR Replies: I am a big believer in sprouting. The nutritive value of sprouts is tremendous There are quite a few articles and letters on the topic in our archives. Using our Search window (at the top of SurvivalBlog's right hand bar), just search on the words "sprouts" and "sprouting". I haven't tried sprouting Salba, but I plan to soon give it a try.

Five Years After Blackout, Power Grid Still in 'Dire Straits'

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I spotted an interesting thread over at the LATOC Forums: Questioning my rural relocation strategy... Obviously, some in the Peak Oil "Doomer " crowd discount the threat of looting and other lawlessness in a Grid Down America. I'm not one of them!

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Cheryl N. found us this: Wachovia boosts loss to $9.11 billion, cuts more jobs

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Cheryl also spotted: Credit Crunch Misery Deepens for UBS--Writes Down Another $7.6 Billion

"The punishment of wise men who refuse to take part in the affairs of government is to live under the government of unwise men." - Plato

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Note from JWR:

There are just three days left in the current SurvivalBlog Benefit Auction. The high bid is still at $500. This auction is for a big mixed lot: a NukAlert radiation detector, donated by KI4U--a $160 value), a DVD of 480 E-books on Alternative Energy (donated by WK Books--a $25 value), and the following package of survival gear all kindly donated by One case of MREs, one pack of water purifications tablets, a bottle of colloidal silver, a fire starter, a bottle of potassium iodate tablets, an emergency dental kit, a pack of "Shower in a bag" bath wipes, and one messenger bag to pack it in. The auction ends on Friday, August 15, 2008. Please e-mail us your bid.

Today, we present a piece from the early days of SurvivalBlog, that many of you who have joined us recently probably missed:

Because of the urbanization of the U.S. population, if the entire eastern or western power grid goes down for more than a week, the cities will rapidly become unlivable. I foresee that there will be an almost unstoppable chain of events: Power -> water -> food distribution -> law and order -> arson fires -> full scale looting
As the comfort level in the cities rapidly drops to nil, there will be a massive involuntary outpouring from the big cities and suburbs into the hinterboonies. This is the phenomenon that my late father, Donald Robert Rawles--a career particle physics research administrator at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories--half-jokingly called “The Golden Horde.” He was of course referring to the Mongol Horde of the 13th Century, but in a modern context. (The Mongol rulers were chosen from the 'Golden Family' of Temujin. Hence the term “The Golden Horde.”) I can remember as a child, my father pointing to the hills at the west end of the Livermore Valley, where we then lived. He opined: “If The Bomb ever drops, we'll see a Golden Horde come swarming over those hills [from Oakland and beyond] of the like that the world has never seen. And they’ll be very unpleasant, believe you me!”

In my lectures on survival topics I often mention that there is just a thin veneer of civilization on our society. What is underneath is not pretty, and it does take much to peel away that veneer. You take your average urbanite or suburbanite and get him excessively cold, wet, tired, hungry and/or thirsty and take away his television, beer, drugs, and other pacifiers, and you will soon seen the savage within. It is like peeling the skin of an onion—remove a couple of layers and it gets very smelly. As a Christian, I attribute this to man’s inherently sinful nature.

Here is a mental exercise: Put yourself in the mind set of Mr. Joe Sixpack, Suburbanite. (Visualize him in or near a big city near where you live.) He is unprepared. He has less than one week’s food on hand, he has a 12 gauge pump action shotgun that he hasn’t fired in years, and just half a tank of gas in his minivan and maybe a gallon or two in a can that he keeps on hand for his lawn mower. Then TEOTWAWKI hits. The power grid is down, his job is history, the toilet doesn't flush, and water no longer magically comes cascading from the tap. There are riots beginning in his city. The local service stations have run out of gas. The banks have closed. Now he is suddenly desperate. Where will he go? What will he do?

Odds are, Joe will think: “I’ve gotta go find a vacation cabin somewhere, up in the mountains, where some rich dude only goes a few weeks out of each year.” So vacation destinations like Lake Tahoe, Lake Arrowhead, and Squaw Valley, California; Prescott and Sedona, Arizona; Hot Springs, Arkansas; Vail and Steamboat Springs, Colorado; and the other various rural ski, spa, Great Lakes, and coastal resort areas will get swarmed. Or, he will think: “I’ve got to go to where they grow food.” So places like the Imperial Valley, the Willamette Valley, and the Red River Valley will similarly get overrun. There will be so many desperate Joe Sixpacks arriving all at once that these areas will degenerate into free-fire zones. It will be an intensely ugly situation and will not be safe for anyone. In some places the locals may be so vastly outnumbered that they won’t survive. But some of the Joe Sixpacks will survive, and then the more ruthless among them will begin to fight amongst themselves for the few remaining resources. They will form ad hoc gangs of perhaps 6 to 30 people.

Once the Golden Horde has been thinned (and honed to ferocity) and they’ve cleaned out an area, the thugs at the pinnacle of ruthlessness will comprise the most formidable rover packs imaginable. They will move on to an adjoining region, and then another. But the inverse square law will work in your favor: Imagine that you take a jar of marbles turn it upside down on a wooden floor and then lift the jar suddenly upward. The marbles will spread out semi-randomly. But the farther from the mouth of the jar, the lighter the density of marbles. Hence, the rover packs will attenuate themselves into a huge rural expanse that is peopled with well-armed country folks. By the time the looters work their way out 150 miles from the big cities, they will be thinned out considerably. The rover pack is your primary threat in a total collapse, no matter how remote your retreat. Here are your potential adversaries: A squad to company size force (12 to 60 individuals), highly mobile, moderately well armed with a motley assortment of weapons and vehicles, and imbued with absolute ruthlessness. Be prepared.

Could you or your readers recommend any good two-way re-chargeable hand-held radios that are sold at outdoor places such as Cabela's?
I'm particularly looking for a model that I could use while at University classes while my wife is one mile away at our apartment.
Thanks,.- Chad

JWR Replies: Reliable communication with a one mile range in a cluttered environment--as I assume yours is, if the city is large enough to host a university--is "iffy" for the typical FRS and GMRS hand-held transceivers on the consumer market. My preference is for the MURS band hand-helds. Not only will you get better range, but you will also be operating in a less commonly used frequency band. This will give you marginally better communications security. (Although, of course no radio transmission should be considered 100% "secure.") I recommend the MURS Radios company (one of our advertisers). as a reputable source of transceivers. They also do custom frequency programming, and sell both accessories and MURS-compatible perimeter intrusion detection systems.

You'll recall that I promised to feature more good news. Here is some potentially good news for the US Dollar from The Financial Times: Dollar at crossroads amid brighter US outlook

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Jay in Florida sent an article that should come as no surprise: FDIC Fund Strained by Bank Failures May Have to Raise Premium. If the bank runs continue apace, the FDIC may have to rely on much more: Namely, "The full faith and credit..."

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Fitzy in Pennsylvania found this: The bionic exoskeleton future is almost here.

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Wars, and rumors of wars: Russian troops move into western Georgia

"Circumstances rule men; men do not rule circumstances." - Herodotus

Monday, August 11, 2008

We were overwhelmed by the generosity of reader R.C. in Arkansas, who just sent us a gift via PayPal, to help defray the cost of some of The Memsahib's recent hospitalization. Thank you very much! Most of all, we appreciate your continuing prayers.

Mr. Rawles,
I have been prepping and working on self-reliance for some time now, and starting reading your blog about a year ago. Thank you for your efforts.

I am a dentist and would like to mention a training option that may be of interest to some of your readers. Especially medical personal. For the past 11 years I have been a “volunteer” dentist for a week or two at a time in a very poor, Central American country. I am part of team that includes other dentists, medical doctors (MDs), and assistants.

I picked this country because of its poverty, relative ease of travel (as opposed to Africa) and the lack of armed conflict. There are many reasons that I go, but a main one is for training and equipment testing.

We stay on site; in a village that has no running water or electricity. Every day hundreds of people line up outside the gate, starting about 5:00 a.m.. The Dental team almost exclusively remove teeth. The MDs see a wide variety of ailments, but many parasites, and hand /eye injuries related to chopping wood and cook fires. I am not qualified to go much beyond that in describing the medical team's activities.

Delivering care in a place like this is a totally different world than my comfortable, climate controlled office. It’s more than removing learning how to extract teeth without great lighting and high-powered suction. The skills required to deliver safe, efficient, high volume oral surgery in what is essentially a ”grid down situation” take some time to develop.

Equipment that works great in the states, only takes up shelf space in the Third World. Without high tech equipment, most dentists aren’t fully productive until they have completed several trips.

The training aspects involve more than my personal skill in removing teeth and running a clinic. I have trained many people in suturing, and given them ample practice. Some trained dental assistants have also learned to inject Novocain as well as removing less challenging teeth.

In addition to the clinical aspect of such trips, these types of missions provide opportunity to practice skills such as off-road driving, crowd control, and improvising. Living for a week or two without running water and electricity gives a taste of what TEOTWAWKI might be like. The parts of daily living that we take for granted in the United States of America, come in to sharp focus. It is also worthwhile to see how yourself and others behave while under a bit of stress from change in diet, poor sleep and other environmental disorientations.

There are many medical/dental mission organizations, both secular and religious. They vary in length of trip, cost and location. Many have personal stay at hotels and drive out to provide services. All could use your support. This type of training is clearly not an option for everyone, but has been very worthwhile for me and my team on many levels, beyond a
training experience. If interested, local dental and medical societies are a good place to start researching. - D.J.

JWR Replies: Some of my relatives have done multiple "tours" overseas with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), and I have a friend that has worked for several years with Baptist Medical and Dental Missions International (BMDMI). in Honduras. The father of one of my college classmates was a volunteer pilot for The Flying Doctors for nearly two decades. I've observed that they all have returned from these trips both strengthened in their faith and much more capable in operating in austere environments. I highly recommend this sort of service. It is a challenging yet incredibly rewarding form of personal ministry, to God's glory.


For our possible retreat security, you've written a lot about communications gear, intrusion detection devices (like Dakota Alerts), night vision gear, guns, and even observation post [construction]. But I haven't seen your recommendations on binoculars. What model/brands [do you] recommend? Thanks, - Ray V.

JWR Replies: I generally recommend 7x50 binoculars for retreat security at fixed sites. For patrolling, I prefer 7 power binoculars with smaller objective lenses--perhaps 7x42 or even 7x35, for lighter weight.

If your retreat is out in open plains country, you might want more magnification and larger objective lenses. (Perhaps even a large 30x50 monocular spotting scope, for early intrusion detection.)

Basically any good brand with coated optics in rubber-armored housings will suffice. If I had to choose between buying just one pair of Zeiss or Steiner binoculars versus several pairs of Simmons or Bushnell binoculars, then I'd go for the latter. You never know when a pair of binocs--even the best--will fog up, get a cracked/scratched/chipped lens, or will get lost or stolen. So I recommend opting for quantity rather than the absolute top quality. You can literally buy four or five times as many pairs for the same money. Just like when buying pocket knives, this strategy should not be taken to extremes. (Don't buy the "no name" junky Chinese binoculars!)

Regardless of the brand you buy, I recommend that you install Butler Creek flip-up lens caps (we also use them on our scoped rifles), and invest in a padded case, such as the Steiner BinoBag or Cabela's Snug Rug.

Mr. Rawles;

I really enjoyed your novel ["Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse".] It was great, and I was amazed at the quantity of useful facts that you squeezed into a piece of fiction. I've read it three time and have given away a copies to a couple of my friends and to my dad. It helped him extract his head from the sand. For that alone, I am very grateful.

What other "survival" fiction do you recommend that has any real educational value? (Not just motivational or "what if" situations.) Are there any novels like yours, or perhaps some movies that are "musts"? Thanks, - Ken H., in Cleveland, Ohio

JWR Replies: I enjoyed reading all of the following novels:

Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank (Classic nuke scenario)
Pulling Through by Dean Ing (a more modern nuke scenario + a mini nuke survival manual) Not to be confused with my screenplay that has the same title.
Some Will Not Die by Algis Budrys (Plague total wipe out scenario)
No Blade of Grass by John Christopher (Massive crop disease/social breakdown scenario, from the British perspective.)
Vandenberg by Oliver Lange (Invasion scenario) later republished under the title “Defiance”.
The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton
Last of the Breed by Louis L’amour

For my movie recommendations, scroll down near the bottom of the SurvivalBlog Bookshelf page. OBTW, if you enjoy movies with survival themes, then you will like reading my "Pulling Through" screenplay (available--at least for now--for free download.)

Perennial content contributor Cheryl N. found this "must read" MSNBC piece: Credit Crisis Prompts Unprecedented Response. It squares nicely with what I have been writing since the Spring of 2007: The global credit collapse is unprecedented, and will be both deep and prolonged. We are nowhere near the bottom yet!

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From The Guardian: Greenspan warns more banks may be bailed out. (A hat tip, again, to Cheryl N. for the link.)

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John R. recommended a brief speculative piece on state secession, penned by fellow SurvivalBlog reader Bill Buppert, recently posted over at 'Good Morning, Mr. President.'

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I mentioned this slide show linked at The Drudge Report once before: The World's Most Worthless Money. OBTW, their data on Zimbabwe has now been thoroughly overcome by events.On August 1st, Comrade Mugabe's henchmen lopped 10 zeros off their new national notes. So one of those pre-August Z$100,000,000 notes is now worth only one 1/10th of a cent. And buying a house that would cost $50,000 if denominated in US Dollars would cost $450,095 in the new Zimbabwean dollars. (Or, Z$4,500,950,000,000,000 in the old currency.) Four and a half quintillion dollars! As Buckaroo Banzai would say "That's a lot of zeros!"

"Am I optimistic for the long-term? Absolutely not. I still believe we're due for the mother of all market crashes, and that the U.S. economy is running on borrowed time -- and I do mean borrowed. I think most baby boomers are in serious financial trouble, and that oil will climb above $200 a barrel. Inflation will also increase, causing more pain for the poor and middle class." - Robert Kiyosaki

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dear Mr. Rawles,
Thanks for the great blog, and your "Patriots" novel. Reading your site has become a daily routine for me.
One thing that I am finding amusing in today’s investment market is this mythical line in the sand of when we are officially in a Bear market. At present the market seems to be fighting to stay just above this line and almost daily some market pundit states how one average or another has "officially’ entered an intraday Bear Market.
Few people know, especially those in the investment market, the origins of the terms Bulls and Bears.

In my neck of the woods, the Gold Country of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Bulls and Bears have been battling it out since the early days of the Gold Rush. This was sport for many of the local towns to bring to the town square a large bear captured in the wild and put the bear to do battle with a local prize bull. The men of the town would gather and wager on which of the two behemoths would win out in a fight to the death.

One of two scenarios would play out. In the first scenario (a Bull Market) the bull would gore the bear in the abdomen slashing the bear open in a spectacular display of blood and guts. The bear would die fairly quickly and the townsmen would head off to the bars to tell of their afternoon’s entertainment. In the other scenario, (the Bear Market) the bear would gain position inside of the bull’s horns placing the bull in the proverbial ‘bear hug’. Then things would get ugly! The bear would then bite off the nose of the bull. At this point all the bear has to do is hang on and let the bull bleed out – and that is just what the bear would do. This takes hours of the bull bellowing in pain, blood pouring from the bull’s face all the while. Once the bear had achieved the inside position and the nose was bitten off, it was effectively over, but there were still the hours of bellowing and blood until the bull finally died.

The reason for my writing you with this bit of history is because it is obvious that in the investment arena the bear has gained the inside position, the nose of the bull has been bitten off, and we are watching the bull bleed out (numerous large cap companies reporting colossal, multi-billion dollar quarterly losses – now in a row; the housing market crash; the dollar weakening; and the entire banking industry teetering on complete insolvency to name a few. The efforts of the Fed to gauze the wound will not prevent the inevitable outcome). What amazes me is watching the pundits and talking heads make ridiculous statements about how we are "not actually in a bear market" because we float just above a subjective line in the sand; or my recent favorite, some reporter whining about “why can’t we just get to the bottom of the bear market already and start over”. The history of Bulls and Bears shows, at least in symbolic reference, why a bear market is not a quick, flashy downside where we ‘just get there and start over’. This is a long, slow process and no matter how hard the bull tries to pull away, he is not getting away from the inevitable outcome.

Jim, you, through your blog site, you offer us the opportunity to be prepared for what may come. Those who sit ringside believing that the bull will somehow win out in this scenario are fooling themselves and those around them. Keep up the great work! - Dennis

JWR Replies: As reader Kevin A. recently mentioned to me, the market terms are most often attributed as follows: Bulls gore head first and then raise their heads and thus their horns upwards, while bears fight by striking with their paws in a downward motion. But regardless of the specific origin of the terms, don't forget the old Wall Street saying: "Nobody beats the bear."

Mr. Rawles,
As you seem to enjoy a bit of fiction with your survival preparedness I thought you would be interested to know that Cormac McCarthy’s best-selling and Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, "The Road", is being made into a Hollywood movie. While certainly not the world's greatest survival fiction it isn't a bad morality play of the mindset required to survive a pervasive society ending disaster.
The movie is set to release in November by John Hillcoat and star Viggo Mortenson, Robert Duvall and Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce and 12-year-old Kodi Smit McPhee.
It could be good but the sheeple will no more go see this than they will the survival movie, "Blindness". - Neal


Regarding just how unsafe those safe deposit boxes are, see this item at, and this newspaper article.

Regards, - Jeff K.

I’ve struggled with the paradigm of preparing versus having faith in God to provide for our needs and protection. There are many Biblical references/analogies regarding both. Would you be willing to share your thoughts? Sincerely, - Short-ckt

JWR Replies: For some relevant Bible passages, please see the latest additions to my Prayer page. In particular, see the sections under these headings:

Clarification on Christianity and Physical Preparedness
Food Storage
Self Defense

May God Bless You and Yours!

Reader Cheryl N. sent us this article that ran in Australia's The Age, back in June: Talk of financial system breakdown moves from the fringe to the mainstream

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Both Dean and KAF mentioned an EMP article, in The Wall Street Journal.

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Cheryl N. also flagged this: 2007 Mortgages Going Bad at Faster Pace. "Mortgages issued in the first part of 2007 are going bad at a pace that far outstrips the 2006 vintage, suggesting that the blow to the financial system from U.S. housing woes will be deeper than many people earlier estimated." Meanwhile, we read: California Housing Years Away From Bottom

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Grut in Colorado told us about a You Tube clip produced by some LDS women, teaching food storage techniques.

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Reader Scot F. mentioned that the State of Ohio is touting pandemic flu preparedness, in a new television public service advertisement.

"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath:" - James 1:19

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Memsahib is currently home from the hospital, but still in need of your prayers for a miracle for healing.

Some waste vegetable oil (WVO) information for you: My 2001 Excursion 4WD runs on WVO, and I'm presently in the process of converting my recently acquired 1996 Ford F250. For my first conversion, the Excursion, I bought a conversion kit from a company and I recommend that all first timers on straight vegetable oil (SVO) start with a kit from a reputable company. I'm building my second conversion kit on my own and I expect it to cost around $800 for all the conversion parts except for the second tank for the WVO. (I picked up a L-shaped 105 gallon transfer tank cheap off Craigslist a year ago since I knew I'd be getting a diesel pickup and converting it sometime in the future). Conversion kits usually cost more but they use expensive filters only available by mail order from boat supply houses ($33-$40 each filter). Mine is cheaper since I run filter bases and filters from ($5-$7 each filter for an equal or finer micron rating). Fleetfilter is a NAPA auto parts store in Texas that only sells filters online (I'm not affiliated with them I'm only a satisfied repeat customer). The main advantage is this: If I ever need to replenish my spare filters while on a trip, I can go to the local NAPA store and if they don't have it in stock they will have it in the morning. (A side note: I used to call them "NOPA", as in; Question: "Do you have this part in stock? Reply: "Nope uh, I'll have it in the morning." Joking aside, they really can get the right parts the first time.)

The savings of running on WVO will completely pay for the conversion in about four and a half months and completely pay for the entire truck, and the other stuff I bought for it, in about 2.3 years (Payback was calculated on $4.00 per gallon diesel. Payback is faster when diesel is higher. I last filled up at $4.22 per gallon). I picked up the truck cheap since second gear was blown out, also I bought a topper and a rolled over truck (for cheaper than a junkyard transmission) and swapped the transmissions out so I can have complete a spare drive train as soon as I rebuild the bad trans. After I sell my old gasoline-powered truck I'll have very little money in the "new" one, and I already have enough filtered and de-watered WVO to cover the cost of the conversion and then some. If I lose my sources of WVO (local restaurants give it to me for free) then I can use up my WVO or probably just run on diesel and keep what I have in long term storage to be used during in emergency to G.O.O.D. After that I could run Waste Motor Oil or Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF) in the same second tank that the WVO ran in. Between the two tanks (the 44 gal. stock tank is for veggie and the new tank mounted on the inside of the frame is 24 gallon) in the Excursion I can go about 1100-to-1200 miles to empty, and in the F250 I estimate a range of about 2,500-2,700 miles to empty (two stock diesel tanks 15 and 19 gal. and the 105 gallon transfer tank).

Preparation for long term storage of WVO - People talk about a limited shelf life of vegetable oils while this is true for vegetable oil to be used for cooking, I don't think this applies when working with WVO for fuel. I believe they go bad due to microbes, similar to the microbes present in diesel fuel. Microbes need three things to live, water, food and air. To kill the microbes, I de-water all the oil, then filter it again before I pump it into 55 gallon drums or 275 gallon totes, as I pump it in I add microbiocide (available from boating supply houses) to kill the microbes and I fill the containers to the brim to reduce the amount of air present. Due to the microbiocide, the vegetable oil in the container can never be fit for human consumption, but I've never reused any of the waste vegetable oil I get from the restaurants anyway, since I don't know what chemicals they clean their fryers with and would never consider cooking with used oil (from a source outside my families direct supervision) as an option - not even in a pinch. So even after all this if the WVO "goes rancid", it still doesn't matter since we use it for fuel, not cooking. Note: The dead microbes will leave a very thin layer of sludge at the bottom of the LTS containers when allowed to settle for several weeks, no matter how finely the oil is filtered.

BTW, thank you for all your assistance and efforts. We bought the family pack pallet of 150 of #10 cans from SafecastleRoyal last year, we would not have bought it or heard about it, if you hadn't pointed it out and told us why now is better than later. They were very courteous, helpful and allowed us to make a few substitutions. We are glad we joined the Safecastle Royal program and we did tell them we found them via SurvivalBlog. We have commented several times how grateful we are to have some food for ourselves and for charity. God is Good. We also bought a Listeroid [engine generator] several months ago as we saw the writing on the wall concerning Bernanke's decimation of the dollar, and are grateful we slipped in under the wire on that too. You have taught us a lot and my wife is now very eagerly exploring the possibilities of getting some goats. I hope to be a 10 Cent Challenge supporter soon.

Thanks and God Bless, - Rollinns (A loyal reader who has a long way to go and has read only partially through the archives and lives somewhere in the middle of the country within a few hours of I-70.)

Mr. Rawles
Regarding GvO's letter that was posted on Thursday: I think that "finding a retreat" is not as important as finding people to work with, and while time may be getting short, I still believe the answer is primarily about people, not places.

GvO obviously has skills that would be useful even before the Schumeresque season arrives. So, I can tell you what worked for us.
We found an online group that was devoted to Homesteading, after a year or so when the group decided to have a Meet-N-Greet, we went, and met the founders, and some of the other members. This went on for a few years, and soon we found ourselves being invited to join in other activities. In the end we have become part of a small highly committed yet not strictly organized Meet-N-Greet. I believe that it will be a stable, and functional group due to the fact that we have all spent quite a bit of time getting to really know each other, what we have to offer, and what we need help with.
I found out later that the whole reason the original founder set up the online community, was to find Meet-N-Greet members, so if you can't find a group like this then as James said, start one. I would recommend that it not be about survival or preparedness, directly, rather some other activity like homesteading, or camping, or whatever else you have an interest in that can naturally extend into a more secure future.

The key is to get involved in group activities, and pull your your share of the weight without getting in the way. Let your character show through your actions, and I believe that you will find what you are looking for--or more precisely it will find you. Thanks James, and Good Luck to GvO. Regards, - Anon.

JWR Replies: As I mentioned in my Finding Like-Minded People in Your Area static web page, networking is the best method to find or form a retreat group. Online discussion forums such as The Mental Militia "Gulching" is one good national venue. But of course all of the usual OPSEC provisos apply. Go slowly and cautiously. Above all, proceed with prayer.

Tom from Atlanta wrote to ask me about the recent drop in oil and precious metals, and the simultaneous rally in the US Dollar. He asked: "Does this mean the credit crisis is over, and that commodities will tank?" My answer: Not even close. Just take a look at the US Dollar Index chart. Print out that chart, slap a ruler on it, and draw a trend line. Now ask yourself: At the macro level, is there anything that has changed that will make the USD substantially stronger in the next few years? NO! So we can conclude that the recent spike in the USDX is simply a momentary pause for the down escalator. Just look at these short term counter-cyclical blips as a good buying opportunity to increase your precious metals holdings. Buy on the dips. As I've written before, 72 is the magic number to watch for on the USDX chart.

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Ben H. found this: Bacteria were the real killers in 1918 flu pandemic.

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Reader C.Z. e-mailed me to ask about a recommended supplier for low self discharge (LSD) nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries. I recommend

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The WRSA has another "Grid-Down Medical Course" scheduled to start this coming Monday. It is not too late to sign up. This one will be in Everett, Washington, September 12th to 14th. Their training is inexpensive, and highly recommended. This is also a great way to bump into fellow SurvivalBlog readers. (Wear your SurvivalBlog hat or t-shirt!)

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Currie sent a snippet from an article by Jim Quinn posted at Is the U.S. Banking System Safe? Here is a key quote: "There are 8,500 banks in the U.S. Based on an independent analysis by Chris Whalen from Institutional Risk Analytics, they have identified 8% of all banks, or around 700 banks as troubled. This is quite a divergence from the FDIC estimate. Should you believe a governmental agency that wants the public to remain in the dark to avoid bank runs, or an independent analysis based upon balance sheet analysis? The implications of 700 institutions failing are huge. There is roughly $6.84 trillion in bank deposits. It is almost beyond belief that $2.6 trillion of these deposits are uninsured. There is only $274 billion of the $6.84 trillion as cash on hand at banks. This means that $6.5 trillion has been loaned to consumers, businesses, developers, etc. The FDIC has $53 billion to cover $6.84 trillion of deposits. Does that give you a warm feeling?" JWR's comment: The table in the article that is titled: "Level 3 Assets as a % of Capital" says it all. There's a bad moon rising.

"You have to choose [as a voter] between trusting to the natural stability of gold and the natural stability of the honesty and intelligence of the members of the Government. And, with due respect for these gentlemen, I advise you, as long as the Capitalist system lasts, to vote for gold." - George Bernard Shaw

Friday, August 8, 2008

I was saddened to hear that Skip Ellsworth recently passed away, at his home in the Philippines. He was the founder of the Log Builder's Association. Skip was an amazing craftsman, teacher, and patriot. He will be missed!

We are a devoted Christian family located in N.E. Oklahoma who are looking to encourage, help, and possibly connect with other families that are like minded. My wife and I have been preparing since we have been together (1999). We now have three young children, and are very family oriented. We homeschool and even home church. Despite the fact that some 'hard core' survivalists cringe at the thought of caring for little ones, we love children and consider them a blessing, and we believe that it is an honorable duty to be able to provide for and protect them. Besides ourselves, we also have two other family members who are part of our core group. For the last year we have invested all of our time, energy, and extra funds into preparing for what is coming. We prayerfully approach all of our decisions, and realize that 'unless the Lord builds the house' all of our efforts are vain. We do not believe we have all the answers as to what is coming and how to best deal with it, but we feel confident in stating that if we seek the Lord with all our hearts that he will direct our path. We do believe that the evidence shows that what we see happening to our nation is part of God's plan to bring judgment upon this wicked backslidden people. As I've heard it said before 'if God doesn't judge this nation, than he will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah'.

Logistically, we are in good shape in most areas. The Lord has blessed us to be able to accumulate a large food supply (2-3 years), gardening supplies, food processing and preserving equipment and supplies, lots of various outdoor gear, water purifiers of all sorts, bug-out vehicles, medical supplies, rechargeable batteries, and also guns and ammo. Areas we are working on presently are communications, power independence, more medical knowledge and gear, and other various training to help 'hone' all of our skills. I agree with JWR that gadgets and gear are useless without the skills to use them.

My biggest area of concern right now is location. We have a fairly secluded spot with acreage, but there are three major issues we have discovered:

1) We still have a mortgage on the place that cannot be quickly paid-off (too much, too little time). Which, when the economic crash comes, would put us at the mercy of the government controlled bank (due to bail-outs). This would cause us to have to relocate at a time of tremendous risk to our family. (This is not wise) We do have a 'plan B', that will be discussed on point 3.

2) Mentality of the populous: After living here for five years, we have come to the conclusion that most people in this area, sadly, even many who claim the name of Christ, are either lazy and dependent upon government programs to sustain them, or have no apparent discernment and therefore see no need to prepare. That means that they will likely succumb to the pressure and do the bidding of the powers that be, and/or they will come knocking demanding another 'free ride' from those of us that are prepared. (A great example of this can be found in Matthew 25, The Parable of the Ten Virgins) . Either way that spells trouble and possibly an armed confrontation, which we are ready and willing to withstand, but we realize that at this point we are under-manned. This is not a good situation for our Family Orientated Survival Retreat. Our philosophy is to avoid all potential armed confrontations if possible, but to be willing and ready to defend when necessary.

3) Physical Location & Plan B: This particular area of Oklahoma, though it is very rural and has a longer growing season, is very difficult to farm. Because we are in the foothills of the Ozarks, the soil is extremely rocky and very difficult to cultivate. We had to bring in top soil to be able to start our own garden. It also gets extremely hot in the summer months, so irrigation would be critical to keep crops from withering up & dying. That requires a whole separate set of logistics that would need to be sustainable during a crisis period. If we had to leave the homestead under adverse conditions, there's Plan B.

Plan B is to retreat into the plentiful woods surrounding my area, but here is what I have discovered. There is a tremendous amount of poisonous snakes and spiders inhabiting the terrain, and even worse, there is also an innumerable amount of ticks and chiggers out there to torment even the casual traveler or hiker. Even though statistically the ticks in this area predominately do not carry Lyme disease, there are other diseases that can be transmitted by these tormenting Arthropods. My family and I have suffered many other physical reactions from the bites of ticks and chiggers. You can scarcely walk out into the grassy area of the yard during the warmer months and not get infested by ticks, chiggers, or both. We even looked at some retreat property in the mountainous terrain of N.W. Arkansas and found the very same problems with these nasty critters. Even with good repellents you can still get attacked, and realistically, if you are on the run how much repellent can you carry with you along with the rest of your critical supplies? The thought of having to hide a family with little ones in the deep woods of this area for any extended period of time worries me. When we first moved here I thought this area would suit our needs well, and for our present needs it's worked out okay, but simply put, this is not what would be considered an ideal area for survival.

With all that said, I stated above that our main concern is location. We believe that it is expedient for us to look for another location for our group. Here is a breakdown of important items that must be part of finding the ideal location.

A) Safety

Because we are family orientated and have small children, we must try to establish the safest location possible, preferably making that location your primary residence. Also, your location must be set up to be able to best provide for the needs of families, which includes children of all ages. Number one priority is safety, that means being safely away from the hordes, safe from looters, and safe from tyrants and their minions. Think about what it was like when you and your spouse were first married, and how easily the two of you could just 'up and go' when you wanted to, but now that you have children all of that has changed, and, depending on the number of children you have, it can be a major project just 'packing up' for church! Now imagine what it would be like if your retreat was about to be, or was being overrun by a group of attackers. How fast could you and your family, with all of their necessary gear, move to safety? Would you even be able too? That is why the best way to protect your little ones is to gain an 'advantage' by choosing the optimal retreat location now while you still can. This may mean sacrifice and teaming up with others, but what is the alternative? This deserves careful consideration on the part of all concerned parents and retreat members. Even if all cannot be permanent residents, there still needs to be a concerted effort by several families to establish the best scenario possible. Therefore the Family Oriented Survival Retreat must be remote enough to be avoided by most, but reasonably accessible to the members who are not full time residents. As most realize, moving a family to a safe location during times of crisis can be very difficult and dangerous. There are so many potential hazards that can occur during a 'bug-out' situation that time and space cannot allow for them to be written here. Not to say it's impossible, but it is a notable risk. Therefore all families that cannot be permanent residents should strive to be located as close as possible to the retreat location.

B) Team Work

The Family Oriented Survival Retreat location must also be properly manned and defendable. This means that one family by itself is not enough, no matter how remote you get. We all need help, and we should all want to help others. This is how all truly great institutions have worked, this is how Christianity works, and this is how a Family Oriented Survival Retreat must work. This is probably the biggest stumbling block of all, because Americans are generally selfish, we only think about ourselves and that's the way we plan. We generally don't try to work with other families to create a better situation for all. I realize that we must be discerning about others, and character does matter, but if you haven't found the people you are looking for in your immediate area than maybe it would be advantageous to look for others outside your area. The bottom line is that there are others out there who would be great to work with and have the right mind set, but maybe like yourselves, don't quite have the financial means to buy a big remote property, and even if they did, they wouldn't have the man power to make it work. That's why we need to connect with others somehow, maybe even set-up a forum for people to be able to discuss these matters and potentially find other like minded families too work with.

C) Relocation

This leads me to my last point, and that is location, or maybe better stated, re-location. After studying several areas and reading the articles written by Mr. Rawles and others, it seems that the Northwestern region of the U.S. may be the most plausible place to look. There are several important factors to consider and for sake of space I would just recommend checking out this comprehensive write-up [by JWR] that goes into greater detail on the subject. I have spent time talking to a few realtors and others in Northern Idaho and in Northwest Montana, and my impression is the basic mindset in these areas is geared more toward that of the survivalist. There also seems to be a greater sense of community as well. If this is true than it could go a long way in a crisis. But regardless, this may be a good place for a few like minded families to band together and create several Family Oriented Survival Retreats. This would pool resources, skills, and abilities and would increase the chances of surviving the coming years.

I realize that a lot more can be said on this subject, but I challenge those of you who feel moved to look into these things to put it to prayer, and if you would like to share your thoughts or are interested in pursuing a Family Oriented Survival Retreat you can contact me at: - David M.

In answer to the recent inquiry: I can't speak for other manufacturers, but Garmin's Mapsource software has a setting for the road types along routes. I took my family on a camping trip a few weeks ago and we were on a single-lane dirt road for several miles between paved roads. We saw a group of wild turkeys cross the road and numerous deer bounding away as we passed.
Since this trip, I found the setting in Mapsource that the software uses to determine road types. Click the "Edit" menu and select "Preferences" and in the resulting dialog, select the "Routing" tab. There is a slider for "Road Selection" adjusting from "Prefer Highways" to "Prefer Minor Roads".

I personally have the Garmin GPSMap 60CSx and wouldn't trade it for anything else. I have had the unit just over a year and updated maps once from City Navigator North America 2008 to City Navigator North America NT 2009. NT is a smaller file-size allowing you to hold more maps on a single Micro SD card. I use a 2-gigabyte card and have both sets of City Navigator and Topo 2008 for a good portion of the Eastern Seaboard. Updated maps are imperative as roads are always changing, but Garmin does a good job of software releases and bug fixes. - Reid

John T. spotted this thought-provoking piece by Chris Sullins posted over at Of Two Minds: The Self-Selected Remnant

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David in Israel recommends the Pyromid Folding Grille. David notes: "I got mine at an outdoor gear shop closing sale. I was surprised by the high list price for a grille but that was before I used it. Made of stainless steel the infrared energy from the coals is all aimed upwards toward the food, after many seasons of use the once mirror shiny grille is a dull gold color where it was heated but there is no sign of corrosion. I follow the instruction to use a foil liner every time and this makes cleanup easy, just carefully remove the foil liner with the dying coals add a little water and once the grille is cool fold up and go. Newer grilles also include a super heat grate which is supposed to intensify the heat by holding briquettes sideways so the ash will fall off. Since the grille is only an inch deep and 12 inches wide when folded up in its bag it easily straps to the side of my bicycle rack for trips to the park or farther. I have burned everything form Sterno to charcoal to driftwood when touring and it has always been good to grill burgers, cook a chicken, or boil a pot of water.

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Reader CRW notes: "David Walker, a national hero and former comptroller for the US government, who resigned earlier this year, now heads the Peter G. Peterson Foundation which is devoted to warning the public about the looming bankruptcy of the government. I have just discovered that they have a movie, "I.O.U.S.A." coming out in theaters in a few weeks. A movie trailer is available on their web site. "I.O.U.S.A". may be to the US economy what "An Inconvenient Truth" was to the environment.

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Take a look at the new Be A Survivor blog. It is quite interesting.

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Inyokern sent us this ABC News article link: Into the Economic Abyss: How Deep Will It Go?

"The harsh reality is that Starbucks is a microcosm of scores of enterprises that have come to comprise the core of the U.S. Bubble economy. The economic viability of so many businesses and even industries will be in jeopardy in the unfolding credit and financial landscape. The stock market is still in the early stage of discounting the unfolding credit and economic bust. And I'll reiterate that we expect the unfolding economic adjustment to be of such a magnitude as to be classified as an economic depression." - Doug Noland, The Prudent Bear

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Today we present another entry for Round 18 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The contest prizes include:

First Prize: The writer of the best contributed article in the next 60 days will be awarded two transferable Front Sight  "Gray" Four Day Training Course Certificates. This is an up to $4,000 value!
Second Prize: A three day course certificate from OnPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses.
Third Prize: A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing

Round 18 ends on September 30th, 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 author spent his time in the Army working in Long Range Reconnaissance and Surveillance (LRRS) and 11B scout units. He recently returned from a tour in Iraq. This article is abased upon his hands-on experience, rather than doctrine and manuals.

Okay, the stuff has hit the fan, you have made it to your retreat, and you are geared up, stocked up and ready to survive. Inner security has been established, with LP/OPs located at likely avenues of approach. You at some point will start to wonder what else is out there, how far away it is, and what it means for your group. You might want to start implementing the recon patrol. While I could write what may very well be a small manual on the subject, I will just put out the basics that will point you in the right direction to successfully run a patrol. As most retreats will not be in the desert, I am using the normal type terrain expected in a well selected retreat. Your mileage may vary. I will also not go into detail on certain subjects that can easily be researched. If I did, I would surely exceed any limit on how large a document on the subject should be. Rather I will concentrate on things learned in the field, not in any manual.

What exactly is a recon patrol?
Field reconnaissance is the gathering of information of your surroundings in a stealthy manner. You will use this information to determine the safety of your current position and it will most likely be a determining factor for your daily operations planning. Information gathered can give you an idea of opposing force (OPFOR) strength, intentions, direction they are traveling and the likelihood of them coming in contact with your base element.

While much of the doctrine is the same a standard patrol, the recon patrol is a bit different than a regular patrol. The recon patrol is to gather information on your surroundings without making contact with other elements. That being said, I have on occasion been ordered to use harassing techniques to slow down or try to change the course of an element, which I will touch upon later.

Patrol Size
The size of a recon patrol is going to be smaller than the standard squad patrol. You are trying to be invisible and the more boots you have on the ground the more noise you will make. In my experience, a four person team is the size limit which I would recommend. Three is the optimal number, and two being the least that should go out. This is in comparison with the standard squad patrol size of nine (if you are lucky enough to have that many in your squad. [Even active duty military units are often short of manpower versus their authorized strength under their table of organization.]).

Patrol Equipment
Travel light, flee the fight. Unless you come across a solo element, you will most likely be outnumbered and if compromised you will need to hastily retreat. The preferred engagement ratio is 3:1, so bear that in mind.

Take light carbines such as the M4 or Mini-14. I choose the AK-47 for myself as I believe it has a lot to offer for this type of mission. Should you get compromised, you will need to lay down a furious wall of fire to make the enemy think they just encountered a platoon or a least squad sized element so semi-auto is in my opinion a bare minimum. Larger weapons such as the M1 Garand or long barreled assault rifles will slow you down as they are heavy and cumbersome, but if that is what you have you will have to make do. Even though I sometimes carried a sidearm, it would be better just to take a couple of extra mags for your primary. This is much better added value weight. You should pack two reloads for your combat load just in case you keep getting paralleled by OPFOR and have time to refresh magazines.

The “light” part seems to be getting to be a stretch with this type prep, which is why I stress lighter ammo such as 5.56 or 7.62x39. The 7.62 NATO ammo gets pretty heavy with this type of packing and does not add much value in a reconnaissance mission. If you do have a mule in your team (a human one) and he has skills with a sniper rifle, you may want to consider taking it along in an appropriate style carrier as a target of opportunity may come up that may be just way too good to pass up. This does violate the "no contact" premise of the recon patrol, but proper escape route planning can be implemented to help with this scenario. Just a thought and should only be done by experienced personnel.

Optics such as binoculars or [spotting] scope are pretty much necessities. The further that you can stand off and observe your objective the better off you are. Binoculars with some type of "flash kill" device are recommended. Also make these quality optics that you are comfortable using. I don’t mean you have to buy a $1,000 pair of Steiners. For under $40 at WalMart you can get Bushnell’s 10x42 hunting binoculars that are clear as a bell and very rugged. You can use a sheer sniper veil over them as a kill flash. Rifle scopes are okay, but require that you expose yourself a little more than with binoculars. Generally, you also have a better field of view with binoculars. In my opinion binoculars are a better choice.

You need to travel light, so try to keep this to a minimum. A recon patrol should be fairly short, a day or two probably at most. If it is going to be extended,then pack 2-1/2 times the food you think you will need. Utilizing light foods like jerky that you can carry a lot of will go a long way. I learned that one the hard way. When a two day patrol turns into six days that extra little bit of "Pogey bait" is worth it and can be rationed. Also learn what is edible in your surroundings as this can help sustain your mission without being a burden on your supplies. Take foods that need little or no preparation. Jerky, trail mix, MREs and foods of that nature are recommended.

Try to avoid foods that are particularly aromatic, such as curry, onion, garlic, etc. I can’t tell you how many times I have found an OPFOR element’s area of operations (AO) just by smell. While in Korea, I could find Korean [troop] elements by their body odor due to their diet of kimchi sometimes up to 400 meters away, depending on the wind and how long they had been out. This odor discipline also includes cigarettes, No smoking! Obviously colognes and other “smelly goods” have no place on a recon patrol.

Radios should be carried but utilized only when absolutely necessary. Chances are your patrol might take you out of radio communication reception distance especially if you don’t have high power equipment. This is risky, but sometimes necessary. You need to know the operating limitations of your comms equipment and operate accordingly. Designate times and places to transmit from if you cannot [continuous] maintain radio contact during the patrol.

Camoflage should go without saying. The type will obviously be determinate on your terrain and season. Burlap with proper color spray paint is a great way to make cheap [outline] breakup for weapons. It can be manipulated to just about any terrain out there. You can use [burlap strips] to throw off scent-detecting animals such as dogs by using fox urine or other types of masking scents. A very useful item indeed.

Helmets and body armor are optional, but I do not recommend them on a recon patrol. The body armor is heavy and can impede your quick getaway. It merits are known factors in the safety of soldiers, but in this mission you need to be able to flat out run if compromised. The ballistic helmet is also heavy, but its main downfall is the fact that it masks your environment. It can impair your vision and it mostly covers your ears and keeps you from hearing sounds that may be the enemy. A boonie cap is the first choice, patrol cap is second for traditional headgear.

Plan the Route
Route planning is essential. Pick a route that will minimize danger area crossings and contact with high traffic areas. Do not use roads, rivers, trails or any other obvious routes of travel. You may skirt these areas to view them. Never plan a straight route. Use various patterns of travel such as zigzagging or button hooking. This keeps the enemy off guard as to where you came from. Also, should you think you are being trailed, do a wide 360 until you come back on your own tracks. If you encounter more tracks than yours, then you are being followed. React according to your [contact] SOPs.

Learn to use a compass and map. While GPS systems can be useful tools, they are not always reliable and in a Grid Down situation may not even function. Know this: the US Department of Defense owns all the GPS satellites and merely provides data to GPS companies like Garmin so their GPS devices will work. Should the government choose to, they can encrypt them at will and leave your commercial GPS worthless. Learning how to use a compass and map can be a fun experience for everyone. It can give kids and adults alike a great sense of accomplishment and help get you or keep you in shape. Map and compass skills can trump a GPS any day, and on many occasions I have been right on the mark while the guy using the GPS has been wandering around waiting for the satellites to give him a decent grid. Rely on basic navigation skills. Technology is a crutch for the weak.

Plan Actions
Make sure to plan out the time you are leaving, time to be on the objective, time you will transmit information if necessary, and time you expect to be back. Plan for contingencies, such as what to do if you make contact, where to meet if you get separated, and what frequencies to be on at what time of the day. Most of these will be dictated by your groups prior established SOPs. Follow them.

Preparing for the Patrol
If you follow proper procedure when you leave the base of ops you will conduct "stop, look, listen, and smell" (SLLS). This is to get you oriented to your environment. However, I have found that a short 10 minute halt like this is not nearly as effective as having the recon team acclimate [to the natural environment] over a day or so without distractions such as television, radio, or any other man-made devices that are not essential to ops. In a grid down situation this will most likely not be a problem. Your sense of smell, hearing, and vision get better the longer you are out. If possible, do this and you will be much more inclined to pick up on enemy positions and movement long before they pick you up.

Make sure all equipment gets inspected, including weapons and optics. Make sure all equipment is quiet and free of protruding gear or things that will snag on foliage. This includes weapons that have a multitude of “Mall Ninja” gear hanging off of them. While it may be value added in a MOUT situation, it is just more junk to hang up on vegetation and obstacles. Have each patrol member jump up and down and run in place with their gear on to identify anything noisy and use 100 m.p.h. [olive drab duck] tape or 550 [parachute] cord to lash it down. Make sure food and water are easily accessible as you may be eating on the fly. Check for proper and complete camouflage. Get ready to roll, get your mind right.

On the Patrol
Use your wits. Be aware of your environment, and anything that may not be right. Learn to use nature to warn you of potential danger. Have you ever been close to a squirrel’s nest in the woods? He will let you know you are too close by making a lot of noise. This type of natural warning device can serve you as well as hinder you. Be mindful of nature and learn to move in the woods as part of your surroundings rather than against it. This takes time, is a learned behavior, but can be done by just about anyone. Avoid sandy terrain where you will leave an obvious trail. Use rocks and other terrain to move while minimizing [leaving] sign and making noise. Be mindful of how loud your footsteps are. That is a common mistake I see soldiers make all the time. They don’t listen to how much noise they are making. Learn to roll your feet. This can be practiced around the house while doing chores. Just learn to walk quietly.

On the Objective
If you are doing an area recon, which is a specific area you want to check out, make sure you spend the time you need on the objective to properly gather intelligence. Walk a zigzag pattern to cover as much terrain as possible.
If you are doing a point recon, which is a recon of a specific target such as a house or a point on a road, lay your team in collect as much info as you can. Include info you would normally not consider important as later on down the road you may find it useful. Remember, you can never collect too much intel, but you can collect not enough. You can sort through what is important later on when you have time to analyze the intel.
While glassing your objective, make sure only one member of each buddy team is using binoculars, while the other keeps an eye out for anyone who may be using a clandestine approach to your location. Use a notebook to write down everything you see.

When the allotted time on the objective is complete, always leave the objective in a different direction [than from which you approached]. Pick up any trash or tell tale sign of you being there. Brush over where you were laying, cover any foliage cuts you might have made. Try to leave no sign at all that you were ever there. Maintain noise discipline on the way back just like you did on the way in. You are in just as much danger going home as you were going out. Don’t get complacent.

Well, there you have it. You can research the patrol by using military manuals and implement what I have written here for a successful mission. This will give you a heads up on what’s out there and give you an advantage over any element that may be inbound on your location. Knowledge is power, and if you have solid intel on your enemy and surroundings, then you have the tactical advantage. I hope this is of use to you.

Hello Mr Rawles;
Back around 1996, I downloaded (and paid for) a copy of your novel "Triple Ought" [an early shareware draft "Patriots"]; I and others around me, learned from it and enjoyed it immensely. I now have an autographed copy of "Patriots", and have read it more than once.

A little background;
We lived on a ‘farm’ retreat in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula ("U.P.") with two other families from the Summer of ’99 (read: Y2K) to the Spring of 2002 and experienced first-hand the trials and joys of such an existence. We survived on the very basics; we raised our own chickens, a few head of beef cattle, one hand-milked dairy cow, had a couple pigs, and several meat rabbits. Built and utilized a greenhouse and gardened as much as is possible in that climate. Picked apples from our own apple trees, made cider, and put up hay from our own 40 acre hay field, (with a neighbor’s help and equipment that we bartered barn space for). Stocked our pantry with home canning, including venison. Had generators and fuel on hand. Heated at least in majority with wood-burners, etc, etc.

Unfortunately, due to a change in employment circumstances, and a very tough job market in the U.P., we had to move back ‘down-state’ and resume a ‘normal’ life. The whole retreat has been sold (we didn’t have much ownership) and everything is gone. We are left with little other than the mindset that we know how to survive and now have a little ‘been-there-done-that’ know how.
I work in the construction industry and have never been able to get far enough ahead of the bills to do much of anything ‘extra’ and right now with the economy where it is we couldn’t be much less affluent! We are not able to maintain anything above a minimum standard of preparedness, and I worry that when the ‘balloon goes up’ on this economy, we certainly will lose our home (we are close now) and therefore will be little more than refugees ourselves, with limited ability to carry our gear on our backs. I don’t have any connection to anyone that has a home that they wouldn’t lose in a spiraling economic collapse.

My question in this letter is this: What is your best advice for people in similar situations that lack a retreat or the means to acquire one, and cannot plan on maintaining their residence as a ‘stronghold’?
Tactically, I know an R.V. is just transportation to the next ambush, and don’t have the funds to acquire one anyway, but I know we will be ‘boots on the ground’ long before things get really bad.

Thank you for ‘taking my call’. - GvO

JWR Replies: I often get inquiries from readers that, like myself, have a tight budget. The best course of action is to join an existing retreat group, offering your skills. To find such as group, see our Finding Like-Minded People in Your Area static web page. If you can't find one, then form a new one, by putting out "feelers"--looking for like-minded people in your region.

Reader KAF suggested this piece over at Pajamas Media: Ask Dr. Helen: Preparing for Disaster — Prudent or Paranoid? It sounds like she might have been reading SurvivalBlog.

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Steve N. flagged this article: Iran threatens to shut Gulf shipping lanes

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Eric sent us this piece on the significance of "local" produce: Supermarket Chains Narrow Their Sights

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A reader e-mailed me to ask: "Do you know of any GPS that has a "Scenery mode" or other mode that chooses back roads instead of major roads and highways, so I can move quickly and efficiently during a G.O.O.D. event?" This goes beyond my expertise, since my personal research was for picking out the best model for back-country topographic modes, and that was four years ago. (So that technology used in my GPS receiver is now practically obsolete.) Can anyone make a detailed recommendation?

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Speaking of GPS, here is a lesson on over-reliance on gee-whiz navigation devices, and leaving common sense at home: Convoy rescued after GPS led them to Utah cliff.

"[T]he mantra of the chicken money investor is: "I'm not so concerned about the return on my money, as I am about the return of my money!" - Terry Savage

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

There was recently an interesting write up of SurvivalBlog in the Scripps Metropulse newspaper. Somehow, they came to the conclusion that I live in Georgia. But I can assure them that I indeed live "somewhere west of the Rockies."

Today we present another entry for Round 18 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The contest prizes include:

First Prize: The writer of the best contributed article in the next 60 days will be awarded two transferable Front Sight  "Gray" Four Day Training Course Certificates. This is an up to $4,000 value!
Second Prize: A three day course certificate from OnPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses.
Third Prize: A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing

Round 18 ends on September 30th, 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.

A major worry for many urbanites considering maintaining a rural retreat is their ability to, from a distance, ensure the secrecy and security of their property. Many of us cannot afford a full time retreat-sitter, and must use other legal methods to ensure the security of our property and supplies in both grid-up and grid-down scenarios.

First, county roads running to or through your property are always a liability. I set my retreat as far back off of the gravel county road as possible by clearing my own road, with the help of friends, through thick pine forest. My road is wide enough for a single large vehicle, and is approximately a mile long. The road is not straight, but rather, zig-zags like a large Z, with each leg of the road intersecting with, and then continuing beyond, the next leg, and then stopping at a dead end. This design is advantageous for a few reasons: first, if someone looks down a single leg of the road, they will see it die in a dead end some distance ahead. The “turn off” onto the next leg is not visible until you are almost right upon it, because of the acute angle of the turnoff. Secondly, these turns create many opportunities for barricades or defense concealment. Vehicles must also make sharp turns onto each leg of the road, and thus must slow down to a near stop, making them more vulnerable to fire at these locations.

To disguise the entrance to your road, use natural foliage. The county road near my retreat has ditches dug on either side of it. Rather than putting a permanent bridge or tin horn culvert, I left the ditch as it was. This provides an initial defense, and helps disguise the entrance to casual drivers-by. Because I drive a 4x4 vehicle, I cross this ditch by tossing large logs into the ditch, driving over them, and then removing the logs when I leave and stashing them back in the woods a short distance. One could also use a section of cattle-guard as a portable bridge. Paint it camouflage and stash it back in the foliage.

To disguise the entrance further, I allowed the natural grass and weeds at the first five feet or so of my forest road to grow as tall and thick as they could. I can easily drive my vehicle right over these weeds, but visually, they help to conceal the 8 foot gap in the trees, and deter any unwanted foot-traffic. I didn’t trim any of the tree limbs that stretched across the road (so long as my vehicle could pass beneath them), and even used ropes to train younger limbs to grow across the road as well. This helps to disguise the road itself from air-traffic and satellite photos. It’s true that the limbs sometimes fall across the road, but that just gives me an opportunity to add to my firewood stash.

Make sure that your retreat itself doesn’t stand out too hard from the surroundings. Paint your retreat using the colors of the surrounding area, perhaps even in a camo scheme, and don’t forget about the roof! The roof is most visible from the air, so take great care in painting it so that it blends. Any outbuildings should also be disguised thusly, and some structures can merely be covered with weather resistant camo netting. One of my past bosses lived in a subterranean concrete home that was visible from only one side. Three sides, and the top of the home, appear as a natural grassy hill with small trees and shrubs, but one side of the hill had a door and windows! This would be the ultimate retreat home for anyone willing to invest in it, as he spent very little on heating and cooling the home, and never worried about tornadoes, heavy winds, or other such destructive weather.

Remember that your clearing doesn’t need to be a pasture. My retreat is built amongst the trees, helping to disguise it. I cut the shrubs and smaller or dead trees out, but left the larger, aged trees behind to provide shade and concealment. There’s plenty of room for everything I need beneath these giants, and enough sun gets through for a variety of natural fruiting trees, shrubs, and wild vegetables to grow. Speaking of, make sure to plant many edibles that naturally occur in your area and will grow without your constant attention. My retreat features pecan trees, blackberries, wild grapes, persimmon trees, and wild onions, and I’ll soon be adding other self-sufficient plants to the mix.

It’s very possible that others will discover your retreat, and thus you must take care to make sure your property is safe. Some items, such as guns, ammunition, and other items purely stored for TEOTWAWKI can be properly packaged and buried on site. I plan to bury such items in both sealed ammo cans and large rubber tubs. I also plan to build an underground brick pit, approximately the size of a small car, in which I can easily stash and remove large rubber tubs full of supplies. This pit will be covered with a painted steel or aluminum lid, and covered with a layer of soil and grass seed to disguise it. Some items, however, cannot be adequately hidden…such as your cabin, recreational vehicle, or trailer. For this purpose, I once devised a cheap and simple idea to give snoopers the idea that someone might be home. Simply hook up motion sensor lights, such as what you might already have at home, but wire up the light inside the building, and make sure the motion sensors have adequate coverage of all likely areas of approach. If someone gets too close, the lights turn on (inside your building), lighting up the curtained/shuttered windows and giving the appearance that someone has just turned on the lights. This system can easily be powered with a solar 12 VDC system. Speaking of windows, one should always use heavy shutters to cover all glass windows on one’s retreat. These shutters should lock from within, and the screws should not be accessible externally. Again, if someone really wants in, they will likely get in, but this might be enough to deter a child looking to snoop or make some trouble.

This setup could be utilized in other creative ways: for example, how about a secondary motion sensor that initiates the playing of a loud recording of a vicious dog, snarling and growling, inside the building, or the sounds of a mountain lion in a nearby thicket? (Thanks, Ferris Bueller.). Obviously, these “tricks” are not a foolproof security system, but they may deter the casual local kid who wanders upon your property – in some cases making him too fearful to return.

Hi James -
Nice letter from D.C. today, but for cryin' out load Jim, please advise him to get his precious metals out of a bank's safety deposit box. He seems to be able to afford a decent wall safe and the few bucks it might cost to install and camouflage it. When banks fail, they close the safety deposit boxes too - at least for a while. Not a great strategy to be cut off from your contingency funding right when you need it most. Too, get sideways with the IRS, and you will go to bank to see your safety deposit box sealed with a red and tagged nylon strip. Happened to a friend of mine - these guys play hardball!
Keep up the good work, and continued prayer that you wife is healing well. - Duck n' Cover


Mr. Rawles:
As a metals investor myself, I am always looking for the opportunity to sell high and buy low and keep a healthy reserve for the future.As its been stated,Silver is a good buy and so is Gold at the current prices. Unfortunately, when you deal with an ETF, you are still dealing with paper. In case of emergencies, getting your gold might take months and could never come at all ! The last rally in March proved this to be true because there were huge delivery delays-even up to 8 weeks and more! Thinking a safe deposit box at a bank is safe? I wouldn't! Your a lot safer having a Safe at your home, In your possession. Money, Gold &Silver will not do you much good when you don't have it in your possession and you need it now. With the economy and the many bank closures, I in fact have very little money in my accounts--just enough to pay bills and have any form of currency (metals) in my possession.

There can be nothing worse when your bank is closed, the ATM machine has you locked out and you cannot get your metals out of your safe deposit box. Now what do you do? - Richard In California

Hi Jim,
At the end of DC's letter about physical gold, he wrote "My local bank offers a nice sized safety deposit box free of charge, that is easily capable of storing several million dollars of gold. I'm comfortable leaving the asset there." I would not consider safety deposit boxes safe at all -- they're way too easy for the authorities to confiscate for any or no reason. You wrote about this [happening in England] back on June 6th. The news story listed there has expired -- here's a different link to the same story: Thanks, - James

From Cheryl N.: Dow is Heading for 10,000 "The markets can't seem to get that the U.S. is in recession, says Kirby Daley, strategist at the Newedge Group. But a downward movement is inevitable. He tells CNBC's Martin Soong and Amanda Drury to expect a 15% to 20% drop on the Dow in the near future."

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David in Israel recommends The Pocket Chainsaw. "It is the smart answer to the flimsy wire saws found in many survival kits. This tool packed in a can the size of a roll of electrical tape is a 28 inch linked saw which when used with included plastic handles or looped to a bow of wood makes your light back country woodcutting a snap. I have been rough with this saw but I have kept it clean, sharp, and oiled, it has never let me down after over ten years of use several times a year."

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Matt in Texas flagged this commentary from real estate and banking guru Mike Morgan: The World’s Grandest Ponzi Scheme Unravels

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Reader JT forwarded this: Companies Tap Pension Plans To Fund Executive Benefits

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Also from Cheryl N.: Hundreds of banks will fail, Roubini tells Barron's

"The Wall Street crash doesn't mean that there will be any general or serious business depression. For six years American business has been diverting a substantial part of its attention, its energies and its resources on the speculative game... Now that irrelevant, alien and hazardous adventure is over. Business has come home again, back to its job, providentially unscathed, sound in wind and limb, financially stronger than ever before." - Business Week, November 2, 1929

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

I noticed that the spot prices of gold and silver took a substantial dip yesterday. I still consider this a secular bull market in precious metals. If you have your survival gear and supplies squared away, then you might want to take advantage of these dips, and buy yourself some silver coins. Keep these well-hidden at home for use as a bad times barter currency, and as a hedge against inflation. Given the declining purchasing power of the US Dollar, gold below $900 per ounce and and silver below $17 per ounce are bargains.

Dear Mr. Rawles:
You don’t seem to be the type of guy who enjoys saying “I told you so” when you are proven to be right, but I thought I’d at least give you that opportunity. Back in May, I wrote to you singing the praises of synthetic gold ownership via Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), and opined that “physical gold combines the worst of all worlds.”

I’ve since started building my long position in gold (and silver), and I surprised myself by deciding quite early on to hold physical metals rather than to express my long position synthetically. This was particularly surprising, because I am just barely of the view that an extreme economic collapse could be coming, and by both profession and education, our household is very knowledgeable about capital markets. We’re more or less optimistic about the future; I mean, we live in New York City, of all places!

Still, when I really thought about it, I concluded that physical gold was a superior asset for somebody looking to hedge a downside risk over the long-term (as opposed to actively trade a position). I thought your readers might benefit from hearing my logic.

First, the single biggest benefit of synthetic/ETF gold is that it can be bought and sold at low transaction costs. But when I thought about it, I realized that I was not looking to trade. If gold doubled this year, I would not sell; I would only wonder if my “worst case” investment thesis was coming to pass, and whether I should increase my position while there was still time. Similarly, if gold fell in half this year, I would not sell—it would be an opportunity for me to get longer at lower cost. When I thought about it, then, the “low transaction cost” rationale for ETF ownership, really wasn’t that much of an advantage. I want a 10% net worth position in physical metals, and I want to hold it long term as a hedge. Period, paragraph.

Second, it isn’t like purchasing physical gold is all that expensive. Krugerrands are widely available at about a 1% markup (spot + $10) if you live in a town where there are some reasonably large bullion dealers. And even if you don’t, you can always buy from a reputable internet dealer like Tulving, and pay perhaps 2-3% over spot, provided you are able to purchase five ounces or more at a time to amortize the shipping cost.

Third, even though you might pay more at the front end, if you plan to be a long-term holder of gold, you slowly recover this cost by avoiding the annual .40% expense ratio charged by ETFs. If you plan to hold five or more years, the up-front cost of physical purchase via the internet, is entirely offset by avoiding the recurring ETF expense ratios.

Fourth, ownership in an ETF provides significant regulatory and taxation risk. Under current law, capital gains on gold sales are taxed at 28%, and there are no limits on buying and selling. But who knows what might happen in a hyperinflationary environment? As most fiat currencies fail, the government attempts to stave off collapse by instituting “official” exchange rates, or limitations on currency conversions, to avoid a wholesale run on the currency. In order to have an effective currency control, it seems obvious that you also need to put controls on intermediate stores of value, such as gold. (Otherwise, you would just sell your de-valuing dollars and buy gold, and then subsequently swap into a stable asset).

Physical gold is much more difficult for the government to “control” (setting aside the somewhat paranoid “confiscation fantasies” of many gold bugs). Moreover, the asset is much more difficult to tax. I’m not advocating tax evasion in normal circumstances, but I could certainly imagine a situation where desperate times call for desperate measures. Perhaps the government is imposing confiscatory “wealth taxes” on financial assets, as former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has proposed, and which some states like Florida had (until it was recently repealed); or perhaps high taxes are levied on gold profits in order to discourage ownership of gold, and impose a de facto currency control. Even my conventional imagination can dream up many dark scenarios.

Fifth, I hadn’t fully appreciated, until I thought about it, exactly how compact a form of wealth physical gold really is. At current prices, if you were buying one ounce Krugerrands, you could transport $1,000,000 with only about 1,100 coins. This amount of gold would fill around 44 coin rolls (of 25 Krugers each), and would weigh about 88 pounds. Easily cached, transported, even smuggled if necessary.

Sixth, when I looked into how secure ETFs were, I could never quite get comfortable that you actually owned, in a risk-free way, the gold backing the ETF. I’ve come to understand that the bullion banks that settle the world’s gold trades, have both “allocated” and “unallocated” accounts. With the former, your ownership of the gold is absolute—the gold is titled in your name, secured separately, etc. However, with unallocated accounts, your claim to the gold is merely an interest against a collateral pool which may or may not be adequate to cover all claims; this is particularly true because bullion banks apparently lend out gold from unallocated accounts, thus approximating fractional reserve banking! All of this was new to me. Granted, some of the sources I relied on were sort of gold-bugish, like this report, pp. 66-70 -- but on the other hand, the report was well written and mostly well reasoned. Reading the iShares ETF prospectus didn’t clear up anything at all, except it established that GLD does in fact use both allocated and unallocated gold accounts. Since I couldn’t figure out one way or the other what the truth was for certain, it seemed that physical gold was just a safer course.

Seventh, I realized that it was in my best interest to gain expertise in “normal times” about how to source, authenticate, transport, and store physical gold. I’ve since spent many hours, developing relationships with local dealers, reading gold forums, investigating the reputation of online dealers, observing eBay auctions, sourcing gold through Craigslist, etc. I’ve also bought several different sets of instruments from Fisch Instrument (recommended on SurvivalBlog), a digital scale, a set of digital calipers, and a bullion reference guide. All of this knowledge should be valuable, if it ever looks like there will be a dollar run, and I want to try to build a large [precious metals] position fast. While others will have to research, I’ll have pre-existing relationships, multiple sources, and most of all, experience, that might give me an advantage over others.

Eighth, it turned out storage was really not a big deal. My local bank offers a nice sized safety deposit box free of charge, that is easily capable of storing several million dollars of gold. I’m comfortable leaving the asset there. Really, when you think about it, it seems just as safe behind a five ton steel door, as it does at some bullion bank in Zurich with god-knows-what institutional risks embedded like naked short gold positions, derivative counterparty exposure, etc.

These were basically my reasons for ending up with physical metal rather than synthetic ownership. Thanks for forcing me to challenge my earlier assumptions. - DC

Dear James,
Take a look at this article. The innovation of the second device which acts as an artificial barrier to the small intestine, described in this article, is noted to effectively cure Type II Diabetes. This may be the long-awaited answer for those who wish to remove themselves from the daily dependency of self administering antihyperglycemic medications. This could also be one very effective option
for the resolution of their coinciding carbohydrate intolerance which causes their obesity. This is a non-invasive endoscopic procedure. - KAF

I long hence went on record that the price of productive farm land in the U.S. would not be hurt as badly as residential and commercial real estate, in the current down-trend. A new Bloomberg article bolsters my position: U.S. Farmland Values Reach Record on High Crop Prices. Again, productive farm and ranch land is a relatively safe, tangible way to shelter your assets from the ravages of inflation.

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I often get e-mails from folks that are looking to join or form a retreat group, or that are interested in finding a like-minded spouse. Unfortunately, the two paid services that I'd heard good things about--Conservative Match and Liberty Mates--both seem to have gone out of business. I'm now recommending, because of their high success rate. I just updated our Finding Like-Minded People in Your Area static web page, accordingly.

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Reader Tim L. suggested an article by the Austrian school economist George Reisman. It explains the dynamics of the current credit crisis and puts everything into context for understanding of the economic forces at work.

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Cheryl N. flagged this: Panicking Fed Scrambles to Hide Credit Crisis Truth

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Bill N. sent a link to a web site that describes how to make Biltong. (South African jerky.)

"Of course most people underestimate the warrior characteristics of the Anglo-Saxon and Norman peoples anyway. It takes a heap of piety to keep a Viking from wanting to go sack a city." - Jerry Pournelle, in a reply to reader e-mail, in Chaos Manor Mail # 141, February 19-25, 2001

Monday, August 4, 2008

Hi James,
Thanks much for the exceptional information you provide. Your book "Patriots" and your site have been tremendously helpful in my preparation efforts. I'm not there yet, but well on the way.
As far as a retreat location goes, I've heard you and others cautioning folks away from poorer areas. I think you might want to re-think this somewhat, and for one simple reason: Poor folks are already used to doing without.

Consider two post-TEOTWAWKI scenarios:

One, an affluent or even typically middle class family suddenly has little food in their pantry and no grocery store from which to stock up, no restaurants open, no gas to put in the BMW, no X-Box to play or HDTV to watch, and no mall to go to. Their credit cards no longer work, and the personal "connections" they're used to being able to make use of to get what they need are no longer available. Used to being self-contained (which is different than being self-sufficient), they may not have meaningful relationships with their immediate neighbours.

Two, a poorer or lower-middle class family, already used to partially getting by on their homestead garden, the basics of life, a 20-year old beater of a vehicle or none at all, and none of the unnecessary trinkets of modern city life. They have no credit cards to begin with, and are accustomed to working on a limited cash basis, even bartering with neighbors. Poorer country folks in particular are used to being relatively self-sufficient out of sheer necessity, and often have a strong sense of defending what is theirs and the means and willingness to do so while remaining willing to help friends and family in times of need.

In short, I see the first family rapidly shifting into freak-out mode, resorting to whatever daddy thinks necessary in order to make a flailing attempt to continue their prior lifestyle. As you rightfully say, civilization is but a thin veneer.

I see the second family getting by with far fewer and less lifestyle-shattering modifications.
Do any SurvivalBlog readers have thoughts on this? - CH

The news headlines have been packed with economic Gloom and Doom, in recent weeks. To many observers, things seem to be spinning out of control--with collapsing credit markets, massive bailouts, emergency cash infusions, and taxpayer "stimulus" checks descending like Manna from Heaven. Given all this news, it is timely to discuss three rules: Section 13(3), Rule 1830, and Rule 308.

Section 13(3)

Section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act (of 1932) empowers the Federal Reserve banking cartel the power to lend to any corporation or to any individual using any collateral. The only proviso is that the Fed must declare that this lending is necessary for "unusual and exigent circumstances." Recently, trying their best to counteract the global credit collapse, the Fed has frantically handed out cash at an alarming rate. Since February of 2008, I've been warning you about the "Non-Borrowed Reserves" figure at the Federal Reserve web site. Bank reserves are plummeting deep into negative numbers. As I've mentioned before, when you look at the US banking industry in aggregate numbers, there are effectively no genuine reserves left. If the average bank depositor was aware of this, then there would already be huge bank runs in progress. But the Generally Dumb Public (GDP), is still largely ignorant, and continues to be lulled into a sense of complacency by their long-standing universal depositor's insurance that is backed by "the full faith and credit" of the US government.

Rule 1830

At 6:30 p.m. (1830) on Friday evening, this story was released the news wires: Florida Bank Closed by FDIC. This was the eighth reported US bank closure in 2008. Hmmm.. This is not the first time that the FDIC waited until after business hours on a Friday evening to make an announcement of a bank closure, to minimize mass media attention. So I guess I'll have to add a new new Rule to my list: Rule 1830. To minimize any ruffled feathers, The Powers That Be will wait until 1830 on Fridays to issue any "bad news" press releases. It will be interesting to see how the Federal bank regulators try to spin the news stories about any more extensive bank runs. As I've written in before: they are coming!

Rule 308

What will happen if the economy tanks, plunging the western World into an extended economic depression? If the Schumer hits the fan, you may have to implement Rule 308. What rule is this? Rule 308 not a rule at all, but rather an informal collective understanding that if times get truly Schumeresque (times when law and order evaporate), you may have to handle your own law enforcement, with a rifle in hands. Hence, the number 308--which refers to .308 Winchester. (Also known as "Rule 303" in British Commonwealth countries, as popularized in the movie Breaker Morant--referring to the.303 British cartridge.)


In my three years of correspondence with hundreds of SurvivalBlog readers, I've encountered a few people that seem to be in denial of Rule 308. Most of them are either pacifists or they are naively confident in the ability of their local police or sheriff's deputies to faithfully arrive on their doorstep, just a few minutes after being summoned, ready to arrest and haul off any marauding goblins. Most recently The New York Times article that featured some Suburban Survivalists. One of them mentioned to the reporter that she didn't own a gun, because she didn't "want to shoot anyone." I don't want to shoot anyone either, but I've if I'm ever forced into inimical circumstances, I've made the option of self defense available to myself and to the members of my family. I've done so by buying plenty of guns and ammo, and by taking the best training available (at Front Sight), and by practicing regularly. I refuse to be just another helpless victim. I certainly won't eschew the means of self defense, as some others have done. There are far too many people that assume that someone else can handle such tasks for them, regardless of circumstances. This is the same sort of naivete that I was talking about near the end of my recent interview with Alternet. How can people be so incredibly naive?

Even in normal times, the police have a spotty record of rapid response. More often that not, a violent crime is over and the criminals have departed the scene by the time that the police arrive. Sadly, the police end up just filling out paperwork and body bags, post facto. It goes against all reason and common sense to expect that in a disaster situation that the police will arrive even the same day, and even that is assuming that there is still a functioning telephone network. Other folks somehow expect that the goblins will pass them by, just because they themselves are somehow special and enlightened beings. That is hogwash. Dennis Wholey, a television host and producer, said it best: “Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is a little like expecting the bull not to attack you because you are a vegetarian.”

Hi Jim,
Acting on a recommendation from another reader, I'm happy to report that quality of the six pairs of eyeglasses purchased from Zennio Optical are good. These glasses are surprisingly inexpensive and only cost $150 for all six pairs, which is less than the typical cost of one pair [from most other sources]. The ordering process does require some thought and time to measure your current pair, yet a variety styles and sizes can be ordered insuring that at least one pair will be satisfactory. I'm happy with all six pairs and at those prices felt bold enough to order a pair of which can easily be worn inside goggles. Ask your optometrist to provide you with your pupilary distance (PD) at the time of the examination. In a pinch, even an old prescription could be used as it is not verified by the company. - EL, somewhere in Montana

From your posting from today (August 1st), my optometrist always advises me to keep my old pair of prescription glasses as a spare in case the new one breaks. I keep my last three most recent pairs of glasses (one in my car, two in the house) for emergencies. In a TEOTWAWKI situation, having a two or three-year old pair of glasses is better than having none (besides, you have already paid for them). I donate older pairs of glasses to a local charity (always keeping the three most recent pairs). - David M.


Mr. Rawles,
Took a dig into your own archives, and came up with this letter. I remembered seeing the adjustable eyeglasses on the Discovery channel a while ago, and that post was the first Google hit when I searched "adjustable glasses Africa". The web page indicates that they normally only sell in bulk, but I shot them an e-mail to see if I could get a sample pair or five, for a nominal fee, of course... - Aaron in Florida


A few notes regarding vision care etc. (I am an optometrist). Not sure if this is worth posting or not, you won't hurt my feelings if you don't:

Buying lot of contact lenses to stock up is a good idea if you are worried about SHTF scenarios. However stretching your wearing time in order to make them last longer, such as wearing monthly lenses for three months, is not a good idea. I have seen numerous cases of bacterial conjunctivitis, and almost always it is because people have worn their contact lenses longer than directed or slept in contact lenses they should not sleep in. Note that many eye care centers will not allow you to stock up on extra contact lenses because that is the way some people try to avoid yearly eye exams (i.e. buy three years of contact lenses and then see the optometrist every 3 years rather than every year). Another problem with stocking up on contact lenses is that your prescription may change, and you may be stuck with contact lenses that are less than perfect for you--although, in a SHTF world they would be ok. So weigh your options and priorities.

Regarding glasses: safety glasses are truly a notch up as far as durability. To be called "Safety Glasses" they must pass ANSI Z87.1 standards, which calls for both tougher frames and lenses. They are about the same cost as regular glasses, but they are both heavier and stronger. The lenses must withstand greater forces, and are therefore thicker at their thinnest point. So, if you are worried about your glasses "holding up" in a post-SHTF world, you may want to have a pair of safety glasses. Again, the primary problem would be if your Rx changes.

Another consideration is the scratch protection your lens offers. I have seen lenses from Sears and WalMart that are one year old and scratched so much you can barely see through them. If you are worried about a SHTF scenario, I would recommend a high-quality scratch coating. At our office we sell TD2, and it is fantastic; I am sure there are other offerings at other places. You generally get what you pay for.

Lasik and photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) are also good options (as already noted); like the country doctor, I am biased towards PRK and in fact steer my patients away from Lasik due to flap complications.

In regards to overall eye-health issues (both pre- and post-SHTF), I would add the following top two tips: (1) Listen to your body. If you are a contact lens wearer and your eye(s) is (are) bothering you, get your contact lenses out! The worst infections come with the story, "Well, I knew there was a problem, but I had a basketball game, so I couldn't wear my glasses!" or something similar. So make sure you have at LEAST one pair of backup glasses, and use them immediately if your eyes do not "like" the feeling of your contact lenses. Of course if problems persist see your local optometrist. (2) Wear safety glasses, preferably with side shields, anytime you cut, hammer, split wood, ride a motorcycle, etc.
Hope this helps, - Country Eye Doctor

Mark mentioned a Makezine piece about a bicycle powered refrigerator.

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Desert T. found us this: Southern Nevada Economy: Analysts' projections sour. The last quote of the article sums it up: "More and more economists seem to think that this recession we're in is going to be a long and painful one," Smith said. "How long it lasts depends on the credit situation. We're in the hands of the banks."

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David S. found a link to an interesting water purification device

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J. T. sent a reminder about a site that we've mentioned before: a Global Infectious Disease Alert Map. There is a good write-up of the site at Computerworld.

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J.S. told us that there was a good article recently posted The Oil Drum site, discussing the financial aspects of Peak Oil.

"The more the government is allowed to do in taking over and running the economy, the deeper the depression gets and the longer it lasts. That was the story of the [19]30s and the early [19]40s, and the same mistakes are likely to be made again if we do not wake up." - Congressman Ron Paul, from The Crisis Is Upon Us

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Today we present another entry for Round 18 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The contest prizes include:

First Prize: The writer of the best contributed article in the next 60 days will be awarded two transferable Front Sight  "Gray" Four Day Training Course Certificates. This is an up to $4,000 value!
Second Prize: A three day course certificate from OnPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses.
Third Prize: A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing

Round 18 ends on September 30th, 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.

Reality set in when I received a copy of JWR’s novel "Patriots" from my sister. I was hooked. I could see not only the possibility, but the likelihood of what could happen. The sheer realization of how pitifully unprepared I was for any type of disaster launched me into high gear. I organized the bug-out-bags, bought the camo & the ammo, and stocked an emergency medical kit. You know the drill.
But now that the basic preparations are in place and the panic has subsided, my thoughts have turned to the retreat. What does happen when the world as we know it comes to an end? When there is no electricity and those without solar-power are long-term without any power? Well, when the MREs are long since gone and retreat life has become…well, life…, I envision spending time in my summer kitchen.

The concept of the summer kitchen literally dates back a thousand years, yet these practical outdoor kitchens are still used today all over the world. Its purpose historically was quite simple – prepare food during warmer seasons without heating up (or burning down) the house. However, for a retreat setting, you could benefit greatly by expanding its duties.

Drawing upon a number of these older ideas and uses, this new summer kitchen goes well beyond the original ‘cook-only’ area, to a multi-purpose building that includes a smokehouse, a root-cellar, and a wood shed. Because of the strategic importance of the kitchen, this should be one of the first structures built in a retreat. While our family is still praying and saving for our retreat property, the limited population in the area where we would like to buy suggests that we will purchase land without any existing buildings. Given the versatility of the Summer Kitchen, we could easily sustain ‘camp’ with it on weekends while working on the rest of the property.

Whether you’re building on a distant site, or adjacent to your existing home, careful consideration should be given to the positioning of your summer kitchen. Choose a site that will allow a cool summer breeze to pass through the kitchen, as well as carry away any smoke from the cook-stove.

The design I have determined to be best for my summer kitchen is a three-part building. The center section, which houses the kitchen facilities, is approximately 20’L x 15’W, and is flanked on the right and left by a pair of 6’ x 8’ rooms. The three sections share a common wall at the back, with the pitched (gable) roof-line over the center section rising about a foot higher than those of the end rooms. Buried directly beneath the main kitchen lies the root-cellar. The balance and form of the structure lends itself well to the retreat setting. Click here to see a drawing of this floor plan.

Materials for your Summer Kitchen should be chosen based on function – not style. Although it is often easier to scavenge wood materials, I have chosen to build my summer kitchen primarily out of masonry block. For me, masonry materials are not only durable, but simple to maintain. (Note: If you have a block manufacturing plant in your area, try contacting the manager to inquire what they do with the seconds – that is the less than perfect, but still perfectly usable blocks. You may be able to purchase these at a reduced price.)

The roof-line, composed of stout 2” x 6” trusses, rests upon the block walls. Here in the Northwest, a metal roof is a must. Metal works well to shed the often heavy snow-load in winter, and reduces the risk posed by forest fires during dry, summer months. Topping off the roof of the summer kitchen is a small cupola. While the cupola may appear as an unnecessary extravagance, its true function is realized through added ventilation of heat and smoke.

Let’s take a virtual tour. You enter through symmetrically located, 36” doors on either the front left or front right quarters of the kitchen. The large doors provide smooth access even when carrying a sizable load. Running along the entire length of the front wall, between the doors, is a 28” deep counter top. All the counter tops in the Summer Kitchen are concrete. When poured and polished, concrete counter tops are incredibly durable, surprisingly attractive, and affordable if you do it yourself. The cupboards below store pots and pans, dishes, and canning supplies.

At the far end of the counter, near the left-side door, there is a dumb waiter. This pulley-driven, counter-weighted, mini elevator lifts or lowers your canned goods, and other finished products, to and from the root-cellar for easy storage. The box, (a 32” square, 36” high) which resembles a cupboard itself, has a load capacity of 100 pounds, and is manually operated by a handle on the side.

As you step through the right side door, just to your right is a wrap-around, 28” deep counter extending to the back wall and then left approximately ten feet. Centered in the counter along the back wall is a deep, stainless steel, double sink. The sink utilizes a high arching faucet that swivels flush against the wall allowing easy access for even the largest items.

Food preparation and clean-up require an adequate water source. The water supply to the sink can be provided for in several ways. Options include gravity-fed plumbing from an external water source, or from a 55-gallon drum on a stand outside the back wall. It may even be possible to mount the tank in the rafters above the kitchen. Since the water tank is filled using a hand-crank transfer pump, the positioning of the tank is quite flexible. Hot water may also be achieved by plumbing a line from the reservoir on the wood-burning stove.

Beyond the end of the counter, in the back left corner of the main room, is the heart of the kitchen – the wood cook-stove. It is coved in masonry block to reduce the space required between it and the walls while minimizing fire hazard. (You should always follow recommended clearances when fitting your stove.)

For those of us who follow recipes with instructions like “bake at 350 degreesÀö” or “simmer over medium-heat”, cooking with wood-heat may prove to be a challenge. For this reason your choice of cook-stove is vital. One of the best stoves for a summer kitchen is the ‘Pioneer Maid’ wood burning stove available at (Situated in Amish country, Lehman’s is a fantastic resource for functional, non-electric items.) This stove is not some dainty, long-legged beauty meant to invoke nostalgic memories of yesteryear. This is the workhorse of Amish country cook-stoves. With its oversized, temperature-controlled wood box, an eleven gallon reservoir, warming oven, enameled cook-top and oven lining, and more than half of its weight made up of stainless steel, it will be the hardest worker you have come canning season. With all its amenities, yet high price, a frugal builder may spend more on this stove than the entire structure.

In the center of the kitchen you will find my beloved want-ad find – my 36” square, maple butcher’s block. This serves as the perfect prep counter. It is well-suited for butchering small livestock or dressing out an elk. For the retreat setting, or even your local gardening co-op, you should prepare for a ‘canning party’ of six or more people. By forming an assembly line of friends to complete large tasks, mundane retreat chores should become much more bearable.

Next, there are the adjacent rooms. The room to the left, nearest the stove, is firewood storage. A large sliding door gives easy access when putting up wood. It will hold two to three cords of wood, cut and stacked. When the time comes to fire-up the cook-stove, wood can be transferred to a small rack just inside the left side door of the summer kitchen.

And on the right, we have a smokehouse, in perfect company with our kitchen. When you enter the smokehouse through the insulated, sheet metal lined door, you find that the interior is very simple; a concrete slab floor with a smoke pipe in the middle, a removable workbench, a barrel of salt, and several adjustable hangers overhead. Multiple vents are designed into the soffits surrounding the smoke house. Extending four feet further right, and connected by a 6” concrete pipe, you have a 30” x 36” firebox lined with firebricks. A 24” diameter tapered concrete plug forms the lid, which forces the smoke up the pipe and into the smokehouse.

Finally, on the backside of the building you will find the access door leading down to the root cellar. The concrete stairs land in the middle of the room. One side of the cellar has a poured concrete floor. The other side remains open to the earth and is then covered with 6” of gravel. The exposed area lends coolness to the room. Along the block walls, lining the concrete foundation stands ample shelving for canned goods.

While I have included here a general idea of the design for my root cellar, the subject of root cellaring would easily fill a book. Many things must be taken into consideration regarding your particular location. Humidity, temperature, ventilation, annual rainfall, ground water, and the types of products to be stored, are all factors that influence the type of root cellar that would be best for you.

Like any aspect of preparedness, if you do not plan ahead, the logistics could be anywhere from difficult to impossible. So if you already have a retreat, I suggest building a summer kitchen. Equip it. Practice in it. Enjoy it. When you remember that God provides you with everything you need, self-sufficiency is a truly fulfilling journey.

Having raised cattle most of my life, I would agree with your recommendation [posted on July 30th] of the woven wire fence, with one exception.

Woven wire fence will turn most types of large livestock. However, if you are fencing tough ground, i.e., extreme hills, swamp areas, areas where fence will be run through woods, etc., and the pasture will be somewhat limited in acreage (as opposed to fencing wide open areas out in the western U.S.) then I recommend using 16 foot long, 10 line, 4 gauge cattle panels. Yes, they will cost more. However, if a tree falls on a woven wire fence---you have a mess. (I have been there and done that.) If it falls on a cattle panel, you pull it out, put in a spare, and use the damaged panel for some other purpose around the farm.

We have used these panels with bison, cattle, horses, and some sheep. They last. Plus, it is quick to put up and quick to take down---use plastic zip ties to attach panel to post and you can have an area temporarily fenced in hours, not days. Here is a link to one of the many stores that carry them. Thanks, - "Straightblast"


Mr. & Mrs. Rawles:
When I read your reply about fencing and gates, I thought about the difficulty that I had when I tried to determine if cattle guards would keep sheep in. I could get no affirmative answer from anyone, but I went ahead and installed them. So just in case the subject ever comes up, they do indeed work. In fact, you cannot entice the [flock] leader with food or drag him towards one, so they are smarter than some may think. - Brock

Howdy Mr. Rawles,
The article written by A.B.S. is very well written and gives one a lot to think about. There is an item for one's Bug Out Bag (BOB) that I find useful in flood prone scenarios, but is rarely mentioned: A Personal Flotation Device (PFD).

A PFD or 'life jacket' for each member of your party with their BOB in flood prone areas or situations is cheap insurance to keep you afloat. Granted, when you are in the drink, things are already going wrong, but staying afloat would be a key to staying alive!

Also do not forget to make sure that each PFD fits the intended wearer correctly. For the children one of those PFDs that keep them face up should they find themselves in the water will give the parents peace of mind. Love the blog and the books! Wishing You 73s - ZA

Eric found this one: Stressed banks borrow record amount from Fed. And coincidentally, reader Jeff S. sent us a link to a Fed chart that he calls "The Hockey Stick of Doom."

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Eric also sent us this: Small farming is the future.

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Paul from Kentucky flagged this: Zimbabweans dug out coins squirreled away years ago. The government has lopped off 10 zeros, with the new currency! The article begins: "Zimbabweans dug out coins squirreled away years ago in jars and cupboards and headed for the shops, where lines built up as overburdened tellers more accustomed to counting mounds of hyper-inflated dollar notes instead were juggling silver." Paul's comment: "I guess this is what happens when paper money is worthless. Back to using silver. Does this ring a bell for what you have been warning us about could happen here, with the US dollar?"

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EMB found this interesting site--a company that makes secret doorways.

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Cheryl N. found us three interesting economic commentaries : The Con In Central Bankers' Confidence, Credit Crunch Reaches Downward Spiral Critical Mass, and from The Mogambo Guru Inflationary Horror Movie -- Inflation at 12.6% in June!

"The decisive Revolutionary battle of Saratoga was fought near there on the bluffs and hills overlooking the Hudson in 1777. You wonder what the heroes of that battle would think of what we have become. What would they make of the word "consumer" that we use to describe our relation to the world? What would they think of excellent river bottom-land that is now barely used for farming - or, where it is still farmed (dairying if anything), of farmers who will not even put in a kitchen garden for themselves because it might detract from their hours of TV viewing?" - James Howard Kunstler

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Today we present the first entry for Round 18 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. Starting with this round, the contest prize list has been expanded. The prizes now include:

First Prize: The writer of the best contributed article in the next 60 days will be awarded two transferable Front Sight  "Gray" Four Day Training Course Certificates. This is an up to $4,000 value!

Second Prize: A course certificate from OnPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner's choice of three-day civilian courses.

Third Prize: A copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, from Arbogast Publishing

Round 18 ends on September 30th, 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.

Recent attention on the West Nile Encephalitis outbreak has brought the need for more education and awareness to the threat of insects transmitting diseases to both humans and the livestock we use for food. Unfortunately most people are fixated on the West Nile problem and continue to ignore the myriad of other pathogens that can be transmitted by insects and other arthropods in North America. Most of the pathogens that are transmitted by arthropod vectors are of low virulence and due to exposure most of us have developed an immunity to them long ago. Unfortunately, with the migration of much of the population into areas of the country that had until recently been wilderness, the increasing introduction of new species of both pathogens and vectors into native ecosystem, and an increase in global temperatures, that is changing much of the habitat, an ever increasing number of cases are being seen in hospitals nation-wide. In this article we will discuss just a few of these diseases.

Many well known insect borne diseases occur in North America, but in such small numbers that most of the population is blissfully unaware anything is happening. One such pathogen is Plague. Better known as The Black Plague this bacterial disease swept through Europe and Asia during the middle ages killing an estimated 34 million people. While such large outbreaks are no longer a significant threat, several small outbreaks and single cases do appear annually. Most commonly transmitted by the bite of an infected flea, usually the Oriental Rat Flea. The largest known reservoir of Plague in North America is found in Prairie Dog towns around the Four Corners region. With 10-15 human cases in the U.S. and up to 3,000 human cases worldwide annually, Plague can manifest itself in any of three different forms.

Pneumonic plague occurs when Y. pestis infects the lungs. This type of plague can spread from person to person through the air. Transmission can take place if someone breathes in aerosolized bacteria, which could happen in a bioterrorist attack. Pneumonic plague is also spread by breathing in Y. pestis suspended in respiratory droplets from a person (or animal) with pneumonic plague. Becoming infected in this way usually requires direct and close contact with the ill person or animal. Pneumonic plague may also occur if a person with bubonic or septicemic plague is untreated and the bacteria spread to the lungs.

Bubonic plague is the most common form of plague. This occurs when an infected flea bites a person or when materials contaminated with Y. pestis enter through a break in a person's skin. Patients develop swollen, tender lymph glands (called buboes) and fever, headache, chills, and weakness. Bubonic plague does not spread from person to person.

Septicemic plague occurs when plague bacteria multiply in the blood. It can be a complication of pneumonic or bubonic plague or it can occur by itself. When it occurs alone, it is caused in the same ways as bubonic plague; however, buboes do not develop. Patients have fever, chills, prostration, abdominal pain, shock, and bleeding into skin and other organs. Septicemic plague does not spread from person to person.

Mosquito Borne Diseases
The majority of the U.S. population is totally unaware of the majority of insect transmitted diseases. While West Nile is now a common household term, the more commonly occurring Jamestown Canyon, LaCrosse, St. Louis, Western Equine, Eastern Equine, and Venezuelan Encephalitis have never been heard of by most. These mosquito transmitted viruses are seen every year in the U.S., but due to the fact that most of the cases are asymptomatic or have very mild symptomology, coupled with the fact that most cases are in rural, often economically poor settings, these diseases get very little press. Though most cases are mild, acute cases begin with flu like symptoms that then can progress to inflammation of the brain. This can lead to coma or even death. Survivors of acute encephalitis often suffer varying degrees of brain damage.

Also receiving little press is the increasing occurrence of malaria that originates U.S. nationals that have picked up the disease while overseas and from infected persons that have recently migrated to the U.S. Several of these individuals have entered the country illegally, and therefore bypass needed healthcare due to fear of capture. This scenario is also being observed with several other diseases.
Dengue Fever also known as "break bone fever" is another mosquito transmitted disease that is of concern. Two versions of the disease can occur, with one version being a hemorrhagic fever. Dengue fever usually starts suddenly with a high fever, rash, severe headache, pain behind the eyes, and muscle and joint pain. The severity of the joint pain explains the name "breakbone fever". Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite are common. A rash usually appears 3 to 4 days after the start of the fever. The illness can last up to 10 days, but complete recovery can take as long as a month. Older children and adults are usually sicker than young children.

Most dengue infections result in relatively mild illness, but some can progress to dengue hemorrhagic fever. With dengue hemorrhagic fever, the blood vessels start to leak and cause bleeding from the nose, mouth, and gums. Bruising can be a sign of bleeding inside the body. Without prompt treatment, the blood vessels can collapse, causing shock (dengue shock syndrome). Dengue hemorrhagic fever is fatal in about 5 percent of cases, mostly among children and young adults.

One disease that is becoming more of a concern among my fellow entomologists is Chagas Disease also known as American Trypanosomiasis. This disease is transmitted by the >Kissing Bug=, which blood feeds on the human victims as they sleep, usually biting the host on the face. The bugs are found in houses made from materials such as mud, adobe, straw, and palm thatch in Central and South America. During the day, the bugs hide in crevices in the walls and roofs. During the night, when the inhabitants are sleeping, the bugs emerge. After they bite and ingest blood, they defecate on the person. The person can become infected if T. cruzi parasites in the bug feces enter the body through mucous membranes or breaks in the skin. The unsuspecting, sleeping person may accidentally scratch or rub the feces into the bite wound, eyes, or mouth.

The parasite causes damage to the cells of the heart. It is estimated that as many as 18 million people in Mexico, Central America, and South America have Chagas disease, most of whom do not know they are infected. Another 500,000 people in the U.S., many of whom are illegal aliens, are thought to have the disease. Since the insects that transmit this disease are also found throughout much of the U.S. the possibility of transmission does exist.

Though not common, human cases of Chagas are appearing more often in the U.S. with many more veterinary cases in dog and raccoon populations. These animal populations then act as a reservoir for the parasite. While it is commonly thought that better housing found in the U.S. will prevent widespread rates of infection, this is not entirely accurate. A recent infection of an infant that occurred in central Tennessee happened when the insect entered the patients’ home. The infants mother happened to observe the insect on the child, and having just watched a broadcast about Chagas on television, recognized the insect. The mother requested a parasite screening by the family physician that isolated the organism. The child was then able to get proper medical care. A check of wildlife and pet populations in the area around the residence found high infection levels among the animals. If the mother hadn't seen the insect, the child could have been infected for years without proper treatment. Transmission can occur when someone is bitten on camping trips as well as in the home. The disease can also be transmitted through blood transfusions, organ transplants, to fetus during pregnancy, and by eating feces contaminated food.

The presence of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme Disease, and Tick Fever is fairly well known by many people throughout the U.S. Unfortunately these tick transmitted diseases are just the tip of the iceberg.

One tick borne disease becoming increasingly common is Ehrlichiosis. Human ehrlichiosis due to Ehrlichia chaffeensis was first described in 1987. The disease occurs primarily in the southeastern and south central regions of the country. To date six species of bacteria are known to cause Human Ehrlichiosis and are transmitted by three know tick vectors, the Lone Star Tick, Black Legged Tick, and the Western Black Legged Tick. Most victims of Human Ehrlichiosis have had underlying immunosuppressants, but this isn't always the case.

In my home town in Tennessee an outbreak of Ehrlichiosis was detected in one of our more well know retirement communities. Researchers, including myself found that the majority of the victims had been exposed to the disease through tick bites that occurred while they were playing golf. The victims were generally older, but had been considered in good health. Patients with ehrlichiosis generally visit a physician in their first week of illness, following an incubation of about 5-10 days after the tick bite. Initial symptoms generally include fever, headache, malaise, and muscle aches. Other signs and symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cough, joint pains, confusion, and occasionally rash. Ehrlichiosis can be a severe illness, especially if untreated, and as many as half of all patients require hospitalization.

The best way to beat these diseases is to prevent the initial infection. This is often easier said than done. Several things can be done to limit your risk of exposure.
- Wear long sleeved shirts when possible
- Tuck pants into boots or socks
- Use repellents such as DEET (N,N-Diethyl-meta-Toluamide) or Permethrin
(Note: Permethrin should not be applied to the skin, only to clothing. Studies have shown that DEET products containing more than 7% DEET should not be applied to the skin.
- Wear light colored clothing when possible to aid spotting ticks
- Self check thoroughly when you return indoors
- Keep screens on windows and doors in good repair
- Caulk cracks and other entry point on homes
- Use mosquito netting when camping. Information on these and other arthropod transmitted diseases can by found through the US Centers for Disease Control web site.
With the proper education and a little preparation, the risk from insect transmitted diseases can be greatly reduced.

Several readers sent us this: MIT develops way to bank solar energy at home

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Eric forwarded this: America's house price time bomb - Walkaways. I predicted this phenomenon, first mentioning it back in 2005.

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Nearly a dozen readers sent us the link to the recent New York Times article on Suburban Survivalists. Coincidentally, the subject of the article is a SurvivalBlog reader. In an e-mail to me yesterday, she mentioned: "I must tell you something, funny or sad, depending on one's perspective. The copy editor [from The New York Times] called several times for clarification about wheat. He could not understand what I meant by storing wheat or grinding it. He had no idea where flour actually came from. He could also not believe it when I referred to having several hundred pounds of grains stored. He thought that figure was way too high."

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Luke N. found an article that indicates that the trend toward smaller portions for packaged foods that started in the UK has made its way to the United States.

"One ought never to turn one's back on a threatened danger and try to run away from it. If you do that, you will double the danger. But if you meet it promptly and without flinching, you will reduce the danger by half. Never run away from anything. Never!" - Winston Churchill

Friday, August 1, 2008

We've completed the judging for Round 17 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. First prize goes to Thomas G., for his article "The Tomato Rebuild--Machining Technology is Crucial to Modern Society". He'll receive two valuable four day "gray" transferable Front Sight course certificates. (Together, they are worth up to $4,000!) Special thanks to Naish Piazza--Front Sight's founder and director--for his generosity. Be sure to check out their web site and class calendar. The Memsahib and I can both vouch for the quality of their training, from personal experience. It is amazing!

Second prize goes to Ryan S., for "Packing The Vehicle G.O.O.D. Bag". He will receive a copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, generously donated by Jake Stafford of Arbogast Publishing.

Honorable mention prizes go to three writers: "Wolverine", for "Checking Your Preparedness with the PACE System", to the Y2K-Era Prepper for "After 10 Years--Some Observations and Lessons Learned", and to C.G., for "A Citizen's Band (CB) Radio Installation Primer". They will all receive autographed copies of my novel "Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse".

Note to the prize winners: Please e-mail us to let us know your snail mail addresses, so we can mail you your prizes.

Round 18 begins today, and will feature the same prizes. So get busy writing and e-mail us your entries, folks! Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival will have an advantage in the judging.

Dear Jim:
I found an interesting article that argues against a remote, rural retreat for an urbanite.

He reasons:
1. local kids with time on their hands will sniff out your retreat in their exploring
2. Any road to your place will get checked out eventually by kids, a utility employee, a hunter, etc., etc.
3. A remote place gives a thief all the time in the world to break into a cabin or recreational vehicle, pre-disaster.
4. When you are at a retreat, post-disaster, you are on the defense, the offense (potential looters) gets to choose the time of attack; you are vulnerable to long range sniping

His solution, a la Mel Tappan, is to live in a small town and get integrated into the local community. Your profile of buying, and growing, and helping out locally should be high, but your wealth profile, and preparations profile should be very low. Have lots of folks looking out for you, rather than relying on remoteness.

For a slow slide, grid-up situation this makes a lot of sense. I question how well this strategy would work if it is a true TEOTWAWKI situation where starvation is widespread…
But he brings up serious issues about how to keep your retreat unmolested - how likely is it that local kids would ignore fences? What measures can you take to prevent burglary?
Regards, - OSOM

JWR Replies: I concur that "in town" retreats make sense in a Grid Up situation, where law and order are maintained and there is still a functioning economy that keeps store shelves stocked. But in a Grid Down societal collapse, a mutually-defended cluster of farmsteads will probably be far more viable. With too many mouths to feed, even small towns may have their citizenry quickly degenerate into the worst sorts of savagery.

My position is that remote rural retreats can be quite viable, provided that:

1.) Your retreat has a full-time caretaker for the present day circumstances

2.) Your retreat is occupied by three or more families, immediately after the Schumer hits the fan (SHTF), and you are prepared to man a 24/7/360 defense. (24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with full 360 degree perimeter coverage.)

For any readers that do decide to opt for "in town" retreating, I highly recommend that you set as key criteria a town that has reliable rainfall, preferably in a "truck farming" region, and

As I've stated many times, isolation just by itself will not protect you and your family in a time of lawlessness. In Schumeresque times it will take trustworthy friends and vigilant security to survive. I firmly believe that looters will not pick on well-defended retreats. They simply won't want to risk taking casualties. Few would be that suicidal. Instead, they will prey on those that show no signs of an organized defense. Why would they want to try cracking a "tough nut", when they could pick on granny, down the road?

I posted the following in SurvivalBlog back in August of 2005. Since many readers haven't worked their way through the Archives, it bears repeating:

Not everyone is suited to tackling the tasks required for self-sufficiency. Advanced age, physical handicaps, lack of trustworthy family or friends, or chronic health conditions could rule that out. If that is your situation, then you will probably want to establish an inconspicuous “in town” retreat rather than an isolated “stronghold” retreat.

If opting for “in town,” buy a masonry house with a fireproof roof and on an oversize lot. (Make that wood frame construction if you live in earthquake country.) Carefully select a town with a small population—somewhere between 1,000 and 3,000 if it has a true “end to end” gravity fed water supply, or from 200 to 1,000 if the water system is in any way dependent on the power grid. (The 1,000 upper limit is for fear of sanitation problems.)

IMO, towns any larger than 3,000 lack a cohesive sense of "our community”, and any town with a population smaller than 200 would lack a sufficient mix of skills and the manpower required to mount a sufficient defense in the event of a true “worst case.” I believe that it is best to avoid larger towns. At some point over the 3,000 inhabitant threshold, the "we/they paradigm" will be lacking, and in a true TEOTWAWKI it could be every man for himself.

The late Mel Tappan wisely opined that if your house is at the end of dead end of a road at the edge of town with no close by neighbors, then it might just as well be five or ten miles out of town--since it will be psychologically outside of the invisible ring of protection that will constitute “in town.” Post-TEOTWAWKI, the “we/they” paradigm will be forcefully if not painfully obvious. If you are “in town” you will benefit from a de facto Neighborhood Watch on Steroids. Make sure that your retreat is either clearly “in town”, or not. A property that is halfway in between will have none of the advantages and all of the disadvantages.

Tappan championed the concept of “small town” retreating: owning a mini-farm that is physically and psychologically inside of an existing small community. This approach has several advantages. Before making your decision, consider the following pro and con lists:

Advantages of “In Town” Retreats:

Better for a slow slide scenario or a “grid up” depression wherein the local agricultural and industrial payrolls may still be viable.
You will be a member of the community.
You will benefit from local security arrangements.
Ready access to local barter economy.
Ready access to local skills and medical facilities.

Disadvantages of “In Town” Retreats:

Privacy is very limited. Transporting bulky logistics must be done at odd hours to minimize observation by neighbors.
Fuel storage is severely limited. (Consult the local ordinances before you buy a home.)
Poor sanitation in the event of “grid down” situation, unless your town has a truly “end to end” gravity fed water system. (More on this in a subsequent post.)
You can’t test fire and zero your guns at your own property.
You can’t set up elaborate antenna arrays or your house will look out of place.
You can’t hunt on your own land.
You can’t keep livestock other than perhaps a few rabbits. (Consult the local ordinances before you buy a home.)
You can’t make substantial ballistic and anti-vehicular barrier retreat upgrades.
Greater risk of communicable diseases transmitted by casual contact.
Greater risk of burglary.
Greater risk of having your “hoarded” supplies confiscated by bureaucrats.

Advantages of Isolated Retreats:

More room for gardening, pasturing, and for growing row crops.
Lower house and land prices. (More for your money.)
Better for a total wipeout “Grid Down” scenario when virtually everyone will be out of work. (Hence the local payroll will be a non-issue.)
You can stock up in quantity with less fear of the watchful eyes of nosy neighbors.
You can test fire and zero your guns at your own property.
You can build with non-traditional architecture (earth sheltered, for example.)
You can set up more elaborate antenna arrays--and other things that would look odd in town.
Better sanitation in the event of a “grid down” situation.
You can hunt on your own land.
A place to cut your own firewood.
You can keep livestock.
You can make ballistic and anti-vehicular upgrades. (As described in my novel "Patriots",.)
A “dog run” chain link fence around your house won’t look too out of place.
Virtually unlimited fuel storage. (Consult your county and State laws before ordering large gas, diesel, heating oil, and propane tanks.)
Much lower risk of communicable diseases. Particularly important in the event of a biological warfare attack—but only if the bug is spread person-to-person rather than airborne.

Disadvantages of Isolated Retreats:

Impossible to defend with just one family.
Cannot depend on much help from neighbors or law enforcement if your home is attacked by looters or in the event of fire. You will likely be entirely on your own to resolve those situations. If and when a gang of looters arrives, it will be you or them--no second place winner.
Isolation from day-to-day barter/commerce.
A longer commute to your “day job”, shopping, and church.

A careful analysis of the preceding lists (plus specific localized considerations) should lead you to concluding which approach is right for you, given your family situation, your stage in life, and your own view of the potential severity of events to come. Pray about it before making a decision of this gravity.

These issues (and many other related ones) are discussed in my nonfiction book "Rawles on Retreats and Relocation"

Have you covered vision care in a TEOTWAWKI scenario? Eyeglasses, contacts, etc? I currently wear contacts and it's super easy to stock up on extra contacts and a spare pair of glasses but it's one more thing we take for granted. I guess Lasik is probably not worth it unless your insurance helps or you have the money to burn since that much money could go towards better preparations.

Thanks for your site! - Ben in Tenn.

JWR Replies:

Corrective eye surgery was discussed in SurvivalBlog in December of 2006, in this excellent article: Lasik Versus PRK Eye Surgery for Preparedness, by Simple Country Doctor.

I am a big believer in owning at least two pairs of prescription eyeglasses--or perhaps three pairs if you are like me and have a strong correction. (If you are prone to saying "I'd be useless without my glasses", then get three pairs, including at least one pair with extra-sturdy frames--something similar to military issue BCGs.

Frequent content contributor Cheryl N. sent this. How Wall Street Wrecked Your Retirement. Cheryl notes: "Our dysfunctional financial system hit a new low last week when Citigroup, the hopeless wreck of Wall Street, announced it had lost $2.5 billion in the past three months--a cheer went up, and so did the Dow. Only $2.5 billion; people were afraid the losses would be much higher. Happy days are here again." Meanwhile, President Bush very quietly signed a massive bailout bill, for individual mortgage holders, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac. Just as I predicted, we are witnessing the near-continuous growth of the Mother of all Bailouts (MOAB). Perhaps I should start referring to those profligate spending politicians in Washington, D.C. as "The Moabites."

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In a NewsMax piece, Ken Timmerman (one of my old associates with Defense Electronics magazine in the 1980s) reports: U.S. Intel: Iran Plans Nuclear Strike on U.S.. I trust Ken Timmerman. He is an old hand at Middle reporting. He was headquartered in Paris for many years, where he developed quite extensive contacts in both diplomatic and military circles. His MEDNews (Middle East Defense News) newsletter had a loyal following and was considered a key open source publication by the western intelligence community. I have little doubt that Iran will use nukes if and when they are able to obtain them. But I think that it may be a decade before their "home grown" nuclear program reaches the pint that they can assemble a bomb that will actually reach critical mass.

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A.V.S. found this at Time magazine's site: Designer Bulletproof Fashion. Rather than buying over-priced "designer" vest/garments, I recommend that you buy more affordable standard body armor vests from reputable vendors. (One great one advertises on SurvivalBlog)

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Frequent content contributor Cheryl N. flagged this: Merrill Woes Could Spread. Here is a good observation included in the piece: "Sovereign-wealth funds from Asia and the Middle East and private-equity firms swooped in with capital infusions for many big banks during the winter when it appeared the worst of the housing meltdown was behind the market. But with many of those bets now under water, such investors might be reluctant to pour new capital in given the prospect of further troubles with so-called collateralized debt securities, or CDOs, which include bundles and bundles of now near-worthless home loans that were sold off to investors around the globe."

"God forbid that I should go to any Heaven in which there are no horses." - R.B. Cunninghame Graham, letter to Theodore Roosevelt, 1917

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